Footage Worth Crushing a Camera or two

A trend that we are seeing in Video Repair is the use of video cameras for high-risk or destructive takes, for example:

  • Mount a camera on a truck that will fall off a cliff
  • Integrate a camera into a space rocket and shoot video until battery dies
  • Mount a camera on a RC plane

Nowadays, it’s easy to find an inexpensive camera with good enough image quality and appropriate robustness. Even if the camera is crushed, the footage is safe because it is stored in the camera SD card, a small and robust component with no moving parts.

Just take the SD card out of the crushed camera and read the files!

Of course, the movies whose recording did not end “gracefully” are corrupt and have to go through a repair (and we know who can do this job…) but at the end you can have an impressive and valuable piece of footage that you couldn’t produce by “conventional ways”.

Disposable Video Cameras

Actually, the camera makers are starting to see a market for disposable video cameras, and it comes naturally as an extension of action cameras market, with popular models like GoPro HERO, Vholdr Contour or Drift HD. Established brands like Olympus have also shown interest, going as far as to develop a specific “Tough” series of shock-resistant and waterproof video cameras.

Don’t Try This at Home

If you want to record high-risk or destructive takes, you should plan it carefully:

  • Fasten the camera to a strong support
  • Try to avoid direct exposure of camera to shock or water. Pick position carefully, and use protective padding if possible
  • Use strong tape to prevent camera doors from opening. Battery, SD card can be ejected under a violent acceleration and jeopardize the take
  • And the most important: Never expect to capture the last second of life of a camera.

The Missing Last Second

Why? It hasn’t been written to the card yet when the camera dies.

Short Explanation:

In your camera, the recording process is more or less as follows: raw data from the sensor go to a memory “buffer”. Once the buffer is full (which corresponds maybe to one second of action), the encoding chip make his job and writes the compressed video in a second memory “buffer”. Once the second buffer is full (containing one to a few seconds of action), the data is written on the card. Only at this moment the data is persistent. (because the two memory “buffer” are volatile memory).

When the camera death occurs, the information in the two buffers (corresponding to last seconds of action) are in volatile memory. Not on the card.

Therefore, you should plan your take so that your camera stays alive for 3 to 5 seconds after the moment you want to capture.
If it’s not possible, a live recording system should be used, but that’s another story.