Achieving Realistic POV: Custom Helmet Cam

January 19, 2017

POV Helmet Cam Custom Rigging

How do you capture an engaging and authentic POV shot?

This was the question that the creative team at 160over90 asked themselves when conceptualizing an upcoming Dayton University commercial.

Johnny Andow and Jason Padilla from 160 teamed up with their cinematographer Adam Kerchman and determined that traditional methods of achieving this perspective with popular GoPro mounts and accessories could not allow for the level of control they needed for their concept. The team called over to Expressway searching for a better solution to creating a first-person POV effect that would look and feel more realistic and cinematic. It was decided that the ideal camera system would incorporate prime lenses and a wireless follow focus to allow for more complicated shifts in perspective.

Camera Helmet

Since there is not an existing consumer rig that really fit what they wanted to do, we had to take it to the shop for a custom solution. We started out by purchasing a full face Motorcycle helmet. We went with a matte black helmet to keep reflections down. Next, we dry fit our Sony A7S to find the correct placement and perspective for the rig. We removed the face shield and marked the points where the base needed to start.

Helmet Camera Drilling

Next, we drilled through the helmet with a 1/2″ drill bit so that we could mount aluminum 5/8″ baby pins to the front and rear of the helmet for the base of our rig. We had to dig and cut away foam from the interior to sink the bolt heads so they did not cause irritation or discomfort to the operator. We then used 5/8″ swivel clamps from our car rigging kit to attach the camera to the baby pins. We put a pin in the bottom of the A7S and a second pin from the hot shoe to have points on the bottom and top of the camera.

Helmet Camera Rig

We were able to use 5/8″ x 12″ steel rods to move the camera slightly away from the helmet so that the operator could see the screen. To balance the rig we mounted the battery and wireless transmitter to the rear of the helmet. With the rig gaining weight it was crucial to try and balance the best we could.

POV Helmet Camera Rig

We asked Johnny, the director from 160, about his experience working with the rig, “One of the great things about the rig was we were able to pull focus as the perspective shifted.” They had a scene on a basketball court where the operator was playing offense as he approaches a defender. The rig allowed them to follow the focus of the action approaching the defender then as he advanced past the defender, the focus shifts to the backboard as the operator approaches to score a basket. The operator then turns and shifts his focus back to the defender. This is much closer to the way the human eye would actually process a series of events as visual elements are shifting in depth throughout the scene. “Being able to shoot and adjust with a shallow depth of field really helped step up the POV look and realism, not to mention being able to use cinema lenses.”

POV Camera Rig

There was one close call during the shoot. They were filming a shot with the operator crossing a small river when an unexpected increase in the current almost knocked her down. Luckily, she fought through it and kept her balance. We hadn’t planned for waterproofing. Overall, the rig worked great with the only initial concern being the weight of the helmet, but we were able to sufficiently balance the load during development and there were minimal issues with the weight. The team was happy, we are proud to have been involved and the video says it all. Success!

Written By: Nic Reader – Owner / Creative Director

Nicholas Reader

When not creating awesome stuff Nic spends his time in the woods and on the water. Being such an avid outdoorsman helps keep him trim and tight.