Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Extreme Video Enabled

If you live anywhere near a CVS drugstore, you may have noticed their “one time use” digital cameras and camcorders. Their (CVS's) idea is:

  1. You buy the camera ($20 for a still, $30 for a camcorder)

  2. When it's full, bring it to CVS for “processing”

  3. You pay $$$, they give you a CD or DVD with pix or video, they keep the camera


A very clever hacker named Maushammer, of course, has cracked the code (the link goes to his camcorder page) so you can download the video yourself over a USB port and not return the camera. You have to cobble up a cable, but there's a link to instructions & parts are readily available. The camcorder takes video at 320x240 (QVGA resolution, similar to VHS) using the Xvid video codec and mono MPEG audio. The resolution is identical to the video my digital camera can produce, except that...

I expect this to trigger a new sub-genre of home video that I call “Extreme Video” — a $30 digital camcorder will readily go places that even a low-end DV camcorder (at 10 times the price) often won't: on the ramps at a skate park, bungee jumping, motorcycling, and all sorts of other fun (and potentially painful) activities. I understand a model rocketry club in Texas has already built camera mounts for their larger rockets. If Something Happens... hey, you're only out thirty bucks. Go get another one.

One of the nice features about this camcorder is that it's completely solid state — there are no tapes or disks inside (it uses a Flash disk instead). No tape transport means you could use it to record in very quiet settings without picking up motor noise from the camera itself. Another advantage is that it should be able to stand getting jarred around in an Extreme Video shoot without causing dropouts — as long as the optics don't get misaligned, you should be able to keep shooting.

For more information than you ever wanted to know, unless you're a geek like me, check out the camerahacking forum.

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