The Dashcam (Black Box G1W-C)

So, while I’ve been busy enough to keep me from doing much of anything on the bus in terms of improvements, I did get a chance to try out a new toy – the Dash Cam.

In doing some quick internet research I settled on the Black Box G1W-C Dash Cam as the best simple, cheap dash cam.  (Video reviews from and US Dash Camera as examples.)  

 It has a nice 140 degree fish-eye, and a capacitor instead of a battery, making it more durable for high temperatures that can build up in a bus (or car).  It has g-sensor capabilities, so it can be set to specially record footage when there’s a fast start, stop, or swerve, as you might get with an accident.  It doesn’t record behind, but in the bus, it wouldn’t give a useful view anyhow, and the ‘Night Vision LED’ seems laughable,and I figured that if I was using it at night, I’d have the buses’ lights on anyhow.

I made some tests with my pick-up truck and a crossover.  While several reviews had indicated that a 64GB micro SDHC card, but I had no luck with it, but have had great results with a 32GB card.  With the 32GB card and the Camera on the 1080 pixel (HD) setting, I get less than 6 hours of recording time, but with the 720 pixel at 60 frames per second, I get more than that.  It has a still lower setting of 720 pixels at 30 fps, but if you try to play it at high speed, it ‘stutters’ and that’s annoying.

It can also record sound, which could be handy if I wanted to run a commentary, but as it stands for a regular trip, it would probably just be loud and boring.  And, after testing, I’ve found that the sound ‘skips’ when you speed it up, it’s not like a chipmunk voice sort of thing that could be funny.  But it doesn’t seem to save much data space recording with no sound, which seems a bit odd.

The dash cam has what could be a nice feature in that it starts up automatically upon getting power (it comes with a nice cigarette lighter/DC outlet to mini USB plug power cord that is about 12′ long), and shuts off automatically when it loses power.  I say that it ‘could be’ a nice feature, because it is horrible when you have glow plugs.  As you turn the key on, and have to wait for the glow plugs, an already plugged in G1W-C starts up upon having the ‘accessory’ power come on line. But when you turn the key to spin the starter and fire up the motor, there’s a moment where the accessory power fluctuates and the camera thinks it’s time to shut down, even despite the now constant power coming from the running motor.  As such, I had to start the engine and then plug the camera in.

I also got an additional attaching post for the camera, as the suction cup mount (which holds really well, BTW) is angled, and I was hoping to run the camera from the upper dome window where I had the ‘School Bus’ sign removed and replaced with glass.  I was able to test it in that window, angling the camera as high as the mount would allow (in the video below).  The additional post can be mounted to a flat surface (like a an overhanging board or windowframe molding) and allow the camera to be likewise flat.

So, what follows is a video, as I’ve just learned how to do the basic editing to stitch the videos together.  While I could have set the cam to record it all as one file, I’ve done enough computer work to know that data can get corrupted, and I like the security of multiple files.  The G1W-C allows for multiple settings of file length, and I chose the 5 minute one, which limits the file length to that, then starts a new one.  An interesting feature of this is that the files can’t just be stitched together, as they overlap each other by 1 second, giving a bit of extra security in case one glitches somewhat.

One downside of the cam is that I apparently left it unused for too long before this trip.  While I really like the on-screen documentation of the time/date, it resets if you don’t power it often enough, and as I was in a bit of a hurry to get going, I didn’t double-check it before we started off.  And what you’ll see behind the time-stamp is a nice hour-long trip from Buffalo’s streets to the tranquil and relaxing Sprague Brook Park, on a mostly sunny day that does a nice job working the adaptive intensity circuits .  And if you look closely, you might note my passenger, Aaron, in some of the odd reflections in the window.

So let me know what you think.  Is this too hard to watch with the center of vision pointing at the road, rather than the horizon?  If I tilted the camera up higher and the nose of the bus was out of frame, would that be too disorienting?  Should I just move the camera down to the windshield and mount the flat mount on the underside of the metal ‘shelf’? So many options.

(And if you can’t see the video in the post, it’s on youtube.)