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Gear

    Drift Innovation Release Drift HD Ghost

    Just a mere few weeks after GoPro released the new HD Hero 3, another popular POV camera manufacturer has too released a new product. Drift, which has had quite successful sales with their previous model have announced the release of the "Drift HD Ghost", a new and more powerful product when compared to their award winning and commercially popular model, simply named the "Drift HD".
    It is clear from the start that Drift were putting their focus on the features with the HD Ghost, being quick to highlight their new two-way LED remote control. The selling point for Drift, when it comes to the Ghost HD, is the concept that while many other POV cameras come with accessories included, that these other products will often require a number of aftermarket accessories to achieve the results desired by the consumer. Drift say that the HD Ghost will include 'everything sports enthusiasts need to capture professional quality video immediately".
    The above mentioned LED remote controller is one that is designed to allow the user to understand what current settings his HD Ghost is set to. Where most remote controls work one way, sending information to the camera, but not receiving it, this two way remote controller system is something that is new to the POV camera market, the question as to whether this will be a feature that will be adopted by other manufacturers in future or whether it will be seen primarily as a gimmick is yet to be seen, but if the system works in practice as it does in theory - it will certainly allow for a much easier and comfortable mode switching experience when one is using the remote to control the camera functionality.
    There is a 'Drift Flashback (TM)' function on the HD Ghost which will record video in a loop, and only save the file when the user 'tags' it. This can come in useful in situations where you're looking for 'that' shot and are expecting a number of failed attempts before catching it. I'm sure many of all are all too familiar with running out of recording space just when you need it, a curse that seems to extend to still photography too.
    The Ghost HD comes with a 2-inch LCD screen which allows for video playback and editing. The LCD is also covered in Gorilla Glass(R) which prevents scratching and keeps the camera rugged. A 7 element lens design is said to help increase the vibrancy and clarity of the HD Ghost as opposed to previous models, and brings better image quality to the 1080p, 960p, 720p and WVGA recording modes. The camera is also able to shoot stills while recording video footage.
    Stills are able to be captured in three different formats: 5, 8 or 11 megapixels. Or 2 megapixels when taking a still shot while recording.
    Also of interest is the ability for the Ghost to switch between 170°, 127° and 90° field of view.
    The device comes with wi-fi connectivity and soon Drift are said to be releasing an iOS and Android mobile app which will allow Ghost HD owners to control their camera's recording, settings and playback directly from their mobile devices. This is seem as a way of making it even easier for users to record footage and share it with social networks. In essence, one could record a video, transfer to their smart phone and then upload directly to social networks within mere minutes of the recording.
    The Drift Ghost HD is made with 3 meter water proofing when used without a case, this means that general water sports with the exception of things like scuba diving, don't have to invest in an extra housing case, though there is the option for deep water protection by purchasing one of Drift's special underwater housings, which are water proof until 60 meters.
    Drift claims to boast the longest lasting battery for any POV camera currently on the market, with 3 hours of recording time, using a 1700 mAh lithium-ion battery.
    The current retail price on the Drift HD Ghost puts it in the same market as the GoPro HD Hero 3, meaning that Drift see the HD Ghost as a serious contender in the action camera market. And from early reviews it seems that the Ghost is able to capture some quality footage, whether that footage is as good as the Sony AS15 or the GoPro HD Hero 3 is yet to be seen. But we do think that the Drift HD Ghost is a big step up from their previous Drift HD, which didn't perform too well compared to some of the competition in our action camera comparative review.

    By admin, in Gear,

    Best POV Action Camera Shootout: 6 Challengers Reviewed

    We have a newer and more comprehensive action camera shootout available.
    We set out with 6 of the most popular models of action cameras in an all-out camera review. Our desire was to uncover the answer to the question "What is the best POV camera on the market?", and at the same time determine the strengths and weaknesses of the cameras being reviewed. The overall performance results were a little surprising to us... Could the GoPro be dethroned?
    It’s the “Me” generation, and modern action cameras provide transparent windows into the very lifestyles of these individuals. “Check out what I’m doing” seems to be the prevalent theme. Quite a few electronics manufacturers have recognized the vast market for small HD cams. As a result, action cameras have undergone a tremendous shift from the low-resolution bullet cameras of 5 years ago. Today, we have POV cameras that shoot 24p, 4k resolutions, p120 frame rates for overcrank/super slow motion, and a whole lot more.
    Setting out to find the best action cam, I assembled a collection of mounting points onto my Bonehead Flattop Pro camera helmet. This skydiving helmet is perfect for testing cams in the most demanding situations. On this helmet I have mounted:
    Sony HDR AS15 (3 ea) GoPro Hero 2 (3 ea) Replay XD (3 ea) JVC Adixxion (1 ea) Drift Innovations HD (1 ea) Contour Roam2 (1 ea) It’s a total of 12 cameras on top, plus one wrist-mounted for documentation.
    When possible, each of the action cameras are tested in one of three modes:
    1920x1080p30 (Full HD/30 progressive frames per second) 1280x720p60 (HD/60 progressive frames per second) 1280x720p120 (HD/ 120 progressive frames per second) In this comparison, the following criteria shall be observed:
    Overall quality in identical lighting conditions Quality in low light Audio quality Features/flexibility Ease of use/setup/ out-of-box experience Slow motion/over-crank quality Third party support Codec/post production And off we go…
    Overall Quality
    This is the most subjective conversation of the lot. Rather than shooting charts, I chose to shoot actual subjects/scenes. Subjectively speaking, the Sony HDR AS15 is the best of the group in the most common 1920x1080p30 modes. Colors are natural, whites are white, blacks are black, and the gamut is smooth. There is no banding from the codec, and the dynamic range is broad.

    Watch this video full
    screen for best comparison. The GoPro Hero2 produces a warmer overall image and it appears warm, but balanced when viewed alone. Standing next to the AS15, however, the Hero2 image reveals itself to be softer and less contrasted, with colors that selectively pop and/or are over saturated due to the more limited dynamic range. In the below image, note that clouds appear as ‘industrial haze’ vs being white. However, some people do prefer a more warm color to neutral/proper white balance. White balance is as much an aesthetic preference as it is a standard. My eye (and post workflow) prefers neutral colors. *
    Low Light
    Next, low light tests are performed. The purpose of this test is to see how well each camera performs in low light conditions. Typically, small format cameras are very challenged in low-light scenes, due to the small image sensors filled with high pixel values. Many sports activities take place early morning/late afternoon, or inside cramped quarters.
      Low light scenes are where the Exmor processor (used in the Sony HDR AS15) outshines all others. Although the images have a blue cast, color tone is closer to the ‘eye-view’ of the scene. The 1280x720p60 modes in the GoPro Hero 2 and the Sony HDR AS15 proved to yield the best overall images for clarity, smooth motion, and exposure, but they display quite different in presentation.
    Among these cameras, it’s interesting to see the differing methods used for handling the range of white to black: blooming whites to light the scene or reducing whites to balance the color. Although the Drift HD has less noise than other images, it also is the least useful image overall in how little information is contained in the frames. The Sony AS15 shows more noise than the GoPro Hero2 in p120 modes, yet also has more of a useful image. The gain can be brought up in post on the Hero2 (I did look at this), and the noise becomes about equal. However, the AS15 also offers better clarity, sharper edges, and smoother contrasts.
    Audio Quality
    Sound reproduction is an important part of the video experience. Audio was tested both with and without waterproof housings on relevant cameras. This is a no-brainer. Waterproof box or not, the Sony HDR AS15 wins the audio test quite handily. With a stereo mic and 16bit audio, the AS15 trumps all the competitors in every way. Adding the waterproof box to the Hero2 or Contour Roam renders them nearly useless. Drift, JVC, Contour+ and RePlayXD all are water resistant to shallow depths, and do not need housings. Therefore audio quality outside an external housing was superior to the Hero2 in all examples.
    As you can tell from the helmet setup pictures, we tested one GoPro and one Sony inside their housings, but without their respective front lens assemblies. This was not only to match up lenses, but to also give each action camera the best audio opportunity possible. Audio is a somewhat important part of action sports, and isn’t forgotten by most of the manufacturers. Sony, GoPro, Drift,Replay, Contour+ all allow for external microphones to be connected. It is important to note that the Sony HDR AS15 offers no audio in p60 or p120 modes.
    Features/Flexibility
    This is incredibly subjective, as one person’s pleasure is another person?s pain. In my view, this is where everything outside of image quality becomes part of the purchase decision. I reviewed what I like/don’t like/found missing in each of the cameras. This section has no specific rhyme nor reason; it’s merely my personal impressions of the camcorders themselves, without looking at the packaging or image quality. It was easy to compare image quality, as all of the cameras use the .mp4 codec, packaged in a variety of containers such as .mov and .mp4. Bitrates are similar on all of the cameras, so the real variations come in the imagers, lenses, and usability.
    Lenses are varied from 115 degrees to 180 degrees on these cameras. Some have selectable Field of View, and where possible, I selected as close to 120 degrees FOV as possible to best service the similarities in the test. Only Sony and JVC offer stabilizers, so the stabilizers were disabled for most of these tests. In the ATV stabilizer tests, Sony HDR AS15 performed significantly better than the JVC Adixxion.
    RePlay XD


    I LOVE the simplicity of this camera. One button powers up the camera, it vibrates and provides LED feedback for record, pause, and battery level information. It is water resistant, and can be stashed almost anywhere due to its tubular aircraft aluminum form. RePlay offers several mounting options, including swivel/ball head mounts made from aluminum billet. Quite simply put, it’s a tough camera. RePlay offers a mounting ring that allows for wide angle lenses to be attached to the camera. Since the lens is only 61 degrees in width, it is substantially tighter than any of its competitors, and a wide angle adapter will be necessary in some situations. The lens rotates, allowing for side or flat-mount surfaces. This camera is a staple in the NASCAR circuit, and it’s easy to see why. It also offers HDMI output for live previewing or uncompressed output to a Ninja or similar device. The HDMI output can feed an wireless HDMI system for broadcasting over a remote area. Additionally, RePlay offers a waterproof cable connection for underwater HDMI use, perfect for placing the camera under water while monitoring or recording above water.
    For advanced users, the RePlay XD has certain settings that may be modified in a Notepad application (one that is .txt only). This allows users to customize the camera.
    Out of the box, this camera is ready to roll including a MicroSD
    card.
    Battery life is approximately 2 hours in 1080 mode.
    RePlay also provides users with a very nice Cordura case for storage.
    The camera cannot free-stand due to the round body; a beanbag with weight is the only way this camera can sit on its own. Fortunately, the RePlay comes with several plastic stick-on mounts. This camera uses a proprietary mount system, but in reality any conduit mount/tiedown works nicely.
    Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and Reviews on Amazon.com
    JVC Adixxion


    I was excited to check out this camera because JVC brings great things to the table. They mark the second professional camera company joining the HD POV fray, which makes it clear that POV is a strong bet in broadcast B-roll cameras. The form factor is nice, and I love the standard ¼ camera thread provided on two sides for side or top mounting on a helmet, roll bar, fuselage, or whatever. The camera is easy to operate, using two buttons for control. Menus are easy to navigate, and users may configure vertical or horizontal positions. JVC also has wifi available on the camera, and can stream live to UStream directly from the camera without a PC. Also there are Android and iPhone apps available for external camera control/linking. JVC uses WiVideo to configure the camera. I could not get the app to function with the camera on my laptop, tablet nor two cell phones. The camera locked up and required battery removal on multiple attempts to configure the wireless setup (ver 0483). It does upload directly to UStream without any difficulty.
    Otherwise, users will need to install an SD card (purchased separately) and the device is ready to roll. My test unit was charged to approximately 10% of life.
    A beautiful feature on this camera is the electronic stabilization mode. It smoothes out images very nicely (yes, this works for skydiving, as it is EIS). The image quality does suffer with the stabilizer engaged.
    Battery life is approx 110 mins in 1080 mode.
    I found the camera buttons clunky, and the mounts that come with the camera had several of us scratching our heads, wondering “WTH were they thinking?”. Perhaps because of the standard thread mount, JVC felt that creative mounting solutions should come from the user? The camera comes with a plastic ball swivel stick-on mount that cannot be trusted in any sort of medium impact activity. The Addixxion will easily snap out of the ball swivel. It also comes with a rubber mount to go on an elastic goggle headband such as ski goggles, similar to the “jockstrap” mount that is available for the GoPro.
    Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and Reviews on Amazon.com
    Contour


    Contour really stepped their game up with the + model, offering Bluetooth
    control of the camera and preview over a cell phone or tablet (low framerate).
    Similar to the RePlay, Contour thoughtfully provides a MicroSD card in the box
    (why doesn’t everyone do this?)
    The camera features a GPS receiver that embeds the GPS signal in the video stream. Some users may find great benefit in this feature. It’s fun to open the GPS data in GoogleEarth, playback the waypoints while watching earth, and re-live the experience. GoogleEarth may be screencapped for additional (and interesting) B-Roll footage.
    Recording can be enabled simply by sliding the locking record switch forward. The camera automatically goes into record mode, so there’s no clumsy fumbling with small buttons that one sometimes cannot see due to mounting systems.
    The Contour+ does have some external controls for features such as white balance (accessed via cell or tablet device over BlueTooth. Video may be streamed over HDMI, as with most of the other cameras.
    Out of the box, this action camera is ready to roll including a MicroSD card BlueTooth preview and control is a nice addition, although it was very choppy and slow on my Samsung Galaxy SIII phone and Galaxy Tab2.
    Battery life is approximately 90 minutes of continuous record in 1080 mode.
    The form factor is very well thought-out for most applications; however, the proprietary mount system is a personal dislike. The camera cannot freestand due to the rounded bottom. A mount, housing, or similar device is required to use this system. Mounting the camera on a tripod requires additional adapters not easily found due to limited distribution. Contour is the only camera that comes with a tether in case the camera is knocked free from its mount. While this may be desirable in some sports, in skydiving, BASE jumping, or paragliding, it is not a wanted feature.
    Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and Reviews on Amazon.com
    Drift HD


    This camera wasn’t originally on my list of cameras to test, as it has always seemed like a toy camera company to me (I had one of their original SD cameras and found it wanting). However, pressure from several friends around the world caused me to re-think my position.
    The RF remote control is cool. It lets the user configure the camera(s) for remote start/stop, and it can sync multiple cameras. With a rotatable lens, the camera may be placed at any angle. One can monitor over a streaming HDMI output, or use a built-in preview screen that may be powered down to save on battery life (this is a big plus in this camera). The packaging is pretty nice too , acting as a case for the gear. Only RePlay and Drift offer a package to store the camera when not in use; I like this feature.
    The rotatable lens isn’t without flaws. In vertical mode the angular distortion all but renders this camera useless, due to the already-challenged quality of image.
    With a battery life of only 45 minutes in 1080 mode, this is not a camera for lengthy shooting. Drift does offer an extended life battery… you’ll want it if this is the camera you choose to purchase.
    The Drift comes with a pair of stick-on mounts, a strap mount, and the remote control. The remote is necessary in gloved environments: the big buttons are easy to hit, while the camera’s tiny buttons are easy to miss even when not wearing gloves. The Drift HD can free-stand without any assistance, and the standard ¼ camera thread on the camera body makes it easy to mount on a tripod.
    Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and Reviews on Amazon.com
    Sony HDR AS15


    The HDR AS15 is one of the newest camera choices, and it’s Sony’s first foray into this market. The switchable FOV from 120 to 170 is terrific. I’m a bigger fan of the narrower views as they don’t distort the image, and provide a closer to ‘natural’ image. The glass lens is a Zeiss, and it does not disappoint. Coupled with the Exmor sensor/imager, it is a beautiful combination. A one-button camera-on/record enable feature makes this identical to the Contour+ for speed to record.
    Out of the box, this camera is ready to roll, minus a needed MicroSD card (purchased separately).
    The AS15 offers wireless control and camera setup. Connecting to my Galaxy SIII, Tab2 10.5, and iPhone 4s was simple and painless. Each camera has a control code printed on a sticker. I don’t care for this; Sony should provide more than one sticker, or better yet, print the code inside each camera. If the code is lost, it’s not easy reconnecting without linking via USB to discover the password. Using wireless for constant monitoring cuts the battery life by around 25%. The wireless is challenged in a way, as only one unit may be controlled at a time. Had Sony used a different network scheme, multiple cameras could have been controlled from a cell or tablet device. Hopefully they’ll look into this with future updates. Operating the camera is easy: the two menu buttons are simple and the menu flow is logical.
    The electronic stabilization system is standard Sony sweet smoothness, and no one can really compare with what Sony has given users of stabilization modes. Sony uses the CyberShot batteries, both standard and extended life. The camera comes with two battery trays. This is a benefit, as batteries may be found at any Walmart, Best Buy, or other big-box store.
    Sony’s mounting system is the most robust of all the various camcorders; a standard ¼ camera thread in the bottom of the waterproof housing is easy to mount. Compared with the non-precision plastic mounts offered by GoPro, JVC, Drift, and RePlay, the massive ABS plastic mounts provided by Sony are rock solid and will not chatter in even the most extreme vibrating environments. Outside the box, the camera doesn’t mount well to anything without some sort of other mount assist. The camera cannot free-stand because of its rounded bottom. Additionally, the external mic connector and HDMI connector are in the bottom of the camera. Sony has a box with LCD monitor available for the camera, making it more bulky, but also utilizes this accessory port on the bottom of the camcorder. With the LCD/box option, the AS15 may be easily mounted on a tripod or other mounting system.
    Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and Reviews on Amazon.com
    GoPro Hero2


    This is the camera that changed up the world of action sport photography, and which has been the longest running action sports camera in the market, now in its third version.
    GoPro comes out of the box with a squarish form-factor, sharing the ‘box’ format with the Drift and JVC cameras as opposed to the longer, more slim stylings of the RePlay XD, Contour, and Sony camcorders.
    The 170 degree lens may be switched to a 127 FOV (used for most of these tests) via menu settings.
    The menus are the most challenging aspect of using this camera; alternating between the power/function button and the shutter/select button can become confusing, even for the most seasoned user. I have around 20 of these cameras, and still sometimes have to go all the way through the menu cycle to reach the desired setting. Out of the box this camera is almost ready to roll, coming with a partially charged battery, 2 mounts, and a waterproof box (SD Card not included).
    GoPro offers a WiFi backpack system for 99.00, but I could not get it to work with my cell phone. The remote start/stop switch worked properly. The remote system may be paired with multiple GoPro’s for simultaneous start/stop.
    GoPro uses a proprietary mounting system, but this is of little consequence. One can go to Walmart or other big-box store and purchase additional and widely varied mounts. GoPro offers far more mounting options than any of the competition. At first glance, this is very nice of them; however, they need to offer a wide variety of mounts simply because they are proprietary. To mount a GoPro on a tripod, for example, will cost another 10.00 just for the adapter to mate its proprietary mount with a standard ¼ camera receiver.
    Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings, and Reviews on Amazon.com
    Overcrank/Slow-Motion Modes
    Overcrank/Slow motion not only allows for better viewing of very fast action, it also adds drama and lends a sense of timelessness to fast and exciting scenes. All of the cameras in this shootout offer a p60 mode in 1280x720 mode.
    Only the Sony HDR AS15 and the GoPro Hero 2 offer p120 modes.
    Sony records p120 in a true 1280x720 mode. GoPro Hero2 records a resolution of 848x480 when in p120 mode.
    One frustration with GoPro: they pack the frames, so the NLE doesn’t see the native stream. Sony flags (and plays back over HDMI) the proper slow motion/overcranked content. There is a benefit to the non-standard method GoPro uses, as it allows for real-time playback “on the set,” although editors will have to manage the timeshift in post.


    In this video, both p60 and
    p120 modes can be compared in well-lit conditions.

    In this video, both p60 and
    p120 modes can be compared in very dark conditions.

    In this p120 scene, the
    image goes from brightly backlit to exposure-compensated. I appreciate that the
    camera does not bloom nor pop when the exposure shifts. “Rugged-ness”
    Ok, this wasn’t part of the original plan, but it’s well worth mentioning. Riding on ATV’s with these little cameras made it obvious that people are going to break them if they put the camera into harm’s way.
    RePLAY XD easily walks away with this; you can stand on them, drive a car over them, drop them from great heights (I dropped one from several hundred feet), and they’ll come right back asking for more. The JVC is well-built too; JVC claims they can be dropped from 6’ and survive, but frankly speaking, any of these cameras can survive a 6’ drop, so that’s somewhat of a chuckle for a marketing bullet point.
    In their external cases, the GoPro and Sony are both very tough. The lens is the weakest point on any of these cameras, which again is a nod to RePlay, as they have a replaceable cover over the lens while keeping a virtually indestructible low profile. Out of the box, the Sony is perhaps the most fragile, with the GoPro and Drift HD being in the same categories.
    Third Party Support
    This category easily belongs to GoPro. They’ve been in the market longer than anyone, and until the announcement of the GoPro Hero3, the form factor hasn’t changed, allowing third party vendors to build custom-molded helmets, aluminum billet mounts, custom-colored housings, and even camera controls. That being said, Sony, RePlay, and Contour all offer additional mounts, housings, LCD displays, cabling systems, remotes, and other accessories. Additionally, Sony, JVC, and Drift all offer standard threads which eliminates the need for a large portion of the third-party tools built for GoPro cameras.
    Codec/Post Production
    All of the action cameras in the shootout are using the h.264 codec (AVC) packaged in one of two containers. Apple users of Mountain Lion OS are able to directly stream video from all the cameras on their machines. Windows users who run Windows XP or newer will have no difficulty playing back footage from these cameras. The Galaxy Tab2 has no problems playing back the files directly from the cameras or cards in a card reader with no transfer of data.
    For editing, all Windows applications will natively edit the files without difficulty. Users of Adobe Premiere CS5.5 or newer can edit native files on their Mac, but users of FCPX and FCP Studio7 will need to log/import the files and convert them to AIC or ProRes. This is one place where the shootout yielded a surprise; I’d expected Sony to use the superior AVCHD codec vs using AVC. The HDR AS15 is mainstreamed by using the AVC codec, which puts Sony squarely in the middle of a group where they could’ve had a significant advantage over the competition. To sum up this segment: none of the cameras have an advantage over the others in post, with the exception of the GoPro H2 with the ProTune upgrade installed (the 35mbps rate may have some transcode advantages in post, depending on the subject).
    SUMMARY
    With all features, shapes, sizes, and mounts aside, it boils down to two main challenges for the best action camera: image quality and ease of use. In all image-related aspects of this shootout, the Sony HDR AS15 easily offers a superior image quality over all competitors. For low-light, brightly lit, and overcrank modes both bright and dark, all members of my team and I selected the Sony AS15 footage. In blind tests with others, they selected the AS15 as best of all images.
    In 1080p30 mode, my preferences (in order)
    Sony HDR AS 15
    GoPro Hero2
    RePlay XD
    In 720p60 mode, my preferences (in order)
    Sony HDR AS15
    GoPro Hero2 (this is GoPro’s best mode, IMO)
    RePlay XD
    In 720p120 mode, my preferences (in order)
    Sony HDR AS15
    GoPro Hero 2
    In low-light environments, my preferences (in order)
    Sony HDR AS15
    GoPro Hero2(p60mode)
    Contour+ (p60 mode)
    For color accuracy, my preferences (in order)
    Sony HDR AS 15
    GoPro Hero2
    RePlay XD
    (It was a difficult choice between the RePlay XD and the JVC Adixxion when the subject was well-lit/sunlighted subjects, with the JVC lens protector removed. The RePlay’s sharper edges gave it the advantage).
    GoPro, Replay, Sony, and JVC offer white balance settings either through menus or through .txt-based edits of the camera’s operation set up. All of these tweaks were avoided; every camera was “out of the box” for best/most fair comparison.
    Images from the JVC and the Drift HD are simply too soft for any sort of professional use. Removing the JVC lens protector (not recommended) somewhat improves the image.
    Overall, most every one of the cameras offers features, form, or function that other cameras do not have; particularly when looking at factors outside of image quality. For me, the final image quality matters most of all, and it’s the aspect we tested most thoroughly in this shootout.
    Keep your focus tight,
    dse
    Joel Hindman, Darren Burke, Andreea Olea, Tom van Dyck, Karl Gulledge, John
    Hamilton, Chris Warnock, Lob Lobjoit, Sydney Owen-Williams, Skydive Elsinore
    contributed to this article.
    About The Author

    DOUGLAS SPOTTED EAGLE is an audio and video pro. He is a Grammy recipient with DuPont, Peabody, and Telly awards lining his studio; he is also a participant/producer in multiple Emmy winning productions. Douglas is the Managing Producer for Sundance Media Group, Inc. and VASST, authoring several books and DVDs and serving as a trainer and consultant for videographers, software manufacturers and broadcasters. He is the author or co-author of several digital media titles including Digital Video Basics (VASST), The FullHD (VASST), and Vegas Editing Workshop (Focal Press) among many others. Douglas is an accomplished aerial photographer who thrives in the adrenaline-filled world of fast-action videography. He is active as a multimedia producer, trainer, and presenter, utilizing the latest technology as part of his workflow.
    Editors Note: We are aware that the above review lacks the competition of the GoPro HD Hero 3, which was released shortly after we completed the review. We are as interested as you are to see how the HD Hero 3 compares to the other action cams reviewed in this article, in particular the Sony AS15 and we aim to bring you the answer to that question in the near future.

    By admin, in Gear,

    GoPro HD Hero 3 Announced

    GoPro have just unveiled the specifications for their new generation of mounted sports cameras. The GoPro Hero 3 will likely grab an even tighter hold of the already dominated market, where GoPro have found themselves leading over the past few years. Other companies have tried to revitalize their products in order to keep up with the ever popular GoPros, but ultimately have not yet managed to capture the power, functionality and quality that GoPro manage to pack into their cameras.
    The HD Hero 3 looks to focus on creating a smaller and lighter camera, while at the same time increasing the features and enhancing both video and photo quality. It's difficult not to be impressed by the Hero 3 by looking at what it provides, at least on paper. The Hero 3 range is said to be at least 30 percent smaller than the HD Hero 2, and 25 percent lighter. They have also included built in wifi, which while of limited use to some, is a huge positive advancement for many others. The processor of the camera is claimed to be twice as fast as it's predecessor, this makes the camera able to handle higher quality video at higher frame rates. The higher end of the Hero 3 range allows for 4k resolution video at 15 FPS, while supporting 60fps at 1080p, 100fps at 960p and 120fps at 720p. This is a vast improvement from the Hero 2 which recorded at a maximum of 48fps at 960p and 30fps at 1080p. This information would support the claim that the Hero 3 can in fact double the performance of it's predecessor, the HD Hero 2.
    The design of the GoPro Hero 3 is similar to that of the Hero 2, though slightly slimmer. It's good to see GoPro sticking to a design that has proven to be successful, while only making minor cosmetic changes, most of which are due to design enhancements, one of which is a new, flatter lens. There are currently 3 models in the range, the entry level model which is referred to as the 'White Edition', the intermediate model which is called the 'Silver Edition', and then the top of the market model which has all the bells and whistles - the 'Black Edition'. Another impressive feature is the ability to control up to 50 cameras from a distance of up to 600ft using a remote. This remote is included in the Black Edition, while can be purchased separately for the other Hero 3 models for around $80.
    Due to the fact that the Hero 3 has only been announced hours ago, there aren't really any performance tests out yet and will likely come in at a later stage, though the claims are that the Hero 3 (Black Edition) is twice as sharp, twice as powerful as before when under low light conditions and all models also have received a reduction in the wide angel distortion.
    The photographic specifications on the GoPro HD Hero 3 are slightly enhanced from the Hero 2, in specific models. The entry level model, as with the Hero 2, comes with a 5 megapixel sensor, while the intermediate model has been bumped up from an 8 megapixel to an 11 megapixel sensor, while finally - the top of the line model has been bumped up from an 11 megapixel sensor to 12 megapixels. All three models have the ability for burst shots, with the White Edition offering a maximum of 3 shots per second, the Silver Edition providing up to 10 shots per second with its burst mode feature, while the Black Edition takes the cake with an amazing 30 shots per second burst firing option.
    GoPro HD Hero 3 - Specifications



    GoPro HD Hero 3 (White Edition)






    Specs
    Included



    Built in Wifi
    1080p/30fps, 960p/30fps, 720p/60fps
    5MP photos
    Up to 3 shots per second burst mode
    Improved Housing
    $199 MSRP


    HERO3: White Edition Camera
    197’/ 60m Waterproof Housing*
    Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
    QR Buckle
    1 Curved Adhesive Mount
    1 Flat Adhesive Mount
    Assorted Mounts and Hardware
    USB Charging Cable


    GoPro HD Hero 3 (Silver Edition)






    Specs
    Included



    Built in Wifi
    1080p/30fps, 960p/48fps, 720p/60fps
    11MP photos
    Up to 10 shots per second burst mode
    Protune & White Balance
    Improved Housing
    $299 MSRP


    HERO3: Silver Edition Camera
    197’/ 60m Waterproof Housing*
    Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
    QR Buckle
    J-Hook Buckle
    3-Way Pivot
    1 Curved Adhesive Mount
    1 Flat Adhesive Mount
    Assorted Mounts and Hardware
    USB Charging Cable


    GoPro HD Hero 3 (Black Edition)






    Specs
    Included



    Built in Wifi
    4k/15fps, 2.7k/30fps, 1440p/48fps, 1080p/60fps, 960p/100fps,
    720p/120fps
    Remote Control
    12MP photos
    Up to 30 shots per second burst mode
    Protune, Continuous Photo, White Balance and Picture in Video
    Improved Housing
    $399 MSRP
    GoPro App Compatible
    Pro Low-Light Performance


    HERO3: Black Edition Camera
    197’/ 60m Waterproof Housing*
    Wi-Fi Remote + Key Ring
    Remote Charging Cable
    Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
    QR Buckle
    J-Hook Buckle
    3-Way Pivot
    1 Curved Adhesive Mount
    1 Flat Adhesive Mount
    Assorted Mounts and Hardware
    USB Charging Cable




    The waterproof housing for the Hero 3 has been developed to be smaller and fit close to the new flatter lens. Lens distortion under water is often a factor in wide angle underwater photography or filming, and it may have been one of the driving forces behind the decision to adopt a flatter lens in their design.
    The storage and ports have changed slightly since the previous releases and now contains a mini-USB for syncing and charging, while having micro HDMI for video output. The Hero 3 will use a micro SD card, as opposed to the regular SD cards used in previous versions.
    The big question for many GoPro owners is going to be whether it is worth them upgrading their current setup for the new Hero 3. For the most part the White and Silver editions are along the same lines as the Hero 2, the Silver Edition just having a few new tweaks and enhancements, which may be enough for some to consider the upgrade. But from what we've seen on paper, the Hero 3 Black Edition looks to be a different beast and we have high expectations for the results of any tests that are going to be performed with this camera in the near future.

    By admin, in Gear,

    $400 Contour+2 HD Action Camera with Live Streaming Launched

    This week Contour launched their new Contour+2. Like its predecessors the Contour+2 is a light-weight versatile full HD action camera. Contour took a look at their previous models and combined the best features from the ContourROAM and the Contour+ into the new easy to use Countour+2. By sticking the existing form factor they made sure the camera is still small and light, two of the most important requirements for any mounted action cam. The Contour+2 weighs only 0.2oz more than its immediate predecessor.



    What's in the box?

    Contour+2 Camera
    Micro SD Card (4GB)*
    Profile Mount
    Rotating Flat Surface Mount
    Rechargeable Battery
    USB 2.0 Cable
    Mini HDMI Cable
    Mic Cable
    Waterproof Case


    Specs:

    Full HD – 1920 x 1080 @ 30/25fps
    Tall HD – 1280 x 960 @ 30/25fps
    Action HD – 1280 x 720 @ 60/50 or 30/25fps
    Slow Motion – 854 x 480 @ 120/100, 60/50, or 30/25fps
    Photo Mode: Every 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 45, or 60 seconds
    5MP Sensor
    Codec – H.264/AAC / File Type – MP4
    AAC Audio Compression
    32GB microSD Compatible
    Battery Life: 2-2.5 hrs


    While most of the improvements are to the video itself, there are some external changes that, on the face of it makes real sense and will probably make this an even more desirable little camera to have. Contour brought back the built-in tripod (1/4" - 20) mount, something that got lost between the ContourROAM and the original Contour+ that just didn't make sense. There’s also an Instant-on record switch and no more power button. Slide the slider forward and you’re ready to jump. There's a slide lock to prevent you from having a dreaded premature recording stop.
    The Contour+2 records full HD (1080p) at 30FPS video and SD (480p) video at 120FPS. However, it now also embeds “rich data” like speed, elevation and distance via a built-in GPS receiver as part of the recording. All of this can be edited and fused via their Storyteller app (PC/Mac). So, much easier to track and share your most excellent wingsuit jump.
    Other cool features include: a 270° rotating lens which allows you to mount this camera in almost any position you can imagine and the built-in leveling laser will help you get frame and get the picture right regardless. An external mic port, a 4GB microSD card and a mini HDMI cable for live streaming all included. Also part of the package is a 60-meter waterproof case and then of course the one we like, improved Bluetooth connectivity, turning your iOS or Android smartphone into and external remote viewfinder.
    Another great thing, at $399.99, you get all of this at about 100 dollars cheaper than the old Contour+!
    We hope to have a full review of the Contour+2 in the very near future for you. In the meantime, find out more about this camera on the Contour Website.

    By admin, in Gear,

    Argus AAD Discontinued

    According to Karel Goorts, Managing Director for Aviacom SA, production of the Argus automatic activation device (AAD) for the sport parachuting market has been discontinued. The current group of service centers will continue to provide service for units currently in use. A limited number of cutters and spare parts will be available. Many container manufacturers rescinded the approval of the Argus to be installed in their containers earlier this year, following questions about the effectiveness of the cutter. Argus owners should check with their container manufacturer to determine whether the Argus may be installed.
    Source: USPA
    Aviacom released the following press release on the situation:
    Dear Argus Customer,
    We thank you for the support and the confidence that you granted us over the years. The Argus has saved no less than 31 lives since 2006.
    The recent bans from major manufacturers forced us to discontinue further production for the sport market, due to the impossibility to use our AAD in most rigs. We have been lobbying in St.-Louis at the PIA meeting with all involved parties to get the Argus back in the air – to no avail.
    The manufacturers demand a brand new cutter design. This will take between 18-24 months and cost over 100,000.00 USD. We don’t get any guarantee that this solution will be accepted by those who issued the ban, so it is not a viable option.
    Our Service centers will be able to continue the 4 year check-ups and the remaining ‘old’ cutters still will be exchanged for free. A limited stock of spare parts will be available.
    The remaining stock of Argus SIS will be sold through our dealer network.
    We are sincerely sorry for this unfortunate situation.
    Kind regards,
    Karel Goorts

    Managing Director

    Aviacom SA
    P.S.: The Argus is allowed for use in the following rigs: Mirage, Wings, Dolphin, Racer, Infinity, Next and Basik.
    Source: Aviacom

    By admin, in Gear,

    Less Weight, Feels Great

    Tonfly is well known for their camera helmets. Designed in Italy, built in Slovakia, their carbon fiber helmet designs are a bit different than everyone else.

    When Giovanni Suzzi, president of Tonfly, offered up an opportunity to review his newest helmets, I was expecting them in the mail in two separate boxes. When UPS dropped the package at my door, I was certain an error had been made due to the lightness of the single package. I was shocked to find two helmets inside. These helmets weigh almost nothing, but yet are incredibly strong, solid, and as protective as any skydiving helmet I’ve ever worn.
    “The helmets are made from a tighter carbon fiber weave,” says “Sonic” Bayrasli, exclusive distributor for Tonfly in the USA. “This contributes to a marginally higher cost.”
    The 2X and 3X helmets are definitely a unique grade of helmet. The exceptional lightweight means less fatigue at the end of a long day of skydiving. This also allows for a thicker padding inside, thus quieting the helmet more than any helmet of the same class.
    Both helmets sport an audible pocket over the right ear, made specifically for the L&B; Optima, Solo II, or Protrack devices. This unique pocket allows for external access without crowding the wearer’s head. There is also room for a second audible over the left ear, perfect in size for a Flysight (wingsuiter’s tool) or other standard size audible.
    The ladder-strap chin cup provides for a secure mount. However, I discovered that if the chin cup isn’t reasonably centered in the ladder straps/on the chin, the release catches can easily be knocked loose. Equal tension on both sides of the chincup is fairly important for the most secure fit. As with earlier models of the Tonfly helmets, the 2X and 3X helmets use a carbon fiber chincup covered with a vanity cup emblazoned with the Tonfly logo. This vanity cup is available in many colors to match any custom color scheme a buyer might come up with.
    Speaking of custom… Tonfly offers the 2X and 3X in all sorts of custom colors with logos put in place as designed by a buyer. I asked for some unique logos and color combinations and Tonfly was more than obliging.
    Both helmets are designed for mounting a single camera on top. Neither helmet is designed as a helmet for both video and stills; these are made to be as light as possible. A Zkulls mounting ring is provided on both helmets (optional) along with a molded space for the GetHypoxic HypEye camera controller (optional). The 3X also provides a debrief port for the HypEye control/debriefing system (optional). This is very useful for team debriefs, viewing video immediately after a jump where a DV, HDV, or AVCHD camcorder is used and an HDMI cable isn’t available. This also means that the AV connector on the camera won’t need to be disconnected, thus saving wear and tear on the camera connector (a common point of failure).
    Two very unique features set the 3X apart from it’s brother; the air pump system that allows the base of the helmet to conform to the wearer’s head, and a “crown” that allows the user to quickly shift the angle of the camera by as much as 15 degrees forward or back.
    The air pump system is terrific for wearers with long hair; it makes the helmet ‘feel’ like a full face helmet in the way it contains hair. Those with short hair will appreciate the additional quiet that the custom conformation option provides. It takes 4-5 pumps to make the helmet tight against my head, and I have medium-length hair. The small air release nipple next to the pump provides an instant release of air, but in truth, it’s impossible to make the helmet uncomfortably tight, even with the air pumped as tight as the internal bladder allows.
    The slotted mounting plate allows users to change the camera angle, albeit not instantly. This is very useful for wingsuit pilots or freeflyers. Wingsuiters will like the ability to shift a camera forward (angled more downward) which allows for easier capture of a formation in a vertical slot, and freeflyers will like the additional angles for flying close in small groups. Changing the angle of the platform requires a slotted screwdriver and a couple of minutes. It’s very easy. However, the screws are also extremely light weight, so use care when turning them so as to not strip their threads.
    As mentioned before, the adjustable camera platform also provides access to the video debrief port found on the HypEye camera control system. On a personal note, I’ve found this feature invaluable not only because it reduces wear/tear on the camera AV port, but also because it allows for a very fast connection to both television and computer monitors (if equipped with a composite input).

    Wingsuit students use Tonfly Helmets at Skydive Elsinore. Each is equipped with a custom-color L&B; Optima, courtesy of L&B.; Both helmets share the same chincup and ladder characteristics.
    What I don’t like about these helmets:
    The screws that hold the camera platform to the 3X are thin metal and easy to strip. Tonfly could address this by including a couple of extra screws/receivers with each helmet (they’re very difficult to find here in the USA).
    The ladder straps on both the 3X and the 2X don’t hold as well as their older brothers in the CCM/CC1 realm.
    What I do like about these helmets:
    Super comfortable on the head. No pressure points anywhere.
    Extremely lightweight (hence the “X” in their name, perhaps?)
    Very strong. I’ve been knocked in the head by several students, one of them wearing boots sharp enough to chip the paint on the helmet, but I didn’t feel a thing. I was also hit by a newbie wingsuiter hard enough to cost me a battery, lens, and destroyed camera; one can only imagine how much of my skull was protected by this lightweight helmet.
    The fit. I don’t know what Tonfly does exactly, but I appreciate the way this helmet fits. Students often comment on how much they love the fit of the helmet too. Mine is a size 59; it seems to be an average size.
    The camera system on the 3X simply rocks. I love how it works, how it feels when I’m flying, and provides the angle I prefer with wingsuit students.
    Quiet. The 3X is the most quiet helmet I’ve ever jumped. Read more of DSE's writing on his blog.

    By DSE, in Gear,

    Understanding your AAD

    With all the recent issues that have been brought up by the Argus AAD ban by multiple container manufacturers, I wanted to make sure that everyone knows that while most modern AAD’s have a similar design, based on that of the CYPRES1 which was introduced in the early 90’s, they all have very unique differences, and these differences can cause major issues if you are unaware of them. Also, this is a good time to remind people about best practices to use if you have an AAD in your rig.
    Because of safety concerns right now it looks like most container manufacturers have
    at least temporarily prohibited the ARGUS in their containers, so this article predominantly relates to the CYPRES and the VIGIL. If the ARGUS is approved again for most containers, updated information will then be made available. Although not widely seen, there are also the FXC Astra (electronic with cutter), and the FXC-12000, an older bulky mechanical pin-pulling device. Introduced at the recent PIA Symposium, the MARS M2 from the Czech Republic and being imported by Alti-2, is another newcomer to the AAD market, which may be available sometime this year once the container manufacturers approve it for use.
    All the modern electronic AAD’s currently on the market in their “Expert mode” work by activating a cutter that severs the reserve closing loop when the user is falling at or greater than a given speed (typically around 78 MPH or faster) and at or lower than a given altitude (typically around 750 feet). This cut closing loop should then allow the reserve to begin its opening sequence. This is all the AAD will do (cut the loop). If the reserve has been correctly packed, the cutting of the loop should initiate the reserve opening sequence, and hopefully a reserve canopy will open between 200-500 feet AGL (barring a pilot chute hesitation, etc).
    KNOW YOUR EQUIPMENTAs always, consult the user manual for your specific make/model, and discuss any of your AAD questions with a qualified rigger. We are lucky to have SSK Industries, Inc., the US service center for CYPRES units located in Lebanon, Ohio, so please feel free to contact SSK for any CYPRES questions also.
    The first major difference between AAD’s is “active” mode. This is the altitude above the ground that the AAD would allow itself to activate if the conditions were met for an activation. The CYPRES\CYPRES2 arms at 1500 feet AGL. The VIGIL\VIGIL2 will move to active mode at 150 feet AGL. Both of these have different rationale behind their decisions. While a CYPRES will not active if the airplane only gets to 900 feet and you have to do an emergency exit, a VIGIL moves into active mode at a lower altitude and this has caused issues when the door of the airplane accidentally opened which caused a pressure difference that triggered activation. Counterpoint to this for the VIGIL is if you exit at 1200 feet and hit your head on the tail the unit is already in active mode and is able to potentially fire to start the reserve activation sequence. (Note that CYPRES is armed if you climb to arming altitude, then descend lower prior to exit.) The CYPRES also disarms when it goes below ~ 130 ft. AGL. The VIGIL will also disarm at ~130 feet on the way down
    A second major difference is in the shutdown timing. A CYPRES until has a hard shutdown at 14 hours after the startup sequence. This means even if you are on the airplane climbing to altitude or in freefall when that time is reached the unit will shut down. In this method of shutdown timing you must do a manual shutdown and restart of the unit if you are approaching the 14 hours since startup to ensure that the unit will remain active for any skydives that you are intending on doing. The VIGIL checks to see if it is at its “Ground Zero” altitude and if you are 150 feet or higher or lower than that altitude via pressure readings then the unit will remain on until you reach “Ground Zero” altitude again. This can cause an issue if you take your rig home and you live more than 150 feet above or below the field elevation at the airport since the VIGIL might remain on for days or weeks. Specifically this can cause issues if you are frequently traveling and leave the DZ at the end of the day and travel to a different DZ the next day since the unit might still be on and is using the altitude of the other airport as its “Zero” point. This could cause the unit to fire much higher or lower than expected. As a reference point Middletown Hook Field, the home of Start Skydiving is at 650’ MSL, Columbus (CMH) is at 815’ MSL, Indianapolis (IND) is 797’ MSL and Covington (CVG) is 896’ MSL. All of these areas may be at a large enough altitude difference that you may need to manually turn your VIGIL off when you leave the dropzone to keep it turned on until it is returned to Start Skydiving. Leaving the VIGIL on for extended time periods can lead to the battery going dead prior to the expected life of the unit or the unit failing to realize the difference in “Zero” altitude if you travel to another dropzone.
    A third difference is the way that the altitude reference offset data is stored in the units.. If you are doing an offsite demo jump, or jump at a DZ with an airfield with an elevation different from the landing area, there exists an option that, if you know you are going to be landing at a location that is hundreds of feet higher or lower then where you are taking off from, allows you to adjust the AAD so it knows about that difference, so it still will activate at ~750 feet above the ground at the intended landing location. Because of the CYPRES automatic weather correction feature, it will re-zero itself on the way back to the take-off location, so it is necessary to switch it off and reset the DZ altitude reference prior to each jump at the remote airfield. At the end of the self-test procedure, CYPRES-2 displays the previously set altitude offset so that it can be easily selected again. The CYPRES(1) unit does not have a memory of a programmed offset and will forget the difference each time the CYPRES is turned off. CYPRES automatically tracks weather changes throughout the day, and if the airfield and landing site are nearby and at the same elevation there is no need to reset it every time you need to re-zero your altimeter. If you travel by car back to the DZ, or walk back from a different elevation after landing with your CYPRES, it is recommended to reset it (switch off/on). As the VIGIL does not automatically track weather changes in the same way, it will retain the offset information in its memory until you go back into the menu and change it back to zero even if the unit is shut down or it reaches its 14 hour point and shuts off. The upside is if you are frequently jumping at a location that involves needing to input an offset the offset is saved for you. The downside to this is if you program in an offset and forget to reset it you could have the unit activating incorrectly since it thinks it still needs the offset. The VIGIL also recommends resetting the unit if you travel with it in a car or walk back from a different elevation.
    Yet another difference is the “Function” of the AAD. CYPRES units come in four versions that are easy to tell the difference of at a glance. CYPRES Expert units have a Red button, Speed units have a Red button that has SPEED printed on it. Student units have a Yellow button and a Tandem unit has a Blue button. Each of these models has unique activation parameters so refer to the user manual for specific information. A CYPRES-2 unit can be reprogrammed by SSK or the factory to change its functionality and it’s done at no charge. The VIGIL is a multifunction device that allows for the user to change it from “Expert” to “Student” or even “Tandem” in the startup sequence.) You do need to make sure the unit is in the right mode to get the correct activation parameters loaded. You can tell the mode the VIGIL is in by looking at the display once the unit is turned on and it will tell the currently active mode. Tandem Instructors especially need to ensure if the rig they are about to jump has a VIGIL installed that it is in the right mode since having the unit activate at the EXPERT or STUDENT parameters may not ensure the canopies will open in time to save your life.
    There are additional differences so please read your User Manual to really understand all the details of your AAD. While we try to use the “Set it and Forget it!” attitude towards AADs, they are somewhat complicated devices that you need to understand the details of, so that you can properly use the unit if it is installed in your container.
    Modern AAD’s since they were introduced with the CYPRES1 in 1991 have saved hundreds of lives. They have also caused issues and even fatalities when inducing two canopy out situations at times where jumpers have opened their main canopies very low or other complications. AAD’s have a very high success rate when needed but they are not 100% flawless either. Just by having an AAD installed does not mean that you are now perfectly safe. Many jumpers inform their friends and families that “I have this little device that will pull for me if I don’t” as a way of reassuring them around the dangers of skydiving. While it is true that having an AAD does increase your safety factor it is not to be relied on and the true risk involved in skydiving does need to be considered.
    Reminder of Best Practices for use of your AAD no matter which brand you use:
    1) Only turn your AAD on at the takeoff site, do not turn it on at home then drive to the DZ since it will think your home is “Zero Altitude” and may fire higher or lower than expected because of this.
    2) If a “multimode” device, ensure the unit is in the correct “Mode” for the skydive you are about to do.
    3) Notice any errors during the start up or during operations during the day and alert your rigger before completing another jump on the unit.
    4) Be aware of the shutdown timing on the AAD and if needed turn it off before you leave at the end of the day. Also be prepared to reset the unit if you will be doing more than 14 hours of jumping (Night jumps especially are of note on this)
    5) Only configure offset information into the unit if you are truly jumping at an altitude different than you are taking off from. Also be sure you know whether the unit retains the offset information or not.
    CYPRES2 User Manual:
    http://www.cypres-usa.com/userguide/CYPRES_2_users_guide_english.pdf
    or
    http://www.cypres.cc/index.php?option=com_remository&Itemid;=89&func;=download&id;=182&chk;=5ca53a980b98700d976eb51f9e1fc9c3&no;_html=1〈=enVIGIL User Manual: http://www.vigil.aero/files/images/ENGELS___DP_JUN_2010.pdf

    VIGIL SB on this topic: http://www.vigil.aero/files/images/Information_Bulletin___Airborne_Status_.pdfWith all the recent issues that have been brought up by the Argus AAD ban by multiple container manufacturers, I wanted to make sure that everyone knows that while most modern AAD’s have a similar design, based on that of the CYPRES1 which was introduced in the early 90’s, they all have very unique differences, and these differences can cause major issues if you are unaware of them. Also, this is a good time to remind people about best practices to use if you have an AAD in your rig.
    Because of safety concerns right now it looks like most container manufacturers have
    at least temporarily prohibited the ARGUS in their containers, so this article predominantly relates to the CYPRES and the VIGIL. If the ARGUS is approved again for most containers, updated information will then be made available. Although not widely seen, there are also the FXC Astra (electronic with cutter), and the FXC-12000, an older bulky mechanical pin-pulling device. Introduced at the recent PIA Symposium, the MARS M2 from the Czech Republic and being imported by Alti-2, is another newcomer to the AAD market, which may be available sometime this year once the container manufacturers approve it for use.
    All the modern electronic AAD’s currently on the market in their “Expert mode” work by activating a cutter that severs the reserve closing loop when the user is falling at or greater than a given speed (typically around 78 MPH or faster) and at or lower than a given altitude (typically around 750 feet). This cut closing loop should then allow the reserve to begin its opening sequence. This is all the AAD will do (cut the loop). If the reserve has been correctly packed, the cutting of the loop should initiate the reserve opening sequence, and hopefully a reserve canopy will open between 200-500 feet AGL (barring a pilot chute hesitation, etc).
    KNOW YOUR EQUIPMENTAs always, consult the user manual for your specific make/model, and discuss any of your AAD questions with a qualified rigger. We are lucky to have SSK Industries, Inc., the US service center for CYPRES units located in Lebanon, Ohio, so please feel free to contact SSK for any CYPRES questions also.
    The first major difference between AAD’s is “active” mode. This is the altitude above the ground that the AAD would allow itself to activate if the conditions were met for an activation. The CYPRES\CYPRES2 arms at 1500 feet AGL. The VIGIL\VIGIL2 will move to active mode at 150 feet AGL. Both of these have different rationale behind their decisions. While a CYPRES will not active if the airplane only gets to 900 feet and you have to do an emergency exit, a VIGIL moves into active mode at a lower altitude and this has caused issues when the door of the airplane accidentally opened which caused a pressure difference that triggered activation. Counterpoint to this for the VIGIL is if you exit at 1200 feet and hit your head on the tail the unit is already in active mode and is able to potentially fire to start the reserve activation sequence. (Note that CYPRES is armed if you climb to arming altitude, then descend lower prior to exit.) The CYPRES also disarms when it goes below ~ 130 ft. AGL. The VIGIL will also disarm at ~130 feet on the way down
    A second major difference is in the shutdown timing. A CYPRES until has a hard shutdown at 14 hours after the startup sequence. This means even if you are on the airplane climbing to altitude or in freefall when that time is reached the unit will shut down. In this method of shutdown timing you must do a manual shutdown and restart of the unit if you are approaching the 14 hours since startup to ensure that the unit will remain active for any skydives that you are intending on doing. The VIGIL checks to see if it is at its “Ground Zero” altitude and if you are 150 feet or higher or lower than that altitude via pressure readings then the unit will remain on until you reach “Ground Zero” altitude again. This can cause an issue if you take your rig home and you live more than 150 feet above or below the field elevation at the airport since the VIGIL might remain on for days or weeks. Specifically this can cause issues if you are frequently traveling and leave the DZ at the end of the day and travel to a different DZ the next day since the unit might still be on and is using the altitude of the other airport as its “Zero” point. This could cause the unit to fire much higher or lower than expected. As a reference point Middletown Hook Field, the home of Start Skydiving is at 650’ MSL, Columbus (CMH) is at 815’ MSL, Indianapolis (IND) is 797’ MSL and Covington (CVG) is 896’ MSL. All of these areas may be at a large enough altitude difference that you may need to manually turn your VIGIL off when you leave the dropzone to keep it turned on until it is returned to Start Skydiving. Leaving the VIGIL on for extended time periods can lead to the battery going dead prior to the expected life of the unit or the unit failing to realize the difference in “Zero” altitude if you travel to another dropzone.
    A third difference is the way that the altitude reference offset data is stored in the units.. If you are doing an offsite demo jump, or jump at a DZ with an airfield with an elevation different from the landing area, there exists an option that, if you know you are going to be landing at a location that is hundreds of feet higher or lower then where you are taking off from, allows you to adjust the AAD so it knows about that difference, so it still will activate at ~750 feet above the ground at the intended landing location. Because of the CYPRES automatic weather correction feature, it will re-zero itself on the way back to the take-off location, so it is necessary to switch it off and reset the DZ altitude reference prior to each jump at the remote airfield. At the end of the self-test procedure, CYPRES-2 displays the previously set altitude offset so that it can be easily selected again. The CYPRES(1) unit does not have a memory of a programmed offset and will forget the difference each time the CYPRES is turned off. CYPRES automatically tracks weather changes throughout the day, and if the airfield and landing site are nearby and at the same elevation there is no need to reset it every time you need to re-zero your altimeter. If you travel by car back to the DZ, or walk back from a different elevation after landing with your CYPRES, it is recommended to reset it (switch off/on). As the VIGIL does not automatically track weather changes in the same way, it will retain the offset information in its memory until you go back into the menu and change it back to zero even if the unit is shut down or it reaches its 14 hour point and shuts off. The upside is if you are frequently jumping at a location that involves needing to input an offset the offset is saved for you. The downside to this is if you program in an offset and forget to reset it you could have the unit activating incorrectly since it thinks it still needs the offset. The VIGIL also recommends resetting the unit if you travel with it in a car or walk back from a different elevation.
    Yet another difference is the “Function” of the AAD. CYPRES units come in four versions that are easy to tell the difference of at a glance. CYPRES Expert units have a Red button, Speed units have a Red button that has SPEED printed on it. Student units have a Yellow button and a Tandem unit has a Blue button. Each of these models has unique activation parameters so refer to the user manual for specific information. A CYPRES-2 unit can be reprogrammed by SSK or the factory to change its functionality and it’s done at no charge. The VIGIL is a multifunction device that allows for the user to change it from “Expert” to “Student” or even “Tandem” in the startup sequence.) You do need to make sure the unit is in the right mode to get the correct activation parameters loaded. You can tell the mode the VIGIL is in by looking at the display once the unit is turned on and it will tell the currently active mode. Tandem Instructors especially need to ensure if the rig they are about to jump has a VIGIL installed that it is in the right mode since having the unit activate at the EXPERT or STUDENT parameters may not ensure the canopies will open in time to save your life.
    There are additional differences so please read your User Manual to really understand all the details of your AAD. While we try to use the “Set it and Forget it!” attitude towards AADs, they are somewhat complicated devices that you need to understand the details of, so that you can properly use the unit if it is installed in your container.
    Modern AAD’s since they were introduced with the CYPRES1 in 1991 have saved hundreds of lives. They have also caused issues and even fatalities when inducing two canopy out situations at times where jumpers have opened their main canopies very low or other complications. AAD’s have a very high success rate when needed but they are not 100% flawless either. Just by having an AAD installed does not mean that you are now perfectly safe. Many jumpers inform their friends and families that “I have this little device that will pull for me if I don’t” as a way of reassuring them around the dangers of skydiving. While it is true that having an AAD does increase your safety factor it is not to be relied on and the true risk involved in skydiving does need to be considered.
    Reminder of Best Practices for use of your AAD no matter which brand you use:
    1) Only turn your AAD on at the takeoff site, do not turn it on at home then drive to the DZ since it will think your home is “Zero Altitude” and may fire higher or lower than expected because of this.
    2) If a “multimode” device, ensure the unit is in the correct “Mode” for the skydive you are about to do.
    3) Notice any errors during the start up or during operations during the day and alert your rigger before completing another jump on the unit.
    4) Be aware of the shutdown timing on the AAD and if needed turn it off before you leave at the end of the day. Also be prepared to reset the unit if you will be doing more than 14 hours of jumping (Night jumps especially are of note on this)
    5) Only configure offset information into the unit if you are truly jumping at an altitude different than you are taking off from. Also be sure you know whether the unit retains the offset information or not.
    CYPRES2 User Manual:
    http://www.cypres-usa.com/userguide/CYPRES_2_users_guide_english.pdf
    or
    http://www.cypres.cc/index.php?option=com_remository&Itemid;=89&func;=download&id;=182&chk;=5ca53a980b98700d976eb51f9e1fc9c3&no;_html=1〈=enVIGIL User Manual: http://www.vigil.aero/files/images/ENGELS___DP_JUN_2010.pdf

    VIGIL SB on this topic: http://www.vigil.aero/files/images/Information_Bulletin___Airborne_Status_.pdf

    By PhreeZone, in Gear,

    Phoenix-Fly Revamps Wingsuit Instructional Programs

    Phoenix-fly announces a new Coaching program to replace the Phoenix-fly Instructor Program.
    Rising up from out of the ashes is the Phoenix and the latest re-start at Phoenix-fly is the dismantling of their “Instructor” program and the birth of a new Coaching program, making room for a gradual move towards a more official training standard.
    “With the recent rise in wingsuit-related incidents and the tremendous growth in the wingsuit discipline, we felt it was time to re-examine our roster of manufacturer-endorsed instructors and determine a path for instruction that not only provides the best methodologies for training, but also provides an accessible, consistent system that Phoenix-fly can firmly stand behind,” says Jarno Cordia, Global Marketing Manager for Phoenix-Fly.
    Phoenix-Fly’s history is well known; president and founder Robi Pecnik was one of the first and easily the most innovative wingsuit designer in the early days of wingsuiting. Paired up with Jari Kuosima, they formed Birdman. Pecnik kept the company on the leading edge of suit design while Kuosima sold suits. Together they built a powerhouse product line, and over time they instituted a training program to help skydivers get their wings into the air. The program was primarily authored by Chuck Blue and Henny Wiggers.This was known as the “Birdman Instructor” program.
    In 2004, Pecnik grew dissatisfied with the direction Birdman was taking, and so left to form Phoenix-fly.
    Many Birdman Instructors (BMI) automatically received Phoenix-fly instructor ratings when the competitive company was formed, and the Phoenix-fly program moved forward and grew from that base of early instructors. It was later discovered that some of the BMI’s had received their ratings via email. In short, some of the new PFI’s had never received formal training of any kind.
    “We’ve found over the course of years that instructors were going uncurrent or teaching First Flight Courses to skydivers that didn’t meet the industry-recognized recommendation of 200 skydives in the last 18 months,” said Jarno, “We needed to address this, and with the spate of recent fatalities, we wanted to address it before someone was killed or injured during one of our training jumps. A high percentage of the recent fatalities fall well below the 200 jump minimum required by Phoenix-Fly and now by the new USPA BSR.”
    With this in mind, the old PFI or “Phoenix-fly Instructor” program has been dismantled and the replacement program being steadily brought online. “We made four Phoenix-Fly Coaches (PFC’S) this past June, with others lined up to obtain their rating in the fall months,” says Douglas Spotted Eagle (DSE) Director of US training. “With the new additions to the SIM that myself and a team of wingsuiters authored, the recent changes in the program Robi and Jarno wanted to make, and the USPA adding a Basic Safety Requirement related to wingsuiting demonstrated that now is the right time to change up the program.”
    Holders of the Phoenix-fly Instructor’s patch now hold a souvenir of the time they taught beginning wingsuiters. The Phoenix-Fly Instructional rating does not automatically translate to the newly founded Coach rating, and requires some re-training to merge into the new methodology of the PFC program, as well as a USPA Coach rating (USA-only).
    “The new program parallels the USPA Coaching program and in fact we now require, rather than recommend, that Phoenix-fly Coaches in the USA hold a current USPA Coach instructional rating,” says DSE (who also holds a USPA Coach Examiner rating). According to Cordia, “We’re looking at requiring something similar for our non-USA Coaches. We’re already in the process of training up a Coach/Examiner for South America and he’s a USPA AFFI, TI, and just finishing his Senior Rigging rating. These are the kinds of people we want teaching and evaluating potential coaches.”
    The newly developed program fundamentals came from the coaching techniques initially developed by Skydive University, discussions with other wingsuit coaches, and weaknesses observed over hundreds of student jumps.
    Kinesthetics, isometrics, visual imagery, and student repetition are all part of the revamped PF First Flight program. First Flight Courses take slightly more time and provide improved and up-to-date information regarding navigation, deployments, and emergency procedures. Scotty Burns of Z-flock points out, “We’ve been teaching wingsuiting based on methods developed in the early days of wingsuits but the suits of today are much bigger, faster, and potentially more dangerous than they were ten years ago. This new program arms students with the knowledge they’ll need as they undergo the wingsuit journey. I’m really excited about it. I’ve taught dozens of wingsuit students over the years and know what to expect in an average First Flight. Since I’ve started training with this new program, my students somehow have been flying better. This thing works!”
    “Having watched numerous wingsuit first flight courses, I can say with confidence that the PF coach program takes instruction to a completely new level, using various well thought-out techniques that deliver the best training I could think of,” commented recent PFC graduate Andreea Olea. “It's amazing how well it works with all kinds of students, from the most distracted to the most clumsy to the most cocky ones. Quality wingsuit training at its best - major kudos to Phoenix-Fly for setting such an excellent standard!”
    Phoenix-fly coach candidates that have obtained their USPA Coach rating should plan on attending a Phoenix-Fly Coach training session at Skydive Elsinore, Skydive Utah, Skydive City/Zephyr Hills, or at Raeford Parachuting School with Douglas Spotted Eagle, Scotty Burns, or Chuck Blue. There is one half day of classwork, some of which will recall training received during the USPA Coach rating process. The second half day is a jump day, in which students must receive two satisfactory scores in three possible jumps. The jumps are scored using criteria very similar to the USPA Coach evaluation form. Candidates are also required to pass a written test before receiving their Phoenix-Fly Coach patches.
    “Phoenix-fly Coaches must teach a minimum of six First Flight Courses per year and 15 coach jumps in order to remain current,” says DSE. Phoenix-fly Coaches receive special discounts on PF wingsuits, access to the PF training fleet for special events, and other unique discounts and opportunities via PFpartners.
    “Truly, we’ve changed up our program so it meets a standard consistent with the USPA methodology of training and coaching, and so that the new program is consistent with the new wingsuiting additions to the USPA SIM. We’re looking to insert additional Coach/Examiners so that there are more geographical points in the USA where potential Phoenix-fly Coach candidates can more readily receive training and pass the course,” says Cordia. “We believe we’ve built a new training program worthy of even the most challenging students.”
    “From the USPA perspective, we’re thrilled to see Phoenix-fly step up their training to prepare skydivers for bigger suits, low-tail aircraft, and overall safety. The fact that the program is consistent with existing USPA standards and training programs is a bonus for all, ‘ says Jay Stokes, President of the USPA.
    Former Phoenix-Fly instructors wanting to update their Phoenix-Fly rating, or anyone qualified to challenge the PFC course may contact one of the PF Coach Examiners to arrange for a training class.
    Phoenix-fly Coach Courses are currently available at:
    ~Skydive Elsinore (Douglas Spotted Eagle)
    ~Skydive Utah (Douglas Spotted Eagle)
    ~Raeford Parachuting Center (Chuck Blue)
    ~Skydive City/Z-Hills (Scotty Burns)
    -The Parachute Center, Lodi, CA (Ed Pawlowski)
    Contact Jarno Cordia for other countries/regions
    Dropzones are encouraged to check Phoenix-fly.com for information regarding the active status of Phoenix-Fly Coaches.

    By Deleted, in Gear,

    Gear Database Updates

    You have probably seen the previous article on the bonehead composites gear update. Well that was the first of what was almost a complete gear section update. It became evident that much of what is listed in the gear database wasn't entirely fresh and that there were some discontinued items which were still listed and some new gear out there which also hadn't found it's way into the database.
    Action has been taken in correcting this issue and making sure the gear section is as up to date as possible. I have both sent out e-mails to all involved manufacturers as well as manually gone through the list and updated what I could. The result is over 100 new gear items added to the database including a new category, "Cameras and Camera Equipment". Granted much of what is new on the site isn't new in production, but this now gives you a chance to review gear that was previously not listed.
    New gear items can be found under the following categories:







    Altimeters, Audibles and AADS


    - Alti-2 Inc

    - Free Fall Accessories

    - Larsen & Brusgaard

    - Parasport Italia



    Cameras and Video Cameras


    - GoPro

    - Sony

    - VholdR

    - Conceptus

    - Hypoxic

    - Ultimate Switch

    - Sky Tools

    - Skydance Headwear


    Harness and Container Systems


    - Altico

    - Basik Air Concept

    - Jump Shack

    - Para Avis

    - Para-Phernalia

    - Rigging Innovations Inc

    - Sunrise Manufacturing International

    - Thomas Sports Equipment


    Helmets, Head Gear and Goggles


    - 2K Composites

    - Bonehead Composites

    - Cookie Composites

    - Gath Head Gear

    - Headfirst Headwear

    - Parasport Italia

    - RAWA

    - Sky Systems

    - TonFly


    Jumpsuits and Clothing


    - Bird-Man Suits

    - Body Sport USA

    - Firefly Jumpsuits

    - GoCrazy

    - Kurupee

    - Matter Clothing

    - Phoenix-Fly

    - Sonic Flywear

    - Tonfly



    Main and Reserve Parachutes


    - Atair

    - Basik Air Concept

    - Flight Concepts

    - Icarus Canopies

    - ParaAvis

    - Parachute Systems

    - Performance Designs


    A complete list of the new gear items can be found - On the New Listing page.
    Though even with these updates I am sure there are still manufacturers which have slipped through and aren't listed in the database. And I will be trying my best to fill in these holes and hopefully create a comprehensive up to date gear section.
    Your assistance would be greatly appreciated too! Anyone who notices a manufacturer or gear item missing in the database can post information in the following thread - Gear Section - and I will add them. If you are also aware of products which have been discontinued, but aren't listed as such you can also alert me to this and I will go ahead and correct the issue.

    By admin, in Gear,

    Bonehead Composite Gear Update

    We're happy to announce that we've updated the Bonehead Composite gear page with plenty of new items. We've been somewhat out of date regarding some of the new helmets put out by Bonehead Composite, so there is lots to check out- some of which you may already be aware of or own. Though this gives you the chance to head over to some of the new items and rate them, should you already have experience with them.
    Here's some of the new items we have added:













    The ZEUS Helmet
    "Take a walk on the wildside... Zeus is a new way to look at video helmets. The ZEUS from BoneHead Composites Is designed to be a versatile camera helmet with its flat side and a space provided for a Cam EYE II. One of the first things you'll notice about the ZEUS is the Retro-Roman styling. ZEUS provides more frontal facial coverage and a brim to keep the sun out of your eyes without being aerodynamically obtrusive. The ZEUS comes standard with BH's ingenious Thermal-Fit liner, our new buckle chin-strap closure and the great finish quality that you have come to expect from BoneHead. This helmet does not require a chin-cup and there is not a cutaway system currently available"
















    The FLAT-TOP NARROW Camera Helmet
    "The other choice of professional camera fliers from around the world… The FLAT-TOP NARROW from Bonehead composites is the trimmed version of our almost famous FLAT-TOP PRO. The FLAT-TOP NARROW is a great all-around camera helmet for any discipline in skydiving. RW, freefly, tandem video or competition freestyle can be captured with your FLAT-TOP NARROW. This camera helmet is a rear-entry system to give the user better camera stability without sacrificing comfort. This NARROW version of the FLAT-TOP PRO has been made to allow the camera flyer less surface mounting availability and air drag but keeps the stability of the rear-entry configuration. The FLAT-TOP NARROW has plenty of space inside to run wiring, camera buttons, etc. to keep as much of the snagable surfaces to a minimum. You have the choice of where you would like a ring sight post placed. The FLAT-TOP NARROW comes standard with BH's ingenious Thermal-Fit liner, still camera adjustable platform, NEW cutaway system, and "Riser Slap" release button protector."
















    Hells Halo Camera Helmet
    "Hell's Halo is Boneheads latest and greatest camera helmet. There are 3 mounting surfaces for all your camera mounting needs. What makes this helmet stand out is an internal "halo" band that is adjustable using the ratchet clip on the back for last minute size adjustment. The helmet comes in two shell sizes along with our thermo-fit foam and an adjustable chin strap. If you still feel you need a chin cup, that accessory is also available. You can choose from our regular chin cup or our new concealed chin cup which hides the ladder straps!"




















    The MAMBA Helmet
    "Welcome to BoneHead's latest addition to Full-Face Flip-Up Helmets. The MAMBA from Bonehead Composites is a great choice for RW jumpers with its full face security and the ability to flip open the lens quickly and easily without sacrificing keeping closed in freefall. The new lens closing mechanism requires the jumper to squeeze the lens together to allow the closing pin to be released from it's locking position at the forehead area in order not to make a push-in button on the chin susceptible to knock and unwanted lens openings during the most intense skydives. The MAMBA features dual internal audible pockets on the inside of the helmet, great peripheral vision, a heavy neoprene neck liner to help with fogging lenses and noise, a FASTEX chin strap closure with padded strap, front Chin-Dam wind deflector to keep unwanted wind flow out of the inside of the helmet and a shape that allows full head movement and the ability to see and locate emergency handles. The MAMBA comes standard with BH's ingenious Thermal-Fit liner, chin-strap closure and also comes with the lens coated with anti-fog direct from the factory."
















    The ALL-SPORT Helmet
    "Refined Sleek Shape For All Types of Skydiving. The ALL-SPORT helmet from Bonehead Composites is now available from your favorite retailer! Customers all over the world wanted a helmet that was simple, sleek and of course had the quality and design that has made BoneHead Composites famous in the skydiving world.. and we delivered! The ALL-SPORT features a very simple shell design that is flatter on the left and the right so that camera mounts can be added easier. We took all the best attributes of the Guner and Mindwarp and combined them to make the ALL-SPORT. Internal audible pockets have been integrated into the helmet so that there is no need to build out the sides of the shell to accommodate audibles and still keep the interior comfortable. The ALL-SPORT comes standard with BH's ingenious Thermal-Fit liner, neoprene padded leather FASTEX chin-strap closure. "







    These are just 5 of the new 10 helmet and helmet items added today. Head over to the Bonehead Composite gear page to see the rest.

    By admin, in Gear,

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