Groom POV Hidden Camera

I set the bar relatively high for myself with my 3D wedding proposal. It was a cool notion, I’d never seen it done, and that seemed like a good enough reason to do it.

The drawback to this is that I had to 1-up myself for the wedding…but how? There are an estimated 2,100,000 weddings per year in the U.S. alone; coming up with something unique and geky would be tough. Something unique, geeky *and* media based. What I had not seen before?

Enter: Groom POV Hidden Camera. I saw the GoPro bouquet video (cool idea, BTW), and saw a dude on a beach with a pair of Pivotheads. But I never saw an entire wedding ceremony – vows, entrance, first dance, cake cutting, etc. from the Groom’s point of view. Not only would this be a challenge, but it would give my bride-to-be and myself a unique perspective on the day.

Challenge Accepted.

Now, getting down to how to hide a 1080p camera in my thin frame glasses.

screen_grab_glasses

Still from the hidden glasses video

What I eventually settled on was an 808 #26 keychain camera, with a 15” lens extension cable, my prescription glasses, and a very tolerant (now) wife. The 808 (aka Key Chain SpyCam) has been around for several years, and has found quite a bit of popularity in hobbyist circles, mainly those who work with aerials. The light weight, relatively low cost, and now 1080p resolution makes it a very appealing tech toy.

The 15” extension cable meant that I could hide the recording part of the device (the 808 body) while having the much smaller lens portion detached and thus more easily hidden.

The 15” extension cable, while designed for the 808 #16, was reported to work with the #26. 15” gave me enough slack to hide the extension cable over my right ear and down into the collar of my shirt & tux; the 808 rested between my shirt and jacket. My long(er) hair further hid the cable.

I put a 32GB micro card into the 808, which would give me more than enough space for recording – the battery would die before I ran out of space. I had a portable USB battery on hand, so I could periodically charge the 808 in a side room before I needed it again.

The 808 also has a microphone inside the body. I never intended to use this onboard audio – we had a full videography crew there – I planned to use their mix for anything major. It does provide me some scratch audio, however, for syncing purposes.

hidden-camera-glasses-rt

First working model, dressed with electrical shrink wrap.
Courtesy David Monzingo.

Having amassed all of this data, I purchased the gear, and when it arrived, I realized quickly that my geek knowledge did not extend to fashioning “wearable” functional electronics. I came across David Monzingo who, as it turns out, has ton a ton of makeup and mechanical SFX here in Hollywood. After doing a brain dump of all of my R&D, David decided a low tech approach may yield to most benefit. Electrical shrink wrap, holding the components in place on my glasses, with some glue to keep one of the arms open seemed like it did the trick. He went to work.  However, after all of the manhandling and testing, the lens cable became damaged, and perhaps the heat used to shrink the electrical shrink wrap may have damaged the cables. I ordered replacement parts and David went back to work. Up until a few days before the wedding, the whole unit (after months of R&D on the entire project) was a question mark. It crashed randomly without warning. The night before the wedding, I bit the bullet, tore down the entire contraption, hoping that by replacing the 15” cable and using the original 808 #26 body, that the magic combination would work. Gaff tape was my friend.

In the event it hasn’t been apparent, the camera apparatus itself is very, very fragile. I went through two 808 #26 units, and two 15” cables, only to end up using a combination of these purchases to work – the night before the wedding. The non-extension lens cable which is permanently attached to the lens is fragile, and isn’t very flexible. The extension cable itself is made of long, thin fibre strands. All of these extensions used a friction locking mechanism. All of this meant that any sudden movements would cause the unit to crash, requiring a reset. While it may have worked for the ceremony, it failed daily while testing during the first dance. I am still amazed that the complete tear down and rebuild the night before the wedding worked.

Inadvertent dutch angle by Koonlung

Inadvertent dutch angle by Koonlung

What you can’t tell from this video is that as a backup, I had a total of 3 body worn hidden cameras. The other, rented from StuntCams, is actually a Koonlung DVR with a wide angle or button lens attached to an extension cable. This is much more robust, has a much longer recording time, but was certainly too large to affix to my glasses. I clipped it to my tux, and hid the recorder under my jacket. If the glasses failed, this was intended to be my backup. Sadly, aside from a few useable shots throughout the night, the unit was mostly a waste of money. Getting the lens clip to be at the right angle so the lens was even to the floor was a constant challenge, and the height of the lens on my tux (approximately 4.5 feet from the ground) meant that most shots were upwards. Damn genetics and my 5′ 11” height.

pivothead_pocket_cam

Preacher-Cam: Pivothead “modification”.
Courtesy David Monzingo.

With the glasses camera and Koonlung all operationally functional, the 3rd camera actually became the Preacher-Cam. David was able to re-tool the components from a used Pivothead glasses camera. I purchased this prior to the 808 #26, thinking I could use the components inside to build the hidden camera glasses. This did not turn out, and instead, the components of the Pivothead became a somewhat of a mini pocket camera, which I placed inside our officiant’s pocket. This, too, yielded very few useable shots….not much time to set and test in the Preacher’s pocket when you’re standing at the alter.

Overall, I am very pleased with the results. Color is slightly off in places, there are a few light leaks, and not much one can do about the smoothness of the motion. (I was going to use some smoothcam filters in post, but my results were less than good). On location, I *really* wanted a wide angle lens, but sadly, this is the only lens in existence for this camera.  Also, as anyone who wears glasses will tell you, your eyes move independent of your glasses – you’re not always looking from the center of the lenses. Thus, even though I was looking at my bride-to-be right in the eye, many shots have me looking directly at her neck, chest, etc. And while these were all very lovely to look at, they certainly not representative of my actual eye line during the day. (I’m debating uploading the entire ceremony as proof of this, and as a testament to how I sob like a little girl)

What DIDN’T Work:

  1. Endoscopes. Not many are HD, not many do sound. Most are very expensive, and do not record.
  2. Spy Pen Cameras: all were 720, pretty large, and would have to be placed in my tux pocket. Reliably pointing them at objects would be very difficult…and, it would not be at eye level. Most reviews of the types of pens were poor.
  3. Looxcie or other wearable cameras: Too big, too bulky, too obvious.
  4. Google Glass.  Not shipping, and I’m not a dev.  Plus, they wouldn’t respond to emails.  Also, only 720p, yes?
  5. Chinese pre-made “fashionable” spy glasses. I actually tried 3 different models, from the U.S. As well as eBay. All come from China, anyway. All shot in 720 (the 1080 model was most likely a faux-scaled 720 frame size, bastards), and used a low quality MotionJPEG codec, which had an unpredictable frame rate, anywhere from 15-30fps. Completely unacceptable.
hidden-camera-glasses

Finished hidden camera glasses.

 

Unless you're looking for it, you may miss it.

Unless you’re looking for it, you may miss it.

 

…and just to add a bit of extra excitement to the event,  there were some pre-wedding jitters. (Language NSFW)

 

10 Comments

  1. Nice! Very cool Michael. Love it. Those fibre cables can be a bear sometimes.

  2. Bob Kertesz:

    You are a slave to tech, and a sick, sick puppy. Your luck in finding a good woman who will put up with you is awesome ;-) .

    Congratulations!

  3. Nicely done :)
    Thanks for sharing the dos and didn’t for the little gadget.

    And of course, congratulations!

  4. Rita:

    Well Done

  5. so did you tell everyone/ anyone before the wedding that they were being filmed?

    when did you tell them?

    • We had a full multi shooter videographer crew there, plus a guest who had a larger camera rig, and a multi shooter photography crew in attendance. It was obvious that if you were there, you were going to be on one camera or another.

  6. Michael,

    Again thanks for your responses. I wanted to reach out again and ask a few more. I hope that’s ok..

    First, with glass presented to market (lightly), narrative POV story-telling is beginning to emerge. However, the story that seems to be getting told, naturally, is about the most interesting feature – a computer on your face.

    Gopro on the other hand, leader in wearable cameras, is extremely successful because of the camera’s versatility; the range of unique angles it can grab. However, it cannot show one angle, which happens to be the most important for achieving true human perspective.

    As seen on your wedding video, for the first time ever you were able to truly capture that real human emotional connection with a camera (or lack there of). This is amazing for content creators I think, and who knows what else we can use it for, especially in; journalism, entertainment, education, travel, etc.

    I guess my question for you is- where would I even start to figure out how to develop normal looking glasses with optimal camera features installed? Thank you.

    • ’tis quite alright.

      You’re in for an R&D ride. Luckily, there are several players that do this.

      If you look above under “What didn’t work”, you’ll see there are glasses with cameras on the market. Pivothead is by far the best quality, but the glasses are more meant for sports, as they are bulky….but the lens is directly in the middle of the bridge of the glasses, which is an improvement on my pair.

      More normal looking glasses with a camera are already made as well.

      http://www.spytecinc.com/hidden-video-camera-glasses.html

      Mostly they are from overseas, and sold through distributors here. The image quality is complete garbage. But I think given today’s technology, their approach may be best. This means a skinny PCB hidden in the arm of the glasses, with the lens at the joint where the arm intersects the glasses frame. The battery is in the other arm.

      Of course, the way to avoid lot of this is to go through the dual piece approach: a lens in the glasses, and the recorder wired separately.

      http://stuntcams.com/shop/mini-1080p-with-button-screw-camera-p-548.html

      This means you can have the more bulky recorder elsewhere.

      If I had the funds, I would like to design a PIvothead type solution, with less bulkier frames.

      ~Michael

  7. alan:

    hi Michael, can you help to design a camera glass that has excellent battery life and covert looking design. thin arms and small camera hole in centre or side of frame?

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