Guest Author: Chris Slavik, Task Force Delta Canada
If you are like me, you love filming and making videos of your airsoft adventures. Typically, I use a $40 action camera mounted to my helmet and it does the job well. My interest in night airsoft adventures have also increased, and unfortunately, my action camera cannot film in the dark that well.
I had three options to film at night…
- Film with a flashlight, but then I would be “that guy” lighting up the AO!
- Invest in an analog night vision unit and then get a camera that mounts to it. Right now, that is financially out of reach and since I travel often to events across North America, I may get into ITAR issues. I also have not seen enough good video from these units yet.
- Invest in an action camera designed to film in the dark, also called digital night vision. There are not many on the market, but the one that stands out beyond the rest, the one that is not regulated by ITAR and the one I can afford, is the SIONYX Aurora and that is the one I started using.
Holding onto this action camera and all my airsoft stuff was nearly impossible and it did not take long before I got some help to mount the Aurora to my helmet, like how a PVS 14 would mount. I could look through the camera now and record what I see at night while keeping my hands free.
The videos were also cool! A light purple color across certain features, red kill lights can easily be seen, infrared lasers, red and green lasers, someone waving a red kill rag, the detail on a Humvee, the pattern on your MultiCam Arid clothing, the satellites passing overhead, the words on a building, all seen in the middle of the night. What is also cool is the heads-up display showing my direction, orientation, grid coordinates, and status at a glance. Almost like a video game HUD!
Setting up the camera on my helmet was easy. Just look at any night vision helmet setup and you are about 85% there. Here is what you need.
- Helmet with a shroud
- Battery pouch
- Counter balance weights
The SIONYX Aurora has many options to get the best video possible while using it as a handheld device. Options such as image stabilization for those of us with shaky hands or if we want higher frame rates for slow-motion effects, it has that too. Unfortunately, when using it as a hands-free device, mounted on your helmet and using it to film video and navigate with, all these settings take time for the processor to compile and display on a little screen. There is a slight delay that occurs, and this is what we call latency.
We can manage the pre and post-processing settings to make the data processing faster and to reduce latency. Here are just a few settings that take up a large amount of processing time.
- Image Stabilization
- High Definition
- High Frame rates
- High Resolution
I am using the viewfinder of a digital camera to navigate with and settings alone will help reduce but not resolve the latency issue. I was still feeling a bit dizzy and still did not have the skills yet to navigate by monocular alone. People who use traditional, analog night vision gear (NVG), will understand that attempting to move quickly and quietly with NVGs can be difficult. There are many skills that must be learned to become effective with NVG units. Learning these skills will also allow SIONYX Aurora users to also compensate for the latency and become a better videographer.
- Moving slower (Slow is Fast!),
- Perceiving potential hazards or obstacles in the distance earlier,
- Not having to be concerned about looking down to see what is under your feet or looking up and stargazing,
- Not having to constantly adjust your focus.
After using the SIONYX Aurora in this configuration, for over a year and in countless nighttime missions, I do not notice the latency anymore. I run my settings how I like, and I try to help others get their cameras setup initially through the SIONYX Airsoft User Group Facebook page.
Just some advice for you before filming your next video with the SIONYX Aurora. Become more perceptive of your environment will be the key to making a great video. Moving slow and steady will also make the video better and will keep the remaining latency unnoticeable, and remember, to click the record button when it is time to throw down some bbs.
Explore the entire SIONYX Aurora night vision camera lineup.