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The New ContourGPS Camera

In the last year, I’ve filmed hundreds of hours of video all over the world with my ContourHD 720p bulletcam. I consider it one of the most important pieces of electronics that I carry around and never travel without it.

Two other devices I usually carry with me are my Locosys BGT31 GPS datalogger (which allows me to track and log my GPS position every second) and my SPOT GPS messenger (which allows me to upload and share my position every ten minutes). I’ve usually done well on merging my GPS and photo data (though I abandoned that on this trip due to convenience), but one thing I’ve always struggled with is the ability to merge GPS data and video.

Earlier in the year I wrote some tools to do GPS integration with Adobe Premiere but the resulting processing overhead of my hack was so high as to render it unusable. Instead I found myself referring to the GPS track outside the video to place positional comments within the video, rather than the map overlay I envisioned.

As such, I was extremely excited to see the announcement that Contour is releasing a new camera called the ContourGPS, a slightly modified Contour camera with a built-in GPS datalogger. I’m incredibly interested in the technical bits here as to what exactly is going on – especially whether the GPS data is actually being embedded into the frames of the video or not. Unfortunately, as is typical with many product launches, it appears the nitty gritty isn’t going to be available for awhile.

Looking at the current information and advertising that’s available, I’m afraid Contour may be continuing to make what I consider to be their biggest mistake, however: They look to be relying on their own community to drive video sharing. The sample video shows a side-by-side interactive GPS route of a mountain biking video, something that is extremely cool technically but clearly limited to the Contour player. Potentially just as bad, the advertising text implies that you have to use their proprietary video editor in order to create these.

In other words, this new technology seems to be as limited as their on-line community has been in the past – it’s going to end up primarily being used to show short, continuous action videos of extreme sports that will only be consumed by other users of the camera also making such videos. It’s a self-contained ecosystem with minimal expansion capability and may really prevent some of the opportunities here, where the art is merely where you choose to film and how you position the camera and many people never have the opportunity to see it.

Just take a look at some of the videos on – the most viewed videos of all time have less views than a moderately successful video on Youtube. The community is too small, and always will be when it’s self contained.

I hope that Contour starts really working on their next generation integration with other communities leveraging this technology. They should provide a way to embed different GPS overlays in the video so that they can be shared on Youtube, Facebook, and Vimeo. I hope they’ll also give us mechanisms for editing the video with embedded GPS in “real” video editors – after all, anyone can strap on a camera and ride down a mountain, it takes a real artist to come up with something mind-blowing like this video (incidentally, the 2009 version of that video is what finally convinced me to buy a ContourHD).

Think outside the box. If you want things to go viral, you need a massive community to be infected. This isn’t going to happen when your community is unheard of by almost everyone on the internet.

For myself, I definitely covet the new camera, but I won’t be purchasing one unless it’s much more open than it initially appears. If we could create internal video overlays, integrate with geonaming services, and handle cuts, positional modification, and other such true integration I can imagine some incredible art coming out of the new ContourGPS – otherwise, it’s just a gimmick for a small community in my opinion.


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