A blog about cycling...especially the long distance stuff

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Contour Plus 2 - Review Part 2 - The device config file

In my last post I mentioned that the Contour "Storyteller" software isn't available anymore from the Contour website. Well you don't really need it, and there are a few nifty tricks you can do with the camera configuration just by editing the camera's configuration file.


Before you start, make a backup of the file:
  • Plug your camera into your computer, and browse to the contour drive that appears
  • In the root folder, you should see a file called "FW_RTC.txt" which is the configuration file. 
  • Make a copy of this file on your computer

Ensure file is not "Read only"

Now, going back to the contour drive on your computer, right click on the file and make sure it's not "read only" - uncheck this box if its checked before you start.

Explore the file

Open up  "FW_RTC.txt" on your device. This first part of the file, tells you what you have configured the programmable switch buttons 1 & 2 on, when you open up the back of the camera :

And this part of the file, defines what parameters you can enter, for each of the options in the settings above:

For example, if I wanted to change program otpion 1 from "A" - 1920x1080 30fps (NTSC)/25fps (PAL) to "G" 848x480  120fps (NTSC)/100fps (PAL) I simply change it to:

You'll notice I also change the 2 update settings to "Y" - this ensures the device firmware gets updated next time you power on the camera. If you leave it on "N" nothing will change.

To save your changes, just save the notepad file. Make sure you eject the device properly from windows before you unplug it. And you do this at your own risk! Make sure you test it before you need it....

Option for travelling

A good option if you are travelling,could be to make a couple of copies of the configuration file with the various settings you prefer, then just copy the one you want to have active onto the device whenever you need it. For example, have a couple of different microSD cards with you, and use one for HD video in low light, and a different microSD with different settings for other shooting conditions.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Contour Plus 2 Camera Review - Part 1 - Out of the Box

I recently purchased a Contour 2+ helmet camera, and thought I'd review impartially, and in detail how it fares. I'm going to do this in a couple of parts, first of all talking about what you get for your money, and then in part 2 after a bit more use, I'll look at the software, and some results from using it.

First of all, you need to know that Contour have gone bust. This is a great shame, and its probably bad news for anyone who brought a camera recently, and needs support. Parts of their website  are still up, but there are no official links available to download the "storyteller" software (which does not come with the device in it's packaging - more on that in a  minute) and there is also no support available on their website.

Contour devices are still being sold however! And consumers need to be aware that there some risk with buying one of these - if it breaks, you'll have to negotiate with the store you brought it from with regards to a refund. On the plus side, these camera's have dropped in price if you shop around, and you can get a quality product for a bargain. So first of all, here's what you get for your money.

Opening the box

It's an impressively tidy package, and the build quality of everything seems pretty good:

The Contour 2+ Comes with:

  • Waterproof case: Looks solid & genuinely waterproof with a good seal - though I haven't tested it underwater yet. The case adds quite a bit of weight and if you were mounting it on the side of a cycle helmet, I think it would pull your head to the side too much. I'm not going to use this on my helmet.
  • USB 2.0 cable
  • Rubber lens cap
  • Gigastone 4gb MircoSD card + SD Adaptor. It;s worth mentioning 4GB won't last you long (maybe 1 hour of full HD video recording). I purchased an additional 32GB micro SD separately.
  • 2 adhesive mounting points + 1 spare adhesive pad for the rotating mount (see below)
  • 1 Safety cord
  • The Camera


Out of the box you only get 2 mounts. The mounts are basically just rubber sliders with an adhesive back (made by 3M) that you stick to your helmet. I'm not sure I totally trust the adhesive backing to hold for long, and especially not if the the camera is in the waterproof case. The problem is that bike helmets don't actually have any fully flat surfaces on them. The mount does flex a bit, but I can still see a few small air pockets after attaching mine (and waiting overnight before use to let the seal form, as recommended).

The mount pictured above rotates so you can adjust the camera angle, and so far this rotation hasn't "slipped" on me. The Safety strap however, is not long enough to attach to the helmet (It's designed for goggles) but I'll make my own which will be easy. Note also the safety strap that comes "out of the box" only fits the adjustable mount pictured above. On its own, it looks like this:

Although its an additional $AUD 65-100, it's probably worth buying the bike mount kit. I cant see the mounts that come out of the box lasting forever, and if its wet, I'd mount the camera on the handlebars in the heavier case. Here's what you get with the separate bike mount kit:

Finally, a few useful links.

To the owners of contour, if you want these removed I will do so immediately on request. But it seems unfair to consumers, that the products are still on sale, yet your can't download the software. or even read the instruction manual, from your own support web site. The software (Contour Storyteller) is essential for configuring the device. For video editing, you can use either contour software, or any other video editing software. I will post more information about the software soon...

You can download both the instruction manual, and windows installer for Contour Storyteller from dropbox here .This is not my own link...it was found with a search engine and I take no responsibility for the content on there!

All in all, I'm enjoying using this so far. I immediately have noticed a difference in driver behaviour as well...if a motorist notices the camera, they tend to be more likely to behave with their driving.

I'll follow up with "Part 2" soon.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Gale force fun & broken bikes

Since I last posted, it’s been a bit of a torrid time on the bike, with a whole bunch of “mechanicals” and some not very fun times dealing with constantly windy weather. The wind has been really unrelenting of late, I can only recall 1 calm day in the last couple of weeks, and this week is no exception, with a only the briefest window of a couple of hours on Friday morning forecast to not be blowing a gale! 

This has definitely been getting me down. Last week I managed to ride a lot anyway, racking up 700 km in about 10 days -  but the legs were pretty shattered. I'm at 80% of my goal now, with 2000 km to try and cover before new year. If the wind eases, I think I can still make it – but if it stays like this I’ll be hard pressed to pull it off. I'm still a good way behind target…as illustrated by the red “target” line in my cycle geek graph:

2000 km to seems like a ridiculous amount for a month and a half. So mentally I'm taking it one week at a time: 280 km a week will get me there, which sounds much better!  I'm just going to focus on that…
I’ve also had a string of break downs on both my bikes. On my tourer, a converted Specialised Cyclecross, I had a cracked rear rim, replaced the chain & rear cassette, replaced the hub,  and had a bolt holding the rear rack shear off, leaving half the bolt still stuck in the frame. I've got all that fixed now but she was out of action for 3 weeks. I have now replaced the rear wheel with a much stronger 36 spoke wheel which should fare better for my next tour. It always was a bit dicey trying to get by with standard wheels when riding with a heavy load, and that led to most of the break downs above. I was very fortunate that I got back to Melbourne OK from Adelaide in one piece though,  those break downs out in the countryside would have been disastrous!
Meanwhile on my commuter bike, a couple of weeks ago I rode of this piece of metal:

It looks like a broken piece of a machine part….and it somehow managed to go right through the tyre, both sides  of the tube, and also punch a hole in rim. A couple of days later a spoke broke on the same wheel as well.

Fortunately I wasn't too far from work when the later happened…but for about 10 days I was without both bikes while they got fixed, and that put me even further behind on my target. To top things off, last week the front derailleur cable just snapped right off on this bike, so the commuter bike is back at the shop…again! I guess so many km’s in one year will cause this kind of wear, but it’s unfortunate timing.
Not the most positive or riveting blog post I must admit…but frankly it’s been really tough keeping going lately!