24 hour race prep: part 2, lights, camera, action!

Lights

In order to race for a full 24 hours, I have to add a lot of lights to the car. These include (a) headlights (b) emergency beacon (c) lighted numbers. In the picture below, you can see the additional headlights and beacon. The lights at the bottom are PIAA LED floods that are pointed outward as apex lights. The two on the hood are PIAA halogen bullets that are made for motorcycles. The beacon is the Jacques Advanced Warning System, which is a mandatory item. It blinks with about a 1 second periodicity.

Lighted number panels are expensive. I thought about shining a light on reflector tape, but it turns out reflector tape doesn’t disperse light as much as reflect it back at the source. So I came up with a new idea: LED strip lights and corrugated plastic. The lights were $19 from amazon. There are 2 chains of 100 lights. I taped them in a 12×8 grid to the corrugated plastic. I then used electrical tape to mask out the unwanted areas. It worked out okay. I’m going to mount these to the inside rear windows where they will be protected from rain (or contact). The power supply they came with is 4.5v, so I’ll connect them to USB.

Camera

Every racecar should have at least one video camera. Not only is it a great way to capture memories, but it’s also a critical tool for driver training and sorting out fault in an incident. In the past, I’ve used Mobius and Blackbox dashcams and a TomTom Bandit with varying success. This variation is generally user error. In the heat of the moment, it’s sometimes hard to remember to change the memory card or turn on the camera. With that in mind, I set out to build a camera that can record for at least 24 hours. And being both cheap and adventurous, I wanted to build it myself. Thankfully, this kind of thing has been done before. An ingenious racer, whose blog is titled externalhippocampus wrote a guide on how to turn a Raspberry Pi into a live streaming video device. I like the idea of streaming, but the quality is rarely very good. It’s more important for me to have high quality video than to watch live. So I modified the streaming instructions for a static video camera.

Here’s what you need to buy.

  • Raspberry Pi 3 Model B with 2 heatsinks $40
  • Raspberry Pi camera $14
  • 64G micro SD card $24
  • USB microphone $9

In addition, you’ll need typical computer stuff like USB keyboard and mouse, monitor (with HDMI port or an adapter), and headphones/speaker. This is just for installation, so borrow, don’t buy if you don’t have them handy. Eventually, you’ll have to figure out how to mount it in the car and provide it USB power. I have lots of RAM mounts and my car already has multiple USB outlets, so that was trivial for me, but it might incur some extra expense for you.

The instructions/log for the build is linked at the top of this page as RaceCam.

Action!

I just wanted to use “lights, camera, action” in the subtitle. There is no action. Maybe next time.

 

6 thoughts on “24 hour race prep: part 2, lights, camera, action!

  1. Make sure you tape down your USB connections on the camera and the wireless modem! We ran Lucky Dog at Laguna Seca this past weekend and had really great quality video on Saturday, but on Sunday either the power to the Raspberry Pi or the cable to the modem was loose, so we didn’t have in-car video the second day.

    Good luck!

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    1. USB connections have a habit of coming loose don’t they? I’ve also had the 12V adapter come out of the lighter socket. I’ve rigged up zip ties to both USB and 12V in place in the past.

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  2. A 64GB memory cars isn’t sufficient for 24 hours of recording unless you’re using x265 or HEVC.
    I put a 128GB in my Mobius and can record for ~19 hours before the card fills up. I’d go with a larger card before trying to roll my own. I’ve also set it up similar to a dashcam. When USB powers up it turns on and starts recording. When power goes down it continues recording for five minutes before shutting down. Haven’t missed any footage sing I set it up like that.

    As for race lighting, LED lights at the ‘budget level’ should be banned. They throw as much light UP as down making sure other drivers are blind when they’re behind you.
    We got two pair of ebay 50W HID projector headlights. They have extremely sharp cutoffs and we got a pair of left hand drive and a pair of right hand drive. They’re setup and aimed with the cutoffs like this: ——-\_____/——- The lighting is FANTASTIC. We see all the apexes and don’t blind a single person. If only the other competitors were so thoughtful.
    How clear are your headlight covers? And diffusion close to the source really screws up the pattern.

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    1. The video size depends entirely on the quality of the video. With a low bitrate, you can record for days. I’ll post some video and you can see for yourself. I’m going with 720p, 25 fps, 4M bitrate. That will go 28 hours.

      The LED lights I have are not budget level. They are PIAA rally lights and cost it. The LED bulb is projected backwards onto a reflector that projects the beam width-wise rather than all over. So it’s not like the typical LEDs that you see.

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      1. Excellent! Thanks for not having awful lights.

        As for the video, I want to go 1080p60 because 60Hz looks so much better, but the Mobius I have doesn’t do that.
        I also have considered just turning off the video at night, all the cheap cameras suck and I’m not putting a $1K+ camera in to a VW Fox wagon.

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      2. I’m going to try a bunch of different camera modes and upload them to see how they look. The nice thing about having programmatic access to the camera is that you can change exposure, bitrate, and resolution at ease. So I’ll script in some demo mode where the camera shoots for 10 seconds at each setting and we’ll see how it goes.

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