More and more car owners are putting dash cams into their rides. Not only has it become a must-have as a way to document one’s journeys on the road, it has also become an invaluable tool in certain situations where a pair of objective eyes is needed in legal cases. That being said, you really should get ready to maximize the full benefits of having a dash cam in your car. Here are 10 tips to help you get the best dash cam footage.
Place the Dash Cam Right in the Center of the Car’s Windshield
Some folks would like to create a point-of-view illusion, so they set their dash cam on a corner of the windshield. While it can be a great way to improve the overall cinematography of your video recordings, you’re not installing a dash cam for such a purpose, are you? As such, the dash cam should be positioned squarely in the center of the windshield. Your best guide is the mounting of your rearview mirror as this is placed dead center on the windshield. The ideal position is to get as much of the scene from both sides of the road so that when you start viewing your recordings, you’ll have as much information on the left side of the road as you have on the right.
Position the Camera Such That It Focuses on the Road, Not the Sky
The orientation of the dash cam should always be focused on the road. It is still okay to put some sky to the scene, but it should not take more than a third of the upper part of the camera view. It’s just like the rule of thirds among photographers whereby you create a 3×3 grid and position your subject in any one-third of the grid. When it comes to the horizon in panoramic shots, the sky should occupy the upper two-thirds of the screen. This is the reverse when setting up your dash cam. The sky should occupy only the upper third of the frame. This is to help minimize the effects of glare which can substantially reduce the quality of your videos. Again, like in photography, if one part of the image is too bright (that part where there is glare), the image sensor will compensate by making the rest of the image darker.
Fine-Tune the Quality and Frame Rate of the Video
The quality of your dash cam video is dependent on a number of factors such as ambient light, the sensitivity of your camera’s sensors, its maximum pixel resolution, and the frame rate of the video. The good news is that most of today’s dash cams already allow you to tinker with the internal settings of the video camera. For instance, you can now easily choose from a host of resolution options such as QVGA (320×240), VGA (640×480), SVGA (800×600), HD 720 (1280×720), HD 1080 (1920×1080), and others. As for the frame rate, most devices come with a standard 30 fps, although high-end systems can come at 48 and 60 fps. Choosing higher resolutions and frame rates can definitely give you the best, clearest, and most vivid shots. Unfortunately, you’d need to also beef up your storage device as this easily translates to larger files.
Adjust the Sensitivity of the Camera’s G-Sensor Settings
Dash cam manufacturers always integrate highly-advanced gravity sensors or G-sensors into their devices. These are also known as shock sensors. What these high-tech electronics do is that they automatically activate the camera once they detect impact forces on the vehicle such as what occurs in a vehicular accident. It’s not that the camera is not yet rolling before the accident. It’s just that the G-sensor somehow ‘tells’ the camera that an ‘event’ has occurred. This section of the video is, thus, locked or protected from being overwritten. Unfortunately, some dash cams have very sensitive G-sensors that they activate the protective video locking capabilities of the cam. You might want to adjust this a bit so that you’ll avoid accidentally triggering the feature.
Clean Your Car’s Windshield
You may have centered your cam and made sure that the sky occupies only the upper third of its viewing frame but if you failed to clean the windshield itself, you’ll still be left with videos that come with non-removable, un-editable smudges. More than this, however, is the tendency of the camera’s lens system to focus on the speck of dirt present on the windshield. When this happens you’ll get a really blurred background and a well-focused foreground. The problem is that your background is the road. As such, it is imperative that you keep the windshield free from any dirt or debris and that it must be sparkling clean and crystal clear.
Maintain the Integrity of Your Wipers
Most vehicle owners overlook the importance of fully functioning windshield wipers. Not only is the optimum functioning critical, the integrity of the wiper blades can also affect the quality of your dash cam videos. While regular cleaning of your windshield will create a substrate that makes it super-easy for the camera to focus on the road, there will always be instances when you have to remove smudges or any other particle on the screen while driving. If your wiper blade is already degraded, you will be introducing streak marks into your windshield. This can have an impact in the quality of your video. So, make sure that your wipers are in optimum working condition.
Mute the Microphone (Or Not)
There are some car owners who would like to record everything about their journey. This means they want the audio as well. While this may provide an added element to your video, allowing you to create a more cinematic experience, it may not be a wise idea to have the microphone switched on if you’re the type of driver who loves cursing while behind the wheel. Some of us would rather want the audio muted so it will be a lot easier to overlay some of our favorite songs or even our own voice recordings later on.
Invest in a Class 10 Memory Card with at least 16GB Capacity
Dash cams only record videos, but these should also be stored. Unfortunately, these devices don’t really come with an external hard drive that can save hundreds to thousands of hours of HD quality videos. So your best bet is to get a Class 10 SD memory card with at least 16GB capacity. The maximum amount of memory that you can put in your dash cam depends on its model and brand. Some can accept SD cards with capacities exceeding 256 GB. There are also those that limit their storage card-capabilities to just 32 GB. As for its writing speed, the minimum specifications you can adhere to is a Class 6 SD card. This should be fast enough in writing your video into digital files. Of course, getting a Class 10 is way better.
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Set the Video File Size to Something More Manageable
Modern dash cams typically shoot videos in timed blocks. This means that video files are saved in specific blocks of time that can range as short as 2 minutes to as long as 10 to 30 minutes. The quality of the dash cam videos are not affected by these time blocks so there really is no need to fuss about it. However, when it comes to managing such files, know that the longer the time elapsed in a particular video, the bigger is the file. This means that if you’re going to download your video files from the SD card and into your computer for editing or perhaps for review, it is definitely going to take a while. Opening an extra-large video file can also take time. As such, it is highly recommended to choose shorter time blocks, preferably in the 2- to 3-minute range so it is a lot easier to manage when it comes to editing.
Remove Clutter from Your Car’s Dashboard
Just as cleaning your windshield and ensuring that your windshield wipers are in perfect condition can help ensure you’ll get crystal clear views on your camera, removing clutter on the car’s dashboard can also help provide for a clearer view of the road. Sure, having a stuffed toy or perhaps even a model car on your dashboard looks very nice, but you don’t want any of the video frame to be obscured by a non-essential object. It is one of those things that are often overlooked by those who use dash cams and expect that their videos will come out as spectacular as any other. The only way you can achieve this is by removing clutter or any unnecessary item from the field of view of the camera.
Whether it is to document your travels or your journeys or to simply provide for a security measure for those just-in-case situations, making sure your dash cam shoots clear, high-quality videos is made easy if you adhere to these very simple tips.