Thursday, April 7, 2016

808 Camera Setup, Mods And Trouble

First off, a bit more information on my 808 camera.

Here is where I got it: http://www.ebay.com/itm/262162917085

After some research, I think I can conclude quite definitely that what I have is not even a proper 808 type 18 V2 camera, it is a clone of some variety.

My camera does not have the same PCB layout as the known 18 cameras. The battery did not have a connector from the factory. It ignores the s1config.bin file which HETAI (the manufacturer of the real 18) describes in their documentation, and if its firmware even HAS the usual configuration options, I do not know what the filename or format are to use them. It reads the date/time and the timestamp on/off switch from a "time.TXT" file which is described in the user manual included. This is not an 18 camera feature, and is more common among older types of 808.

Nor does my camera pay any attention to the FWDVCH.bin file for firmware reflashing (I tried in an effort to resolve my bugs). Probably a good thing, because I don't know what the hell this hardware actually is, and it might not be compatible with 18 camera firmware.

The files this produces are 1920x1080, not 1280x720 as the real 18 should generate. These are almost certainly scaled from something (960x540? 1280x720?), I am just not sure what yet. The filenames are PICTnnnn.AVI which is once again unknown among the 18 cameras (should be PTDCnnnn.AVI or DCAMnnnn.AVI if I recall correctly).

The camera does not take still images if the shutter button is pressed either on standby or during recording. Another redflag.

Bugs  

Shortly after receiving this I discovered a number of issues:
  • Occasionally, the camera starts itself back up repeatedly after being powered down manually or automatically.
  • The camera often will not power back up after shutting down once. The battery must be disconnected or the reset switch pressed.
  • Huge audio and video noise when battery voltage goes to around 3.6V
  • File corruption.
I want to expand on the last: The camera splits files at 10 minutes like most 808 cameras do. However, on this unit, when the first file gets near 10 minutes, it seems to reliably have missing bits and audio sync problems. Furthermore these AVI files are structurally screwed up in some way and I am unsure about my success editing them with my present tools.

I tried to dashcam my drive to work several times and the files (all <10min after startup) were mangled.

The upshot was that successive files, including one that ran the full 10 minutes and overflowed into another, appear to be OK - so I should be able to limp this along by throwing away 10 minutes of dummy video at the start.

Research is ongoing and I hope I eventually end up with a fully working and configurable firmware in this thing.

Mods


The battery was an issue that needed addressing, of course. The little stock lipo was going to die quickly even if it worked. It also didn't seem to be in that great of health and wasn't holding a charge, who would have figured for a no-brand Chinese battery. So I did what I do best: Put a pack on it.

I had 2 of these Panasonic NCR18650B (3400mAh NCA) which have had their positive terminals smashed in from the defective contact design of Convoy flashlights (fixed in my light and my father's light by a mod). I didn't trust these to make reliable contact in the lights anymore and they were gathering dust so I welded tabs on one, wired and terminated with a Deans connector, and bam I have a mega ultra super high capacity battery for the 808, at a whopping 850% improvement over stock capacity. The camera itself lost its lipo and protection circuit* and gained a cable and a male Deans.

(* I didn't trust the protection circuit not to cause trouble, and the camera shuts down well ahead of the 2.5V cutoff voltage of the NCR cell, not to mention even the biggest supported card would fill up well before the battery was flat. So far I have run it about an hour equating to 8.5GB of files and the battery is only down to 4.06V.)

The way I run this (battery not quite properly secured in the hasty image):






It works out very well.

Stand by while I try to get some test footage of me driving up on youtube.

Edit: Test footage is up http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwESPiuBnk0

Edit 04-08-16: I seem to have discovered that this camera has, of all things, overtemp shutdown. Twice I tried to record dashcam videos with it today, and both times it cut out within a few minutes. I guess it didn't like being in a black plastic case attached to a black dashboard in the Florida sun. For how many things are missing or broken with this cam, that is a weird feature to have there and working. Cool?

As of right now it is recording continuously sitting indoors and will be doing so until the card is full, hopefully that is in fact what happened, and it didn't just randomly stop.

Also, a hunch that only the first file is corrupted no matter how LONG the first file is; so perhaps booting up and recording a 5 second dummy clip before filming anything will stop the initial wrecked AVI.

Conclusion


One, do not buy this camera. Do NOT buy this camera. Just don't. Feel free to buy an 808, but do yourself a favor and buy a genuine type 16 D-lens at around $40 - or even a genuine 18V2 from HETAI's ebay. This one I bought is a shitty clone and I regret buying it and am still concerned over whether I will be able to limp it along and get game footage out of it or if it will just fail miserably. Oh, and consider a Mobius rather than an 808, they are much more of a "real" piece of equipment. As soon as I can I will probably buy either a 16 or a Mobius.

Two, the hat mount works, and so does the battery.



Edit 04-15-16: A major update.


The planned combat test was a miserable failure and every single file generated of the entire TBNC woods game was junk. It's a shame too, although the game was a bit dysfunctional, some good moments and some chatting with players happened that would have made for a good first video.


It seems my hypothesis of first file corruption was false, something more entropic and devilish is at play here.


However I may have stumbled upon the answers from an unexpected direction, in the process of going through motions ruling out easy causes my attention turned to the flash card. A bit of digging turns up a lot about junk flash and junk SD cards that are frauds or don't meet specs. Great, I bought a cheapo "Infinitive" brand card, cheapskate I am.

So how do I verify SD card operation and performance? While researching that, I come across something from the SD group itself about specific low level formatting to ensure performance. Hmm, well when I started having power management issues, I promptly used newfs_msdos on my SD card for the same reasons, eliminate something wrong with the filesystem or fragmenting or whatever as a possible cause. That of course didn't achieve anything, but I didn't think anything of it at the time, because FAT is FAT is FAT, right? I reformatted right before the game and that was the worst it had ever been.


And now that I think of it, reformatting may have started my trouble with munched AVIs and missing data.



Now I have formatted my card with the "official" SDFormatter utility, and went through a few tests mounted on the dash of the suzuki. The files weren't mangled. All of them played, none of them was frame drop central, none of them had unsync'd audio and they obviously weren't (file length versus video runtime) missing huge data like before.



I am also keeping note of the battery voltage being near 3.8V at the time of this observation, in case I have a voltage related issue.


Fingers crossed that I managed to get a gremlin by the tail this time, because damn, the little camera works well when it works. I like it, I like it a lot. Even did some night driving with it and the footage wasn't a black abyss like some dashcam videos.


3 comments:

  1. I'd love to hear any updates if you find out more about this camera. I think I have the same one and I'd love to be able to adjust the exposure like you can on a real 808.

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    Replies
    1. I will keep you updated on anything I am able to do with it in the future.

      It turns out that I didn't get that gremlin, the thing continues to mangle footage with 50%+ dropped frames and AVI corruption whenever there is any considerable motion or sudden light in it (anything that would increase the data rate to the card post-compression). Tried a SanDisk genuine card without any change.

      I am switching to a Mobius which I might also set up for the external battery, the only part of the setup that I got working flawlessly and am very satisfied with. The Mobius is much more capable, robust and configurable than the 808 series.

      Delete
  2. I forgot to click the "notify me" button the first time. :)

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