Viewing Myself in 3rd Person

This is a project which will literally pull your mind out from your head. 

The whole idea is to view ourselves live in 3rd person. A camera will be mounted to ourselves looking at us from behind. A video goggle setup will then allow us to only see ourselves in 3rd person.

We will explore how to make a setup like this for relatively cheap. We'll look at other permutations, such as transmitting the data, using the setup in paintball with a marker mounted camera, and so on.

[edit: check out step 10 for the 3rd person view]
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Step 1: The Camera's

As the setup goes, really any camera with a video output will do. I have a small video CCD camera with the component video and audio output. That ran me about $60. You can get cheaper ones if you'd like. If you really want to play with this, I would suggest getting a good camera. After having done it, I would prefer a higher quality camera. 

Some digital cameras or camcorders can do video out as well. That will work, as long as it is live.

Step 2: The Video Goggles

This is the more expensive part. There are a few options out there when looking for video goggles. I have a headplay setup. It gives me a 800x600 resolution, which is one of the better ones I have seen. These run around $350. You can get some 520x480 res googles for $250 if you look. I have other projects in mind for these goggles, so I wanted something better, but it is expensive.

We did look at other options, but to really immerse yourself into the video, a goggle setup is best. Further more, in the future, if I can get some 3d cameras, the goggles I have will support that.

It is possible to get a small LCD and stick it in front of your face, but that just doesn't seem that it will work as well. And when you consider that a nice sized screen will run you $100 to $200 bucks, plus you need a way to mount it, it just doesn't add up.

Step 4: Recording the Video Stream

We have the radio setup transmitting the video and audio. At the other end we have the receiver which is connected to the video -> USB converter. This allows a remote viewer to watch what the camera is seeing. It also allowed us to easily record the video stream.

I am using a KWorld converter. They are cheap, it seems to work well. There are a ton of other options.

Step 5: Constructing the Camera Mount

Picture of Constructing the Camera Mount
The camera mount system is made of 1/2" PVC. A frame is constructed and attached to a vest. If you don't have a vest, no worries. I just had one around. You can easily strap the frame to your chest with some straps. This may actually be better as it will hold the frame more closely to your back, whereas the vest had some play.

Extending from the frame is a T junction with the boom. The boom need more support so initially we added some string, and then some wire, but finally we decided we needed some more rigid support and added more PVC pipe.

Only the T-junction at the base of the boom was glued in. All the rest of the pieces are hand tightened.

It is important that the whole frame is rigid and well attached to your body. As we will see later, the motion of the camera relative to your body can make or break the experience.

The camera itself was attached by screwing the mount that the camera came in into a PVC cap. This work very well and it allowed us to adjust the camera angle which was very important.

Later we used some digital cameras to record the action at a higher res. Because the cap was just fit on, with no gluing, we were able to switch it out for a cap with a 1/4-20" bolt which screws into the standard camera mount. We cut a slot into the cap so that the camera viewing angle was adjustable. With the boom fixed it is important to be change the camera angle so that you can see yourself. Also, with different people wearing the suit, we needed to sometimes change that angle based on their height and preference.

Step 6: Gimbals Mount & Other Failings

Initially we were dead set on building a gimbals system in order to stabilize the camera. There are a ton of instructables on gimbals, and we more or less followed their ideas. 

We found in the end, that the gimbals did not reduce the motion. We wanted to dampen out the jostling motion of walking or running. However, the wobble of the camera in the setup was far too disorienting. Finally, after testing a camera fixed to the boom we decided that it was really not all that bad and we stuck with it. 

After walking and jogging we soon learned the value of having a rigid frame and made adjustments there as well. Any wobbling or jostling of the camera was very disorienting.

Step 7: System

So, now as we have discussed all the parts, we need to put it all together. Really, it is simple. The camera output goes to the goggles and the radio transmitter. The radio receiver is connected to the USB converter.

The goggles have their own battery, the camera and transmitter work of 12V. We tried two different power sources. The simple, yet more expensive in the long run, method was to use to lantern batteries in series. This provided the 12 volts needed. The second option was to use a 11.1 V lithium battery. The equipment worked fine at this voltage and the battery was substantially smaller, lighter, and rechargeable.

Step 8: In Practice: Testing

After getting the whole setup working we did some tests just standing. We didn't yet have the batteries hooked up, so we were tethered in a sense. This allowed us to test the camera and goggles and gimbel to get our initial reactions.

First reactions: It worked well. It felt very odd and I can already sense the effect of a moving point of consciousness (we'll talk more about that later) the gimbel is working, but needs some adjustment.

Step 9: In Practice: Walking & Running

Picture of In Practice: Walking & Running
Second Tests:
After getting the battery connected we were able to walk up and down the hallway. Right away the gimbel was a problem. It was swaying far too much. Were able to make it better by changing the mass and adding some damping, but in the end we settled on a fixed camera. It was hard enough to walk around in this thing. With the camera moving, it made you feel sea sick.

Depth perception is an issue. It is also hard to remember that you have this thing strapped to your back, so no quick turns indoors and everyone else needs to watch out.

Step 10: In Practice: Depth Perception

Outside Tests:
Now we took the setup outside where we had some room to run. Objects look farther away than they really are. This is due to the wide angle lens on the camera. 

We were able to cautiously run, but after 5 minutes in the suit you started to feel comfortable. Because you only have one camera, you lose a lot of your depth perception. But that is not the only way we sense depth, and soon my senses we adapting. It is amazing what the brain can do. 

Looking back upon the tests I remember being 'sucked' into the camera. I felt like "I" was the camera. It was odd. I felt taller. In fact, because you were at a different level than the camera, it was easy to get your dynamics messed up, and sometimes we almost fell over.

After wearing the setup for a while and removing the goggles there is an odd feeling of your point of reference being adjusted. As if your consciousness were being sucked back into your head. Wild stuff.

Step 11: Advanced Setups: Multiple Cameras & Gun Mount

After ripping our minds out, we decided to play around with some other options. There are a bunch of ideas here, but we decided to stick with the video game type views. We added a camera mount over the shoulder, to give that 1st person iron sight look. And a gun (paintball marker) mounted camera.

We recorded the video separately on the two cameras on the back. We transmitted the marker mounted camera signal to the laptop where it was recorded. The goggles viewed the marker camera. In the future we will add a switch so that you can quickly switch between views. I am sure that will mess with our heads even further.

The paintball mounted camera worked very well. It was very natural and a nice break from the 3rd person view. Being able to control the camera position manually helped a lot. The basic idea here is that using a setup like this, you are able to stick your gun out and scout out an area and possible fire at a target without putting yourself in danger.

Of course, running around with video goggles on is sure to get yourself killed, but heck, this is just a test.

In practice you are more likely going to use a separate video screen or heads up display for the gun camera. This allows you to see naturally, with the option of viewing the gun camera. This is in the works.

Either way, it was a neat experience to use the marker mounted camera. It was a little dark out, and with the resolution of the camera it was hard to see the target (a cardboard box) and the paintballs clearly. However, I was certainly able to scout around safely and make decent shots at the target.

Given daylight and a larger target, it would have worked better. Either way, it was an worthwhile experiment.


Step 12: Future Work & Ideas

3D Cameras
We'd really like the use a 3d camera. This will either require a 3d camera setup, or an additional camera and a way to interlace the two views as this is the format most 3d capable googles read the video in. Otherwise, if we can find some video goggles that can take in two video sources, that would be easiest.

Remote Control People
The original purpose of the radio transmitter was for another idea which hasn't been implemented yet. A human subject would wear the 3rd person camera and no goggles with their eyes covered. The video signal is transmitted to the controller. Using remote controls or some other signal, the subject would move according to the controllers wishes, much like a video game. 

Move the 3rd person camera back
The 3rd person view we used was pretty close. It was challenging not being able to see your feet. Also, in a lot of 3rd person video games, you can see the entire character. This is difficult to do using our method as it will require a long extension rod. Also, you will be able to see the camera mount in the camera. We are experimenting with some ideas around this such as using a balloon.

Camera Movement
It would be interesting to be able to match up the camera movements with the motion of your head. this was one odd part in using the pure 3rd person view. In order to look around you had to move your whole body. this felt unnatural. Using a gyro and a camera pan-tilt servo mount would allow us to have the 3rd person view which would move with your body and head. This would most likely increase the immersion as it is closer to reality.

Live video switching
And as I mentioned before. We are in the process of adding a video switch for the multi-view case allowing us to switch between views on the fly.

Upgrade our workshop
While we can make do with what we have, we could definitely get some new tools. Some things we have in mind are the following:

Craftsman 10'' Bench Drill Press with Laser Trac
Drilling through PVC with a hand drill and a vice isn't the most ideal...

Craftsman PVC Cutter
Well, with all the PVC cutting this would have helped just a bit. 

If you have any other ideas, We'd love to hear them!
uncaff2 years ago
What would make an ideal presentation of the whole experience IMO would be the
video of you walking around and a P in P of what you yourself are seeing at
the same time.

Meanwhile, congrats for a thoroughly entertaining instructable.

Love this website.
smpash2 years ago
For outdoor use only it is HMMM

just a thought but would a higher view with a wide angle camera give a better perspective for the 3rd person view?
Tobor 2.02 years ago
That is really cool i had an idea for something just like that, but the camera had a wireless feed because it was placed somewhere not atached to you
The first line of this instructable is inaccurate:

"This is a project which will literally pull your mind out from your head."

You don't mean literally. That sentence works if you delete "literally." You mean the opposite of literally: figuratively. But we get that as long as you don't say literally.

In current popular usage, the word "literally" is not used literally or correctly 96 percent of the time.

My work here is done.
Hi. Positive and constructive comment here. While you are perfectly right about your previous statement, I would think that you would at least comment on his instructable. Spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. are not the main focus of this website. It doesn't look good when you criticize someone about the correct way to use a word and totally ignore their hard work. If you haven't already, I think you should apologize to BigRedRocket for starting this catastrophe and distracting people from his work, even if you didn't mean to, and give him his due respect.

With that being said, great instructable BigRedRocket!
How old are you? Because you are acting like a rude 10 year old who just learned how to use words in a sentence and went on a correcting spree.
You're literally being a tool.

On a more constructive note, the "position" of the mind is highly linked with our visual reference point - thus if our vantage point is outside our body, as it is here, after some adjustment time we will feel like we are living outside our body. So your mind is literally pulled outside your head.

Your work here was awful, you are fired.
hughperman, again, you're using the term "literally" in a superfluous and non-literal way. Take your last meaningful sentence:

"So your mind is literally pulled outside your head."

It works if you delete the word "literally." Otherwise it creates an odd and meaningless image. A mind cannot be literally pulled anywhere. Only figuratively.

A lot of people have the idea that adding the word "literally" to an otherwise perfectly good sentence somehow increases the intensity of meaning. It doesn't.
(removed by author or community request)
BigRedRocket (author)  zeppomarks3 years ago
Thanks for the comments. We literally had a great time building this. :)
Biggie, I'm sure you did have a great time building it.

But since I can't imagine a FIGURATIVE way to have a great time, there is no need to specify that you intended that statement literally. Here too, your use of the word "literally" is superfluous, distracting, and verbose.

I'm just saying.
If you were "just saying" you wouldn't have felt the need to continue this inane rant following BigRedRocket's obvious joke written at 10:53 AM the 26th Day of December.
You are also treading on the boundaries of the Be Nice Policy. Your cantankerous disposition has no place here, you pointed out clearly your disdain for the grammatically incorrect use of the word literally, to continue this any further is to bait argument.
Come on, Maxx, be nice. There's no need for personal attacks. Your comment had no relevance to the issue we were discussing. It's pretty clear you're the angry one.

Sorry, Orange, but that's another example of a superfluous "literally." It adds absolutely no meaning to the sentence and in fact weakens the sentence.

And your position. Even if I ignore that you're screaming.
Man you have just dug yourself so deep into a hole that you know it and are just to embarrassed to admit it and stop. You are being a tool and need to stop or someone will get you kicked.
Just saying, Chorus, I've got your back, metaphorically, not literally.
taiphoon, I agree with Chorus as well but your comment was the icing on the cake! (not literally... obviously.)
Zeppo, after your big long explanation of why the mind and the brain are not the same... you still don't need the word "literally"! In fact, if the mind is less tangible than the brain, then "literally" is even MORE superfluous!

Take the word "literally" out, and the sentence is stronger. Just like most sentences that contain the word "very" are stronger without it.

I agree that the instructable on the whole is very good. Maybe that's why I'm bothered by such a weak opening line.
You didn't have any work here... be gone
Who gives a literal how he used literally we got his meaning.
We got his meaning because we decided he didn't mean what he said.
We got what his meaning was because we didn't take his meaning, of literally, literally... did you get what I mean by that or is my meaning to literal for you to understand my meaning of understanding the meaning of his literal meaning?
Do you know the difference between to, two, and too? You may not be ready for more complicated concepts like "literally."
Absolutely an awesome idea. There's many camera rigs out there, but this one is unique because I'm not quite sure if I've seen it used in videos before now. Anyways, I can see tons of potential in it. You could make videos of what a "real life" third person game would look like!
Nachimir2 years ago
Thanks, you inspired me to make a similar rig for filming. It's on a very long boom with a 0.45x lens. Wobbles a lot, but seems to recover fast. I'll see how it fares with MTB trails :)

LiberMortis2 years ago
would it be possible to do this with only one eye instead of both? (kinda retarted, bear with me) I'd like to know what it'd be like looking both in front and in back of me at the same time.
BigRedRocket (author)  LiberMortis2 years ago
Sure, although I would imagine that it would mess with your head. It would be a neat experiment.

The goggles I have can take a 3D video source input. That requires a interlaced video signal which is difficult to generate. If you can find goggles that take in two separate video sources it would be a lot easier.
Sreyo3 years ago
That is awesome. If I had that on, I'd keep thinking I was in a video game. Which isn't really a bad thing :)
freez3 years ago
Reply from Québec :P
Nice project. It remember me a project I made. I used a small circuit from a broken IR remote controled car (+- 30grams) with a TIP4*** for drive the camera righ/left with a 9-12v geerbox from a BBq chicken turning rod... U Know... It turn veeeeerrrrrryyyyyyy slow. And used the front/reverse for the zoom

I don't what imagine the feeling with as wiimote attached to your head/neck!!! Remember ROBOCOP
mbainrot3 years ago
Ingenius idea :) 5/5 instructable

You might want to really tuck away them AV leads though, so a cop doesn't shoot you thinking you have a bomb.
Indeed a good observation
BigRedRocket (author)  mbainrot3 years ago
Thanks, yeah it does look a little nefarious. We were in the middle of nowhere behind our school, so there were no issues.
Evan20103 years ago
I might do this with a GoPro camera then it would be crystal clear video and a 170 degree view.
siege103 years ago
you don't need 3d cameras just a bit of math, another camera and some more pvc pipe. more work but a couple thousand dollars cheaper.
BigRedRocket (author)  siege103 years ago
The goggles only have a 3d video input. I can't hook up two cameras and then 'use some math' and attach it to the goggles. It requires interlaced video.

Most of these off the shelf goggles have a single video input, and they typically have a single LCD inside with optics to split it up. Ideally I would have goggles with two independent screens with separate inputs, then it would be easy.
the 'math" i spoke of was for the placement of the cameras. there are several stereoscopic image splicers (or whatever the hell there called, they had a spiffy name) on the market that will take the dual input of two separate cameras (weather it supports component or not, i have no idea) and output in various formats, interlaced being one of them (some support shutter glasses). while i haven't heard of anyone using these to view themselves in 3rd person i have seen them used for other portable projects (ie. on top of a rc car) so look around maybe that will work for you. or find glasses with separate inputs...
BigRedRocket (author)  siege103 years ago
Have you seen any of these multiplexers for a reasonable price?

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