Motorsports fans have a special affinity for the onboard camera. It allows them to come close to viewing the race, as seen by the drivers and riders that they support. With the arrival of high-definition television, sports channels have been more eager to switch to the on-board camera views in order to provide viewers with spectacular glimpses of the on-track action.

 Movies, like Grand Prix and Le Mans, were the first ones to explore the concept of mounting cameras onto race-cars. The initial cameras were full-sized Hollywood behemoths. The mounts themselves weighed as much as the cameras. Despite this, the movies were able to provide audiences with never-before-seen footage of auto-racing. As motorsports started being televised, fans pined to see the onboard camera views that had captured their imaginations in the movies.

At that time, the weight and size of the cameras and mounting equipment made it impossible for TV channels to provide onboard camera angles. However, the concept of the onboard camera stayed alive and camera manufacturers worked towards developments to make the cameras lighter and the mounts sturdier and more stable. The onboard camera became a real hit during the 1985 Formula 1 season, when they were used for the first time in a live broadcast, during the German Grand Prix. Audiences around the world were able to watch the race unfold from the drivers’ point-of-view, as Francois Hesnault wrestled his Renault around the Nurburgring. The onboard camera was here to stay.

 Other forms of motorsports were quick to learn from the onboard cameras’ popularity in Formula 1. MotoGP and the World Superbike Championships were able to adapt the new lightweight cameras and mount them onto motorbikes.

In the United States, NASCAR experimented with onboard cameras and they were more than happy to make them a regular feature on all the cars, thanks to their massive popularity with TV audiences. The World Rally Championship, too, saw the benefits of the onboard camera. Even though rally stages were not broadcast live, the spectacle they provided was intense. Audiences had always known about the level of courage it took to charge through forests and mountains on loose gravelly tracks. Now, for the first time, they could actually see exactly what the drivers saw (or didn’t see) as they charged through the rally stages.

 The concept of the onboard camera got carried over to everyday cars and bikes as fans, eager to replicate their sporting heroes, began strapping home-video cameras onto their vehicles. Earlier do-it-yourself mounting systems usually involved a lot of duct tape and rubber bands. It was not uncommon to see camcorders fly off the cars as they took a sharp corner. Another common criticism was usually associated with bikers, complaining about their stiff necks, thanks to the heavy cameras. Camera manufacturers were quick to recognize the market opportunity for onboard cameras for the common man. Initially just a niche market, the industry has grown to be worth millions of dollars, due to the rise in the number of people indulging in extreme-sports, and the advent of the Internet and video sharing websites. It is now possible to buy high-performance cameras that can be mounted onto any vehicle, and even surfboards and helmets. Companies, like GoPro, offer camera packages with different mounts, so that customers can share their exploits with their family and friends, or on video-sharing sites.

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