Field Video Recording

A battery powered portable multi-camera Motif system for field operation

The Golden-collared Manakin (Manacus vitellinus) lives in Panama, Colombia and Costa Rica. During courtship, the male of the species performs a difficult and elaborate courtship dance. The courtship dance reveals the male's neuromuscular capability - with females selecting males which perform certain aspects of this dance with greater finesse or speed than others.

We worked with Prof. Dr. Leo Fusani to develop field portable, silent, and high performance video recording systems suitable for capturing the Manakin courtship dance. We supplied both a single-camera, and a three-camera behavioral recording system. Both systems run our Motif video recording software. In order to capture the intricate and athletic details of the courtship dance, The single camera system records at high resolution and frame rate (2046x2046px, 160fps), the three-camera system at 1920x1200px and 155 frames per second.

To capture the dynamics of the courtship dance, both high resolution and high frame rate recordings were required. No existing commercial solutions were suitable for this type of recording, nor capable for field operation. The unique features of our Motif video recording system made it the perfect match for this project:

  • Excellent recording and compression performance maximizes the quality and duration of video which can be recorded.
  • Web based user interface and WiFi connectivity allows field biologists to start, monitor, and review recordings remotely - while not disturbing the animals.
  • Ability to save experiment metadata and environmental measurements in addition to video.
  • Synchronized multi-camera recordings from multiple high-speed cameras.

Field Operation

The Manakins perform the courtship dances in small clusters of land called leks. Prof. Fusani and students set up the systems to record the area, and then hide the equipment from view. After a day of observation the system is dismantled, and carried out by hand. The unique features of the Motif recording systems made them perfect for this project:

  • Small and silent. The systems operated only from battery power, and were completely silent so to not disturb the birds. The units' small size meant it could be camouflaged and hidden from view.
  • Web based user interface. The scientists could observe the birds and trigger recordings using their phones or tablets, through a WiFi connection provided by our Motif system

These photos show the system in use in the Jungles of Costa Rica.

Assembling the multi-camera system.
Sample frame from tracking of bird trajectory.
Calibration of cameras.
A camouflaged camera.