Lessons learned from my first 10k+ image collection

Just got home from a road trip from Denver to Yellowstone and used it as a test for collecting images for Mapillary. I thought I’d share some of my lessons learned that might be helpful to other newcomers.

I’m new to Mapillary and contribute for the joy of being part of a global open source community mapping movement (thus I don’t have any specific needs/requirements for the images).

Due to bad weather (rain, hail, AND snow), I ended-up mounting a GoPro Hero5 Black to the inside of my windshield, instead of outside on the hood as planned.

Here’s what went well, what didn’t, and what I’d change for next time:

Good

  • I borrowed my brother’s GoPro Hero5 Black to test before investing in a camera myself (thanks Kevin!). Turns out it’s kind of addicting… we planned a route that maximized adding new green (unmapped) areas as well as improving upon existing imagery (ones that are either several years old or poorer quality). We had so much fun doing this and it got us on roads less traveled. If you’re just starting out and not sure you want to make a big investment in hardware, try borrowing a camera to see if it’s something you’ll stick with.

  • Inside windshield mounting worked well because the camera was easily accessible at all times. We purchased the GoPro suction cup mount and it was super sturdy. I would trust it on the outside hood of the car.

Not-so-Good

  • We drove a Honda Civic, which is a low sedan with a long hood. Worse, the glass windshield is angled at a steep pitch, making it very difficult to mount the camera without part of the car hood or the suction cup mount visible. If I mounted it flat on the dashboard, it was too low and got too much of the dashboard/car hood. I needed to mount it as high on the glass as I could get it, and still, some of the suction cup was visible. I tried to mount it “sideways” with the suction cup to the right (instead of below), but the angle of the glass windshield meant I couldn’t adjust the components to get the camera pointing straight with a horizontal horizon. Any advice here?

  • Also a result of our Honda Civic, I believe: glare. Bad glare. At some times of the day or when the sun was at certain azimuth, there was no glare, but if the road turned or I read a magazine with bright colors from the passenger seat, it reflected into the glass windshield which reflected into the camera. I deleted a lot of images due to this. Advice?

Changes for Next Time

  • For longer trips, and weather permitting, I’d try mounting it on the hood instead of the inside of the windshield. I think it would produce much better quality images.

  • I wasn’t sure how quickly my SD card would fill-up, so I set the time lapse to every 2 seconds and waited until a section of our trip that hadn’t yet been mapped to turn it on. Turns out, 128GB can handle a boatload of images. Next time, I’d set it to every 1 seconds and keep it running (I didn’t have my computer with me on this trip,so I couldn’t offload images as we went).

  • Next time, I will bring some glass cleaning wipes, to clear the windshield of bugs and dirt as needed. At times it got quite bad and unfortunately our windshield wipers don’t reach high enough to clean the view of the camera…

From the non-newbies, any other words of advice? Due to the rain, many of the images I loaded aren’t the best (I deleted a lot out due to rain and snow), but hopefully they’re better than no images, and I’ll improve my contributions as I go :slight_smile:

Also, we saw a mama and baby black bear on our way up!

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I see you are the right stuff, you care for quality.
Check your pictures regularly and try not to repeat the same errors.

Having the camera out of the car has the disadvantage that you won’t see the flying insects you killed.

Great trip report! I hope more people can follow your example, such a good way to share knowledge.

I get a lot of rain and snow photos, and generally many are useful for helping generate data, despite some raindrops on the lens. It just depends how much they obscure the entire scene.

My typical setup is to use my 3 meter USB-C cables, which I plug into a dual USB to car charger converter. This way I can loop the cables to one GoPro on the hood of the car, and one on the rear, with plenty of slack, and keep them powered. I used magnetic mounts instead of suction. I use 128GB SD cards which seem to be the max that Hero5 and maybe Hero7 will accept, and using 0.5 second interval time lapse I can capture for maybe 5-8 hours on that (I forget but will measure again soon). In rain it’s probably best to shut them off, but carry a lens wipe like for sunglasses and stop to wipe the drops off occasionally if not.

Inside the car with the suction, I have been able to use a mount extender to get the camera further from the windshield, then align it right. I hang it upside down to do that. But this can invite more glare since it’s far from the glass.

Looks like a great road trip. Still uploading? Did you get up to the Beartooth Pass? I’m planning to pack the skis up there this weekend myself. :slight_smile:

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@chrisbeddow Oh that’s super helpful to know about rain on the windshield! I was probably over-cautious when deleting many of them out.

For reference, are the raindrops in the image above with the bears at an acceptable level (ie. can Mapillary’s algorithms still detect valuable info?). It would be great to better understand the threshold regarding rain/water/snow.

I’m running into issues when uploading the second half of the images via the web uploader (it keeps stalling with this batch of ~5,500, probably because there are too many for it?), so I’ll try the desktop uploader this evening.

Unfortunately Beartooth Pass was closed the whole time we were there, so we spent a lot of time in Lamar Valley. Looks like BTP has plenty of fresh snow for skiing -that sounds awesome have fun!!!

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I capture about 20-30GBytes or 25-40K images per day, just driving Australia. The glare/reflection issue can be countered by a polarizing filter and placement of blackcard stock or cloth. The biggest win though is time of day and pointing down sun. Right now I am on a long westward treck so images are great.

Dont be afraid to use small blobs of silicon rubber to mount things temporaily. Quite easy to remove from glass afterwards.

I use WiFi to transfer images because of concerns popping the SD card and power plug ever day causing damage. I have to do that on the fly though as a 1 minute movie takes about 40 seconds.

I use an alcohol based cleaner and paper towels after each mornings bug scrub. Doesnt leave any lint.

Have fun!

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you could always upload them to two parts if youre not to fussy about keeping them in one single sequence? (i used to try to do that but its no use in the end because the sequence bot just splits them up randomly depending on what mood its in that day)

i think ive uploaded more than that in one go before though so maybe there is something else going on. but yea maybe the desktop might be more suited to large uploads anyway

@bob3bob3 that’s fantastic advice about the polarizing film and black card-stock. I’ll definitely give that a try! Can you share a picture of your setup?

@dave683 yes I think you’re spot-on about the uploaders. A few nights ago it took all night to load ~1,000 images via the web uploader. I just launched over 5,000 images via the desktop uploader and it looks like it should all be finished in about an hour from start to finish. I might use the web uploader for smaller bike collections, but moving forward I’ll definitely use the web uploader for all larger (500+) collections!

Okay another question about sequences: does it matter whether you combine images from several sequences into one folder to upload at one time?

I can’t think of any negative impacts but based on comments above thought it would be good to get clarification. It’s convenient to combine them into one upload folder and do all the cleaning etc in one go.

I personally like to do it in chunks… if something goes wrong it’s easier to restart/fix

Yes can upload images of different sequences concurrently. Have only done that with the tools though. The sequence info is written to the EXIF before the upload step.

Re my setup @HappyMapper

There is not a lot to see so will describe.

  • The BlackVue DR900 is mounted almost hard up against the rear view mirror support. This hides most of the unit behind the mirror itself. It’s lens is about 10mm from the glass
  • BlackVue also supplies a glare/reflection filter.
  • This vehicle has a much darker/matt dash cover than the old one so I no longer use the matt black cover.
  • This vehicle does have light/cream pillar finish so from the stationary supplier I purchased a 1mx1m flat black card (for scrap booking etc) and cut it to mask about 500mm of the pillar. It tucks into a panel gap below and I applied a small piece of black cloth tape at the top.
  • I keep the dash top clear of maps, paper etc and only have dark objects in the reflected view (where possible). I also clean the lens/filter periodically with optical cloth.
  • I have a laptop strapped on the passenger seat as I WiFi the data as I record
  • I keep the dash clear of dust/dirt to reduce reflections. (I travel unsealed roads to need this every few days)

If you have a look at my imagery (bob3bob3); Before 13th Dec 2018 I was using a simple dashcam. From then to about early May 2019 (mostly NE NSW) the BlackVue with older vehicle and since then the new. Not perfect but the next step would be an external mount that needs more thinking.

Outside picture general interest.

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Great post, thank you for sharing this info. I’ve had the same issues with dash glare so it was good to see a solution for that come up. One thing I learned is to use Rain-X on your windshield…It helps shed precipitation. For light rain it will eliminate the need to use wipers which get in the way of the images. Happy mapping!

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Next up a (YI) 360 camera?

On the "all weather "outside… hmm maybe a 360 bubble? :slight_smile:

Ha! Maybe!?