Map the Path lets anyone capture their own street-level imagery, using simple cameras such as smartphones, action cameras, and 360° cameras.
All you need is a way to record GPS data together with the images, and a lot of cameras nowadays have that option built in. In addition to the camera, there is other equipment such as mounts and SD cards that you might want to use for a smoother capture process.
Here is an overview of the kinds of devices and equipment you can work with.
Map the Paths supports both 2D and 360 imagery (recommended) captured using:
Mobile phones A smartphone is the simplest device you can use for capturing and uploading images. Mobile phones are best for scenarios where you intend to mount a device inside your vehicle’s windshield or walk with the phone.
Action cameras Action cameras are a good option for capturing great images, especially more demanding conditions with rough terrain, extreme weather, and high speeds. Compared to smartphones, action cameras are better at handling motion blur and more resistant to damage, so they're suitable for mounting on your bicycle or outside your vehicle. Recommended cameras:
360° cameras (recommended) 360° cameras are great for covering all directions simultaneously. You can capture 360° imagery while driving a vehicle or walking. Recommended cameras:
GoPro Fusion (discontinued -- check eBay)
For Map the Paths it’s best to capture images in timelapse mode (e.g. 1 photo every 2 seconds), not video, because you save a lot on data volume, battery life, reviewing and upload time.
Most action and 360 cameras have these settings by default. Mobile phone cameras do not. Therefore it will require the use of an additional app. Here are two we recommend:
Although the preferred way to contribute to Map the Paths is to upload geotagged images, it is also possible to upload videos to Map the Paths using the Map the Paths Desktop Uploader. In that case, the video will be turned into images during the process. This is useful for situations when you are capturing for more than Map the Paths purposes—like when you are using a downhill run to share with friends, but also want to use it for mapping purposes.
The Map the Paths Desktop Uploader supports both timelapse and video uploads.
We strongly recommend using a clean form of transport to capture imagery to minimise the environmental impact.
For each device and use case, there are different suitable mounting methods. Here are some ideas and setups you might find useful...
We have designed a series of Trek Pack's using GoPro MAX 360 Cameras designed for walking/hiking, biking, and swimming/scuba-diving. The instructions to build and use them are here.
2D action cams
If you're not using a 360 camera, consider mounting your camera to you handlebars facing straight ahead.
If you are fortunate to own two camera, one place facing forwards and the other behind will provide a more complete capture in place of a 360 camera. We'd recommend buying a 360 camera if buying new, as these will generally be cheaper than purchasing two equivalent action cameras and give a better visual output for users.
We recommend using an action camera when cycling. One reason is that your phone may quite easily pop out of the mount and get damaged. The other reason is that phones are usually not good at handling motion blur
Try to keep the camera in line with the horizon. It's a bit harder when walking compared to other modes of moving.
If you're using a 360 camera, try and mount it above your head using a selfie stick secured to a backpack. Another alternative is to mount it to a helmet you wear whilst walking. We recommend the selfie stick approach simply because it give the widest field of view.
2D cameras / mobile phones
You can try putting the phone in a pouch around your neck or taped on your chest. That should help keep the camera steady. Some action camera manufactures sell their own chest mounts for this purpose.
Memory/SD cards It is important to have enough memory on your device to store your photos after capturing. Mobile phones should have enough internal storage. One image takes roughly 2–8 MB, giving you about 1000–4000 images if you have 8 GB of free storage on your phone. For devices like action cameras and 360° cameras, we recommend inserting an SD card with around 128 GB, so you can capture as many images possible.
Charging It is important to fully charge all of your devices prior to capturing. When you have multiple devices to charge prior to capturing, we recommend a multi-port USB charging station, although this is optional.
Power supply It is equally important to keep your devices powered during your capture session. For shorter sessions, your device’s internal battery may be sufficient to last the duration of your session. For longer sessions, consider an external charging pack for each device, or a car charger if your situation allows for it.
Protective cases Most action cameras are built to withstand rough conditions. If you want to protect your device further, you may buy a protective case for it. Try to ensure the case you choose does not impede on the photos taken by the camera (e.g. glare from plastic casing).
Drones Map the Paths supports drone imagery. Use a suitable camera that can handle vibration, for example, GoPro. Mounting phones on drones is not a good idea because of the rolling shutter effects from vibration.
Regardless of whether capturing with your mobile phone or some other camera, there are a few basic rules for capturing for Map the Paths.
The main point when capturing is to keep on moving and to try to hold the camera still, pointing in one direction.
Map the Paths supports images in landscape orientation. Adjust the camera to be level with the horizon.
Normally you aim the camera towards the direction of movement, where the road in front of you meets the horizon.
The ideal environment for a Map the Paths sequence is to have the sun behind you, minimal traffic and fewer people about.
Take many images in one sequence (at least 10, but more is better) and in close proximity to each other (5 m is good).
Avoid capturing in the rain and in low-light situations. The images will turn out much worse than what you see with the human eye. (This particularly applies when you're in a car.)
Keep a consistent angle of the camera. Most times you would keep it pointing straight ahead, although sometimes you may want to capture e.g. at a 90- or 45-degree angle with respect to your direction of moving. If you change the camera angle mid-capture, the sequences will end up looking jumpy and "dizzy".
If you keep or mount the camera steady, you can lock the compass angle to the direction your device is pointing, instead of using the device's compass that might be affected by disturbances. There's a little arrow or compass icon at the top right of the app's Capture screen for changing that this setting.
Turn off WiFi and Bluetooth to save battery while you capture. You might want to use a power bank (or a phone charger, if in a car) for extra power supply.
For longer capture sessions, consider extra micro-SD cards to expand the memory available for capture (if your device supports it).
Keep in mind that if you capture images that are several hundreds of meters apart from each other, they will be split into separate sequences after upload on our system. This may make it inconvenient for you to get an overview of your imagery later (both in the list on your profile and visualised on the map, where they'll only be represented by single dots).
Try to keep the camera in line with the horizon. It's a bit harder when walking compared to other modes of moving, but the tilt lines on the camera screen will help you.
You can try putting the phone in a pouch around your neck or taped on your chest. That should help keep the camera steady.
You might also try to use a selfie stick which might be more comfortable to hold than the phone itself.
Normally you would use an automatic capture mode. However, you can also use the manual mode if you for some reason want custom control over when an image is captured.
For example, the manual mode might be a good idea if your images turn out blurry—try stopping for each image you take.
Ride slow and preferably on smooth surfaces. This has two reasons: to reduce blur that results from shocks absorbed by the bike and to make sure your phone doesn’t pop out of the holder.
To be on the safe side, we strongly suggest that you use rubber bands or lanyards to secure your phone to the mount.
Note. Mobile phones are not the best choice when you want to capture while cycling. One reason is that your phone may quite easily pop out of the mount and get damaged. The other reason is that phones are usually not good at handling motion blur. We recommend that you use an action camera instead.
The position of the mount also affects potential glare from the dashboard (that will be visible in your images). You can also try a few other tricks for reducing glare:
Remove any lighter objects from your dashboard.
Cover the dashboard with a black matt cloth (like felt).
Try a DIY polarizer filter. You can use a lens from disposable 3D glasses from the cinema—cut it out and tape it over your camera lens. You might want to try rotating and turning it around to find the position that works best for you.
You can achieve really good results in terms of both quantity and quality of images by using an action camera or a rig of several cameras that you mount externally to the car.