Pivo Pod Active standard pack
- Compatible with most recent smart phones
- Fairly straight forward to set up
- Easy to use once you’re familiar with it
- Great when you’re riding alone
- Not ideal when riding with others
- Can lose the horse if you ride too close
- Is fairly heavy on phone battery usage
- Notifications from other apps can interfere with recording
Price as reviewed:
Pivo Pod Active (formerly the Pivo Silver)
If you find watching back video of yourself and your horse useful to help improve your skills, or want to record fun clips to share with your friends, but struggle to find someone to help you out by recording, then the Pivo Pod Active remote cameraman system is the stuff of dreams.
The clever automatic cameraman – or pod – works with the free-to-download app – Pivo+ – and uses your smart phone to record while automatically following your horse as it moves. The system is designed to recognise a horse’s shape (when you select horse mode) and will zoom as needed (within your phone’s capabilities) so you don’t end up appearing as a dot in the distance.
To work at its best, the pod needs to be level and set to around the horse’s chest height. It can be mounted on any tripod and I was supplied with the Pivo tripod as part of the standard pack for testing purposes. The pod has a small spirit level bubble built in so you can check it is level, and small extendable feet so it can be placed on a suitable flat platform if you prefer.
My initial testing was with an iPhone 7 running iOS 15.5, which is an older model iPhone than is recommended (see Pivo+ compatible phones), although the operating system was up to date and it appears to have worked fine. I believe the amount the camera zooms may be limited by the phone, but you can see the zoom working when watching back the video.
I found the Pivo Pod Active and the Pivo+ app easy to pair and quite straight-forward to set up using advice in the quick start guide. It did take me a couple of attempts to get a successful full session recording, but now I’m more familiar with it, it’s working consistently for me.
Here are a few pointers that I’ve picked up along the way to avoid your recording from cutting out unexpectedly. This can be caused by low battery or from notifications popping up on your phone mid-ride.
- Make sure your phone and your pod are fully charged before use
- Turn off all other apps on your phone
- Put your phone on either flight mode or do not disturb
For the most consistent results you need to be on your own in your riding arena, without any horses being in sight in the background. Because the tracking works by picking up the shape of a horse, rather than by the horse or rider carrying a remote tracking key, the pod cannot distinguish between different horses. It will focus on the one that is clearest/nearest to it. If you are riding with others, then it is possible that the camera will switch between you. And if horses are grazing close by, it may lock on to them instead.
The best place to position your Pivo Pod Active is near the centre of the riding arena, rather than in the corner of the school or on the fence line. The system can struggle to follow you if you either ride very close to it, or ride directly towards or away from it for a long period, as it can no longer recognise the horse’s shape. If you notice that the pod has stopped tracking you, then you can reactivate it by simply riding in front of it again (see video below, watch to the end).
The Pivo+ app automatically uses the rear camera on your smart phone as this usually provides better quality video than the front camera, which is designed for close-up work, such as selfies. However it is possible to switch to the front camera if you prefer. The benefit of using the front camera while you are getting to grips with the system is that you can more easily see that it is recording as expected, but for better quality the rear camera is recommended. The phone needs to be placed in landscape position in the pod when used in horse mode.
Here are the settings that I’ve used for these test recordings:
I’ve turned predictive follow off in the tracking settings as I’ve heard from other users that it can cause issues, but have target exposure and auto zoom turned on. And the speed was set to fast. See below videos of the pod working, along with the videos that it recorded. These couple of short clips are from a 40min riding session, which it recorded in full.
As you can see in the video above, occasionally the pod is not completely smooth when tracking the horse, but this is fairly infrequent and still compares favourably to the often shaky hands of a human being. Also please note that I have chosen to turn off the audio on the Pivo recordings owing to a glitch with my phone’s audio settings that results in a constant background rumble on all videos recorded on my phone, regardless of which app I am using.
I have now tried the Pivo with my new iPhone SE and recorded the following videos of a jumping sessions. These do have the audio left on. The microphone does pick up a fair bit of background noise, but you can hear my trainer’s voice when she is facing the Pivo. In the first clip there is a moment when the Pivo stops tracking me at the far end of our 20×60 arena, but it quickly picks me back up as I approach the jump. The Pivo was positioned between D and L on the centre line. I had the speed setting on frenzy (the fastest setting option) for these clips.
In the second clip, the Pivo struggles to stay with me briefly after I jump the last fence, but it quickly accelerates to get me fully back in frame.
The video clips above were taking from a 50min riding session, during which the Pivo only briefly lost me a couple of times: once when I rode too close to the pod and another when I was at the far end of the arena and my trainer walked across in front of the camera, blocking me from view. Both times it picked me up as soon as I came back into sight.
It is worth noting that the Pivo Pod Active is not water-resistant and so should not be used outside in the rain.
The useful travel case mini that came with the pod is lightweight and the hard shell offers great protection for the pod. The travel case is shaped inside to securely hold the pod and the remote control, plus the net in the lid is ideal to keep the charging cable safe and you can pop the quick start guide in there too. This came as part of the standard pack, but you can buy the Pivo Pod Active individually, or as part of the Pivo Pod Active Starter Pack or Pivo Pod Active Plus Pack, as well as the extra items individually on the Pivo Amazon Store.
The Pivo+ app also has Photo, Meet and Webcam modes. The Photo option will take stills, while the Meet option can allow you to do a remote training session with a trainer in another location, while Webcam is designed for meetings. I haven’t tried any of these options yet, nor have I tried using the remote control to start and stop the video recordings, so I will add further info on these once I have tried them out.
There is an active facebook group – Pivo Horse Riding Community – which is a great place to get tips and tricks, plus if you come up against any problems, there are Pivo employees in the group who are usually quick to help.
A really useful piece of kit if you ride on your own and want to track your progress or record videos to share with friends.
View now at amazon.co.uk
Who tested this device?
Carol Phillips is Horse & Hound’s website editor, who has ridden since childhood. She has a seven-year-old Irish Sport Horse who she is pictured riding in the test videos.
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