posts tagged with the keyword ‘camera’

2014.03.05

Assembled Arm

In my previous new arm post I banged out a quick ‘n dirty replacement arm to hold an LCD display on a RED camera using some 3D printed parts and a few nuts and bolts.

Arm Parts

Version 1 worked, but I wasn’t totally happy with it. Iteration time! The beauty of digital fabrication using a 3D printer is that it’s easy to revise your design and try something new.

Block 1

One of the issues I had with version 1 is that things spun around too much. Even with the tightening bolts, there was more spinning happening when less spinning was desired. I ended up adding a hex-shaped hole to hold the head of the bolt in place. This resulted in less spinning.

Block 2

I then figured that if one hex hole was good, two were better! Sadly, while this worked well for the first corner piece, it didn’t work as well for the second corner piece that was held in place with the nut knob.

Block 3

No problem! OpenSCAD makes it easy to comment out a piece of code and output a new STL file. I now have two (slightly) different versions of the connecting block. Oh, I also rounded the edges a bit, which resulted in a better print, and a better feel.

One thing to note here. Where I originally posted an image of the connector block (before I even printed it) I made a comment about milling it from Aluminum. (Though ultimately it was decided that a drill press and band saw might be all the tools needed.) Milling this new design would probably still be doable, but until I’m sure we like this version, what’s the point? I may end up revising again.

Nut 1

And then there was the knob… The knob I had previously been using was one of the first things I ever printed on my RepRap. I’m sure I grabbed it from Thingiverse, but I’ll be damned if I can find it now. It may have been removed. Nevertheless, I didn’t love it, so I designed a new one. This is version 1, which was ok…

Nut 2

This is version 2, with a nice hull operation to give it a more rounded feel, and (probably) make it a little bit stronger. This is my new 1/4″ nut knob from now on. (Unless I design a new one!)

Parts

So yeah, a few 3D printed parts, some nuts and bolts from the hardware store, and we’re in business.

Assembled Arm

Oh, there’s also a screw in place of a bolt on the main support, because attaching it to the camera will be ten times easier with this feature, and you may also notice a slightly smaller version of the knob on the lowest mount point. This is (probably) needed to allow clearance to tighten it. (I didn’t have the camera around to test with, but I’ll find out this week if it works.)

Update: Tested it, seems to work well! You can grab the files from Thingiverse.

Arm on RED ONE

2014.02.24

I’ve made elbows before, and while I should be making hands, I ended up working on a new arm this weekend. Rather than do all the work and just show the final thing, I thought I would do what I did with the MMPIS and post as I start a project so you can see all the steps involved.

RED ONE

As you can (sort of) see in the photo, the camera has an LCD display that is attached to an adjustable arm. You can even look at it while talking on the phone! The nice thing about the arm is that by twisting just one lever, you can adjust it to any angle, and then lock it down. The terrible thing about the arm.. is, well, everything else.

RED ARM

The arm held up to over 4 years of use (and abuse) but finally failed. Things wear out. It happens. I asked one of my camera rental guys about repairing it and he said “Can’t be done, just toss it.” So… Challenge Accepted!

I basically had the arm fixed, but then something else went wrong. It’s sort of a cascading effect with multiple points of failure. If one part doesn’t work, it affects all the parts, and nothing works. We fabricated a new rod, slightly longer than the original, to compensate for the wear on the original rod, but we had to remove a part to do so, and then that part wouldn’t stay secured when you tightened it. It became a vicious circle of fix it, watch it fall apart. Crap! (I still have one idea for fixing it, thanks to David Bryan. Once parts come in I’ll try that fix as well.)

Since I couldn’t reliably repair the arm in a timely manner, I decided to create a replacement. The nice thing about building camera accessories is that you get a lot of mileage out of existing off-the-shelf hardware like 1/4″ nuts and bolts.

Block

I fired up OpenSCAD and started designing a connector block, with the idea that 1/4″ bolts would be the “arm parts” and the blocks would be the “elbows”. There’s a slot to allow for the block to flex when tightened. I’d also be using those little hex nut knobs I use all the time.

Pieces

Once I had the parts printed, I used an X-ACTO knife to clean things up and trim things down. I also used a 1/4″ drill bit to clean up the holes a bit, and a vise to push the nuts into the knobs. All the metal and plastic bits in the photo probably adds up to less than $7 USD. (And there’s a lot of extra pieces here!)

New Arm

Here’s the assembled arm holding up the LCD display on the camera. It does indeed work, but we’re going to call this ‘version 1′ as there is definitely room for improvement. Still, it’s a much more functional arm than the broken one held together with gaff tape.

New Arm

I started making some notes on what worked, and more importantly, what didn’t work, for the next version. Again, the great thing about 3D printing is that it lets you go from an idea to a finished product very quickly, and then to iterate again very quickly. If I just count my time designing and assembling things (and not the time to print the parts) this is probably less than 90 minutes of work.

2013.09.06

CameraPi

If you wondered why I needed a Raspberry Pi case that could also hold a Raspberry Pi Camera… well, seriously, don’t you people know me by now!? :)

This ‘CameraPi’ is a prototype for Time Lapse Bot 4, and if you’re not familiar with my time lapse hardware experiments, check out the Time Lapse Bot project page for a good introduction.

My Time Lapse Bots have always relied on old computers, and while you can typically get old computers pretty cheap, they are also, well… old. They run old software, they often have hardware failures, non-working batteries, are heavy, and a lot of other things that are (sometimes) fine, but sometimes annoying.

Enter the Raspberry Pi, a small, inexpensive, low-power, modern Linux computer that can use an add-on camera module to create an all-in-one solution to time lapse captures. This is the kind of stuff I love playing with!

So here’s the story of making the CameraPi. I’ll avoid getting into code at this post and just talk about the process and some applications.

At raspberrypi.org I grabbed the NOOBS install, mainly because I wanted to test it out, and it worked well! I went with Rasbian. I think it had all the camera software baked in, but if not, it’s easy to add.

AppleTalk

Once up and running, I added Avahi to give the Raspberry Pi a nice network name (camerapi.local) and I also installed Netatalk to allow my Mac OS X machines to easily connect to it. Neither of these are required for the camera stuff, but I tend to drop these on most Linux machines I use.

As for the image capture, while the camera utilities have some time lapse capabilities, they did not work for me, which is fine, I created my own. (I should note that the Raspberry Pi is for educational use, so I try to follow that idea and, well, learn a lot while using it.)

I wrote a simple bash script to capture a new image every 60 seconds. You can set whatever interval you like, but I like 60 seconds. For one day that gives you 1440 images, if you’re keeping track at home. Depending on your image size and compression settings that could be over 1GB per day of still images. I’m currently using 1280×720 for my image size, as that works well when compiling video.

Photo

As long as we’re capturing images every minute, why not have a way to display them remotely via a web browser? Sure! I also installed Apache for that. There are lighter HTTP servers, but I like Apache. I wrote a simple CGI script to grab the latest image file and display it on a page… and there’s also a link to all the images for the day. Oh, and the page auto-refreshes so it keeps showing the latest image. (The images are named like so: 20130905140427 using the YYYYMMDDHHMMSS format.)

Files

OK, so we now have this running archive of photos. At some point (like, the second day) you’re going to have way more images in that folder than you want. Another shell script is the answer! Script #2 runs after midnight, grabs the date of the previous day, and moves all images matching that date to their own folder. (Oh, where do we store all these images? On a tiny USB thumb drive. It’s an 8GB drive. We figured filling that was better than filling the SD Card that contains the system.)

Files

Now we’ve got a folder named 20130905 with 1440 images in it. We should probably do something with it… Make a video! Once the files are moved we run a command with mencoder to compile all the JPG files (sorted by name, which is also sorted by date) into an AVI file. I don’t really care for AVI files though, so when that is done (and, it takes about 6 hours due to the high-quality encoding settings I use) we then use avconv (which used to be ffmpeg, sort of, oh, Linux!) to convert the AVI to an MP4 file. That does not take hours. This is all messy and could be done better.

Video

So after all that, we now have an MP4 file we can view in our browser, though it’s a silly MP4 that needs to completely load before it starts. Silly! There must be a better way.

Yes. There must be a better way. I’m sure there is. Here’s the thing. I really just started hacking. I didn’t know where I was going, so it’s all been guessing and trying things along the way. That’s the beauty of it. I’m not building this for a client. I’m not building a commercial product. I’m just playing and learning. I love it.

Oh, I forgot, I also set my capture script to launch at startup as a service. That means it also stops cleanly when you halt the system. Also, you can halt the system via another CGI just by loading a web page. Secure? Probably not. Ideally I’d like to be able to have the Pi create a WiFi network I can attach to from my phone and control. That would be nice. I’m sure it’s doable, I just need to dig in more. Dig. In. More.

Well that was fun! Thanks for reading this. If anyone really wants more info on the code, I could clean it up a bit (or not) and post it. As always, improvements are very welcome.

Update: Here’s an example video.

2012.12.31

GoPro Hero3 Frame

NOTE: Need a frame? Now you can buy one! Visit Etsy.

I like the acrylic housing that comes with the GoPro Hero3, but I tend to run some pretty long time lapses, and the battery doesn’t last long enough, so I made a lightweight frame, and it’s over on Thingiverse.

GoPro Hero3 Frame

I’m (slowly) getting better at OpenSCAD, thanks to projects like this. I’m sure I’ll get even better in 2013.

GoPro Hero3 Frame

I’ve got plenty of long USB cables and USB power supplies, as well as a Minty Boost from Adafruit to provide power for shooting hours and days at a time.

Here’s a quick time-lapse test I shot before I had the frame. I ended up balancing the GoPro on a book on top of two water bottles, which was silly, and just one more reason for this thing.

GoPro Hero3 Frame

The frame has a bit of flex to it so you can easily wrap it around the camera. I may play around with some thicker housings, but for now, it does the job.

I ended up printing about 6 versions before I got one that was good. I should probably do more paper prototyping, but with how easy it is to 3D print things, sometimes you just hit “print” and hope for the best. If it doesn’t work out, you tweak things and try again. It’s just the way it works.

(Note: I guess GoPro also sells a frame for the Hero3. Go buy it from them if you want a really nice one and have $40.00 to spend. If you just want this cheap plastic one, print it yourself.)

2012.12.10

New Slider

If you saw my post about a Motorized Camera Slider, this is a bit of an update, but it’s really more about the process than the end product, so if you’re interested in that, read on!

Slider End (Original)

I was originally using the improved camera slider V2 from our pal Marcus, and it worked well enough, but I wanted something different, so I tweaked what he had.

Slider End sliced

Marcus created his original file (I think) with Alibre Design, and since I couldn’t open it, I just worked with the STL file he provided. I loaded that into OpenSCAD and grabbed a slice of it using this method.

Slider End outline

Once I had a line drawing of the original slider end, I could use it to make my own. I imported the DXF File into Inkscape, my standard for 2D (and 2.5D) illustration.

Slider End outline

In reality, the only parts I really used from the original were the approximate size of the piece, and the two holes for the rods. I could have measured things, but loading up a file as a template was easier. I guess I could have got all fancy at this point, but I just kept it simple.

New Slider End

Once I had my SVG done in Inkscape, and exported a DXF file, it was a matter of doing the old linear_extrude method, like I did for my snowflakes, etc. I saved out an STL file and I was ready to print.

Nw Slider End

Here’s what the final piece looks like. One of the issues I had with the design Marcus created was that the rods only went part way into the plastic. There were screw holes to tighten down some screws onto the rods to hold things in place, but I never put any in. They might have also helped with the twisting issue this design has, but I may explore the idea of a two-piece design that clamps tight with the plastic. Or not… the nice thing is, it’s easy to experiment.

If I wanted to, I could probably make these ends out of wood, which would require just a drill press, or maybe out of a nice heavy metal, which might require drilling, or maybe milling. Both processes are a little messy, potentially more expensive, and require equipment you might not have. The nice thing about 3D printing these is that I can iterate a design quickly, and at a very low cost. I can even make them mostly hollow to save on time and materials during testing, and then make stronger, more solid versions when desired.

Nw Slider End

You may notice the carriage has some zip ties on it. Those are holding the LM8UU linear bearings in place. My original carriage was way too stiff, and without exact alignment (which you may not get with DIY plastic parts) it didn’t slide without some binding. The bearings were 58 cents each (I got a 10-pack from an ebay seller.) The bearings are a little noisy, so if you plan to shoot video with sound, you might have some issues. (Maybe more expensive bearing would make less noise?) As for the rods, they were about $15 each (pricey compared to the other parts) from VXB.com. There are cheaper alternatives depending on length, size, quality, etc. I went with 8mm because those are standard RepRap sizes.

At some point I may play with carriage designs as well. I actually did an early version that used felt instead of linear bearings (another trick from the RepRap world) which makes things cheaper and quieter, which may be desirable in some cases. And of course, I need to revisit the whole “motorized” part of this thing.

Until next time!

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