Sparkbooth – Button Renaming

Dropping this here so I remember and so I can point people her if needed…

Sparkboth - View Settings

In Sparkbooth (v3) you can change the text that appears on screen. For instance you can change the word “spacebar” to “button” if you need to.

Sparkbooth Settings

Once you click the settings icon, go under General to On-Screen Messages.

Sparkbooth - Push The Button

Change what you want to change… Done!


Photo Booth Set-up Tips

Photo Booth Tips

The fine folks over at Sparkbooth have this great Setup Checklist, and if you plan on setting up a photo booth at an event, it’s required reading…

I’m going to comment on a few items, as well as add a few things to the list, based on my personal experience.

Place a computer, webcam, and keyboard on a table in a well-lighted area. Don’t forget a chair or stool.

For my photo booth I ended up building a stand that puts the business end up about the height for a “typical adult human being” which happens to be my height! Since I use an iMac you can actually just tilt the monitor (and camera) up or down a bit if needed. This may not be clear to everyone, so a sign might also be helpful.

The part about a chair or stool is good advice if you want people to sit when they use the booth, which is a good idea because it puts people of different size close to the same height, which doesn’t happen as much when standing.

When considering location, don’t forget about extension cords! You never know how far you might be from an outlet. I actually have a power strip hidden in the back of my stand, which allows me to plug in the computer and light(s) and also gives me a place to hide the keyboard. From the power strip I can then run one extension cord to the nearest (or most out of the way) outlet. I bought a new extension cord since most of my old ones are filthy. Clean is better when it comes to appearance. You can also get white, or black, or something besides orange if desired.

For you computer… turn off instant messaging, email, and other applications, etc.

Do everything listed there. I actually go a few step beyond that, and on the Mac I use I created a completely separate account. I keep the account very minimal. It’s set to log into that user automatically, and launch Sparkbooth on startup. I’ve also got just Sparkbooth and Safari in the dock, as well as a shortcut for the folder where the images get saved. The idea is that when I turn it on, it’ll be completely ready to go in just a few minutes. I’ve also partitioned the drive into two halves, and once Sparkbooth was fully operational, I cloned the main partition to the second partition. This way if some update to the system breaks things, I can always revert to the last good working combo. (Between Mac OS X, Adobe AIR, etc. you never know what might go wrong.)

A few other things worth mentioning include signage. I also include instructions that tell people to push the button, and then get ready for 4 photos. (You be surprised how many people walk away after the first photo.) Lights, you should have them. Don’t depend on existing lighting, bring your own. As for a background, I don’t always use one myself, but I’d still recommend one if you can do it easily enough. (I’ve had my booth in some places that didn’t really allow for a background.)

As for the get a USB button suggestion, I’m obviously in favor of that one… and hey, you can even get one from my store or from Etsy. :)


The Photo Booth

Last year I was invited to a co-worker’s wedding. And, since so many weddings nowadays involve being creative on a budget, they had a photo booth there that they set up themselves using Sparkbooth, a great little Adobe AIR-based application. A few weeks later we were having our annual work party, and I was tasked with making a photo booth a reality. Since then I’ve been working on building a better photo booth experience.

NOTE: Need a button? Now you can buy one! Visit our store or Etsy.

For the first one I set up, I used my MacBook Pro. We connected a Sony PD-150 video camera via FireWire and selected it in Sparkbooth rather than using the built-in iSight camera. (The iSight is a small camera, with a tiny lens, so the video camera ended up providing a better image.) We also put a little sticker on the space bar that said “PRESS HERE TO TAKE PHOTOS” and hoped for the best. It worked, but there were just too many moving parts to deal with, like the camera on a tripod behind the MacBook, and a light clamped onto the tripod. It wasn’t elegant.

The Sparkbooth software is great and provides a ton of features, including the ability to upload photos to Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr, Posterous, or a dozen other sites. There are some optional features that would require a keyboard—if you prompt people to enter their name, email, a comment, or choose if they want the image uploaded or not—but the main interaction is through pressing the space bar to start the picture-taking process.

If you need a space bar, you may need a keyboard… unless you build something that can emulate a space bar. When I saw The AWESOME Button on Make, I knew what I had to do. I had to build a button.

Ready for Pushing
The Button

The button is simple, and built into a metal case. It should stand up to abuse that a normal keyboard might not, and it’s pretty simple. You can’t really press the wrong button, there’s only one.

Once I had the button, I set about getting my old iMac set up as the photo booth machine. Not being happy with the built-in iSight (the iMac is about 4 years old, and it’s definitely not as good as the latest round of iSight cameras), I ended up taking the Canon ZR800 from Time Lapse Bot and using that. It worked OK but wasn’t ideal. I didn’t want to have to deal with a tripod and more cables, etc. (I even ended up testing a floor-mount camera holder I built which took pictures of shoes for a specific event—don’t ask!)

Ultimately I settled on using a Logitech HD Pro USB Webcam C910. Its image quality is much better than the iSight, and there’s just one cable to plug in. Just one problem… while it worked fine with my MacBook, no matter what I tried, I could not select it in Sparkbooth on the iMac. I tried everything, including different versions of Adobe AIR, different versions of Mac OS X, reformatting the drive, a clean install… nothing would work. I ended up disconnecting the built-in iSight thanks to some help from iFixIt.

The Photo Booth
The Completed Photo Booth

So I now had the button and the camera. I then needed something to hold it all together. I wanted a stand to put the iMac on that was about the right height for a “typical human being,” and by that I mean: about my height. (You can also easily adjust the camera by just tilting the iMac a bit.) I ended up building a simple pedestal out of plywood and painting it white. I used thin plywood to save on weight since it needs to be somewhat portable. You can’t see it in the photo but the back has been left open, and there’s an internal shelf for the keyboard and mouse. I keep those handy in case of trouble, or if I need to change any settings in the software. The shelf actually helps structurally as well.

For the light, I used a small IKEA clamp light (you’d be amazed how hard it is to find a small, good-looking clamp light.) There’s an L-shaped piece of plywood behind the iMac that’s held onto the stand with a c-clamp. It works for now. I may upgrade the light in the future.

Booth Photos
Photos from the Booth

Here’s a selection of photos from the first official use of the Photo Booth. (Yes, there are two Munchkins on the back wall—it was a “Wizard of Oz” themed party.) I’m asking for a bit of forgiveness in calling this a “Photo Booth” at this point because, while it does take photos, there isn’t an actual booth yet… I need to save something for Phase II of this project…

Stay Tuned!

NOTE: Need a button? Now you can buy one! Visit our store or Etsy.


The Button

The Button

NOTE: Need a button? Now you can buy one! Visit our store or Etsy.

I was in need of a button, but not just any button. A USB-enabled button that could emulate a single key being pressed on a keyboard. This is that button…

It consists of the following materials:

The Button

I used a Teensy as it’s a very simple (and cheap!) way to emulate a USB HID. I do wish the Teensy had mounting holes. I ended up not mounting it at all and letting it just hang loose, which should be fine, as it’s so lightweight. There’s a bit of electrical tape wrapped around the Teensy and the solder joints.

For the box, I wanted something metal, so it would be heavier and more sturdy than the typical plastic project box. Matt Gauger of Milwaukee Makerspace suggested I check out Mammoth Electronics, as they make boxes for guitar pedals. I ended up choosing their “tall” enclosure.

For the button, I really like this button over the one I ended up using, but it was too tall to fit in the project box. Unless you’re a “button snob” you probably won’t notice much difference between the two.

If you’ve got USB cables lying around, use one… otherwise, you can get one from Monoprice for less than a dollar. I pretty much buy all my cables from Monoprice.

As for the rubber feet, I picked some up at the local hardware store… as well as some black spray paint. (Note: If you are ordering the button from Sparkfun, just get the rubber feet from them too!)

The Button

There was one more item I needed. The button needs a 27.3 mm hole to fit into, which means I needed a hole that was 1.07480315 inches wide. Well, 1.07480315 inches is pretty close to 1.0 inches, so I ended up getting an Ace Bi-Metal Variable Pitch Hole Saw. (The link is not the exact one that I got. I ended up getting mine at the local Ace Hardware store.)

As for the process, the Teensy part took a small amount of time, (see the AWESOME Button) and the drilling was a little tricky, as the 1.0 inch hole was just slightly too small. A bit of creative drilling with a regular drill bit fixed that though. The spray painting was the real time consuming part of it all. As for the assembly, I originally envisioned mounting the Teensy on the bottom plate of the box, and having a hole where the USB connector would be accessible, but I ended up going with what you see in the photo. (I just used the Dremel to cut a small groove for the cable to fit into.)

And why do I need a yellow button that can emulate a key being pressed? Well, sometimes you just need a yellow button that can emulate a key being pressed…

The Button

Note: A number of people have asked for the code I used, and even though it is in the comments, I thought I should post it in here as well.

 * Button.pde

void setup() {
  pinMode(10, INPUT_PULLUP);

void loop() {
  if (digitalRead(10) == HIGH) {
  } else {
    Keyboard.print(" "); // we print a space