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Old April 8th, 2005, 02:01 PM   #1
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Development Platform for DIY cameras

A lot of people have worked hard in building cameras for High def and all sorts of stuff like that and I have been trying to keep up with it for months.

I am not really much of a videographer as I am an engineering student, but I am really interested in the challenges of HD cameras and solving problems related to this. I love editing for people and doing the tech stuff on shots.

I have been mulling an idea I had for a few weeks now and although I haven't really started the design process I decided to post what I would like to do.

Everyone is working hard to address the problem of building a working camera and in most cases this gets tied to a computer. Even the highly anticipated andromeda for the DVX100 looks like it will initially be tied to a computer or a laptop or something like that.

Personally I hate the idea of being tied to a computer to do recordings and using bulky monitors and the likes to deal make a working HD camera that is below 100k.

I want to design and build not a full camera (initially anyway), but more of a development platform to help people quickly take some parts initially and within a few weeks have a working, and more importantly, self contained camera.

So what is this platform that can be quickly changed into a camera. To put it simply, just another computer - with a few changes.

It would be a shoulder mounted computer with a place to plug in cameras via usb 2.0 or firewire 400 / 800 or gigabit ethernet. (I'm not sure about camera link because I just can't see myself being able to design so that the thing isn't huge, but if people really want it then I'll see what I can do.) There would be a method for an external hard drive to mount, this will likly be a proprietary mount of my own design that will either allow for hot swap sata drives or usb 2.0 or firewire. A standard definition viewfinder will then be connected via s-video or composite. It will have either a built in battery that powers everything, or a port for a battery belt, or both.

So, all that is left is to find a camera that is usb, firewire, or ethernet, and then write a program that interfaces everything.

The unit would have standard buttons and a power zoom handle.

As of right now I have exams coming up next week, and the way engineering works where I live is that I need a work term, but since i'm not a senior I'm having a hell of a time finding a job since locally it seems that most places are not hiring students. What I may end up doing is this as my workterm, its a poor substitute but if the feedback is good then I might be able to get some students from my level who are having a hard time finding a job like me to work on this project, and hopefully develop some software. And a working device that is sell-able. And since my work term is only 4 months long I would want a working product that I could sell by sept.

I really want some feedback on this and want people to be as harsh as possible so that I can see the problems in the begining and fix them. The latter through the development process the more costly and harder it is to fix problems.

ANY FEEDBACK PLEASE!!! I don't know enough to design this for everyone interested and that is what the target market would be so I need to know what you want.

Keith Wakeham
Engineering student
Memorial University, NL
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Old April 8th, 2005, 03:58 PM   #2
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Want to help me? read all of my thread and let me know...we are almost at a point of a working camera now...
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Old April 8th, 2005, 04:21 PM   #3
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welcome aboard keith:

there are I think three major threads.

wayne morellini,s http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...266#post298266

obins http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...547#post298547

rai and markushttp://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...154#post298154

all three are working on the next varicam killer
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Old April 8th, 2005, 04:45 PM   #4
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I read most of the major threads about 4 months ago, on break between semesters and i was really impressed, i'm a little behind on whats been happening lately and this has only come up recently as a possible thing for me.

I'm been trying to catch up on some today, but my memory is flakey so I'll re-read.

I was up some where about page 130 when i lost track of obin's and i haven't been up on the either also so I guess i'm in for some reading.

I'd love to help with your camera obin, if your still on the cameralink route then I have a challenging problem to solve, which might not be as hard as i expect to get a framegrabber into a half decent sized case, but harder than that is getting a small mainboard with pci-x if your using that...

I just gotta do some more reading i guess and research.

I've got a touch of pnemonia and some studying to do so i'm at home tonight doing this.

because of this i'm planning on starting some design stuff tonight.

Keith
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Old April 8th, 2005, 07:19 PM   #5
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Richard you hit the nail on the head! as I have seen first hand the true quality of VariCam footage...not...that...great..IMHO

anyway Keith yes I am on the cameralink interface because it's fast, really fast..we are working off a small microatx board with pci-x slot...
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Old April 8th, 2005, 07:51 PM   #6
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I love how you refer to these as the next varicam killer.

Personally I was going to try and avoid cameralink, but after thinking about it and doing a little plan for some of the preliminary designs I'm really looking hard at trying to get it in their.

As I said before I am trying to make this a multi format development tool that can be turned into a full blown camera.

I'm going through a product development process (I knew that design class was going to come in handy) and refining what exactly I want this think to do.

Right now I'm concerned about power consumption and size. I know i can design and machine a casing from aluminum or magnesium alloy or something (Engineering students at my school also has access to a computer machining shop that does stuff so cheap its almost insane - manual milling is fun too).

Obin: I noticed as of late your software is really taxing that P4 cpu. I really wanted to head toward intergrating an itx P4 board, or athlon board into the camera but the cameralink starts challenging me. You used to have a standard pci capture card didn't you? Did it prove to slow or could that possibly be worked into again for single ccd at < 2 mpixel. Microatx is pushing the size a bit but I'm gonna see what i can do.

I'm sorry that some of my question (and i know that some are definetly already answered in the forums) are answered by searching the forums, but things change quickly and some quick answers saves my lots of time of searching.

Keith
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Old April 8th, 2005, 08:05 PM   #7
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hmmm...camera link yes usb is too slow pci is also not fast enough..gigabit can be done but at this stage we have the fastest thing going..why screw around with that...i am going to get atleast 24fps 1080x1920 images from our system...help i could use would be in the machine shop with large cnc parts...we will design but have no machine shop here..also if you wanted to start to look at the power supply issues that would help....don't forget I am NOT using a P4 cpu but a Dothan Mobile..MUCH less heat and power!!! a great little cpu! we could use design of the hard disk "holder" in the camera as I am not sure how to do that yet so that you can "load" disks when you fill them up and need more...A viewfinder needs to be designed and I have not even started that yet...the list goes on but I would need to know how you want to help i guess...


don't look at this a big money maker...I have no idea how many will sell..look at it as a side gig at best...maybe we are in for a good supprise? that would be great..

I am building this system out of NEED not want...it has been a project of love not money ..just a fyi
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Old April 8th, 2005, 08:06 PM   #8
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our micro atx is fine..the more a camera weighs the better anyway for a smooth image...don't worry about the micro atx size
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Old April 8th, 2005, 08:24 PM   #9
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Okay, I'm beginning to understand a bit of the direction you need me to go in with this.

I was really hoping that a pci framegrabber would work, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and do some design work for some concepts with the matx in mind and a pci-x frame grabber.

I'm still thinking that this is going to be more of a universal design platform, but if cameralink is what is needed than the other stuff can still be their, but not the main thing then.

I was never in this for money, I'm an engineering student, all we think about is our next meal and how much information a stress stran curve can tell us about a material... so off topic

I like designing and overcoming challenges. I've never been good with the size challenge of things, but i'm getting better. Compact but functional is the aim of the game for me. Just not to compact, i can't stand hand held cameras.

I'm thinking native sata is the way to go for the capture drives, at least 2 in raid 0 in a small quick release box. Sata is hot swapable so that shouldn't be a problem - well it is in the spec, if chipsets support it is another thing.

The viewfinder seems to be a function of money throwing as i like to think of it. If you throw at little money at the problem you'll end up with a .3 mpixel lcd eye piece, but if you throw a lot then you get a b/w crt, and if you have a fan and buckets of money than you'll end up with dmd devices or d-ila or high res lcd or oled. I just have to find an equilibrium for cost. Thinking that a b/w SD crt will be good enough for focusing. But i could be wrong.

I'm gonna have some designs done for tomorrow morning - mainly just sketches for refinement and stuff to help decide where to go with the design.

Keith
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Old April 8th, 2005, 11:21 PM   #10
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I can tell you this..SD for a viewfinder will NOT cut it...maybe 1/4 quad pixel display but that is still at 960x540 so over the "standard" SD res anyway...yes your right. we are using SATA drives 2 in raid. the only way we get enough speed. server drives to be exact.

so..ideas on viewfinder ?? I have seen the OLED..should be enough as it's 800x600? well almost anyway..we can scale things down...as it stands we don't have color display..this is a limit of the cpu power that is on the market at this time...this will change soon...and we may still have color display while not recording...but that is not a biggy for now...zebra is more of an issue to a pro then color preview...


what can your buddys do for CNC work? what size? type of CNC machine? axis?
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Old April 9th, 2005, 01:10 AM   #11
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Have anyone noticed that a Pentium M 2.13 GHZ has a consumption of 99 watts itself alone?
add the Mobo, memory and disks and you'll easily end up with at least 150 watts...
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Old April 9th, 2005, 07:34 AM   #12
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What your asking for a viewfinder starts making things a little difficult, but it can be done. I'm thinking that either it will have to be made from scratch (ekkkk!!!) which means i really need to find a new electrical engineering friend from a really higher up term. But I'm thinking on finding something like a single display hmd or something and remounting it to be a viewfinder.

Oled is still very new - and expensive, but I think a tiny lcd or a dmd based one might be cost effective. Or maybe the holy grail IMO, a crt. A b/w crt doesn't have a grill, just a screen of phosphors, so the resolution is just a result of focusing and scanning speed, and these are only limited by the physical properties of the tube.... You can scan as fast as you want until the tube explodes from overheating, so it might have to be cooled, which would be an entirely other subsystem to deal with.

CNC
We have two machines, both are big. One can handle parts 4 feet x 4 feet x 3 feet and is 3 axis, but has an attachment for spinning the part to make it 4. The other, well, i haven't really seen it but it is bigger and 5 axis when an attachment is connected. There are also some half decent sized cnc lathes, can hand about 9 inchs with the right chuck.

So no worries about being unable to machine the parts, all they need is a cad file in the right format and the chunk of metal... and a few days, or possibly a couple of weeks because a lot of people use it for projects and stuff.


WD raptor drives can drive up the power consumption, but i have a laptop with a pentium-m 1.6 and with an 80whr battery i and can go for about 2.5 hours of gaming. If the clock speed went up i could se power consumption of the cpu doubling but i can't see the rest uping it to 150 watts on a pentium M, maybe a p4-m though. The only true way to measure is to put an amp meter in line with the all the wires and see how much it draws.

You guys are really pushing my dream of making a cheap development platform out the window for an expensive high end beast. So I might run with two, lowend one of my own design, and the uber beast from places unknown for you guys.

Doing sketches today, soildworks this afternoon for concept refinement, and studying this evening.
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Old April 9th, 2005, 07:51 AM   #13
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what is your goal? as you can see I am deep in development of the system...do you want to make the case? viewfinder? power sub-system? software? what? I am doing all my work with the software at this time becase without that we have nothing of use....then I will start the design...
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Old April 9th, 2005, 08:13 AM   #14
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I think my goal is still the same, more of a developement platform, but one that is going to suit the needs of peoples current development.

For me that means everything but a camera head and software.

So What i have in mind is a microatx computer with pci-x framegrabber card with a built in boot drive and removable storage drives. A battery pack system with all the power converters needed to run the thing so either everything runs of one battery, or one power jack like most eng style cameras are. It should run for 2 hours of actual recording and have storage to at least 1/2 the running time. The viewfinder will be universal but I will design one that would be on the unit already. All of this would be packaged into something that looks similar to a dvcpro shoulder mount camera. There will also be a Handle for the powered zoom and just to stabalize when shouldering the camera. Although most shots with a camera like this would be tripod, Some shots will always require manually moving the camera and shoulder mount seems the less stupid of the methods for the right price.

So what the end result would be obin, is you plug in your camera, wire up the zoom if necessary, load up your software, and your done - the camera would be complete. Nothing else required. I'll handle the after though stuff so that you and anyone else could deal with the "getting a working camera" problem.

I hope this is clear enough, maybe calling it a development platform is throwing people?
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Old April 9th, 2005, 10:05 AM   #15
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Just a little update on where i'm standing with the design and how it is going to be setup

Using a CIA matrix method of chosing the design here is a run down of how the device will be setup from the criteria i have chosen for all the important parts.

It will be an eng style camera. Mainboard will be facing so that ports will be at the back and card is at the bottom (Mainboard is closest to your face).This causing some wire routing problems but it is a compromise that had to be made for the HDD. The card will stick straight off the board, not 90 degree brackets or anything like that, simple. The HDD will load on the outside of the camera, possibly a drop down method to secure the hard drive without having to have an insane amount of mounting design.

While going through the matrix process I came to an overwhelming conclusing on the battery. Based on what I understand and using criteria of ease of connection, cost of battery, run time, recharging, long run use, and weight / balance it turns out that a battery belt looks like the best option. Amazingly it was very close to a perfect score, with having the battery mounted on the back with the closest rating, but only scored near 75% of perfect.

Since a dc port is a given anyway i'm gonna design for an anton bauer battery mount on the back of the camera. I'm so not building a battery from scratch.

So now for a full blown sketch and some solidworks designing - just rough cad work to get an idea of how it is going to look.

When i get my engineering account at my university straigthened out i'm going to setup a website, its already in the works, but i just can't host it.
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