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miniEngine version 2 - idea thread
#1
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Hello everyone,

as you know from my earlier post am I working on the next version of the system whenever I find some time for it. I think it is a good idea to integrate you into the development process. So please leave you comments, ideas, questions or whatever comes to your mind when tinking about the version 2.

Please check also the post for some more details: http://www.minie.airiclenz.com/?p=239

I will update this post with the new ideas you come up with so that you'll find the latest state in the list below.
So here are the specs:

general specifications
  • Arduino DUE based (ARM) for having tons of performance and flash space
  • extra camera port (ExtOut-port)
    • CHDK compatible
    • could be used for IR triggering of the camera
    • could be used for triggering of all sorts of external equipment
  • external camera trigger port (ExtIn-port)
  • capable of controlling multiple motors (plug-and-play like architecture in the software; select-able linear or panning mode)
  • 2.4 inch graphical TFT display with 320×240 pixel (including touch sensor for later features)
  • SD card (implemented later)
  • rotary knob for main menu navigation and motor control
  • daisy chaining capability
  • time-lapse as well as video features
  • motor-is-powered status-display
  • focus on affordability
  • open-source

new software features (this may be seen as a long-term TODO list):
  • keyframes
    • can be stored on the SD Card
    • for move setup (motor speed ramping, motor direction change, shoot-interval ramping...)
    • optional signal to the ExtOut-port on every frame or every keyframe
  • auto-calibration for each motor (gather the track limits with help of the limit switches)
  • storable time-lapse templates (e.g. "cloudy day-time time-lapse", "winter night time-lapse", "plant growth", ...)
  • motor control in real units (cm for linear, ° for panning) plus motor calibration (steps/cm for linear, steps/° for panning)
  • software-based motor limits (min position, max position)
  • option for backlight enabled during camera shoots (to see status)

Airic
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#2
Even if I might contradict myself at some points, I'll mention a couple of caveats of this version 2:


- $price$. Every added module/ button/ hole will increase the overall price
- Remember the coolest thing about Google interface: it's uncluttered. Whatever you do, do it with the K.I.S.S. in your mind
- box size and power consumption will increase.



Now, possible cool ideas, not necessary all implemented at once :-) :

- battery in the box. Atleast for the time-lapse if not also for the motor.

- add another motor control for panning function

- Duratrax Intellipeak like buttons for the interface would be....wow...super cool
(http://www3.towerhobbies.com/cgi-bin/wti0001p?I=LXHDJ1&P=V)

- templates saving option with meaning full names. For situation like: "cloudy day-time time-lapse", "winter night time-lapse", "plant growth time-lapse"...etc These all require a couple of careful setups that needs to be remembered in order to be reproduced.

- dolly position auto-calibration (different position, different rail length, etc)

- CHDK trigger socket for Point and Shoot cameras. Simple function of remote trigger

- advanced USB camera support for the lucky guys that own cameras that can do more than power and file transfer via the USB interface..
(http://www.circuitsathome.com/camera-control/digital-camera-control-using-arduino-usb-host-shield-part-1-basics)

- external senzor ports for triggered actions (somehow touching the area mastered by Camera Axe). A simple socket with "+", "_", "signal" and some standard universal sensors. (maybe Serial Groove or similar.... possibly even I2C)



that would be enough...so far....
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#3
Hej alexella. Thanks for your great ideas! I added some to the list. Some ones that I did not add are discussed below.

(04-18-2013, 03:25 PM)alexella Wrote: - battery in the box. Atleast for the time-lapse if not also for the motor.

I want to make the system as small as possible - enclosable, yes! On the other hand, a main design goal is to allow the build with off-the-shelf components (e.g. Arduino DUE, the display/SD card module, ...) to make it as affordable as possible. Unfortunately this tends to end up in hard to enclose solutions. I will try making it as enclosable as possible. Actually this took quite a lot of time while chosing possible components for the system (how could they joined so that the final result is as slim and handy as possible?).

I could design a standalone hardware solution (like the CineMoco) where everything is integrated into one board but this will, for sure, bring the final price up quite drastically. This is because the small quantities I'd be able to order in the first place would not allow me to be price efficient. On the other hand, this can still be done when the stacked solution proved the concept, the hardware plus a first software is up and running and you guys show a demand for such a solution...

(04-18-2013, 03:25 PM)alexella Wrote: - Duratrax Intellipeak like buttons for the interface would be....wow...super cool
(http://www3.towerhobbies.com/cgi-bin/wti0001p?I=LXHDJ1&P=V)

I played with joystick like solutions but they are very expensive and big. So they are against at least two design targets and were thus replaced by a rotary knob (including button-press functionality). I think this solution is better because it works perfect for motor control and they give a nice "analogue" feedback / feeling when moving a motor. On top of that I think a 2 dimensional joystick would brings no added value because every motor has just one move dimension (linear or panning) and this is exactly what a rotary knob does - turn left, motor moves left. Turn left even more, motor moves left faster...

(04-18-2013, 03:25 PM)alexella Wrote: - advanced USB camera support for the lucky guys that own cameras that can do more than power and file transfer via the USB interface..
(http://www.circuitsathome.com/camera-control/digital-camera-control-using-arduino-usb-host-shield-part-1-basics)

I need to think about this. Maybe it can be integrated into the DUE's USB port. I will not add another USB port onto the shield for price and size reasons.

(04-18-2013, 03:25 PM)alexella Wrote: - external senzor ports for triggered actions (somehow touching the area mastered by Camera Axe). A simple socket with "+", "_", "signal" and some standard universal sensors. (maybe Serial Groove or similar.... possibly even I2C)

Sounds cool but do you have some ideas for possible use cases?

Airic
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#4
I'm not good at HTML quoting but...you'll figure out where my answer is :-)

YOU:
I want to make the system as small as possible - enclosable, yes! On the other hand, a main design goal is to allow the build with off-the-shelf components (e.g. Arduino DUE, the display/SD card module, ...) to make it as affordable as possible.

ME:
Stacking ARDUINO shields will make the whole board bigger (thicker). A single board could minimize everything. On the other hand, thinking in "shield" components makes everything more affordable. It's just that Arduino stacking it's a kind of advanced protoboarding but still...protoboarding...



================

YOU: I played with joystick like solutions but they are very expensive and big. So they are against at least two design targets and were thus replaced by a rotary knob (including button-press functionality). I think this solution is better because it works perfect for motor control and they give a nice "analogue" feedback / feeling when moving a motor.


ME:I guess you didn't played with Duratrax charger and/ or I did not explained well. I'm on your side. Duratrax has exactly this system: a push-endless-rotary knob and two side buttons for "Escape" and for...Reset maybe.
I also don't like joysticks for devices. It's not Nintendo what we have here.


=======================

YOU: I need to think about this. Maybe it can be integrated into the DUE's USB port. I will not add another USB port onto the shield for price and size reasons.


ME: it's USB port on the camera side. On the "device" side... I don't know what it is and what protocol it uses. I was just talking about sending comands directly from Arduino to the camera processor. But...maybe it's not a good ideea. This whould make the control box much more complex to handle



====================


YOU: Sounds cool but do you have some ideas for possible use cases? [this was regarding the external senzor trigger]


ME: well, for a time-lapse control box it would not be very usefull. But, the same control box could be used without a dolly and it's rail. Sensor based photography, speed photography... This is the area covered by Camera Axe product.




PS
my 6-th PCB for miniE is operational. And still I don't think it will be the last one. For the next version, I will add more via's to simplify/ eliminate top soldering, I will eliminate the second (telephone like) socket for motor aaaaand, I'm re-thinking if I really need a Real Time Clock.
Unless I do unattended Time Lapses, I don't care what time it is. But, for this next version.... I will give a lot more thinking.
Now I will play a while with the miniE - CHDK combination for a while....
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#5
Quoting is quite easy - you can simply use the quote tool above the edit window. It's the button with the speech-bubble (see attachment). Press it once and a quote begins where your cursor is at this moment - press is another time and the quotes gets closed where the cursor is...

Well, now that you explained it - the external trigger port is a cool idea! [ADDED]
I am really looking forward to a new(er) version of the system! I guess I just need to do the work to make it real Wink

Have fun playing with the miniE!
Airic


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#6
(04-18-2013, 10:37 PM)Airic Lenz Wrote: Quoting is quite easy - you can simply use the quote tool above the edit window. It's the button with the speech-bubble (see attachment). Press it once and a quote begins where your cursor is at this moment - press is another time and the quotes gets closed where the cursor is...

Well, now that you explained it - the external trigger port is a cool idea! [ADDED]
I am really looking forward to a new(er) version of the system! I guess I just need to do the work to make it real Wink

Have fun playing with the miniE!
Airic

I join alexella in the USB port wish, as this could enrich the capabilities and control of the camera!

I also think a "continuous video+dolly mode" could be simple to add and fun to use.
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#7
(04-20-2013, 09:55 AM)Soffer Wrote: I join alexella in the USB port wish, as this could enrich the capabilities and control of the camera!

I thinks a CHDK compatible camera port can be done without an extra USB port. An extra USB port would mean that a lot of extra hardware would be required to make it a real USB-master-port. The only practical solution I can think of would be a "fake" port which just sends the required 5V signals to the CHDK-enabled-camera (it would be something like the current IR-port with some extra features and capabilities)

The general problem with this sort of things is that I am shooting for a solution that is realizable with just though-hole parts. This is a main target so that you guys can assemble a future version 2 shield on your own. SMD solutions can be hand-soldered too but not everyone has the required skills / equipment. Another point against this is that I want to keep the cost as low as possible and extra features would, naturally, bring the cost up.

I want the initial version 2 of the miniEngine to be a good start to the "time-lapse-swiss-army-knife". This means a good feature-set (but NOT a complete one in the first shot), clean extendable code, and a general platform that has potential to be easily extended or adapted to the specific needs one could have.

Please don't get me wrong here! I want to make the next version as easily extendable as possible so that this USB port feature can be easily integrated later. So please continue sending your wishes / requirements - it will definitely has its effect on the software structure... Wink

It's just so that I have to cut things a little bit to keep the development time in a reasonable frame because I think the best ideas come when one finally uses the system...

Quote:I also think a "continuous video+dolly mode" could be simple to add and fun to use.

..this will be in the next version!

Airic
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#8
Dear Airic,

I think it is great that you still let the miniEngine be a open source project.

I use the miniE for timelapse, stoptrick and will use it for a kind of motion-control/double exposure things.
I use a big NEMA 23 which takes up to 4.2A and therefore use a external microstepper driver. (sometimes with up to 25600 microsteps/rev)

My suggestions:
a. external output of motor driver pins (for those who use other stepper driver solutions
b. external input for sethome and home switch (when adjusting a setup it saves 8 menue steps)
c. external switches for a forward/back input with the actual speed given by the menu (with a high microstep/rev rate you would turn a rotating switch very very often) re. easy adjustment.
d. external output for sync signal when the programm triggers other things
e. the possibility of move-stop-move-change direction etc.
means a little programm within the cycle
f. continuous drive for video shots plus things given in e. above
g. counter for driven steps, home etc. (maybe self adjustable in mm and degree (when a second motor just turns the camera)
h. last but not least why not 3 motors (or is this the daisy chain idea?)

The more explanation info you give within the firmware, the more people might understand what you do and might help the project

I guess the Due board has enough inputs/outputs to offer these things.

Users don´t have to use it but could if they want to.
Maybe a all in one plus a reduced to the minimum PCB would be a solution for both parties of users.


Plus a complete new forum thread miniEngine2.



Best luck with miniEngine2
Hans
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#9
(05-02-2013, 09:06 AM)hansai Wrote: a. external output of motor driver pins (for those who use other stepper driver solutions
b. external input for sethome and home switch (when adjusting a setup it saves 8 menue steps)
c. external switches for a forward/back input with the actual speed given by the menu (with a high microstep/rev rate you would turn a rotating switch very very often) re. easy adjustment.
d. external output for sync signal when the programm triggers other things
e. the possibility of move-stop-move-change direction etc. means a little programm within the cycle
f. continuous drive for video shots plus things given in e. above
g. counter for driven steps, home etc. (maybe self adjustable in mm and degree (when a second motor just turns the camera)
h. last but not least why not 3 motors (or is this the daisy chain idea?)

Maybe a all in one plus a reduced to the minimum PCB would be a solution for both parties of users.

Plus a complete new forum thread miniEngine2.

Hello Hans,

thanks for you input and your ideas!

Let me go through your suggestions and ideas:
  • a. motor driver breakouts will be included as they are included on the current shield too.
  • b. I don't think that there will be external inputs for the motor-home control. But the user interface will be improved drastically and provide much better access to these features.
  • c. The rotary knob just sets the speed - So the more you move it away from the zero-position, the faster the motor gets... left side or right side... Wink
  • d. I think you mean the IR/CHDK port which allows to trigger whatever you like as it provides the raw logic signals of the focus and the trigger pin. This is already included on the current version too (IR port). There will also be a new input which allows to trigger the camera from external inputs such like motion- or sound sensors. Your ideas are the limit.
  • e. There will be keyframes which allow much better control over the overal move. Special modes for tweaking behavior within one cycle will also be available (e.g. HDR mode => 2 to 7 camera shoots per cycle)
  • f. video features will be available (basically a mode without any camera control)
  • g. Motor control will be much better than it is now. There will be two modes for a motor: linear or panning. All units in the user interface will be based on cm (linear) or degree (panning) and the movement can be calibrated to your individual dolly-system (steps per cm; steps per degree)
  • h. there is not enough space for 3 stepper-driver-boards and yes the daisy chaining will allow to connect other miniEs so that more motors can be controlled

Regarding a fully assembled board which has all required components, I have to say that I am not going to develop such a board for an initial version. There are lots of reasons for that but the main reason is that there is simply no time left to do it. The development of the software as well as the development of the prototypes / shields / cases needs to be done too Big Grin

Cheers,
Airic
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#10
(04-20-2013, 11:31 PM)Airic Lenz Wrote: ..this will be in the next version!

Airic

Great, thanks! Big Grin
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