Biolapse news update!
1) FINALLY shooting the carniverous plants! Im very excited to be shooting these. Its amazing how fast time can go by, and these plants require a dormancy period, so i had to get on it and fast.
2) Two cameras! I managed to get a killer deal on a used Fuji XM-1, and it arrived yesterday. I have to build a cable, apparently the XM-1 uses micro USB for a shutter release instead of the TRS 2.5
3) New hardware arrived, this is the secret gear I mentioned in my last update. It is pretty slick, it will take a bit of time to get it all implemented together.
4) I am going to start putting together a short film for my Sedum Tile set. I probably have 5-6,000 images. I cant wait to get that done, but i have bigger fish to fry right now.
5) We are working on a pan/tilt. I have an eMotimo Tb3 that i can use, but my general nature is to assume i can do a better job than anyone else. The Tb3 is a slick system indeed, however it does not do everything I need, so we are making our own system. But how to control it? I already have a good idea of the interface I want to use, but the brains are my primary concern. The Arduino Uno R3 was great for the first ChronoController. I could go the route of the Atmega 2560 as seen on the Arduino Mega, but I am still stuck with a single threading 16mhz processor. eMotimo shows how you can control three motors at the same time with some slick coding tricks, but i would prefer not to have that limitation from the get go. Also, with emotimo if you are moving PT and then tilt the controller to move the third axis, you notice it slows down. This is because the arduino can only do one thing at a time, it may seem you can do two things at once, but that is just a trick with timers to eliminate blocking from delays. The slowdown is the ports trying to turn on and off at nearly the same time, resulting in port manipulation waiting for the prior to finish. For the eMotimo this not really a big deal at all, but for what I want to put together, I need more.
Enter the Rasperri Pi. This is nothing really new, and there are newer better versions already from other manufacturers, but it has become a standard already for micro computing. It is a small linux computer a little bit bigger than an arduino with multi threading capability as well as a 700mhz processor, about 32x faster than the arduino. It should be able to handle 3-4 stepper motors, while simultaneously updating a display in real time without suffering any slowdown in performance. Also, rather than a limit of about 256k of memory with 2k of ram, you can have 8 gigs (depends on SD card size) of space with 512k of ram. The numbers may be off slightly as I don’t have the tech specs in front of me and I’m too lazy to pop open a Google browser and search (however I’m not to lazy to write a long disclaimer that takes more time than to fact check) but you get the drift.
This opens the possibility for a far far more robust system. The Pi is not perfect for this work, and there will be technical challenges, but once you get that first LED to blink, and that first button to work, and that first motor to turn, the doors open up. The Raspberri Pi has been around long enough that you can dig around online and find the answers to most technical problems pretty quickly. I could probably finish Epoch with a Arduino Mega in a quarter of the time it will take with the Raspberri Pi as I learn Python, but i think the extra effort will result in a system with far more potential and capability than anything else that has been dreamed up.
And of course, I will document the process to build your very own Epoch controller with off the shelf parts in case you do not wish to buy one pre-made.
In the meantime I have noticed that our orders have dropped off a bit, where we normally had 3-4 orders in the hopper on any given day, it has really dropped down. I suspect such companies as Dynamic Perception, Axis 360, and are kicking our asses in sales due to the very well done kickstarter campaigns. But this is actually very little concern to us, we only build what people order, and as long as people order, we will build.
This gives me a chance to sort of explain Project Chronos a little bit. Neither Kyle or I ever sat out to build up a company. We never intended to try to compete with anybody. The whole thing started out as an online DIY recipe for anyone who wanted to build their own system. Then one day somebody asked us to build them a system. Then another, then another. We eventually had to create a legitimate business because we were getting enough build requests that it would cause us some tax problems so we went legit. By in large we ignore what everyone else is doing and just focus on doing what we enjoy. We are not trying to compete with anyone. This is not a required source of income for either of us, so if we get one more order, and never another order, well, cool. I have more free time then, aside from maybe the occasional repair for a damaged system. So I will move forward with Epoch which i intend to control pan, tilt, linear, and focus/zoom. However, if we get 50 orders tomorrow, we will start working to fullfill those as well. But no matter what, I personally guarantee lifetime performance from anything we build. None of this 1 year warranty crap. If somebody has once of our systems and uses it for 6 years and it dies out, ill fix that for free. The only time where there may be a service repair charge is if there was some sort of intentional act at modifying it that damaged it. But we would rather you just contact us if you want something modified so we can work it out for you. 😉
Kyle and I just really enjoy building and designing things. The Chronos Project helps fun that passion for us. Without the company we would still be doing what we do, just without any external funding. 😉