Progress, Frustrations, DF4, eMotimo, stuff.

I am getting bored by flowers.

And I am feeling pretty uninspired at the moment. I have been shooting flowers exclusively for months, and I have some pretty good footage racked up but nothing to do with it. I need to get myself more focused on specific projects. I had been running into issues with Dragonframe and Otto a while back and started filming flowers because they are pretty easy to do. Flowers generally can be shot from bud to full bloom in under a week, and even if it does not go buttery smooth I usually get fairly good footage. I did have an issue with Dragonframe freezing a little while ago. To compound the problem I had the BCM trigger Dragonframe, which triggered the rest of the cameras via splitter.  So when Dragonframe ran into an issue, all the cameras stopped, even the static cameras.

I had rewired the system so the BCM connected to the splitter, and then to Dragonframe (DF4). That way if DF4 froze the other cameras would continue to shoot. After spending some time troubleshooting and working with the guys at Dragonframe, I just removed/re-installed the software completely and the issue cleared up.

Once that was fixed I started running into problems with the eMotimo.

If everything was setup and nothing was shooting the connection would be nice and solid. Once I started shooting, about a day into the shoot I would lose connection between the eMotimo and DF.  Then things started to get a little bit weird. I found I would have to reset the eMotimo, then reconnect to it. Then the next time DF tried to shoot it would announce the motors are not at the starting point. I am not sure why this happens. I suspect when the eMotimo reboots it establishes the current position as the zero mark, so DF assumes it is out of position. If you allow it to reposition it ends up in the wrong spot and you have to reprogram the move.  I found the best practice is to pull the 12v power from the eMotimo, the system is still powered over USB, but at least the motors don’t move as it tries to reposition itself, then you can plug the 12v and resume. Until it loses connection in a day.

I replaced the USB connection between the TB3 and DF4 with an active usb extension, and a day later it lost connection again. I checked all the USB ports on the PC and found the power management was set to off, which I read can cause issues. However, a day later it lost connection again.

Luckily this time the only footage that was wrecked was the stuff being captured by the emotimo. Otto and the 3 static cams continued to capture. I finally powered off the eMotimo rendering it as another static cam until I was done shooting.

I get frustrated with using the eMotimo TB3. Not that the eMotimo is doing anything wrong, it is a very well made device with an excellent software package. I think my expectations are the problem.  I can’t use the eMotimo to be the brain for the motion. It has very limited keyframe engine with only 3 on pan, 3 on tilt, and 2 max on the Aux. That is fine for many purposes, but when doing macro work that DOF (Depth of Field, area that is in focus) is so small that even if I only use 2-3 keyframes on the pan, tilt, or linear movement I still end up with 8-10 keyframes on the focus just to make sure it does not drift between other keyframes.  2 keyframes does not cut it, therefore I have to integrate it with the Dragonframe software on the PC to be able to setup a routine.  Pan, Tilt, and Linear are all run off the drivers in the TB3, while the focus is controlled by a spare driver on the MPS that houses the drivers which Otto runs off of.

The end result works fantastic, if I can keep that damn connection up.

I had started to design a new PCB to replace the one within the eMotimo. This would give me 6 more motor drivers to play with, and it would remove the eMotimo’s software and just interface directly with the Dragonframe Arduino script.

Doug Urquhart ended up being a huge help, he had run into a similar issue in the past. Brian from eMotimo had sent him a modified version of the DFmoco sketch which worked with the pinouts in the eMotimo and could be loaded on, this basically bypassed all the eMotimo software and turned it into a dedicated Dragonframe controller Doug had pretty good results and he was kind enough to send that to me.  I plan to test it this week.

Just a disclaimer, I really do like the eMotimo, and I would recommend it without hesitation for anything other than what I happen to be doing with it. 😉

So enough of the techie geeky stuff, back to the filming.

I am bored of shooting flowers. I did not design Otto to get basic flower shots, I wanted to get some very unique motion captures. I have most of the issues pretty much worked through and I think I am ready to start some more advanced things. Flowers make excellent test subjects because if something goes wrong it is not a huge deal. Ruining a 3 day timelapse on a flower is one thing, ruining 4 weeks on nepenthes sprouting pitchers and having something fail 3 weeks in and missing the end is something else entirely.

I have decided I am ready to start moving back to carnivorous plants. Hopefully the issues with the eMotimo are resolved, I feel pretty good about DF4 and Otto at this point. I need a project other than flowers, and I have something in mind and hope to start shooting this weekend.

Other stuff.

I got some Black 2.0

It is the flattest blackest mattest paint that can be bought. I got some here.