Posts Tagged ‘camera’

How to build a Digital 3D Camera rig [part 2]

Monday, October 11th, 2010

I’ll assume you’ve read part 1 in this series of posts, if not take a look now then come back.

Getting ready to build

Once you’ve got 2 identical bodies form one of the Canon models listed in the previous post, you will have to get each camera setup and prepped for stereo 3D shooting. There are probably a few routes towards getting this done, and like software installation there are certain dependencies required for the build process.


To have a fully working 3D rig you will need the following items:

  • A trigger mechanism – which is essentially 2 USB cables wired to a power supply
  • A Bar or Z-Bar to hold both cameras together
  • Identical sized SD / Memory cards for your camera, preferably > 2GB each

It is possible to buy all of the above without any hacking at all – it could save you time and headache.

Twin Bar

2 z-bars

2 z-bars for different Canon Camera Models

To be able to shoot 3D – your images need to be on the same horizontal plane as each other. You achieve this by mounting both cameras Side-by-Side to one another on a bar. You could knock something up of your own to do this which would save time if you have the right drill bits, material and camera screws. There are levels of sophistication when it comes to the bar. In some instances it might be necessary to incorporate a z-bar. This is where one camera is inverted. This is due to the nature of lens location on the camera body.

A lot of point and shoot Canon’s have their lens offset to the left or right. This means that the lenses of both cameras  when mounted side-by-side are too wide for a natural stereoscopic image. By inverting one camera you can bring the lenses closer together. This is a more expensive route, as you need an engineered bar with the right horizontal spacing and the specific height. If you were to choose this method, it might be better to buy one form the existing geeks that are making them for a wide rande of SDM capable models.

If you have a workshop and like this sort of challenge, it would make a fun project.

Hama Flash bar and screws

Hama Flash bar and screws

The more simpler side-by-side can still achieve good results though and on an budget you could pick up one of those Hama flash bars. Its made of plastic and would allow you to add another camera screw to it. This might not work with all camera bodys. You need to measure the bodies total width. Access to the USB ports can often interfere with this step as well, my Canon A570i rig has this problem and without seriously low-profile angled USB plugs I can’t place the cameras really close, even with a z-bar!

In my next post we will talk about the triggers

DMR for schmucks

Friday, August 27th, 2010

How many of you know about IMAX feature presentations. Here in the UK you may have seen a Hollywood blockbuster at an IMAX theatre.

If you have, you would have seen a projection of the feature in IMAX DMR.

This format is a digital remastering of the original film print upconverted to an IMAX format film reel. As the IMAX theatres typically have screens over 75ft tall, the original print would not fill that space. Thus this conversion process.

IMAX film stock is different to normal film stock in that it uses 65mm film but horizontally not vertically through the cameras.

The IMAX format is generically called “15/70” film, this name referrs to the 15 sprocket holes per frame of 70 mm stock. Compared to the 5 perf 35mm film stock regularly used in motion pictures.

If you compare IMAX film with your regular 35mm film stock, there is a huge difference in physical dimension and quality.



So why my rant ….. Well my first experience of a DMR feature was when I saw The Matrix Reloaded, whatever anyone thinks about the Matrix sequels, the conversion looked stunning and the VFX translated very well after going through the DMR process. Less can be said, however, with Mr. Nolan’s more recent efforts.

I have great admiration for Christopher Nolan’s work, but I come away from his imax films feeling cheated and more than a little upset, these include The Dark Knight and Inception. I make an effort to not only see these movies in their 35mm screenings but I also go out of my way to watch them in IMAX too, if it looks like some work has gone into the main production & especially if the film itself sounds interesting and impressive, technical achievements aside.

What excited me with Mr. Nolan’s work, has been his use of IMAX and 65mm cameras during principal photography of both of the afore mentioned features.

These upconversions should have looked stunning. And they did! Well in parts, let me explain…


Inception’s last 20 minutes seems to have all been shot with a 65mm camera as images filled the entire aspect ratio of the screen and there was a very sharp image. This would mean that the conversion would be sharper and clearer as a larger are of original film negative would be available. In complete contrast to the main bulk of the movie which had banding top and bottom. This also is a very good thing. The move from one format to the other was seamless and immersed the audience unconsciously. So what’s my problem …? Well the first part, the actual 35mm transfer.

For the first 2/3 of the film I kept looking at soft, often blurry images that did not do this film any justice, clarity was lost and it often felt muddy. I had come to expect more from IMAX, I even noticed this whilst watching The Dark Knight. But surely the upconversion process would not create such a dull and lifeless print.

I have seen Star Trek, Transformers, Harry Potter etc, none of which seemed to suffer from such a lack of image clarity. It was similar to watching a poor quality VHS on a screen the size of a football pitch! During the Dark Knight we were treated with IMAX filmed ariel views which were, quite simply, breathtaking. Just why then are paying audiences left with such poor quality transfers for the non specialised shots?

Who is to blame here. IMAX, studios, marketing?

I can only guess the issue is either money or just bad workmanship. I’m left rather upset and annoyed that my money is being given to recoup money on a great product that is badly delivered. Just don’t even get me started on the recent 3D conversion trend, which I have very strong opinions on, I have been taking 3D images for years and welcome the re introduction of 3d cinema, but am opposed to the studios siren call with these quick transfers.

IMAX, Warner & Christopher Nolan, you need to really do better here. Most people may not notice or even be aware of these issues but if i pay to see a DMR movie, then you have to deliver a better end result. You have the technology to do better. If a certain standard can not be achieved, then i say to the studios..please don’t make us the public pay good money for it, and simply don’t release a product that can’t deliver.

I love IMAX features and will not stop going, but they have to do a lot better here. Or at least explain that there will be a considerable loss in sharpness of the image. Which I doubt they will do. This practice is dumbing peoples senses down and insulting many of us paying to help recoup movie costs.

Rant over, I feel clean again.

Chipmunk image courtesy of flickr –


How to build a Digital 3D Camera rig [part 1]

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Over the past few years, a lot of my friends have commented on my unusual camera rigs, as a hobbyist with keen interest in stereoscopy, I’ve been dabbling in 3D (stereoscopic) photography for about 6/7 years now.

I get asked a lot of questions about my cameras and how they were built etc, novelty factor aside, these cameras can get some fun, cool and interesting images. It was only in the last 2-3 years that it became “affordable” to synchronise a pair of digital cameras without spending thousands.

That all changed when the bods working on the CHDK (Canon Hack Developer Kit) found a way of loading its own control software on top of the existing firmware. This allowed for all sorts of camera control, including sync. And a version of the CHDK called Stereo Data Maker (SDM) was released for various cameras.

A short series of blog posts to follow will guide you through how to source and build your  own syncronised digital 3D camera. Of course last year, Fuji announced their W1 compact 3D digital camera, a worlds first. But unless you’ve got £400+ going spare, its still only going to be in the hands of a very few. I’ll talk you through how for approx £200 you could get your own 3D camera together, not only will it do 3D, but you will be able to utilise all kinds of amazing features the software has to offer.

  • timelapse (intervalometer)
  • motion detection
  • screen masks
  • raw capture
  • custom grids

And much more.

There are only a few brands of Canon cameras that will work with this setup so you have to make sure you get the right models, or it won’t work. Here are a list of some of the  cameras that are currently supported by SDM (Stereo Data Maker) that I would think about getting, they all vary a lot in price / resolution and capabilities:

  • SX1IS
  • TX1
  • SX200IS
  • IXUS100 / SD780
  • IXUS 960
  • G9
  • A1000
  • IXUS 870 / SD880IS
  • IXUS 970 / SD890IS
  • SX10 IS
  • IXUS 80
  • SX110 IS
  • A590
  • G11
  • IXUS 980 / SD990IS

I currently have a working pair of A590IS cameras and have been shooting 3D with them for over a year. But for these posts I am going to run through the setup of a pair of IXUS100’s. At the time of writing this, there are some auctions on eBay for refurbished IXUS100’s including a 4GB SDHC card for under £90.

For now the homework will be to choose which cameras you want to mount together, the IXUS range is good, due to its low profile and the ability to bring the cameras close together. I’ll run through a basic prep and setup next.

Continue to Part 2