Build This Barn Door Tracker Today, Take Stunning Shots of the Galaxy Tonight

Think you need some fancy equipment to get stunning shots of the night sky? Surely those long-exposure shots that show the Milky Way in all its glory take expensive telescopes with complicated motor-driven equatorial mounts, right? Guess again – you can slap together this simple barn door tracker for a DSLR for a couple of bucks and by wowing people with your astrophotography prowess tonight.

Those stunning, deeply saturated shots of our galaxy require a way to cancel out the Earth’s movement, lest star trails ruin your long exposure shots. Enter the barn door tracker, a simple device to let you counter the Earth’s rotation. [benrules2]’s version of the tool is ridiculously simple – two boards connected by a hinge. A short length of threaded rod with a large handle passes through a captive nut in the upper board.

A little trig allows you to calculate how much and how often to turn the handle (by hand!) to counter the planet’s 0.25°/minute diurnal rotation. Surprisingly, the long exposure times seem to even out any jostling introduced by handling the rig, but we’d still imagine a light touch and a sturdy tripod would be best. Those of you with less patience might automate this procedure.

It seems a lot to ask of a rig that you could probably throw together in an hour from scrap, but you can’t argue with [benrules2]’s results. His isn’t the only barn door tracker we’ve covered, but it looks like the simplest by far and would be a great project to build with kids.

[via r/DIY]

High-Quality Film Transfers with this Raspberry Pi Frame Grabber

Untold miles of film were shot by amateur filmmakers in the days before YouTube, iPhones, and even the lowly VHS camcorder. A lot of that footage remains to be discovered in attics and on the top shelves of closets, and when you find that trove of precious family memories, you’ll be glad to have this Raspberry Pi enabled frame-by-frame film digitizer at your disposal.

With a spare Super 8mm projector and a Raspberry Pi sitting around, [Joe Herman] figured he had the makings of a good way to preserve his grandfather’s old films. The secret of high-quality film transfers is a frame-by-frame capture, so [Joe] set about a thorough gutting of the projector. The original motor was scrapped in favor of one with better speed control, a magnet and reed switch were added to the driveshaft to synchronize exposures with each frame, and the optics were reversed with the Pi’s camera mounted internally and the LED light source on the outside. To deal with the high dynamic range of the source material, [Joe] wrote Python scripts to capture each frame at multiple exposures and combine the images with OpenCV. Everything is stitched together later with FFmpeg, and the results are pretty stunning if the video below is any indication.

We saw a similar frame-by-frame grabber build a few years ago, but [Joe]’s setup is nicely integrated into the old projector, and really seems to be doing the job — half a million frames of family history and counting.

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Converting Film Camera to Digital the Hard Way

[Robin] is a hobby photographer with some very nice old film camera gear. But who has the money or patience for developing film these days? (Well, lots of people, especially artists, but that’s a different Hackaday article.) So to update his old gear without breaking the bank, he glommed a Sony Nex digital camera onto the back of a nice old Nikon, and documented the process for us.

A friend of mine once said, “never underestimate what a good engineer can do with a file and patience.” [Robin]’s hack essentially consists of grinding the Sony’s CMOS sensor to fit exactly where the film plane would be in the old Nikon. For him, this meant relocating the IR filter glass, because it wouldn’t fit with the shutter, and then slowly and accurately trimming down the edges of the CMOS sensor’s retaining frame until it was just right.

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3D Printed GoPro Toy Car Mount

There’s been a spate of YouTube videos of people strapping GoPro cameras onto things recently. [Ruiz] at [Adafruit] is looking to contribute to this trend with this tutorial on 3D printing a GoPro Session toy car mount. The entire toy car mount is 3D printed, except for the axles, which are made of the unprinted filament with melted ends to hold the wheels in place.

The part of the mount that fits around the camera is printed in a flexible filament (think Ninjaflex), so it holds on tightly to the GoPro and can be used as a bumper as well. The car that fits into the base of the camera sleeve is designed to run on Hot Wheels track so that you can lay out your shots and keep the subject in frame. It’s a neat design that could be useful for creating an interesting point of view in a video.

If you have hotwheel, a GoPro (or other tiny camera), and 3D printer this is the project that will get you through the holiday without the kids driving you crazy. Good luck dear hackers.

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Ruggedizing A Cheap Camera For Spacecraft Testing

Name the countries that house a manned space program. In order of arrival in space, USSR/Russian Federation, United States of America, People’s Republic of China. And maybe one day, Denmark. OK, not the Danish government. But that doesn’t stop the country having a manned space program, in the form of Copenhagen Suborbitals. As the tagline on their website has it: “We’re 50 geeks building and flying our own rockets. One of us will fly into space“. If that doesn’t catch the attention of Hackaday readers, nothing will.

For their rocket testing they need a lot of video feeds, and for that they use cheap Chinese GoPro clones. The problem with these (and we suspect many other cameras) is that when subjected to the temperature and vibration of being strapped to a rocket, they cease to work. And since even nonprofit spaceflight engineers are experts at solving problems, they’ve ruggedized the cameras to protect them from vibration and provide adequate heatsinking.

The heat issue is addressed by removing the camera case and attaching its metal chassis directly to a heatsink that forms the end of an extruded aluminium case. Vibration was causing the camera SD cards to come loose, so these are soldered into their sockets. Power is provided by a pair of 18650 cells with a switching regulator to provide internal power, and another to allow the unit to be charged from a wide range of input voltages. A PCB houses both the regulators and sockets for cable distribution. There is even a socket on top of the case to allow a small monitor to be mounted as a viewfinder. Along the way they’ve created a ruggedized camera that we think could have many applications far beyond rocket testing. Maybe they should sell kits!

We’ve covered Copenhagen Suborbitals before quite a few times, from their earliest news back in 2010, through a look at their liquid-fueled engine, to a recent successful rocket launch. We want to eventually report on this project achieving its aim.

Thanks [Morten] for the tip.

A Virtual Glimpse Into The Forest

Taking a stroll through the woods in the midst of autumn is a stunning visual experience. It does, however, require one to live nearby a forest. If you are one of those who does not, [Koen Hufkens] has recently launched the Virtual Forest project — a VR experience  that takes you though a day in a deciduous forest.

First off, you don’t need a VR apparatus to view the scenery. Web-browsers and most smart phones are capable of displaying the 360 degree images. The Raspberry Pi 2-controlled Ricoh Theta S camera is enclosed in a glass lamp cover and — with the help of some PVC pipe — mounted on a standard fence post. Power is delivered ingeniously via a Cat5e cable, and a surge protector has also been included in case of lightning strikes.  Depending on when you view the website, you could be confronted with a black screen, or a kaleidoscope of color.

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The Animated Gif Camera, Brought To You By A Raspberry Pi

No one watches video anymore. Cable cutters are digging into Verizon’s profits, and YouTube is a shadow of its 2005 self. What are people consuming now? Animated gifs. This is the bread and butter of the meme economy. Personally, all my investments are sunk deep into Gandolf / Balrog gifs, with each character replaced with Trump and Hillary. I expect a tidy profit on November 9th.

With animated gifs being the de facto method of sharing moving pictures, the world will belong to those who can create them. Phones are fine, but strangely video cameras, DSLRs, and other high-end photography equipment are the norm. This is idiotic, of course, because high-definition images are just a fad, and audio is useless.

Finally, there’s an answer. [Nick Brewer] created a camera that only takes animated gifs. I cannot stress this enough: this animated gif cam is a serious contender for a technical Oscar. Kubrick wept.

For the hardware, [Nick] went with a Raspberry Pi and Raspberry Pi camera. A combination of software ranging from PiCamera, GraphicsMagick, and GifCam turns this tiny bit of hardware into a machine dedicated to content creation in the hippest new medium. Other hardware includes a battery – either a normal LiPo ‘pouch’ cell, or an 18650 cell. Other hardware includes an Adafruit Powerboost 500 charge controller and a neat illuminated push button.

The 3D-printed enclosure is where this project really shines. Hearkening back to an older time, this camera includes a real viewfinder for all your gonzo giffing. The camera is charged through a completely normal USB port, and even the Pi’s SD card is accessible without disassembling the camera. There are even some paper wrappers for this camera to give it a 90s disposable camera aesthetic.

Of course, this isn’t the first camera dedicated to the creation of animated gifs. Before the C.H.I.P., Next Thing Co released OTTO, a camera designed for gifs. [Nick]’s project, though, is a camera dedicated completely to gifs. It is the greatest technical achievement of our time, for the creation of content in the greatest artistic medium.