One Hacker’s Small Tabletop Photo Studio

We love good pictures. You know, being worth a thousand words and all. So, after our article on taking good reference photos, we were pleased to see a reader, [Steve], sharing his photography set-up.

Taking good technical photos is a whole separate art from other fields of photography like portraiture.  For example, [Steve] mentions that he uses “bullseye” composition, or, putting the thing right in the middle. The standard philosophy on this method is that it’s bad and you are bad. For technical photos, it’s perfect.

[Steve] also has some unique toys in his arsenal. Like a toy macro lens from a subscription chemistry kit. He also showed off his foldscope. Sadly, they appear to no longer be for sale, but we sometimes get by with a loupe held in front of the lens. He also uses things standard in our shop. Such as a gridded cutting mat as a backdrop and a cheap three dollar tripod with spring actuated jaws to hold his phone steady.

In the end, [Steve] mostly shows that a little thought goes a long way to producing a photo that doesn’t just show, but communicates an idea in a better way than just words can manage.

 

A Pi Powered Recording Studio

In the mid-90s, you recorded your band’s demo on a Tascam cassette tape deck. These surprisingly cheap four-track portable studios were just low tech enough to lend an air of authenticity to a band that calls itself, ‘something like Pearl Jam, but with a piano’. These tape decks disappeared a decade later, just like your dreams of being a rock star, replaced with portable digital recording studios.

The Raspberry Pi exists, the Linux audio stack is in much better shape than it was ten years ago, and now it’s possible to build your own standalone recording studio. That’s exactly what [Daniel] is doing for our Raspberry Pi Zero contest, and somewhat predictably he’s calling it the piStudio.

Although the technology has moved from cassette tapes to CompactFlash cards to hard drives, the design of these four-track mini recording studios hasn’t really changed since their introduction in the 1980s. There are four channels, each with a fader, balance, EQ, and a line in and XLR jack. There are master controls, a few VU meters, and if the technology is digital, a pair of MIDI jacks. Since [Daniel] is using a Raspberry Pi for this project, he threw in an LCD for a great user interface.

As with all digital recorders, the money is in the analog to digital converters. [Daniel] is using a 24-bit, 216kHz, four-channel chip, Texas Instruments’ PCM4204. That’s more than enough to confuse the ears of an audiophile, although that much data will require a hard drive. Good thing there will be SATA.

Although you can buy an eight-channel solid state recorder for a few hundred dollars – and [Daniel] will assuredly put more than that into this project, it’s a great application of a ubiquitous Linux computer for a device that’s very, very useful.


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Building an isolation booth for your home recording studio

[Brattonwvu] wanted to lay down some tracks with as high an audio quality as possible. To help get rid of the noise pollution of the everyday world he built this isolation booth in his attic.

The project started off with a trip to the home store for some 2×4 stock and OSB to use as sheathing. The framing is as you would expect, but to help deaden the sound he went with a surprising material. He’s filled the cavities between each 2×4 with stuffed animals and old clothes. The same is done in the walls and the inside surfaces are all covered in fabric to prevent echoing. The door has a lip and we can just make out what looks like weather stripping to provide a seal. There is just one opening in the box, where a PVC pipe allows electrical and microphone cables to pass through. [Brattonwvu] reports that you can hear your heartbeat in your ears when standing inside the sealed booth.

Sound treating a studio

Looks like [Dino] is getting the band back together. After a junkyard tube amp and a DIY tremolo stompbox, he’s back again, this time doing a bit of sound treatment in his studio.

Most rooms naturally have a bit of flutter echo. You’ll notice this when you move into an apartment or new house – rooms sound a lot more cavernous without rugs, drapes and furniture. Unfortunately, having a bunch of couches doesn’t bode well for the workflow in a studio despite what MTV Cribs may have told us. The usual solution is to put up some sound-absorbing material on the walls, and a metric ton of cardboard egg cartons don’t work.

[Dino] found a bunch of acoustic panels his neighbor threw out during a renovation (yes, we know, he’s very lucky). After doing some pre-installation tests, the panels were hung. Afterwards, the amount of echo was drastically reduced.

The good news is we finally get a look inside [Dino]’s studio. We saw the junkyard tube amp we covered earlier, but not the neat tremolo pedal he made.

Check out [Dino]’s video of sound treating a room after the break.

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