Photo hardware that automatically produces rotating GIFs

[Fergus Kendall’s] company is making development and breakout boards targeting electronic hobbyists. As with any endeavor that involves selling something, they need marketing. It sounds like [Fergus] was put in charge of getting some nice animated 360 degree images of each component. Instead of going through the drudgery of snapping frames by hand in a stop-motion-style, he whipped up a rotating platform that does the work for him.

The brain of the operation is a Boobie Board, a microcontroller breakout board that is one of their products. It controls a stepper motor attached to the cardboard platform via a quartet of power transistors. [Fergus] mentions in passing that their digital camera didn’t have a connection for a shutter trigger attachment. But they modded it to make things work. There’s no detail on that part of the hack but we’d wager that they soldered a transistor to the contacts for the shutter button.

The stepper motor has 48 steps, so the hardware is programmed to take 48 pictures which become the frames of an animated GIF – embedded after the break – to show off the product.

38 thoughts on “Photo hardware that automatically produces rotating GIFs

  1. Nice idea, although I usually find animated gifs more annoying than practical/nice.
    If you use this to put a few stills on the product page I would think it would be sufficient.
    Maybe it’s the fps but I get a little nauseated if I look at the gif too long.

  2. I literally gasped at this.
    I’ve been working on something similar, after digitizing I’m making a player that shows the frames in the direction you drag and flick.
    My inspiration was that iPad app “The Elements” ‘cept you gotta use the mouse

    I’m going to use 143 frames but the subjects are bigger. Not for components, for fox figurines. I need to immortalize them in case they get broken!

    The camera I will use is not mine, but it has an IR trigger that I have the codes for so no harm to the camera

    My platform ended up more complicated, thats ok because I need more precision and weight

    Nice outcome, I wish to get the lighting consistent like yours!

  3. An excellent little hack! I see that the exposure changes slightly from frame to frame – if the camera had a manual mode, or auto exposure lock, using that would probably lead to a more consistent result.

    Although admittedly if the camera doesn’t have a shutter release, it may well not have either of the above…

  4. [Harford Hackerspace] won the first ever Baltimore Hack-A-Thon competition building something very similar. Have a look at the build notes:

    Here is a good image of it:

    and lastly here is the time lapse video and blog post about it:

  5. I learn from this that 7.5 degrees is much more of a jump than you’d think, which is surprising to me, I would have thought 48 steps would be plenty to give a much more smooth effect, live and learn eh.

    Incidentally, it’s 2011, animated PNG would be more with the times perhaps with its higher colordepth, and it being now native to all browsers.

  6. The video thing seems like a good idea until you try it. Getting a seamless loop is difficult as the frames never seem to line up. And most video cameras don’t have as much control over exposure, etc. that is necessary to get these to look right. Also, when doing small stuff, lighting is paramount. Still cameras have flash. If you were using video, you’d need a entire light rig and really nice camera to make it look right. An $80 point-and-shoot does a good job when using stills.

  7. I wonder if you could do one range of shots then nudge the platform half a step and then do another run and then interleave to get a 2×48=96 frame animation, and I wonder if that would look smoother.
    You could put the rotating platform on a simple platform that needs only to to rotate a very small bit to and fro, maybe with a servo.
    It’s probably me but the jerkiness irks me a bit.

  8. Dunno, the manual drag-to-rotate method used eg. on gsmarena in their reviews always seemed to work pretty well to me. I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to find some free embeddable thingy that can do that once you’ve got the pictures…

  9. My similar project, Packshotnik (it was here), uses a modified servo and shoots IR trigger commands to the camera.

    This is a nice project. Yes you can shoot HD video these days, but this method gives blurless results. This project can be improved by making the platform independent of the motor and adding a reducing transmission. It could be something simple, like a small rubber wheel that touches the platform on the side (remember old cheap LP record players?)

  10. FYI, creating an animated GIF from an ordered series of pictures can be as simple as installing ImageMagick, then issuing the command ‘convert *.jpg animation.gif’. (My full script to do it was a *lot* more complicated, as I used exposure bracketing, an oscillating option, etc.)

  11. Just over a year ago, I built something similar.
    The inspiration came from a friend, who built the interface for viewing it and took a panoramic photo of his office by hand.
    My stepper driver was built on a breadboard with a pair of discrete transistor H-bridges, a circuit that surprisingly enough didn’t ever catch fire.
    Driven by my Arduino (yeah, bring it on with the hating.) with host software written in Python, which handled uploading to my site too.
    If there’s enough interest, I might upload it someday.
    Enough talk, here’s a link:


  12. Hmmm… It occurred to me that you could do this with automatically with *very* basic electronics:

    1. Create a rotating platform with a lazy susan/(w/e) with a circumference that is an easy multiplier of 3/8/10/etc (60cm/24″ is a good value, as it will give you a platform that is ~20cm/~7 1/2″ wide.), and an edge that is an inch or so high.
    2. Place a vertical staple (Or more if necessary at each mark on the edge.
    3. Anchor 2 stiff wires so that they will brush against the staples to create a circuit.
    4. Connect the brush wires to one side of a relay, so that when the brush circuit is closed, the other circuit on the relay is disconnected.
    4. Connect the brush wires to a trigger for your camera.
    5. Connect the other side of the relay from power to a motor that rotates the platform.
    6. Connect a separate circuit with a photo sensor (?) to the motor.
    7. Connect a power switch to the power source.

    When the brush isn’t touching the staples, the platform rotates. As soon as it does, the motor stops rotating the platform, and camera is triggered. As soon as the shot is taken, the motor begins rotating again.

    Sound workable?

  13. Animated PNG sounds like a good idea, until you realize that it’s really a kind of a hack and the support for it is really patchy, and PNG is not that great for photographic content. Having a 48 frame animation means that you’re going to download something like a 10 megabyte file.

    But hey, if you didn’t complain when dialups took two minutes to download a jpeg, you’ll be just fine.

  14. @Dax I know the files get bigger if you use more colordepth, but most all browsers support png so for webposts the support is sufficient (and I have 100Mbit download so I’m not too worried :P)

    But yeah if you have a budget hosting package and land on reddit for instance it can go foul, and on many sites if you upload a png in a comment section or forum they for some reason alter it to a single image file yet do not do that with animated gif, which is pretty sad and backwards IMO.

  15. @DeadlyDad (and others) true a gear or reduction wheel to increase the number of shots would work and be better probably, but in my suggested setup you can leave the previous build unaltered so it seems more conducive to being implemented since the builder doesn’t have to start over and you can just try it and easily go back if you don’t think it’s worth it after all.

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