Stunning Fake Polaroid Camera Performs Magic

It’s high time us Muggles got our hands on the hardware used to take Magical Photographs as seen in The Daily Prophet. The first pioneering step in that direction has been taken by [Abhishek] who built this moving picture taking polaroid-ish camera, which he’s calling the “Instagif NextStep”. It’s a camera that records a short, three second video, converts it to GIF and ejects a little cartridge which displays the animated photo.

This amazing piece of hardware has been painstakingly built, and the finished product looks great. The nice thing about building such projects, in [Abhishek]’s own words, is that “it involves a bunch of different skill sets and disciplines – hardware, software, 3D modeling, 3D printing, circuit design, mechanical/electrical engineering, design, fabrication etc that need to be integrated for it to work seamlessly.”

His delightful photo album has lots of pictures detailing the build from start to finish. The enclosure and all of the internal mechanical parts are 3D printed but require access to a SLA printer. The electronics BoM is a pretty long list. The main camera, called CamPi, has a Raspberry Pi 3 with its companion camera module, a 2.8” TFT screen, a 10000 mAh power bank, a servo and a bunch of assorted parts. The GIF cartridge, called SnapPi, has its own Raspberry Pi Zero W, another 2.8” TFT screen, a 400 mAh LiPo and a boost charger. Several of the modules had to be trimmed in size and many unnecessary parts removed to make it all fit together.

The two Pi’s form an ad-hoc network with each other for communication and data transfer. Most of the work is done by Python and Node scripts communicating over RPC. When the shutter button is pressed, a three second video is recorded on the CamPi. It is converted and compressed before being sent over the network to the SnapPi. A slow fade in is the hallmark of Polaroid photos, and the SnapPi emulates this by implementing one of two different methods (selected in code) to achieve the fade in effect. Essentially, he is generating a GIF with gradually increasing opacity. This in itself is an awesome hack.

He has documented all of the problems that he faced and describes how he solved each of them, making the task of replicating this camera easier. Plus, there’s a few handy guides in there for those new to hacking such as how to make your own printed circuit boards and how to setup a Raspberry Pi from scratch. If looking at this has you itching to build one, worry not. [Abhishek] has not only published the photographs with descriptions, but provided a detailed BoM with links and everything else required to build this is available from his GitHub repository.

If you’d like to see more of [Abhishek]’s projects, check out Peeqo, the Animatronic Head Responds with Animated GIFs.

Thanks for tipping us off on this, [Hobson].

Sauce in the gallery

39 thoughts on “Stunning Fake Polaroid Camera Performs Magic

    1. What appendage do you hold your phone with?

      What is cool is that with a cheap enough ‘film’, you could readily give these away, set up attractive displays with multiples, and many other creative uses.

    1. It’s so sad that GIF with its 256 colors and often awful and extremely painful to watch dithering continues and animated PNG still doesn’t get a chance.
      And if some powerful mogul is controlling the world with an all consuming hate for PNG, can’t they then at least add more colors and make up their own format, maybe call it SGIF for special GIF or something.
      I mean look at the technology we are at in 2017 and then look at freaking GIF which should have retired in 1998.

      And no, just playing MP4/WEBM and removing the sound and pretending it’s GIF to the public doesn’t do it.

      1. > just playing MP4/WEBM and removing the sound and pretending it’s GIF to the public doesn’t do it.

        Why not? MP4 and other video codecs are purpose built for moving images.

        PNG/MNG/similar is terrible for videos filmed from the real world. It could potentially be good for animations or powerpoint slides I guess…

        1. That was my original pitch, animated PNG also known as APNG.
          But the PNG group refuses to make it official and so many browsers don’t want to support it, it’s vexing.
          There’s also an old variant called MNG which I read was not supported with some lame excuse as ‘the browser code becomes too big’ which is a real laugh these days.

          To quote:
          Mozilla browsers and Netscape 6.0, 6.01 and 7.0 included native support for MNG until the code was removed in 2003 due to code size and little actual usage, causing complaints on the Mozilla development site. Mozilla later added support for APNG as a simpler alternative.

          But it is slowly growing in regards to support for APNG in browsers, very very slowly.
          But even if they all finally did, you’d still need tools to create them, and those are available but rather simplistic.
          Does apple have tools for it? Because Apple pushing it could really move things along, maybe one day leading to adobe also supporting it in products. Maybe another 100 years from now, which is only 10 less than the time they might finally support the MKV container :/

  1. “Impressive. Most Impressive” – Darth Vader

    I can see this thing in the Harry Potter catalogs if you made it look like an old Argus C3 (the camera that Colin Greevy carried in the HP films). Seriously, that’s a fine hack!

      1. Define OLD. I’m 62 and remember the original SX-70 and I have that stainless steel and leather trimmed work of art in my closet, but not a harry potter fan and never read the books. I have to presume that by old you mean people in their 30’s and 40’s

    1. A book/movie series lasting from 1997-2011, Harry Potter. The magical wizard newspaper (The Daily Prophet) had printed photographs that were animated, because magic.

      ‘Muggle’ was the questionably-racist term used by wizards to refer to humans that couldn’t participate in their magical lifestyle.

  2. Lovely!
    How about attaching an accelerometer to help the photo “dry” faster by shaking? (but I don’t know if the Polaroid OneStep uses that “old” type of instant material or the “new” one which should not be shaken…)

    1. There was never a reason to shake any Polaroid photos. Not the oldest B&W ones that needed a protective stop-and-fixer coating, and not any of the newer ones. The song “Shake it like a Polaroid” was bad advice set to music. I know this from having used much of the product line from the Model 95 and its rolled film (around 1954) through the Model 180 (with a Kodak lens and a sheet-fed pull-it-through film pack) to the Model 600 color.

  3. The thing about polaroids, which is always ignored and not transferable through movies and TV and video, is the very specific chemical smell they emitted when developing a picture.
    And you still can’t easily emulate that with an arduino, nor a raspi.

    I suppose the same can be said for laser printing and photocopies, the smell is a big part of the experience but people never mention it since it’s just one of those things you don’t mention. So at one time far in the future people will think they understand the photocopy/laserprinter experience from movies and video but not realize they miss a good chunk of the experience.

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