A Very Modern Flying Spot Scanner

Analogue TV signals are a beautiful exercise in order and synchronisation, in that as the white dot on your old CRT TV back in the day traced its way across the glass it would have been doing so in faithful obedience to the corresponding electron beam in the camera at the studio. But a camera with a lens and light-sensitive scanning camera tube wouldn’t have been the only way of generating a picture. The flying-spot scanner drew a raster over its subject — usually celluloid film — with a white dot of light and recorded the result with a single photocell to produce a video signal. The ever resourceful [Niklas Roy] has built one using a video projector.

In this scanner the “dot” is a square of white pixels that is moved around the scene, while the sensor is a photoresistor that is read by an Arduino which passes the data to a PC. The whole is mounted in a booth that the subject positions themselves in front of, and covers their head with a cloth. It’s a slow process because the photoresistor is hardly the best sensor, in fact a portrait takes 83 seconds.

The result is hardly superlative quality, but of course this is an artwork in itself rather than a particularly good camera. It is however an impressive piece of work, and we know we’d give it a go if we had the chance.

[Niklas] is a frequent feature on these pages, having produces some pretty impressive work over the years. Some of our favourites are his container-sized music construction machine, and his tiny cardboard plotter.

An Easy Camera Slider Build

As smartphone cameras improve with each new generation, making quality video content is getting easier all the time. This means it takes a little more to stand out, so it pays to get creative with your cinematography. A slider is a great way to get some different shots, and you can build one pretty cheaply too (Youtube link, embedded below).

For smooth motion, [Nikodem Bartnik] used aluminium extrusion for the rails, along with some roller bearing wheels designed to suit. The wheels are built into a 3D printed carriage, which is also fitted with a spherical clamping camera mount. It’s all wrapped up with some socket head cap screws and 3D printed brackets to tie it all together.

Dimensional accuracy is key to the smooth operation of a slider, so you’ll want to have your printer set up well if you’re going to attempt this one. [Nikodem] demonstrates the slider is capable of taking the weight of an mid-range SLR with a tastefully sized lens, but if you’re going for something telephoto, you might want to go for something bigger. You could also consider a motorized rig instead. Video after the break.

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Camera Sees Electromagnetic Interference Using an SDR and Machine Vision

It’s one thing to know that your device is leaking electromagnetic interference (EMI), but if you really want to solve the problem, it might be helpful to know where the emissions are coming from. This heat-mapping EMI probe will answer that question, with style. It uses a webcam to record an EMI probe and the overlay a heat map of the interference on the image itself.

Regular readers will note that the hardware end of [Charles Grassin]’s EMI mapper bears a strong resemblance to the EMC probe made from semi-rigid coax we featured recently. Built as a cheap DIY substitute for an expensive off-the-shelf probe set for electromagnetic testing, the probe was super simple: just a semi-rigid coax jumper with one SMA plug lopped off and the raw end looped back and soldered. Connected to an SDR dongle, the probe proved useful for tracking down noisy circuits.

[Charles]’ project takes that a step further by adding a camera that looks down upon the device under test. OpenCV is used to track the probe, which is moved over the DUT manually with the help of an augmented reality display that helps track coverage, with a Python script recording its position and the RF power measurements. The video below shows the capture process and what the data looks like when reassembled as an overlay on top of the device.

Even if EMC testing isn’t your thing, this one seems like a lot of fun for the curious. [Charles] has kindly made the sources available on GitHub, so this is a great project to just knock out quickly and start mapping.

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A High-Speed Slide Scanner Build

Photographic slides were popular in the middle part of the 20th century, but are long forgotten now. If you’ve found a handful in a dusty attic, you might consider sending them away to be digitized professionally, or using a flatbed scanner at home. [Bryan Howard] found himself with over 200,000 slides, however, so that just wouldn’t do. Instead, he endeavored to build an automated scanner of his own. 

Like many similar projects, [Bryan] started with an existing slide projector as a base. This means that all the difficult work of slide transport is already taken care of. The projector has then been upgraded with an LED light source and other tweaks befitting its new role. An Arduino Pro Micro runs the show, firing off the camera to image each slide before loading the next one into place. The DSLR responsible for imaging is then hooked up to a PC so the incoming images can be checked while the machine is in operation.

Preliminary tests are promising, with the scanner successfully capturing several slides in a row. [Bryan] estimates that, with a capture time of between 1 and 2 seconds per slide, it should take somewhere between 2-5 days to image the entire collection.

We wish [Bryan] the best of luck with the project, and look forward to seeing the final results. We’ve seen similar work before, too. Video after the break.

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Pocket Watch Becomes Pinhole Camera

A pinhole camera is essentially the combination of the camera obscura with photographic film. The pinhole acts as the lens, focusing the scene onto the film, and after exposure, the film can then be developed and you’ve got your picture. They’re a fun way to learn about photography, and easy to make, too. [Brooklyntonia] decided to undertake just such a build, secreted away inside a pocket watch.

The build starts with with the disassembly of the watch, which acts as the main cavity of the camera. A bellows is then constructed from leather and a toilet paper roll to allow the camera to still fold up inside the original watch case. A pinhole is then installed at the end of the bellows, and a plug is used as a shutter to allow the bellows to be properly unfolded prior to exposure.

It’s a fun build, and one that comes complete with instructions for the proper processing of film in your own darkroom – or bathroom. Pinhole cameras can be useful tools, too – particularly for things such as capturing an eclipse.

Print Your Own Large Format Camera

Just like how vinyl records are seeing a resurgence in an era of digital streaming music, we’re also seeing a lot of people interested in another technology that is as obsolete as it is perfected. The large format camera is back as a kit, it makes huge images, and there’s an Open Source version if you want to print your own.

The Standard 4×5 is a project to build an affordable, lightweight, 3D printed large format camera. It was a Kickstarter project last year, and after a lot of work the project has now been improved with better rails, better bellows, and a lot of refinements.

As an Open Source project, this camera has all the models available, dimensioned drawings for all the metal parts, and a lot of patience required to make your own bellows. With this, you can screw a lens on take a picture, just make sure you get the focus right with some ground glass beforehand.

As for why anyone would want a large format camera, there are a few things that big cameras with tiny apertures can do that nothing else can.  Here’s the pinhole solution for the Standard 4×5 with a laser drilled hole, and with this camera you’re getting an f-stop between f/240 and f/520.

Reverse Engineering A Modern IP Camera

Security cameras used to be analog devices feeding back into a room full of tiny screens and commercial grade VCRs. As technology moved forward, IP cameras began to proliferate. Early models simply presented a video stream and configuration page to the local network. Modern models aimed at the home market differ however. More often than not, configuration is through a strange smartphone app, and video is accessed through third-party servers. It’s all a bit oblique, and so [Alex] decided to take a look under the hood. 

The exploration begins externally, with [Alex] capturing data sent to and from the camera with Wireshark. Straight away, red flags are raised. For as yet unknown reasons, the camera attempts to resolve Google, Facebook and Alibaba servers over DNS. Disassembly then follows, revealing that a serial terminal with root access is available. [Alex] uses this to probe around, uncovering the firmware update script and a way to decrypt said updates.

The work thus is a great example of how to approach hacking a given device from first principles. The overall goal is to find a way to gain complete control over the camera, reprogramming it to serve up video as [Alex] wishes, rather than to a distant third party server. It’s not the first time we’ve seen an IP camera hacked, and we doubt it will be the last. If you’ve got one cracked, be sure to let us know.