This blog is about the very much improved version 2 of the RasPiCamcorder. I originally built a quick and dirty free-standing camcorder two days after the Raspberry Pi camera was launched. I was in a hurry, as there was a Cambridge Jam two days later. Major novelty factor. It worked ok and it looks like this…
Now we need buttons
Later on I thought it’d be nice to have one that booted straight into camcorder mode and had buttons to control it with, so you don’t need an additional device to use it. I’ve also used a different case and written some Python software to drive it. This Mk2 model is still a prototype, but it’s a lot more polished. I’ve also hot-glued a filter ring on the front so that I can attach close-up lenses as I intend to use this as a second camera in my workshop videos, or for time-lapse photography of small things like plants growing.
So what’s in the case?
The components needed are…
- Raspberry Pi model A – It works fine with either A or B, but the A uses less power, so better for battery powered applications.
- Edimax wifi dongle – not strictly necessary, but quite useful. Can be unplugged, when you’re out and about, to save power.
- 10cm ribbon cable – shorter than the standard one
- Switching Voltage regulator – takes the 12.6 V, 3-cell lipo battery voltage down to 5V to power the Pi. Works with any supply from 5V to 35V. The reg is sitting on two balsa feet so it’s not touching the Pi’s SOC.
- Bluetooth serial adaptor – allows you to log in and control the RasPiCamCorder with your smartphone or tablet if something goes wrong, or you want to do something other than just filming. So no need for wifi when out and about. Uses very little power (~5 mA)
- Cyntech Case. I cut a slot in it and used two of the screw-holes, on the underside, to route wires for buttons, led and battery.
- Two control buttons
- An led and resistor. There is an led on the front of the camera, but you don’t want it on if you are facing a window – you’ll have a red reflection in your shot. So I put another one on the back, and you can choose either, neither or both to be on when recording.
- A lipo battery. Lightest, smallest power source available.
- Battery connector. I use Deans type connectors on all my lipos.
- Wires and connectors. 4×2 angled female header connector for the bluetooth serial adaptor, 2×1 & 3×1 female connectors for power and button control connections.
- Very much optional, a 52mm filter ring hot-glued on the front to add attachments like a close-up lens or a lens hood (or both in this shot)
The camera board is attached with white tack, but once finalised, I’ll blob some hot glue down.
(Updates: This is now done as you’ll see in the video, we also now have two filter rings and the hot glue attaching the filter rings is much neater. I’ve used a micro SD card adaptor to avoid a jutting out SD card as well).
How does it work?
It boots straight into camcorder mode. Pressing the blue button starts recording, pressing the black button stops recording. By default, both leds are lit while recording.
A long press (>1.5s but less than 3s) of the black button closes the camcorder program. A very long press >3s shuts the Pi down, when you’ve finished. You can fire it up again by disconnecting/reconnecting the battery.
It records on the SD card and copes well with 1080p @ 25 fps.
Can you see what you’re shooting?
Optionally, a small, low res, car reversing screen can be attached using the Pi’s RCA socket to give you a preview of exactly what you’re shooting. (You can use any hdmi screen instead.)
Here’s the video
Not at this point.
- The above photos are already slightly out of date (only a few days), but the observant will have spotted the differences in the video. The RasPiCamcorder fell off the desk a couple of days ago and had to have surgery, as the SD card slot broke. I fitted an Adafruit microSD card adaptor, which involved routing out a 1mm deep x 15mm x 15mm square from the lower part of the case.
- A separate stills mode is planned for future development. (Actually this is more or less done including DropBox upload – as seen in the video)
- Live video streaming works if controlled via command line and Bluetooth/Wifi, but getting it to work with GPIO (i.e. buttons) has proven problematic (to do with root priviliges needed for GPIO control not playing nicely with streaming software. Update: I just figured out a workaround for this and got it working.)
- It would be lovely to have a really small, say 2 inch, LCD screen running off spi, but there isn’t currently a way of getting the camera module to output to the framebuffer. (Nobody’s figured out how to do it yet. It’s either a Broadcom person’s firmware fix, or it’s simply not possible). That’s a bit of a barrier to creating a true camcorder, but hey, most camcorders can’t upload to DropBox, although Samsung appear to be on the case with their latest DSLR. ;)
Are you interested in a kit?
I’m considering putting together a kit of parts for this. Let me know if that’s interesting to you, either in the comments below, or by email (alex AT raspi.tv)
There was not enough interest in a kit to pursue this, so the idea was dropped. I have published the full suite of software on GitHub though (click here).