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donfrench
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2008 4:50 pm    Post subject: My new motorized pano head Reply with quote

Well it has been a very long time since I have even visited this forum. But now I am back and I have big news. A long time ago I mentioned that I was developing a machine to automate the taking of panoramas. I don't think many people believed that it would ever become a reality, but now it is. Or at least it is close. I am now taking applications for beta testers. My gadget is called AutoMate and I started a company called The Gadget Works that is now preparing to make and sell them.

I went to the amazing xRez Yosemite shoot last weekend (http://www.xrez.com/yose_proj/Yose_index.html) and brought an AutoMate with me. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to show off my gadget get some feedback from the many professional and amateur panoramists who were there. There were 20 teams (50 people) who had hiked to various valley overlooks to shoot simultaneous high res panos of the valley, using donated Gigapans. I demonstrated my device just after they had returned so they were in a great position to evaluate my unit against the Gigapan. The most common response was, Wow! That is what the Gigapan should be. So this made me very pleased of course. Here are the things that people said that they preferred about AutoMate over the Gigapan, if you are interested:


    AutoMate can handle a DSLR and a long lens (I demonstrated it with my biggest lens, a 400 mm), whereas the Gigapan can only handle a point
    and shoot.


    It is very compact and light (2 pounds including batteries). Most of the people had hiked up a mountain and back down to get their shoots, so this was a biggie.


    It is as stable as a rock. The Gigapan did not do at all well in the wind, apparently.


    AutoMate doesn't have fragile mechanical parts sticking out to get caught on stuff. The Gigapan has a shutter plunger mechanism that is easily bent or broken and it sticks out.


    AutoMate is much, much easier to set up and get running. It has presets for everything that you can save and reload, and it remembers the last settings you used so most of the time there is nothing much to do except point the camera and start shooting.


    AutoMate has a LOT of extra features that aren't on the Gigapan, like the intervalometer and self-timer and custom programs and event sensors and external device control.


There were also some compromises made to accomplish everything I did, but most people seemed to think that the trade offs were worth it. You be the judge. My web site (http://www.thegadgetworks.com) has more information, but I just started building the site, so there aren't even any photos of the machine or videos or screen shots yet. (Actually, if there are any studio photographers or videographers who would like to swap services for a free AutoMate, please let me know.)

Anyway, you can apply to be a beta tester by clicking the link at the bottom of the Products page. I am doing it like the Gigapan people did, and charging a reduced price in exchange for getting beta testing feedback. I haven't set the retail price yet, but it will be more than the Gigapan and much less than anything else on the market. I am thinking maybe $699 retail and $499 for the beta. Let me know if you think that sounds about right.

Also, if anyone knows someone who was or is a Gigapan beta tester, please have them get in touch with me. I would like to talk with them about the arrangement they had with Gigapan. Thanks!
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bobbyz
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2008 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pictures will be nice to see.
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donfrench
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2008 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bobbyz wrote:
Pictures will be nice to see.


Of course, but I would like to get high quality photographs and videos made of the physical unit rather than embarrass myself by showing my total lack of studio photography skills. But here are a few screen grabs that should give you an idea of the user interface and the overall capabilities of the device.


The opening screen is the interface for when you use the PDA as a remote control. Clicking on the arrows operates the pan and tilt motors. Clicking on the small center image creates a shutter half-press. Clicking on the larger center image creates a full-press of the shutter button. The slider sets the motor speed.




The next screen is the front page of the intervalometer. It is pretty much self explanatory except that the interval can be in seconds, minutes, hours, or days. Notice that there is a sleep period that you can set, which is hand for making a time-lapse of a construction site, for example.





The next screen shows how to set up the parameters of a typical "easy-mode" intervalometer program. In this mode, the only thing that happens at every interval is taking photographs. You can also specify that the camera should get a wake up pulse (half-press) before each interval. This helps save camera batteries. You can also create a custom program of whatever complexity you need.




The next two screens are for setting the intervalometer's starting and ending times. The maximum duration is several years. When setting the date, you can specify the date and time to the second.








The next screen shows the screen for setting up a panorama.





Note that you can specify that the program progresses by row or by column and you can also specify at which corner it should start. One of the problems with the Gigapan is that it always proceeds by columns, which causes slanting shadow lines when shooting a high-res landscape pano when the sun is low.



The next screen is for defining the specifics of your camera and lens.





You can also set the various timing parameters as shown in the next screen:



The panorama program uses camera and lens and the timing parameters to compute the panorama program that it sends to the robot.
You can save and reload the camera/lens with an easy to remember name, like Canon20D-200mm. So when you change cameras or lenses you just load the appropriate profiles rather than resetting everything.



One of the most interesting things about AutoMate is the ability to create a custom program of almost any complexity or simplicity. The following screen shows the custom program editor.




The program editor supports creating loops up to five levels deep and insertion of stored procedures. A custom program can be run immediately, at every interval of the intervalometer, when the self timer counts down, or in response to external event triggers. Once you send a program to the robot you can turn off the remote, as the program is saved in the robot and executed by the embedded processor.


That's about it.
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donfrench
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 6:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just noticed that there is a group BBQ this weekend. Any objections if I come and bring the gadget with me?
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bobbyz
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 7:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you are more than welcome.
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donfrench
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 7:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bobbyz wrote:
I think you are more than welcome.


Great! I will sign up now.
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donfrench
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 7:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

donfrench wrote:
bobbyz wrote:
I think you are more than welcome.


Great! I will sign up now.


And look! I finally changed my avatar so it actually looks like me. Now you will know who that old guy with the white beard approaching the picnic is. And although you can't see it very well, I am holding AutoMate in the photo.
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R. Crain
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2008 4:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

donfrench wrote:


And look! I finally changed my avatar so it actually looks like me. Now you will know who that old guy with the white beard approaching the picnic is. And although you can't see it very well, I am holding AutoMate in the photo.


Wow! Looks nothing like I thought you would - I expected you to look like your old Avatar! Laughing

You've got a message via your website.
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BenUdkow
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2008 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don, Thanks for bringing out the pano head to the BBQ. Quite a cool device, and I think it'll have some takers when it's marketed.
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donfrench
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 08, 2008 1:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

HeyCow wrote:
Don, Thanks for bringing out the pano head to the BBQ. Quite a cool device, and I think it'll have some takers when it's marketed.


It was my pleasure, Ben! And it was great meeting all the people who showed up!
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karlg
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 2:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm looking forward to seeing pictures of the device.

I took a quick look at your site and noticed that you use "nodal point" instead of the correct "entrance pupil". You can find discussion of this common mis-terminology on Max Lyon's panorama forums, especially in posts by johnh who really knows what he's talking about.
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zerocool
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i dont get it ... its just software?
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BenUdkow
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

zerocool wrote:
i dont get it ... its just software?

If you've seen the movie Congo, it's like the motorized machine gun turrets that track and shoot the attacking gorillas...except with less killing. Smile

I have to say that the product made no sense to me until I saw it in person. It's an adapter that sits between the tripod and the camera with a motor in it. It moves the camera in set invervals at set times at specific angles to get whatever you want to shoot.

(Don, forgive my hacked attempt at explaining this, feel free to correct it.) Smile
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zerocool
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ok ...see that made sense... by alll this is just explaining software too me ... however i would be interested in seeing pics of the device....

also what about vibration issues that maybe come to play from the camera moving on a motorized mount? wouldnt a constant vibration eventualy have effect on the sensor and mirrors?
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R. Crain
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 4:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

zerocool wrote:
ok ...see that made sense... by alll this is just explaining software too me ... however i would be interested in seeing pics of the device....

also what about vibration issues that maybe come to play from the camera moving on a motorized mount? wouldnt a constant vibration eventualy have effect on the sensor and mirrors?


Roy, I think Don is withholding pics until he gets some quality pics that won't detract from the quality of the product.

re: Vibration, I would assume there is ample time for the mechanics to settle before snapping the image. All this can be controlled by the firmware to ensure the settling time.
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