Doorbell Views

I finally bought a doorbell camera when I saw some specials last week. I went with the combination Ring Video Doorbell Pro and Ring Chime Pro, which came with a free 3rd generation Alexa Echo Dot. The Chime is great for the basement, where I can’t always hear the doorbell, especially if I’m using a loud tool. My 2nd generation Alexa Echo Dot moved to the basement as well since I spend so much time in the workshop.

DIY Overhead Camera Rig v2

Last year I made an overhead camera rig and wasn’t in love with it. It was hard to adjust and unless I was doing a really close shot, the base of the rig was always in the video frame.

When I saw an old swing arm desk lamp at an estate sale I knew I could make something better. Here it is…

It was a very simple build…

Without the base, I’m already in love with how much extra space I have on the desk and how I can move the clamp all the way to the back of the desk with the arm against the wall.

HackerBox #0024: Vision Quest

A quick unboxing of HackerBox #0024: Vision Quest.

Prices I found online (Amazon Prime unless noted):

  • HackerBoxes #0024 Collectable Reference Card – $1 (estimate)
  • Three Bracket Pan and Tilt Assembly – $19
  • Two MG996R Servos with Accessories – $18 ($9/ea)
  • Two Aluminum Circular Servo Couplers (included with the pan and tilt kit above)
  • Arduino Nano V3 – 5V, 16MHz, MicroUSB – $3.99
  • Digital Camera Assembly with USB Cable – $10 (estimate)
  • Three Lenses with Universal Clip Mount – $3.33 (AliExpress)
  • Medical Inspection Pen Light – $2.23 (AliExpress)
  • Dupont Male/Female Jumpers – $0.50 (estimate)
  • MicroUSB Cable – $2.40
  • Exclusive OpenCV Decal – $1 (estimate)
  • Exclusive Dia de Muertos Decal – $1 (estimate)

Totals out to $62.45 but I couldn’t find the model on the back of the camera module anywhere. I wouldn’t expect that estimate to be off by more than $5 though and maybe even cheaper. The servos feel pretty hefty compared to the micro ones I have. This will be another neat box to play around with.

YI 4K Action Camera – Screen Replaced

The replacement came in for my shattered YI 4K Action Camera touchscreen. I was surprised it only took 10 days to get here from Shenzhen, China.

I followed this YouTube video, even though mine isn’t the newer 4K+ version of the camera. The only difference I noticed was the type of connector for the shutter.

I made one mistake, as you can see below, cracking the front cover above the lens. It won’t affect the performance, so not a big deal.

I wasn’t nearly as fast as the guy in the video, but I did it in less than an hour. Easy peasy compared to replacing the screen on an iPhone, which I will never attempt again.

Shattered Camera Touchscreen

I had my new YI Action Camera in one of those strap bags on my back today at Maker Faire Detroit and must have bumped into something. 😦 Hopefully it’s not too expensive for a new screen and easy to replace.

Update: Roughly $70 for a like-new replacement screen on eBay. Apparently it’s pretty easy to replace.

DIY Overhead Camera Rig

I’ve been recording more videos at my hobby desk and hanging a GoPro from my LED desk lamp via a Gorillapod wasn’t cutting it. Having to run GoPro’s Capture app on my iPhone connected over a WiFi network broadcast by the GoPro in order to see a preview of the camera view was also a pain point in my setup. I think I’ve even mentioned wanting to get a new camera in other posts.

My friend Casey was looking for a GoPro for his 5-year-old son, so it was perfect timing to get rid of my GoPro HERO3 Black Edition. I figured I’d just upgrade to the HERO5 Black, but it’s $400 for just the camera. After doing a little reading, I decided to get a YI 4K Action Camera with Selfie Stick, 2 spare batteries + charger, and an accessory kit. All of that ended up being $100+ cheaper than the GoPro HERO5 Black itself!

I had also been looking at a lot of videos and tutorials for building my own overhead camera rig. Then I remembered I had this lamp stashed away in a storage closet…

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I took the whole thing apart.

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I started putting things back together, using only the pieces I needed. I immediately noticed an issue. The swing arm would go up to about 20 degrees shy of vertical, but it wouldn’t go down more than this…

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I tried to get a decent picture showing how this joint works, but it’s hard to see in the photo below. There is a slot carved out of the edge and then a screw that hits the edges of the slot.

Here’s a better picture at just the notch…

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I needed to extend one side of the notch, which was quick work for my Dremel.

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After the adjustment, the arm can swing down to about 45 degrees.

The next problem I faced was needing some type of bracket where the light bulb used to be connected so I could attach the camera. I found this old ceiling light fixture bracket in my box of goodies. The threaded hole in the middle was a perfect match to the bolt on the end of the stand.

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I didn’t need the entire thing so I cut off one side with my Dremel.

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I found another part (the long arm type piece you see below) in my goodie box, which fit perfectly in the camera mount pieces. I had to use a couple of mount pieces from the accessory kit to get the camera oriented in the correct position relative to the stand. There was one trip to Home Depot for the wingnut, thumb screw, and small washers (definitely needed a few for spaces with the camera bracket at the bottom). Here is everything laid out before assembly.

Of course I had to test it out right away, especially since I hadn’t even turned on my new camera yet. I grabbed a couple of fidget spinners and adjusted the rig.

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I may need to create a cover or paint the base due to the reflection, which won’t be ideal for lighting.

Being able to frame the shot immediately with the camera LCD is amazing compared to the shit show I used to do with the GoPro.

Check out the video…

In case you weren’t keeping track, blue spun for 1:38 and black went 4:58!

Did you notice the shaking at the beginning of the video when I started up the spinners? Not good. I thought it would be super stable because the base of the stand is quite heavy (reminds me of the sand filled base of a moveable basketball hoop). Most of the movement seemed to be coming from the bracket I cut. An unused dead bolt bracket from my goodie box matched up well enough in size after making one of the holes bigger. This allowed me to double up the thickness, which does seem to help.

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I’ll have to do some testing while working on a project on the desk, because if this rig shakes the camera every time the desk moves a little bit it won’t be good.

As a bonus, there are some really useful parts of the lamp left. Maybe I can come up with a neat DIY lamp some day. The foot switch is also neat and could be used for a lot of things.

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Rolling Shutter

This video came through my YouTube subscriptions.

I don’t recall ever hearing about rolling shutter, so I also watched the other video he mentioned to learn more…

I immediately thought of the times I’d captured an image out of one of a golf swing videos. Unfortunately I couldn’t find one of my own examples, but a quick Google search produced this one.

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Now I understand why this happens!

Reload Your Mac Camera

Last month I bought some simple stickers to cover up the cameras on my laptops. My friend Ingrid bought some fancy covers at about the same time. Ever since, we’ve both been having issues with MacOS recognizing the camera when uncovered. Rebooting the Mac resolved the issue so I figured something was jacked up internally with sensors. Found a solution, but wanted to make it easier than typing in the terminal commands.

I’m an Alfred user, so I made a workflow (available on Github). Save the file and open it, which should import into Alfred. Change the keyword (default is
camera) in Alfred if you want.

If you don’t use Alfred, I also made a command script you can launch instead of manually typing in the commands. It’s also on Github. Use File->Save Page in your browser. Open up a terminal window and cd to wherever you saved the reload-camera.command file. Change the execute permissions on the file by running chmod 744 reload-camera.command.

By the way, yes, you probably should cover up your camera, especially if you never use it.

DIY Camera Mount 

I’m usually very good at keeping parts, but for some reason, a couple of months ago, I threw away all of the mounting brackets for an old Dropcam. Sure enough, I moved the camera to the garage and had no way to mount it. It had been sitting on my vise shelf ever since.

While cleaning out the closet in my office this weekend I came across an old cell phone car mount. Took apart one of the elbow joints, removed the big suction cup from the bottom, and screwed the whole thing directly into the wall using a longer screw and an anchor. It squeeze around the camera for a solid hold, but I looped the cable around the bracket just in case the arm springs fail at some point, so it won’t go crashing to the floor.

Getting it up high provides a better view as well.