Upgrade to 360 Video Cameras

So we are all familiar with action cameras and taking video on our smart phones but what should we do and when? Why not just use a smart phone for everything? Actually some phones do have the ability to clip on a 360 camera and share the video instantly – which is great if you have a modern mobile phone but I am a dinosaur and love dedicated units.

So lets go back to basics, First we had physical film as a recording medium, then we could digitize this in post processing. Soon we started recording in digital on the camera i.e. DVD-R camcorders which were then followed by Non Volatile memory storage like Compact flash. Up till recently it has only been the recording medium that changed but the capture device has remained fairly unchanged in principle i.e. Film SLR cameras became Digital SLR etc.

Although the size of 1 GB storage medium physical size has been reduced through advancements in storage formats (not the same as recording format) and the actual physical media, which is impressive but the biggest advancements have been through the actual fixed lens development.

So why is this important?

Today we use photography and videophotography for so much from AI, Traffic enforcement, Policing, 3D modelling of the natural and built environment while also detecting environmental problems with drones. All of this is only possible because of good photographic capture and recording to be processed. It really is true that if you put bad data in then you get bad data out and a digital picture is exactly that – DATA. So the better the lens, the better the data.

So I love my DSLR but it is getting old now and 24 Megapixel is just about cutting it these days so I am looking into other ways of capturing Good quality Images with less moving parts. This Brings me to Action Cameras.

So I have a GoPro Hero 5 and it is amazing. I use it for my job to capture asset data but struggle to get good photogrammetry results,that rival the DSLR, with many software packages and have been reluctant to get into spherical (360) photography due to the past issues with inability to measure and scale accurately. These problems have, in the main, and continue to be ironed out with modern image stitching techniques and equirectangular processing/conversion.

So from my perspective, I am upgrading my GoPro with a forward looking light so I can improve the reliability of the focus on close up captured image data in low light conditions, for the short term, but I can’t help but think, how useful will it be to capture everything in 360 for total environment capture, even if it requires 360 fill lighting, and let it all get straightened out in post processing and there is my problem – POST PROCESSING.

Post Processing normaly requires lots of power and it is recommended to have something like an Intel I7-6700 (equivalent or better) and NVIDEA GTX GPU (equivalent or better). So although entry cameras are affordable, you also have to think of your computing power to process the 360 images into equirectangular (normal) video. This is normaly completed by the manufacturers own software but once converted, you can use your normal equipment and video editing suite.

However – The benefit of never missing anything when you leave a job is worth it alone but when you think you can re-use the data for photogrammetry (results dependent on processing software/hardware and the images also need to be processed into equirectangular format) or even many manufacturers support an app to display in many VR headsets which is cool and a great way to save money on hazard or industrial site familiarisation training.

Obviously Action Cams are always thought of as the Adrenaline Junkie tool on the end of a selfie stick, but they really do have a productive side especially when upto 5.7k video is paired with some lateral thinking, software and IT skill.

Some 360 cameras out there include:

  • Insta360
  • Insta 360 nano
  • GoPro Fusion 360
  • Garmin Virb 360
  • Ladybug 5
  • NCTech iStar
  • Ricoh Theta
  • Ricoh Theta S

There is so much more to say about the advantages of 360 which are obvious like –

  • Being able to take a panoramic with one click and not have to worry about setting up and leveling a tripod.
  • Having one security camera unit cover a 360 view reducing the amount of camera positions to remove blind spots.
  • Driver cam – capture the road and the drivers mental state reflected in his body language
  • Photogrammetry time saving.
  • Work Site/job familiarisation and safety training.
  • Contractor insight – Being able to give a contractor an eye into say your plumbing issue while also being able to see you might be a bonus.
  • Incident/accident/Crime investigation – The ability to capture everything in relation to each other will be able to give investigators i.e. crash or accident investigators perspectives that only Laserscanning would have been able to do previously. Imagine the evidence that could be captured on a wet rainy night that would normally have been washed away.
  • Finally – that awesome one in a million wave or pipe.

The remaining big issue is sharing the data as cloud data space, on many sharing forums, can be costly so you could set up your own website or private cloud. Alternatively you could social media it but there could be a good little mutualy beneficial thing here.

If there was a central cloud service that was free to store as much data as you liked from action cam and especially 360 video capture, we could pretty much model a vast part of the traveled world in a decade at zero survey cost to business. We could speed that up if customers of utility companies were given something like a 360 action cam.

Why – Photogrammetry and Feature recognition with cloud hosted AI. We have the technology and can ramp up the cloud to handle the data. Someone once said to me – no one will pay to survey the country, I say we do not need to. Vloggers and the general public will – just give them something mutually beneficial i.e. a 360 action cam and unlimited storage and sharing space for those videos with the proviso that the host can extract the built environment data which would satisfy any privacy concerns. Imagine Google Earth VR in one year.

So before we become batteries in the Matrix (showing my age) I will end this but give it thought and get on the 360 train.

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UGEE M708 GRAPHICS TABLET

I always wanted an all singing and dancing Wacom Graphics tablet for my 3D modelling but the thought of paying similar to a new laptop got me thinking about the Lenovo Yoga series of laptop, with the foldable screen hinge, as you can see and interact directly with your model or digital art.

I wanted to also make sure it was what I wanted so thought ‘Go Cheap import to test before investing huge wedge’ and found this UGEE M708 Graphics Tablet for £60 2 years back and it is still going well. I have the older battery powered pen version but the one from amazon below has a self recharging pen which is cool, having said that the battery normally lasts me 2 months which is ok for a single AAA battery. I will also mention there are others like XP PEN which are cheaper still and look the same but that’s all I can say.

Click Here to See the UGEE M708 on Amazon

Ok so after wanting one of these for ages, I now have it. Its A4 ish paper size so quite large so I should be good to go. I mean, I can use Blender and 3DS with a mouse, right, and this was supposed to be more natural. That’s the problem, I have no natural art skill so thats my first thing to say – you can have all the tools but don’t expect to be pulling a Van Gogh in 5 minutes. Now I am glad I only spent £60 and not £400 on its equivalent Wacom.

Ok so I never give up and slowly started to see what I can do with simple spray can art which was great and I managed to make some beautiful coloured boxes in Blender. Without knowing I slowly started replacing my mouse with the pad and pen, for normal computer use, as you can do all 2 button mouse operations with it while not having the Mouse click RSI as it effectively makes a normal computer gain the benefit of a Tablet at a fraction of the cost.

img_20190614_201452.jpg

IMG_20190614_201129

The Tablet itself is easy to use as the pad corners (white Brackets) are mapped to your screen so there is no dragging and scrolling like on the old tablets you just hover the pen over where you want the cursor to appear on the screen and when it is close enough to the tablet, about 15mm, sure enough the cursor appears on the screen. Sure it would be great to have one of the £700+ tablets with a screen underneath but then we go back to my original buying a Lenovo Yoga. Amazon also have them Lenovo Yoga 720

The Following Video shows how easy it is to use with Blender in Plug and Play. I am only using the Pen here but there are 6 more configurable buttons that can be tailored as you desire but you will have to load the Driver Disk (supplied) to configure them. You can also download the driver from the UGEE website if you do not have a Disk Drive.

As you can see it is very easy to use and all of this via USB plug and play. Talking of which, the pen is compatible with windows 10 ink so is customisable in Windows 10 too.

In short it is a cheap and cheerful tablet that can give you an extra few years out of your old PC when you want to expand your skills into 3D modelling / Paint / Photo Editing / Drawing / Handwriting or even just want to add some signature functions.

Ok the nitty gritty:

  • Active Area – 10″ x 6″
  • Resolution – 5080 LPI
  • Report Rate – 230 RPS
  • Accuracy – +or- 0.01″
  • Pressure sensitivity – 2048 Levels
  • Connection – USB

 

Raspberry Pi 3B+ – Getting Started

Picture of the Raspberry Pi and accesory box
Picture of the Raspberry Pi and accesory box

Ok so we got the above in the mail – its all bits and I have to add heat sinks – PANIC!!!!!!!

First off, if you are a man like me, you tossed the instructions to the side……. There should be an A6 size leaflet on how to set up your Raspberry Pi for first time use but incase you have sourced yours elsewhere then you should have the following.

  • Raspberry Pi 3B+ (nowon called RPI3B+)
  • Micro SD card 16GB minimum for this section but you can use just a 4GB card to make the RPI3B+ work. The speed of the card is important and needs its speed to be class 4. This is the number on the card encircled by a C.The number indicates the write speed in MB per second.  On my card I have a SanDisk Ultra 16GB C10 (this is the class speed) MicroSD HC I which was supplied in the package.
  • Power adaptor (micro USB) with a switch.
  • HDMI cable if you are connecting to a monitor in addition to USB Keyboard and Mouse( I would suggest a wireless one as we will need the USB ports later but cross that bridge when we get there.  we will be controlling through a remote desktop to give you the feel of IOT and server interfacing.
  • A case is supplied in the kit but is technicaly not required but it does protect it nicely when kids and pets are running around.
  • Card Reader for installing the Operating System (OS) onto the memory card.
  • Heat Sink for the CPU
  • Heat Sink for Network Chip

If you purchased a kit then your SD card should be preloaded with the OS and you are itching to go but STOP!!!!!!! You must fit the Heat Sinks or your RPI3B+ is going to cook eggs. Ideally I would like a fan too but maybe thats a project for later.

Your heatsinks should have nice self-adhesive pads so, one at a time, unpeel the pad cover foil and stick the big castlated one on the CPU and the smaller metal flush plate on the Network Chip as shown below. ( My one is already in its case so ignore that continuity error at the moment.

Raspberry Pi 3B+ with lid off
Raspberry Pi 3B+ with lid off

 

Ok now pat yourself on the back and then gently clip it into its case, first locating it on its base and then clipping both into the walls of the case. Then clip on the Lid but be carefull not to try and force it as it is ment to have that 2-3mm gap.

Raspberry Pi 3B+ in its case
Raspberry Pi 3B+ in its case

Now its in its case, lets insert that SD card

It slips in here

Raspberry Pi 3B+ SD card slot
Raspberry Pi 3B+ SD card slot

like this

Raspberry Pi 3B+ SD card slot this way up
Raspberry Pi 3B+ SD card slot this way up

 

Ok so connect up your power supply and if you have a monitor and keyboard then you can just power up and ready for the next section. If not and you are going the route as me and remotely accessing your RPI3B+ then you have to connect it to the LAN (network) port on your router (Internet Hub in laymans speak i.e. Sky Q hub). This will require a LAN cable that is normaly supplied with your router. If you need one then it is called a CAT5 network cable. If you are having networking problems with it then check that each of the 8 contacts has a wire by looking through the plastic. Some really cheap ones only have 4 wires and never work. If your ISP (Internet Service Provider) gave you one of those, you may have grounds to question the service they will provide over that locked in contract.

Anyway Turn the Power on and you should see a green light come on by the power adapter. Awesome stuff and ready to move on. If you do not have a green light, either it is faulty but more likely you have no power to the RPI3B+. Either bad power adapter or supply.

Ok so thats the end of this page and the next will deal with the OS setup and first time configuration. If you like this then please like and share so I know or even leave a comment.