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This Project Aims to Teach Anyone How to Make TV-Caliber, Visually-Striking Videos

Steve Giralt is a New York City-based director, visual engineer, and founder of production company The Garage. He shoots those visually-stunning commercials you see on TV, and while most studios keep secret how they are made, Giralt wants to share it all with the world.

PetaPixel has featured Giralt’s work in the past, from recreating a $1,000,000 Hershey’s shoot on a $500 budget, to how he built a “burger drop” machine.

His latest project is called The Garage Learning and is live on Kickstarter. Giralt’s goal is to provide a mammoth amount of resources for filmmakers of all skill levels to allow them to create content to the level he and his team have been reaching for years.

“We make videos that artfully drop burgers from the sky, explode all types of food midair, and get slow motion to look so natural,” Giralt writes in the project’s Kickstarter. “It’s a lot of fun! Now, I want to bring the years of knowledge my team and I have gathered and innovated in our Garage to yours.”

The Garage Learning is broken into three categories: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

Beginner lessons are for creators with smartphones as their main visual tool, and little to no Visual Engineering experience. “If you love to tinker, create, experiment, and learn—or are a parent looking for hands-on, educational activities for your kids—these courses are for you,” Giralt says.

Intermediate/Advanced lessons are for users who may have a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, and maybe even some lights. “You may be a still photographer who wants to get into shooting better videos, or a film student who wants to learn how commercials are engineered. If you’re comfortable with using your camera and have had some experience with photography or film, you’ll be able to get these lessons as part of our One Year Intermediate/Advanced Subscription, or as part of the Professional Subscription.”

Pro lessons are designed for working professionals who want to learn new techniques and ways of working with higher-end cameras and tools; or for those interested in learning how to manage a commercial image-making business.

The Garage Learning has uploaded the a work-in-progress course list:

The Garage Learning isn’t just the education, it also can include the actual tools needed to coordinate motion of objects with the camera. Called Learning Kits, The Garage wants to be able to ship you all the technological tools you will need to use in conjunction with the online courses. “The Learning Kits will bring technology and engineering skills to filmmaking, giving users a hands-on way of learning complicated mechanical and electrical systems normally not taught in any sort of art school,” Giralt says.

The Garage Learning has a particularly high goal for its Kickstarter, something that many projects on the site avoid because it makes it harder to reach the goal. However, given the amount Giralt is seeking, it feels more transparent than what other projects do because it seems like he knows how much it’s going to cost to effectively execute on the promises.

Still, remember that Kickstarter is not a pre-order platform, so do your research and pledge with caution.

You can learn more about The Garage Learning and pledge your support on its Kickstarter page.

How to Use Photoshop to Turn Video Into Long Exposure Photos

As you may very well know, long exposure photography is a method by which you expose a sensor to a scene for an extended period of time. But in this 15-minute video, PiXimperfect asks the question, then isn’t a video just a long exposure? Well, not really, but you can use a video to make long exposure photos.

PiXimperfect has two examples in this video where he shows off this method: one with moving clouds, the other with stars. In either case, you’re going to need both Premiere Pro and Photoshop to pull it off.

The first step is to export a short video sequence as a JPEG. You can do this easily in the export pane where you can tell Premiere to export as JPEG. Remember, if your frame rate is 24p, that’s 24 frames for each second of video. For this method, you’re therefore not going to want too long of a video clip or it will take longer to export and leave you with a ton of clips to work into the next step.

Once you have each frame exported as a JPEG, import them into Photoshop by going to File, click on Scripts, and then click Load Files into Stack.

Select the images you want to import and bring those files into Photoshop. In this step, you’re not going to want to exceed 500 images or you’re going to significantly hamper your computer (unless you’ve got a serious workhorse of an edit machine). The loading process is going to take some time, but after they’re all in as individual layers, you can start to work with them.

Next, select all the layers and convert them all into a single smart object. Then go to Layer, Stack Mode, and select Mean. What this will do is have Photoshop take a look at all the images in the stack and find the mathematic mean of them all and display that as a single image.

The result will give you blurred motion without changing any parts of the image that remained constant, like buildings, mountains, or other stationary objects.

For a star trail image, follow pretty much the same steps as outlined above, but instead of selecting the Stack Mode of Mean, select Maximum.

Looking at the results here, this is a really stellar trick to getting long exposure images without using the traditional methods. The only downside is you will be limited to working JPEGs (unless you shoot RAW video) and your image size will only be your video resolution. Still, you can get some really great results quickly and easily.

If you are a fan of timelapse work, you can translate many of his steps to working with full-size images in Lightroom. Once you’ve gotten your edits in Lightroom done, you can export those images as JPEGs and bring them into Photoshop as a smart object, much the same as he did with the video file, and get similar results but with full size finished images.

For more from PiXimperfect, make sure you check out his YouTube Channel.

(Via Fstoppers)

Ilford is Creating a Set of Super Helpful ‘Darkroom Guides’ on YouTube

Over the past seven months, Ilford has been publishing a set of helpful “Darkroom Guides” to the How To playlist on the company YouTube channel. The series was created to help film photographers take their “next steps in your black and white darkroom printing journey.” If that describes you, then this is one you’ll want to bookmark.

There’s a lot of information out there about film photography—including some exceptional websites like EMULSIVE that are exclusively dedicated to film lovers—but if you’re looking for “how to” advice, one great place to start is right at the source. Ilford’s channel is filled with great behind the scenes videos, how to videos, and some fascinating photo stories besides.

This particular series features Rachel Brewster-Wright—the owner of Little Vintage Photography—who uses each episode to walk you though one key darkroom technique. The series begins with an introduction to Dodge and Burn and moves on to more advanced techniques as the episodes roll on. By episode four, you’re learning how to use multigrade filters to take your printing to the next level.

There are currently four episodes live, which you can see for yourself below:

Episode 1: Dodge & Burn

Episode 2: Selenium Toner

Episode 3: Photographic Papers

Episode 4: Multigrade Filters

We hope to see more videos with Brewster in the coming months. In the meantime, if you enjoyed this then definitely check out Ilford’s full “How To” playlist for lots more tips and tutorials on shooting, developing, and printing your film photography.

Drone Photo Tips: How To Make Inception-Like Images

If you’ve seen the movie Inception, you’re likely very familiar with that one scene where physical space is bent on top of itself. It’s one of the movie’s most iconic visuals, and in this 3-minute video, COOPH shows how you can easily make your own photos with an Inception vibe with a drone.

The first technique the video tackles is what they call the “drone wall,” which involves splicing two images taken at different angles together. This simple method requires first that you photograph your subject from directly above, and then again at a 90-degree angle difference. You can then Photoshop the images together so it appears like the first image is a “wall” above the second.

The second method COOPH calls the “drone fold,” and requires three photos to bring to live. YOu start by taking a first image while keeping the drone close and at a low angle. You then take your second photo from slightly farther away, looking closer towards the ground. The last photo is taken from directly above, and the three images can be combined to create a sheer-cliff effect:

The last method is what COOPH calls Drone Distortion, is a bit more complicated and requires multiple images. When you’ve determined the subject if your image, you then start at a low, horizontal angle and fly in a curve. The goal is to slowly change the angle of the camera to point downwards as you curve the flight path upwards. In the example shown, this method takes at leat four images to achieve the effect.

This final technique also requires the most work in Photoshop, as you need to line up the lines perfectly from all the photos in order to get a smooth transition. This may require warping the images in order to pull off. If done right though, the result can be pretty great:

These all take a bit of work, but the results speak for themselves. If you’ve been trying to think of an interesting way to use your drone, give these a shot.

For more from COOPH, check out their YouTube Channel and Instagram.

(Via SLR Lounge)

Photoshop 101: What’s the Difference Between Curves and Levels?

If you want to manipulate the light and color information in an image using Photoshop, two of the most common tools for the task are Curves and Levels. But how do these two adjustments actually differ? And when might you choose to use one instead of the other? That’s exactly what Aaron Nace explains in this helpful video.

In some important ways, Curves and Levels look and act very similar to one another. In fact, every single parameter that you can edit in Levels is also accessible through Curves. Black point, white point, mid point, and output levels can all be manipulated using either adjustment, allowing you to pick whichever one you find more intuitive as your preferred photo editing tool.

The difference comes down to the level of control at your disposal: for some tasks Levels is enough, but if you want to take more granular control of the tones in your image, that’s when you should be using Curves.

Curves doesn’t just allow you to make your mid-tones darker or lighter using a single sliding point, the way Levels does; Curves allows you to manipulate the light and color information in your photo using as many points as you need along the entire histogram. This, combined with the helpful “hand” tool that lets you edit right on your image, makes Curves both more powerful and easier to use.

All of this is much easier to explain in video rather than text, so if you want a detailed overview of all of the adjustments available to you in both Curves and Levels—including a demo of some buttons you’ve probably never even tried inside the Curves tool—check out the full video up top.

And if you’re feeling brave and want to dive even deeper into Photoshop’s bag of tricks, you can keep learning by visiting the Phlearn YouTube channel or exploring the hundreds of Photoshop tips and tricks that we’ve featured on PetaPixel over the years.

How to Shoot Fun and Creative ‘Small World’ Photos with Your Smartphone

Capturing creative photos of miniature worlds is definitely not a new idea, but you don’t need to be a small-world master like Tatsuya Tanaka to give this kind of photography a shot. As this COOPH tutorial shows you, all you need is some creativity, a few mini figures, and a smartphone.

The short tutorial runs you through the creation and capture of six different miniature “scenes” while sharing a few simple tips and tricks along the way. Some are specific to mini figure photography, like using temporary glue to hold the figures in place, but other tips apply just as well to broader food and product photos.

For instance, if you want to keep a slice of fruit floating in a cocktail glass, cut a small piece of bubble wrap and hide it underneath:

That said, our favorite scene of the three was also the most simple: a few construction workers “repairing” an Apple keyboard. This required no special tricks other than gluing the figures down, proving that the most important element in any photo like this is your creativity.

To see all six scenes and learn a few tips and tricks for creating these figures for yourself, watch the video up top.

The only bit they conspicuously left out of the video itself was where to buy these kinds of miniature figures, so if you really do want to try this kind of photography this weekend, you can find an affordable set of 1:100 scale mini figures here, or purchase the more expensive (but higher quality) “Noch” brand mini figures here.

3 Beginner Wide Angle Mistakes to Avoid in Landscape Photography

Landscape photographer Mark Denney has put together a quick tutorial that will be particularly useful for beginners. In it, he covers the most egregious mistakes he made when he first started shooting landscapes with a wide-angle lens, and explains how you can avoid falling into the same traps.

“I think without a doubt a wide angle lens is by far the most popular choice of lens to start with for landscape photography, but there are some drawbacks and mistakes to avoid when using these ultra wide focal lengths,” writes Denney. “The field of view when using a wide angle lens is such a stark departure from what we see on a daily basis with our eyes that it can make the effective use of such a wide focal length challenging in certain situations.”

In the video, Denney shares the three “most egregious” mistakes that he made when he purchased his first wide-angle lens—traps that many (if not most) beginners fall for when they first start shooting wide. But it’s not just for beginners; as Denney explains in the video, he fell into one of these traps just last week when he created his most recent video.

Fortunately, all three mistakes are really easy to avoid if you know what you’re looking for. Here’s a quick summary:

  1. The Prime Effect – When you only use your wide-angle zoom at its widest setting. This often leads to including too much information in every one of your frames, or what Denney calls “scene stuffing.”
  2. The Flat Line Problem – When everything in your scene is the same distance away from your camera. Adding foreground interest is critical when shooting wide-angle; consider shooting in portrait orientation to make including foreground elements easier.
  3. Resisting Distortion – When you avoid distortion at all costs and it actually hurts your overall composition. For example: don’t be afraid to embrace wide-angle distortion by getting low and close to your foreground elements. Focus stack if you need to.

To dive into all three of these points in much greater detail, with plenty of example images to go along with each point, check out the full video up top. And if you have any additional wide-angle mistakes to share with the newbies in the audience, feel free to drop your favorite “pro tip” in the comments.

30 Lightroom Tips and Tricks for Faster Photo Editing

Landscape photographer Christian Möhrle of The Phlog Photography recently put together a handy compilation of his favorite tips and tricks for Adobe Lightroom Classic. Chances are good you’ll find at least one or two (and probably several more) little workflow tips that you didn’t know about.

Like it or not, Lightroom Classic is still the RAW editor that most photographers (sometimes grudgingly) use to edit their images. Obviously, if you’re a fan of Adobe alternatives like Capture One, Affinity Photo, or open source options like RAWTherapee or Darktable, this won’t apply to you, but if you do use Lightroom, Möhrle has done a great job covering a bunch of useful tips without wasting any of your time in the process.

There’s no long-winded intro, no use of ALL CAPS in the headline claiming that this is “The TRUTH about editing PHOTOS in Lightroom,” and no Squarespace sponsor break. Just a quick breakdown of 30 genuinely useful tips and tricks for editing your photos in Lightroom Classic.

Here’s a full list, with timestamps, in case you want to skip around and only check out the ones that you don’t already know about:

  1. Dragging the Histogram – 0:28
  2. Shift-Click Sliders – 0:55
  3. Mouse-dragging slider values – 1:03
  4. Bigger develop panel – 1:13
  5. Double-click sliders – 1:23
  6. Camera profiles – 1:43
  7. Camera profile opacity – 2:06
  8. Spot removal visualization – 2:22
  9. Straighten image – 3:00
  10. Different crop grids – 3:24
  11. Make clipping visible – 3:41
  12. Auto tone settings – 4:07
  13. Alt-click lights / darks – 4:20
  14. Soft / dreamy look – 4:50
  15. Shift-click sliders – 5:08
  16. Erase Brush – 5:25
  17. Luminance range mask – 5:58
  18. Color range mask – 6:43
  19. Adding glow – 7:21
  20. Adding haze – 7:56
  21. Adding color – 8:20
  22. Auto mask brush – 8:53
  23. Tone curve – 9:20
  24. Color adjustment – 10:00
  25. Autumn colors – 10:24
  26. Polarization effect – 10:41
  27. Alt-click split toning – 11:09
  28. Sharpening mask – 11:33
  29. Auto straighten photo – 12:05
  30. Calibration color grading – 12:28

Check out the full video up top to dive into all 30 tips for yourself and see them in action. And if you want to see more from Möhrle and The Phlog, you can find him on his website, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

How to Make an Auto 35mm Film Scanner with Arduino Nano and Python

Waiting while flatbed scanners scan a color negative film is nothing to be excited about. This process and the subsequent color precorrection can take anywhere from an hour to two.

Tools available today, such as Negative Lab Pro, make it easy to achieve great color negative conversions. So fastening the scanning process using a camera makes more sense than ever before. However, the software to automate this process so far did not exist. Until today!

A typical digital camera scanning setup includes a digital camera, a tripod (or a copy stand), and a film carrier. Among the 3, I would imagine the most scarce item is the film carrier. Luckily companies such as Negative Supply started to make these much-needed film carriers. But these can also be rather expensive. Luckily, any DIY film carrier made out from cardboard that is able to push and pull an uncut 135 format (35mm) film via a simple shaft system will work great. More on that later!

A bit of background. Right off the bat, I should say that I am not affiliated with Negative Supply, Capture One, or Negative Lab Pro. I happen to own their products, and I happen to like using them (for now). Before, I was operating the venerable Epson V600 for scanning films. This was very nice as it enabled me to scan my own films, but the speed wasn’t there. Moreover, I was not completely enjoying the grains I was getting.

Having said that, my reasons for why I decided to make this project is more multifaceted. I enjoy supporting the film community and film-centric companies like Negative Supply, Lomography, and Negative Lab Pro. I also like the idea of slightly jolting the DIY community toward this niche domain. Lastly, I also really wanted to program a microcontroller for the first time. Taking up this project has thought me so many things. I admit, only a month ago, I couldn’t tell the difference between an Arduino and a Raspberry Pi.

After randomly settling on an Arduino, mostly because of its price point, I needed to find a problem to solve.

This did NOT take very long! I first fixed my UniRoller developer issue, which was a result of using a JOBO expert tank 3010. And then I focused on automatically watering my tomato plants for the times I went on a hike. And my final and current project was to fix this issue I had with scanning films. This also gave me the excuse to practice some Python programming.

As of today, I have now completed 2 separate film scanning programs. One written in Python language, and the other one written in C++ (also referred to as an Arduino sketch). They both use the same hardware, but there are major differences in how they function. One is enabled by Python computer vision and is fully autonomous (automated positioning, picture taking, and moving to the next frame). The other only mechanizes the film progression. The user makes the necessary corrections in film position and then takes the picture using the controller buttons.

To implement this project knowing Python (C/C++ for Arduino) would be ideal, but it is not necessary for clicking the run button on a browser that runs Jupyter Notebook (found in Anaconda). That said, the user is required to download Python and 4 libraries. I highly suggest the Anaconda bundle as it is a one-shop solution, with a very rich online community.

After this installation, Python libraries, Numpy, pyFirmata, SciPy, and cv2 are also required. You can install these Python libraries using the Anaconda-Navigator or PIP install em from the terminal. The internet is littered with how-to tutorials on this. Having said that, I have used the Jupyter web interface for making and running the Python code. These programs will have an ipynb extension. However, it would be best to start by installing the Arduino IDE, as this is where it all starts (Arduino scripts have a .ino extension). There will be more details on this later.

Ok, lets move on to the actual awesome Setup:

A) Capture One is connected to the Fufifilm X-T2 with a A-Male to Micro-B USB cable for data transfer and powering the Fujifilm X-T2 battery. B) Video Capture card, item 4 (items used are listed at the very bottom), is connected with a micro HDMI, and C) the camera shutter is controlled via a 2.5mm (3 pole) cable. The flow of information is depicted by the arrow.

Let’s see this setup in action!

Mode 1: Arduino only and using manually correcting position:

Mode 2: Automatic correction with Python:

Mode 3: Arduino plus Python in action on a DIY cardboard film carrier:

I made this cardboard box just under 2 hours. In order to make this an afternoon project, I’ve used the 3D printed film guides and rubber film rollers used on the Negative Supply carrier.

If Python and automation is not your cup of tea, but you still want a stepper motor to drive your film. You can also find a dedicated Arduino sketch on the Github site. I like this code as it is extremely simple to use and once uploaded to the microprocessor, using the Arduino IDE app, one would never need to see a computer script, plus it’s a tad faster, which is really convenient.

Here, the micro corrections to left and right are made using the dedicated buttons (the middle two in Figure 5). The button to the most left is the shutter release button, and the most right is to progress to the next frame. This setup should work on Fujifilm and Canon cameras. That is because the shutter release cable I once owned was Canon-branded and I tried to imitate the voltage values I read from it. Please bear in mind that there are risks associated with connecting external circuitry to your camera. Please attempt this DIY setup at your own risk.

What does a microcontroller do?

Firstly, the microcontroller used here is called the Arduino Nano. There are a gazillion YouTube videos of DIYists using this board. Essential a microcontroller is an integrated circuit (a chip that has many many discrete electrical components) that uses discrete voltage (3.3V or 5V) in order to say yes (in computer terms equals to 1, True, etc.) or 0V for saying no (0, False, etc.). There is also a grey zone in between where it’s not good, but I don’t know the details at this time. It communicates using its pins that are located on its side.

These pins can also read voltages too. Pins that read and write 1s and 0s are called digital pin and are denoted by D. Some of the D pins can also modulate pulse over time. This is denoted by PWM or ~. And some pins can read analog signals which are denoted by A. These are not 1s or 0s. They typically read a range of 0-1000 on an Arduino board, and this is how we input the desired speed of the stepper motor. The pin layout of the microcontrollers is available on the internet. So when wiring your circuit please take care of the wiring. Also, do not power your board while wiring.

Correcting film position using Python.

In order to correct the position of the film, Python requires feedback. To do this we utilize the Video Capture Card HDMI to USB 1080p (item 4).

By perfectly positioning the film on the film carrier, maximum camera sensor resolution is achieved for every 35mm frame.

When maximum resolution is paired with a good macro lens, the grains can be a joy to look at. To active this, edges between frames are determined, and this information is used during the correction phase. This means that if we have a 24-megapixel sensor like we do in Fujifilm X-T2, our scans will almost have a 4000 by 6000 pixels per image. To position the frame perfectly our Python program only requires a 100p resolution. Therefore, the 1080p video capture is downsized in Python. However, a full 1080p video streaming with the card would make an excellent WebCam over Skype, Zoom, etc.

The current version of the Python program will not work with color positive films.

I have only been part-time working on this project since this past August. I am hoping to update the program in the near future for color positive film rolls. Next time I have an uncut positive film roll, I will take a weekend time to make this happen.

This is an open-source project subjected to MIT open source license. Which means that it is free to distribute, change, and use. In turn, the software for detecting frames could drastically get better with new and fancy algorithms over time. I highly encourage fellow Python programmers and data scientists to fork the project from my Github and showcase their talents.

I intended this page to be understood by people who are just starting off their journey into the world of microcontrollers. Thus, if you have a question or have a suggestion please don’t hesitate to share them.

Lets start making our scanning machine:

Outline

1. Mounting the Stepper motor and making a new shaft

2. The controller

3. Starting with the Arduino Nano (Blue) and the Stepper Motor board (RED)

4. The wiring

5. Downloading from Github and getting started

6. Items used and costs

1. Mounting the Stepper Motor and Making a New Shaft

This part of the project is perhaps one of the most fun parts as things start to take shape. It’s the easiest part, but paradoxically the hardest part too. The crucial part to pay attention to is to make sure the tension on the belt is equal during the rotation of the shaft. And that it does not pull the stepper motor, as it is mounted by a sticky silicon mounting tape (Gorilla double-sided tape). Also, word of caution, when mounting GT2 timing pulleys and knobs (Figure 3 a, b, and c), please do not put too much force on the screws as the screw thread could tarnish soft aluminum piece. This is what happened with me with the Negative Supply knob.

Figure3: (a) is a negative supply knob to manually rotate the shaft, (b, item 22) is mounted on (e, item 6), and (c, item 6) is mounted on the stepper motor (item 1). (d, item 5) is a 158mm belt. Mounting (a),(b) and (c) are done using (f) and (g) are 1.27 and 1.5 hex key respectively (from item 10).

The stepper motor (item 1) is first mounted to the stepper motor holder (item 19). Using the Gorilla double-sided clear tape, the motor holder is mounted onto the negative supply carrier as seen in Figure 3. I used this type knowing it wouldn’t be a huge problem to peel off if needed.

It should look like this at the end when all these pieces are mounted and adjusted. The shaft length could be 1 cm less. But sometimes getting things done is better than just waiting for the perfect piece.

Figure 4a
Figure 4b

2. The Controller

The controller will be the same for both versions of the film pusher program. However the buttons have a different function except for one, that is the shutter releases. Also, the blue knob adjusting the film progression speed, on the top left, is not used in the full-automatic version. This is because of Python. It is not as good as Arduino IDE when it comes to the precise timing of things.

Figure 5: The switch at the bottom left (item 17) engages the stepper motor to turn on and off, the blue knob on the top left is a 10k potentiometer (item 9) adjusts the speed of the motor when using Arduino sketch, the 4 resistors used are all 5K Ohm (items 8). For the Arduino sketch, the buttons (item 15) from left to right are: shutter release button, micro-left shifter, micro-right shifter, next frame. For the full automatic, this is: shutter release button, move the next frame and correct position, move the next frame, correct position and take the picture, move the next frame, correct position, take the picture and carry on until a user-specified number. You can always disengage the full automatic mode using the switch and stopping the python program.

3. Starting with the Arduino Nanon (Blue) and the Stepper Motor Board (Red)

Uploading Arduino sketches are required for both modes. To do this you will need to install the Arduino IDE app. After opening the app, from the tools/board, select “Arduino Nano”, from the tools/Processor, select “ATmega328P (old bootloader)“ and lastly from the tools/port, select that looks like “/dev/cu.usbserial-14xx” for mac users and possibly “ /com3 “ for windows users. Make a note of this address as it is needed for the Python program.

At this point, I would highly encourage you to test out the Blink Sketch that is in the Files/Examples/01.Basics/Blink. A new sketch window will appear. On this window, hit the Upload button that is on the top left, next to the button that has a tick sign. On the bottom left, the opened sketch window will show Compiling Sketch/Uploading/Done Uploading and you should observe an LED on your Arduino Nano blinking. This shows that the board is working and you are able to upload an Arduino Sketch. On my Macbook Pro 2012mid, only the USB port closest to the display port works for uploading Arduino sketches. So, if you experience a problem here, check if other USB sites work on your laptop work.

Figure 6: On the left is the stepper motor control board (item 2) and on the right is Arduino Nano (item 3), the resistors are used to dive voltage: horizontally placed is a 2k resistor and vertically place resistor is a 5k resistor. These are used to lower 5V to 3.3V.

The 2 Orange wires in Figure 6 (side by side on the top part, the other is red but I admit looks orange too) power the stepper motor controller board. Incorrect wiring here will make your stepper motor controller board stop working. Also, pay attention to the wire colors of the stepper motor. The correct wiring will ensure the bipolar stepper motor to receive the voltages in the correct sequence for a successful 360-degree rotation. But this is not as sensitive.

Figure 7: When connecting the 9V DC source it is important to match the positive side of the capacitor with the positive power source and negative side (marked in grey) with the ground of the power source. In the case you mismatch, the capacitor will make a small explosion and spew out gas.

4. The Wiring

This is a simple system to wire and it doesn’t have a lot of components. However, during wiring, it is important to turn off the power.

Let’s start with the 2.5mm jack that is responsible for the camera shutter. You will need a 3 pole jack, Figure 8(A). Using 3 instead of 2 will prevent the activation of the autofocus (manual lens are ideal here). The middle section (red in Figure 8) is triggering the autofocus and is not connected to the mini breadboard. The black wire is ground and the white wire triggers the shutter.

Next, would be to figure out which wire is which on your 2.5 mm jack. One unorthodox yet trusty method is the 9V battery and the tongue sensor. Another way would be using the power of deduction. For this you would insert the 2.5mm jack into your camera, having all wires exposed (white, red, and black). Knowing that the autofocus is activated when the middle section is connected to the right section (probably black), and the camera shutter is activated when the left side is connected to the right (probably white), we can deduce our wires. But I must admit, I am not sure what happens left side it first connected to the middle. Hopefully, nothing 🙂 The best solution would be to use a multimeter.

I usually like to run the stepper motor on 9V as it does heat up over time, but if the tension on the belt is too strong it may need its specified 12V power source.

Figure 8: (A) is a 2.5mm jack, (B) and (C) are 2K Ohm and 5K Ohm resistors, (E) is a 1000uF 35V capacitor to dampen voltage spikes (100uF should be enough), (D) all 4 resistors are 10K Ohm resistor. The white arrows show the tiny wires. You do not need to solder a capacitor to wires as shown on (E), see Figure 7. Make sure the – negative site of the electrolytic capacitor is connected to the negative and + side to the positive DC source.
Figure 9: The wiring inside mini breadboards. Holes on the blu line are all connected to each other. So any two point on the blue line will be connected, ensuring a solderless project, with no flux fumes.

5. Downloading from GitHub and Getting Started

I have just started using GitHub. It’s an excellent way to track changes and share ideas. If your interested in how Python moves to the correct position, please feel free to check out the algorithm. And also, please don’t hold back to Fork the project and share your ideas. You can find and download them here.

A good place to start is by running the Arduino Sketch. This will ensure correct wiring and components working. To do this download the Semi-automaticUsingArduino.ino from GitHub and upload this sketch into your Arduino Nano as described in Section 3. This should be all.

If your stepper motor is making a funny noise, play around with the blue potentiometer until it sounds correct and the speed is to your liking. If the progression of the film frame is repetitively falling short increase the FrameLength variable in the sketch, and conversely if it is progressing too much. This value is probably specific to your device, as there could be small differences between devices. Make a note of your FrameLength variable, because it will be handy when using the Python program.

If you wish you can change the stepper motor resolution, you can do so by changing the 3 motMS(X)Pin values. For example, with mode 0,0,0 is 200 steps per one full rotation (which is the fastest), with mode 1, 1, 1 it is 3200 steps per full rotation, known as microstepping. This is the biggest spatial resolution we can achieve with this stepper board. This stepper controlling board also has 3 other modes 400, 800, and 1600 steps per 1 full rotation (item 2). This is easier to change in the Arduino sketch that it is in the Python program, as it requires changes at multiple places.

If you want to make the system work in full automatic mode, the Arduino needs a file called Standart Firmata uploaded from the Arduino IDE. This is sketch is found under File/Examples/Firmata/StandartFirmata. This makes the Arduino Nano ready to interact with Python. On the other end, the Python library responsible for communicating with Arduino is called pyFirmata. Hopefully, pyFirmata is already installed either from the Anaconda-Navigation window or by PIP install, along with Cv2, Numpy, and SciPy. The time library is a standard library that is already installed. The Python program is called Full-AutomaticUsingPython.ipynb and can be downloaded from Github.

6. Items Used and Costs

I generally used Amazon to purchase what I needed for this project. This was mostly out of convenience. It also didn’t require me to physically go to shops during the pandemic. I also sometimes when for the faster delivery option. That meant that I usually bought more parts than I needed. I justified this to myself because I thought I would use it on other projects.

If you also end up with parts you do not need at the end you can always donate them to your local schools. I spent about 300 Canadian dollars on this setup. And I now have enough resistors, capacitors, jumper cables, and Arduino Nano’s to last me a lifetime. However, I think you can reduce the cost to about $100-150, if you scout and search the internet for sites like Alibaba, eBay, etc.

A quick disclaimer, if you use the links below for your purchase I will receive a small commission. This little kickback could also motivate me to share other projects in the future. Using these links does not affect the price. That said, I also suggest you use other websites for cheaper prices.

0. Venus Laowa 65mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro Apo Lens. I really like this lens.

1. The stepper motor. (On paper this is identical to the one I have used. I just hope the shaft diameter is the same. Unfortunately, the one I bought is no longer available)

2. The stepper motor driver

3. The microcontroller

4. The HDMI to USB out video capture card

5. Belts (158mm was used)

6. 100mm x 6mm Stainless Steel Round Rod (Also currently unavailable). In the future I might try 6.5 or 7mm diameter.

7. Mini breadboards

8. Resistor box (4 10k Ohm was used on the controller, one 2k Ohm and one 5k ohm was used as a voltage divider for the camera shutter release)

9. Adjust the stepper motor speed when using only Arduino (not needed for Python aided)

10. Hex key 1.27 and 1.5 were used to make the new shaft

11. DC power supply. I cut out the wire to expose them and used alligator clips to power the board. This is not a long term solution.

12. Essential for connecting the circuits. However you will have way more than you need

13. This wire was handy for the shutter cable, but it might not be necessary

14. This mounting tape was quite good. The adhesive was strong and I was able to take it off without a trouble

15. Way more than what is needed, but I used this kind of button

16. Only one GT2 pulley was used on the stepper motor (Teeth: 20, 5mm diameter)

17. Switching off and on the stepper motor (very important if you want to use the film carrier handle)

18. I used 1000uF 35V capacitor, which was a overkill. A 100uF 25V should suffice

19. Motor mount

20. Electrical tape for solderless wire connections

21. 2.5mm 3 section jack (turns out you don’t need to cut your shutter release cable)

22. Teeth: 20, 6.35mm diameter used on the shaft

I hope you enjoyed this how-to manual.


About the author: Seckin Sinan Isik is a photographer exploring the world of analog. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Isik’s work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published on his blog.