Category Archives: Gadget

Slomo Hat

from 

Project Website: lorenzpotthast.de/deceleratorhelmet/ || German Version: vimeo.com/44615898 || See also: ciaokaesten.de

The Decelerator Helmet is a experimental approach for dealing with our fast moving society. The sense of vision is consigned to an apparatus which allows the user a perception of the world in slow motion.

In a increasingly hectic, overstimulated and restless environment are the calls for deceleration omnipresent. The inconceivably amount of information and influences in our everyday lives leads in many cases to an excessive demand.The idea to decouple the personal perception from the natural timing enables the user to become aware of his own time.
In the inside of the helmet the video-signal of a camera is processed by a small computer. The slowed-down images are displayed right before the user’s eyes via a head-mounted display and are simultaneously shown on a monitor on the outside.
The helmet has three different modes which can be selected by a remote control:
In the auto-mode time is slowed down automatically and re-accelerated after a defined interval. The press-mode allows the specific deceleration of time. In the scroll-mode the user can completely control the speed of the elapsing of time.
The Decelerator gives the user the possibility to reflect about the flow of time in general and about the relation between sensory perception, environment and corporality in particular. Also it dramatically visualizes how slowing down can potentially cause a loss of the present.

PROJECT BACKGROUND:
The idea for the project was born in a Interaction Design course at the University of Art in Bremen, Germany (hfk-bremen.de/). The course, taught by Prof. Tanja Diezmann, was called “Back on focus – Less is more” and dealt with topics concerning the increasingly hectic, overstimulated and restless environment we are living in.
After the course i continued working on the project and built a fully operational prototype. After some first tests i choosed the aluminum sphere as a metaphor for a reflection bubble, a space where you are decoupled from your environment and start thinking about your own relation to time.
I used the VLC player for the videoplayback and wrote a program in vvvv to change speed of time via the remote control.
So far the Decelerator was shown at the annual Exhibition of the University of the Arts Bremen, the Inside Interaction Conference and the PAGE Magazine. At the moment it is exhibited at the BestOf HfK Exhibition in Bremen (bestofhfkdesign.de/).
Also it was featured on following Websites (selection):
designboom.com/technology/the-decelerator-helmet/
theverge.com/2012/11/16/3653190/decelerator-helmet-slow-motion-video-lorenz-potthast
dvice.com/archives/2012/11/decelerator-hel.php
engadget.com/2012/11/16/lorenz-potthasts-decelerator-helmet-gives-you-slow-motion-visio/
ubergizmo.com/2012/11/decelerator-helmet-makes-slo-mo-drug-a-non-starter/
journaldugeek.com/2012/11/16/lag-dans-votre-vi/
geek-news.mtv.com/2012/11/16/decelerator-helmet-slow-motion/
And my favourite: youtu.be/bDmS1qgdp2c?t=3m44s

TECHNICAL INFO:
Netbook: Asus Eee PC 1001,
vvvv
VLC Player
Webcam: Microsoft LiceCam
Head-Mounted Display : Sony Glasstron PLM S700
Wireless Mouse

MORE INFO:
Project Description: ciaokaesten.de/downloads/project-description_decelerator-helmet_lorenz-potthast.pdf
More Images: ciaokaesten.de/downloads/images_deceleratorhelmet_lorenz-potthast.rar
Contact: l.potthast@hfk-bremen.de

The BioniCopter

The BioniCopter is the latest robotic marvel from German technology firm Festo, a company known for the creation of numerous devices that mimic wildlife including birdsjellyfish and penguins. Meant to mimic the motions of a dragonfly the BioniCopter is capable of flying in all directions including backward, and can also hover indefinitely in the same spotThe BioniCopter: A Robotic Dragonfly by Festo robotics insects flight

Source: Colossal

Hyperlapse

 

All Google Street View imagery captured using hyperlapse.tllabs.io. Source code available atgithub.com/TeehanLax/Hyperlapse.js.

Read the full story: teehanlax.com/labs/hyperlapse/

Hyper-lapse photography – a technique combining time-lapse and sweeping camera movements typically focused on a point-of-interest – has been a growing trend on video sites. It’s not hard to find stunning examples on Vimeo. Creating them requires precision and many hours stitching together photos taken from carefully mapped locations. We aimed at making the process simpler by using Google Street View as an aid, but quickly discovered that it could be used as the source material. It worked so well, we decided to design a very usable UI around our engine and release Google Street View Hyperlapse.

The site settings are purposely low (like having a maximum of 60 frames per animation) for greater accessibility. However, all the source code is available on Github (including examples and documentation) so developers can play with higher frame rates, better image quality, and more complicated camera movements.

To read the full project +Labs

Sony AKA-DM1 dog-mounted camera harness

Sony Japan has launched the AKA-DM1 camera harness to mount the company’s latest line of action cams on man’s best friend. Priced at ¥5,250 (approximately $50), this harness fits bigger-framed dogs that weigh at least 15 kgs and have a belly circumference of 50cms – 80cms.

The company’s line-up of action cameras, including the Wi-Fi enabled HDR-AS15 full HD rugged action camthat was released in August 2012, are tiny and weigh around 90 gms each, making sure you wont have the RSPCA hunting you down.

Source: DPReview

Ready Rig

PicturePicture

I Saw this gadget at NAB, I can say is the best rig I have used in my life and love to have it soon to shoot footage.

Ready Rig* is a camera stabilization system that gives operators unprecedented freedom of movement, stability and comfort while shooting

The uniquely designed spring-loaded back support with four-point stabilization and two adjustable sliding rods steadies the camera, offers greater flexibility and maneuverability to achieve a variety of camera angles fluidly, and enables hands-free operation to pull focus, zoom or adjust camera settings.                 

To read more: Ready Rig

Game changing image stabilizer

I think, this is the first time I can say clarily that this gadget is going to change everything, I think I have seen it in drones but now to use it like a steady cam is just jaw dropper, so here it is the new MōVI from Freefly, LaForet is presenting a short film and behind-the-scenes video to illustrate its abilities, which consists of a completely custom-made gimbal and 3-axis gyroscope that digitally stabilizes the camera.:

Bits taken from: Gizmodo

world’s first 3D head-mounted display, equivalent to watching a 750-inch screen from 20 metres away

Future vision? The HMZ personal 3D viewer is being targetted at people who prefer solitary entertainment rather than sitting in front of a television with family or friends

By GRAHAM SMITH

Technology giant Sony has unveiled a head-mounted display that takes the wearer into a 3D cinema of videos, music and games.

The HMZ personal 3D viewer is being targetted at people who prefer solitary entertainment rather than sitting in front of a television with family or friends.

Resembling a futuristic visor, the £480 ($800) device is worn like a pair of chunky goggles and earphones in one.

The HMZ uses Sony’s own OLED screen, a relatively new kind of display that relays superb image quality and colour, compared to the more prevalent liquid crystal and plasma displays used in laptops and flat-panel TVs.

Mr Kato said the major challenge had been making a very small display without compromising image quality.

The HMZ is set to go on sale in Japan on November 11; a U.S. and European release could come as early as Christmas.
To Read more:

GOPRO CAMERAS ON LIVE MULTI-CAMERA REMOTE BROADCASTS

EDIT: Do not build your own 12 volt USB power adapter for the GoPro. The power requirements are 5 volts, 500-1000 milliamps which is what almost all cell phone chargers put out. If you send 12 volts to a GoPro it will do damage!

GoPro Heros. Amazing little cameras. For under $300 you get a tiny wide angle 16:9 1080p camera that is also a self contained video camcorder. The GoPro records picture and sound to built in SD cards as mp4 files. You can put GoPros anywhere (and yea, they are even waterproof in the included case). And now GoPro has released a Hero2 new model that has sharper optics, an easy to navigate menu, better light sensitivity and more recording options. If you follow my blog or others like it, you probably already know all this. But many of you may not know that these little cameras can output analog and HD signals that can be fed into a live production truck. This blog post will tell you how to do it and why most attempts to get these to work as live POVs prove to be an epic failure.

I have been experimenting with these cameras on college basketball games with CBS Sports Network. CBS have been shipping these GoPro cameras (old model Hero1 currently) around in Pelican cases to games all over the United States. The idea is to compliment the very expensive broadcast cameras used to televise the games with points of view (POVs) that are rarely seen in sports.

Specialty cameras delivering “sports from a different perspective” is what broadcast tv networks are currently renting, Robo-cams from Fletcher Chicago. These robotic cameras use a motorized pan/tilt head, full zoom/focus capability to get a shot in a place you could never put a manned camera. These are expensive professional cameras, with full control over iris, color and data. The robos are expensive to rent and operate, but you CANNOT compare/replace a GoPro with a Fletcher camera. The GoPro is fixed, dull, uncontrollable and potentially unreliable at times. A scary proposition when you MUST have the camera working the entire game and match the other cameras on the show!

CBS mostly uses the GoPros as non-essential slam cams mounted to the backboard, wide beauty shots high in the nose bleed section or as creative angles court side. On the broadcasts I have been on, the director mostly used these cameras as an alternate angle to post graphics, score and stats over. These cameras were almost never switched on the air during live action. However, the occasional free-throw behind the backboard cut in live to show the ball going in could work.

Sometimes, the producers would ask a replay operator to punch the GoPro into a tape/disk machine. When there is limited personal or decks, these tiny cameras steal replays from a hard working hand held camera operator under the basket. I would hate to be a cameraman busting my back to cover the action, only to see a fixed lock-down shot mounted high behind me get replayed over and over on the broadcast.

So how do they look? Pretty good for a $300 camera. I was surprised that in ideal conditions the GoPro Hero1 cut quite well with broadcast rigs worth $100,000.00. But certain steps must be followed exactly to keep GoPros powered up and get pictures back to the truck.

To help you visualize the setup with Hero1 cameras, please watch the twitvid below from a college hockey game.

Video:

http://www.twitvid.com/CAGNX

I will break this blog down and try to explain to you how to get either a GoPro Hero1 or Hero2 working properly. If you have further questions, please post them at the bottom of this page

It is important to understand that these little cameras are format, frame rate and field of view switchable. You may want a super wide fisheye shot from behind a hockey goal or a less-distorted wide shot of a basketball court. The original Hero1 camera has a complicated menu system requiring the operation manual close by that I will only touch upon in this blog. You can download the manual for the Hero1 and Hero2 below. The Hero2 is much more user friendly with a detailed LCD panel showing you exactly what format you are in.

GoPro Operations Manual Downloads (.PDF Files)
GoPro Hero1 Manual (238)
GoPro Hero2 Manual (1359)

Be sure to clean the lens on the naked GoPro and inside/outside the case. The GoPro case could have dust inside the lens area and this will show up on screen because the lens is very wide.

SETTING UP HERO1:

First, plug the usb cell phone charger into the GoPro camera and make sure the red light on the front lights up. Keep the camera powered off for now. Charge the battery for about 20 minutes before moving forward. This is very important. I use the 2 USB connector 5 volt, 2 AMP (1 AMP on each USB connector) ExtremeMac IPU-ICH-11 10 Watt chargers. These put out enough power to charge the GoPros and even keep 2 cameras powered all day off the same a/c adapter. CBS is using 5 volt .5 amp Motorola cell phone chargers and sometimes, these are not strong enough to keep these camera running. Do not use or built custom 12 volt USB chargers, these will fry the GoPro. I will talk more about these chargers as a/c adapters later in this article.

After charging the battery for a bit, unplug the charger and set up the camera on battery power. Press and hold down the button on the front face (next to lens) of GoPro. Wait for a beep and see the LCD screen to power up.

Next, press the same button a few times until you see the “wrench” settings icon. Press the button on the top of the GoPro. Move through the menu and set up the resolution on the camera. There are only two buttons on the camera. Think of the top button as the “execute” button pressed quickly and the front facing button as the “power” button when pressed and held and the “shuttle through menu items” button when pressed quickly.

The two “R” setting you will use is “r2″ and “r5″. These are the resolutions. “r2″ is very wide fish-eye distorted 720p and “r5″ is normal wide 1080p. I recommend “r5″ for most applications. Try not to mess with the other settings in the camera unless you completely understand the operations manual.

Finally, get out of setting menu and select the camera mode. This mode has a little “camera” icon. You are now ready to mount this camera, plug in ac cell phone charger for power and set up the rest of the gear to get the pictures back to the truck.

SETTING UP HERO2:

The new camera is much easier to use. The GoPro2 still has only 2 buttons that function as “execute” and “shuttle through”, but the LCD screen has much more information on it. The menu structure is much more intuitive. Instead of “R” setting, it actually tells you “1080p” and “wide”.

CONNECTING TO A LIVE TRUCK

Almost all professional television trucks require the incoming HD video signal to be HDSDI. This digital signal is carried on coaxial 4.5 GHZ high definition rated video cable with BNC connectors. That being said, the GoPros put out component HD or HDMI. This is not compatible and a converter box is required to change the cameras output to HDSDI. I will go into detail about these boxes a bit later in this blog.


GOPRO OUTPUTS:

The biggest difference (as far of connections go) between the Hero1 and Hero2 is the HD output. The Hero1 uses a special mini-plug to output component HD. The Hero2 uses a mini-hdmi connection to output the HD signal. The Hero1 camera includes the break out cable, the Hero2 only comes with an analog cable, you need to buy a mini-HDMI to HDMI cable.

HERO1 OUTPUTS:

The original GoPro Hero1 camera uses a mini plug (like 1/8inch jack) that carries HD. You plug the supplied component HD cable into the hole marked “HD” on the side of the GoPro. The cable then breaks out into three RCA connectors, a green, blue and red. These represent Y, PB, PR and the three parts that make up the HD signal. You plug these into the component hd to HDSDI converter box to get the signal you need. You will need three RCA to BNC adapters to attach the breakout cable to the converter box. These are easy to find and very cheap.

There is also an analog RCA video and stereo audio cable to pull standard definition out of the Hero1. The hole is the same size as the HD one, but it is marked as “TV”. You would only use this analog connection and output if you had a standard definition show.

HERO2 OUTPUTS:

The new improved GoPro Hero2 camera has a mini-HDMI connector on the side of it. The small hole marked “HD” is gone. Using an inexpensive (sold separately) mini-HDMI to HDMI cable, you connect the GoPro Hero2 to a HDMI to HDSDI converter box. This converter box is just like the one mentioned above, but takes HDMI instead of component HD. No adapters are needed at the converter box for HDMI.

The Hero2 also has the analog mini hole and breakout cable to get standard definition RCA video into the truck if you want the 480p signal instead of HD.


IMPORTANT NOTICE ON CABLE LENGTHS FOR SIGNAL:

Talking to CBS Sports tech managers from cities all over the US, the biggest problem with these GoPros working is getting pictures back to the truck. You can only send HDSDI signals over approved coaxial cable. The cable must be rated 3.5-4.5 GHZ for serial high definition. Do not use old coax cable. Just because it passes SD analog video, does not mean it will work with HD. The cable run must be under 300 feet or you will need re-clocking repeaters to push the signal along.

If you are working in a sports arena that is older than 3-5 years, there is a good chance that the cable run in the conduit is regular coax and will not pass HDSDI. This means you cannot use GoPros on house cable unless approved digital cable is run. Plus, keep in mind that the total run back to the truck can only be 300 feet. Using GoPros in this senerio is out of the question because just the run from the converter box to the I/O panel in the building could be 100 feet alone. The cable in the walls to the truck could be well over 200 feet. Plus there is about 50 feet of HDSDI cable to travel through the racks in the truck! Even if the cable is 4.5 GHZ, that length is way to long to pass video.

USE OF EXPENSIVE RE-CLOCKERS/TBC:

I spoke with a truck engineer and video technician about what needs to be done to get the weak HDSDI signal from the GoPro into the truck switcher. Many trucks use Evertz re-clockers/time base correctors to bring the signal to life. The HD output from the GoPro is dark, soft and not properly color balanced. The Evertz is vital to crank the detail, bring up the exposure and match the colors of the cheap GoPro to match the other cameras on the show. This piece of machinery is expensive and most trucks only have a small number of inputs that can be dedicated to GoPros. You must have a skilled video tech to get these cameras dialed in. Keep this in mind.

FIBER MAY BE YOUR ONLY OPTION:

One option in a building with house fiber cable is to use technology from TELECAST. The Rattler. These little adapters use single mode fiber in a venue (if it is available) to convert HDSDI signals to light. The signal can now travel 30km without a repeater. The light down to the truck is changed back to HDSDI using the second half of the rattler adapter and brought into the truck with very little loss. But these rattlers are expensive, you need a building with free single mode fiber and you have now made a $300 locked-down camera cost much more.

HOW TO POWER A GOPRO AND KEEP IT ON ALL DAY:

As I type this blog, GoPro does not have an AC power supply for this camera on its website for sale. This camera was designed to only power itself off the replaceable Li-Ion internal battery. The company expects you to use your computer’s 5 volt .5 amp USB connector or an optional GoPro cigarette adapter USB charger to charge the battery.

The folks at CBS are thing outside the box and trying to power the camera using third party (Motorola branded) cell phone chargers. They are sticking the mini-USB plug on the charger into the GoPro and plugging the other end directly into the wall. This bypasses the battery and keeps the power flowing indefinitely. But… there are a few things I figured out. Read closely…

After speaking to many who have failed keeping the camera running off wall power, I did a few experiments. I tried several different power supplies and noticed that only certain ones worked properly. I discovered that you must use cell phone chargers that are rated at 5 volt / 500-1000 milliamps or .5 to 1 AMPs. This gives the camera the power it needs to stay powered up. You can find this information on the power supply transformer in small print. I recommend slightly higher than .5 amps if possible and closer to 1 full amp to keep the camera going.

Another thing I figured out after trial and error is that you must charge the GoPro battery to about 25 percent before you use it off AC power. For some unknown reason, using a dead battery and the power supply results in failure after a few minutes of ac power.

Also, be sure to power the camera up first, on the battery, wait a second, then plug in the mini-usb cell phone charger to bypass the battery and run off wall power. Another good habit to get into is to properly stain-relieve all connections and tape them up. These are cheap connectors and cables, if you pull on them, the camera will cut out… or worse you will do permanent damage.

CONVERTER BOXES:

 

There are a few options on the market today for portable converters that will change the component HD output of the Hero1 and/or the HDMI output of the Hero2 to the usable HDSDI bnc video feed. CBS is using the $400 Black Magic Mini Converter. These are the cheapest and work well. Black Magic also makes a heavy duty version of the same box, great for field use. These boxes do require power to work, as do the GoPros.

AJA also makes small converter boxes. These are a bit more expensive and do the same thing as the Black Magic units, simply convert one type of HD signal to another.

SKELETON CASE

If you own GoPros, you know they come with water tight plastic cases. If you want, you could drill through the side of the case to clear a path for the connection cables. Or, you can purchase a separate pre-cut “skeleton case” for the GoPro. This has all the holes needed in the case to keep the GoPro protected and get the wires connected. I do not recommend running the GoPro naked with out protection.


MOUNTING THE CAMERA:

 

The GoPro company makes a bunch of accessories for mounting these little cameras on almost anything. The Hero cameras have a standard two prong receiver mount on the bottom of all their cases. This point of attachment lets you place suction cup mounts, bar mounts, ect directly to the housing. I recommend a 1/4 20 tripod mount attachment and the use of a Bogen Magic Arm to attach the GoPro to hockey glass, railings, or the basketball backboard supports. The arm is super strong and can articulate to almost any position for proper framing.

FRAMING THE CAMERA USING THE BACPAC MONITOR:

When you buy a GoPro, it does not come with a viewfinder. I have got pretty good at just pointing the camera and guessing the frame from experience. If you “eye-ball it”, be sure your horizon is right. You can use a small level or bubble app on an iPhone to get it near-perfect.

Another option is the GoPro LCD BacPac screen. This little $80 accessory attaches directly to the back of the GoPro camera and gives you a tiny monitor to frame the camera. This screen adds a third button to the camera and this button provides an on/off for the LCD. Be sure to only use this BacPac screen on battery power. It seems to mess up the camera when on cell phone charger power. It also does not turn on, in most cases, unless just firing off the battery. Be sure to turn the LCD screen off, after positioning and framing the camera, then plug in the ac usb power. This should keep the camera powered the entire show.

GoPro is working on WiFi BacPac for the Hero2. This new attachment will allow you to frame and control the camera wireless with a smart phone. I do not have any other information on this at the moment. Check out gopro.com for more.

Got it? If you follow these guidelines exactly, these camera will stay powered up and passing video all day long. If you have serious problems, power cycle the camera by removing the battery for one full minute. I have mostly worked with Hero1 cameras with CBS, but the theory of converter boxes, HDSDI cable lengths, power supplies, protective cases and use of Evertz is the same with Hero2 cameras using HDMI out.

Build your own control remote Blimp

STEP 1: REQUIRED R/C GEAR

    • Three ultra micro servos at around 2.5g or less: I used the ones branded Blue Arrow. These allow for an easy fit of the propellers (motor shaft of 0.7 mm).
    • An ultra micro receiver: I used DelTang Rx33. In any case, chose one below 2g and working on a single LiPo cell (commonly referred to as 1s). Actually many receivers do work on 1s, even if not documented as such. Make sure your servos’ and receiver’s connectors are compatible, or you’re in for some soldering after all. Both the DelTang DSM2 receivers and the blue arrow servos come in a number of connector versions. Specialised online shops like Micron Radio Control. Plantraco or Aether Sciences RC can help in this.
    • Obviously you will need a compatible transmitter. The simplest one with 3 or more channels will suffice.
    • A 70 to 140 mAh 1s LiPo battery (and a suitable charger): The smallest batteries (around 2.5 g for a 70 mAh) are needed to keep the weight under 10g. A larger battery obviously gives you a longer flight time, but even as flight time is very dependent on flying style, it is easily half an hour with a 125 mAh (weighing 3.5g). A smaller battery will still easily last 15 min or more and it will make a latex balloon last longer (making room for more ballast to compensate for lost helium).
    • Leads to connect your battery to your receiver (again the specialist RC shop can help in this).
    • Three small propellers: I used the Plantraco 32 mm “butterfly” propellers . These are some amazing high performance tiny propellers that fit a 0.7mm shaft. The “AESH34 – Hélice Micro” from Aether Sciences RC looks very suitable too.
    • A 1 mm carbon rod, about 30 cm long
    • A piece of Depron, about 10 cm by 10 cm, 1 mm thick (if not available 3mm thick Depron can be used too). Some putty as ballast.
    • Finally, you will need some cellophane tape (sellotape, scotch tape), a pair of small pliers, a couple of small elastic band, superglue and a pair of scissors. A scale, accurate to 0.1g or better, comes in handy. Soldering is optional.

If you already have a transmitter and a charger for the flight battery, the materials needed will cost up to 80 EUR (about $100 USD). If you source your servos and propellers cheap you can bring this down significantly. If on top of that you go for a slightly larger version with a 2g receiver, you can you bring it down to under 30 EUR.

A suitable transmitter and charger shouldn’t set you back more than 50 EUR. That is slightly more than the complete Plantraco NanoBlimp, but then we are talking of a DSM2 system, with far more than 4 frequencies available.

STEP 2: DETERMINING WEIGHT, CHOOSING BALLOON

You can buy your balloon and/or have it filled with helium at any balloon shop or bring a one-way helium canister home.

I first determined the weight of all parts and added an estimate for the fin (that was not cut size at that stage) and for glue and sellotape. Weight is in grams.

      • 3 hacked servos: 3 x 1.7
      • 3 propellers: 0.17
      • Receiver: 0.68
      • 80 mAh battery: 2.6
      • 33 cm x 1mm diam. carbon rod: 0.4
      • Battery lead: 0.3
      • Depron fin (estimate): 0.5
      • Allowance for tape and glue (estimate): 0.25

Total: 10g

So the concept promised to be suitable for 11-inch latex balloon (a common party balloon) or any balloon with a lift capacity of at least 10g. Ballast is added to achieve the desired buoyancy and removed again to compensate for the loss of helium over time.

A fresh 11-inch latex balloon should lift 11g at least (according to manufacturers reference data for 300m above see level), but you will soon notice a loss in lift capacity. In balloon shops latex balloons to be inflated with helium are commonly internally treated with “Hi-Float.” This makes them float longer. The one I bought lifted 14g (about 30m above sea level). I ended up using a 125mAh battery bringing the weight on 11g and allowing for about 3g of ballast. As expected regular trimming by removing ballast was needed and as after about 10 hours all ballast was removed. But that is not bad for a 1.5 EUR balloon.

A fresh 14-inch latex balloon however carries more than 20g so there is some room to last a couple of days (again with “Hi-Float”). For the camera version I had a 16-inch balloon with a lift capacity of over 35g available.

Foil balloons keep their helium much longer (up to weeks and can be refilled), but have a higher proper weight, making the minimum suitable sizes larger. My favorite foil balloon for a micro blimp is obviously the Zeppelin NT as sold by the Deutschen Zeppelin-Reederei GmbH and lifting about 21g. A nice alternative, more commonly available, is the 40-inch Letter ”I“. Its lift capacity of 18g is quite tight for a camera version, but it is possible without the camera or with an extra lean build (like powering both camera and propulsion from the flight battery, see last step).

A note on the helium: for these small blimps pure (99% or something like that) is strongly recommended as there is little buoyancy to spare. But where gasses like “Ballonal”, a mixture of helium with nitrogen used to be popular, nowadays almost all balloon shops work with pure helium.

STEP 3: HACKING THE SERVOS

To hack each of the three servos start by removing stickers and the small band of shrink tubing holding it together. Remove the top part and remove all of the gears, including the pinion (if your propellers do not match the motor shaft, you can alternatively keep on the pinion and drill out the propeller to fit that). Remove the bottom part and carefully pull out the motor and pot. The motor most often comes out easy, the pot is glued in. Most often you can still pull it out by moderately pulling on the wires. I you feel unsure you can alternatively break open what is left of the servo casing, with small pliers.

Protect the circuit board from accidental short circuiting by wrapping a single layer of tape around it.

Test by connecting to the receiver with the propellers left off. Power up and trim each pot till the motor doesn’t move with the transmitter’s corresponding stick at neutral position.

Choose which motor/function you want on what stick. I usually put the up/down on what is normally the “throttle” (because a stick without auto centering is convenient here), the main propulsion on the “elevator” and the left/right on the “ailerons” (on a mode 2 transmitter).

STEP 4: ASSEMBLY

The receiver gets wrapped in sellotape too, before attaching it too the middle of the 1 mm carbon rod with a little more sellotape. I used a rod as long as possible for best manoeuvrability. With the gear used that was about 32 cm.

A battery mount is made with sellotape. Part of one strip of sellotape is covered with another layer of sellotape, sticky side to sticky side. This non sticking area should be at least as long as the battery’s circumference. At about 1/4 from the front side of the rod, stick one end perpendicular to the rod and fold the sticky end closed. Now make loop in which the battery fits and close it with the other sticky end left. You should be able to slide the battery in and out.

The servo motors are attached with little elastic bands. The front one is directed forward (main propulsion), at the back one is attached transversely (tail rotor). Check the connectors reach the receiver. If you use a transmitter without servo reverse (like the one shown), check the tail rotor is blowing the right way when moving the stick. If not, mount it the other way around. Putting on the propellers helps checking the correct alignment.

The third motor is mounted near the centre of gravity of the assembly, pointing down. Put on the propeller backwards as you want it at its best performance when pushing the blimp up.
Lock the motors in place with superglue. If you choose to cut off the elastic bands afterwards keep the drop of glue really tiny, sticking the elastic bands to the motor or rod as little as possible. After removing the elastic bands add some extra superglue. If that proves hard, don’t bother, as three small rubber bands will account for only about 0.1g. Obviously, keep any glue away from the shaft.

STEP 5: BALLOON ATTACHMENT AND TRIMMING

The assembly from the previous step is put on the balloon as shown. Two 4 cm pieces of tape should suffice. You might have to carefully shift it backwards or forward to have the blimp hang in the air with the rod more or less horizontally.

Final trimming is done with putty. The amount should be just enough to have the blimp slowly float down when no power is applied. The place you put the putty should help the final trim to have it hang horizontally.

When flying in high halls you should take in account that higher up and in warmer areas a blimp can have tendency to increase its buoyancy. So it is better to trim it a little heavier. The battery will run down a somewhat faster as you will need more power “up,” but it is better to be safe than sorry.

One advantage of using a latex balloon is that it will lose helium noticeably within hours and come down. When using a foil balloon you should take more care in trimming, as coming down can take days. A spare balloon on a string and double sided tape on top can be a real saver by allowing for some “inverted fishing.”

STEP 6: FLYING AND FITTING A TAIL FIN

When test flying, a tail fin proved to be very valuable to make flying straight forward reasonably easy. First the up/down propeller, albeit tiny, gives some spin to the balloon. Second, the tail rotor is clearly overpowered. A fin keeps the blimp on its straight path and the extra power still allows for short turning when desired.

The tail fin is made out of Depron and attached with some tape. I made it hanging down so it helps protecting the propellers from hitting floors or walls. Also it keeps the blimp some distance from any landing surface. This proved to be important as the middle propeller looses efficiency when pushing close to a surface, making lift-off difficult. So no hovercraft effect there.

Obviously the weight trimming needed to be corrected for the fin.

With a tail fin flying the blimp is not difficult, but full control will take some practice.

Moving forward does need to be compensated with more upwards propulsion. The front propeller speeds up the air under the balloon creating an upside down wing effect.

I usually start by giving up till the blimp keeps about the same height and then give it just a little more and start moving forward, adjusting the speed to keeping more or less the same height.

STEP 7: TIPS ON LOSING WEIGHT

As with 11-inch balloons there is not much lift capacity to spare, so losing half a gram or more is worth trying.

A relatively easy one is losing the potentiometer and circuit board of the middle motor and soldering the motor to the receivers built in ESC (if it has one, as the DelTang have). Obviously you lose the ability to reverse it, so you definitely to trim a little heavy. On the other hand you gain a lot in proportional control, compared to the servo circuit. You can also use it for the forward propulsion, sacrificing the backwards function. I would recommend the latter in larger rooms as in that case coming back down is probably more important than reversing.
If you’re up to some tiny soldering you can replace the potentiometers with two tiny (1 /10 Watt) 4,7 kOhm resistors.

You can consider to replace the connectors by soldering directly to the receiver, but to be able to use a 9” balloon as I believe the Plantraco Nanoblimp does, one needs to bring it all below 6g. That will need another approach and another project. (If you’re interested, subscribe to me onInstructables).

Adding the Camera:  Yvon Masyn

STEP 8: ADDING THE CAMERA

I use a so-called “808 car key micro camera.” These miniature cameras come so cheap (under 10 EUR), they are ideal for experimenting. You will be needing a small Phillips screwdriver to dismantle it. If you go for the extra light version feeding from the flight battery, you will need an extra male and female plug compatible withe the flight battery and soldering equipment.
There is an abundance of information on the numerous variations on the market at Chuck Lohr’s non-commercial information site. Check it out before purchasing one. I have a so called #3 and a #8 and confirm the #3 is better, as recommended on the site.

Do not expect top quality, but something suitable for fun. The motion blur is quite severe, in particular at lower light conditions. But for me, the main disadvantage is their narrow view angle. I have ordered a wide angle Jelly lens to experiment on improving that, but it hasn’t arrived yet. So I will have to report on that later.

I stripped the camera from its disguise as a key fob, so it they weighs only about 10g. I covered it with some tape to avoid short circuiting the printed circuit board, but keeping free the Micro SD-Card slot and the mini USB port. The tape also keeps the actual camera in place, as it is attached to the printed circuit board with a flexible connection.

A folded Depron strip was taped to the camera to have it hang under the front motor.
If you want, you can power the camera on the flight battery, saving about 4g. In that case you will need an extra male and female battery plug to solder an extra connection in between the flight battery and the receiver (see the last 4 pictures). However I recommend not to charge the flight battery through the camera. The original battery seems to have some protecting/regulating circuit attached, while RC batteries count on the RC charger for that.

Source: Popsci