Drones Flying Through Fireworks is Outstanding

drone

Effing outstanding doesn’t really do it too much justice, but you get the idea — or at least you will once you watch these two videos.  Even just part of one of the videos, you have got to experience this for yourself.  As my wife said to me about this, “it’ll change your life.”

Check it — this one is from a guy named Jos Stiglingh (Jos’ youtube link) took his DJI Phantom 2 quad-rotor drone and a GoPro HERO3 Silver and ran that rig right through the West Palm Beach fireworks show.  Jos’ balls?  Brass.  Jos’ results?  Spectacular.  Check this out:

WOW. Even GoPro got in on that action with a video on their channel —  good move, GoPro!

Also now with equally metallic external appendages, Robert Hartline, a guy in Nashville who owns some Sprint stores who also has a quad-rotor drone of sorts, made his own video, but his was in promotion of some business schtuff, from the article at WBIR:

Hartline, an entrepreneur who owns 12 area Sprint stores and the sales reporting app CallProof, decided to put his $1,300 drone up as a promotion for a new venture – Hytch, a carpooling app he’ll launch in October. Its matchmaking software finds neighbors with similar commutes and encourages gas-money reimbursement.

“You probably have neighbors with the exact same commute as you, you just don’t know it yet,” he said.

Hartline ran the drone from a spot near Pinewood Social and watched the video feed on a screen with his friends. Tennessee only limits drone use for law enforcement, and the Federal Aviation Administration only regulates altitude for non-commercial drones, so Hartline said he was on firm legal footing for the activity.

His only regret: His battery ran out before the big finale.

We’re sorry too, Robert. Still cool. Check out Robert’s go:

Fox Sports’ Overhead Camera Accident at NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

charlotte-motor-speedway-accident

I’m not trying to be tardy to the party with this one, I was actually waiting on Fox Sports to announce what exactly happened at the Coca-Cola 600 on May 26, 2013.  However, as of the weekend it seems like no answer has gone public.

On May 26 during the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Fox Sports’ “overhead flying camera” lost a drive rope or cable, causing that drive rope or cable to come whipping through the stands.  There were reports of around 10 people being treated for wounds and cuts from the cable, as well as a few burns from that drive rope or cable being retracted suddenly.  Something to keep in mind, and it looks as though most news agencies got it wrong — but the rig that fell DID NOT ORIGINATE FROM THE COMPANY SKYCAM. It came from a company called CAMCAT from Austria.

From Yahoo News:

Fox Sports said on Monday it still had not determined why an overhead TV camera cable snapped during the Coca-Cola 600.

The network says a full investigation is under way and use of the camera is suspended indefinitely. Earlier, NASCAR said it would wait for Fox Sports to conclude its review before deciding if such technology would be used in the future.

Charlotte Motor Speedway said 10 people were injured when part of the drive rope landed in the grandstand; three were taken to hospitals. All were checked out and released soon after.

In a statement, Fox said it was “relieved and thankful to know that the injuries to fans caused then CAMCAT malfunctioned at Charlotte Motor Speedway were minor.”

The network again apologized for the disruption.  Several drivers, including then-leader Kyle Busch, reported damage to their cars from the rope.

NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp told The Associated Press on Monday that there were no plans to use the system at upcoming races “so we’ll have ample time to review.”

The network said the system was provided by Austrian company CAMCAT. The rope that failed was certified for a breaking strength of 9,300 pounds and was only bearing less than 900 pounds of force during the race, according to Fox Sports.

This isn’t the first time that this has happened, but it’s not an everyday thing – once back in 2011 at the Insight College Bowl Game, an overhead camera system fell onto the field as well, missing everyone this time but still interrupting gameplay (obviously).  Watch:

Looks like in the place it fell, it barely missed some players and officials on the field. I’m really grateful for that! In Charlotte, however, a bunch of people were treated for minor to medium severity injuries due to the camera system.

insight-bowl-skycam

In Charlotte, it looks as though the system was manufactured by CAMCAT out of Austria.  CAMCAT has some amazing systems, one of which sports an 80 mile per hour camera head!  From the CAMCAT website:

Developed in the Nineties and continuously improved the CAMCAT® System provides unique and stunning images from otherwise unobtainable perspectives, indoors and outdoors. Over the years its reliability and high quality have been proved on many occasions in sports, entertainment and documentary as one can learn from our references.  The CAMCAT® System is a fully remote controlled cable camera system which achieves precise camera motion over distances up to 1000m at any conceivable angle and at speeds up to 130km/h with maximum stability and smoothness. Since the CAMCAT® System is based on a modular construction it can be adapted to a wide range of shooting situations.

The camera buggy runs on two independent guide ropes made of heavy duty synthetic material and can accept a range of payloads from open platform stabilised mounts fitted with film cameras, to HD stabilised mounts with integrated camera and lens.

The latest RF technology is utilised for picture transmission, camera and head control data to and from the camera buggy with an onboard battery providing seamless operation.  The computerised remote controlled system is backed by an especially developed software that enables the two operating CAMCAT® technicians to pilot the CAMCAT® System either manually or in a preprogrammed automatic control mode.

As safety is a top priority the CAMCAT® System complies with highest standards and is certified by German based TUV Health and Safety Group, one of the strictest industrial safety authorities in the world.

It certainly could be theorized that perhaps poor maintenance played a part in the failure; I’m not making a claim that there was any kind of malfeasance, but with the schedules that these races are under, like anything else in entertainment, equipment does take its wear and tear.  Something that was posted on the Associated Press caught my eye though:

The network said it’s reviewing with CAMCAT equipment maintenance records, history and installation information and plans to share its findings with NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The network said the system was used successfully at the Daytona 500 and was set up and working at last week’s Sprint All-Star race in Charlotte. Fox’s final NASCAR telecast this year comes Sunday at Dover International Speedway.

Tharp said NASCAR would let the network determine what went wrong.

“We’ll sync up with them on what they have learned this week and go from there,” he said.

The network explained how the drive rope moves the camera back and forth and failed near its turn one connection. The camera, it said in a statement, did not come down “because the guide ropes acted as designed.”

The rope, Fox said, was made of Dyneema, which it described as “an ultra-strong synthetic that has the same approximate strength of a steel wire with the same diameter.” It said the rope was less than a year old, had been factory-tested by its manufacturer and its breaking strength was certified before shipment. The rope was also inspected by CAMCAT when it was received last June.

According to OnlineRopes.com, Dyneema has the “highest strength-to-weight ratio of any manmade material in the world. On weight-to-weight base, it is up to 15 times stronger than steel.”

The pictures such cameras provide can be extraordinary. But in this case, the failure brought confusion and chaos to the racers and the fans.

You know what, it’s all fine and good that a year ago the rope was inspected.  It’s even better that the rope they use, Dyneema, is the same strength as steel in the same diameter.  But still — why did this thing fall?

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One of the SkyCam gantry configurations — typically there would be four of these on a SkyCam rig

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One of the reels that Skycam uses in their system — doesn’t it remind you of a huge fishing reel?

As far as our industry goes, CAMCAT’s rig isn’t terribly complex as far as rigging goes — it’s an XYZ position camera that is fed by an X-axis winch, a Y-axis winch, and a Z-axis winch, all of which feed through the camera to stabilization points around the arena.  Check out the diagram below, even though this particular rig shows a CineFlex camera.  After Skycam‘s patents ran out, exactly what you thought would happen happened — everyone else came out with their own rigs!  Does that sound familiar with the history of automated lighting?

cablecam_diagram

Not thinking about the fans who were hurt just for a second — can you imagine the hell that this must have caused the drivers of those cars just below the camera’s guy-wires?!  From the AP:

Coca-Cola 600 winner Kevin Harvick thought he was imagining things when he noticed the black rope on the track. He was among the lucky ones who escaped without damage. Busch said he heard a “thunk” when he ran over it and knew he’d have problems.

Busch used a cellphone to take a picture of the mangled metal around his front, right-side wheel so his team could figure out how to repair the damage.

Marcos Ambrose dragged a piece of the rope that got caught up in his car behind him on the track. Mark Martin also reported problems after driving over the rope.

I can only imagine that the rope falling caused less damage than it had the potential to cause, and I’m pretty grateful for that.  All of this aside, this camera system is pretty darned cool.  Check this out — a quick video on how an stabilized overhead camera system like this works:

Well, one thing is for sure — Fox News won’t be using their rig on the next gig.

800px-Skycam_Husky_Stadium

Thanks to Fox Sports, ESPN, Yahoo! News, That’s Racin!, SB Nation, F-StoppersThe Daily Apple, Wikipedia, and a HUGE thanks to Digital Producer for the SkyCam parts photos!

WHAT?! Cell Phone Camera Lenses!

If I haven’t seen it, it’s news to me!

I’ve been using my iPhone pretty much exclusively for images that I need in a hurry, or just images I want to take.  I do use my little point-and-shoot from time to time as well, but since some asshole thief stole my camera (and lenses) when I taught at Oklahoma City University, I’ve not had the bones to get a new one.  And then I come across THIS:

From PhotoJoJo:

Presenting three small yet powerful lenses: the Fisheye, Telephoto, and Macro/Wide Angle Cell Phone Lenses. These finely constructed lenses transform your standard phone photos into wide, up-close, super zoomed and wonderfully warped wonders.

They work with any camera phone (even the slick glass on your new iPhone 4!) and attaching them is easy breezy! A detachable magnetic ring sticks to your cell, providing a sturdy, shake-free hold between the lens and your phone.

The Wide Angle/Macro Lens is the perfect pairing. The removable Macro ring captures shocking high quality close-up detail while the Wide Angle Lens allows you to cram more into one shot. Perfect for video chatting or group shots.

The Fisheye Lens creates fun-tastic curved edges with a 180-degree angle that makes everyone look like they live in a plastic bubble (or a Beastie Boys music video).

Then there’s the latest addition to the phone lens family: the super handy Telephoto lens. It gives your little-phone-lens-that-could super duper 2x zooming powers. Look at you, paparazzi!

AWESOME!  FYI, PhotoJoJo didn’t pay me or ask me to post this, I just think it is awesome.  I am really considering ordering the set!  They’re basically $20 a pop ($25 for the Fisheye) or you can buy all three for $49, which saves you $16!

More pics, these things are cool as hell!

That’s right, stuck on a LAPTOP CAM!

Blue Marbles! The Earth At 28,000 Miles

So back on the 7th of December 1972 , Appollo 17 was about 28,000 miles away from the surface of the Earth, and they decided HEY!  Let’s tweet this cool photo of the Earth that nobody but us can see!

(Of course I kid, everybody knows that MySpace was the *only* Social Media place back then)

Do you think they high-fived after seeing that?  I have to believe I would want to high-five something, a colleague, the bulkhead, the instrument panel, anything.  I’d be too excited.

Now a new Blue Marble was released just a few weeks ago – but it’s a composite image of six orbits of the Earth, not the one shot Instagram masterpiece that the Apollo 17 ninjas got back in 1972.  Check it out:

Check THIS out – this is the Hasselblad camera, a model just like the one the astronauts on Apollo 17 used to snap the first Blue Marble:

I put this together for your enjoyment and study – here are the 1972 and Eastern Hemisphere Blue Marbles (2012) side-by-side.  If you click the image, it opens up to a manageable size (1800 pixels wide) for viewing.  Check it out!

Now just remember, these are all courtesy of NASA and NOAA, so make sure you attribute if you share!  Plus, it’s just awesome to point someone to the NASA and NOAA websites; to be nerd is to be awesome.

That’s right, you heard it here first.  Well, the nerd thing anyway.

The Inventor of the Digital Camera – Steven Sasson

Do you know who that guys above is? That’s Steven Sasson. You might know him as the guy who invented the digital camera. I found this pretty neat video on Jason Kottke’s blog – I’ve been reading him for years. He has great stuff pretty much daily.

From the Vimeo site there’s a few paragraphs on Steven Sasson that kinda shock me:

When he initially mentioned that the first digital camera held 30 pictures, I assumed that was due to the storage capacity of the digital tape. It was really interesting to hear that he picked 30 as an artificial limitation, and his explanation why.

Update: A lot of people have asked what the subject of that first photo was. It’s an interesting story, but the short answer is that the first digital photo was a picture of a lab technician named Joy. And he didn’t save the image.

WHAT?! Steven, WHY didn’t you save the first ever digital image? DUDE!

Check out the video, it’s only 3 minutes:

Inventor Portrait: Steven Sasson from David Friedman on Vimeo.

An LED Surgical Headlight Camera System?

A good friend and emergency room doctor asked me one time – “can you design an LED high-output head-mounted fixture that I can use in the ER to look into areas of the body?”  My friend’s question came out of the fact that apparently the existing head-mounted illuminators used in hospitals and doctor’s offices across the world are not necessarily the most convenient of apparatus to use.  Most of them are also not made of LED sources, like this one:

Doesn’t this seem like a perfect opportunity for a high output cold white LED?

As I look at this image above that I got via a trade publication in the medical industry, I have to wonder what a high power source like Xenon is doing being used in an application like this when LED tech could easily be utilized.  LEDs are also being used in several facets of the medical industry, including some of the large medical tasklights found in operating rooms and examination rooms.

Looking at this design, I had to ask myself why an S-video connection and composite is being used to send camera data instead of something digital like DVI or HDMI.  Obviously there is no audio in this setup nor would there need to be.  My concern is detail – if you’re looking at parts of the body that need examining after the fact, wouldn’t the best idea be to have your device outputting something HD?  I’m probably looking at this medical technology and wondering how I could incorporate it into entertainment lighting or some effed up fascination like that.

My guess is that an LED source would make the cost of this device a hell of a lot less expensive, too.  It would certainly last a lot longer!

Don’t worry, Welch Allyn, I’m not picking on you!