Capturing a Tuatara hatching

Using open source hardware to create a rig to capture the hatching of an endangered species

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Ok so a few weeks ago I was asked to film the hatching of a endangered species of reptile called a Tuatara. It isn't often that you get a chance actually be involved in this sort of project. So needless to say I said yup I am happy to do it. Then I was told what the restrictions were..... first problem was they are in an incubator, I was thinking incubator as in the sort we see on TV with windows and such so it would be easy to pop a camera on the side focus thru a window and ta-dah video footage complete, job done, but no! No windows or no light.. The space is a temperature and humidity controlled space. So time to think laterally. I had a friend who used Raspberry pi's and had rav'd about how cool they were. I had been tinkering with the idea of getting one for home and having a bit of a play. I had seen online that there was an NoIR camera for cheap. lots of testing and playing including trying to use a Nikkor macro lens (didn't work well at all)

Looking back on this project there are things I will I had understood to start with. the main thing that caused the most headaches.

But overall the project went well considering that I'd not done anything even remotely like this..

So.... here we go

Step 1: 

Using adobe illustrator I created the enclosure, the enclosure as cut from a 3mm thick sheet of acrylic using a laser cutter.  Since often when you start this sort of project and not knowing anything I made all the interlocking parts 5mm, so there is quite a lot of over hang in the material.  

Step 2: 

Glue, I in this case often used too much of the horrendously priced locktite 460. 

but even then it worked really well and overall provided a really clean result. What I hadn't really thought about was I had tacked the box together using invisible tape, which on reflection wasn't my smartest moment in the build. the tape had a habit of not coming off cleanly. Once the glue had set the box was really rigid, which is good . as in this particular case I used the top of the enclosure to sit the Raspberry Pi. 

Step 3

Initially I didn't know that you could "hack" the lens so I was trying to figure out how to get things to be viewable. So Raspberry PI + Camera Module + Nikkor 100mm Macro lens equals potentially super expensive fall of the desk and lots of tears from the photographer I borrowed the lens from 

But essentially it didn't work as expected... far too many hassles.. 

As part of the build the acrylic sheet I had laser cut to match my requirements (definitely in my case measure 2 times cut once should have been the rule). I made the hole for the camera slightly large.  mount the camera in the hole in the centre of your enclosure 

Adjust thing the focus of the camera module was relatively simple. please check the link here as to how to go about changing the focus of the raspberry pi camera module

I of course don't guarantee this, but it worked and allowed me to focus the camera to under 15cm from the original 1m.  

I originally intended to have an IR array with the camera, but I ran out of time to set it up. so I ended up using a IR security camera 

Step 4

Dealing with the Raspberry Pi, I downloaded the image for  Raspian

I used ApplePI Baker for installing the OS onto my 8GB card (I am a OSX user so not sure what the PC options are out there).

Step 5

logging into Raspbian 

default administration login and password as follows  

User : pi


Step 6 

Installing the Camera and drivers  

There are some really good tutorials for this

Step 7

Installing an externally powered hard drive to your rig (Raspberry Pi doesn't create enough power to run a external drive, So for any kind of video which will create larger files  you will need an external drive. 

** things to keep in mind about external drives 

installing NTFS drivers on the Raspberry Pi.  I needed it to be universal so that PC users could see the files if needed. had I found this early.....

Step 8

Raspbian has some things you need to change in the start up script that does that whole blank screen and power down the pi which provided a few major headaches trying to figure out why thing went wrong and nothing captures. 

in the config file (use a text editor on your PC or Mac) user the terminal within the PI OS.  

in terminal:

sudo nano /etc/kbd/config

edit the following values 

BLANK_TIME=0      <-- screen saver

POWERDOWN_TIME=0   <-- power saver 

Step 9

Right so now down tho the fun part, I decided that if I recorded smaller length files it would in the end make it easier to track down the "Money...

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  • 1 × 2TB external drive formated for NTFS
  • 1 × Raspberry Pi B The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It is a capable little computer which can be used in electronics projects, and for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games.
  • 1 × NoIR Camera - The Raspberry Pi NoIR Camera Module is a custom designed add-on for Raspberry Pi that does not have an 'IR cut filter' installed
  • 1 × Perspec sheet (600X400) Laser cut to shape
  • 1 × HDMI cable

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  • Updated images from the project

    Warren11/25/2014 at 23:42 0 comments

    So here are a few images captured on a Nikon 300 during the whole project :) Tuatara's are definitely one of my favorite creatures, its been a complete dream to have had the chance to do this project

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EK wrote 08/05/2014 at 14:54 point
Neat project, but where are the photos of the Tuatara?

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Warren wrote 11/25/2014 at 23:44 point
Hi Erin, uploaded some more images :)

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Warren wrote 08/04/2014 at 05:25 point
Hi Adam,

thanks for that, yup thats what I was thinking too, but being time pressed as we only have access to these eggs about once a year, I cobbled together what worked

I have now ordered some parts for the next multi camera rig for when the next batch of eggs appear :)

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Adam Fabio wrote 08/04/2014 at 04:51 point
Great project Warren! Thanks for entering The Hackaday Prize!
I'm not sure if you tried this or not, but that macro lens would have worked better if you removed the raspberry pi camera lens, then mounted it at the focal plane distance. Problem is you'd have an extremely magnified image (think of the crop factor on the PI sensor vs a 35mm frame). You ended up with the best overall solution - sticking with the pi lens.

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