Author Topic: Camera Car Build  (Read 8504 times)

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eric220

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Camera Car Build
« on: January 16, 2013, 04:00:15 PM »
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With some help from Peteski, my wife bought me a RF System Lab TC-9 camera for Christmas. My goal is to create a Peteski-style camera locomotive, that will allow an engineer to drive the train from another room. The current plan is to use an RF16. The components do fit, although installation will essentially mean ditching all of the guts and building a structure on which to rest the camera and shell.

The camera came yesterday, and today I hooked everything up. For starters I used alligator clips to connect the camera to the bus power to make sure that everything was working. That done, I built a test car using a Kato MHC. I simply connected the pickups from the trucks and attached the power pickups from the TC-9. (Apologies for the iPhone camera shots.)



Since then it's been doing laps around the upper level. I have confirmed that I need more lighting in the basement, but otherwise the testing was a complete success. I also moved the car to the lower level to test visibility of the Alkem PL signals.



As you can see, perfectly clear. With the basic testing completed, the checklist sits at:
-Figure out how to stream the RCA video input to a Mac in another room
-Shape the camera shell to fit in the RF16 nose
-Cut an opening in the nose of the RF16
-Build the new internal structure for the RF16
-Install the camera in the locomotive
« Last Edit: January 16, 2013, 04:12:22 PM by eric220 »
-Eric

Modeling a transcontinental PRR
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CodyO

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Re: Camera Car Build
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2013, 04:58:28 PM »
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Pretty cool eric!

I like the whole camera car thing!We`ve always wanted to do it just been one of those someday projects!

and don`t we always need more layout lighting!
Modeling the Pennsylvania Middle Division in late 1954
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eric220

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Re: Camera Car Build
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2013, 11:30:14 PM »
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I've had quite a bit of fun running this little car around this afternoon.  My layout may just be plywood prairie right now, but it's still a fascinating perspective.  Having a camera down on the tracks like that really give one a new appreciation of scale speed.  Pushing it in front of the RF16's at 30 SMPH or so looks about right.  I briefly pushed it in front of my T1 at about 60 SMPH, a moderate speed for the loco, but it looks scary on the camera!  Despite fact that cramming the camera into the RF16 is going to be a bit of a challenge, and means carving out the beautiful Keystone on the nose, I do think it's the right loco for the job.

I am pondering the electrical part a bit.  Before I realized that I could pack the whole thing into a single A unit, I had planned to use both an A and B hardwired together.  I'm still debating doing that.  It would give 16 wheel pickup instead of 8 over double the linear distance.  Also, it means that the camera loco would actually be powered.  On the other hand, it limits the speed of the camera car to the speed of the B unit.  Given my experiences so far, I might be willing to live with that.  Thoughts?
-Eric

Modeling a transcontinental PRR
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peteski

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Re: Camera Car Build
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2013, 01:39:20 AM »
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Eric,
I got your email earlier - like like you're really getting into this "realistic running".  I think it is a blast to have a live engineer's view of the layout.  It is even better when the video gear is small enough to be fully enclosed inside a dummy locomotive.  I remember the MR ads for Lionel's Rail Scope camera mounted in a O scale loco, transmitting a black/white image through the rails to a monitor.

I was hoping that some day I could have a similar system in N scale and it is now possible (actually, since around 2005).  The video quality of this system is not as good as some of the currently available thumb-size USB DVR's out there, but the big plus is that it is a live video.

I see that you have also noticed that the camera view gives you a much better feel for the scale speed of your trains.  If you run the train at a speed which looks like average speed to a person who would be running it the conventional way, the view through the camera looks like a high-speed roller coaster ride (especially if the layout has sharp curves, tunnels and grades).  It is amazing how unrealistically fast we normally operate our trains!

As far as your questions go, since I have several installs under my belts, I will give you my experiences.  All the installs I did were in a single dummy loco.  The electric  pickup is important but since the system has a backup battery, 8-wheel pickup is plenty good. Just make sure that the unit is heavy enough to have a good contact with the rails.  In my installations it was important to have flexibility to use the train camera unit with any loco consist.  But if your A-B units can stay permanently coupled then it won't hurt to hardwire the units together.

I'm not sure why you say that your B unit runs slow. Wouldn't the A unit (if it was still powered) run just as slow when operated on your layout?  Or is that particular locomotive just geared really slow?

For a full disclosure, Eric and I have in the past exchanged several emails about this project and  I provided him documentation of some of my installations.  If the rest of you are interested, here is the info:

One of my P42 installs is in the Kato's Photo Gallery. Go to http://www.katousa.com/gallery/albums.php?set_albumListPage=5 and scroll down until you see a P42 with my name.
Second install is documented in http://www.cybersandy.net/peteski/TrainCam02.pdf  That document should really be updated (I see some types and grammar mistakes) but that's just another item waiting for a round-tuit!  For example, all the shielding I did is not needed. I tried to reduce a terrible noise in the video which ended up being caused by a Digitrax function-only DCC decoder. I replaced it with a TCS decoder and that solved the noise problem!





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Re: Camera Car Build
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2013, 06:05:29 AM »
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David Lancaster is known for his train videos. He installed a Looxcie micro camera into his Z scale train. If you are a Trainboard member and want to see his posts here is the link http://www.trainboard.com/grapevine/showthread.php?143404-Using-a-Looxcie-for-a-camera-car&highlight=looxie+camera

He removed it from the factory casing which enabled it to fit in such a small space. His was the $149 version. I just looked it up and now they have a more expensive but better version and in wi-fi HD.  I don't know the lens size of either your camera or this one but if the hole in the car is obscure enough in Z it just might be a real winner in N.

Here is the link for the camera itself  http://www.looxcie.com/products-page/cameras/looxcie-hd-explore/

"Take mobile video sharing to a whole new level. With full 1080p recording and built- in Wi-Fi, the Looxcie HD lets you record razor-sharp images while simultaneously sharing a live broadcast with your friends. Handsfree.

Because it connects wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet, you can use it anytime, anywhere. Create an "instant replay" of what just happened with the unique Instant Clip button. Share a live stream with Facebook friends. The Looxcie HD does it all.
Features

    Full HD recording up to 1080p @30fps or 720p @60fps
    480p mobile streaming for sharing a live feed anytime, anywhere
    Simultaneous streaming & recording
    Sleek, hands-free design with a wide range of mounting options*
    Mobile app for viewfinder and controls
    Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity
    Weather-resistant enclosure for use in virtually any climate
    Low-light sensor for use in dim lighting
    Unique Instant Clip button for creating “instant replays” of what just happened
    Protective lens filter
    Rechargeable and replaceable battery
    Supports microSDHC card up to 32GB (Class 10 type; Card not included)"

Just FYI,
Karin


 

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Re: Camera Car Build
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2013, 09:35:21 AM »
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I just had a customer give me a camera to experiment with. Total size is about 4-5mm is diameter, about 12mm in length with LED illumination ring around the lense. I still need to come up with the transmitter but the camera is pretty impressive. It is only 640-480 resolution but he has one that is HD resolution in the same size. He gave me this one because he got it to experiment and lighting was not strong enough. He is making endoscopy equipment for race horces. He is also working on a camera to mount on the halter so that a trainer can watch the horses breathing while the horse is running.

This thing is small enough to stick in place of the headlight of an E-F unit without gutting the loco. The size of the transmitter is the main issue. Post pictures later.
Tony Hines

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Re: Camera Car Build
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2013, 09:49:29 AM »
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Tony, keep us posted. I would also like to play with on-board video, but am still looking for pieces for a camera/transmitter setup at 720p minimum, 1080 preferable. I integrate digital CCTV for a living, but everything from my supplier network is anything but miniature. Any leads on extra-small components would be much appreciated!
...mike

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jmlaboda

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Re: Camera Car Build
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2013, 10:22:42 AM »
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Shucks... and here I was expecting a KM hood unit in scarlott and gray...

DKS

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Re: Camera Car Build
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2013, 10:35:24 AM »
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I also got a Looxcie, and I must say it's impressive and also a no-brainer to use. It delivers the best video for the money, hands down. If you don't care about trying to disguise it, you can almost use it as-is; I simply clipped the earpiece off of mine, and stuck it to a freight car underbody. Works flawlessly, and the image quality is awesome. I'll try to post some images/vids later on.
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peteski

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Re: Camera Car Build
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2013, 02:08:27 PM »
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Yes, Lookcie is awesome small camera for taking high quality videos of a layout but (like I already mentioned) it is useless for when you want to have a live video feed to be able to actually drive your train while having the engineer's view.
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peteski

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Re: Camera Car Build
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2013, 02:12:24 PM »
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I just had a customer give me a camera to experiment with. Total size is about 4-5mm is diameter, about 12mm in length with LED illumination ring around the lense. I still need to come up with the transmitter but the camera is pretty impressive. It is only 640-480 resolution but he has one that is HD resolution in the same size. He gave me this one because he got it to experiment and lighting was not strong enough. He is making endoscopy equipment for race horces. He is also working on a camera to mount on the halter so that a trainer can watch the horses breathing while the horse is running.

This thing is small enough to stick in place of the headlight of an E-F unit without gutting the loco. The size of the transmitter is the main issue. Post pictures later.

Transmitter *AND* the power supply. Both are needed for this to work.  BTW, Eric's camera is made by a company which (among other things) makes the pill-cameras you swallow which take a video of your digestive track.  :facepalm:
http://www.rfsystemlab.com/en/

In their camera, the camera unit and the transmitter are both housed in that 12mm cube and the other large unit is a "smart" switching power supply with a battery backup.  It delivers 5 volts to the camera/transmitter unit while it takes a wide range of AC/DC power at the input. It also charges a small 1.2V NiCad battery. When the power feed is interrupted, it instantly deploys the NiCad battery to up-convert its 1.2V to 5V, for uninterrupted video.  I was really impressed how complex the power supply was.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2013, 02:17:11 PM by peteski »
--- Peteski de Snarkski

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LV LOU

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Re: Camera Car Build
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2013, 02:22:33 PM »
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 I just bought a helicopter that has a camera built into it.It's not that big,and only two screws hold it in.The lens can be aimed,and it has some cool features.If the switch on the camera is forward,it takes video,if it's back,it takes regular pics.It's a 3 MPX camera.The really cool thing,it actually turns on and off with the radio.If you have it set for video,flip the landing gear switch on/off,it turns on the camera,same with pics,the gear switch controls when it takes a pic.One thing that may be really cool for train use.There are helicopters for less than 200 bucks that have cameras built into them that also have LCD screens to view your flight right on the transmitter!! In HO,it would be easy to make a totally RC controlled battery powered locomotive with a camera in the cab..

DKS

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Re: Camera Car Build
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2013, 02:41:57 PM »
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Yes, Lookcie is awesome small camera for taking high quality videos of a layout but (like I already mentioned) it is useless for when you want to have a live video feed to be able to actually drive your train while having the engineer's view.

    Full HD recording up to 1080p @30fps or 720p @60fps
    480p mobile streaming for sharing a live feed anytime, anywhere
    Simultaneous streaming & recording
    Sleek, hands-free design with a wide range of mounting options...
"Life's a piece of sh!t when you look at it."
                                       —Monty Python

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Re: Camera Car Build
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2013, 03:06:50 PM »
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Uh oh Peteski, who's not fully reading posts this time  ;)  Wanted to also point out a couple other features you might have missed in my post. Eric mentioned low lighting in his basement  The Looxcie, as mentioned has a "Low-light sensor for use in dim lighting". Also worth noting as mentioned in the post "Because it connects wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet, you can use it anytime, anywhere." That is hard to beat. The cost would be the only reason one wouldn't choose the Looxcie.

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Re: Camera Car Build
« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2013, 03:08:27 PM »
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So, that Looxcie unit does transmit over WiFi - nice!  Still too large to be enclosed in a loco body, but if one doesn't mind seeing it exposed, this sounds like an excellent option for a camera.

I often run these camera-locos on N-Trak layouts. I still like to hide the camera inside a locomotive and get the look of disbelief from people who are surprised that what looks a regular N scale locomotive actually has a wireless camera inside. 
« Last Edit: January 17, 2013, 03:13:49 PM by peteski »
--- Peteski de Snarkski

-"Look at me, I'm satirical!!!"
-"Look at me, I'm anal retentive!!!"
-"Look at me, I have the most posts evahhhh!!!"
-"Look at me, I'm snarky!!!!"
-"Look at me, I have OCD!!!"
-"Look at me, I'm a curmudgeon!!!!"
-"Look at me, I'm puzzled!!!!