Well, this sure is a surprise announcement, at least for me. Blackmagic Design have today announced their 3G-SDI Arduino Shield, allowing you to control your Blackmagic cameras from your own Arduino based DIY projects.
For those who’ve never come across the Arduino before, see here, here, here, here and here. I’ll wait, but there’s plenty more about it here on DIYP if you require some further reading. Basically, they’re a bit like a Raspberry Pi, but simpler and geared more towards hardware connectivity and rapid prototyping, than software development.
What might initially appear to be a strange move, releasing a product that hooks up a “Free” and Open Source project to their commercial equipment, it makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
Blackmagic’s SDI Camera Control Protocol was always designed to be open, and is well documented, allowing third party manufacturers to support it in their products as well as being integrated into many of Blackmagic’s own cameras, switches, and other devices.
But developing those products is a major undertaking for large corporations. For us, as mere users, we are somewhat limited to what that third party hardware allows us to do. Until now.
With the introduction of the new 3G-SDI Arduino Shield, owners of compatible devices are able to rapidly build their own gadgets for controlling their Blackmagic Hardware in an almost infinite number of ways.
Want to build your own electronic follow focus system or have the lens rack focus while shooting from one known distance point to another at the press of a button? Want to send out a bunch of settings like white balance, resolution, framerate and dynamic range to several cameras to ensure they’re all working the same way on a multicamera shoot? Not a problem with the 3G-SDI Arduino Shield.
How about a device that automatically turns optical image stabilisation on or off based on whether a gyro hooked up to the Arduino detects whether it’s moving or stationary? What automatically adjusts the brightness of the camera’s tally lights based on the amount of ambient light a connected sensor detects in the location at which you’re shooting so they don’t become distracting to your actors?
By hooking up an accelerometer and distance sensor to the Arduino, you could even get the perfect Hitchcock zoom with spot on framing and focus throughout.
While the some of those suggestions may be simple additions to a much more complex overall system, it goes to show how versatile the ability to hook an Arduino up to a camera can be. Functionality can often be quickly and easily modified and tweaked by simply editing a few lines of code in an Arduino sketch and recompiling.
Unlike most shields which draw their power from the Arduino, the 3G-SDI Shield contains its own power input, which it then uses to feed power directly to the Arduino. The Blackmagic 3G-SDI Shield contains also its own separate USB interface, for upgrading the board’s firmware (don’t try to use this to upload your Arduino sketches).
It also makes use of the I²C bus, meaning you can hook it up to pretty much any microcontroller out there, although coding it might become a bit more tricky.
Blackmagic have produced a short video to introduce the Blackmagic 3G-SDI Arduino Shield, which we would’ve loved to have shown you, but you can only view it on BlackMagic’s website. Check it out here, and scroll way, way down.
The Blackmagic 3G-SDI Arduino Shield is expected to cost $95 and will be available sometime in mid 2016.
The Arduino is something I’ve used a lot for stills over the last few years, using it to control Nikon DSLRs, speedlights and other devices to give me more control and consistency. It has allowed me to do things that would be near impossible to achieve “by hand”, so to speak. Being able to do the same with video sounds like it could become extremely valuable.
I have to admit, the thought of being able to hook up my own hardware to a camera is really tempting me to look more seriously at picking up one of BlackMagic’s cameras.
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