2016 roofcam upgrades

I've been working on a "holy grail" roofcam off and on for the past 7 years and thought I'd post my progress on the final chapter here. First a little background on the project.

I usually chase solo and wanted a foolproof way to get the highest quality video without having to exit the car and set up a tripod. 360 degree zoomable video whether stopped or moving that wouldn't have wipers sweeping by. A clear acrylic dome wasn't going to cut it because of the glare, scratches, and rain getting in the way. So I set out to design and build a roofcam with a fixed hydrophobic lens that is kept clear with a stream of compressed air. Rather than only the camera turning inside the whole enclosure turns. So I call it the TurretCam:

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Bench testing/tuning (lens cap on) - 2014

TurretCam saw its first field testing midway through the 2014 chase season. I anticipated a plague of gremlins to work out and boy did it deliver. Torsional resonance in the mount causing severe vibration. Radio frequency interference killing USB comms.

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Field testing - 2015 western Kansas

I have most of the bugs worked out so I'm now working on the final piece: the compressed air blaster for rain mitigation. I've got a 12 volt "horn blaster" style air compressor wired up:


Compressor and 1 gallon tank is mounted in the trunk with 1/4" tubing that I'll route to the roof:

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The airflow will be switched with a solenoid valve controlled by the Arduino inside the TurretCam. I have some parts on order and I'll have more to post once those come in. Some additional upgrades I'll be working on:
  • Replacing the white acrylic dome with white polycarbonate. The acrylic already has a crack on the flange from some 1.25" hail last year
  • Adding a 2nd camera inside for simultaneous wide-angle and zoom views
Stay tuned!
 
While I think the turret camera is a interesting concept, calling this 360 video is ridiculous and misleading in today's VR. capable world. Just my .02. I'll be curious to see what your results are even thought it is clearly not a '360' camera.


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Wow James, it's clear that you've worked very hard on this. Congratulations for seeing your project through to the end. You've definitely put a lot of time and effort into this, and I hope it pays off with some spectacular footage!

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While I think the turret camera is a interesting concept, calling this 360 video is ridiculous and misleading in today's VR. capable world. Just my .02. I'll be curious to see what your results are even thought it is clearly not a '360' camera.


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I don't think James is claiming to make 360 videos. He is just saying that the turret has the ability rotate 360 degrees in order to get footage from any angle.

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Here's the proof-of-concept I chased with in Kansas yesterday (with fresh bug splatters):
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Connections for air, power, and USB:
2016-04-27 19.11.46.jpg

No major issues and it does a fine job of blasting off most water drops with a 250ms pulse. But some drops bounce off the lip of the lens filter and back onto the glass. The new viewport won't have a lip and the parts I need to build it just arrived today. Also I noticed the stream of air gets deformed when zipping down the highway so I'll likely have to mount it closer.

All of the footage in this video was shot using the TurretCam:
 
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James, that's amazing footage. Not one drop of water on your lens, despite everything around you being soaking wet. Awesome engineering. Can't wait to see the finished product (assuming you will ever be finished upgrading it).

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I didn't have the air blaster built when that was shot last year but I'll get some demo footage of that up soon. Even without it the hydrophobic coating on the viewport does help keep the drops off somewhat. And there's little space between the camera lens and the viewport so anything that does get on there is a lot less noticable than on a clear dome.
 
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