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chip updates: making a little dance and film studio [updates]

So let' get back to the reason for the robot that we have. Chip was always supposed to be used to do something good and I know we haven't quite gotten him to walk properly yet (we're working on that still) but that doesn't mean we can't work on the other goal of the project.

We're going to make chip dance and make videos of him dancing and to do that we need a few things right?

(1) a dance floor and backdrop that will allow us to film the robot 
(2) good lighting conditions 
(3) a camera setup

So we decided we'd go ahead and solve this problem today because it seems like a good thing to do while we're doing all these things to the basement anyways. So here's what we came up with:

So we chose a space on the other side of the basement that's very wide even if it isn't very long and we setup the table, the tether, and a few other things right there.

The first thing to talk about is the studio floor itself. And the floor is simply the grey concrete floor and that's roughly 12ft wide x 8ft long in total. The filming area is less it's about 6ft long but still like 11-12ft wide (we'll get to that). You'll notice the foam floor tiles aren't on the floor but they're placed vertically and that's because the reflective insulation makes it impossible for us to get anything done camera wise as any light we shine on it gets sent right back and it looks pretty much terrible.

The next addition is the tether power. This area allows us to power the robot using the DC power supply on the cart without letting it entangle itself in the power supply. The tether hangs from the ceiling so not to interfere with the dance/test floor and the power supply is hidden out-of-frame from the camera.

Finally, there's the camera itself. And the camera is setup at the very specific angle that will allow us to capture the robot and the back-drop in the exact way we want. The lighting is provided by two basement windows at a high level behind the camera so the whole setup is lit form the top and back. Relying on natural light does have the disadvantage we can only film in the afternoon after like 2PM because that's when the light starts coming into the basement at the right angle (the windows face west). But that's not the most inconvenient time for filming tbh. This does mean we can't film on rainy days unless we go out and get lights which, for now, we won't do.

Now the camera itself is a Canon EOS 70D APS-C camera with the canon 18-135mm lens on it. In fact, the setup above is just the right size so that we can pretty much set the zoom to very slightly less than 18mm and we'll view the whole dance floor so thats good since we're using the lense's field of view quite well. When setup at ISO 800, f3.5, and a shutter speed of 1/30 (and that's for photos). And if we set the white balance to ~4200K we can get some really nice photos like these.

I'd say those are really sharp photos. And we also get a lot of nice videos like this one. But that's not even with optimized settings so let's try that:

I found this great video online of how to shoot really good video with the canon EOS 70D specifically. The only change for this guys settings to mine is I'm recording at 30fps:

The only thing we ignored from this was mostly the audio settings and the reason for that is because we aren't planning to do any audio recording in this studio - just video and the audio will come in post processing.

So for picture style this is the setup we used sharpness of 5, contrast of 2, saturation of 1, a and color of 3 and then we took a test shot:

And it's a little dark but that might just be the lighting - we can try to pull up the ISO and things. We also might drop sharpness to like 4 or just go back to auto depending on what looks good on the video. The ISO is a little low on this we want to keep the aperture at like 5.0 so the focus isn't too narrow - but 3.5 seemed fine when we shot those other photos.

That's us pulling up the ISO just a little and that looks better on the brightness side but I think the auto settings are interfering with the lighting so maybe we'll just go back to the AUTO picture setup and try that. Let's see.

This is an aperture of 5.6 and an ISO of 5000 which isn't bad - the ball is better but I think the last picture was nicer since we won't have the ball in it most of the time. So settings seem to be around:

picture more: AUTO
1920x1080 @ 30FPS API
1/60 shutter speed
ISO 5000

So we really want to find a way to bring that ISO down because if we bring the ISO down the picture will be less grainy. This is especially important for video mode. At some point I want to try increasing the shutters speed to the point where the object blurs that will be cool.

Since we're suing FCPX - the only thing I really care about is how not-grainy, in-focus, and well-lit the video is - the color can be fixed in post for sure.

Here's a final test shot. Ignoring the ball it looks really good and this is with ISO of 1600 and f3.5 so maybe we'll use those settings.

We'll do some test videos later but for now! YAY!

#updates #omgrobots #yay #chip #chip_in_for_good

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