uCHobby does an instruction MindBite video about Digital Multimeters (DMM). You can view the MindBite here. In this short article I describe the new MindBite service and how I constructed a camera stand by modifying an old swing arm desk lamp.
MindBites is a new community service that should be very popular with the Maker crowd. The site offers Hot-To videos that are uploaded by users. Some of the videos are free but most cost a bit more then a dollar to view. You can upload your own instruction video and when it’s viewed MindBites pays you $1.
I met the MindBites people at the Austin Maker Fair and have been itching to do a instructional video for the Arduino but figured I should start with something easy, like a “hello world” for electronics instructional videos. I chose to do my first MindBite on the Digital Multimeter.
The plan was to rig up a camera over my work surface and demonstrate the various features of a DMM. So to get started I needed a way to mount the camera over my work area. I also needed good lighting. The first thing that popped into my mind was to modify a cheap incandescent desk lamp so that my camera would mount to it. This seemed like a great idea as the lamp would light the stage for the camera. My first attempt is shown below.
I had two cameras to work with. A Logitech webcam pro 4000 and a cheap video camera I bought on Amazon. Both of these cameras have a 1/4 20 mount on the bottom for tripods so it would be easy to mount anywhere I could have a 1/4 bolt thread sticking up. In the picture above you can see the bolt installed in the top of the lamp cover.
The camera mounted securely on this bolt. While promising the camera was actually too high above the light source and was getting very warm due to the incandescent heating. I also needed more light from different directions to fill out the scene and remove shadows. I did not try the webcam which might have worked better in this configuration. The video camera I used was tall, from the mount to the lens. I suspect that this configuration would work fine if you were recording with the smaller webcam type cameras.
The Logitech camera was fine but in testing I found the video quality to be a bit better from the cheap camera so I decided to use it instead. Also this camera could record independently from the computer and had a zoom feature. I bought the Isonic DV566 camera from Amazon for about $100. I call it cheap because it claims to be 5 Mega-Pixels, records to SD cards, plays MP3s etc.. If it were really 5 Mega-Pixels and had all these features it should cost more then $500. Let me tell you, it’s not even close to my 6.1 Mega-Pixel Nikon D70. But all in all, I think it’s worth the $100 I paid for it.
I decided to separate the camera from the lights. This way I could control the camera separately and could keep it cool. I also wanted to move the camera during the recordings. So I dropped the idea of mounting to the incandescent desk lamp. But I do think it’s a good option, especially for a smaller webcam.
I had an old swing arm desk lamp, the kind you often see with a big magnifier lens in the center of a round florescent bulb. This desk lamp had been broken at it’s base and was thrown out. I remember salvaging lamp and dug it out of deep storage (LOL). With some effort I removed it from the broken base and remounted the swing arm to a piece of wood. The wood base could be clamped into a desk vice to provide a swivel and weight to keep it in place.
The lamp end was removed and I salved the magnifier lens for some future death ray project. The swing arm mount for the lamp head happened to have a perfectly sized hole in the perfect place to mount my camera. You can see the setup in the two pictures below.
On the left you can see the full stage. Two incandescent desk lamps light the area from above. The swing arm camera mount positions the camera above the working stage. The left side picture shows a close up of the camera mounted to the old lamp mount.
This configuration works great, the camera is stable and it’s easy to swing it around the scene. After doing this I wondered how cool it would be to make a servo controlled camera mount system like this. The camera could be flown over the scene under computer control like the original Star Wars model filming was done. For now, I will move the camera as necessary.
After the stage and camera issues were sorted I started shooting video. I used the PC to capture the video and had some trouble with the audio and running out of disk space. As I had things set my short clips were gigabytes in size! I edited the movie in Windows Movie Maker and did try IMovie on my Mac but there was a water mark on all my imported clips so I had to go back to Movie Maker. My final problem was converting the WMV to a MP4 file to upload it to MindBites. I found that the latest version of MediaCoder worked for me.
I am not really expecting to make big bucks from instructional videos, but I hope I do. Depending on how well the MindBites thing goes, I may do a bunch more video tutorials. I did not see a way to make them free at the MindBites site but the author does retain the rights so I could host them for free viewing. At least you can preview the first 1 minute of video for free.
Update: Jason from MindBites informed me that the video preview for a tutorials can be embedded on another site. The site makes it easy by providing the HTML to include on an external site. I copied the HTML below so you can see the preview right here.
I have high hopes for MindBites. I think they have a great idea and I plan to contribute. They may select my MindBite for the video of the day feature which makes it free for a day. If they do, I will post a follow up so you can watch if for free.
- What you think of my setup?
- Any improvements I should consider?
- What subjects should I cover in instructional MindBite videos?
- What do you think of MindBites?
- What did you think of the preview part?
- What did you think of the video?