Raspberry PiZeroW Camera Module

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When you’ve gotten used to Amazon Prime and free shipping, purchasing inexpensive items from other online retailers where the shipping doubles the cost of the item makes it harder to impulse buy items. An item for $5 that costs $7 in shipping often doesn’t get bought. Even a pair of items that cost $16 together that then cost $7 in shipping cause me to delay the purchase.

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Because I was purchasing a Raspberry Pi 4 and Raspberry Pi USB-C Power Supply from Sparkfun, I decided to throw in another Pi ZeroW and case for another $16. I then added the Raspberry Pi Camera module because the case has an optional cover enclosing the camera and I wanted to see how it all worked together. I only wish I’d realized that there was a Noir version, because I’ve always wanted to play with infrared photography.

Having recently streamlined the installation of a Pi Zero, I installed the camera and Pi ZeroW in the case, put the configured micro sd card in place, plugged it into my HDMI monitor just to watch it boot and applied power. I never saw anything on the monitor. The Pi ZeroW only has a single LED, which is generally on, but blinks for micro sd activity. Because I’d closed the case, the LED wasn’t visible, and with no monitor activity I was wondering if I’d gotten a bad board.

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I opened the case and powered it on again, this time I knew I was seeing LED activity. I did a quick search of my network for new devices and found the new board was responding on ssh and appeared to be working correctly other than no HDMI output.  I was even able to take a snapshot with the camera using the command:

raspistill -o image.jpg

I decided to test booting the device without the camera installed. That worked fine, and I had HDMI output during the boot process. Now I started to wonder if perhaps the power supply I was using didn’t provide enough power. Perhaps the camera and the HDMI device were mutually exclusive in the amount of power required

A lot of searching on the web resulted in nothing about the power required for the camera affecting the HDMI output. I found that I might be able to reduce the power requirements by 25mA by turning off the HDMI, but that the Pi ZeroW was already the lowest power draw available. https://www.jeffgeerling.com/blogs/jeff-geerling/raspberry-pi-zero-conserve-energy

I found the tvservice command and the -s option with the camera installed was resulting in a different result from without the camera installed.

pi@WimPiZeroCamera:~ $ sudo /usr/bin/tvservice -s
state 0x40000 [NTSC 4:3], 720x480 @ 60.00Hz, interlaced
pi@WimPiZeroW:~ $ sudo /usr/bin/tvservice -s
state 0xa [HDMI CEA (16) RGB lim 16:9], 1920x1080 @ 60.00Hz, progressive

At least recognizing that difference was progress. For some reason under Raspian Buster the camera module is causing the HDMI output to be different. I found options in https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/configuration/config-txt/video.md that allow me to force the HDMI output to what I want. I changed /boot/config.txt with the following and now I’ve got both camera and video working properly.

# uncomment to force a specific HDMI mode (this will force [HDMI CEA (16) RGB lim 16:9], 1920x1080 @ 60.00Hz, progressive)
hdmi_group=1
hdmi_mode=16

I hope that this helps someone else having problems with both camera and hdmi video output. I don’t know if this was specific to Buster since I never tried it under Jessie or Stretch.

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FFMPEG and h.265

I’ve noticed that YouTube transcodes my videos after I upload them and wanted to know more. It turns out that they are internally using a form of h.265 video encoding, which reduces the data size significantly without reducing perceived quality over h.264 video compression.

I decided to run some tests using my GoPro time lapse program to see how much compression I’d get versus how much extra time for encoding.

First I had to read up on the settings for using h.265 in FFmpeg. According to https://trac.ffmpeg.org/wiki/Encode/H.265, If I add -c:v libx265 into my existing FFmpeg command line without changing anything, I’ll get an h.265 output with the defaults of -crf 23 and -preset medium.

The -preset value effects how much work is done in the compression, but shouldn’t affect the perceived quality. It will effect both time to create and output file size.

The -crf value effects the perceived quality. I’ve been using the defaults in my previous h.264 mp4 files, which should be approximately -crf 23 and supposedly -crf 28 in h.265 is equivalent to the lower h.264 value. A -crf 0 would be a completely lossless conversion. For my tests, I left crf at the default 23.

I ran all of these tests on a set of 7,129 photos I’d captured while sailboat racing on March 24th using my GoPro Hero 3+ Black. Each input image was 4000×3000 and I’m creating an output video with resolution 3840×2160 by cropping it at 3/4 of the height and scaling to fit.

The original h.264 conversion took 28:36 minutes to create and was 1,162,079,866 bytes long.

Here’s a trimmed down and sorted file listing. The first column is the time it took to create, second is filesize, and third is filename.

28:36 1,162,079,866 20180324-2160p30-cropped-h264.mp4
30:25 1,006,292,960 20180324-veryfast-2160p30-cropped-h265-crf20.mp4
21:35   328,700,100 20180324-ultrafast-2160p30-cropped-crf28.mp4
21:59   339,438,778 20180324-superfast-2160p30-cropped-crf28.mp4
25:12   350,085,434 20180324-veryfast-2160p30-cropped-crf28.mp4
25:17   349,720,030 20180324-faster-2160p30-cropped-crf28.mp4
27:24   348,582,310 20180324-fast-2160p30-cropped-crf28.mp4
52:07   365,050,252 20180324-medium-2160p30-cropped-crf28.mp4

I created a single test at -crf 20 because I was interested in seeing a higher quality video and how different it would be in size. It took slightly longer than the original h.264 compression and had a slight improvement in size.

Two things became obvious to me from this test. More time spent in compression doesn’t always mean better compression. For my application, running preset medium actually hurts the performance, both in file size and time taken.

I ran all of these tests only a single time on my desktop computer with an Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-4771 CPU @ 3.50GHz, 3501 Mhz, 4 Core(s), 8 Logical Processor(s) running the latest version of Windows Version 10.0.16299 Build 16299. I was running FFmpeg version N-88668-g723b6baaf8 from https://ffmpeg.zeranoe.com/builds/. The variations in time could be related to background tasks running on the machine, and I should have run a more comprehensive battery of tests, averaging time and with more accurate timekeeping.

Lily Pond

Lily Pond

Lily Pond, Washington Park, Chicago, Ill., U. S. A.

This is the last of the stereograph pictures I had to scan, and the only one in color. It’s interesting how only the green color remains.

I don’t know if a color photography system was originally used and the colors other than green have faded, or if the color was added later. I suspect the former.

Spanish Torpedo

Spanish Torpedo Taken from Harbor of Santiago

Spanish Torpedo Taken from Harbor of Santiago.

In modern warfare explosives are coming more and more into use. Streets and thoroughfares as well as rivers, straights and harbors over which it is thought the enemy may pass, are mined with deadly explosives sufficiently powerful to wreck the mightiest battleship or overwhelm a large land force. Torpedoes are usually made in forms similar to a cigar, so that they may be projected under water, the sharp end going forward. As is well known, they can be arranged to explode by contact, a time fuse, or an electric wire. The sample death dealing instrument shown in this view provided with contact arms which, when struck, thrust a spike into the interior as shown, causing explosion by percussion. Doubtless it was some such contrivance as one of those described above, which, on Feb. 15th, 1898, tore into shred and sent to the bottom of Havana Harbor, our proud battleship “Maine,” together with nearly her entire crew.

Royal Gorge

Royal Gorge

Royal Gorge (Grand Canyon of the Arkansas), Colorado, U. S. A.

“Oh! the power that piled these wonders
As the mountains took their stations;
As a great red belt rose upward in a glittering zone of fire.” — Ferguson.

The crowning wonder of Colorado is the world famed Royal Gorge. Its rock piled crags tower above the river at this point 2,600 feet. The narrow and broad gauge railroad running through the canon is one of the greatest pieces of railroad engineering ever accomplished.