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Input Devices Apple

The Camera That's Also a Mac Mini, Or Vice Versa 68

Posted by timothy
from the trying-to-kill-me-with-gadget-lust dept.
Joe Marine of No Film School has a short interview with two of the creators of the Black Betty, a deceptively old-school looking digital cinema camera. The Black Betty gets around one issue with the massive data processing and storage needs inherent to high-capacity, high-resolution video cameras by attacking it head-on. Rather than use the camera "merely" as a collection device, the creators have jammed into the machined aluminum case the guts of a Mac Mini, which means the camera not only has a powerful processing brain, but a built-in SSD drive, and can (in a pinch, or even by preference in the field) be used to edit and transmit the footage collected with the actual imaging system, which is based around the SI-2K Mini sensor, which shoots 1080p video at up to 30fps.
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The Camera That's Also a Mac Mini, Or Vice Versa

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  • Hmm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @09:54AM (#44706565)
    Maybe he had some help from Ram Jam? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R044sleOW6I [youtube.com]
  • by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @10:05AM (#44706661)

    I just struggle to see a situation that wouldn't be better served by a laptop in the field or a workstation back at the studio.

    • by barlevg (2111272)

      And obviously it’s not super practical to use the camera as your editor, grading station, or to review all your footage, but if you didn’t have another choice or you don’t have the resources, why not take advantage of something like that? Why not share your frame grabs over WiFi. Say I’m in the field and I need to get a still frame, or I need to get my footage off, and I have nothing. Sure, just upload it.

      • by omnichad (1198475)

        Not completely impractical either, assuming the USB ports and mini displayport connector are accessible. It could have a copy of Final Cut Pro onboard.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      I just struggle to see a situation that wouldn't be better served by a laptop in the field or a workstation back at the studio.

      Really? Because it's kind of in the summary:

      The Black Betty gets around one issue with the massive data processing and storage needs inherent to high-capacity, high-resolution video cameras by attacking it head-on

      This covers the data storage, the camera, and in a pinch or out of necessity you can do the editing on the device itself.

      It's likely not going to be your primary place to

      • by dj245 (732906)

        I just struggle to see a situation that wouldn't be better served by a laptop in the field or a workstation back at the studio.

        Really? Because it's kind of in the summary:

        The Black Betty gets around one issue with the massive data processing and storage needs inherent to high-capacity, high-resolution video cameras by attacking it head-on

        This covers the data storage, the camera, and in a pinch or out of necessity you can do the editing on the device itself.

        It's likely not going to be your primary place to do processing on the video, but it will cover your storage needs and give you some editing as well.

        Yes but why is this needed?? According to the website for the camera they are using [siliconimaging.com],

        With it's low-noise, high-dynamic range sensor, over 10 f-stops of dynamic range are freely manipulatable with user generated Iridas look files, and IT-friendly connectivity through open PC platforms, battery-powered operation, and up to 4-hours of continuous shooting on a 160GB notebook hard drive round out an impressive array of digital cinema firsts in the industry.

        . This looks like a very serious camera, maybe on par or somewhat in the same segment as the Red [red.com] cameras (I am not an expert on high-end videocameras however). Most cameras in this segment have some system of high-capacity SSD or spinning drive storage, usually with replaceable storage cartridges. I don't understand why they felt the need to build the camera in the article. In fact, the SI-2k (not mini) [siliconimaging.com] looks an awful lo

        • It's nowhere close to anything from RED in terms of image quality. The camera most like this in design is the Blackmagic Production Camera though the sensor puts it closer to the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. None of this takes away from the sheer geeky cool of this project.
    • by jythie (914043)
      Only carrying one device?

      Generally digital cameras have to have some on-board processing capability, the only thing that is unusual here is they used an off the shelf compact desktop system rather then some embedded board or system on a chip type solution.
    • They discuss this in the article and point out that.

      Their point is that more versatility in tools is a good thing. Perhaps a situation arises where you for some reason need to do something funky. Maybe you're reporting on a situation and want to send a still image back to your newspaper/website/network immediately when you get to a wifi spot.

      Maybe you have rented this camera for a one-time use and have a limited budget and someone else is using the computer.

      Their philosophy seems to be "We made i
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Seriously editors, good job. A decent hack we can all appreciate.

  • I should go to the ATM machine and enter my PIN number so I can go buy one of those SSD drives myself.

  • by jovius (974690) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @10:25AM (#44706861)

    Components in general become more interchangeable in the future. Need your computer to be a camera? Attach a camera module to a CPU module - the handshaking happens and you have created a new device. How about a phone then? Add the phone module. The next wave of miniaturization is at hand.

    • Components in general become more interchangeable in the future.

      That is quite the attractive alternative to the 'everyone has their own walled garden' approach we've seen of late.

      Attractive from a consumer point of view, anyway.

      • by Nerdfest (867930)

        It is, yet if people keep throwing money at manufacturers that are pushing everything towards walled gardens (with Apple being by far the worst), it's never going to happen. I've almost resigned myself to seeing the end of open computing in the next 10 years.

    • Until someone puts out a device built from the ground up to be a and as a result has higher build quality, better battery life, lower cost, higher performance and a more appropriate user interface. All of which can be achieved by removing all the unnecessary "non-camera" things and removing the joints between the modules.

    • by Genda (560240)

      Please tell me someone is working on a functional politician module! Our current analog devices suck to high heaven.

  • Sure the system started as a mac mini but it is very highly modified and running windows. In hindsight they could have just as well started from a different platform.
    • by jedidiah (1196)

      This reminds me of a mini Mac Plus I saw on Digg yesterday. It was supposed to be the world's smallest Mac. It was not running Apple kit but was a Raspberry PI running an emulator.

      Without a discrete GPU, a Mini is a pretty generic system that can be replicated by any number of mITX boards.

      If you don't need to boot MacOS, going out of your way to use Apple hardware is a little silly.

      • by tlhIngan (30335) <[ten.frow] [ta] [todhsals]> on Thursday August 29, 2013 @11:05AM (#44707237)

        Without a discrete GPU, a Mini is a pretty generic system that can be replicated by any number of mITX boards.

        True.

        However, there aren't many complete systems readily available, and that's key. You can build a small computer using a mini-ITX board, but you still have to add processor, cooling solution (this one is fairly big) and all the other stuff (WiFi, Bluetooth, ...), and THEN build the camera. Plus being completely self contained means if it fails, all one really does is take it out, go to an Apple store, buy a new Mac Mini and shove it in. It's a lot tougher to go and buy a mini-ITX system to shove in (or run around town finding a computer store with the requisite parts).

        In this case, the mini comes self contained and working out of the box - so they can concentrate on building a camera, and not on building a PC.

        For its size, a mini makes a nice self-contained fully functional PC you can carry around.

        Plus, as a bonus, it can run OS X, because there's still plenty who do use stuff like Final Cut Pro. And a lot of filmmakers are keen on Apple stuff - if you look, a lot of the film crew are lugging around MacBook Pros or increasingly these days, iPads.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      In hindsight they could have just as well started from a different platform.

      Are there many other PCs as small as a Mac Mini?

      In this case, it sounds like they started with the smallest thing they could find, put whatever software onto it they needed, and built this case around it.

      Sounds like it's far easier to work with something that has already been designed and built to be that small instead of trying to do it yourself -- because if it was harder, they probably wouldn't have done it.

      If you've already got

    • by jasenj1 (575309) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @10:56AM (#44707157)
      If you read the original source [blackbettycameras.com], they did start with a different platform.
      "I started building a small Mini ITX PC and put it inside a metal frame. Using some parts from a low mode cage from an elderly Glidecam V20, I mounted the camera with odds and ends into a basic camera shape. It was magnificently sucky; The computer heat failed within a week!"
      The Mac mini can also run on "unregulated 12V power when the power supply was removed; this was a huge discovery! It removed the need to add any voltage regulation into the camera design." - Jasen.
  • Isn't it a problem?

    • by Maxmin (921568)

      Did you see it has a monitor? Off-body monitors are how digital camera operators view through the lens today, for the most part. Yes, for some handheld or shoulder-mounted work, operators use monocular viewfinders, but on digital rigs they're still built around a miniature lowres LCD panel anyways.

      I'm sure it's a future option on this one-off experimental rig- digital camcorders have gone all-modular, from the imager, recorder, processor etc to the monitor, viewfinder, lens, mounting, light shielding and

  • Not giving up before a project is too expensive. he could have achieved his result with many used options from canon and sony. or just buy a blackmagic.

    honestly, most of the build is to keep people from laughing at the collection of parts so it looks "pretty" and has nothing at all to do with making it work. They had a working system very early on.

  • And it runs Windows?

  • There was a time when Apple might have thought of this.

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