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 Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software 
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Joined: Wed Dec 08, 2010 3:21 am
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Post Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
I finally had some time recently to start hacking my Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher pan/tilt head.

I found the timelapse capabilities of papywizard with the preset generator more than cumbersome and limiting so I started writing my own application.

What I already have:
A Java application with the class to send serial commands to my head. I can rotate all axes at any speed.
There is some excellent documentation about the serial protocol here: http://www.papywizard.org/wiki/DevelopG ... onprotocol though I found some incomplete parts


What I want to add:
Allow full custom curve movements on both axis with a nice gui to draw curves and preview motion.

The plan is to release everything as open source.

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Fri Apr 22, 2011 3:24 am
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
That sounds great. Ramping into and out of a move would be a real nice improvement. A graphical interface would be really useful. Maybe let it have keyframes and several curves that you can apply if linear isn't good enough. Would this work with the two motor outputs so the dolly and another motor can also be ramped?


Fri Apr 22, 2011 5:11 am
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
Nice project. Also check Chris Church's MX2 code for alternative implementation. I believe he uses non Goto commands to achieve really slow slew rates.

http://dynamicperception.com/?main_page ... age_id=334

source code here - http://openmoco.svn.sourceforge.net/vie ... unt/trunk/

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Fri Apr 22, 2011 5:59 am
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
sebastian wrote:
I finally had some time recently to start hacking my Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher pan/tilt head.

I found the timelapse capabilities of papywizard with the preset generator more than cumbersome and limiting so I started writing my own application.

What I already have:
A Java application with the class to send serial commands to my head. I can rotate all axes at any speed.
Claude has excellent documentation about the serial protocol here: http://www.papywizard.org/wiki/DevelopG ... onprotocol though I found some incomplete parts, I will try to get in touch with him to complete it.


What I want to add:
Allow full custom curve movements on both axis with a nice gui to draw curves and preview motion.

The plan is to release everything as open source.


8-) This sounds brilliant! I wondered if someone would try to put something together that emulates what the users of CAMBlock have... GUI sounds great. I know from this past year experience that Claude and the others at papywizard.org are extremley helpful and very informative and big supporters of open scource and sharing. Have been using papywizard for time lapse with my merlin since last year and agree that it is difficult for that. I recall that Frédéric originally intended for built-in time lapse in papywizard but so far hasn't had the time to incorperate it.

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Sat Apr 23, 2011 3:20 pm
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
Sounds great.
Does programming everyting mean that the Software will run on every device that supports Java? e.g.smartphones?
Is there a chance that this will offer a mode that works like Papywizard? That would be great for us pano shooters. At the moment you have to carry a clunky laptop with you to control the Merlin (yeah, I know there is this ancient Nokia tablet...)

Best Regards
David

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Sat Apr 23, 2011 10:54 pm
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
Quote:
Would this work with the two motor outputs so the dolly and another motor can also be ramped?


The software just sends serial commands to the head, it does not control any motor directly in terms of electric power.

If the arduino and dollyshield inside the mx2 controller can also receive serial commands it would be possible that this software can talk to the head and dolly as well and control its motion, though this would need verifying first.


Quote:
Nice project. Also check Chris Church's MX2 code for alternative implementation. I believe he uses non Goto commands to achieve really slow slew rates.

http://dynamicperception.com/?main_page ... age_id=334

source code here - http://openmoco.svn.sourceforge.net/vie ... unt/trunk/


Thanks! Some of the serial commands are still a mystery to me ( like the "I<axis>220000" command with the four trailing zeros, what are they for? the first 2 digits set the speed with 2 hex values LSB first) so anything that can help me get a clearer understanding is greatly appreciated!


Quote:
Sounds great.
Does programming everyting mean that the Software will run on every device that supports Java? e.g.smartphones?
Is there a chance that this will offer a mode that works like Papywizard? That would be great for us pano shooters. At the moment you have to carry a clunky laptop with you to control the Merlin (yeah, I know there is this ancient Nokia tablet...)


Java is by default cross platform compatible though the code currently relies on the external RXTX library (http://rxtx.qbang.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page) which is available for Linux, Windows, Mac and Solaris.
Android Apps are written in Java but with a custom GUI, so porting should be possible, though I am not sure how to do the serial command interfacing on these devices. Maybe using the USB connector is possible on some devices but its possible that it will require different drivers for every device or that it does not work on some devices at all.

Java ME is another topic.

My primary focus is on timelapse (I have no intentions to recreate papywizard) and PCs (but I would gladly help anyone who wants to port it to other platforms).

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Sun Apr 24, 2011 7:00 am
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
Hi sebastian,

I guess you know that Papywizard runs with a small and inexpensive BlueTooth device that is connected to the Merlin head.
I am asking because IMO it is very impractical to run a long timelapse with laptop because it will need an extra battery to run the whole night, whereas a smartphone could run everything the whole night via BlueTooth.
USB won't work on a smart phone because AFAIK you need a USB host function for this and no smart phone offers this (yet).
Of course I don't know how much effort it is to write such a programm - just giving you my input on this.

Looking forward to test whatever you come up with.

Best Regards
David

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Sun Apr 24, 2011 10:18 am
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
Here is my first progress report and what I found out so far:

If you see an error or misinterpretation please let me know.


Speed
For continuous movement there seem to be only 2 speed modes/ratios available each with 255 speed settings.

"Slow" goes from 2.16 degrees per minute to 28.08 degrees per minute

"Fast" goes from 56 degrees per minute to 245 degrees per minute


The "Slew" Mode is only good for the GOTO commands which I did not get into yet.


There also seems to be an even slower "track/guide" mode which is available on the handcrontrol but I did not find out yet how to use this mode from the serial interface.


Motion
If you just want continous motion with a constant custom speed you can start the motion from the software and then disconnect the cable (and turn off your computer). The head will not stop movement when you unplug the cable.


This is what the program currently looks like:


Attachments:
panohead.jpg [80.49 KiB]
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Fri Apr 29, 2011 4:04 am
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
New Version with integrated GOTO features is ready.

The good news is that the integrated GOTO controller seems to be pretty accurate. Average stepping error is around 0.01°. More accuracy could be achieved by moving the head "manually" with the speed commands and constantly checking the step position and adjusting speed accordingly. With this approach it would take longer to reach the GOTO position but we might be able to get the error down even further.

This does not say much about the real physical motion error due to mechanical components of the head, this is purely about the motion of the motor as measured by the optical encoder.


I looked for a good name for the software before registring for a google code repository and settled for "Chronomotion", I hope you like the name, I don't think Google offers the option to change it... ;)

http://code.google.com/p/chronomotion/

Initial code release is there already, though in still pretty rough condition (like hardcoded "COM1" as port, etc.) and the GPL headers are still missing.

I will deal with cleaning up soon.


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Wed May 11, 2011 6:47 am
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
sebastian wrote:
Speed
For continuous movement there seem to be only 2 speed modes/ratios available each with 255 speed settings.

"Slow" goes from 2.16 degrees per minute to 28.08 degrees per minute

"Fast" goes from 56 degrees per minute to 245 degrees per minute

Looking good. Any luck getting slower speeds? 2.16 degrees per minute is still too fast for starscapes. The DP MX2 can get to 0.1 degree per minute using non-Goto commands. Best to connect with Chris Church at Dynamic Perception for details.

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Sun May 22, 2011 4:47 pm
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
I just made the first binary release: http://code.google.com/p/chronomotion/downloads/list

Usage Instructions are here: http://code.google.com/p/chronomotion/w ... structions

Please note that it is still a very early alpha release and you might discover bugs/problems.

Please test and help with reports about issues here: http://code.google.com/p/chronomotion/issues/list


COM ports are now auto discovered.

I also ordered a dynamic perception dolly so maybe I will be able to test with the complete system this fall.

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Wed Jul 27, 2011 2:19 am
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
Ahh yes, the Merlin head =)

Part of the problem, and part of the reason I had to re-write parts of the MerlinMount library is that the Papywizard guys don't link people to the actual best document on the protocol - so, it's insanely hard to find... Here you go: this explains everything about "what those speed numbers mean" and what the changes I made to the library do: http://sites.google.com/site/rwgastro/S ... edirects=0

!c


Thu Jul 28, 2011 9:56 am
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
so, any news about this software? i´d love to use it..


Thu Feb 23, 2012 8:21 am
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
Are you the same guy that asked pretty much the same question on the kolor forum?
http://www.kolor.com/forum/viewtopic.ph ... 346#p95346

I spent some time implementing timeline like features where you can add keyframes the and the motor will follow the curves positions over time. Its not completed yet though. So far the amount of feedback or demand for this software cycled between very low to non existent. To be honest you are the first person interested in it for some time ;)
I was hoping for more people to get involved - after all its an open source project. My time is limited and because of the above I did not spend much time on the software recently.

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Thu Feb 23, 2012 9:40 am
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
sebastian wrote:
... spent some time implementing timeline like features where you can add keyframes the and the motor will follow the curves positions over time. Its not completed yet though. So far the amount of feedback or demand for this software cycled between very low to non existent. To be honest you are the first person interested in it for some time ;)
I was hoping for more people to get involved - after all its an open source project. My time is limited and because of the above I did not spend much time on the software recently.



Actually, i've been very interested in this since before you announced it... just didn't hear anything new and figured you had abandoned it.

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Thu Feb 23, 2012 12:21 pm
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
As above, have been subscribing this topic in anticipation since it was first posted.

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Thu Feb 23, 2012 12:42 pm
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
Hurray, your support/anticipation is the currency to pay us open source developers! :-)

I created 2 mailing lists for Chronomotion
Chronomotion Announcement For receiving updates on new releases or other major events (only admins can post to the list):
http://groups.google.com/group/chronomo ... nouncement

Chronomotion Tech Support & Development For asking tech support questions and developer discussion(only subscribers can post to the list):
http://groups.google.com/group/chronomotion-tech


And I attached a screenshot of the current state of development.


Attachments:
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Fri Feb 24, 2012 12:51 am
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
yes, i also wrote on the autopano forum, i just wanted to make sure you read it somewhere ;) sorry for that!

well, the newest screenshot looks fabolous!
i hope more people will get interested in this project, so you get encouraged to carry on developing it :-)
sadly, my coding skills are very basic..


Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:54 am
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
I'm also still interested, particularly in the keyframe/follow curve options. Did you manage to get the slew rate down to 0.1 degrees per minute? If so, I'd like to see 2nd decimal precision above 0.1. Thanks.

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Sat Feb 25, 2012 5:55 pm
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
timeless wrote:
yes, i also wrote on the autopano forum, i just wanted to make sure you read it somewhere ;) sorry for that!

well, the newest screenshot looks fabolous!
i hope more people will get interested in this project, so you get encouraged to carry on developing it :-)
sadly, my coding skills are very basic..


I am already motivated again to continue!
Though I have another big open source project which is currently taking most of my time:



So I will need to do some clever time management, but any help would be greatly appreciated.



colinmlegg wrote:
I'm also still interested, particularly in the keyframe/follow curve options. Did you manage to get the slew rate down to 0.1 degrees per minute? If so, I'd like to see 2nd decimal precision above 0.1. Thanks.


When I started with the keyframe curve approach I stopped the tests with rotation speeds, so sorry I did not get the very slow speed to work yet.
But for the keyframe feature its actually not required as it works as move-stop-move. Currently its using the heads internal GOTO commands which are not 100% accurate (the head is happy if it gets ~100 steps close to the target steps) but probably good enough for most timelapse applications. Another option would be to implement the position GOTO routine in the software and poll the heads current position and adjust speed/direction accordingly. With this approach I am sure we could get accuracy down to <10 steps though position finding will take slightly longer.

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Sun Feb 26, 2012 2:24 am
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Post Re: Creating New Merlin/Orion/Skywatcher Timelapse Software
Chronomotion has reached a major milestone in development.

-) Animation GUI to create any custom curve
-) Bezier Interpolation
-) Moved from Netbeans to more sophisticated Eclipse IDE

Image



Latest source code is on GIT (http://apertus.org/en/chronomotion), binary release should follow soon if there are people interested in testing.

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Fri Dec 14, 2012 2:19 am
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