Introducing the Lens Apparatus, a universally compatible lens controller for TimeLapse and DSLR Videography Follow Focus control. Read more
This project was successfully funded on October 7, 2013.
About this project
About the Lens Apparatus
The Lens apparatus is a new hardware and software solution to provide time lapse and video lens control, designed to work as both a stand-alone system, as well as an add-on system for your existing motion control equipment.
Now you can shoot wide open and introduce accurate focus control and play with the Depth of Field and zoom as never before.
- Compatible with any standard 15mm rod system
- Built in suspension ensures the lens apparatus will move with the lens, instead of shoving the lens.
- Stepper motor for precise control.
- Rear mounted Stepper motor keeps the system out of view of even ultrawide lenses.
- Focus Gear uses .8 pitch gear to mate up with any standard focus ring gear.
- Black color prevents light reflections from casting unwanted light into the frame.
- Compatible with any standard 15mm rod system
- Time lapse Photography control
- Vertigo Shots
- Focus Pulls
- Live-Ramping control
- Automated control
- Repeatable moves
- Ramped motion
- Distance and shot control
- HDR support
- Focus stacking
- Live Video Control
A completely redesigned and overhauled Continuous Motion mode gives a variety of direct position and speed control methods.
- Live speed control
- A-B Keyframing (Virtual Markers)
- Variable speed motion control
- Fixed speed motion control
- Direct Positioning control
Camera Compatability - The Chronocontroller is compatible with most brands of cameras, including Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus, and Fuji. The only requirement is that the camera have a remote shutter port.
Motion Control Compatability - The Lens apparatus is universally compatible with any time lapse equipment on the market, including Dynamic Perception, eMotimo, Kessler Oracle, Ditogear, Bulb Rampers, Genie, Radian, Astro, 3rd party intervalometers with a 3.5mm connection, Promote, Timelapse+, if it can trigger a camera(not IR) it is compatible.
- The History and Prototyping of the Lens apparatus
We started development on the Lens Apparatus late Spring in 2013. I had wanted focus control capability, but was unable to find any turn-key solutions, most of them were controlled by propriety software or controllers and would only work with systems from the same manufacturer.
We had seen several online DIY attempts, even played around with a prototype that was sent to us, but there were some design concerns that I had not seen addressed, the first and foremost is getting the motor out of the way so it will not be seen in the resulting footage.
The first prototype worked great, but if the focus ring gear is not perfectly centered you risk the chance of the motor shoving the lens. By adding a spring to the design it was able to move out and compensate for the off center motion of the focus ring gear. However this did not look very professional and there was a good chance of losing the spring.
The next design was an attempt to have a built in suspension system, this was a horrible design and was virtually unusable.
The next prototype used a built in hinge mechanism to keep it steady, however the Acrylic made squeaking noises when moving.
Image of final (white) prototype was made from a new material which was self lubricating unlike the acrylic, and gave very smooth motion. From here it was a color choice away from being finished.
About the ChronoController
- Designed as a universal motion controller system for real time movement and time lapse photography.
- Hosts a very robust stepper control feature set not seen in any other system, as well as more traditional time lapse control capability.
- Controls a single stepper motor, up to 2 amps per phase.
- Full timelapse control engine offers a flexible orchestration between the camera shutter release and stepper motion.
- Sync mode offers extremely easy integration with 3rd party controllers, intervalometers, bulb rampers, or anything else that can trigger a camera, including in-camera intervalometers and Magic Lantern firmware.
- For a complete list check out the Chronocontroller instruction manual online at www.thechronosproject.com
Of course the Lens Apparatus on its own is not very useful. You need a good way to control it. Our solution, was our ChronoController. This is our universal motion controller, loaded with useful features and an extremely flexible time lapse engine.
The Chronocontroller has taken several re-designs since the first Chronos rail was designed. The first design looked fantastic, with nice clear sides and a clean minimalist approach. It was non removable and labor intensive to build.
The next version was identical in electronics, but used a self locking puzzle-box design that we had cut out with a laser at a local plastics shop. The outer shell was much faster to create than the original enclosure, however all the electronics were still took roughly 3-4 hours to solder together and cost around $450.
Realizing that the price, build time, and effort for the controller was unacceptable we designed our own Arduino ChronoShields to simplify the build process.
We are currently working on a new design to eliminate the Arduino and put everything on a single board, using SMT components and full PCB assembly services, this next step depends on the success of this Kickstarter project.
Video Use Concerns
1) The lens apparatus system uses a stepper motor, these motors are excellent for precise control and repeatable moves but can be less than ideal for video work as they produce vibrations at certain speeds. We have taken care to give as many options as possible for limiting and restricting speeds in order to prevent hitting vibrations that could possibly introduce the jelly rolling shutter effect. Some Cameras, such as the Canon 5D Mark 3 do not seem to have any problems with vibration at any level, other camera such as the Olympus OMD and Fuji XE-1 do in fact show rolling shutter effect on very slow speeds. By experimenting around you can generally find some speeds that do not have any ill effects on the sensor. These limits should enable the system to work vibration free with just about any camera/lens combination. This is only a concern with video use.
2) While the Lens Apparatus does run very quiet, much like the AF systems in DSLR’s it will introduce quite a bit of unwanted noise into the audio if using the built in microphones on the cameras. The use of external microphones is recommended.
3) The stepper motor and gear can produce quite a bit of torque, care must be taken to ensure proper keyframing setup when using lenses with hard stops.
Why do we need your funding?
While we have only been running as an official LLC since spring of 2013, we have been producing systems for a few years now. Each system is hand built, with both of us working full time at other careers, time is at a very high premium for us. We have been trying to work up a surplus of parts and to keep finished products in stock and ready to ship rather than building to order. Everything we build involves custom parts and circuit boards that we fabricate ourselves, and this is very time intensive
At this point we are at a bit of a crossroads, in order to continue to operate and to keep prices at affordable levels we have to work smarter rather than harder, we need to outsource portions of the workload, including the PCB manufacturing, and machining to keep up with demand at a reasonable time scale. In order to do this we need to receive some funding to get this process started. We have a good relationship with several machining shops, as well as PCB manufacturing groups. We understand the costs of these partnerships and are excited to get started. This funding will allow us to gain a foothold to pull ourselves up to the next level. We are fully confident that we will be able to meet any demand on this Kickstarter campaign, and the higher we fund the more we can maximize our ability to produce.
The History of The Chronos Project
In 2010 I was working on a system that I called Project Orion to track the movement of stars for long exposure astro-photography. Working with basic hand tools I was able to develop a system that could accurately track stars for several minutes at focal lengths up to 200mm. I could have just purchased a turn-key system, but I like the challenge of building my own.
Kyle had heard about my efforts and offered his machining skills to help build a system with tighter tolerances and hopefully higher performance. This began a solid working relationship as well as a great friendship.
In the middle of that project I saw a night time-lapse video with the milky way stretched out in the background, it was the preview of Timescapes. Being an astrophotography enthusiast this immediately caught my attention and I wanted to try this out, but when I went online I found most of the time lapse motion control systems were lacking in ability, or prohibitively expensive, so I looked for a well-documented DIY (do it yourself) solution online and was unable to find anything that that met my demands so I decided to fix that problem by designing a system from the ground up .
I started out with building a simple self propelled wooden cart that I referred to as Speedy. It used a simple voltage regular, a low RPM motor scavenged from my first astro tracking platform, and a few gears and worked surprisingly well.
My next attempt at the same basic design was a 2 axis robot based off the wooden design that added a panning axis. This was Speedy 2.0. It was clear that these designs were very picky about the surface they ran on, and that a dolly was clearly a superior and more flexible design in many cases. I decided I wanted to take on the challenge of building a time lapse dolly.
Around this time there was a contest being hosted by the FStoppers, and I decided to make a BTS video entry for their 2011 FStoppers BTS contest, and make the entire project open source. This was the birth of Project Chronos. Of course, I did not win, but I have been a fan of the FStoppers since they started, and I hope they do realize the butterfly effect of their actions.
There were already a few successful DC/Belt driven linear rail designs, we decided to ignore what everyone else had done and do what made sense to us, which was to aim for accuracy with a stepper motor / lead-screw design. It was extremely efficient, extremely accurate, and could handle heavy loads with no problem. It went together beautifully, I put together videos, manuals, instructions, everything I could to document the build to ensure anybody who wanted one could build their very own. Once everything was online and published I thought I was finished, then somebody asked me if I could build them one. Then another, and another. That started our efforts for Chronos 2.0, where the entire control interface was overhauled and redesigned, and things have gradually been taking off ever since. I have always focused on innovation, and developed motion control capabilities and features that nobody has ever done before, such as asymmetrical ramping patterns, live ramping control, HDR support, and a variety of key framing techniques and direct positioning control. It may all sound complicated, but it is very simple to learn and use.
We learned a lot about manufacturing, and made quite a few custom designs including a system optimized for extreme cold temperatures which is currently in Antarctica we referred to as Sub-Zero. We currently have a system on every continent on the planet, and a growing reputation in the world of time lapse photography.
Earlier this year we introduced an new ultra-light version of the Chronos Rail which weight in about 5lbs, and the demand was even higher, we already have more of the Lite rails out than the HD systems. There was certainly some demand for an ultra-light ultra-portable high accuracy system. This spring we decided to go legit and started The Chronos Project LLC.
In March I decided to tackle a lens control system. I had seen some demand for but there were not many solutions, you could find the hardware, but no controller software unless you dedicated to a multi axis system such as dragon frame , but there were no universally compatible turn-key lens control systems out there. I also felt the current designs were problematic because you could see the motor in the frame with ultra wide angle lenses, or they were rigid and could push the lens if the focus gear was not perfectly centered. The ChronoController was initially designed for linear movement, and some code overhauls had to be made in order to accommodate the change without effecting the Controllers ability to control linear motion. In the end the ChronoController has become an extremely versatile and feature packed controller but is still extremely fast to setup and simple to use.
And here we are today. Several prototypes later, we have 7 of these lens controllers out being used right now and so far we have received excellent feedback. We stand with an opportunity to provide a lens control solution that is universally compatible with existing motion control systems. We are very excited about the Lens Apparatus, and all the possibilities it extends at a very reasonable price. Not only does it have enough control options to control any lens, it also has a very robust live motion engine to give smooth focus pulls with DSLR video. We are excited to see how this goes, and to continue pushing new ideas and products and to continue to innovate.
We are not responsible for any import duty taxes, please check your country regulations before ordering.
Who are we?
Chris Field, co-founder of The Chronos Project.
I have always enjoyed a challenge, For a day job I work on building and troubleshooting VoIP networks, and have been doing this for 12 years. By night I am a amateur engineer, mechanic, photographer, and avid time lapse enthusiast. Always willing to take up tasks in the spirit of "Do it yourself", The first time I tried working on a car I successfully dropped my transmission out and replaced my clutch. When I remodeled my house I taught myself how to do electrical, plumbing, flooring, drywall, granite, you name it. I have taught myself how to design circuits, work in CAD, machine with CNC, and how to program in C++. I have always been willing to take on any task no matter the size. I have designed and built a multitude of motion control systems including astro tracking platforms, time lapse rails, panning systems, time lapse studio lighting controllers, the list goes on. I have also collaborated in a 360 degree product shooting system, and offered consultation to over a dozen custom motion control systems.
. I Live in Littleton Co. with my son, and I enjoy long moonlit walks on sandy beaches, puppies, the smell of rain, and a nice full bodied beer.
Kyle Philben, co-founder of The Chronos Project.
I have always been very mechanical. I worked in the automotive industry for 11 years. I started doing CNC work about 10 years ago making parts for obsolete RC helicopters.
Later I moved onto RC car parts and other miscellaneous projects. I was always trying to find something to build. A few years ago I even built an HHO generator. Several year ago I got involved with Chris, working on a star tracking platform. Before we finished that Chris approached me about building an open source time lapse system, I agreed as I love a challenge. The wheels started turning..
We ran into a few hurdles which were quickly overcome with a little thought. After the rail was complete and running like a champ, new ideas just started pouring out of Chris..
This is how we got to where we are today. We try to think outside the box and not limit ourselves.
Be sure to check out our website with more tutorials on this system!!
Risks and challenges
The largest risk for this type of funding is either the project will not fund, or it will be slowed down by manufacturing problems.
For manufacturing in the past we have relied heavily upon our own equipment. We would get the enclosures cut out with a laser CNC at Plasticare, a local plastics and machining shop that we have a good relationship with, while we would machine out our brackets, parts, and legs with our own personal CNC router, CNC mill, and metal lathe, and other various tools and equipment at our disposal. For a large order we have already discussed pricing to have all the machining outsourced with our friends at Plasticare, ensuring we can get large quantities of parts produced in very little time. We have also spent lots of time pricing out complete PCB manufacture and assembly, alleviating a lot of the work to allow us to focus on the final assembly and shipping. So the route we take will be determined by the number of rewards we will be sending out. Under 100 we will do most of the work ourselves, possibly outsourcing the brackets and focusing on controllers. Over 100 would most likely result in the outsourcing of the PCB assembly. If we need to send out over 1,000 we would be looking to hire some help to handle the final assembly while we focus on quality control. We have examined the prices, timelines and ability of outsourcing and/or hiring. We are fully confident that between our own means and business relations we have formed with local companies that we can meet any demand.
Funding Period August – September
Resource acquisition and part procurement October – November
Shipping should start in November for the first batches, and be completed by December.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
This is a tricky question to answer, it really depends on how you are running the system.
If you are using live ramping and not microstepping, then the motor will shut off between movements to preserve power. The provided battery holder should power it a good part of the day. Depending on the batteries used.
If you are running a-b keyframing and have enabled microstepping for high resolution moves (this is really only needed if moving the lens less than 1/4 turn with more than a few hundred frames) then it will eat through the batteries within a few hours.
We do recommend using alternate forms of power if possible. We used to ship Li-ion batteries with our timelapse rails but ran into problems with the post office, also sometimes the reliability was a hit and a miss, and we did not want to warrant those due to the long shipping times. We did not want to send things with no source of power, so we swapped to these battery packs to offer a way to power the system out of the box.
I have used quite a few of the blue CCTV Li Ion batteries off ebay, make sure they are 12v and I would be sure to get something over 1800mah, generally I have used 4800mah batteries and been able to shoot all day long.
Recently i have been using the Anker Pro 10000mAh Multi-Voltage (5V 9V 12V). These can be had from amazon for $50 and will usually run any of our systems for several days.
This system will work with any DSLR or mirrorless camera with a shutter release port. Sony, Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, are all supported. Panasonic WILL work with this, due to the way they build thier shutter release mechanism (using varied resistances instead of shorts) we do not provide cables for panasonic, however we can show you a link where you can get a cable that should work.
Yes it can, you can use the MX2 to control the rail such as a Stage 1 or Stage 0, and run the shutter output from the MX2 to the input of the Chronocontroller, and then run the camera cable from the Chronocontroller output to the Camera. Then when running a routine use SGO mode instead of MGO. This way the Chronocontroller will monitor the shutter line and make the movements at the correct time.
This is the same way it would integrate with any other systems that are capable of triggering cameras, including but not limited to Dynamic Perception, Ditogear, Kessler, Genie, Radian, Astro, Konova, eMotimo, or any other time lapse motion control system.
Keep in mind, the apparatus itself cannot be driven directly from the MX2 as it uses a stepper motor and the MX2 only controls DC motors.
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Get a sweet Chronos Project sticker and your name on our website.Estimated delivery:
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Back us with $35 and you will receive an awesome Project Chronos T-Shirt, and a sticker!Estimated delivery:Ships anywhere in the world
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Bare Apparatus Reward! NEW! With this reward you will get a Lens Apparatus all by itself without the controller. This is perfect for DIY Projects. We will have an option for terminated or unterminated cable. Includes T Shirt, Sticker and Adjustable Lens Belt Gear.Estimated delivery:Ships anywhere in the world
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12 backers All gone!
Early Bird Special!
"Standard Package" - Lens Apparatus
- Camera Cable
- Adjustable lens gear belt
- AA Battery pack
- Plus "Big Backer" reward.Estimated delivery:Ships anywhere in the world
Pledge $395 or more
"Standard Package" - Lens Apparatus - Chronocontroller - Camera Cable - Adjustable lens gear belt - AA Battery pack, Plus "Big Backer" reward.Estimated delivery:Ships anywhere in the world
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"Deluxe Package" - Everything in the Standard package plus a basic 15mm rod support system and Big Backer PackageEstimated delivery:Ships anywhere in the world
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"Pro Package" - Everything in the Deluxe package, and Big Backer package plus an endless lens ring gear.Estimated delivery:Ships anywhere in the world
- (45 days)