About this project
Water drop photography is both an art and a form of technology. It requires a lot of patience but it is really rewarding when you are experienced with it. However, in order to capture precise moment of collision, just an eye dropper is not enough. This is where this project comes in -- synchronizing all events in a controlled way.
What is it?
This High Speed Water Drop Photography Kit (WDK for short) is an easy to use and powerful tool for those who want to capture moments of liquid drop collisions, experienced or new comers!
WDK consists of controller with remote control, solenoid valve, water subsystem, and frame support subsystem.
- A -- Water bottle (water subsystem)
- B -- clamp for water bottle (frame support subsystem)
- C -- Solenoid valve (2P025 type)
- D -- right angle bracket with M10 screw connecting clamp and bracket. (frame support subsystem)
- E -- anodized aluminum bar (black) (frame support subsystem)
- F -- three channels controller (along with remote controls makes up of controller subsystem)
- G -- PT-04 wireless transmitter (optional, NOT included in this project)
- H -- camera extension cable and camera release cable (please specify what camera you have), it is INCLUDED.
How does it work?
Basically, when user presses the EXEC button on remote control, WDK controller starts two timelines. One timeline is the water drop release sequence -- open the solenoid valve and let water to flow, after predetermined time, ie, drop size, WDK controller closes the valve and wait for predetermined amount of time to start next drop sequence if there is any.
Another timeline is the camera and flash control timeline -- WDK controller will wait predetermined amount of time (Flash Delay) until it reaches the time to release camera (which is connected via camera release port) and then trigger the flash.
The flash and camera timeline is the dominate timeline that can terminate the water drop timeline when it reaches the end.
So, bascially, WDK controller will control both the water drops, camera, and flashes to synchronize all of the events upon receiving an IR signal from remote control, in the hand of user.
Some In-Depth Analysis of Water Drop Splash
It sounds simple, but there are much more to it, it is not just openning and closing valves and tripping camera and flashes, but also engineering a good performance system. Yes, engineering!
To be able to create a good engineering solution, understand it first. For those who are really curious about water drop collision, here are some more experiments we did during development of this kit.
Understanding some basic behavior is important. This video shows both how precise the controller is and how a crown is formed with single drop. In particular, this video is done with series of images captured using this kit, it is a bit choppy because I did not wait for the water to settle.
Another key research is the so called "stray" drops. And this slow motion video show how a single drop becomes two -- in "dropper" community, the second one is called stray drop due to, I believe, gravity. It can be clearly seen that with larger drop size (ie, valve kept open for longer time), it is pulled apart by gravity and becomes two.
Lighting and Lighting setup can make or break an image. This picture below shows how lighting setup can affect outcome. The image on the left is lit by two flashes one is triggered by wireless trigger and the other is triggered optically by the first. It shows significant double exposure because the two flashes are not triggered simultaneously, even by small amount. The right image is lit by three flashes, one is triggered by wireless trigger but does not contribute to exposure because it is pointing away and placed far away. The other contributing flashes are triggered optically. The result is clean solid image.
Precison and consistency is important. The image below shows drop precision test during R&D. Ten pair of drops were dropped and they were captured in the mid air consecutively. As you can see, in contrast with background marker, these ten pairs are almost at the same positiion, they line up nicely. What this means is consistency of overall system -- controller, solenoid valve and nozzle operating in concert.
For more information like this, please download the manual, it has more in details (see download link below).
So Why (again)?
Some might ask: if everything is automated by the controller, what fun is there? Well, water drop photography is more than just synchronizing all the event, it is also about crafty experience: what additive to add to water, how much additive should be added, at what point of collision should be captured, any air blower to move the collision . . . zillions of possibilities.
And this is why there are communicties of the so called "droppers". And anytime you get into one of these communitiy, you will be amazed how much ideas you will get.
English manual (27 pages in PDF format) is available for anyone who want to read more about WDK in details. This document not only contains technical specifications, jargons and terminology, but also offer some basic tips on how to get started quickly. I believe these tips are valuable, even for experienced users.
To download or view the document, here is the link http://www.docdroid.net/415v/wdk-manual.pdf.html (for some reason, sometimes, I could not click on it directly, but a copy and paste of that link will get you to the document)
Why This Project (again and again)?
I started doing water drop photography since 2005 with a simple laser detection circuit that I built and an eye dropper. At the time, I was not aware of any existing systems and when I was aware of them, they are out of my reach -- too expensive.
Another reason, well, too complicated to use.
So I finally got time to build the very first version of water drop controller a couple of years ago, but after a while I found it hard to use because in order to change a parameter, I have to flip through menus to get to it.
Another dangerous aspect of that controller is all the wires connected to the controller -- when things get tangled up, it is not a good idea to hold it and play with it. I once pulled down the whole water system and made a mess in my living room.
Then I designed another system with Arduino platform and use PC to control it so that I can sit at my desk, but still it would require a PC and clicking through the menu is not good idea.
One more thing about water drop photography: it is kind of tiring when you shoot thousands of pictures in a session, I'd rather sit on couch than holding a controller with wires connected to it.
So, this project was born -- one push of a button leads you to the right parameter and adjust it, best of all, no physical contact with setup. After ironing out some of minor issues, I am very happy with it and decided to offer it to all (potential) "droppers".
Now, I can sit on a stool next to my camera . . . and shooting splashes for hours. Why on a stool? The wife would not let me shoot a session in living room after the mess I made with previous design, it is either a stool or couch to sleep in . . .
Here are some key improvements over my old menu based system:
- Once setup is complete, no physical contact with controller and camera.
- One button access to parameters, no more flipping through levels of menus.
- Easy adjustment of values
- One button of execution of a shot!
- Three channels of high power ports -- this means much more possibilities.
Here are some important specifications, for details, please download the manual:
- It can control up to three separate solenoid valves (or any other devices, such as a fan to blow air, etc)
- Max power supply voltage is 24V
- Each solenoid driving port is protected from accidental short circuit by a thermal fuse (PTC).
- Max current allowed to drive EACH solenoid valve is 1A, it is purposedly limited by a thermal fuse (PTC) individually because most valves used will have less current requirement.
- Max flash trigger voltage is 12V, this is IMPORTANT, please check your flash manual before connecting to it.
- Power supply (for those who purchased the option with it) is rated 12V 2A with 110-220V input.
- The input port is a standard 5V TTL with pull-up resistors
- Remote control uses standard CR-2025 button cell type battery
- It can control both camera and flash
- Other details, please read manual.
Where Is This Project At?
In terms of progress: this project has reached pre-production stage -- many kits (made with very expensive small run order) have been sent to end (some are paying) users for testing. It is very stable and does what it does well.
The remote control is very sensitive, I could control it from about 3 meters (9ft) away with fresh battery. Surprisingly, one remote control was used for tens thousands of shots and its battery is still good, though its control range is a bit less at about 1.5 meter (4.5ft), still good enough to sit on my stool . . .
The solenoid valve selected is 2P025 type after experimenting with many different type of valves during R&D stage. It is rather precise when it comes to dropping water drops -- it can be observed in the video where ten shots were shown and there is almost no positional difference as seen in video.
All parts are sourced with credible suppliers with enough production capabilties, even with custom orders.
In terms of location: I am currently in Shenzhen, China! This gives me tremendous advantage in terms of PCB fabrication, sourcing parts, manufacturing, and dealing with production issues if any. Yes, I am where all manufacturing will happen and I do speak their language!
Overall, this project is ready for production. Your support will be greatly appreciated and it will help me to bring it to market. Let WDK handle the mundane tasks of synchronizing all events and leave all the creative part to you.
Because the controller has the capability of controlling up to three solenoid valves, there are endless possibility. The stock configuration and water system might be limiting in this sense. Building a large setup is very possible.
In case that you intend to do customization, and because it is not known what solenoid valve you have, the pledge for controller is highly recommended so that you do not waste money on the bottles, supporting systems.
How Funds Will Be Used
When ordering from a factory with all qualifications/certificates and at lower price, normally there will be a minimum order requirement. Currently, this requirement is well over our reach even for the first production run of assembled board. This is where your support comes in: 100% of the funds to secure first run of production will be from this KickStarter funding campaign!
When and if the funding goal is met, the following will be executed simultaneously:
- First production run of assembled boards, it takes about two weeks based on our experience with our assembly vendor. Since we have ordered small runs from them, all issues have been resolved, we are fairly confident that shipment will start THREE weeks after funding goal is met.
- For Early Birds pledges, there are still some small run production left, so shipment will start immediately after funding deadline. If there are more Early Bird pledges than what we have left, more will be ordered using small run production to fullfill it, though very expensive, we will keep our promise.
- 1000 remote controls will be ordered as they are custom made and must be ordered in thousands. It takes about two weeks. However, during design and development stage, there are still about 900+ remotes left. This makes Early Bird shipments as early as possible.
- 500 laser machined front and back acrylic cover will be ordered as they are sourced from a nearby city (Guangdong) and must order in 500s. It takes them about one day to fullfill an order of 500. These can be ordered as shipment goes out.
- The solenoid valve is not sourced locally (Shenzhen, China) but because it is a widely used pneumatic parts for precision control of industrial automation, it can be ordered as shipment goes out.
- All other parts are sourced locally and easily availabe in Shenzhen, China, so all of them are ordered in small batches as shipment goes out.
Early Bird pledge are those pledges made in October (assuming this project goes live in early to mid October). We have some small run boards and remote controls left during R&D stage, so as soon as the funding goal is met, we can get all other parts ready and ship them in first couple of days (if not too many of Early Bird pledges)
If number of Early Bird pledges exceeds what we have, as more pledges are coming, we will order more small run production boards, though a lot more expensive, we intend to keep our promise.
Early Bird Reward for $99 -- controller with two remote controls (without CR2025 battery) plus camera release cable for you camera and extension cable for it. So please specify your camera model when pledging.
Early Bird Reward for $129 -- controller with two remote controls (without CR2025 battery) plus camera release cable for you camera and extension cable for it. So please specify your camera model when pledging. In addtion, a 12V 2A power supply. For power supply, please specify the plug type -- US, EU or UK type .
Early Bird Reward for $149 -- it has everything (except the wireless trigger and the tripod) needed to setup a single valve system -- controller with remote (no battery), solenoid valve, nozzles, water subsystem, frame support subsystem.
Regular Reward for $129 -- controller with two remote controls (without CR2025 battery) plus camera release cable for you camera and extension cable for it. So please specify your camera model when pledging.
Regular Reward for $149 -- controller with two remote controls (without CR2025 battery) plus camera release cable for you camera and extension cable for it. So please specify your camera model when pledging. In addtion, a 12V 2A power supply. For power supply, please specify the plug type -- US, EU or UK type.
Regular Rewards for $186 -- it has everything (except the wireless trigger and the tripod) needed to setup a single valve system -- controller with remote (no battery), solenoid valve, nozzles, water subsystem, frame support subsystem.
How To Choose Which Pledge:
I am pretty sure I am going to run into some of you "droppers" here. So the controller and/or controller with power supply option are designed for you who already have a system but want to be lazy with remote or upgrade to three valves system
For those new comers, a complete system is recommended as it is pretty hard to find all the parts in your local hardware or plumbing store. And it is probably cheaper getting the whole set.
Of course, if you are an abtious new comer who want to build your own pool (yupp, some "droppers" build large catching tray system of their own), you can choose the controller only pledge.
Shipping & Custom Duty
All pledges will be shipped from Shenzhen China directly to reduce cost. All shipments will be registered mail with tracking number.
Many rewards do not exceed custom duty threshold for many countries, but please check with your country custom for details. Remember, most custom thresholds are based on CIF (cost, insurance, and freight), so please include shipping cost in the total.
Important note: currently, it seems most of carriers do not like batteries of any kind. So the remote control is stripped of standard button cell CR2025 battery. This mean, you have to purchase it in your local store.
There will be NO colorful packing boxes for this. One reason is to reduce potential production risk because they must be custom ordered. Another reason is to reduce cost and personally, I do not see value in those colorful boxes at all.
But all components will be wrapped with enough bubble wraps and foams to protect it from hazardous shipping conditions. It has been proven successful for our user testing shipments all over the world.
Though living in Shenzhen, China gives me great advantage, there is one thing that bugs me the most -- inability to access FaceBook, Twitter, Youtube, blogspot, etc. So please execuse me not responding to facebook, twitter or other social media (I do have account but not able to access them freely). If you have WEIBO, a Chinese version of Twitter of sort, however, drop me a line @美吉客自做
However, I do have Flickr account and it is here:
Many images will be posted there and shared with anyone who are interesed in water drop photography.
Risks and challenges
This project has NO plastic injection/molding part which normally could go very wrong if not communicated right between parties involved. So this is a big help in terms of potential production risks.
Not having colorful packing boxes also help to reduce potential risk because these must be custom ordered with LARGE quantities.
All parts in this project have been carefully thought out and selected in terms of availability and quality. All suppliers have CAD/specification file for custom parts (PCB fabrication, acrylic covers, camera release extension cable), and these parts have been ordered in small quantities during R&D stage, so most of the potential glitches were ironed out already.
As the saying goes, never say never.
It is possible that a new staff from a supplier could not locate our files and delay our shipment. To resolve this issue, we simply sent those files over again.
It is also possible, as I have experienced before, that during PCB assembly production, WRONG parts are soldered on the board, even if that board was made by the same supplier before for small run. That means manual correction (if only one or two) or re-run of production.
The above are actual experiences I encounterd when dealing with supplier in Shenzhen (or China or anywhere in the world for that matter -- communication is key), but I have learned and am prepared. Good thing about larger orders is that you get to visit factory in person, so you can watch over any mistakes, and I am in Shenzhen and actually I love to visit factory floors to see things get made.
Not sure why KickStarter does not have a section for shipping risks, but if there are too many orders, shipping them all in timely manner could pose potential risk due to temporary staff shortage. This would, in turn, affect overall satisfactory when scaling up the production, a problem for many small firms.
Another shipping risk is the delay/damage caused by carrier. The busy holiday season is coming, so there will be tons of packages in the mail, it is NOT going to be like normal.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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