Autokap vs videolink and remote control

edited August 2009 in Control Systems
I started PAP, BAP and KAP with the idea of controlling every shot composition using a remote controller and a video link.
I built 3 very complex rigs using carbon with different sorts of receivers and video emitters.

The overall conclusion is that a remote control + video link system brings more problems than solutions :
- On the rig side power needs are very different for the receiver, the servos and the video emitter. Most of the tiome a tension converter or different batteries are needed and this decreases the autonomy and increases weight)
- On remote controller you need a battery for the remote, a bettery for the screen an possibly another one for the video receiver that may work on 12v
- on the ground you can't control the camera and control the kite at the same time. It can be a problem if you need to take the kite back very fast because of a major wind drop (happens sometimes especially around the mediteranean area)

So I gave a try to AUTOKAP using an Aurico chip and a floform 16 becotized + a Ricoh GRDII during my vacations. The result was over all my expectations : it's a more reliable, more simple and lighter solution for almost every need.

Even if i can't control the shots the aurico takes so much different pictures that ai always get what i need (even if i sometime need to assemble a few shots). I even can make splendid panoramas :

Click on the picture to see it in HD (be carefull it's 60Megapixels)

As a final word I suggest to everyone who wants a complete control on his rig to try autokap.
Sometimes the more simple is the better.



  • Sylvestre, I agree with you completely, at least for recreational KAP -- but I think many KAPers just need to go through the whole evolution that we did before drawing the same conclusion.

    I wish I had a dollar for every inquiry I've had from people who want to fly their Canon 5D with Sigma wide-angle and video -- I'd almost be able to retire again!
  • Welcome to the club Sylvestre.

    I find that using a CHDK / SDM autoKap set up lets me concentrate on flying the kite and watching out for problems around me like trees or people. Because I am not choosing when to take a shot I find that I have a far higher sucess rate. I am able to focus on moving the camera around and getting it in the right place which I have learned to do without the use of video aiming. Practice and big SD cards that allow me to take lots of pictures thats the secret.
  • I thought that I would eventually migrate to R/C KAP but, after two years, I don't see an overwhelming need. I am impressed with Rob Huntley's RC photos but he made good shots with his AUTOKAP rig, too, when we did our central Idaho photography trip. As for big SD cards, a lot of pictures go onto a 4 gig card, which can be purchased for $10 these days. I use an 8 gig and carry a total of over 30 gigs when I travel. The most I've used is about 6 gigs over a couple of days. (But I'm not getting the amount of air time that I would like.)
  • I find I do a mix. Hiking KAP is a good example. For the big sweeping panorama, I don't think RC KAP can even touch autoKAP for the level of assurance that you hit every angle and can stitch big panoramas. But without a really flexible autoKAP controller, covering people hiking along a trail really works better for me using an RC rig. There's a changing window of pan angles that of use for photographing the people, but at any one time it's pretty darned narrow. I like that mix.

    At the same time I never have gotten into video downlink. I think I'd lose my mind (or my kite and gear!) if I had to split my attention that way. But... Never having tried it, I can't say what I would really do with it. For the future...

  • Sylvestre, wonderful shot - love the HD at full res.

    As for Auto KAP - It is all I shoot as I love to fly kites. The main advantages from my point of view on Auto KAP are:

    - get to focus on flying the kite (a bit safer with less variables to distract you from flying)
    - wide variation of shooting angles that some times capture things you do not know are there (and thus would not point the RC rig at).
    - lower overall weight
    - less demand on batteries
    - lower overall costs (I have two kids in college....)

    I do fly with the AuRiCo and CHDK cameras (using WW KAP script) to switch between still and video. I also use large SD cards (16 GB) to captures lots of pictures and video.

    I have missed time sensitive shots (like a boat passing under a bridge or other non stationary objects (think helicopters....)) where an RC rig may have help "capture the shot".

    Folks who do this for a living I am certain would prefer the RC set up....

    For me I am sticking with the Auto KAP rig with AuRiCo plus the CHDK WW KAP scripts to add a bit of spice (zoom bracket, exposure bracket, video switch....).

  • Sylvestre,
    I totally agree, I started a few years ago with a RC Rig then a few months later, I added a video transmitter but before going out Kaping I had to charge :
    The battery on the camera
    The battery for the RC TX
    The battery for the RC RX
    The battery for the video TX
    The battery for the video RX
    Of course some equipement are 110 volts only with US prongs, some are 220 volts with australian prongs, some are 220 volts with US/Japan prongs, so this means that I need to play with prongs and transformers... not simple to travel with a case loaded with chargers and transformers....
    While touring Scotland, Simon Harbord made us discover Deltas and AutoKAp, we were concentrating on our screens and RC, Simon was really enjoying flying his bird.... Why were we not enjoying the same ? the answer is obvious we were looking for results, Simon was letting the results come to him and this really makes the whole difference in the pleasure of KAP.
    I think in the past 12 months we only used the RC and video rig once just because we had a specific commission and it is so much more enjoyable to travel with a small KAP bag rather than a full suitcase of chargers and wires !!! we now have time to enjoy flying our kites and probably manage to get the same results as with a fully loaded rig !

    Pierre & Heidy

    BTW : super ta photo en HD
  • I agree with all points made, but feel obligated to point out that video feed back does not always require a 2nd system. With DuneCam I'm able to use a single transmitter and receiver for controlling the rig and monitoring the digital camera's video. This means a single battery in the air (not including the camera's) and a single battery on the ground. Traveling is easy since the ground controller is smaller than most. It includes an intervalometer function and you can even program scripts for panos and autoKAP.
  • edited September 2009
    AutoKAP makes hundreds of pictures and requires lot of time to sort and work with pictures. Also it takes more time for shooting. Often I missed interesting targets so I'm back using video-assisted KAP. Fastest way to complete shooting and less images to be walk through.
  • edited September 2009
    Thanks for your support.

    maybe we could start a "new born autokapers" club ;-)

    I agree with you linnar, the video link is very usefull to capture live action but I don't think kap is a proper way to capture live action anyway, I prefer Helikite or PAP in this case, they are more stable platforms and they never fall down so you don't have to focuss on flying them ;-)

    All in all the objections are true, autokap is a lot of pictures, sometimes it misses an interesting object,...

    But I used Video/RC systems professinally for urban planning/architecture photography with an helikite for some time and I feel like I'll never use it again. The setup is too long, the 10mw video link is not very reliable and I have to carry too much stuff on the ground so that's a major pain when I have to move around a lot or travel light.

    I don't spend too much time sorting the pictures after an autokap session and if you set the delay between shots to 5 sec the rig takes around 2 to 4 mins to make a comptete revolution. That's not too much time at all.

    Now that I have my autokap system I can carry all my kap stuff everytime I go out so I miss less shots than with a video + RC rig staying at home.

    But as a final word maybe I should try the dunecam system instead of my heavy hitec controller.


    pierre : merci pour le compliment :-)
  • edited September 2009
    Another possibility is what I call (for myself) hybrid-KAP - I use the BEAK autoKAP rig and added a videolink transmitter:

    BEAK with videolink

    The idea behind it is simple. I use the BEAK for autoKAP the way most of us are using it, but if I'd like to shoot for something specific and want to aim I use the videolink to anticipate the composition while I walk back and forth and the BEAK turns. Bit of a time-saving method.

    But I have to admit, most of the times I go for straight autoKAP.

  • Since I came to KAP from the RCAP side of the hobby, it seemed natural for me to begin with an RC controlled rig. I have since added a downlink video and enjoy it, though I must admit I haven't used it very much. I handle the multiple voltage requirements for both the flying rig and ground station with voltage regulator units.

    One thing I like about an RC system is being able to trip the shutter when it looks like the camera is relatively still.

    Sylvestre, could you please tell me more (or post a link) about the helikite you mentioned?

    Have Fun,
  • Bob, there is lots of stuff in earlier threads about Helikite.
  • @Linnar
    I cannot agree with you,
    sorting out the pictures isn't that time.
    After a 30min AutoKAP-session (with 5 secs Interval) I normally collected ~400 pictures on my card,
    sorting them out takes me roughly another 20 mins (mostly less time)
    This is the expirience from > 30 sessions I made over the last 2 years.

    And needless to say:
    AutoKaping isn't work at all, you do not spend time, don't have to stare into the monitor or to control the RC
    as you take all the pictures without any attention,
    just fly your kite and enjoy the pictures you get ;-)
  • I have been using autoKAP with AuRiCo as a controller as I find it the least cumbersome method to fly a kite and enjoy it, whilst getting
    stunning aerial shots as a bonus.

    I was quite satisfied until lately I have experienced persistent problems with AuriCo which I have not been able to solve.
    Hence my question:

    I still want to do easy & light autoKAP. What are the equivalent autoKAP controller alternatives to AuRiCo?
    I am aware of CAMremote (twice the price of AuRiCo) & tucit X which is seemingly not available any more for sale.

    Any suggestions at this point will be considered.
  • edited June 2011
    My experience: I've only done RC-KAP so far (RC tilt and pan, chdk as timer, about 100 sorties, about 1/4 with video feedback ). I like this way of KAPing because most of the time I'm after specific objects (buildings, bridges, windmills, heavy equipment). I would love to also have autoKAP: now I often end up with large quantities of nearly identical uninteresting images when I'm busy with the kite or talking with bystanders...

    My next rig will probably have both possibilities: revert to autoKAP when no control commands are received for a while.
  • It might be interesting to be able to switch between autoKAP and RC on-the-fly using a RC controlled switch to set whether the servos respond to the autoKAP device or the RC receiver. The switch would be remotely controled by the RC with the default being autoKAP. A switch like this should work:

    You could then start with autoKAP and if the situation/weather/subjects call for it, switch to RC control...and then back again if desired.
  • An interesting idea, Auto KAP while walking the kite around a large site, then convert to RC when an interesting subject comes into view. ;-)
  • Linnar's CAMremote already has the ability to switch between RC and autoKAP using his very small remote transmitters/receivers.
  • edited June 2011
    @David, It has been done.

    See it here.

  • @poolking: Terrific! Please tell us more. Do you find the ability to switch on-the-fly usefull? Do you switch often? What kind of targets? etc.
  • edited July 2011
    I use this tiny usb controller for several months already. It is cheap, superlight and versatile. Doesn't require programming experience, you can make almost any script using it's GUI (drivers and utility supplied). Basically, you program the controller with mouse clicks. Aurico was the option I rejected because I found it expensive and very limited functionality.

    I also planned to build RC rig but after I got my autokap rig complete, don't see any need to go for RC. Expensive, heavy and complicated, hard to control. But it should be fun though.
    My autokap rig is able to make full 360 panorama in about 30 seconds. It includes two 360 revolutions (horizon and nadir coverage). The sky can be shot from the ground.
    Here is the latest I made. It is a full 360x180 degrees panorama (250 megapixel).

    Very good option would be remotely starting and stopping autokap sequence. It should be way simpler than full RC control over rig . I would add that to my rig.

    P.S. Here is one more example of autokap rig built with Pololu maestro controller and producing nice results.
  • I, too, liked the idea of a hybrid autoKAP/RC rig. With Mike's help, I built a similar setup using Pololu Servo Multiplexer. The nice part that autoKAP was the default. So if I left my Transmitter behind, or there was no RC signal, autoKAP would take over. And only if the RC transmitter was switched on, and my "gear" channel was switched off, then I would have full RC control: pan, tilt, zoom and shutter (single and burst).

    It worked GREAT...... but I never flew it.

    To me, it had way too many wires for my liking. And it was still pointless since I didn't have a video down-link. I dismantled everything, and went back to my favorite BEAK. Now, I'm all for simple, light and versatile. I believe less is more. That's just me.
  • @yurik_ryba: Thank you for your input.
    The Pololu Micro Maestro is appealing indeed: Cheap & light, but unluckily beyond me as regards time to script it at present.

    I really agree with Hussam in that KAP should be simple & relaxing. Stunning photos should come naturally & easily. Increasing rig complexity would also increase stress on the field. Expectations are consequently much higher, as are chances of frustration, and hence KAP as a relaxing hobby ceases to be so.

    I want to get rid of my shutter servo on my AutoKAP AuRiCo rig where I plan to get a Canon S95.
    I am thinking on the lines of clickPAN-SDM but with a USB connection to the camera. Some sort of clickPANTILT-USB?
    I e-mailed James Gentles today to see if this is feasible at all. (I hope it is!)
  • hqasem, good to see you post here. I have had the rig in the air 2 times in the last 6 months(that is how many times I have KAPPED). It works just like it should. As hqasem said, there are a lot of wires. I spend a lot of time making wires for it. My problem is the RC TX, I have not repacked it, and have a problem handling it. Video down-link would be nice, I just can't spend money on a KAP rig I am not using that much. This rig would work for the right person, it is not me how ever.

    I have been thinking about taking my rig apart and go back to auto-kap. How ever before I do so, if someone in the US want to buy it I will sell it.

  • Hi guys,
    most of what you've all been saying just sailed straight over my head like an 8ft Rok.
    Last Sunday afternoon I was out and about KAPing over water. An Olympus Pen in a BDKK and AuRiCo (to continue the jargon). Perfect winds, nice sunny day.
    About halfway in to a 45 minute session the mother of all cruise ships headed out of Rotterdam and passed within 50m of where I was standing. I was really exited, as you can imagine, to see the wonderful, high-quality images I will have captured from close by and above!
    Once I'd retrieved the rig & kite I checked the 200 or so images on the back of the Pen.
    Not a single shot of the ship, as big as two apartment buildings and close enough to blot out the sun! The nearest I got was a shot of its wake.
    The AuRiCo had been happily clicking - tilting - clicking - turning - clicking and tilting in the opposite flippin' direction!!
    Some great shots of a chemical-works next to the river

    Next day, in Manchester, with very little wind, I launched the 6,5ft Rokkaku with my home-made alu-Picavet-cross and a cell-phone strapped to it with elastic bands over Salford Quays.
    Cam-phone on a 10sec intervalometer pointing straight back down the line. The whole thing weighs less than 200gr.
    I walked about a bit, stood next to some interesting stuff for a few minutes, got followed about by just about every remote-controlled security camera there was, and was blown away by the results!

    Which just goes to show (me) that you win some, you loose some, there's always tomorrow, always another cruise-liner shipping out and that hi-tech is really not always the answer.
    Flying a big, colourful, impressive kite gets me out of the house. The camera stuff hanging underneath it is just the justification to be playing with kites at my age, an excuse to be able to go out and chase the wind again.

  • edited September 2011
    Jun 30th 2011

    I, too, liked the idea of a hybrid autoKAP/RC rig. With Mike's help, I built a similar setup using Pololu Servo Multiplexer. The nice part that autoKAP was the default. So if I left my Transmitter behind, or there was no RC signal, autoKAP would take over. And only if the RC transmitter was switched on, and my "gear" channel was switched off, then I would have full RC control: pan, tilt, zoom and shutter (single and burst).
    This is the perfect setup for my use/need of KAP.
    Can anybody show me a diagram of the setup with servo, CamRemote, multiplexer and receiver?
    I will use it on a 3-axis KAP rig (pan and 2 gyro stabilizers on the camera) very much inspired by this one from Mike LeDuc.

    With kind regards
    Lars Bonde Hansen
  • Hi LarsBonde-

    Look at the Pololu Servo Multiplexr product homepage, it pretty much describes how to connect the multiplexer. My setup was as follow:

    • OUT1 - Pan Servo
    • OUT2 - Tilt Servo
    • OUT3 - gentLED-CHDK2 "main" cable
    • OUT4 - gentLED-CHDK2 "white" wire
    • M1 - Aurico "Pan Servo" output
    • M2 - Aurico "Tile Servo" output
    • M3 - Aurico "Shutter" output
    • M4 - GROUND - important for getnLED-CHDK2 to work!
    • S1 - Rudder Channel R/C RX
    • S2 - Throttle Channel R/C RX
    • S3 - Aileron Channel R/C RX
    • S4 - Elevator Channel R/C RX
    • SEL - Gear Channel R/C RX
    Mike (poolking) has couple of images in his Flickr photostream: [video, image1, image2]

    Having said that, please note that we opted to use the Servo Multiplexer with our AuRiCo. If you're using a CamRemote, it's much more elegant to use one of the Radio Control TX/RX available on the ordering page.
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