On Twitter, a few people have been bothering me to talk about my two-camera system on our PlyoCare wall at Driveline Baseball. It looks something like this:
It’s not too hard to build – the toughest part was figuring out how to actually assemble and hack together all the random stuff. Fortunately, I’ve done that for you. This guide isn’t meant to be 100% comprehensive; there’s going to be some troubleshooting and guessing on your end since we don’t have the exact same computer setup and the drivers that run the cameras are a little finicky… so if you don’t like rolling up your sleeve and using Google big time, you’ll want to skip this build. But if you need a computer-controlled multi-camera system like I did and don’t want to spend $5,000 (which I later did for my mound setup… that’s another story), this is for you.
We’ll be leaning heavily on the Playstation Eye camera for the Sony PS3. Believe it or not, these things work REALLY well.
You’ll Need This Stuff, and Here’s Where You Get it
- A decently powered computer that runs Windows 7 or higher
- Should have an i3 or faster processor; ours runs on a i5-2500k, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD, Windows 7
- It must have a solid state drive (SSD) to save video, a spinning hard disk drive (HDD) is too slow. A decent option if you don’t have one is this Kingston SSDnow 300 at 120 GB – $50 from Amazon
- If you ask how to get this running on OSX/Mac I’ll ban you from the Internet
- If you ask how to get this running on Linux you already know enough on how to build this, so go away
- And no you can’t get this working on a laptop. I mean you could but I’m not gonna help you if you go this route.
- Two PSEye Cameras – $10 each from Amazon
- Two PSEye Tripod Mounts – FREE 3d plans, pay to upload/print them at makexyz (cost is variable but around $30-40 for two of the CamHolderTripodMount.stl file)
- Two Arkon Camera Wall Mounts – $38 each from Amazon
- Two CL Eye Camera Driver Licenses – $20 for a Two-Pack from Code Laboratories
- (optional) PCI USB 2.0 Port expansion card – $13 on Amazon
- (optional) Two ACTIVE USB Extension Cables, 32 feet each – $14 each on Amazon (Use these if you need longer cabling for your cameras. You can daisy-chain more if you need to cover longer ground, but I wouldn’t exceed 3. Note: The BlueRigger cables work best in my experience. Other cables may be cheaper but we’ve seen major failure rates with them.)
Alright, most of you stopped reading. But for those who really want to do this, you need all that. Here’s an explanation on why and how the system works:
Your computer connects the PS Eye cameras to what is called the Universal Serial Bus. It’s probably what your mouse and keyboard are plugged into and potentially your external wireless modem adapter. This bus was brilliantly designed to allow 100+ things to connect to the computer and share bandwidth, which is basically a street where the cars (data) can drive on. However, using webcams like the PS Eye and recording data to disk is like dumping 10,000 cars on the highway at one time. Sure, it CAN hold that many cars, but the likelihood of accidents (packet collisions) and problems is really high. So, you probably need a separate highway (buses) for each flood of cars you unleash on the computer. Hence, the optional PCI USB 2.0 Port expansion card. This gives you a second highway in your computer for the data to flow over. You don’t NEED this, but I guarantee if you try to dump the data over your singular USB bus or split it across the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 bus, you’ll have problems. So buy the card and install it. It’s pretty simple, use YouTube to watch someone install a PCI card into their computer.
The above paragraph also explains why you can’t have a hard drive accepting all this data. It’d be like an exit ramp that forces cars to slow down to 5 MPH before getting off the highway. Not gonna work. A solid state drive (SSD) can process all the data quickly. You need one. Technically you could write everything to a RAMdisk if you wanted to do that (and you will need to do this if you go to 4 cameras), but that’s outside of the scope of this guide. If you’re nerdy enough, you can figure it out.
Now, the PS Eye was developed for the Sony Playstation 3, not a computer. You can try plugging it into your computer, and it will not work. To understand why, do you think the PS Eye should work with Microsoft’s Xbox? No, there’s really no reason this should work. The software that allows the camera to talk to the computer is called a driver. Back in my day, we had to manually install drivers before anything got plugged in; today, most everything is “plug and play” and easy to configure. Today, you get to learn the pain of everyone in the 1980s and 1990s felt when putting a damn sound card into their computer. Enjoy the history lesson.
These drivers take a lot of time to write and reverse engineer. Fortunately, Code Laboratories did this and made them available on their site. You can get the free licenses but that won’t work for multiple cameras, and if you are really reading this far and trying to get $20 out of the budget, seriously stop it. So buy the licenses, install their software, and open up their license manager. You can then plug your cameras into the computer and the license manager will allow you to “activate” each camera. This gives you access to use them in various applications. Hopefully nothing goes wrong in this step, because Code Laboratories’ customer support is absolutely terrible. If you venture into their forums you’ll see tons of posts by yours truly from years ago that went unanswered. So you can post here but I probably won’t help you either; the difference being that I didn’t charge you for any of this stuff and thus you have no expectation that I might actually help you.
If you use them, the extension cables need to be ACTIVE. This means the signal is repeated across the 20+ feet the cable runs. Imagine yelling at someone 1,500 feet away about how ugly their girlfriend is. Chances are good he won’t hear you. But if you yelled at him over your cell phone, he’d hear it loud and clear and be over soon enough to kick your ass. That’s what a repeater is. A cell phone. Kinda. This analogy sucks but I’m leaving it in; the whole point is to not get a PASSIVE USB extension cable. Get ACTIVE ones. And get a Blue Rigger cable, the other ones are terrible. Including Monoprice, and nothing they make sucks. But their USB cables sure do.
The tripod wall mounts allow you to put anything with a tripod screw into the wall. Simple enough. Get the ones linked above and screw them into your wall. You could use drywall anchors if you need, but the PS Eye is really light and there’s no load on them, so you could ride dirty and just use drywall screws like I did. I’m sure in six months it’ll fall out of the wall and I’ll be mad but for now, wheeeeee
Anyway, the 3d printed stuff is probably a little complicated for you. You need to download those files from above and send them to a place near you that prints things in three dimensions. Or you can do what I did and paste that URL to the plans to makexyz and buy the models. Remember: You do NOT need the Camera Holder plan, you need only the CameraTripodHolder plan – and two of them. How it works is… well I don’t really know how 3d printing works, something to do with heat and carving stuff out of a block of plastic. It’s cool. Your local hacker shop can help you with it.
So connect it all up and drill everything into the wall and run the CL Eye Camera Test program. Do you have an image? Awesome! You can test recording using the software.
Software: Or How to Actually Process Data
Alrighty. Now you have everything wired up and working, so how do you capture synchronized video across the two cameras? I recommend using iPi Recorder v2 because it exports individual cameras to AVI if you want to make GIFs of the stuff. It’s hard to find this version, but you can get it from this weird spammy looking site. You want the version that is 2.2.3.X or whatever; here, look at the screenshot below. When you click “download” the file will start downloading and it will prompt you to share your download success to Facebook, what the fuck is the point of this, I hate the Internet sometimes. Anyway don’t do that, or do, I don’t care.
Now you should be able to run iPi Recorder 2 and click through all the calibration and “background” checks. This is software that is used for motion capture and the actual mocap software is incredibly expensive, and the developers are sometimes total dicks about off-label use of the software. I am telling you this because I dealt with them a lot in the past, and while I’m sure it’s good stuff, it’s wildly overpriced. Theoretically you can use their stuff for biomechanics breakdowns (if you go to their site you can read all about it) but I’m not into it. The PS Eye isn’t good enough for that, and neither are Microsoft Kinects, even model 2. Not for baseball anyway.
From here, you should be able to record the videos – be sure the file location is saving to the solid state disk drive letter – and double-click them to open them and play them back. You can also export each camera to an AVI file. Why can’t you export both cameras to an AVI file combined? I don’t know, the developer told me he’d charge me a few thousand dollars to add this feature into the software which seriously can’t take more than a few hours at most. Whatever. To stitch them together, export both AVI files and put them into Kinovea (dual playback mode) and click “export combined video” or something like that. Bam.
This works pretty damn well, believe it or not. It’s completely hacked together but it’ll get the job done. Let me know if you have any comments or questions, but no technical support is offered. You’re GOING to run into problems, I guarantee it. If you aren’t the tinkering / DIY type, forget it.
Best of luck!