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Pencil Test System

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7/15/2004

We just finished building a camera stand for our pencil test system. It is a mixture of parts that  we assembled from many different sources but the final product is pretty nice. The guides for the camera carriage are chrome steel rods approx 1” in diameter. The camera mount is a folded metal box drilled to match the two vertical guide rods with knobbed set screws to lock it in the desired vertical position. The actual camera mount is on a third chrome steel rod so that it can be horizontally positioned over the art work and also locked in place by a knobbed set screw. A standard threaded camera mount screw is used to attach the digital video camera.

 

 

Fig. 1 The Camera Mount

The DV camera is cabled to a G4 Mac computer via an IEEE 1394 fire wire cable. This is much too nice a camera for leaving permanently mounted on the stand so we will probably look for a simpler and cheaper replacement camera. It would be a lot cleaner if we didn't have to open the side video display screen to attach the fire wire cable.

 

 

 

Fig. 2 The Camera Installed

We chose to use two “Ott-Lite” natural light fluorescent fixtures for the lighting source. This is probably overkill, but we use similar fixtures throughout our studio and these two fixtures were readily available. The artwork is positioned on an old aluminum Acme Camera Company cel inking tray which has both top and bottom registration peg bars. Again a bit of overkill, but we had it in the studio and don’t really need it for inking cels anymore (a lost art). It would have been nice to build a simple compound table for holding the artwork, but since this is just for basic pencil tests and as a flatbed scanner replacement that really isn’t needed.
 

Fig. 3 The Art Work Placement

Because we work in the OS X Mac world, we needed frame capture software, and we found a great inexpensive solution with a program called Frame Thief which is designed for just this purpose as well as for stop motion animation. Frame Thief  has a number of really nice features to support creating pencil tests including full support of the fire wire interface which makes DV camera or web-cam connection very easy, extensive use of "hot keys", real time play back and looping, automatic naming and sequential numbering of captured frames, a light box tool, and export to QuickTime formats.
 

Fig.4 A 3/4 View of the Camera Stand

The final product is highly functional and as a scanner replacement it is lightning fast.
 

Fig. 5 A Front View of the Camera Stand

 

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