Saturday, 7 July 2018

BirdBox infra-red camera IR filter upgrade

Now that the bird nesting season is over, it's upgrade time! The infrared (IR) cameras in this year's boxes are getting IR filters...

and some to spare...

This year's two new bird boxes have an infrared (IR) camera with visible and IR LEDs (Robin box Birch log tit box).  There is 'night mode' with IR light  that the birds cant see, and day mode with optional visible light illumination. All non IR-light sensitive cameras have an IR filter built into the camera, whereas IR-sensitive cameras don't.

Without an IR filter, IR camera images have a pinkish cast to them in visible light, giving a permanent 'Hipstamatic' look:

Un-filtered IR camera pink colour is obvious here

An IR filter (called an IR-cut) converts an IR-sensitive camera into a conventional one that can't see IR light.  This gizmo has a bit of glass in it that blocks IR light, and can move backwards and forwards over the camera lens by changing the voltage polarity applied across it.

These bird boxes use the 8MP Raspberry Pi IR camera board.  This has a similar shape and design to those found found in many commercial CCTV cameras, so IR filters designed for CCTV camera modules can be fitted to them.  Sort of...

My first attempt to do this was the top-down camera in last years's double camera bird box.  Unfortunately, I sourced an IR-cut that had an ?M12 lens mount on it, basically a dirty great chunk of plastic poking out the font that needed to be cut off before I could use it = fiddly.  You can see my v1 test for this here from a separate project:

I wanted something easy to add to this year's boxes, and found an IR cut filter without a lens mount which fits nicely over the existing screw holes in the Raspberry Pi camera module (22mm separation).

This come from AliExpress (China, so take a couple of weeks to get to the UK), and costs $3.50 so wont break the bank.  It comes with a separate lens mount holder which I haven't used.  There's the option of 20mm or 22mm screw hole separation at order - you need the 22mm one as to fit the Raspberry Pi camera board.

This shows the underside of the camera unit that is slotted in to the top of the birdbox, pre and post IR-cut upgrade. The ir-cut is attached over the camera by M2 nylon screws and nuts, and the screws just go through the 4mm ply and pass through the camera board.

IR-cut sitting flush against the 'underside' of the bird box camera insert

I had previously designed this year's Raspberry pi zero W add-on board with an IR-cut in mind.  The voltage polarity reversal to switch the IR-cut is done with a L293DNE (£2.70).  I did  a more detailed writeup of this here which also has some example code.  The design for the wiring of this my customised add-on board is detailed here.

No birds in this, but you get the idea what switching the IR-cut in natural daylight does... there are alternatives to this, eg here which has integrated IR LED, camera and IR cut - does not have stellar reviews on amazon though.

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