UPDATE: I FOUND A BETTER TABLET TO USE THAN THE ARCHOS. ITS AN UNBRANDED CHINA MADE 10″ TABLET. It looks like a giant iPhone, but it’s a far better tablet PC and will give full screen display, has HDMI out, has a capacitive touch screen and does not need an expansion adapter. I’ve added notes about this device in BLUE.
In my quest to make 3D more affordable for all I have been looking at ways of using DSLR’s. The major issue with DSLR’s is the lack of sync and this means monitoring is also tricky. A pair of DSLR’s can be brought into reasonable sync by using a split trigger cable to take a still photo with both cameras after you have started recording. This resets the cameras shutters and they will run in reasonable sync for a few minutes after taking the still photo.
The next problem is monitoring. One popular tool to use is Peter Wimmer’s Stereoscopic Multiplexer and Stereoscopic Player software on a PC, but even a laptop can be a bit bulky. So I decided to try a windows tablet. I chose the Archos 9 tablet, pre installed with Windows 7. You may be able to get this working on other tablets too. The Archos has a dual core Intel Atom CPU, but it still a little lacking in horse power so there is some lag in the display and a frame size limit of 640×480, but it’s OK for getting a rig reasonably well aligned and very portable. The N450 10.1″ I-Phone look alike will allow full SD 720×480 resolution at full screen size. Here’s what you need to do to get it all going, these instruction would also work with a conventional PC:
THE MOST IMPORTANT BIT:
Get a pair of EZCAP.TV EzCap 116 USB 2.0 capture cards. IT MUST BE THE EzCAP 116. Do not buy the generic EasyCap models, many of them will not work in pairs, it must be the 116. I strongly recommend getting the full retail boxed version, barcode No X0002X5LGT. I paid £19.00 GBP each for the ones I am using.
You will also need the expansion port adapter for the Archos 9 (windows 7 version).
Here are the installation steps:
1: On a PC or other computer copy the entire contents of the install CD Rom that comes with the EzCap to a USB memory stick.
2: Insert the memory stick into the tablet or PC and browse to it and double click on Autorun. First install the drivers. You should allow the PC to re-start after the install.
3: Again click on Autorun on the memory stick, now install Showbiz 3.5. You MUST install showbiz.
4: Go to 3dtv.at and download and install both Stereoscopic Multiplexer and Stereoscopic Player.
5: Unplug the memory stick and now plug in one of the EZCap devices to the USB port, connect a camera to the EzCap (in the case of a DSLR using the composite cable supplied with the DSLR. Windows should detect the EzCap and install the drivers, this can take quite some time, perhaps 10 minutes (go and have a coffee). If you get an unrecognised device error at this stage, ignore it.
6: Plug the second EzCap device into one of the ports on the Archos expansion box (you can’t plug them both into the expansion port or a USB hub, it won’t work, they must be on separate USB busses) or a second USB port on the tablet/PC. On the N450 I use the two USB ports on the left hand side for the EzCaps.
7: Run ArcSoft ShowBiz. When ShowBiz is running click on the capture tab. At the top of the capture window under “Source” select the first “USB 2861 Device” (may be labeled WDM 2861) Then set “Video Input” to “composite”. You should see the camera output on the screen. Now under “Source” select the second “USB 2861 Device” and select composite, now you should see the second cameras output.
8: Close the capture window and Quit ShowBiz.
9: Start Stereoscopic Multiplexer. The Configuration Wizard should start. For Left Capture device select the upper 2861 Device from the drop down list, for the right camera select the lower 2861 device. For both devices set the appropriate input standard, Pal-I for PAL and NTSC-M for NTSC. Click Next.
10: The maximum resolution the Archos 9 will support for two sources is 640×480 (Laptops should support full 720×576). Select this and then test that you can see each camera using the test left/right buttons. Check that 640×480 is selected before clicking next. The N450 Tablet will support 720×576.
11: Go with the defaults on this page, just click next.
12: Again keep the presets on this last page and click finish.
13: After a few moments you should now see both cameras outputs, displayed side by side. Quit Stereoscopic Multiplexer.
14: Once Stereoscopic Multiplexer has been configured it should remember these settings so you should not need to set it up again.
15: Start Stereoscopic Player. Under “File” select “Live View” and “Stereoscopic Multiplexer”. You should now be seeing both cameras. By using the “View” menu you can choose how to view the images, on the Archos9 “colour Anaglyph” will be the most useful for alignment and “side by side” to check relative exposure and colour balance. Note that if using a mirror rig you can do a horizontal flip of either camera via the “View” menu.
There is some lag in the image display, but it’s useable for alignment and checking. Higher performance PC’s will give better results, but are not as portable.