Ray West (Consultancy)

Video camera control (Keene Kit)

The controller consists of a PIC microcontroller and the necessary interface components to connect the camera LANC socket and the serial port of a personal computer. A Visual Basic program is supplied, (full source code given) to let you control the camera from your Win 95/98/NT PC.

The completed device fits into a hand held case, which can have a compartment for a battery and/or LANC control lead. There is a socket for an external power supply and the standard DB9 serial port interface connector to your PC. The top face has an LCD display, four push button switches and a power-on LED. When connected to a Sony camera, the LANC connection supplies the power to the unit, so no other power source is required for Sony cameras.

In normal use, the unit is connected to the PC and your camera. The PC program then has full control over the camera, for start, stop, zoom, play, pause, etc. The controller in this mode will work for Sony, Canon, JVC and Panasonic cameras. Whenever the camera is connected, the controller LCD will display the time code and the chosen mode of operation. This information is also displayed on the computer screen.

It is thus feasable to mount a camera in a relatively inaccessable position, e.g. outside a moving vehicle, close to wild life, or wherever, and control functions of the camera via a small cable. Another possibilty would be to use a couple of PC's and a wireless LAN (local area network) so that the connecting cable between you and the camera was not required, which could be useful for videoing high voltage electrical phenomena for example (although we have better radio solutions).

The PC software can also preload the four buttons with codes, so that the unit can be used in the field without the PC. The buttons can be preloaded with 'record', 'stop', 'zoom in', 'zoom out', for example, so if you use a tripod or other camera mount, then you need not touch the camera to zoom in or out. (There is in fact a choice of 14 commands per button, but not every camera utilises them all). External switches or triggering devices can be used in place of, or as well as, the switches. If you have specific requirements, then please contact us.

The unit may also be used in 'Service Mode' and can dvin enable many Sony cameras, for example (we have some codes elsewhere on our web site). We know that other brands can also be enabled, but we do not have the codes. However, be aware that dvin enabling your camera will probably invalidate its warrantee.

If you go to the Keene site, then follow the links, you will find all the constructional details, parts list, pcb layout and software, so you can build it yourself. Keene can supply you with the pre-programmed PIC, and printed circuit board. It is expected that you will be familiar with electronic construction techniques if you adopt this approach. They, or we, will not be able to offer any support for this, other than to say 'if you do as it says, then it should work'.

We can supply a full kit of parts, including a pre-machined case, for about £85.00 + VAT or we can supply a fully built and tested unit for about £130.00 + VAT. These will normally be supplied with a cable to connect to a Sony LANC port. For a small additional cost other cables can be supplied if requested, including the PC serial connecting cable, and we can also add terminal blocks to allow alternative switches to be used.

However, because of the nature of the device, and the relatively high charge that some 'shops' make for dvin enabling cameras, we will be unable to refund any payment for the kit or ready built units, unless you can show that it was faulty or damaged before you received it. Unless you have bought the components from us, it will be unlikely that we can help in any construction problems that you may have.

Further details of the controller's functions can be found by clicking here and this is where the printed circuit board layout can be found.