Monday, September 6, 2010


My Youtube Video Link here:

This project turns your screen hood into a mount for a LANC style remote controller, using the remote commander that comes with the Vixia line of cameras.

A LANC controller is a way of remotely commanding certain functions like on/off, zoom, and focus, without actually touching the camera. Canon, for some reason opted not to set their Vixias up with LANC capability, except in the high-end range of their newest models, and charge a severe price premium for the option.

This system can be put together for five or six bucks, however, and while Vixia's won't let you mess with focus, the other LANC functions can be made available to PPG pilots, many of whom like to pole mount their cameras to get trick shots, not to mention isolate the camera somewhat from engine vibration.

The position of the remote sensor varies on different Vixia cameras. On the early version Vixias: the HF series, of which there were are some 16 variants, it is on the top left corner beside the LCD screen, as it is on the high end HG20 and HG21 models. (Not so on the HG10)

Inexplicably, on the HG10 it is on the front of the camera, just to the left and below the lens, as it is also on the HR10, HV20, HV30, and HV40 models. Because it is on the front of these camera, the remote can only work if you are also in front of the camera facing the lens. Dumb idea, but there is a work-around solution to use this wired LANC for these cameras .

You need the remote that came with the camera, so in case you lost it, or tossed it, the model # of the remote is WL-D88. I see them on ebay, now and again, for 15 - 20 dollars, and you can also order them direct from Canon camera dealers.

I used SC snap-in connectors, for singlemode systems that latch with a simple push-pull motion, from here:

I bought a 1/2 meter (36") length of TOSLink fibre optic cable from here:
First, I epoxied a strip of 1" x 4" plastic to the controller's back surface. I used plastic from an old VHS tape box, this plastic being a little stiffer, and more rigid than the plastic that DVD cases are made out of. I just cut the plastic with a ruler and a razor knife. NOTE: Since this new plastic base will now be permanently attached, you'll want it to be positioned a bit above the battery compartment, so you can still access the batteries.

Then, I epoxied a male-to-male TOSLink coupler in front of the infrared bulb on the remote. The coupler's centre-line is exactly in line with the IR bulb. When the mod is complete, the coupler will still function normally without cables, and with the lens hood detached. So anytime you want, you can go back to waving the remote at the sensor from across the room as you did before. And with the same indifferent results. This mod, unquestionably IMPROVES performance.
As you can see in the picture above, that I sanded a slant onto one end of the coupler to better conform to the curved shape of the remote. When the epoxy dried, I filled the gap between the controller and the coupler with JB Weld just to make a nice, neat job of it, but this last step is purely cosmetic. (As is the eyelet I popped into the corner, ostensibly to attach a bit of safety wire.)

With the remote done, I mounted the my homemade LCD screen hood on the camera, and marked with pencil crayon where the other couple would fit, so it would be directly in front of the sensor. On my camera, (the HF200) the sensor is a 1/4" circle, at the top left hand corner of the screen. I then cemented it in place with two-part epoxy and let it dry overnight.

I wasn't sure how well the epoxy would grip the coupler to the Cordura, so in the video you see that I use a cut-0ff wheel to groove three sides of the coupler, and wire it to the side of the hood for extra security. I then smoothed a bead of J-B Weld over the wire, sanded it smooth, and repainted.

(I don't mind using homemade kit, but I don't like it to look homemade.)

This last step with the wiring, in retrospect, I don't think is actually necessary. The 2-part epoxy, (the regular kind that takes 60-minutes to cure, as opposed to the 5-minute kind) holds like a virus, and next hood I built for a colleague, was epoxy only, (no wire) and is going strong.

The connector ends are now ready to cable. The coupler connections are very solid, push and pull to attach and disconnect, and fasten with a clear and distinct "click".

The remote will work with absolute reliability, even in bright sunlight where these IR remotes are known to function sketchily.

The zoom function is pleasingly smooth, and by virtue of never actally touching the camera body, there is no danger of imparting camera shake.

I have two cables, the longer one for monopod use in the air, and a shorter 12" one to fasten to the pan lever on ground tripods.

For the afore mentioned Vixias, with the sensors at the front, you'll need a small metal plate, about the size of, and not much thicker than, a playing card.

Plastic, and aluminum are too bendy, so you'll want to use steel, but a piece this small and thin weighs next to nothing. I used a bit of metal off an old computer component, (a DVD drive, as I recall), and carved out a piece 2 3/8" x 3 5/8" with a Dremel style tool and a cut-off wheel. Then I drilled two holes for the tripod screw and post for tripod/monopod quick-release plate.

With this done, simply sandwich this metal plate between the quick-release plate and the camera, epoxy the TOSLink connector in front of the sensor, and away you go.

The idea of using fibre optic cable to run an IR signal to a camera sensor is original, but not new, and there are posts detailing various ways to do it dating back ten years. While researching how to go about making my system, I came upon a fellow in a DV forum who did it differently. He cracked open the remote, removed the IR bulb, and connected it to the end of a length of electrical wire that he mounted directly in front of the sensor itself.

If you're not handy with DIY, he sells the kit with a mounting plate and a prepped remote for thirty dollars.

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