Saturday, January 10, 2015

7D WiFi with TP-Link and DSLR Controller

[1-14-15: see update at end of post]

I put my 7D on a 12 foot jib arm quite often.  I use a 25ft. HDMI cable to run video signal to my 7” Lilliput monitor.  This means I can see what I’m doing, but there’s no pulling focus or starting/stopping the camera.  Thus, I set focus (pull the camera down, adjust focus, push it up, check, try again, repeat) and when I finally achieve focus lock, I start the camera, then put the camera up in the air and let it run.  “Burning Film” isn’t that big a deal in this age of ultra-cheap storage, but leaving the camera running kills battery and and the focus thing is a major PItA.

Thus, when I saw DSLRController (a remote control for your DSLR via USB and your tablet or smart phone), I got very excited about the possibility of starting/stopping the camera remotely via a long USB cable.

To be sure, DSLR Controller does SO. MUCH. MORE.

But this post is about adding WiFi capability to your 7D… so you can use DSLR Controller WIRELESSLY.

51RoV2I0wnL._SL1280_I ordered my TP-Link TL-MR3040 portable wireless router on Amazon ($40), and received it in the mail a couple days ago.  I flashed the firmware on the router according to the easy to follow instructions on the DSLRController webpage, and in about 15 minutes I was up and running.

I am astounded by how well this set up works.  Not only that, but you can run HDMI out (monitor) and USB out (DSLR Controller) at THE SAME TIME.

Yes, I am confirming that you can monitor video via USB and HDMI at the same time.

Thus, I can run an HDMI cable to video village, while still having a 7” field monitor (my LG GPad 8.3) with touch screen controls for shutter, focus (yes, focus… even focus “a” to “b” with the push of a button), histograms, etc… In fact, most of the “everyday” controls of the camera can be accessed via my tablet touch screen.  Again… wirelessly.

Freaking fantastic.


I also glued a 1/4” nut from a hot shoe mount to the TP-Link with PC-7 epoxy so I can easily mount the TP-Link to the hot shoe mount on my 7D.

The battery in the TP-Link will likely last as long as I’ll ever be shooting on the jib, but to be safe, I also ordered an Anker® 2nd Gen Astro E5 16000mAh Portable Charger External Battery Power Bank and received the smaller Anker® Astro E1 5200mAh Ultra Compact Portable Charger for free (total cost for both, $40).  Thus, I now have plenty of power for my tablet and the wifi router when I’m in the field.


[UPDATE 1-14-15]  After using this set up for an 8 hour shoot last weekend, I would have to modify my glowing endorsement and qualify this as “not yet ready for prime time.”  I’m not where exactly the fault lies (the router, the tablet, the app), but often the link between camera and app would be lost, or (more often) the app would simply lock up and/or black out.  Since I was in charge of the shoot, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world to troubleshoot while working (especially since I expected some hiccups since I was using it “live” for the first time), but had I had a producer/director/cinematographer breathing down my neck while I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on, it would not have been a fun situation.

I had the 7D mounted to a 12 foot Kessler Crane.  I can’t imagine that the range was the problem (when it was working, it was working great).  It really seemed like either the tablet (LG Gpad 8.3) or the app was what was choking each time it crapped out.

Word to the wise: this set up is FANTASTIC when it’s working… but it doesn’t always work.

FWIW, my second camera said he had experienced similar problems with a GoPro and the GoPro wifi app… when it worked (during his tests at home) it was awesome, but when it fails on set and the production is burning more than $90/minute for cast and crew… no good.

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