High-speed photography is a fascinating way to catch a glimpse of fast-moving objects frozen in time. Classic examples of high-speed photography subjects include a water balloon just as it’s popped, a glass being shattered by a bullet, and paint being splashed by a vibrating speaker. But capturing those photos requires extremely precise timing, and setting that timing usually requires technical skills that not all photographers possess. That’s why Krzysztof Krzeslak has developed a modular, open-source DSLR camera controller specifically for high-speed photography, called PiXPi.
If you’re an experienced photographer, then you’re probably already aware that your DSLR camera has a port for an external shutter trigger. PiXPi utilizes that port to precisely time the shutter release with your flashes and the movement of whatever subject you’re trying to capture. Unlike commercial solutions, PiXPi is completely open-source. That means you can use modules you develop yourself, or ones developed by the community. Those modules can be sensors to detect movement, to trigger a relay, and much more. Krzeslak even has even designed a module to fire a pneumatic gun.
Despite the name, PiXPi doesn’t use a Raspberry Pi at all. Instead, it has a controller board built around a VoCore 2, which is a tiny single-board computer designed primarily for use in miniature routers. That’s running OpenWRT Linux and a Python application Krzeslak developed for the PiXPi. Users connect to PiXPi with a smart phone, and the use an app based on Google Blockly to visually configure the sequence of events. For example, to fire the pneumatic gun, wait 2 milliseconds, then activate the flashes, then release the camera shutter. The PiXPi controller board has a camera port, two flash ports, and three input/output ports for sensors and other modules. If you’re interested in high-speed photography, this is an excellent project to check out.