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Author Topic: My x-y easel - stepping easel for art repro  (Read 2361 times)
teddillard
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« on: October 29, 2013, 06:17:42 AM »
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Long, very long story short - I've finally got a really solid prototype of an easel that allows stepping capture by moving the artwork precisely, rather than moving the camera.  I'd really be interested in hearing feedback on it.  As far as I've been able to find, there's nothing else out there like it.  



In short, it's a vertical easel on the lines of a classic, large, H-frame painters easel.  It's equipped with a stepping motor (so far, manually controlled, but easily automated) that allows precise vertical motion.  It's on a dolly, which allows horizontal motion, also able to be motorized and automated at some point.  

The short pitch is, by virtue of the camera remaining static, focused on a fixed frame, and the subject moving through that frame, that frame is the only area you need to light.  

Here's a link to the site I tossed together to help show what it's all about: http://www.xy-easel.com.  There's a video there explaining the basic idea there too - can't figure out how to embed it here.   Roll Eyes

Looking forward to hearing your comments.  If you'd like to PM me, feel free, or email me at ted (at) teddillard.com
« Last Edit: October 29, 2013, 06:42:51 AM by teddillard » Logged

Ted Dillard
Chris_Brown
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« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2013, 07:30:48 AM »
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I love this idea. Obviously, perfect lighting is paramount, and eliminating optical aberrations, too. I'll have to look into it.

A downside: It won't work when the art cannot be removed from its installation (which happens on occasion).
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2013, 10:03:48 AM »
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Long, very long story short - I've finally got a really solid prototype of an easel that allows stepping capture by moving the artwork precisely, rather than moving the camera.  I'd really be interested in hearing feedback on it.  As far as I've been able to find, there's nothing else out there like it.

Hi Ted,

It's looking good. It makes sense to use an inverted T-frame holding the artwork, sliding up and down on an H-frame. I agree that confining the area to be lit to a smaller area than the full artwork gives most flexibility and potential quality for lighting. It also allows better shielding of stray light, and of potential lens glare.

The only thing left is perpendicular alignment of the camera, but with flat-stitching that becomes slightly less critical since lens distortion can be corrected at the same time as optimal squaring. This will allow faster setup, although still no licence for sloppy work.

Well done.

Cheers,
Bart
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teddillard
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« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2013, 12:35:19 PM »
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Yes, I went through a few variations on holding the painting securely and finally settled on the same basic idea as what a traditional painters' easel uses.  There's some lesson there about trying to re-invent the wheel, I'm just not quite sure what it is...   Grin

On getting it square and parallel, that's not a problem.  I just use a Zig-Align, and as long as the camera is at the same angle as the art, which figures to about 10, you're perfectly square and centered.  

As with any case of shooting flat art, a good lens really pays off.  I was using an old 55mm Micro-Nikkor, but found a good deal on the 105 Micro-Nikkor and that's even better.  Edge-to-edge sharpness a few stops down from wide-open is amazing.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2013, 12:38:02 PM by teddillard » Logged

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KirbyKrieger
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« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2013, 02:56:04 PM »
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If you haven't, you might take at look at Hugh's Easels, or Gung (apparently no longer available in the US).  I painted for years on a Gung TJ7070B.  Superb easel:  x on rollers, y on a counter-balanced slide, tilt on a crank.  I put the whole easel on three extra large, soft-rubber locking wheels (z).  When I bought mine, the top-of-the-line supported something like 1,000 lbs. made for working on sections of frescoed walls.

http://www.hugheseasels.com
http://www.artsmate.com/?product-98.html
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teddillard
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« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2013, 05:24:12 PM »
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There's also David Sorg's easel: http://studioeasel.com/  These are what got me looking at the traditional painter's method of holding the work securely.  Unfortunately, a lot of those easels are very heavy, and very expensive.

I was originally planning on adding a motor drive control to one of those and making it a permanent, non-portable version along with a smaller portable version.  As it turned out, the one I ended up with works great for large canvases, yet is still under 50lbs and is portable.   
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Ted Dillard
KirbyKrieger
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« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2013, 06:01:17 PM »
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Thanks for the David Sorg link good to have.   Smiley
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BobDavid
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« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2013, 08:05:17 PM »
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I use the same technique except the camera is mounted on a nine foot column. A counterweight makes it easy to slide the camera up and down. Of course, I shoot tethered. I've got a grid marked on the floor that's about 8 X 6 feet. Of course the camera is calibrated and a flat field lens is employed. The ceiling is painted flat black and the floor is dark grey. The pitch and yaw of the camera mount is adjustable. The 2 X 2 foot capture area is illuminated evenly.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2013, 08:22:53 PM by BobDavid » Logged
jeremydillon
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« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2013, 10:06:51 PM »
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What do you use to stitch your images? I find that all the stitching packages fall apart when there are large areas without much significant detail. I almost always revert to doing it manually in photoshop if this happens. (the best I've found is microsoft ICE)
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teddillard
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« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2013, 04:20:45 AM »
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Bob, the problem (and the key concept of the x-y easel) is that when you move the camera, you're moving the frame.  The easel allows the frame to stay in place, thus, your lighting "stays in place" as well.  You only light the frame you're shooting, rather than the entire work. 

I've been using Photoshop to stitch, and yes, arranging most of it manually. 
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Ted Dillard
BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2013, 04:49:01 AM »
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What do you use to stitch your images? I find that all the stitching packages fall apart when there are large areas without much significant detail. I almost always revert to doing it manually in photoshop if this happens. (the best I've found is microsoft ICE)

Hi Jeremy,

Dedicated pano-stitchers offer a solution for these types of image capture.

For example, PTGUI offers an Align to Grid project setting, where the images that were shot in a particular order are placed in a grid formation. Subsequent alignment will optimize the tiles for which control points can be found, and will keep the featureless tiles in their shooting order position.

Cheers,
Bart
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teddillard
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« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2013, 02:50:22 PM »
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I should add - my next project is to use an Arduino control to program the stepping and shooting.  If I can get it done (which really isn't that hard, Arduino-wise) then the entire system can be run literally at the push of a button - shoot, step, shoot, etc, all with one activation, and at whatever stepping intervals you want. 

This is the reason the motor drive is such a key to the whole thing, and another reason why the big studio easels weren't working for me. 
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Ted Dillard
BobDavid
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« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2013, 08:32:19 PM »
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Bob, the problem (and the key concept of the x-y easel) is that when you move the camera, you're moving the frame.  The easel allows the frame to stay in place, thus, your lighting "stays in place" as well.  You only light the frame you're shooting, rather than the entire work. 

I've been using Photoshop to stitch, and yes, arranging most of it manually. 

I move the art, not the camera. The column simply enables me to move the camera up or down depending on the size of the original art work--anything from 24mm X 36mm to 6 X 8 feet.
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teddillard
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« Reply #13 on: November 09, 2013, 04:45:27 AM »
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Ah, got it, sorry.  How do you hold and move it? 
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Ted Dillard
BobDavid
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« Reply #14 on: November 09, 2013, 11:58:15 AM »
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Ah, got it, sorry.  How do you hold and move it?  

An array of aluminum jigs with tick marks along the x-axis is attached to the floor with either weights, velcro, or suctions cups depending on the size. I also have a sheet of masonite that is designed to be used as a pin registration stage.

Along the Y-axis, another set of aluminum jigs are held in place by inserting pins into socket holes (hollow .75" metal cylinders) that have been carefully installed into the concrete floor.

The system took a few days to design and about a 40 hours to build. Here is an example of an artwork reproduced using my setup. http://www.topdogimaging.net/about/fine-art-reproduction.html  I am now out of the art repro business and am concentrating on resuscitating antique and vintage photos.

My solution is by no means portable. It is accurate, simple, and precise.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2013, 12:12:05 PM by BobDavid » Logged
teddillard
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« Reply #15 on: November 10, 2013, 08:35:18 AM »
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Ah, nice.  I have a few clients with huge murals, and one of my motivations was to make it so I could "come to the mountain" rather than ask my clients to bring the mountain to me...   Grin

...I also very much prefer shooting in their studios.  But that's another tale. 
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Ted Dillard
teddillard
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« Reply #16 on: December 19, 2013, 05:49:50 AM »
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Well, push has come to shove, and I've put a Kickstarter project together as a "proof of the pudding".  I've opted for this for a few reasons.  

First, I firmly believe this is a really important development in the tools we have available for Fine Art repro - not only the easel, but the whole process.  I want to get the story out there, and I want to do it with a complete body of work.  As important, I need to do it with an artist who understands what we're trying to do, and is as critical as we are, and understanding of the technical aspects of the process, to really take this to the next level.  

Warren Prosperi has been with me every step of the way with this process, even to the point of helping me develop it.  Thus, The Prosperi Studio.  

I also want to use this opportunity to help Prosperi Studio by reproducing their complete catalog of work.  It's important work, and I feel it deserves support.

Read more about what we're doing here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/952491968/the-atelier-print-the-prosperi-project

I'd love some feedback and discussion about this.  It's always been a work in progress, and even more now.  This is a combination of the easel and stepping/stitching techniques, color management from front to back, and most importantly, lighting techniques.  Of course, if you'd like to support the KS project with a donation or by spreading the word, I wouldn't mind that either.  Cheesy
« Last Edit: December 19, 2013, 05:55:03 AM by teddillard » Logged

Ted Dillard
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