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Thursday, July 24, 2014

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Student work: Camera stabilization senior thesis


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Zennen Clifton profiles a camera stabilization platform developed by engineering school classmates Taofik Kolade and Mike Wood for their senior thesis.


Video Closed Captions

Archival video clip:
Now let's go to Princeton University where the trapezoid experiment and others relating to perception and past experience were done.

Mike Wood:
So senior theses in the engineering departments end up being a little bit different from those in the humanities.

Mike Wood:
In the humanities senior theses end up being research projects that can total up to 100 pages.

Mike Wood:
Basically, people generate a small book.

Archival film clip:
(scream)

Taofik Kolade:
For engineers, it can vary but it usually involves some kind of project.

Taofik Kolade:
For mechanical engineers, either you do a professor's research or you pick your own project and you build something that you want to build.

Mike Wood:
Everyone knows the famous training sequence from Rocky,

Mike Wood:
in which he has this disgusting looking egg shake in the morning and then goes out and runs up the steps.

Mike Wood:
That actually was filmed with a Steadicam.

Mike Wood:
So, you can imagine that when you are running up the steps with a big 35mm camera, it's really hard to keep the camera steady.

Mike Wood:
Running up steps definitely sort of generates a lot of jolting.

Mike Wood:
You can imagine if you have a big 35mm camera, it's pretty hard to wield that up steps.

Taofik Kolade:
One of the movies that inspired me to make a camera stabilization system

Taofik Kolade:
was Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men.

Taofik Kolade:
The camera somehow rotates around the inside of a really, really small car.

Taofik Kolade:
Meanwhile, there is all this commotion going on outside.

Taofik Kolade:
The car goes in reverse -- the camera is panning between four different people

Taofik Kolade:
and all the while it is completely still.

Taofik Kolade:
It turns out they had to build a contraption in order to achieve this really cool video effect.

Taofik Kolade:
Some of the drawbacks that those systems had

Taofik Kolade:
were that they were mainly extremely heavy -- used for large-scale feature films.

Taofik Kolade:
In that sense, we wanted to make something that was very lightweight.

Taofik Kolade:
That was one of the key design goals we were looking for.

Mike Wood:
As a stabilization platform, our device utilizes an inclinometer to keep the platform steady and level.

Mike Wood:
We can use a water bottle to demonstrate that principle.

Mike Wood:
When putting it on the top platform and tilting the base you can see that the top platform

Mike Wood:
maintains a steady, level position, causing the bottle to stay on top.

Mike Wood:
There was no textbook, there were no office hours, there was no class, there were no problem sets to guide us through this.

Mike Wood:
Our thesis was -- it was just us. If we couldn't figure something out, we had to use our own devices and resources,

Mike Wood:
figure out what the problem was, diagnose the situation, put our heads together,

Mike Wood:
crunch some numbers and try to come up with a solution.

Mike Wood:
There were definitely hurdles along the way, but as we came over each one of the them we really felt we got over them

Mike Wood:
by using our two minds, which was ultimately a really great feeling.

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