Category Archives: Guide

DIY 130 W LED light Feat. The crescience FLUxEngine

Video with build instructions

This article will cover how to build a solderless LED light thats scalable and very easy to set up. Check out why LEDs are superior.

The build shown here is beginner friendly. You dont have to drill into metal and the boards do not need active or passive cooling, since the framing will be sufficient to do that. If youre more into COBs, check out my 310W COB growlight guide!

This article will cover how to build a solderless LED light thats scalable and very easy to set up. Read more about how LEDs are superior.

Disclaimer: This piece of electronic is a potential fire hazard and should only be put together by electricians or persons with similar know-how. Please refrain from putting in self-made electronics into the wallplug. Dont die!

Itemlist

For this build you can either buy the whole kit from the LED builders website, or you look for a bunch of groove profiles from metal dealer thats suitable for you. Mind that I cant give an amazon link for that, since the orders are most likely to be custom made.

Groove Profile – use these, so you dont have to drill into metal!

I used 30 cm and 38 cm long profiles with a 4cmx4cm crosssection, so you can build a square-shape out of it.

You also need a bunch of metal sliders. Make sure, that the sliders fit the profiles.

Metal sliders that are needed as holes for the screws.

Every slider needs a fitting screw aswell. To connect the framepieces You will also need some angles. There has to be one on the side where you will buy the framing that fits the profile. It should look somewhat like that:

Angle connector for the frame.

For this particular build I used 4 FLUXengines to achieve a total power of 130 W for the 2×2 tent its used in. Be aware, that these boards might require screws with a smaller head, so you dont drill onto the LED modules.

FLUXengine with the power connector in the front and the Samsung lm301b chips on board.

The ELG-150-24A driver is the connection between the wallplug and the boards. You will need one of these. The boards are connected in parallel.

The driver!

You will also need about 50 cm to 1 m of single core copper cables to connect every board with the driver. I suggest you buy two different colors: one for plus, and one for minus. The cross-section of the wire should be between 0.14 mm² and 0.5 mm². Mind that once you used 0.5mm² cables on the connectors, you will not be able to switcht to the smaller ones.

Single core copper cables are easy to clamp!

For further connections and cable collection you will also need to buy WAGO clamps. Two 5-way clamps to connect all the boards in parallel to the driver, and three 2-ways to connect the driver to plug cable for the wall.

Wago Clamps for cable connection.

Last but not least its important to hang the lights from the top of the tent. Get four hook screws in order to do that.

Use these to hang your light!

Take some measurements first

Lay down your frames in front of you and put the boards on top in a symmetrical way. After that you estimate the cable lengths and cut them. Strip the isolation and connect the cables color-coded to + and to the boards and guide them throught the aluminum profiles. Its better to take longer cut here, hust to be save.

After that you take your metal sliders and also guide them through the profiles. You can now screw the boards tightly to the to the frames, and the framepieces to each other. Before you screw together the frame pieces, make sure to have all sliders in the back installed aswell. You wont be able to access the shorter parts anymore or you have to unscrew everything…

Connecting the cables

The schematic shows how its done. Collect all minus and plus cables together and put them into a 5-way WAGO clamp each. The voltage delivered by the driver stays constant while the current gets forced to a maximum output of about 6.3 A.

All cables are connected, the light is hanging safely – time to grow!

Testing and mounting

Four Crescience FLUXengine modules haning in the tent

When everything is connected nice and tight, you can now plug it in and look if it runs. Dont look directly into the light.

Done! This light should draw around 130 W at the wall and is able to light up a 60cm x 60cm grow tent (2’x2′).

Scale up!

The four modules can also be connected to a bigger drivers. Each module is able to put out 60W of light, so if you have the ability to hold down temps, you can also use ELG 240-42 running at 5710 mA to reach about 230 W with this setup. Mind that these chips run hotter and less efficient in this configuration, but will still crush any blurple or HPS lights in comparison.

“Help my weed looks weird!” – The 5 most common problems while growing cannabis

Since Nebula has a VERY EXTENSIVE guide on every possible problem your plant could potentially have I will just give my two cents on how to fix about 90% of the problems that can occur when you are new to the subject.

1. Discoloration of the leafs. 

This problem makes most first time growers loose their shit very fast. When you never had to take care of any plant at home it seems weird that there is something dying on a plant.

Main reasons leafs are dying:

  • Leafs on the lower part on the plant die first. This is normal and occurs nearly everytime. Do not worry and move on. If you do not lollypop or defoliate it can happen that about 1/5 of lower growth will get dry in the course of the grow. The leafs are just light deprivated and the plant rather uses nutrition on leafs that get hit by more light.
  • Leafs turn yellow at the end of the life cycle. This is very much dependent on your nutrient schedule and genetic. Have you flushed your plants? The plant will try to redistribute nutritions down to the roots. The leafs will turn yellow. Its harvest time, and you are pretty much simulating fall in your tent. Its normal. Some plants do not get yellow in the end. Thats also perfectly fine. Yellow leafs, after stopping nutrient supply is a common reaction.
Flowering cannabis plant
Chocolope really puts on a fall costume in the end. 
  • You are in the middle of a grow, and did everything according to the nutrient schedule as well as the soils instructions about nutrients? You might have a deficiency/toxicity going on. Read more in the next section…

2. pH value

This is actually very important knowledge. Soil is and inert medium. That means it is a living environment and can deal with out-of-order pH-values.
Since I am not a hydro dude, I will just say this: Get your pH straight. Buy some measuring stripes and look closely at the graphic below.

pH value uptake chart
Graphic from howtogrowmarijuana.com

A good example is the tap water where I live. It has a pH value of 7.5 to 8.2. To make it simple: The pH value is responsible for the availabilty of certain nutrients your plant needs. It is similar to humans: If your diet is too one-sided you will get problems! The pH value in an inert medium can be buffered to some degree, meaning that a slight off will be taken care of. 
My water will prevent most of the Copper, Zinc, Phosphorous and Iron to be left out in the feeding schedule and this will show in Leaf discoloration, reduced yield and growth and an overall unhealthy look.
Tip from the pro: Get a pH measurement device and dial that shit in. The optimal way would be the use of pH-up/down as a chemical addition to the feeding plan for every watering. You can also use lemon juice concentrate, especially when working with soil. 

The perfect pH-value when working with soil is between 6 and 7.

3. The right temperature

The origin of cannabis in nature is pretty sunny and warm. A cannabis plant grows best between 20°C and 30°C. The optimal values would be the area between 23°C and 27°C. Since a lot of homegrowers do not use any climate control their only hope is air circulation and decent ambient temperatures. The temperatures of plants in vegetative growth can be slightly higher, according to the seasons: vegetative growth happens in the summer, where the temps are usually a bit higher. A plant can also go out of this range: A higher than 1500 ppm supply of CO2 and a very bright light can help a plants thriving at temps as high as 35°C! But this should not be the case for newcomers.
My tip: Build a setup according to my guides and check out how it dials itself in. If its in range, you are good to go. Do not expect massive outcomes if your room is always over 32°C!
If your room happens to be under your roof, without air circulation thats connected to active heating and temps are constantly below 18°C you will most likely stun the plant and the growth will come to a full stop. This will be lethal and most likely the death of your plants. A funtioning thermometer will work wonders!

4. Nutrition

If you read a few month online about growing you will notice that nearly everyone uses nutrition to some degree. The plant needs food to survive. You want it to create a decent amount of harvestable material in the end. Compare it to tomatoes: A food deprivated tomato will stay small and might not taste good. It needs light and the right diet to thrive and grow right. Its the same with weed.

People tend to overnute their plants at first! They read that they should put 5-10 ml that gooey brown stuff per 10l in their water and think: “Wow, that can’t be enough!”

Two weeks after these people usually message me on instagram.
Deal with nutes according to the instruction. That is also important for your soil! Cannabis grade soil is oftentimes prenuted to some extend and still people put in all types of liquids, solids, fungi, worms and FUCKING MOUNTAIN DEW into their soil even when the plant is only 2 cm tall.

Read the instructions and deal according to it.

Its pretty much fool-proof. And less is more with nutes!

This plant is three week old and very small for that age. It has to fight various deficiencies in its hydroponic environment.

5. The Watering plan

This is another controversial topic. I just leave my way of watering here:
I take up to 1/2 of the pots volume in water and flood the pot the plant is in. I do it gently to prevent the water from just pouring out of the bottom of the pot. This builds up airy channels in the soil and water can not be taken up by the plants as effective as before. 

This will also create a runoff. When about 15% of the water volume are coming out of the pot you are doing it right, and the soil is saturated with water. Only moist soil will be rooted up!
After that procedure I wait between 2 and 7 days. Depending on the root system and the overall environment (Temperature and humidity) the water will get used up more or less fast. When i can put a fingertip into the soil and it feels very dry I repeat the process. This will oxygenate the soil and prevents the plant from “drowning”. I did that in the past four years and it worked very well for me.
Overwatering and underwatering can look very alike by the way!
If you overwater, the leafs will turn droopy but will still try to hold up at the base on the stem, while underwatered plants will just drop the leafs and crumples. Underwatering will be solved by just watering them. The effect will be visible in a few hours after that and the leafs will look healthy again.
Overwatering a plant is also not lethal: just leave the plant alone for a few days and do the finger-tip test. 

over/underwatered cannabis plants

If all that does not help you, scroll up and click on the first link in this post.
🙂

DIY 310 W COB Growlight for under $350

render picture of diy grow light
SketchUp Render of the DIY COB Light

In this guide I will describe you in all detail what you need and how to manufacture a COB growlight using state of the art LED technology. 

This is instruction is perfect for growareas of 6 ft² – 9 ft² hanging at a minimum height of 45cm. 
I will also assume that you do not want to use an external potentiometer to dim the light. The light is dimmable through the driver directly.

Disclaimer: This guide is an example for one of the most efficient ways to distribute grow light in a 80cm x 80cm grow tent. If your tent has different measurements it is on you to figure out what is best for your setup. This article is more of an inspiration.

Another note: I am not an electrician. If you are not sure about your build please let a friend look through everything. Don’t die! 🙂

Item list

ItemQtylinkprice/$
Aluminium L-profile620
Aluminium flat profile16
Screw tap1amazon15
Norm screw set1amazon19
COB Modules4digikey80
MeanWell HLH-320H-2100A1100
Arctic Processor Cooler4amazon56
Thermal glue1amazon8,5
Cable1amazon15
4-way 4-pole Y-splitter1amazon9
12 V / 1A Power plug 1amazon9
Wago clamps1amazon7
total344.50

Aluminium Profiles

This will be the framing of your light. You will need 7 pieces of aluminium:

top view render of DIY grow light
Light Framing – Red: L-Profiles, Green: cuboid
  • 6 x 515 mm long L-profiles (measurements below)
  • 1 x 515 mm long cubiod (50 mm x 3 mm)
measurements of the L profile
Measurement of the L-profile

The COB Modules: Bridgelux Vero 29 SE 3500K

picture of COB module

This is your work horse. Four of these lights are enough to light up a 3×3 grow area. The BXRC-35E10K0-D-73-SE is able to put out 147 lm/W with a nice 3500k spectrum (warm white).

FAQ

  • Can I use other COBs aswell? Yes, but make sure the driver you choose fits your setup!
  • Why is this COB better than others? To compare two COBs you first look at the spectrum. This COB has a 3500 K warm white spectrum. After that you compare the effiency. Cheap COBs from amazon likely use COBs that do not reach the output levels of this light at the same power region. With this one you will only need four modules to reach 310W at this efficiency level. 

The Driver: Meanwell HLG-320H-C2100A

This is the heart of your light. The driver will power your COBs. Read more about drivers here. 
This driver is a highly efficient device which will provide you with a constant current of 2100 ma and a voltage range of 76 VDC to 152 VDC.

Thats fitting for the setup! The COBs need a voltage of 36.6 V. We got four of them and connect them in series, resulting in a total voltage of 146.4V .

Wiring schematic for a series connection

To get the same result while wiring everything in parallel you will need a driver that puts out 8.4 A and 36.6 V constant voltage.

Cooling: The Arctic Alpine 64 Plus

This CPU cooler is quiet, can dissipate up to 100 W of thermal energy and is really cheap! It is also possible to use pre drilled passive heatsinks, but these cost at least $30 each.
Disadvantage of active cooling: It can fail!

Contruction

Disclaimer: I wont provide exact measurments. Just make sure everything is perpenticular and has some kind of symmetry to it.

Drilling

First use your screw taps to build the framing. Drill holes at the the marked spots and use your screws to hold everything together. Use one of the coolers to check out the right distance between the two profiles on top and bottom, so the coolers can just be put on top of it.
Remember, that you might need some more holes for the hanging.

Attaching the driver to the middle piece and build the frame

Make sure to screw the driver very tightly to the middle piece, exactly in the middle so everything hangs in an even plane in the end. (no tilt)

example for the frame hanging
My solution to hang the light. 

After that you screw the L profiles and the middle piece with the driver togehter. Work as exact as it gets. If done right, the drivers should fit into the gaps.

Framing of the DIY COB
This was my first framing. Its not perfect, but good enough 🙂

Attach the COBs to the coolers

In the case of the Arctic cooler im recommending, there will be a layer of heatconducting paste on it. You have to remove it, before you attach the COB.

Back of arctic alpine cooler
Remove the layer of thermalpaste first

To remove the thermal paste you need to use a special alcohol solution. This one here is sufficient.

heatpaste removal
Use this or an equivalent solution to remove the thermal paste.

After that you can apply the backside of the COB with a little amount of thermal glue. 

IMPORTANT: MAKE SURE THE HEATPASTE IS ACTUALLY A GLUE WITH HEAT CONDUCTING PROPERTIES. THIS BUILD DOESNT USE SCREWS. IF YOU USE THE WRONG KIND OF PASTE, THE COB WITH JUST FALL OF AND WILL BREAK FROM HEAT DAMAGE! THIS IS A FIRE HAZARD!

Heat paste on COB module
This is a good amount of thermal glue. Let it spread by pressing it on the cooler.

You do not need to spread the thermal glue manually. Just press it on the cooler and let it distribute by pressure.

Wiring and testing the lights

Wago clamps
Use the Wago clamps to connect cables.

Place the COBs attached to the cooler on the framing to determine the amount of cable you need. After that you can start cutting the right amount of cable and wire it to the COBs. Please watch this video if you are not sure how to wire a COB.  Remeber: You use serial wiring.
You now have to attach the input cable to the driver. Just cut open a cold device cable. Make sure you work according to the color coding of the wires. If you fuck up here it can be dangerous! Use the Wago clamps to connect everything.
If you think you have done everything right please DOUBLE CHECK everything.

Attach this to your driver. This is an EU cable!

You can now test the COBs for 5 seconds max. This is important, because the active cooling is not connected yet. Cover your eyes, this is going to be bright! (Im serious here!) 

Power up the cooling

Now that the light works, the last step is to connect the cooling to the power. This is why you have to buy a 4-Way Y-connector. This is used to wire all the fans on the coolers together. Then you just connect the remaining wire to a sufficient power source (12 V, 1 A) and you are done. The cable from the Y-connector has four wires and are color coded as shown here. You only need 12VDC and GND to run the fans. If you are clever you make use of the PWM cable as well to lower the rotation speed if needed.

COB light in a growtent
The DIY COB Light in action!

Have fun growing!

Choose wisely! – A closer look on seeds & genetics

Let me introduce this chapter with one of the most asked questions for growers:

What is the best strain?!

To be honest I dont really know what this question is all about. Most people in the world are still not able to choose from different strains where they live so they take what they get.
For me as a grower this is totally different. Its like going to the liquor store and asking the clerk:

What is the best alcohol?

Strains nowerdays are vastly different from each other. In this chapter I will take a look at it from a growers as well as the consumers perspective and try to resolve some controversial opinions about it.

The three types of Cannabis

Right now, there are three types of seeds available that are relevant for homegrowers:

Regular Cannabis seeds (regs)

Regs are created through the natural way of plant reproduction. Male Cannabis plants produce the pollen, while females produce the counterparts. The female trichomes are pretty sticky to catch any flyby pollen. This process will create seeds on the female parts which is used to multiply the strain with male and female genes. A new strain is born!
The big disadvantage to this for homegrowers is that these seeds have a 50% probability to be male. A cannabis plant takes a lot of time and preparation to produce flowers in the vegetative state. So the pro wont recomment to use regs as a useful way of growing cannabis flowers at home.
Controversial: Some oldschool growers tend to the opinion that regs contain the more stable genetics and will produce better products.Regs are mainly used for breeding at home. This is a way to get seeds for free. The process is very time consuming and needs alot more knowledge which is not posted here.

The Pros First Choice: Feminized Cannabis seeds

Femnized Cannabis seeds are the way to go for a homegrower who likes plant manipulation and high yields. A Feminized Cannabis seed can be created in various ways. The main advantage is, that these seeds are 99% female. And a homegrower only wants the female in his/her tent! Feminized seeds need to be introduced to articficial change of seasons to initiate flowering. This is helpful to get the most of a plants potential but adds another level of complexity to a grow.

mainiling training cannabis lst
Feminized plants need to be sent into flower. You can manipulate them as much as you want. This tech is called “mainlining”.

The Pros Second Choice: Autoflowering Cannabis seeds

Autoflowers are the new shit on the market. Autoflowering cannabis seeds are crossings with the unknown little sister of the great sativa and indica: Cannabis Ruderalis. Crossing a strain with this small, bushy landrace with poor THC levels has an awesome effect: It ignores light cycles. Autoflowers have an internal timer when germinated and will flower after a set amount of time. So you can actually have flowering plants and vegging plants in the same room! This is a great chance for home- and microgrowers who have small spaces but still don’t want to miss out on great harvests.
Controversial: Autoflowering plants tend to have less dense buds and less THC contents, but the breeders did a great job in the last years and today we can enjoy bigass autoflowers with THC contents exceeding the 25% !

A typical autoflower – Royal Creamatic by Royal Queen Seeds. You can see the ruderalis background: she is compact and small – the buds are often less dense and the THC content is lowered but you safe time growing them and you can harvest more than once per year even if youre an outdoor grower! They are also much more usable for a perpetual setup.

Grow trees or grow bushes – sativa vs. indica types

There are two main types of cannabis landraces plus the ruderalis one which is used solely for creating autoflowers. The other ones are cannabis sativa and cannabis indica. (Controversial: there is actually no indica, but there is a phenotype that grows in India, that have alot of different properties than the landrace called sativa.)
Every modern strain is an abbrevation of these landraces and contains parts of both of the two. This is called a hybrid!
Modern seedbanks try to tell you in what parts sativa and indica genes are included in its strains. This can help to determine the plants shape. But since the genetics are so complex its better to look up the strain from a certain breeder in a grow diary or grow report.

The relevant datapoints as a grower are: projected yield, indica/sativa proportions, flowering time, flowering stretch.

Things to check before the grow:

  • Dont mix strains with vastly different flowering times, if you need the tent for drying!
  • Dont mix high stretch and low stretch plants. The lights height and resulting power output is determined by the lights distance. Higher buds will develop great, lower buds meh.

difference indica sativa chocolope critical
Two different strains. Two different heights. The stretch is a feature every strain has. Sativa dominant plants tent to stretch heavier.

The Pros choice: Look up several grow diaries and reports before choosing a strain. Dont grow strains which tend to hermaphrodite or long flowering times if you are a newcomer. Patience is the number one virtue to have while growing and long flowering periods encourages silly moves. Indica dominant phenos are more easy to grow indoors: You dont have to care about the flowering stretch and different strains tend to stay at the same height. They also have awesome yields, because the buds are more packed at the branches.

Consumers Perspective I – THC content

As a consumer I have other needs regarding my weed. I think the effect is a highly subjective field but is also part of a heated discussion. Everyone has heard about “sativas makes high” while “indicas makes stoned” kind of arguments…
In my case its more like “high effect” and “low effect” regarding different THC contents after i tried about 50-60 different strains in the last decade. I appreciate a high THC content, but since i keep my THC tolerance low i can also work with lower contents. THC should be a part of your decision, but not the sole one.
There are strains out there containing more than 30% THC. But since you can just roll a smaller joint or hit a smaller dab these numbers arent worth alot from a growers perspective. It can save money in the eye of the consumer.

Consumers Perspective II – Terpenes

One last point: The taste! Cannabis contains a vast number of smells! Strawberry, Diesel, Tangie, Garlic are only a few to be named here. It seems that breeders will never get tired to bring out new variations of taste in their strains. The “terps” are the elements that give the plants its unique smell, taste, psychoactive and medicinal effect. The most common ones are Limonene, Carophyllene and Pinene.
For example: A high quantity of Limonene will give your plants the typical lemon flavor, while Pinene will make the flower smell foresty.

The Pros choice: I dont have answer on what my favourite weed is. I never really disliked what i have grown. That being said you can mess up at drying and curing and will have nasty hay intead of deliciously fermented nuggets. Sometimes i like the clear high of my Chocolope (DNA Genetics), sometimes i want to hit the couch with a fat torch full of Critical (Royal Queen Seeds). The liquor store clerk also will look very puzzled if you ask him about the best “alcohol”. Just make sure it fits your needs.
I personally love to smoke fruity flavors with a moderate to high (18-25%) THC contents and a nice head effect. For Example Kosher Tangie Kush (Amsterdam Genetics). You can lookup my Grow Diaries for an honest opinion on strains as a grower and a consumer.

DIY Cannabis Grow Timelapse with a Raspberry Pi

In this guide, you will learn about the basics to timelapse your grow. Furthermore you will learn how to setup Linux on a Raspberry Pi Minicomputer, remote control it via VNC and how to use it as an FTP server.

 

List of items

To copy my workflow of approximately 10 minutes a week you need the following items:

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is used as an automated photographer and FTP-Server for easy access.
  1. Raspberry Pi Minicomputer (buy @ amazon.com , 35 $) (Raspi) – This is the heart if this project. This device captures the photos at the right time ,saves the photos and is also your local Fileserver. There are different versions of the Raspberry Pi. Its important that the device can run WLAN. The best Pi to do this is the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B which brings the most calculating power.
  2. Raspberry Pi Wide Lens Camera (buy @ amazon.com, 23 $) – There are also some PiCams without a wide lense, but the optic helps alot in very
    picture of raspberry pi cam
    Raspberry Pi Cam with wide lense optics

     

     

     

     

     

     

    narrow rooms with less space

  3. A Power source for the Pi – You actually will not get this with a purchase of a Raspberry Pi! Make sure to have a power plug with a Micro-USB dongle which can deliver 5 V (Volts) and between 700 – 1000 ma (Milliampere). Any old smartphone loading plug should do it.
  4. HDMI-Cable, USB-Mouse and USB-Keyboard – You will need that only for setup. Once you setup the Pis remote control, you can use these for other purposes.
  5. Micro SD-CardThis is your hard drive of the Pi. Make sure you have one extra because this will stay in the Pi for the course of the run. 32 GB should be OK. for a whole run.
  6. WLAN Router – Since you cant access the filesystem on the card, without a linux based system, you will need to establish an FTP connection to the Pi. This is also pretty convenient because you dont have to interact with the Pi while its in the grow room anyways
  7. Micro USB power plug
    Micro – USB Power Plug

     

    PC, Notebook, etc … – This is necessary for moving pictures and merge the images in a reasonable time.

  8. Micro SD-Card reader – You need this to install the operating system on the Micro-SD Card. 

 

 

Preparations – One Time Setup

Get the Pi ready

Everything in the Chapter Preparations you only need to do once.

  1. Download the operating System. You get the files here: https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/raspbian/ . The Version is called Raspian Stretch with Desktop as .zip and unzip it after downloading.
  2. In the meantime you download the software Etcher from https://etcher.io. You need that to get the OS on the SD-Card.
    Etcher User Interface – if you fuck up here you’re not made for this.
  3. After its done, put the Card in the Pi.
  4. Connect the HDMI-cable to a screen and then to the Pi alongside your USB-mouse and USB-keyboard.
  5. Plug-in the power and wait…

 

Raspberry Pi configuration

Congratz! You got a computer on your hands with the power of a five year old smartphone. Very much enough for this guide tho. The Pi wants to change the default setting at first start – its recommended but not necessary. The default login is username: pi, password: raspberry.This will be important later.

raspberry pi configuration screenshot
Menu of the Raspian OS. Click on the raspberry symbol on the upper left > Preferences > Raspberry Pi Configuration
  1. In the configurations menu (caption of the picture) you can change the login.
  2. We will access the system time to shoot our photos. Make sure to change it to your local timezone: Click on Localisation > Timezone and choose the respective timezone.
  3. In the field Interface you activate the options Camera, SSH und VNC.
  4. Also in interfaces there is the option Keyboard. Set it to your needs! Coding is hard, if you’re using an EU keyboard with US (default) settings.
  5. On the Desktop to the upper right is a symbol to the WLAN connection. Connect it to your local WLAN.

Reboot the Pi to have all settings activated. You’re done configuring this for now. We’re heading to test the camera.

 

 

Testing the Camera – Your first picture

Connect the camera to the Pi. Make sure the connection adapter is tight aroung the cable. You can actually pull the sides of the connector out and back in after you set up the cable. Try it!

  1. Start the Pi by plugging in the power plug if not done yet.
  2. Start the Terminal  (tool bar to the upper left) and update/upgrade the OS by typing in a row and confirm with enter:
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get upgrade
  3. This might take a few moments.
  4. Test the camera by typing in the terminal
    raspistill -v -o test.jpg

    This code will create the file test.jpg and saves it the given place (home/pi). Open the file to check out the picture!

  5. Call your local IP adress via typing
    hostname -l

    in the Terminal and write it down for the moment.

If the camera works, we now need to setup the automation and remote control.

 

 

VNC, SSH, FTP – Remote access

Our key target is to have the Pi shoot pictures inside the tent automatically. This is why the next step is to put the pi into the tent. You dont need the periphery keyboard, mouse or monitor anymore. Its your job now to find a nice perspective for the pi. Mine is below my DIY COB Light. Another Pi-Cam got installed on the wall. Mind that a Raspberry Pi can only handle one distinct Pi-Cam, but more than one USB-Webcam.

Remember this might be the final position. Test that, and make sure that it never moves.

picture of led light diy grow light picture of pi cam setup raspberry pi camera

  1. If everything is alright in the room, you can now switch on the Pi by plugging in the power source. There is no need to have a keyboard, mouse or monitor to be attached anymore,
  2. Download VNC-Viewer to your home PC or notebook (not the Pi). Remember to have the Pis IP adress around as well as the password and username for the connection. You can access the IP adress via your router config or by typing hostname -l in the Pis terminal.
  3. If you are connected tryout the code for shooting a picture again and calibrate the camera very carefully. You can turn on the lense to make the picture more sharp.
  4. Test the FTP connection: Download FileZilla or something similar (Filezilla download: https://filezilla-project.org/download.php) Don’t choose the pro version, its not needed.
    1. After you started Filezilla click File > Servermananger to connect.
    2. Protocol: SFTP – SSH File Transfer Protocol
    3. Server <local adress of the Pi>
    4. Connections: (normal: not as safe) but most convenient.

Now you should be connected to the Pi via your PC/notebook. You can now access the filesystem of the Pi via FileZilla and remote control it via VNC.

 

 

Creating the scheduler for the pictures

Now we are ready to script our photo scheduler using the software crontab on the Raspberry Pi. This software is able to execute operations at given time intervals. Perfect for timelapses.

Create a folder and change the restriction on it immediatly

We cant always create, read and write folders or files on the Pi, so we need to manipulate the accessability on a given folder first. Via rightclick > properties > permissions you can solve this. In the target folder for the pictures everything should be available for everyone.

Create the file “camera.sh” for capturing the photos

In the target folder (where you changed the read/write rights): Rightclick > Create New… > Empty File and name it camera.sh

  1. Open the file camera.sh in Text Editor and write the
    following:
    #!/bin/bash
    export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/lib/
    cd <Path of the folder>
    DATE=$(date +"%Y-%m-%d_%H%M")
    raspistill -n -q 100 -o <Path of the folder>$DATE.jpg
  2. Just exchange
    <Path of the folder> 

    with the path to the place where camera.sh is. This code creates filenames like: 2018-10-15_2250.jpg and will therefore list the pics chronologically inside the folder.

  3. Test the script: Open up the Terminal. Navigate to the right folder via cd <Path of the folder> and confirm with Enter. After this you type in:
    sudo sh camera.sh

    into the Terminal. If everything works as intended there should now be a .jpg with a timestamp in the right folder!

Configure crontab to finalize automazation

In order to do this last step of preparation you need to be remote connected to the Pi via VNC. Open up the terminal and write:

sudo crontab -e

If you get asked what editor to choose, take nano. The terminal should change to this:

Linux terminal screenshot
The linux terminal.

Be careful when editing this file! Scroll to the bottom of the file and press Enter to end up with a newline without a “#” symbol upfront.
Disclaimer: Youre probably using other light cycles. And we want the camera only to shoot when its bright for the plants.

*/20 21,22,23,0-8 * * * sh <Path to the folder>/camera.sh

How does this code work?

  • */20 takes a photo every 20 minutes in a given hour
  • 21,22,23,0-8 says that it only shoots pictures between 21:00h and 08:XXh. Change this, if youre different cycles!
  • * * * takes care of weekdays, months and years. You put in asteriks so that you dont need to bother for this on the course of your run.
  • sh initializes the shellscript of the camera.sh file
  • <Path to folder>/camera.sh tells the cronjob what is to execute. In our case the photographing script.

 

Weekly tasks

Via the software FileZilla you should backup your files regulary. I do it once a week. If you config crontab my way, you will shoot about 18 pictures a day.

ffmpeg and rename.bat – Creating the timelapse

Turn on your PC/Notebook.
In order to use ffmpeg follow the instructions here. You only need to do it one to make it work: https://video.stackexchange.com/questions/20495/.
ffmpeg works the easiest with filenames that are numbered in order. To transform the filenames you need to create a file which you call rename.bat and write in the following code:

@echo off
setlocal EnableDelayedExpansion

set i=0
for %%a in (*.jpg) do (
set /a i+=1
ren "%%" "!i!.new"
)
ren *.new *.jpg

Now create your first timelapse:

  1. Copy all pictures to the folder with rename.bat in it. Never run rename.bat in your backup folder. It will destroy everything.
  2. start CMD and navigate to the timelapse folder: type in
    cd <Path to the folder containing the renamed pictures>
  3. type in the following to initate the timelapse process:
    ffmpeg -r 60 -i %d.JPG -s 1440x1080 -vcodec libx264 timelapse.mp4

This will create a 60 FPS videofile named “timelapse.mp4” with the resolution 1440×1080 under the x264 codec out of the renamed frames.

Maintenance and cleanup

It happens rarely, but you will find frames which you dont want to use in the timelapse. You need to sort them out before you rename the images and merge them. The ffmpeg code will not work if hes not fed with consecutive numbers.

 

Grower watering his plants
The grower got caught watering the plants. This will not look good in the final timelapse.