First footage emerges from University of Malta’s MEMENTO camera
After two and a half years of hard work and steep learning, the engineering team behind the University of Malta’s MEMENTO project has released footage taken with the home-grown high frame rate camera.
The video clip shows the sparks emerging from a pyrophoric ferrocerium alloy rod after being briskly struck with a steel blade. “This type of footage is typical of those scenarios where the camera must make efficient use of the light generated by the subject since no amount of additional artificial lighting will help with capturing such an event,” says Andre Micallef, who has spent countless days and nights designing and testing the many complex circuit boards in the camera.
This particular clip was captured using the monochrome version of the camera at 800 frames per second and a resolution of 976x544 pixels, and each frame integrates light over just 2 micro seconds. The camera can easily quadruple that resolution at several thousands more frames per second but the current prototype has some memory limitations, which will be overcome soon, as the team finalises the integration of a bank of high performance PC memory modules.
Firmware designer and graduate engineering student, Karl Galea experienced first-hand the difficulty of capturing fleeting events on camera. “Timing is everything. You could be making sparks all day and never get the perfect shot, unless you have some mechanism of triggering the video capture at the right moment.” For this clip, Karl used some of the ingenuity he has been trained for. Realising that both the pyrophoric rod and striker are made of metal, he quickly fashioned the pair into an electrical switch to send a signal to the camera to begin recording on the first metal-to- metal contact, and result speaks for itself.
“In the near future, we plan on integrating a pre-trigger function that uses a circular buffer to allow the camera to record continuously until it is stopped by the operator or some other triggering event. This will enable us to make allowances for the human operator’s limited reaction time and hence improve on usability,” says Dr Ing. Marc Anthony Azzopardi.
The team now plans to gradually enable and test the many features of the camera while ruggedizing the setup for field testing in preparation for a commercial launch of the product.
MEMENTO secured close to €200,000 of funding covering a three year period of intense development, from the Malta Council for Science & Technology through FUSION: The R&I Technology Development Programme.