Enter the Ping-Pong Illumimote! This device achieves performance comparable to a commercial light intensity meter, while conforming to the size and energy constraints imposed by its application in wireless sensor networks. The board was developed to replace the light sensing capabilities on the MTS310 Mote sensor board whose response time and narrower dynamic range in light intensity capture is unsuitable to many certain applications for light measurement such as media production. The Illumimote features significantly improved SNR due to its adoption of high-end photo sensors, amplification and conversion circuits coupled with active noise suppression, application-tuned filter networks, and a noise-attentive manual layout. Unlike the MTS310, the Illumimote can capture RGB color intensity (for color temperature calculation) and incident light angle (which discerns the angle of ray arrival from the strongest source). The prototype was created by the UCLA NESL & the UCLA Hypermedia Studio, a joint effort between the film makers and the engineers, to apply wireless sensor networks to new purposes in art and entertainment.
The order in which an audience views a film’s sequence of events is remarkably different from the order in which they are produced. Shots are filmed in the order that minimizes cost and makes best use of actors, crew, and locations. Footage captured at these different times must appear the same when shown consecutively, or differences must be controllable if they are required for creative purposes. It is important to monitor and replicate the quality of light (illuminance and color) in each shot, so that footage captured at different times or in different locations doesn’t show unexpected differences, which may not be perceived by the human eye but affect the film stock. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, for example, was filmed over a year and a half of production and required that footage be captured for use in three different movies with vastly differing release dates and schedules. Researchers at UCLA have focused on lighting instrumentation as the first component of their Advanced Technology for Cinematography (ATC) because of its vital role in the creative process of filmmaking. ATC is a joint project of UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Theater, Film and Television. The Illumimote is part of their larger vision to increase flexibility and creative control in media production using sensor networks and other emerging technologies. Deploying networks of tiny sensors adds a data acquisition layer to the film production environment that supports on-set decision making, such as the lighting adjustment described above, as well as post-production and asset management.
Initial work prompted the development of the Illumimote and other high-quality sensor platforms that can be deployed atop Mica Motes, the defacto standard for WSN nodes. The Illumimote is designed to have equal or better performance to the class of commercial light intensity and color temperature meters used in the entertainment, film and video production industries. It supports three different light sensing modalities: incident light intensity, color intensities and incident light angle (the angle of ray arrival from the strongest source), and two situational sensing modalities: attitude and temperature. The device demonstrated significantly faster response time (> 6x) and a much wider dynamic range (> 10x) in light intensity measurement as compared with the standard MTS310 Mote sensor boards. The light-angle estimation results were well correlated with an average error of just 2.63°. The assembled Illumimote with a lumisphere appears in the picture above. The role of the lumisphere is to protect the sensors and to integrate incident light from all directions.
The overall system architecture diagram of the Illumimote appears below. There are eight light sensor channels allocated based on the number of detector circuits required to capture the illumination attribute. For example, the color temperature unit requires three channels—one for each of red, green, and blue luminosity. Signals from the eight light acquisition units and four situational units are multiplexed via the channel selection unit and presented to the ADC for conversion into a 10-bit digital signal. This resultant data is conveyed to the networked and embedded nodes (in this case, MICAz motes) via either the I2C data bus or a direct 16550Acompatible UART link that uses line-level (rail-to-rail) output. The operation of the Illumimote’s units may be controlled directly from the Mote via the I2C bus or locally by an onboard Atmel Atmega48 microprocessor. Employing the local processor relieves the network interface (mote) of any realtime constraints associated with frame-rate-accurate sampling. The local processor also exposes interrupt facilities both to and from the host-processor onboard the mote. When operating in this mode, the continuous I2C bus may be severed and reattached dynamically (hardware is bus-state aware) to create two isolated buses—one local to the Illumimote, and one local to the Mote—as needed. In addition to calibration functions, the embedded temperature sensor can wake a sleeping mote in the event of a dangerous thermal condition (risk of meltdown). On the bottom, Illumimote features a connector that is compatible with standard Mote-type sensor nodes (IRIS, MICA2, MICAz, Cricket etc).
Three embedded software components were developed for the experimental wireless sensing system. First, sensor and sensitivity control software was programmed and downloaded to the Illumimote board. The board was then attached to a MicaZ node that has a 7.37MHz 8-bit microprocessor and a 250kbps ZigBee radio. Secondly, the Illumimote driver and light sensing application were programmed at the MicaZ mote using SOS environment. SOS is an OS for Mote-class wireless sensor networks developed by NESL at UCLA. Finally, at the base station laptop, a Java program was used to monitor and log the light measurements, and a visualization interface was used for real-time debugging and analysis. A GUI visualization interface was developed as shown below to display the status of the Illumimote in real time, that was used for testing, experimenting, and performing demonstrations. The interface was implemented in Java and Processing. This GUI made it easy to test and evaluate the Illumimotes visually and is a step towards designing the interface that could be used by a cinematographer in future.
The Illumimote achieves performance comparable to a commercial light meter and color meter (as used by professional cinematographers) over the ranges tested. It consists of incident light intensity, RGB intensity (for color temperature calculation capability), and incident light angle sensors as well as thermal and attitudinal sensors. Researchers at UCLA characterized its performance and verified its capabilities. The project website hosts the technical data and the Illumimote will soon be commercially available from Atla Labs to allow other researchers access to the technology for their own experimentation. Future work includes further enhancements to the general characteristics of the Illumimote (such as dynamic range), estimation of the vertical incident light angle, and further development of the software tools that support and integrate the Illumimote in support of its deployment on actual productions scheduled for the near future.