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Ambarella USB camera control

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  • Ambarella USB camera control

    Hi guys,

    I understand it might have taken you years of reverse engineering to gather all this information and here I come out of the blue asking for advice. Let me just say I am willing to contribute to the hacks and mods as soon as I have something to contribute.

    In the summer I bought a Firefly 8S, the 90 degree version. I was really impressed with the picture quality and the overall functionality of this little camera. The 90 degree field of view was exactly what I was looking for. A wide angle, not a fish-eye.

    I have a background as a documentary filmmaker before I started doing web development and now I want to do filmmaking again. My plan is to control this camera remotely via a Raspberry PI. I picked that because it is very small and has wifi built in. I know this camera can be controlled over wifi but then I would need another wifi modem attached to the computer so I hope to be able to do it over USB.

    On the Raspberry I want to use one of the languages I already know: PHP or Perl, probably PHP, to relay commands from the internet.

    So basically what I am looking for is something I can access from PHP that will then control the camera via USB.

    The functionality that I am looking for is to be able to control:
    start/stop recording
    adjust iso
    adjust white balance
    adjust EV
    adjust audio level
    get a preview image
    get files

    What also would be helpful is if it would automatically pick one of the USB modes, so it won't be stuck on that menu.

    I would be really interested to find out what you all think about this. Is this something that is already possible or would this need additional hacking?



  • #2
    Hi, cool idea I've had a similar idea in the past but didn't continue it. I was trying to interconnect a Novatek based camera with an ESP8266 - so basically it's a very similar setup.

    I would connect the raspberry pi to the ambarella camera using uart. (you need to do some soldering on the firefly..)
    Through uart you get access to the cameras debug console which accepts many commands. Through this you will be able to:
    start/stop recording
    adjust iso
    adjust white balance
    adjust EV

    Regarding the audio level I'm not sure but maybe thats possible as well.

    You can also change the usb mode through commands afaik ( -> so you need two connections to the ambarella camera: USB and UART). That way you can fetch the recorded files.
    You might also be able to get a "preview" by getting the frame buffer.

    And if that camera is wifi enabled it should contain a linux kernel and some linux tools which could make things even easier.

    Unfortunately I can't give you too detailed information since I stopped with ambarella 2 years ago.. My knowledge is based on A2 and A7.


    • #3
      Thanks for that input Tobi If uart is the way to go, then that is what we need to do.

      I am not married to the Amba chip, I will use whatever gets the job done for me, maybe there is another more suitable camera. Let me list the specs that I need, in case you guys know of another suitable camera.

      1. I want to use action cameras because they are small, light and very capable these days
      2. Wide angle instead of fish eye, so the Firefly 90 degree is perfect in that aspect
      3. Mic input. The Firefly does not have that out of the box. I understand there is something that plugs into the usb connector. Can I still use the usb in that case?
      4. 4K, nice sony sensor

      I did not see any other action cams with a 90 degree lens. Maybe there are none.

      Controlling the Firefly over wifi should be possible because that is how the ap works. Perhaps it would not be that hard to reverse engineer. My only thing with controlling it over wifi is that I would then have to have two wifi modems connected to the computer. One to connect to the internet and one to connect to the camera.

      How does uart connect to a Raspberry?

      I would prefer to do this without modifying the cameras, but if it is necessary and someone can reliably do this then so be it.

      Thank you for your patience and I look forward to your input.


      • #4
        I found some documentation for Raspberry uart


        • #5
          I know you want to control an Amba camera via wireless connection, but in case someone needs it to be controlled by wires Firefly 8S has shutter and video recording control pins in miniUSB socket:
          Click image for larger version

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          Original link
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          Email me if you have any offers, requests or ideas.


          • #6
            Wow thanks! That's awesome!


            • #7
              I actually would prefer wired control.

              what I would also really like to have is stereo line into the camera.

              it looks like this is going to involve some soldering inside the camera for the uart connection and the line input. I hope I can find someone willing and able to do that. A number of cameras will need to be converted.


              • #8
                Which raspberry pi model do you have? Model 3 has integrated wifi and could be used to connect to the firefly


                • #9
                  I have a zero w that also has integrated wifi. I need to use that to connect it to the internet. So if I want to connect to the camera over wifi I would need to add another wifi modem somehow.

                  Do you think I have a pretty good chance of making this work with the Firefly 8s? I would like to buy a few more before the sale runs out at Gearbest. I don't know of any other brand with a 90 degree lens anyway.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by MoreDef View Post
                    I don't know of any other brand with a 90 degree lens anyway.
                    I'm pretty sure that GitUp will release its 90-degree version of F1 cam soon...
                    Donate here if you want to support my efforts and this site.

                    Email me if you have any offers, requests or ideas.


                    • #11
                      The F1 is an interesting camera. The form factor would work for me because I really don't need the LCD screen to see the picture. I'm not sure what the advantage would be over the Firefly. I would need a good reason to switch to another model camera because I already have three Fireflies. Interesting to see the separate lenses on their site, I didn't know that was a thing for action cameras.

                      I will probably go with the additional wifi modem on the raspberry to control the camera settings. Automatic ISO and white balance would not work for me.

                      I think I will use the mic input on the usb connector and then also record audio on the computer. That way I won't need any soldering to the cameras.