Getting started with FLIR Blackfly S USB cameras with Swing Catalyst
This article covers how to setup and configure a Spinnaker compatible USB camera in Swing Catalyst.
Some older models are also supported such as the Chameleon USB 3.0 & Grasshopper USB 3.0 this article can be used as a reference guide for those respective cameras. There are differences between models with regards to available settings & features, as such this article might not be exactly the same as on your screen.
Note: Spinnaker is only supported in Swing Catalyst versions 9.4 and up. Which version am I running?
This article is split into different sections
Related topics & recommendations:
We strongly recommend that you familiarize yourself with our recommendations before purchasing cameras or a computer system. USB 3.0 can be have stability issues, and is generally not something we (Swing Catalyst) recommend for fixed camera installations.
- Recommended USB 3.0 Components
- Recommended computer specifications
- Setting up FLIR Blackfly S GigE in Swing Catalyst
Getting started: Hardware setup
Attach the tripod adapter to the camera body using the 4 black Phillips head screws included with the camera.
Unpack the lens and make sure to remove the plastic lens covers
Remove the sensor cover from the camera:
Attaching the lens to the camera
Fasten the cable to the camera by tightening the locking screws:
Adjusting the camera lens:
This lens has three adjustments, from top to bottom:
- Focus (adjusting towards the ∞ symbol will make objects further away in the background in focus)
- Aperture (iris adjustment, will adjust how much light is able to pass through the lens, a more closed aperture will result in a sharper image).
- Zoom (adjusts the zoom of the lens wide or telephoto).
Getting started: Driver installation
Drivers can be downloaded from our Downloads page
Follow the setup wizard.
- Choose "Camera Evaluation"
- Uncheck the "I will use GigE Cameras" box if you are using USB cameras.
Driver installation is now complete. As long as you have Swing Catalyst 9.4 or later installed your cameras should now appear in Swing Catalyst camera settings.
Installing the USB PCI Express controller card
This article is a work in progress and this section is not finished yet, sorry.
Make sure the camera is connected to your computer and that the LED in the back of the camera is blinking green.
Start Swing Catalyst and click Settings, -> Cameras.
Spinnaker cameras are denoted with Spinnaker (in this case we have a USB camera and a GigE camera connected, we want to configure the BFS-U3 model (U3 means USB3).
The Advanced Camera Settings window exposes all of the settings you might find handy, lets take a look at each individual setting.
The settings you see above are the default camera settings, note that most of the settings are set to auto, we can change these settings to get better control over the video image quality for sports analysis.
Changing the frame rate:
Checking the Frame rate control enable box will allow you to manually set the frame rate, if this box is unchecked the frame rate is essentially set to auto (note: the maximum frame rate of this camera is 226 FPS. To achieve the maximum frame rate all of the settings need to be set to manual).
Frame rate can be limited by the shutter speed and the device link throughput settings.
Changing shutter speed:
Unless we're outdoors in sunlight it's better to use a manual shutter speed, otherwise it's likely the video will be too blurry for sports analysis. To reduce blur we recommend a shutter speed less than 2ms (2000μs), with adequate lighting the shutter speed can be less than 1ms (1000μs).
How bright the video image will be is a combination of the shutter speed, gain settings, lens aperture and how much light is available.
Changing camera gain:
Having gain set to auto is preferable in changing light conditions, but if you have an indoors environment setting gain to manual is the better way to go.
The higher the dB value, the brighter the image, however there will also be more noise as a result which may make the overall video quality seem poor. Sometimes it is worth having a slightly higher gain at the expense of noise in order to bring the shutter speed down to get sharp frame by frame video of an object (e.g club at impact, baseball bat etc).
Changing gamma and black levels:
Black level can be considered a form of brightness adjustment, where the black level corresponds to the minimum value that any pixel on the camera sensor will return.
By increasing the black level value we can make the image brighter.
Our recommendation is to leave this at the default values.
For more details on improving your video image please see this support article which has comparison photos: https://support.swingcatalyst.com/hc/en-us/articles/360009187999-Improving-camera-image-quality
Changing the cameras white balance:
Normally we recommend to leave this setting to auto (continuous) but in order to achieve the maximum frame rate this also needs to be turned off.
White balance will affect the color temperature of the video image, and if the white balance is very wrong the image will not look very good, often leaving the image appearing too red or green.
By enabling auto white balance we sacrifice some frame rate leaving us at 200 FPS instead of the camera maximum 226 FPS.
Device link throughput:
We recommend leaving this at the default setting, but lowering it can reduce dropped frames at the cost of a lower FPS.
Applying Region Of Interest (ROI):
Region of interest is a way to reduce the image size and by extension also the bandwidth required for each image. By reducing the image size we can increase the frame rate as the overall pixel readout requirement is smaller.
Reducing the height and width can have a positive effect on frame rate and lowering the bandwidth requirements.
To change the region of interest we can drag the height slider to the left to reduce the height of the image.
Since we've changed the height of the image, we can also now change the Y offset which can be helpful as an alternative to physically moving the camera due to the reduced image size.
If we go back to the Camera tab and look under frame rate, we now see the maximum frame rate can be set to 288 (this is because we applied a region of interest by reducing the height of the camera sensor).
USB 3.0 can be tricky to work with. For example some USB cables work better than others and certain USB 3.0 controllers can cause problems. Please see our recommended USB components article for details: https://support.swingcatalyst.com/hc/en-us/articles/204239738-Recommended-USB-3-0-Components
Reducing the device link throughput on each device may help avoid dropped frames. If lowered enough the throughput will affect the frame rate.
Especially with multiple camera setups reducing the throughput can help stabilize a system at the expense of a few frames per second.
For example USB 3.0 is advertised to be capable of 5Gb/s, which is 625 MB/s.
One USB 3.0 camera with a resolution of: 1920 x 1200 resolution at 150 FPS will use roughly 345MB/s per camera. - It is therefor important to have a dedicated USB 3.0 controller card per our recommendations for multiple camera setups (in most cases).
Another approach, often good in combination with reducing throughput is utilizing region of interest, often called ROI.
Region Of Interest (ROI):
Using a region of interest (or area of interest) will reduce the overall image size and boost the FPS, but also it can help lower the bandwidth usage which in turns could reduce dropped frames (see above on how to utilize ROI).
Furthermore USB cables can be an important factor with regards to received frame rate, as mentioned in: https://support.swingcatalyst.com/hc/en-us/articles/204239738-Recommended-USB-3-0-Components
Connectivity problems (camera disconnects):
USB 3 can be prone to connectivity problems. Most often these issues stem from a bad USB 3.0 extender, too long of a cable (overall) or simply a cable that has been damaged by simply bending it too sharply.
Depending on your hardware it might not be the best to have the sharpening and denoise filters on, turning these off will reduce some CPU & GPU usage. You can find the camera filters in the Advanced Camera Settings Filters tab. More info on filters here: https://support.swingcatalyst.com/hc/en-us/articles/360009187999