Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AXIOM (Apertus° eXtendable Integrated Open Modular Cinema Camera)
Reporting period: 2015-03-15 to 2016-06-14
AXIOM is much more than simply a camera, it is an open camera platform. Whereas people are understandably cautious of buying camera systems which will be outdated within months upon their release, AXIOM cameras are built as a system that will evolve over time. They implement FPGA based designs and grant the opportunity to update interfaces, codecs, firmware and new functionalities via simple software downloaded directly to the camera. The AXIOM ecosystem, a forum for developers, producers, users and anyone interested to interact, will further serve as a hub to actively encourage and support collaboration.
Following the footsteps of very successful Open Source Hardware (short: Open Hardware) projects such as the ""Arduino"" (est. 1.4 mil. units sold) and the ""Raspberry Pi"" (est. over 2.5 mil. units sold), AXIOM is the basis for many future projects in the domain of movie production, educational, creative, prototyping, and machine vision. European ICT innovative creative industries SMEs and ICT SMEs in the imaging sectors can greatly benefit from the developments and outputs of the AXIOM project. AXIOM increases the competitiveness of the European creative industries by stimulating Open Innovation based on Open Hardware.
The AXIOM Gamma utilizes a modular hardware concept (the ""Open Module Concept""). The Open Module concept renders the AXIOM Gamma to be a fully extendible and repairable camera system, not to be outdated any time soon. Since this modular design also includes modularity of the enclosure, there is not just one single way the AXIOM Gamma can look like.
Even though Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) has been on the rise and shows a big success story (see Linux, Mozilla, Apache Web Server, Android, etc.) Open Source just recently entered the creative industries sector. The term ""Open Design"" was formalised in 2010 (""Open Design Manifesto"") and is most prominently used in the 3D printer ""RepRap"", which has been released already in 2007 under the GNU General Public License. Open (libre), extendable and fully documented creative tools are still not widely available – especially not in the field of imaging technologies. The Horizon 2020 funded project AXIOM tackled this through: firstly, the development of the AXIOM camera platform and secondly: by researching the wider implications of Open Hardware to stimulate and foster a European Open Hardware network. This resulted in the implementation of the first “Open Hardware Europe Summit”, which took place in Vienna, Austria as the final project presentation of the EU project. The Open Hardware Europe Summit featured international researchers and Open Hardware projects and contextualised the project findings in a wider international discourse, which will be lasting over the timeframe of the project."
The image processing pipeline inside the camera created by Antmicro is implemented in the FPGA fabric of the respective modules. The FPGA technology enables highly parallel processing of high-volume data such as a high-resolution video stream. Due to the extensive flexibility of FPGAs, many ways exist to implement any given processing pipeline, and a highly modular structure was selected to reflect the open and extendible nature of the project. The image processing pipeline consists of multiple so-called IP cores, which are implemented as blocks of code which “synthesise” into a particular layout of the FPGA fabric. Each of the IP cores in the pipeline was implemented a separate reusable block with standardised interfaces to connect it to other blocks, and is written in either VHDL or Verilog hardware description languages (with an accompanying XML description using the IP-XACT standard, which enables automatic configuration and integration with external tooling). The use of any high-level design tools and languages was avoided due to the fact that either their adoption is limited, they require expensive licensing, or both.
All the IP cores have been packaged so as to allow modularity and reuse using the Xilinx Vivado tool (version 2015.02) which is the default and de facto only universally available framework for working with Xilinx FPGA such as the Kintex-7 used for the ISFES hardware and requires a license from Xilinx. The FPGA model used in the project is covered by the free WebPack license, which means that anyone willing to examine, rebuild or modify the FPGA project can do so without paying any licensing fees.
The mechanic hardware delivered by DENZ, consists of CNC manufactured enclosure parts and a modular heat management system. These parts are designed using a CAD software (SolidWorks) to create 3D models and manufacturing drawings, afterwards using a CAM software (MasterCam) to generate G-Code required to drive the CNC machines. In the initial design phase, requirements regarding the thermal management were collected in a block diagram of all relevant heat sources. Each of these modules were then designed in detail by selecting suitable components, devices (fans) in 3D models and eventually simulating critical parts to verify the thermal stability. The captured 3D model was then used as input for the 3D printing prototype where the mechanical components produce as a RPT model were evaluate regarding the handling. In this process additional requirements like mechanical constraints and design rules have to be considered (shown in figure below). The enclosure and thermal components were redesigned and the final version were designed to meet the requirements and to be producible using standard technologies (simple CNC milled and bending sheet metal parts) offered by many manufacturing companies.
Image sensor benchmarking and characteristics measurement workflows and compensation techniques as well as software were developed to account for Black Calibration, Pattern No
The creation of the AXIOM open hardware prototype (pre-production / pilot before first market replication) introducing an affordable, modular, flexible camera system using open standards to creative industries was achieved in the course of the project. Through the dissemination of all research data and results via principles of Open Source to the public media producers, hardware developers and third-party module developers are empowered, as they have access to a hardware layer which has not been accessible before. This strengthens possible collaborations between ICT innovative technologies providers and creative industries SMEs to improve the competitive position of the European creative industries, since entirely novel applications can be developed with the AXIOM cameras and hardware parts.
Additional progress from the grant proposal that has been reached in the project:
- stimulation of the collaboration of creative industry with an online communication platform (ecosystem) for innovative (value added) products based on the AXIOM platform.
- involvement of end users in the development process.
- fostering of European open hardware startups with providing a best-practice example and collaborating with other European and international players to help in establishing the Open Hardware Europe Summit.
- building up and developing extensive specialized knowledge/ methods/ workflows to establish future services and customizations around the AXIOM platform within the consortium.
- opening up new fields and markets to the creative industries (e.g. third party developments, services, training, value-added applications/products) through the open nature of the project and created ecosystem.
The AXIOM Ecosystem was launched successfully in the course of the Horizon 2020 project (Deliverable D1.3). Its aim is to create a globally connected ecosystem with three main sectors: hardware, software and services. 60 members have since published profiles in the AXIOM ecosystem. The current locations of service providers are mainly in Europe (54 profiles) and some in USA (5). The ecosystems impact is growing now already with the shipping of the AXIOM Beta developer kits which have been sent to community members in 9 different countries and production and shipment speed is increasing currently with over 150 units scheduled.
Environmental aspects: Sustainability, ecological production, low footprint
As planned all manufacturing that was done within this Horizon 2020 project was carried out by partners and service providers within the European Union for a sustainable and low ecological footprint. Only on one occasion it was discovered that a German manufacturing service provider actually outsourced the order to a Chinese company which was not communicated at first. This service provider was not chosen for any further orders.