Vicon Nexus 2.13 and later supports using FLIR Blackfly S video cameras to provide synchronized, calibrated video captures.
The following information provides details about choosing the appropriate hardware and setting it up for use with Nexus:
References to Vicon Lock, Lock units, and Lock apply to all current models of the Vicon Lock unit (at the time of publication, this includes Vicon Lock+, Vicon Lock Studio and Vicon Lock Lab).
Check the FLIR Blackfly S video hardware
Before you begin, check that your hardware is included in Recommended FLIR Blackfly S video hardware for Nexus.
Connect the FLIR Blackfly S video system components
The following topics describe how to set up the hardware for a Nexus system that includes FLIR BLackfly S video cameras:
Connect cables to the camera
Connect two cables to each camera:
- Connect one cable to the PC for power, control and data.
- Connect the other cable to a Vicon Lock for synchronization.
We recommend initially setting the camera up close to the PC and Lock to verify correct functioning, using the 5 m cables, before introducing any extension cables. Extension cables are a likely source of issues with bandwidth and power, so it is wise only to attempt to add these after the camera is set up and functioning satisfactorily.
This diagram shows a setup for a single FLIR camera:
Install USB 3.0 expansion card
The expansion card is required when the onboard ports on the PC are not sufficiently fast, or when there are not enough onboard ports on the PC. The expansion card is required when using more than two USB 3.0 cameras.
Install the card in a spare PCIe slot, remembering to connect its external power to either a SATA or Molex drive power connector.
If the USB3.0 host controller card is the recommended Fresco Logic model (see Recommended FLIR Blackfly S video hardware for Nexus), based on the FL1100 chipset, support is built-in for Windows 8, 8.1, and 10.
However, we recommend downloading and installing the drivers from the Fresco Logic website.
Attach the mounting plate to the camera
Carefully attach the mounting plate to the underneath of the camera with the four small bolts included, taking care not to lose them or overtighten them.
Attach the lens to the camera
Attach a suitable C-mount lens for the camera.
Connect the camera to the PC
- Attach the USB3 cable between the camera and PC.
- Ensure that the screws are tightened up on the camera side to lock the cable in place and that the connector is not subject to excessive force, eg, from the weight of cables or because it is in a position where it could be knocked.
To avoid the whole weight being borne by the camera's connector, we recommend that you attach the cables to the tripod or rig with cable ties.
Connect the camera to the Lock
Attach the sync cable from the Vicon Lock unit to the camera. To do this:
- Rotate the camera end of the cable, which is keyed, until the correct alignment is found.
The cable end clicks into place.
- Attach the other end to the Lock unit.
It uses an RCA phono connection, which plugs into the Lock's GPO port.
- Make a note of the GPO port that the cable is connected to. You will need this during software setup as it is not detected automatically.
No video is displayed in Nexus until the sync cable is correctly connected to a Vicon Lock unit and the Lock is configured in Nexus.
Position and aim the camera
- Attach the mounting plate to the tripod head or clamp on the rig.
- Aim the camera in approximately the desired direction. You can change the exact direction later, when software setup is complete and video is being streamed to Nexus. Ensure you finalize the aim before calibrating.
Set up the software for a FLIR Blackfly S video system
Most of the setup of the software can be done from within Nexus.
We recommend that you do not run any FLIR utilities or other software that uses USB3 video cameras at the same time as Nexus.
The steps for setting up the software are:
Check FLIR drivers
In Windows Device Manager, check that FLIR drivers are installed. They are normally installed as part of the Nexus installation.
If the device drivers are correctly installed, the camera(s) are displayed.
Check cameras are displayed in Nexus
In the Nexus System panel, go to the Video Cameras section of the system tree,
If the cameras are connected and their drivers installed, they are displayed.
Newly connected cameras are likely to be displayed with a yellow warning triangle, which indicates that they need the trigger to be set (see Set the Trigger Source to the correct Vicon Lock output).
If the camera has previously been connected, its trigger settings are remembered and its icon turns green when the Lock that is generating the trigger becomes available.
Set the system frame rate
- On the System tab, select Local Vicon System
- In the Properties pane below, go to the System section and set the Requested Frame Rate for the Vicon system.
The Vicon system frame rate determines which frame rates are listed for the video camera, so it makes sense to set this first.
The video frame rate cannot be higher than the system frame rate, and must divide into the system frame rate. For example, if you want 60 Hz video, set the system rate to a value such as 60 Hz, 120 Hz, 180 Hz, etc.
Set the Trigger Source to the correct Vicon Lock output
To enable the Lock unit to provide a sync signal to the FLIR camera, you must set the Trigger Source.
To set the Trigger Source for the Lock unit:
- On the System tab, go to the Video Cameras section and select the FLIR camera.
- In the Properties pane, go to the Frame Rate section, and from the Trigger Source list, select the required GPO.
Ensure that the value that you choose in the software matches the physical cable connection.
After you select the correct trigger source, the camera icon turns green after a couple of seconds.
If you select the wrong GPO, the camera does not receive any trigger signals and the video will be initially blank, or else frozen on the last frame received, and the warning icon continues to be displayed next to the camera.
Configure and calibrate cameras in Nexus
For information on adjusting the settings in Nexus and calibrating FLIR cameras, see Configure and calibrate FLIR video cameras in the Vicon Nexus User Guide.
Troubleshooting a FLIR Blackfly S video system
|The camera is not displayed at all in the Nexus System panel.|
If none of the above fixes the problem, contact Vicon Support.
|The camera is displayed in the Nexus System panel, but no image is displayed from the camera. A warning about no trigger signal is permanently displayed.|
If none of the above fixes the problem, contact Vicon Support.
|The camera shows only low frame rates in the dropdown menu, when using an onboard USB 3.0 port.|
|The camera shows only low frame rates in the dropdown menu, when using a USB 3.0 expansion PCIe card.|
|A warning about lost frames occurs sometimes, particularly when there is movement near the camera or Lock.|
|A warning about black frames being inserted is permanently present.|
|A black image is displayed from the camera.|
|A very noisy image is displayed from the camera.|
|Calibrator doesn't collect any wands from the video camera.|
|Video camera fails to calibrate.|
If none of the above helps, contact Vicon Support.
|After calibration, the wand overlay does not match the video exactly.|
Extended cable lengths for a FLIR Blackfly S video system
Sync cables can be extended by 10 m or 20 m. We have tested that 2 x 10 m extension cables work with no loss of trigger signals, meaning that the distance from Lock to camera can be at least 25 m.
Active copper (up to 15 m)
We have tested that a single 10 m UGREEN USB3 active extension cable works reliably with the 5 m FLIR USB3 cable with no loss in bandwidth, meaning that the distance from PC to camera can be up to 15 m.
For longer distances, USB3 optical extension cables are needed.
Optical extension (up to 35 m)
We have tested a single 30 m optical USB3 extension cable with a single 5 m extension, allowing a total distance of 35 m.
- Some types of optical extension cable require a separate power input at the camera end, from a micro-USB phone charger or similar.
When using this type of cable it is important that the data connection to the PC is connected before the power to the camera end of the USB3 cable. If the camera is powered on via USB before being able to make a data connection to the PC it is likely to need power cycling before it will work.
- Verify that the system works with a direct USB3 connection before attempting to extend it. Issues can easily be caused by unreliable extension cables.
Verify synchronization of FLIR Blackfly S video cameras
Ensure the FLIR video cameras are exactly synchronized to the Vicon system. To verify this:
- Set the Vicon system and FLIR camera to the same frame rate eg. 100 Hz.
- Position the Active Wand where it can be seen in both the video and by a Vicon optical camera.
- Set the Active Wand to Strobe mode.
- Start capturing.
- Turn the wand on.
- Turn the wand off.
- Stop capturing.
- Transfer the file and review it by stepping through the frames.
- Find the video frame where the wand is switched on and check that is the same frame where the wand appears in the optical camera.
If you come across synchronization problems, check for errors in the log and contact Vicon Support if the problem can't be resolved.