The stand alone finish line camera

One of the strengths of SprintTimer is that is an ”all in one” solution with a camera, display and result generation in one small, neat smartphone package. But it is sometimes also a weakness, it can prevent you from placing the camera in an optimal place since you must access it after each race. Or you might not have time get the results after each race if they come too frequently. The recent updates of SprintTimer, however, has made it possible to place one iPhone/iPad as a remotely controlled finish line camera and handle everything from one or two other devices.

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Connecting an electronic starting gun to SprintTimer

The most accurate method to start the clock in SprintTimer is to use the sound from the starting gun, either directly in Photo Finish or via Start Sender. You need a microphone placed close to the starting gun to get a sound that is significantly louder than the surrounding noise (cheering crowds, wind etc). But with an electronic starting gun, an even better solution is to connect the starting gun directly to the headset jack on the iPhone/iPad.

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A brief history of timing

Electronic timing is older than most people imagine and was used for the first time more than a hundred years ago at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. Initially, the well-known telecom company Ericsson was tasked with developing the technology, but it was the Swedish inventor Ragnar Carlstedt who eventually delivered the final product. Using his expertise in electromechanics, he developed a system where reference clocks automatically started at the firing of the gun.  Continue reading A brief history of timing

Photo finish with the iPhone 7+, 8+, X

This entry complements the ”Zoom and add-on lenses” post below and is therefore relevant also to those who don’t have an iPhone with dual camera. The main disadvantage of using an iPhone/iPad for photo finish is that it has a wide-angle camera. You have to stand pretty close to the finish line and the relative distance to the different lanes varies quite much. This means that it is difficult to set a slice width that is optimal for all runners.

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Understanding the photo finish

Photo finish images are becoming more common. And since they are not what they might seem to be, so some explanations might be useful. The following is, therefore, a description of how a photo finish is created and interpreted. It is hopefully useful both if you want to time an event yourself, or if you just are an interested spectator that want to understand the photo finishes that are published.

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Building an electronic starting device

This is the ”nerdiest” entry in the blog so far 🙂 But if you are prepared to do some basic electronics wiring and maybe some very simple programming, you will be rewarded by being able to start SprintTimer with high accuracy by any mean imaginable (light, IR, pressure, switches, etc). It also allows you to add other start signals like strong sound, light flashes etc. If you do not feel up to it yourself, you might have a friend, student or athlete who thinks it is fun to tinker with a project like this.

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A battery powered router for Start Sender

Start Sender is a convenient way to send the starting time from the start to Photo Finish at the finish line. The problem is that the direct communication between two devices has a limited range (30m-40m) and to cover, e.g. a 100 m race you need an external WiFi network. And that is not always available outdoors in a stadium. A solution could be to set up a temporary router, and since there might not be a power plug nearby, it should preferably be a battery powered one.

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Making a long sound cable

Using the sound from e.g. a starting gun is the most accurate way to start the clock in SprintTimer. A problem, however, is that the start often is so far away that the sound drowns in the background noise. To transfer the sound to SprintTimer at the finish you can use a microphone with an extension cable or a Walkie Talkie. If you have two devices and access to a network you can also use Start Sender. But a stable and accurate solution for distances up to 100-150 m is a sound cable.

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SprintTimer accuracy

With SprintTimer I claim that the accuracy is almost as good as a high end professional fully automatic timing equipment. This article presents some measurement I made to test this claim. Since the most accurate method to measure a race is to start the clock with a sound and the finish with Photo Finish, I have focused on that setup, but also tested some other variations.

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Improving Photo Finish images with zoom and add on lenses.

All iPhone and iPad cameras have fairly wide angle lenses. This means that you must stand pretty close to the participants to fill out the image when recording a Photo or Video Finish. Sometimes this is an advantage (e.g. indoors), but in most cases, it is the opposite. In many water sports like rowing and kayaking, it can be difficult to get close to the finish line. And if the participants have different lanes, like in a 100 m sprint, standing close makes it impossible to set a slice width that fits all runners. This because the runners move with very different speed as seen by the camera.

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