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An Intelligent Lapse

OctoPrint Time-Lapse: How to Find the Best Octolapse Settings

Picture of Pranav Gharge
by Pranav Gharge
Oct 24, 2019
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There are time-lapses, and then there are Octolapses. If you want to acheive the best Octolapse, keep reading; this is the guide you're looking for!

Octolapse Settings The Perfect Timelapse

An Octolapse on a delta printer
An Octolapse on a delta printer (Source: Wild Rose Builds / YouTube)

Have you ever seen those viral videos, where 3D printed objects appear out of thin air, with no nozzle and no moving elements to disturb the view? This is called an Octolapse.

We all know that 3D printing is a time-consuming process, but it’s still worthwhile to watch. Instead of manually recording the entire printing process in real-time, a time-lapse video would be a better choice. This way, you can view the whole hours-long process of printing a model in just a few seconds. However, a normal time-lapse would still show the moving nozzle and print bed, with the movement somewhat distracting to watch.

Here is where Octolapse comes to the rescue. Octolapse is a plugin that runs on OctoPrint. Developed by FormerLurker, this plugin helps you take some cool time-lapses that are very visually appealing. In an Octolapse, the picture is taken at a specified position during each layer. The result is a clean video, with no moving parts and just the object in focus, which makes for a very smooth viewing experience.

The following sections will be all about how to get the best Octolapses through some tweaks and settings.

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Octolapse Settings Octoprint Camera Settings

Editing the program
Editing the program (Source: Pranav Gharge / All3DP)

In OctoPrint, not all settings have been enabled by default. The “mjpegstreamer” is one such setting, which is disabled for security reasons. This function lets you control the additional settings for your camera from within OctoPrint, which is imperative for getting the perfect Octolapses. No worries, enabling this is a breeze.

Note: If your OctoPrint setup is accessible via the internet, enabling this setting will let unauthorized users access your camera settings such as exposure and brightness.

These are the steps to enable mjpegstreamer:

  1. Insert the SD card for your Raspberry Pi into your computer, and open the boot partition.
  2. Open the “octopi.txt” file in Notepad++ or your code editor of choice. (Other apps may ruin the formatting of the file.)
  3. All settings are disabled by default. You need to enable them by uncommenting the hashtag (#) symbols.
  4. If you’re using a USB camera, you can find its setting on Line 25.  Set the frame rate to 15/25 and the resolution to the maximum that your camera is capable of. Remember to remove the ‘#’.
  5. If you’re using a Pi Camera, the FPS setting is on Line 62. Edit it using the same process as above.
  6. Edit lines 75 and 76 to look like this:
    • camera_http_webroot="./www"
    • camera_http_options=""
  7. Save the file and you’re good to go. Reinsert the card into the Raspberry Pi.
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Octolapse Settings A Starting Point

The Octolapse Tab
The Octolapse Tab (Source: Pranav Gharge / All3DP)

Before perfecting your Octolapse settings, you’ll need to establish a good starting point. This section explains the default settings that need changing. These are beginner settings, which have been proven to work well.

After opening the Octolapse tab in OctoPrint, you’ll get a configuration menu. Here’s a breakdown for each of the settings:

  • Printer: This is where you select the printer that you’ll be using Octolapse with. Click on the dropdown menu and select the 3D printer that most closely resembles your machine. Now we’ll have to configure your printer for Octolapse. The gear icon has all the configuration settings that we’ll be needing:
    • Slicer Type: Choose the slicer that you’ll be using to prepare your models.
    • Slicer Settings: These settings should match your slicer settings perfectly. Ideally, you’ll tune your slicer settings as much as possible, but note that you also have to update these settings every time you change anything in your slicer. Changing this will help significantly you to achieve the best quality from both your Octolapse and your printed model.
  • Stabilization: This is where the magic happens. We’ve already discussed how Octolapse works by taking images at specified positions. The stabilization option gives you control over the locations of the toolhead when the picture is taken. A dropdown menu appears in which several options exist. You’re free to choose anything, but having the toolhead fixed at the back gives you a better Octolapse.
  • Snapshot: The snapshot settings give you the option to choose when you want the picture to be taken. It’s always better to go with a layer change option; it gives you a detailed time-lapse while remaining visually pleasing.
  • Rendering: Rendering is essentially stitching the individual images together into a continuous video. The FPS indicates the number of images that will be in one second of the video. The higher the FPS that you select, the smoother the final video will be. The majority of the videos we watch are from 24-30 FPS, with 30 FPS settings working the best.
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Octolapse Settings Camera Settings

The camera settings window
The camera settings window (Source: Pranav Gharge / All3DP)

These settings will need fine-tuning to get an awesome Octolapse. Each camera needs to be tuned to the environment in which the video is going to be recorded. Hence, the time put into these settings is well worth it, and the results truly justify everything.

As explained earlier, you first need to enable the camera settings through the browser (with mjpegstreamer) to have access to them through OctoPrint. You’ll also need some test objects on the print bed in the position the Octolapse is going to be taken. In short, you need a test setup, with lighting as though a real Octolapse was being made.

  • Step #1: Copy the default IP address of the camera into a new tab in your browser. This will open a camera settings menu.
  • Step #2: The stream option is the live stream from your camera in real-time. We’ll be using this for tuning the camera. Right-click on the image and select “Open Image in new Tab”. You’ll be seeing your live feed in a full-screen mode.
  • Step #3: In the camera settings tab, scroll down, and there’ll be a section of custom image preferences. Check the box “Enable and Apply preferences before Print.”

Some prerequisites you need to know:

  • The values in the columns range from 0 to 255. 0 is the lowest and 255 is the highest.
  • After changing each setting, you need to click on the “Apply Now” button for the changes to take effect. These changes will be reflected in the live stream tab you have opened.
  • It’s better to change and apply one set of values at a time, so you can have a clear understanding of what has changed. You might want to change values in increments of 5. This way, it’ll be easier to figure out the best value.

Now let’s look at the settings:

  • Brightness: A higher value will over-expose the image, and you would be losing details. Better to start with a slightly lower value and go up from there.
  • Contrast: Contrast is the setting that defines the difference between blue and black. A higher contrast results in a darker image, so set the contrast to a lower value as a start.
  • Saturation: This lets you control how saturated you want the colors to be. A higher value will give you more vibrant colors, but you might lose color accuracy. You want this value to be somewhere in the mid-range, representing a color that is close to the actual color of the object.
  • Sharpness: This setting sets the crispness of the image. The higher the value, the sharper the video. At higher values, this causes the video to get grainy. A mid-value should suit just fine.
  • JPEG Quality: This, without a doubt, should be set to the highest value. This ensures you get the best image. 100 is the default highest value.
  • White Balance: This is enabled automatically by default, and you don’t need to change this.
  • Exposure and Gain: The default settings work just fine. You can leave them as-is.
  • Pan, Tilt, and Zoom: This would change the orientation of the image taken. This is easier to do by just moving the camera physically – no need to change these settings.
  • Focus: This is an important one; you should always disable autofocus. By doing so, you have complete control over the focus of your camera. Set the value so that you can see the layer lines of your print.
  • Powerline Frequency: Depending on your country, the power grid runs at either 50 or 60 Hertz (Hz). You need to change the value to apply to your location, which will reduce the flicker in your final video.

Aside from these settings, there’s one other setting that plays a vital role in perfecting your Octolapses. In the section “General Options”, look for Snapshot Delay. This controls the length of time before an image is taken. If your Octolapse seems wobbly, try increasing the snapshot delay. Note that a higher snapshot delay might lead to more stringing. We recommend starting with a value of 100 ms and going from there.

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Octolapse Settings Common Issues

Oozing in the prints
Oozing in the prints (Source: Octoprint Community Forum)
  1. Flipped / Rotated Image: If you see that your video or image is flipped, there’s a small setting that you will need to change. Go into the camera tab and click “Snapshot Transposition Options”. Select the correct orientation here. This won’t take effect immediately, but you will notice the change in your next Octolapse.
  2. Stringing in prints: This is due to filament oozing from the nozzle when it moves into position for taking the snapshot. To reduce this, you’ll need to fine-tune your retraction settings and have the lowest possible snapshot delay. This will reduce the blobs and stringing in your prints.

For any additional issues that you might be facing, here’s a troubleshooting guide that may help.

(Lead image source: OctoPrint Community Forum)

License: The text of "OctoPrint Time-Lapse: How to Find the Best Octolapse Settings" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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