Pi NoIR and Catch Santa Challenge - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Pi NoIR and Catch Santa Challenge

Author: mcb1

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Independent Products

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: null

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Piface CAD has no GPIO access, making external trigger and control difficult, but not impossible.

Detailed Review:


Each year we have to go to great lengths to disguise the contents of our present placed under the tree, because someone 'feels' their present, and come Xmas day, there is little surprise left.

We have resorted to extremes, such as adding bricks, placing in an oversized box, or hiding it until that night,

Its even gotten to the stage where I have to withdraw cash several days before, to buy presents so someone can't trace where I have been spending money ......

This year my son came home and introduced a unique alpha numeric code of 6 characters ... to prevent the 'present feeling'


In my application I thought if we had photographic evidence of the act, then we wouldn't need to go to such extremes the following years.



Unfortunately the dispatch got held up, but we were warned in time for me to buy a Piface CAD to add to the RPi, NoIR camera and WiPi that I already had.


This was installed into a suitable package, and placed where I tend to leave various items so it wouldn't attract attention.

I decided I would run it from a battery pack and keep the charger plugged in as a fail safe.



      Just another package from element14



I downloaded 'snap-camera' from the Piface site


This application makes controlling the RPi/camera combination very easy.



The snap-camera runs several scripts, which I tweaked to improve the image.

The camera.py script is found under /usr/lib/python3/dist-packages/snapcamera (that took some time to find ....hint for the documentation people)


I modified the line command = 'raspistill'  to command = 'raspistill -sh 100 -ex night -mm backlit'


def build_camera_command(self):
        command = 'raspistill -sh 100 -ex night -mm backlit'
    # change to set sharpness to 100
        if self.timelapse_interval is not None:
            command += ' --timeout {timelapse_period} '\
                ' --timelapse {timelapse_interval}'\
                ' --output {filename}'.format(



adding sharpness =100, exposure = night, metering = backlit to the command that the script sends to the RPi.


I decided to keep the tree lights going to provide a source of light, and just hoped that no-one turned them off.

Once that was done, it was time to place it, set it going at 30 sec captures and depart.



In the morning we logged in, or rather tried to .... only to find it lifeless.

It seems that this battery pack won't accept a charge and deliver output at the same time, and stopped just under 2 hours later.


As we were talking and looking at it, someone twigged to the hidden camera, and confessed to checking a couple of packages very early in the morning.

So a few more bluffs, and we effectively had a signed confession, despite not knowing the camera stopped several hours earlier  ..... and it was the wrong target.



The pictures were retrieved, and then came the problem of assembling them into a video.

Various suggestions were made, but I stumbled across a site suggesting that GoPro Studio Edit was a free download.

A quick visit to http://gopro.com/software-app/gopro-studio-edit-software and we were set.


Its relatively easy to use, and has many features to tweak the result.

This video was set at a high playback rate as we knew there were nothing captured.





Piface CAD

The Piface Cad makes a very useful addition to a Raspberry Pi, no matter if you have a camera or not.


The only downside is they didn't provide a couple of the GPIO pins to be available.

You can remove the IR sensor which connects to GPIO 23, and attach an opto coupler across the lcd backlight.


Some have suggested replacing the header, however this board is designed to be on top so you need something in-between them and just for one or two pins.

I prefer to solder some wires onto the GPIO header as it exits the board, which keeps the profile below the lcd, and should still fit into the case.


This would allow triggering the camera and controlling an IR source.


NoIR camera

The removal of the filter hasn't drastically altered the sensor sensitivity, just opened up the spectrum.

You still need a good light source, but you can use IR LEDs to provide that, without humans noticing anything but a faint red glow.


I did a project and used 12 of these



The result was good, but can be better by pulsing them to increase their output.

You may need to angle them slightly as they are only 3 deg.



it very easy to setup and functions well.

The only real problem is copying your image onto another (larger) card.

There is no easy way to expand the file system, so I suggest start with a really big card first, to store the videos and images.



To be honest I haven't tried mine (sorry element14) but its been a little busy around here over the last three weeks.

I do have another project (Travelling Camera Dolly) http://vimeo.com/23673555 that could easily use both of the cases and a RPi and camera.



I'm grateful to have been chosen, and hope this has provided someone with some ideas or information.

You can view some additional information and uses here Catch Santa Challenge






Edit Feb 04 2014

I have finally had the time to use the cases, and there are few traps for new players.

I have some more photos to add, but I'm away for a week.


In the meantime, you need to cut the slot as mentioned here.


The camera is held in two slots in the rear case, but you do need to be careful not to knock the little copper coloured ribbon cable which plugs in.

(photo to come)

You can install and remove the RPi and CAD as a complete unit, by inserting the Audio/toggle switch side in first, and splaying/opening the case.

The boards slip into groves, and I used Bluetac for the light pipe.