For every problem there is a solution, this is an adage many of you would be aware of, and it’s a driving principle behind technical innovation: the quest to find a digital solution to our real-world problems. This has created a veritable gold mine of niche products, devices specifically designed to address specific needs.
We had the opportunity to be involved with a current construction project so we decided to see what tech was out there for monitoring construction, turns out there’s quite a range. Everything from 4G enabled solar-powered web cameras all the way up to trailer-mounted 360-degree real-time monitoring rigs.
Our research lead us to find Brinno, a company who has been specialising in one thing, smart cameras, with a special interest in time-lapse photography. Brinno’s range of devices suited what were we looking for, a consumer-friendly device that does not cost thousands of dollars to set up and no monthly fees.
The main core of Brinno’s products is their time-lapse cameras with options ranging from fully portable action style 1080p devices, 720P devices with fixed and interchangeable lenses and the top of the line 1080p interchangeable lens TLC2000 camera a battery life that can last a year taking one phone ever few minutes.
Of course, putting a camera, batteries etc out in the weather is not a great idea so Brinno has a range of weather resistance enclosures designed for mounting in the full weather. Brinno has lent us a BCC2000 bundle including the exterior IPX5 housing, heavy-duty mounting clamp and TLC2000 camera.
The BCC2000 retails for AU$999 and is available from the Australian distributor Region4 as well as various online retailers and Amazon.
Some tech products come in plain boxes with the internals being more important than the packaging. Many premium device makers know that the skilled art of packaging can greatly enhance that first-day experience, fleeting but enjoyable. While phones have reached a fairly standard cadence of boxing, we quite liked Brinno’s packaging here.
It was like nerd Christmas or a Russian nesting doll, packages within packages within packages. This may sound environmentally unfriendly, however, most of the packaging was made of recycled cardboard, and because the construction camera is several products rolled into one, what we really got was an outer box to contain all of the individual pieces. It felt reminiscent of unboxing a Parrot drone.
I kind of wish I had the camera to do a stop motion capture of the unboxing, but that’s a little to inception for real life. Let’s see what’s inside.
Inside you get the ATH2000 weather-resistant Construction Power Housing, the mounting clamp, a highly adjustable but stunningly secure pivot arm, the TLC2000 camera, batteries, cables memory card and instructions. Inside the housing is another 16 AA battery power pack to bring you up to that year-long and beyond battery life.
Installing the camera in the housing was simple due to the custom-designed mounting plates. The camera mounted using a standard camera mounting screw on a plate and easily slipped into the housing. The battery carrier as the same with the housing designed to accept all of the components effortlessly.
It can be the little things that make things simple or better. Brinno included two packages of silica moisture absorber in the box both sealed in airtight foil. These are installed inside the housing to ensure there is no condensation on the inside of the window that would obscure your images, simple and effective.
Once in the housing enclosure, you attach the ‘magic arm’ and construction clamp and you are ready to mount the kit to basically anything. I experimented with mounting it to a door, fence, downpipe (careful you don’t crush it, this thing is super industrial), ute roll cage and eventually the custom made mounting pole it’s going to live on.
While we can’t claim you can mount it to anything, as the jaws have a maximum grip of 90mm it will mount to anything it can get it’s jaws around. The entire process from unboxed to fully assembled took around 5 minutes, it’s that easy.
Setting up the camera just as easy as assembling the case. The TLC2000 has a few more modes that the other cameras and can be used for Time Lapse, Step Video, Stop Motion, Still Photo. For the purpose, we wanted to use the camera a time-lapse video was our desired mode.
Right out of the box the Brinno website had advised to undertake a firmware update. A quick download of the latest firmware and copying that onto the included SD card was all it took. After power cycling, the camera was updated in 5 minutes.
While Brinno wouldn’t share any of their development plans it is obvious to us that they are actively reviewing their software looking for meaningful updates to enhance the overall experience. Having an update mechanism like this is a great feature, especially when it’s so simple.
One updated we were able to configure the camera for time-lapse mode on a set schedule. Builders don’t work 24/7, so neither should your camera. The site we have been allowed access to is allowed to operate Monday – Saturday 0630 – 1830. It is a domestic construction project so we decided that 0600 – 1800 would catch all of the action.
When to take images is only one side of the equation: we also needed to decide how often to take a photo. We decided on one photo every five minutes as a standard but have adjusted it for high-productivity days such as pouring the slab.
Once you have your images you need to stitch them together, Brinno do all of that on the camera. You can choose from anywhere between one frame per second up to 60 frames per second. What you get at the end is a single file containing the montage video from all of your photos.
To get your photos off the camera you can either remove the SD card or plug in a USB OTG device and download them. Our workflow is to use either an Android phone or tablet to grab the data. Once on the tablet, we can convert, edit, trim or join it to our heart’s content.
Why isn’t it wireless
Power. It’s that simple. The TLC2000 camera is designed to be super power-efficient, having either a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi direct connection would significantly reduce its longevity, and for a long term documentation project you 100% do not want to lose footage.
There are mains powered solutions, or cameras that rely on a combination of batteries and solar. However, when we set our criteria for a device for this project mains power was not an option. Solar may have been acceptable, but we could not find a superior product to this that had solar.
The device technically runs on USB-C power so you can rig it up to any compatible power source you want. Brinno does support the adaptation of the housing for use with 3rd party power solutions thanks to a water-resistant cord hole in the housing.
Being tech enthusiasts we could think of at least 5 features to add to this device (4G connectivity, pan-tilt-zoom, realtime monitoring etc). The problem is if we did, it would no longer be $999, or have no monthly fees, or last for months without mains power. While every product can be improved, there are real-world challenges that the BCC2000 are designed to overcome, you can’t just throw features back in and have those problems still solved.
Overall we have been excited by this concept of this project. Scoping out the face of consumer technology for different applications is something we want to explore more. There is so much more to technology in 2020 than phones, tablets and headphones, and we want to explore those less often seen corners of the technosphere.
If you’re not in the market for a time-lapse or stop motion camera, the Brinno BCC2000 would be of little interest to you. However if like us you are looking for exactly this kind of device then we hope we’ve shed some light on the category and this device.
At $999 in Australia full retail, the BCC2000 is neither cheap nor overly expensive. This is a highly specific type of device that has to operate flawlessly in harsh environments for a protracted period of time.
From our early time with the Brinno BCC2000 we have found it worth the upfront outlay, while it’s hard to compare it to other devices due to the narrow market, it has performed exactly as we wanted it to. It is both sturdy and reliable something that is reassuring for a camera mounted 4.1 meters in the air.
We intend on returning with a longer-term review but didn’t want to leave you without sharing the kind of footage you can get from the BCC2000/ TLC2000.
Our review unit was supplied by Brinnos Australia distributor.
UPDATE 27/8/2020: Corrected eror in battery life calculations.
Brinno international has sent us a review device for the duration of the construction project.