Firecapture – An Introduction

I’ve been asked recently to help a few people who are new to imaging get their heads around planetary capture.  As a result, I’ve decided to produce my first screencast – an introduction and discussion of the main features of the planetary capture program ‘FireCapture’.  This little program is compatible with many of the planetary cameras on the market, as we well as many webcams that are used for that purpose.

I used to use Sharpcap, which is an excellent program in itself.  However, I always found it a little unstable, and once I’d seen Firecapture, lacking in features.  Firecapture is a much more polished and capable program.  What it sacrifices in simplicity and learning curve, it more than makes up for in useful features.

Download Firecapture at the following URL...

This video discusses some of the main things that I feel are important to know about this program, and hopefully will give a few people some insight into how it works, and why I use it.  All of my recent planetary imaging has started its life here…

Again – this is my first go at a screencast, and it’s something I’d like to carry on doing if people find it useful.  Try to watch it in FULL SCREEN 1080p or 720p at least if you have the bandwidth – it makes the screen I’m showing much clearer to read…

19 Responses to “Firecapture – An Introduction”

  1. Ron Blay says:

    Thanks for the clear concise tutorial I intend to try it later just hope my old equipment and my even older brain can cope, you missed the weather control button lol
    all the best and thanks Ron.

    • Adam says:

      Hi Ron,

      Glad you liked it 🙂 I think the weather control button is an optional extra…. 😉

      Thanks!

  2. alec says:

    Hi Adam

    Just stumbled on a link to your Firecapture introduction. I am relatively new to astronomy and astrophotography. I have been using Sharpcap and avoided Firecapture as my initial look made it seem far too complicated. However, having viewed your excellent tutorial I am now confident that I can at least play around with it and get it to work. I particularly like the feature that allows alignment of the image.

    Once again, excellent job you have done here, congratulations. I have the same camera as used on your video and am still getting to grips with it. A couple of questions.

    1. Can you use Firecapture for capturing images using the fisheye lens that comes with the camera and if so what software would be used to speed up the images to turn the captured frames into a piece of timelapse photography?

    2. I think I understand the purpose of dark frames, but if you take one when using Firecapture where/when does it get used?

    Thanks again for your tutorial, great stuff

    Regards

    Alec

    • Adam says:

      Hi Alec,

      Glad it was useful to you 🙂

      Sharpcap I found a lot more unstable than Firecapture, which is part of the reason I took the leap to start with, but it also forced me to fiddle with the extra stuff too – so in the end I was very glad I did!

      As for the questions…

      1) You can use Firecapture (FC) to capture using the fisheye, even though generally FC is used capturing video for stacking, rather than stills. You can set it to capture FIT or BMP files, and can set the exposure as high as 600 seconds. However, the ASI120MC (or ASI120MM) is not really designed with this in mind, and the resulting captures tend to be very noisy. You can reduce this somewhat by taking dark frames or by cooling the camera (which I talk about a bit more below). Assembling the captured frames can be done within dedicated time-lapse software, of which I think there’s a fair few to choose from. I must admit, I have never done that myself, so will try and find out from those who have (I know a few of the people in my Astro Society do it…).

      2) When you’re talking about using dark frames, generally, it’s only really an issue with longer exposures, as those are where the noise comes into play, and dark frames help to eradicate that (along with hot pixels etc), as you know. I may try next time and see if it gets rid of more noise for the planetary stuff, but I don’t think it would make much difference there. When doing planetary capture, you’re taking exposures in the low milliseconds range, so generally I wouldn’t have thought dark frames would make much difference due to the relatively low noise at that length exposure.

      You would use them more when taking longer exposures of 1 Second+, for example in the situation you asked about above. Taking a dark frame in Firecapture causes the live feed to be processed in real time, so you can immediately see the results of the dark frame subtraction process for each exposure. If you’re taking all-sky shots of a few seconds up to about 60 seconds, I’d say dark frames are essential, or the frame will end up a mass of noise. Some people have managed to set up their cam to be cooled using a Peltier cooler and heatsink, which reduces the noise dramatically.

      Where they are definitely handy is when you’re using the ASI120MC as a guide cam, and you want to reduce the noise for 1s+ exposures to get a better lock on a guide star through the noise. However, this wouldn’t generally be in fire capture. but something like PHD guiding, or MaximDL.

      • Alec says:

        Hi Adam

        Many thanks for taking the time to respond to my queries, very helpful. So much to learn about this intriguing subject. I have a Celestron 8SE telescope and feedback I have received suggests that it is not possible to take DSOs with this scope. All a bit disappointing. However, plenty to learn on planetary imaging. Went through your posted images, very impressive. Will keep your site bookmarked.

        If you get any further info from your colleagues I would be most grateful to hear it.

        Thanks again for your feedback

        Best regards

        Alec

        • Adam says:

          The 8SE is a nice scope, but is mounted on an Alt-Azimuth mount, which means it’s not aligned to the axis of the earth, and so the long exposures you need for deep sky stuff suffer from what’s called ‘Field Rotation’ basically meaning that your exposures get ‘smeared’ in a rotation pattern. This is due to the scope having to rotate in relation to the sky when tracking. This is solved by having an Equatorial mount, or a device called a wedge, which aligns the mount to the Earth’s axis. Unfortunately, I don’t know if there’s wedge available for the 8SE due to the way its built.

          It’s also a bit ‘slow’, with a focal ratio of f10. This means that the exposures needed to get good deep sky images are longer. You can get focal reducers for these types of scopes, which widen your field of view, and brighten the image, so the exposure required is less. You still get the field rotation problem though.

          Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them 🙂

          Cheers,

          Adam.

          • Alec says:

            Thanks Adam for the clear explanation. Much appreciated that you took time out to reply.

            Plenty still to learn on planetary photos anyway

            Thanks again

            Alec

  3. Paul says:

    Great video. I have just recently got an QHY5L-ii colour and as there’s not really any guides for the software that comes with it, EZ Planetary so have looked at Firecapture instead. Have you thought about doing a written guide aswell to accompany the video maybe into a pdf?

    Regards
    Paul

  4. Mike says:

    Hi,

    I have just received my ASI120MC with the new USB3 port. Currently playing around with the Fish eye lens and all is looking good so far. Quick question regarding De-Bayering though. I am using Fire Capture and have deselected Debayer so I can capture in RAW. But when going into Registax 6 I select ‘Pre-Filter’ and then ticked debayer ‘GB’ and it performs a stack. The image I get back is unsurprisingly very green. Why is there not simply an option for RGB? Its as though the filter misses out one of the colour channels. What I am doing wrong. Alternatively how else can I debayer post capture?

    BTW. Really enjoying the FC video and look forward to more videos!

    Thanks

    Mike

    • Adam says:

      Hi Mike,

      I must admit, I generally use Autostakkert!2 for stacking planetary and lunar stuff. Always seems to give me better results than Registax. I then import the resulting image into register to use the wavelets for sharpening. Will try and take a look at Registax at some point and figure out what’s going on. Will post back here if i do!

      Cheers,

      Adam.

  5. Gary George says:

    After getting the QHY5L-II color imager, i could not find anyone or a website to help in explaining the features on the camera, then a friend suggested the “Fire Capture” software and then the questions were even more intense, then after many many attempts of searching the web and You Tube, I came across your video, many of my questions have been answered by your 37 minutes of pure awesome helpfull inputs. Thank you and can i email you through this program with any other questions ,
    THANKS AGAIN for all your help..
    Gary

    • Adam says:

      Hi Gary! Really glad to see it helped you – makes it all worthwhile! Feel free to contact me via the site if you want the answers to be public. I’ll also send you an email so you can contact you directly if you want to. Cheers!

  6. Gary George says:

    Adam
    I would like to ask you a very simple basic question , which i’m sure you get alot and probably more often then people would expect, so here it is, I have a Celestron NexStar 6 SE and a QHY5LII color camera, I enjoy or I admit I love shooting pictures of the Moon, after getting my telescope repaired ( 3 months ) Im still in the very basic learning stages of learning the software ( Fire Capture) and the camera, I can not wait to get this outside and working to the best it can, Is there a basic set up on settings that I can load into the software so everytime I set up and turn the software on these settings are there and I can go from there and possibly even fine tuning them.
    Can you help me out with this, I really appreciate any help you can give.
    Gary

  7. DAVID FOUNTAIN says:

    I have a orion all in one starshoot camera which firecapture does not find, any ideas please

    • Nalin says:

      Hi David,

      I have one as well and it will only work with PHD and / phd2. I have also seen that the Orion SSAG has a ascom driver. Not sure if this will help you to get it recognised as an ascom camera in firecatpture,

      In PHD there is a way to capture and save the frames. That’s the only way ( as far as my experience goes ) to store output from that camera. For some reason it looks like Orion with their wise hats on locked it down to PHD only.

      I would like to know otherwise.

      Also another way I tried to trick the camera / software was to see if I could QHY drivers to recognize the camera as I read somewhere the QHy produce these cameras for Orion. I wasn’t successful ( as I just didn’t put enough effort in to it). In the end I bought a second hand ZWO120mm. QHY and ZWO produce decent cameras people like us who are starting out.

      My advice to you would be to try to go down that route if funds permit.

      Hope this helps.

  8. Graham Hunt says:

    Hi Adam, Thanks for taking the time to do this tutorial on Firecapture 2.3. I have downloaded the latest version of Firecapture 2.4 and was pretty confused. However, after going back to v2.3 with your tutorial I am confident I will be able to move forward and get some great images with my new ZWO ASI120MC. Have you tried DSO imaging with it? I know the camera is for planetary imaging mainly with some DSO. Once again great tutorial has helped me a lot.

  9. Nalin says:

    Hi,

    Very nice video. you have done a very good job communicating the essentials of this software in a very engaging manner.

    Have you done any similar videos on how to capture DSOs with firecapture ? I have the zwo120mm and an altair gpcam. I have no idea what settings to use for DSO work.

    I have also started to use sharpcap. A little bit more sohisticated ( with live stacking and auto align etc). however can’t remember seeing the region of interest feature.

    I know DSO settings will vary between cameras and scope attached and even the DSO itself. But some general guidance and what to consider with some speciic examples would be really useful , unless you have already done so.

    Thanks again for taking the time to do this video. please keep it going.

    Nali,n


Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] A C8 with that camera is capable of great results. First of all, make sure your scope is collimated. Planetary imaging needs a well-collimated scope and good seeing. It also needs lots of focal length. Do you have a 2x or 2.5x Barlow or Powermate? If not, start saving for one because you will need it. In the meantime you need to download and install Firecapture 2.3 (free) – this is the only software to use with your camera for great results. You will of course need a laptop to connect the camera to. To make maximum use of the features of FireCapture you will need to enable control of the mount from the computer. To achieve this you will need to be able to connect the handset to the computer via the cable that should have come with your mount plus a serial-USB adapter cable. You will also need to install ASCOM 6.1 (free) and the ASCOM unified Celestron driver 5.0.30 (free – available here:Telescope/Mount Drivers) All of this software will allow FireCapture to keep planets centered on the camera sensor (this can get very tricky without software assistance). This tutoiral should be helpful…Firecapture – An Introduction | AstroSite.co.uk […]

Leave a Reply

Copyright © 2017 AstroSite.co.uk