I took a first look at Sequence Generator Pro astrophotography software about two years ago. Due to unfortunate weather I was able to perform only two or three tests sessions during 45 days of trial period. It was not much, and I did not decide to purchase then.
After almost two years I got back to SGPro, because after sudden attack of several clear nights in the row, I was a little bit sleepy after all. I have downloaded new version of Sequence Generator Pro (it was already 3.x.x) and spend some time with it.
What is Sequence Generator Pro?
It is a piece software that controls and commands all your astroimaging equipment, so the session can be performed with as little attention as possible. After adjustments and fine tuning all parameters it is actually possible to start multiple targets session and leave it without any supervision till the end. And that is also what I was able to accomplish 🙂
How does it work?
The main object you work with is sequence. Sequence is a recipe that software follows to deliver you the data. Sequence contains one or more targets. Target is basically the object or sky region you want to picture. And each target contains one or more actions. Action is for example set of subframes to collect with different filters. So basically all you need to say to SGPro is what is your target and how much of data you want to capture. But before it will be smart enough to do this, you need to set several options and preferences, starting from profiles.
There are two profile types in SGPro: user and equipment. User profile is quite simple to fill. It requires name and position of your observatory, and (optionally) horizon visibility, so target availability can be determined. Equipment profile is much more complicated. It contains information of your imaging setup components: camera, mount, dome, focuser, etc. Here you also choose and configure autoguiding and plate solving software. All is collected in the corresponding tabs and is very clear. However some knowledge of your system is required to fill it all. It is worth to get familiar with these options and set them up correctly. It will pay back during actual imaging sessions.
We may input much of this data without actual equipment connected. But some options (autoguider fine tunning, filter focus offset, autofocus settings) require running setup. The instruction document describes most of the options very well. There are also many video tutorials available in the Internet. And Sequence Generator Pro forum users are also willing to help.
It is pretty hard (though not impossible) to set all up in the dry run that way, it will work flawlessly during real imaging session. Good idea is to use device simulators to test settings. ASCOM platform provides many simulators, and also camera or mount manufacturers supply their own simulators sometimes. But it is quite probable that we forgot to set or configure something, and for example plate solve with pointing does not work well. Or autofocus cannot complete.
Fortunately we can run and test many of Sequence Generator Pro processes separately. So we may test pointing and plate solving with single frames. Also we may start and fine tune autofocus any time with any filter. And actually once pointing and focusing work well, then success probability is pretty high 🙂
I will not get into the details of configuring each SGPro module here. As I already mentioned, there is very good documentation, many written and video tutorials, and also forum with large number of expert users. Getting familiar with such powerful software must take same time. But the benefit is obvious.
If you take many targets over night (like variable star observations for example), you may prepare multi target sequence and this software will take care of everything. But also if you shot one target over night or even one target over several nights, then also sequence will help a lot. SGPro may capture data only when target is higher than defined altitude, then it may switch to another target. It also preserves the sequence progress, so you may get back and continue sequence during next session. Sequence Generator Pro may automatically recapture current subframe if guiding error was too high. It may run autofocus after filter change, every specified time or at specified temperature change. It is a true time saver.
I am quite happy with Sequence Generator Pro astrophotography automation software. It happened once SGPro hanged without the reason, and also it happened once that it was not able to complete autofocus. But overall pros and cons balance is very positive. Much better experience, than with 2.x version that I tested about two years ago. It sill could be better, there are few things I miss (like subframe selection for sequence, or defining specific star for autofocusing). Also number of options and parameters may be overwhelming. But it does what it should, and it does it well 🙂