PREMIERE — Halloween ’13

I’m so excited to share with you this new project! It was done impulsively, doing whatever came to mind at the time. The biggest goal was incorporating a third RGB LED servo spotlight which is really the only major difference from my previous light show project.

Here are some commentary notes on the final show you see above:

  • Each RGB LED spotlight was supposed to have their own stand but materials and time didn’t allow for it.
  • The original soundtrack included “Thriller” by Michael Jackson but I was going for a more ominous theme so it kind of killed the mood. It almost ended up as the post-show song but I wanted a more definitive end.
  • I completed each song separately, and it wasn’t until I put them together that I chose the post-show song. It went from Thriller as mentioned previously, to “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest, to “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus for a silly end.
  • As you probably know, these light show projects are inspired by real productions primarily seen in theme parks. That’s kind of why I keep using the term “post-show”… Speaking of the post-show, the reason I left that bit after the last messages was because that’s what real shows seem to do. It’s the point where people can chose to stick around for a little longer and admire the stage or just leave.
  • The LEDs on the ground were supposed to be more spread out. I ordered some jumper wires back in September from China to help me accomplish this, but they didn’t arrive in time. That’s why I went with breadboarded LEDs.
  • I opt-ed not to use any green LEDs on the breadboard because the ones I have are not very bright and they sort of fade out among the rest. For the Christmas special, I do plan on getting some brighter green LEDs, maybe put them in place of the blue LEDs and then mix the blues with the whites. We’ll see when we get there.
  • The first bit of the last song (United We Stand)… You may have noticed that half of the time the tower came up blue. That’s not what I wanted… That’s what it wanted. There are many elements that use the rand() [random integer] function, and this was one of them. There were rehearsals where each time the color was actually different. We’ll get it next time.
  • YouTube caught all four songs for copyright, so the video may not be available on mobile or certain countries…

Thanks a lot for watching and reading! Happy Halloween!

Halloween Project — It’s happening!

I took apart the old light show project about a month go when I posted the very last video of it. I wanted to bring back a refreshed show in time for Halloween, but I was getting worried because I kept putting it off. I had a foggy idea in mind so I just forced myself to start one day.

The first day of construction was building the tower for the spotlights. There are three spotlights in this show. There were originally going to have their own stands but I didn’t have the materials or time for it. Instead, I ended up with this:

thingThere is an RGB LED inside of the tower. Three sides are cardboard with the front face “open” but covered in tissue paper to diffuse the light.

The LEDs also had a different design but my soldering iron sucks so I try never using it unless I absolutely have to. I had ordered some female-to-female jumper wires from China at the end of last month but they still haven’t showed up. That was one of the reasons I kept putting this project off, because I had some confidence in the postal service. Heh. With time becoming a factor, I fell back on another breadboarded LED strip. With the jumper wires, I wouldn’t be bound to the size of the breadboard and the nature of the rails.

The goal is have the show ready for the 30th. If everything is ready by then, I’ll post it up that day. If not, it’s Halloween day. At the time of this post, I’m one and a half songs into it. There are three songs, and then a post-show. At this point, I’m going to tell you to stick around until the last song… I have the most confidence in that sequence right now…

Random Arduino experiments

Right now, I have no Arduino projects planned. I’ve been trying to stay on track with school, but I find that the breaks I take are getting less productive. Even when I was in full-time school, I’d be doing electronics-related things (or web design projects) in my free time on the weekend. I’d really like to have at least something ready to go for Halloween but it doesn’t look like that will happen. I decided to play around and go with whatever comes to mind so here are a couple of things I did last night.

I bought the Arduino Mega so that I could make use of it’s 50+ pins. There are other ways to get more out of your Arduino, especially those with the Uno and others that have less pins. One way is to create an array and use a technique called multiplexing. The anodes can be connected together in rows while the cathodes are connected in columns. You can then “address” each LED by configuring the right row and column so that there is a potential difference across the LED (as in the anode is HIGH while the cathode is LOW/ground).  I learned this stuff in school using ICs and development platforms so it took me a while to wire it and get it going. I didn’t even bother to figure out how to program it but hopefully I understand the concept correctly again. I’ll stick to the Arduino Mega for any project that requires that many pins (usually my light shows), it’s just easier that way.


The second experiment were a couple of drive tires. I’ve been inching to create a ride model but everything seems too complicated. I could go for a very simple swing ride, though. It’s just hard to get started. Anyways, here’s a gif of those drive tires…

That’s all I’ve got. Hopefully there’s something more interesting for the next post. Thanks for reading!

Halloween project brainstorming

I’ve gone through several options in my head for a Halloween project and I think it would be nice to lay them out. It will just be a refreshed light show in a different form. I kind of want to make it generic so I can adjust it for Christmas and unthemed shows.

The first plan is to make a circular stage. I have three servos that can act as spotlights again, as well as a continuous rotation motor. I was thinking of having the continuous servo spin the entire thing with one or two rings of LEDs and the three spotlights shining off the top. I think this one is the most challenging option since I have no budget for this project (as in $0) so getting materials to make it round and reinforced for movement will be hard. Also, the fact that it’s spinning means programming will be a tedious process since I’d have to find a way to make the port open enough so I can unplug it without ripping the entire thing apart.

The second plan has some inspiration from Six Flags Great America’s Ignite show stage. It’s basically an all white stage with no curves, just sharp corners. I didn’t care much for the show but the projections were pretty neat. Again, materials would be an issue since there will be a lot of cuts to make.

The last plan is a simplified version of the second idea. It would basically be a three panel “stage” that would have LED borders and some ambient light for each panel. The kicker for this one is that the three spotlights would be attached to a pole and would rise up from behind the panels, kind of like the orbs that rise out of the water for World of Color at Disney California Adventure. I just want to use all four motors I have, including the continuous rotation servo…

With the way things are going, I’m a little worried I’m going to have nothing ready for Halloween. Oh well, there’s always Christmas.

Solidworks subway station

I wanted this to become an “every Friday” series, but with my habit of rushing and then giving up, I’m not surprised I’m making this post on a Tuesday. Anyways, this week’s model project was a subway station.

This is the first point where it started taking shape and looking like a subway station. When I was doing the pillars down the center, I realized the platform was too small, both in width and length. I tried using some of the dimensions from the T1 trains that run in Toronto and adding a little more length to all of the dimensions but I guess I was a bit off.


Next was adding the running rails and third rail.


This is the first rendering of the station with rails and everything on both sides.firstrender

I was really happy with the way the model looked so I wanted to add a staircase that led to a whole concourse level and even to a bus bay. I added a staircase and extended the tunnel to make more room on the top. As soon as I extended the rails, Solidworks started lagging so I couldn’t go any further than just the staircase.render1 render3

So that’s the model for this week. We’ll see what next week brings (and hopefully my computer will be up to it).