Light Show 7 Journal Entry #5: Cutting corners

I finally got back to the construction of the upcoming Light Show. It’s tough to think that when I first started off with a plan, I had this week penciled in as the programming week. As it sits at the time of this post, I’d say I’m only about 40% through the construction of the stage, though with the fountains still sitting as I left them from their inaugural show, I hope that part won’t take too long. I still have materials to source, along with plenty of more cutting, gluing, and wiring left to do. I’m just about finished with the backdrop though, as the title may suggest, I’ve hit a few snags.

IMG_0383I said a few times before that I wanted to keep everything hidden until after the show but I realized that’s no fun. You’ll get to see it all. I figure most people won’t see these blog posts until after they watch the show on YouTube.

Anyways, I had this sitting around for a little while. It was only these past two days that I spent wiring it all up and experimenting a little with it.IMG_0403In my earlier tests, I found that the LEDs weren’t lighting up the entire length of the towers. After setting up the towers on the base, I went ahead and made housings for more LEDs that would be installed at the bottom of each tower. I didn’t want to glue them in place just yet. I’ll talk a little more about this later.
IMG_0406I started wiring up the LEDs to the shift registers. I had just enough jumper wires so I didn’t have to do any soldering. Hopefully I won’t really need any more jumper wires for anything else.

This is my first time using shift registers for the Light Shows since I’m so spoiled by the number of outputs on the Mega (~50). I wanted to use shift registers for a couple of reasons. The first reason was that I had these breakout boards sitting around with no other projects to use them in. The other reason is that this breadboard can sit as part of the stage with just a few wires running back to the microcontroller, which will be some distance away from the stage.

IMG_0407Using shift registers does bring about some programming challenges as it’s not as simple as using Arduino’s built in functions like digitalWrite and analogWrite. I’m dealing with binary digits representing each color on each LED so doing loops and such will take some figuring out.

IMG_0408The extra LED at the base didn’t do much difference so I’ve decided to ditch them. At least it frees up some jumper wires for other uses.
IMG_0409The diffused lens on the LEDs disperse the light out so everything around it gets lit up. It’s not quite what I wanted but it’ll do. I just hope the effects that I have planned won’t be affected by the washed out light, especially as you look down near the base.

The last thing to do is to find a box to prop this set up. I want the base of the towers to line up with the lip of the fountain container, which is only about 2″ off the ground. After that, I can get back to working on the fountain pumps and other small tricks. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!


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