Let’s talk effects

The Light Show Project is an ongoing experiment. We’ve seen it built up to include elements like RGB LEDs (from the first shows with single colored LEDs), servo motors, and water pumps/fountains. I like to try adding something new with every show so that’s something fresh to play around with to make each show a little more unique to each other.


In the next show, I’d like try incorporating a continuous servo motor somewhere. One of my ideas was to try and create an effect like scrolling stars or dots that would shine on the backdrop towers of the light show. The experiment with a rolled piece of cardboard with holes punched in it didn’t work very well. I was hoping the light from the LED would be brighter since I was using a resistor that would get the rated 20mA through the LED. I also think that the scale is too small to be able to produce any decent effect on the full width of the backdrop. If anything, I wouldn’t use the motor for this and just have a line of cardboard with poked holes and several white LEDs behind it.


Then I started experimenting with this foil tape that’s used to seal air ducts. I covered the same rolled piece of cardboard. It created a sort of water reflection on surfaces but it’s very subtle. I think the foil tape can be used in other applications, like covers over some of the LEDs to make a more focused beam of light. The foil is conductive so it will need some insulation of the LED leads are inside of that. That’s for another experiment.

I want the starlight effect because I’d like to go back to mixing several songs within one show so we can have an array of song genres in one video, from fun pop party song to a gentle slow song, which is where the stars effect would come in. I’m still thinking of how to go about it. Stay tuned!


Backdrop Test, Take 1

I’ve been planning out the stage for the fountain show. I hope to have something ready by December so I can do both a music compilation show as well as a holiday special for the end of the year. Some minor alterations will happen between those two shows. Since I tend to lose interest after the first show, I want to put together a really good stage since I only expect to get one or two shows out of it.

I did some testing on one idea I had for the backdrop of the show. You should expect to see something like the first fountain show but with a backdrop and additional effects.IMG_20141007_113542When I did a quick project using my AMS1117 board, one of the wires broke so I decided to fix it up. I used the voltage regulator board for this experiment. I had to remove the headers soldered on and replace them with wires going directly to the battery holder. I put some shrink tube on the exposed connections since they’d be touching without it. It’s nice to see that it still works even though I had my soldering iron on the board for a long while trying to get the headers off.

IMG_20141007_140609Anyways, this is a prototype section of an idea I had for the backdrop. It’s kind of like an “accordion” shape made out of cardboard that has one white side that’s perfect to light up with LEDs. The main purposes of this test was to see how the backdrop would look, and to decide if I should use clear lens or diffused RGB LEDs.

The issue I have with this backdrop is that it seems like I’d be forced to pair LEDs with another on the top since the light from the LEDs don’t go that far up the backdrop. The thing is, I was planning to make the backdrop even taller since it would be a bit short to go with the fountains. There may end up being a dark zone in the middle of the backdrop if it’s too tall.

IMG_20141007_140446Now regarding the RGB LED type, I’m set on using diffused LEDs for the backdrop which is pictured in this image. The clear lens type works well with the fountains since the water acts as the diffuser, and these LEDs also serve well as spotlights (even though the light from each color don’t point at the same place). Since they make for great spotlights, they tend to make shapes in the light which is not ideal for the backdrop. I could put something over them to diffuse the light but I might as well just use the diffused LEDs. I’ll have to order more, though I need to finalize the backdrop. I have a couple more ideas for a backdrop so I hope to have some more prototypes to share soon to help me make up my mind.

Stay tuned…


And it begins: Light Show 6 experiments!

As I mentioned previously, the sixth version of the Light Show project will be a fountain show. Since this version is completely unique with the use of water pumps, there is a lot of experimenting to do before I can get to programming a show. I’ve already begun some testing and it looks like it may be a tough road before we hear any music.

IMG_20140814_115228I got the package today with the 5 water pumps and some resistors for the circuit with transistors that will drive the pumps (DC motors).IMG_20140814_120942I started preparing each motor by testing out that they work with the simple transistor circuit and Arduino. Some of them didn’t work so I thought it was something to do with their tiny wires. I immediately went to soldering them to some longer solid core wires.
IMG_20140814_125623When I was soldering up the board of LEDs for the last light show, I didn’t have a lighter to shrink the heat shrink tube to insulate the bare wires, the legs of the LEDs. I used a soldering iron that time. I used a candle this time which worked so much better than the iron. I have matches but it would be too smelly and messy using them to shrink all of the tubes.

After doing this process of soldering and shrink tubing the pump wires, I went to test them again.  A couple of them still didn’t work until I stuck a screw driver in it to push the turbine inside of the plastic casing to get it going. I think these pumps are used so it may have some residue or something keeping them from initially starting. Plugging them back in again, they work without any issues.IMG_20140814_142437Now this is where the tough part begins. The height of the water stream is not very tall with no tubing (I’m using a straw). In this photo, I used a clip to make the opening smaller which makes the stream taller. Obviously, I need to find a more permanent solution. I also found that the motor doesn’t react well when the stream is perfectly straight up and/or the water landing back in the pool is near the intake of the motor. I think the turbulence of the water as it’s hitting the surface messes it up. I can probably add something to shield that area.

On the bright side, the circuit and PWM from the Arduino works as I expect it to, modifying the height of the stream.

Once I find a proper nozzle, I want to do some current measurements to see how much the motor is drawing. The supplier says 0.4A which seems a bit much. I’ve searched around and other places say it’s 130-220mA. We’ll see who’s right. I’m using a 5V 2A power supply by the way, which I hope will be enough.

Waterproofing has always been a concern for me. The solder connections to the pump wires will hopefully not be submerged in the final stage but right now they are getting wet from the splashing. The shrink tube is a basic defense against a short from the water so I wrapped them in clear tape for more protection. That quickly disintegrated so I’m trying electrical tape now. I’ve always had issues with electric tape staying in place but it does seem to be holding up well. I’m using it to connect the straw to the outlet and am leaving it overnight to see if it’ll keep up for a long time.

Another thing I need to start worrying about is the final stage area. This basin is good with the high walls to contain the splash as I experiment but it’s not good for viewing the fountain. Once experimenting is over, the final stage will be built somewhere else. I don’t want to go out to buy a basin for this so I may end up improvising or compromising…

Thanks for visiting! Stay tuned for more!

Homing a motor with a photoresistor

I did some experimenting today with a photoresistor. A few days ago, I saw a project where someone used a photoresistor as a sensor when someone walked into a room or something like that, by pointing an LED at it and then waiting until the light was interrupted by someone in the way. I thought I could use that same concept with a servo motor.

The original plan was to build something like the Frog Hopper tower I built a while back. It would actually have “eyes” this time, as I would have mounted four sensors and four LEDs up the tower to track where the car is. After a couple of hours of not getting cardboard to cooperate with me, I gave up and quickly came up with a new plan to still play around with the concept.

If you know me, you know I’m a huge amusement park fan. Half of my fun at amusement parks are just watching the rides and picking out parts of them to figure out how it all works. IMG_20130604_114029If you know me really well, you’d know that my favorite ride is Sledge Hammer at Canada’s Wonderland. A lot of people knock it because it’s not very thrilling, but I’ve been so fascinated by it since it opened in 2003. In this picture, I’ve drawn a yellow circle pointing out a green proximity sensor, lined up with a thin piece of metal attached to the gondola, or the seats of the ride. As the ride cycle is ending, the gondolas slowly spin around trying to line up the piece of metal with the proximity sensor. I find it very interesting to watch, because most of the time it will pass by it and slowly reverse back to line up with it.
IMG_1057Anyways, this is what I set up. The button on the breadboard is used to tell the system to home the motor if the motor is running, or to restart the motor if the motor is stopped.IMG_1058 The continuous rotation servo motor has a piece of cardboard attached to it. The photoresistor sits on the servo motor and has the red LED shining on it whenever the cardboard rotates out of the way. Check out the video to see how it works: