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!


Let’s get going on Light Show 7!

In this post, I want to lay out the plan for Light Show 7.

I still don’t have a drawn sketch of the plan but I have a pretty good idea of what I want in my head. The backdrop and the fountains will not be attached together which allows me to build both separately and place them together when I’m ready to program. My goal is to finish building it in 2 weeks, which leaves one week to program if I want to make it for the end of November. (The first, and possibly only, show will be the Christmas/holiday show.) I’ve been procrastinating getting started so I finally pushed myself to start working on it today.

IMG_0348As I talked about a while ago in an experiment, the backdrop will be made up of towers lit up by “floodlights”, or RGB LEDs. There will be 7 of these towers and the dimensions of each tower is 1″ x 1″ x 10.5″. I scored lines on the back of the cardboard so that the cardboard would be influenced to bend in a straight line when I folded it into a rectangular tower.IMG_0349In the previous experiment, I scored the front of the tower which made clean sharp corners, but I think the smoother corners from bending it this way might look better. I’m still thinking of something to top each tower with, if anything. They won’t be standing this close to each other when the stage is put together, it was just for the sake of taking the picture on my desk. The plan is to place them all on a base which will also have the RGB LEDs for each tower planted on so that it all stays together. This is the part where I need to draw out a complete plan.

I won’t be posting everything I’m doing for the new show because I want it to be as surprising and exciting as it can be. I will do a photo tour of it after the show debuts as I’ve done with previous shows. You can probably guess what will be included anyway when I say that this show is pretty much a combination of all of the Light Shows I’ve done thus far. Stay tuned! I don’t plan on leaving you completely in the dark!

More RGB LEDs!

As I mentioned in my last post, I ordered some things off of eBay from China. I ordered most of the things around the same time so they should all be coming in this week if there’s no delay through customs. Today, I got my RGB LEDs.IMG_0329I suppose you could build “1 Lamp” out of 100 RGB LEDs… 😉
IMG_0333I ordered 50 clear and 50 diffused RGB LEDs which were bagged separately and placed in a little blue box. The diffused LEDs will be used in the upcoming light show.

IMG_0336This was a quick test to see how they look against the material I will be using in the next light show. The one of the left is the clear lens LED and the one on the right is the diffused LED. It’s hard to get a good picture, but I can say that I’m satisfied with how bright they are.IMG_0338Here’s an updated picture of my LED container. I’ll eventually move out those 620Ω resistors to make room for more of the 220Ω resistors since I’ve pretty much transitioned to use 220Ω exclusively for LEDs. (The first ever batch of LEDs I ever ordered from China came with those 620Ω resistors so it was a while before I started using 220Ω.)

So that’s it! The rest of the things coming in are just some resistors, capacitors, and oscillators. They will be used to finish up my ATmeag328p Breakout Boards. I’ll probably make another New Parts post with all of the packages together. (New Parts refers to the blog category – Check it out on the sidebar!) I personally enjoy seeing components unpacked so I hope you like these posts. Thanks for reading!

Brainstorming for Fountain Show 1.1

IMG_20140917_135652Ever since I wrapped up the first fountain show, I’ve been trying to come up with ideas on how to improve the show. The focus of the next stage, if it ever gets off the ground, is creating some kind of backdrop. I found that there were too many times where the stage was completely dark so a lit up backdrop would fix that, in addition to opening up more kinds of lighting effects which, as it is right now, is limited with just 5 fountains sitting there.
IMG_20140917_120624This is probably the easiest upgrade I can do because it doesn’t involve setting up any vertical elements like my other ideas have. It’s basically lining the basin with RGB LEDs which would make for some cool chasing patterns, but that’s about it. It’s not the idea I’m likely to go with but it’s a cheap option.IMG_20140917_120631This idea would be kind of a spin on Light Show 3 with the lit up towers, except that they’d be horizontal.

The issues I’m having are coming up with materials and figuring out how I’m going to set things up. I don’t have an abundance of cardboard any more so I don’t have the materials to make the backdrop. The original set up was somewhat temporary. I’d leave the basin filled with water, but I’d put it on top of a table to avoid bugs on the ground in my basement. I don’t think I’d be able to do that with a backdrop attached to it so I may end up building it completely separate of the basin. We’ll see.

I was contemplating putting the fountain show on a hiatus until next spring, but Halloween is coming up and I’d like to do some kind of LED project for it so it could be a Halloween themed fountain show. I always end up waiting until the last week before deciding to do something. If I can’t figure out a plan for the fountain show, I may just have to put it on hold and go back to my “traditional” light show, or something else completely, for Halloween. I also have plans (not on paper yet) for Christmas that’s separate from the fountain show. So yeah, the fountain show is in bit of a limbo right now.

Thanks for reading!

Animatronic Head project, now “The Box”

In my five project Project Lineup, I had an animatronic head project listed there. I want to move away from the usual roaming robots because I get tired with them too quickly. In the past, I’ve seen people make cool robot faces with LED matrix eyes and servos that moved it around to follow and interact with you. I wanted to try something like that.

The Shelf Lighting System project sort of drained me as I’m finding it hard to be creative. I ended up with this after 15 minutes:This is a crappy version of what I had in mind but still somewhat close, which made me even more unmotivated just looking at it. That’s why I made the change to “The Box”.

The main purpose of this project is to put to use all of the parts I currently have. The picture above shows them all: 2×16 blue LCD, RGB LED, 8-ohm speaker, photoresistor, sound sensor, temperature/humidity sensor, and a Real Time Clock. The animatronic head was going to have these parts anyway, but taking away the servos and unique form factor, compared to a box, will make things easier for me.

The kicker for this project is that it will have an accompanying Visual Basic Windows program, although it won’t be necessary to use it all the time. I’ll have info on that when I get around to starting it.

A quick note about the temperature/humidity sensor… I just found out that the prototyping PCB I used actually has a second layer that connects pads on the board. It’s hidden under the silkscreen so I didn’t know until now. It looks like there’s a shorted connection so I’m going to try and salvage the sensor and put it back on a board like the one used for the RTC.

I’ll begin testing each thing and then start combining it all together.

Light Show 3: Build Complete!

The last two days were dedicated to building the new stage for the light show. I’ve gone back to basics, almost mirroring the first light show I made with servos. My last light shows weren’t very popular, and that’s probably because I tried to hard to use up all of the pins on my Arduino which made it harder to program. This one will be tough to program again, but there is less to worry about.1Building the towers to hold the servos went fairly well. This time around, the towers have white LEDs on them and are a little taller. Also, the materials are already white so I don’t have to cover them up at all.
2The bottom of the towers have the openings for the LED wiring to come out. All but one LED managed to stay wired after taping the towers closed. I cut a little hole to get behind that one LED and it turns out the LED itself was damaged, not the wiring as I first thought.1This is the final result. It really does look like an evolved version of the first light show project.2… I don’t want to deal with anymore than this.
3 So that’s it for now! Programming will start soon. Thanks for reading!

Lights out.

It’s time to put this project to rest.

This was probably my favorite project to date. It’s produced something (videos) that can I always go back to for some homemade entertainment. For something so hastily put together, I call it a success.


In the past few weeks, it sat in darkness. I lost interest in making new shows because they were tough to keep fresh. The only way to keep things fresh were the minor tweaks I did as every new show came out. I had nothing left.

Since the last show (Strength of a Thousand Men) with the rough ending bit, the setup started to look hurt. I also managed to drop many things on top of it because there’s a shelf right above it… You’ll notice from the picture above that the paper screen is crumpled a bit and the left pillar is leaning a bit. With this damage, I decided not to move around the servo spotlights in the final show:

Right after I finished doing the video for this last show, I immediately got to work dismantling it all. The RGB spotlights remain with the lengthy wires, perhaps for use in a future project. The servos are in storage. The breadboard of LEDs remain wired up to the Arduino because I don’t have the heart to take it completely apart until I decide what the next project is. This is what’s left of the spotlight pillars:


Thanks for following this project, if you have. I hope I can follow with something even better.