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!

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All dried up

It’s always a little depressing having a project at a standstill. Right now, for me, that would be my fountain project.

IMG_20140903_111805Have I given up? No, I don’t think so. I’m sitting on more ideas, but they’re just ideas until I actually start. I’m not exactly sure how to start, and I’ve also been preoccupied with my website, store, and PCBs. But let’s not get sidetracked here.

I’ve always tried to be secretive in my plans, mostly so I don’t disappoint myself if something doesn’t work out the way I planned. I’ve been sitting on this idea for a while now so I might as well just share it.

I want to create a waterfall backdrop, illuminated by a row of LEDs at the base, with three fountains in the forefront as the main focus on the stage. The waterpumps supposedly have a “head height” of just over a meter, which is taller than the waterfall I’m thinking, though I don’t think the flow rate of one pump would be good enough so I’d use two. I forgot to take measurements of the fountains, but I don’t think they reach any higher than about 20cm so the backdrop won’t be much taller than that. I’m having trouble finding materials for an elevated basin with a lip to create a smooth waterfall. That’s going to be the next experiment whenever this project takes off.

Before the curtain rose

Yesterday, I posted the first show of my new Arduino Fountain Show (Arduino Light Show 6). I wanted to give a better look at the day and provide some notes on the progress.IMG_2976This was my programming station which only yesterday got the table. I’ve been kneeling and lying down in awkward positions before then. Originally, this was actually looking at the stage from behind but I realized that the fountains looked pretty good from here so I programmed and filmed the stage from this side.

I’ve probably mentioned it once before in a random Linux post on here but I will say that the quick Arduino upload speed really helped shorten the programming process (though the mistyping on the small keyboard kind of goes against that). On Windows, it takes about 5 seconds to upload. On this netbook running Linux Mint, it’s just one or two seconds. It adds up when you’re uploading constantly to adjust the code.

Anyways, before setting up like this, I had the stage on a table where I taped up the LEDs to the nozzles that I prepared a couple days ago.

IMG_2972I did some testing to make sure the LEDs and then to set up my template. The template defines and declares variables and constants that make it easier to work with the fountain and LED I want without using cryptic pin numbers everywhere. In this picture, each fountain is set at its “min” value. The pumps are connected to PWM outputs and, since each pump performs differently, all of the values are different to get the same height. This is an example of something I’d want to have constants recorded to a variable for easy use.
IMG_2997The  fountains and LEDs were performing well until I got into the last hour of programming where the middle fountain started to fail. It seemed to do well whenever it was set to the maximum height but struggled at any other height. I’ll have to take a closer look at the nozzle soon. Still, I’m almost surprised things turned out the way it did. I’m satisfied with it. I had a secret feature I wanted to include but I was too much in a hurry to get a show done [before I broke something]. I hope to implement it in time for the next show.

Here’s a video of some of the testing before I began programming the first show:

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Gearing up for a good Friday

I spent today preparing the LEDs for installation tomorrow. It should be a great Friday if everything works out.
IMG_20140821_130856The process was soldering resistors to three of the four legs of each LED, soldering them to long pieces of the stranded core wire, soldering short pieces of solid core to the ends, and then heatshrinking and taping everything.IMG_20140821_133601The heat shrink and tape combination seems to be a decent way to waterproof my connections. If you’ll notice at the bottom right of the picture where the ends of the wires are, there are pieces of a yellow paperclip taped to some of them. That indicates the common anode leg of the LEDs.

These LEDs will be going in tomorrow. I’ll do some testing and hopefully I can get to programming my first show. I already have a short song lined up.

Thanks for reading!

Just add color!

I spent about four hours working on the fountain project today. Let me show you the progress!IMG_2926I set up the remaining pumps, which I’m happy about because I thought I wouldn’t be able to fit all five pumps and have them function properly. I set them up in a staggered formation.IMG_2928Once I got all five pumps up and running, I tried calibrating them all to the height of the weakest fountain. It’s still a decent height since anything higher makes too much of a mess anyway. Sometimes some of the pumps will perform differently the next time I power it up but it’s usually not too noticeable, and can be addressed in the code if it’s that severe.IMG_2938I’m done with trying to straighten up the streams as I feel like this is the best it’ll get. It was time to add some color! I tried with just one RGB LED on the center fountain. With the fountains close together and some of them shooting water at each other because of bad aim, the other fountains get lit up too.
IMG_2936I was too exhausted to start soldering more of the LEDs so I’ll do that tomorrow.

I’m a little anxious because I’m running low on shrink tube and I don’t have any more solid core wire. I do have an almost fresh roll of stranded wire so I should be able to solder up more LEDs, coupled with the scraps of solid core wire I have lying around so that they can be connected to the Arduino and breadboard. I guess I’ll have to go spend a couple of bucks for some shrink tube if I do run out.

To end this post, here’s some video of the fountains as it stands now:

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more!

What 45 minutes gets you

Today has been one of those fast paced days but not a lot is getting done. I woke up late and had others things to do so I only allotted myself 45 minutes to experiment with the fountain project. I have a cut off time so there’s time for the floor to dry before the rest of my family comes home…

Anyways, I got some nicer results this time but I walk away a little more frightened. I’m still kind of committed to having a straight line of [close to] vertical fountains. Arched fountain streams are just going to make too much of a mess with the relatively small basin. I’ve come across the same issues today, as well as additional ones.

One of the issues continues to be the size of the pool, even with the new basin. It’s larger than the other ones I’ve used before and it seemed perfect, but it still feels too small even just working with the two pumps today. It worries me because there’s only compromise here. There’s no chance I’m going to get a larger one. I may end up scaling it down to three fountains.

Another recurring issue is the aim of the fountains. The straws are doing a decent job at getting a nice height but the aim of each jet is awful and it’s really tough to adjust them. It’ll just be a never ending struggle until I’m satisfied.

One new but minor issue is that I ran out of the electrical tape so I started using a roll that came in a kit I bought. It holds up worse in the water, though it still does hold. The worst part is that it gives off this kind of slime underwater. As the theme with most things I do here, I work with what I’ve got…

IMG_20140817_191618

On the bright side, I haven’t come across any issues with the PWM control so I have no worries there. I soldered the driving transistors to a perfboard over the weekend. The pumps are not going to perform the same but I can calibrate them to in programming thanks to PWM.

To cap off this post, here’s a video at the end of today’s experimenting session: