Hillbilly Lego Focus Puller

There’s almost nothing you can’t build with the right set of Lego parts. [Rigjob] built up a Lego-based wireless remote follow-focus system that’ll give professional systems a run for their money.

Now [Rigjob] self-identifies as a hillbilly, but he’s not just a redneck with a camera. He’s set up the Lego controller to remember minimum and maximum focus positions as well as mark points along the way. The controller simply won’t turn the lens outside of the focus range, and an interactive graph shows you where you are within the range. For a focus wheel, he uses (drum-roll please!) a Lego off-road wheel. It looks really comfortable, usable, and actually quite professional.

There’s a lot of tech in the Lego controller and motors that make this “simple” hack simple. Under the hood, there’s a Bluetooth connection, a geared stepper motor with a position sensor, a communication protocol, and a whole ton of programming in the Lego controller that makes it all drag-and-drop programmable. But to a long-bearded hillbilly cameraman, it all looks like child’s play. And that’s the hallmark of good design. Kudos, Lego.

If you can’t get enough Lego camera tech, check out this DIY slit-scan stargate rig, or (what else?) a Lego 3D chocolate printer.

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Making a Wooden Multi-Mirror Display Device

Do you have 835 servo motors sitting around? Why not build your own binary wood-pixel-display-device?

Using the same basic concept as a DMD (Digital Micromirror Device) — the heart of all DLP projection technology — an artist created this wooden mirror. It features 835 wood “pixels” which are controlled by servo motors. Each pixel or wood chip can flip 30 degrees down, and 30 degrees up. A series of spot lights shining on the mirror provides lighting so shadows form when the pixels are “off”. The result is quite fascinating.

A small camera mounted in the middle of the display takes a black and white image of whoever (or whatever) is standing in front of the mirror. A bit of image processing later, and the mirror displays what it sees.

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Must-Have Overkill Christmas Tree Lights

The yuletide fire is out, so we’re starting to receive this year’s Christmas hacks. [Chris] sent us his awesome video-mapped tree lighting hack. His project made clever use of a bunch of cool tools, so even if you’re not thinking forward to next December, it’s worth a look. Still images don’t do it justice; check out the video below the break.

The end result is an addressable string of WS2812B LEDs connected up to a Raspberry Pi Zero that can display a video image even though it’s wrapped around a roughly cone-shaped (pine) object. But this is actually more impressive than you’d think at first; how would you map a flat image to a string of LEDs wrapped around a tree?

[Chris]’s solution was to write a routine that lit up the LEDs in a unique pattern and then detected them using OpenCV and a webcam, making the mapping directly. He then samples images from a video at exactly the points where the pixels are located on the tree, and sends this data out to the LEDs.

The basic framework here should transform fairly easily into a generic image-mapping procedure with randomly located LEDs, so we think it’s a hack that’ll outlast the season. And because it runs on the Pi Zero, everything is in Python so it’d be a good project for beginners to replicate. However, the code section on the project page still lists it as coming soon. We hope so!

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Make A Cheap GoPro Remote From An ESP8266

GoPro cameras are getting pretty sophisticated, but they can’t yet read minds: you have to tell them when to start recording. Fortunately, they can be remote controlled very easily over a WiFi connection, and this neat tutorial from [euerdesign] shows how you can use an ESP8266 to build a very cheap GoPro remote. The idea is simple: you press a button connected to the ESP8266, which is programmed with the details of the ad hoc WiFi network that the GoPro creates. It then posts a simple URL request to the GoPro, which starts recording. Total cost? A few bucks for the ESP8266, a button and a few bits of wire.

What the remote does is defined by the URL you set it to request: pretty much all of the features of a GoPro can be controlled this way. If you wanted to get fancy, you could expand this to create a multiple button remote that could do other things, such as change frame rate or start streaming to the interwebs in a situation where you don’t want to risk a smartphone or something equally expensive.

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PSoC VGA on a $10 Development Board

We’ve always found the Cypress PSoC an interesting beast. It’s a CPU with functional blocks that you can configure to build various I/O devices, including incorporating FPGA logic using Verilog. [MiguelVP] has an excellent multi-part project that produces VGA output from a PSoC. So far it just generates a fixed pattern, but a frame buffer is in the works, and there is plenty of detail about how to configure the PSoC for the task.

Although the PSoC has some analog capability, [MiguelVP] uses a cheap R2R DAC and VGA connector to interface to the VGA monitor. You can get the same PSoC board the project uses for about $10. The software, unfortunately, is Windows-only, so be prepared to fire up a virtual machine if you run Linux or Mac. Our own [Bil Herd] did a video introduction to PSoC that you can watch after the break.

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Cyberpunking Home Alone

[Macaulay Culkin] err… [Kevin McCallister] pulled off some epic 1990 hacks to scare off a couple of bumbling burglars in the classic film Home Alone. Now celebrating its 25th Anniversary, it’s fun to see the tricks [Kevin] used to spoof a house party brought into this age of high-technology.

The trick in the original movie was all about silhouettes in the windows that made the house look full of people. [Michael Jordan’s] cardboard cutout taped to a model train is fairly believable. But really, who has a half-dozen mannequins just sitting in their attic? Creepy.

The marketing company RedPepper are behind the facelift of this pop culture icon. They outfitted their offices with some window dressings that are perfect for the silhouettes. In a delightful cyberpunk twist they went with projects and digital silhouettes. Embracing our current tech-heavy lives is the mobile aspect of it all. Of course there’s an app for that. It means [Kevin] doesn’t have to pull the strings. He can hide outside the building and decide which animations are played by the projectors within. Check it out after the break.

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Hacklet 88 – Projector Projects

Everyone loves a big screen TV. Back in the old days, anything over 27 ” was considered big. These days if you’re not sporting at least 50″, you’ll end up with display envy. One thing hasn’t changed though, those who want to go really, really big get into projectors. Hacking and projectors seem to go hand in hand. Anyone else remember those old DIY projection setups where the user would put their TV in a box upside down? This week’s Hacklet is all about projector hacks!

hushWe start with [Chaz] with Projector Hush Box . [Chaz] had a good projector, but still found himself with a problem. Projectors generate a lot of heat, which is dissipated via a fan. For whatever reason, projector companies seem to pick the loudest fans available. [Chaz’s] solution is to put the projector inside a box. Done right, this makes for a quiet projector. Done wrong, it makes an oven. [Chaz] projector hasn’t caught fire yet, so we think he did it right. Two quiet and efficient PC fans direct air through the box, and around baffles which keep the noise down. An anti-reflective coated glass window lets the light out but keeps the noise in. Sound deadening foam helps cut the sound down even further.

led-projNext up is [ric866] with 100w LED projector conversion. The killer with projectors these days are the bulbs. In some cases it’s more cost-effective to buy a new projector than to replace the bulb in an aging one. That’s how [ric866] ended up with a pair of old NEC projectors – one with a working bulb, and one without. Bulbs for this model aren’t cheap at £100. [ric866] found a cheap replacement in a 100 Watt LED. The LED in question only cost £8.99 from everyone’s favorite auction site. LEDs may be efficient, but anyone who’s played with powerful LEDs can tell you they still get hot. [ric866] had to cut up the projector’s case a bit to fit in a heat sink and fan. He also had to spend some time bypassing the various case interlock switches. The final products color calibration looks to be a bit off, but not too shabby for a quick mod!

baffle[Tom_VdE] is serious about recycling. He isn’t one to let an old laptop go to waste when it can be turned into a projector! Remember the “TV in a box” kit we mentioned up in the title? This is the modern version of that same idea. [Tom] tore down the laptop’s LCD and placed it in a CRT monitor case with the appropriate lenses. A setup like this needs length, and focus adjustments. [Tom] managed all that by building a collapsible baffle out of plywood. A build like this needs a lot of light, so [Tom] is using a 100 Watt LED (or two). A water cooling system will keep the LED’s from melting down. [Tom] is still in the prototype phase, but we can’t wait to see his first movie night with this upcycled laptop.

sensorcalFinally, we have [Alex] who built Automatic projector calibration, project #161 on Hackaday.io. [Alex] took his inspiration from [Johnny Chung Lee] to build a system which can map a projector to any angle, size, or position. The secret is phototransistors embedded in the corners of a rectangular piece of foamboard. An Arduino reads the phototransistors while the projector runs a calibration routine. [Alex] switched over to a scanning line from [Johnny’s] original binary pattern. The scan isn’t quite as fast as the binary, but it sure looks cool. Once the positions of the sensors are known, it’s just a matter of mapping the entire screen to a smaller piece of real estate. Toss in a few neat transitions, and you’ve got an awesome demo.

If you want to see more projector projects, check out our new projector project list! If I missed your project, don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!