Displaying video and gifs on RGB LED matrices


[Mathieu] was on holiday in China and picked up some fun toys while perusing the numerous electronics markets there. The most interesting things he discovered were a pair of RGB LED matrices. They came in two different flavors, one made for indoor and one for outdoor displays, sporting a 64×32 and 32×16 resolution, respectively.

If you’ve read his blog before you know he is a big fan of LED matrices, so it’s only natural that bought a whole bunch of them and started experimenting once he got home. Using the same Atmel FPSLIC LED matrix control board he showed off in this previous hack, he was able to get the LED matrices up and running in no time. He adapted his webcam project to utilize the new panels, and he added a whole new feature as well. Via MatLab, he can now display any sort of animated gif on the panels, as you can see in the video below. The panels look great, and if we had a few of these around, there’s no doubt we would probably play this video on infinite repeat.

He says that the despite their somewhat questionable origins, the panels are of top notch quality, and he is willing to organize some sort of group buy if others are interested.

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Kinect Two-fer: MoCap movie and robot control


It’s no mystery that we like the Kinect around here, which is why we’re bringing you a Kinect two-fer today.

We have seen video hacks using the Kinect before, and this one ranks up there on the coolness scale. In [Torben's] short film about an animation student nearly missing his assignment deadline, the Kinect was used to script the animation of a stick figure model. The animation was captured and built in Maya, then overlaid on a separate video clip to complete the movie. The overall quality is great, though you can notice some of the typical “jitter” that the Kinect is known for, and there are a few places where the model sinks into the floor a bit.

If you want to try your hand at animation using the Kinect, all of the scripts used to make the movie are available on the creator’s site for free. [via Kinect-Hacks]

Our second Kinect item comes in the form of a gesture driven Lego MindStorms bot. Using OpenNI along with Primesense for body tracking, [rasomuro] was able to use simple motions to drive his NXT bot around the house. His movements are tracked by the Kinect sensor which are translated into commands relayed to the robot via his laptop’s Bluetooth connection. Since the robot has two motors, he mapped couple of simple arm motions to drive the bot around. We’ll be honest when we say that the motions remind us of Will Farrell’s “Frank the Tank” scene in Old School, but [rasomuro] says that he is trying to simulate the use of levers to drive the bot.  Either way, it’s pretty cool.

Videos of both hacks are embedded below for your perusal.

If you are interested in seeing some more cool Kinect hacks be sure to check out this Minecraft interface trio, this cool Kinect realtime video overlay, and this Kinect-Nerf gun video game interface.

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555 Cartoons

Drehkino is a Turntable Cinema that plays short (50 frames) looping animations from specially printed, disks, and is housed in a wooden frame similar to a record player. The paper disks are the frames of animation and an optical rotary encoder pattern, that pattern is picked up by a infrared pair scavenged from an old mouse. The signal is then passed onto a 555 timer configured as a Schmitt trigger that (indirectly) drives the led strobe light creating animation that is synced to the speed of the turn table.

That sounds all good and well, but it must be a big pain to split up an animation and calculate each frame’s position etc, well that is covered too by a couple scripts. Movie clips are sent though virtualdub to select what 50 frames you want, then are exported to individual images, an sh script then takes over and gawk is used to manipulate the data and create an ImageMagick (“CONVSCRIPT”) file. After you do the script dance you are left with a perfectly spaced wheel with encoder ready to print on standard paper in a PDF format.

Software and schematics included, with future improvements already in the works and its nifty, so its worth a check. This is an interesting take on the old zoetrope design.

IM-ME graphic manipulation using sprites

Here’s a study in sprite animations that [Travis Goodspeed] put together. He’s working with one of his favorites, the pink IM-ME device that he’s been hacking on for a while now. But if you don’t have this hardware that shouldn’t discourage you. There’s a lot to be learned from his methods which will translate to any microcontroller working with a graphic LCD.

He starts with a 24-bit PNM sprite that includes three frames of his desired animation. From there he needs a way to store the data for use with 8-bit microcontrollers. He chose to write a Perl script that will translate the image format into a 1-bit map. Each frame of the animation takes up a column width that is a multiple of 8 for easy retrieval by the processor. This translation into a C array, and the accompanying code that translates it into data for the frame buffer is the key to the animation process. What is he shooting for? A sprite-based video game on the handheld.

Toyaanisqatsi: time lapse control using LEGO parts

A simple panning motion can add impact to the already-dramatic effect of time lapse photography. To accomplish this, frugal cinematographers sometimes build [Rube Goldberg] contraptions from clock motors, VCR parts or telescope tracking mounts. Hack a Day reader [Stephan Martin] has assembled a clever bargain-basement system using an Arduino-driven stepper motor and a reduction gear system built up from LEGO Technic parts, along with some Processing code on a host PC to direct the show.

While the photography is a bit crude (using just a webcam), [Stephan’s] underlying motion control setup might interest budding filmmakers with [Ron Fricke] aspirations but Top Ramen budgets. What’s more, unlike rigid clock motor approaches, software control of the camera mount has the potential for some interesting non-linear, fluid movements.

Daft Punk helmet timelapse

[Casey Pugh] with the help of a few friends constructed a Daft Punk style helmet for his Halloween costume. Embedded above you can see a timelapse of LED matrix construction. The 16×5 display is driven by an Arduino.

[via Bre]

Domestic spying brought to you by a Snuggly bear

Mark Fiore’s Snuggly the Security Bear’s latest cartoon explains the wonders of constitutional compromise and how it helps prevent terrorism through domestic spying.

Related: Judge: FISA trumps state secrets, binds executive branch

[via EFF]