Driving a T6963C based graphic LCD

[Tom Fleet] spent the dreary weekend inside learning how to drive this T6963C based graphic LCD controller. Although this is his first time venturing away from HD44780 character displays, the availability of an Arduino library helped him go from being a newbie to coding his own animated graphics.

The hardware setup is straight-forward. The screen has a 20-pin connector and operates at 5V. We don’t see it on his protoboard, but usually these displays also need a potentiometer which serves as a voltage divider for the screen contrast. The data and control pins eat up most of the available I/O on the ATmega328 chip he used, but the I2C and SPI pins are still open and he plans a future project to make this a wireless display for his PC using one of those protocols.

As for fonts and animation, [Tom] links to several tools which will come in handy. There’s a font program that will convert Windows system fonts into a C file for use on the Arduino. The animations start with a 1:1 ratio animated graphic drawn with his favorite image editing software. He then converts those to monochrome bmp files and used bmp2c to convert each frame to a C array. After the break there’s a seven second example that would work well as a boot screen for his project.

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Stop Motion Animation Creation

PVC man stop motion animation

Stop Motion Animation has always been interesting to me since I “discovered” that one could make animated flip books by drawing each frame a little different. Fast forward 20 years or so, and computer technology has gotten to the point where this sort of thing can be done electronically quite easily and at an incredibly low price of a camera, computer, and free or paid-for software (here’s the technique using GIMP, a free, good quality photo editing tool) to put everything together.

The frames in the picture above are of my latest [PVC man] animation, which can be made with some electroluminescent lights, gloves, and some PVC pipe.  Each frame was individually photographed, and after several hours of work we had enough footage for 17 seconds of so of stop-motion animation.

Although by no means perfect, the quality of these animations has gone up dramatically from the first animations that I made using an old ENV2 camera phone. Although I was using a “custom mount” for it, it’s amazing these came out as well as they did. As with everything hacking related, this process is a constant work in progress. Check out the videos after the break for the [PVC man] video as well as one of the early ENV2-produced stop-motion shorts!

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Gif player does it using paper medium

Ditch that fancy wide-format LCD monitor and go back to the days when animation was made up of moving frames played back by a specialized device. [Pieterjan Grandry] built this gif player which does just that. The frames of the animation are printed on a paper disk. When spun and viewed through a looking hole the same size as one frame an animated image is formed.

If you know a thing or two about how movie projectors work you might have a raised eyebrow right now. To make the animation smooth you need a way to hide the changing of the frames. With a projector there’s usually a spinning shutter (like a fan) that covers the transition between frames. In this case, [Pieterjan] has mounted the case of the gif player far enough in front of the paper disk that the image is in shadow, making it hard to see. A microcontroller responsible for the speed of the spinning disk flashes some white LEDs with precise timing which gives light to each frame at just the right time.

This is really a 2D equivalent to the 3D stroboscope we saw a few days ago.

[Thanks Agtrier]

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.