Each year brings new Christmas light shows, with synchronised music and wild blinking decorations to light your eyeballs ablaze. Now, many of us have dabbled in the dark arts of blinken, tinkering with LEDs or flashing a neon bulb or two. There’s plenty of tutorials on how to control all manner of lights, but they’re often written for novices. Learning the basics of electronics for the nth time when you just need to know the specifics of a protocol or what IC you need can be a total drag. That’s why [Bill Porter] has written the Engineer’s Guide to DIY Computer Controlled Holiday Lights.
[Bill] covers the topic from start to finish – not just the technical side of things, but practical considerations about where to source components, and timescales for keeping your project on track. It’s no coincidence this is coming out in January – if you want to get something big up and running for Christmas, it’s time to start now! The guide gives links to forum communities that put in large group orders for parts early, and ship them slow to save money.
Other areas covered include software for creating advanced sequences for your lighting setup, which allow you to map animations over your entire layout. There’s also tips on which controller hardware to use for incandescent lights and the now-ubiquitous WS2811 strings. Even better, [Bill] shares specific tips on how to avoid common problems like voltage drop over long pixel runs and communication issues.
It’s a testament to [Bill] and his experience – the guide is an excellent way to get right up to speed with the state of the art in DIY Christmas light shows, and will save you from all manner of pitfalls. If you need to build something big this year and don’t want to reinvent the wheel, this is for you.
It’s not the first time we’ve heard from [Bill] either – check out his stunning wedding invitations or his repair of a science museum exhibit.
This is [Dave]’s second year of putting on a Halloween light show (cache), and his latest production has received some upgrades over last year’s Christmas show. He’s switched from Christmas style bulb lights to high brightness LEDs, and upgraded to 48 channels of control.
The controllers are from Light-O-Rama, and each provides 16 output channels. They communicate over RS-485; the same type of network used for controlling professional theater lights with the DMX512 protocol. The whole thing is powered by a 20 A DC supply from some Chinese retailer.
[Dave]’s show features light up pumpkins, tombstones, and faces mounted on his house. The lights are coordinated to a list of songs that he plays over an FM transmitter, allowing for cars to tune into the music that’s synced up with the lights.
If you happen to be in Estacada, OR, you might want to head over to [Dave]’s and check out the show in person. Otherwise, there’s two videos of the light show after the break.
Continue reading “Halloween Light Show Gets an Upgrade”
In case quadrocopters aren’t cool enough, here’s an orchestrated quadrotor light show that was shown at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this last week. With 16 quadrotors and a few can lights, it’s a light show not to be missed.
This quadrotor show was created by a collaboration between KMel robotics and Marshmallow Laser Feast. The guys behind KMel are the same brilliant minds behind this nanocopter swarm that can play the [James Bond] theme. For this light show, the guys at KMel Robotics used a Vicon motion capture system to coordinate the flock of quadrotors, as seen in this picture.
With a servo-controlled mirror on the bottom of each quatrotor, each vehicle in the fleet is able to reflect beams of light around the stage and into the audience. Now it’s only a matter of time until a setup like this is used for a showing of Laser Floyd.
Tip ‘o the hat to [cesar] for sending this one in. Via IEEE Spectrum.
Edit: They’re not can lights. After watching in 1080p, [Impulse405] is pretty confident they’re High End studio spots or a wash with a tight focus. Thanks for keeping us honest, [Impulse405]!
[mike6789k] wanted to spice up his dorm room, so he built a cool music synchronized light show that struck us as being very well thought out. We have seen similar music-based visualizations before, but they tend to be pretty basic, relying on volume more than actual audio frequencies to trigger the lighting.
[mike6789k] didn’t want to build “just another” synchronized light show, and his all-analog approach gives a true representation of the music being played instead of just flashing lights along with the beat. Using a trio of simple filters, he broke the audio signals down into three distinct frequency bands before being driven through a high gain transistor to power a set of LEDs.
We were pretty impressed at how bright the display was given that he is using UV LEDs, but the 1W diodes seem to have no problem lighting up the place when aimed through the UV-reactive water, as you can see in the video below.
If you’re looking to make something similar for your next party, the folks over at Buildlounge were able to wrangle a schematic out of [mike6789k], which you can find here.
Continue reading “Slick music synchronized light show uses UV LEDs and water”
In a project that only spanned about three weeks [Lars] built this laser light show projector using parts scavenged from his junk bin. We’ve seen the concept many times before, all you need is a laser source and two mirrors mounted on a spinning bases. The laser diode for this project was pulled from a recordable DVD player. That beam passes through the optics from a laser printer to give it the focus necessary to get a good projected image.
[Lars] played around with the mirror angles until he achieved just the right look. The first mirror is mounted about 4 degrees from being flat with its motorized base; the second is off by about 6 degrees. This introduces slight oscillation in the beam direction when the motors are spinning. By adjusting the speed of each motor you get different patterns. Adjustments are happening completely at random thanks to the BasicStamp2 microcontroller which hadn’t been used in years. Fifteen lines of code were all it took.
Want a laser that’s not controlled at random? Check out this addressable galvanometer-based show.
[Pete] had some spare time on his hands over his spring break, and he was itching to build something. He settled on a laser light show since, after all it was spring break, and what says “Party” better than a laser light show?
He glued three hobby mirrors to three small motors, mounting the motor assemblies on the lid of a wooden cigar box he bought for next to nothing. When the laser is pointed at the mirrors, they reflect the beam off one another, and finally against a projection surface, creating interesting shapes and motion. He programmed an Atmega328 to control the laser light show when in automatic mode, and added 4 pots to control the mirrors’ spin rate when set in manual mode.
The visuals are pretty cool, as you can see in the videos below. We love the laser light show concept, and [Pete] definitely gets extra points for his cigar-box casing as well.
Continue reading “DIY laser light show is sure to please”
[Alan] shared an update with us regarding a project he has been working on for some time, radio-controlled LED light strips destined for use by the Travelling Light Circus. If you are not familiar with the project or need a quick refresher, you can read our post about it here.
He recently met up with the guys from TLC to finish things up and was happily surprised that they did not want to mount his lights on the performers, as was originally planned. He would have had to make a few modifications if that was the case, but instead, they planned on attaching them to bicycle wheels. The light strips were mounted inside translucent plastic tubes that fan out from the center of the wheels, where the battery and radio equipment is located. The wheels were mounted on aluminum poles, allowing the performers to create a visually stunning show, just by spinning the pole.
Check out the pair of videos we have embedded below, the project came together quite nicely.
Continue reading “Follow-up: Radio-controlled LED light show”