Reverse Engineering a Wireless Studio Lighting Remote

Strobe Remote

If you want to take a photograph with a professional look, proper lighting is going to be critical. [Richard] has been using a commercial lighting solution in his studio. His Lencarta UltraPro 300 studio strobes provide adequate lighting and also have the ability to have various settings adjusted remotely. A single remote can control different lights setting each to its own parameters. [Richard] likes to automate as much as possible in his studio, so he thought that maybe he would be able to reverse engineer the remote control so he can more easily control his lighting.

[Richard] started by opening up the remote and taking a look at the radio circuitry. He discovered the circuit uses a nRF24L01+ chip. He had previously picked up a couple of these on eBay, so his first thought was to just promiscuously snoop on the communications over the air. Unfortunately the chips can only listen in on up to six addresses at a time, and with a 40-bit address, this approach may have taken a while.

Not one to give up easily, [Richard] chose a new method of attack. First, he knew that the radio chip communicates to a master microcontroller via SPI. Second, he knew that the radio chip had no built-in memory. Therefore, the microcontroller must save the address in its own memory and then send it to the radio chip via the SPI bus. [Richard] figured if he could snoop on the SPI bus, he could find the address of the remote. With that information, he would be able to build another radio circuit to listen in over the air.

Using an Open Logic Sniffer, [Richard] was able to capture some of the SPI communications. Then, using the datasheet as a reference, he was able to isolate the communications that stored information int the radio chip’s address register. This same technique was used to decipher the radio channel. There was a bit more trial and error involved, as [Richard] later discovered that there were a few other important registers. He also discovered that the remote changed the address when actually transmitting data, so he had to update his receiver code to reflect this.

The receiver was built using another nRF24L01+ chip and an Arduino. Once the address and other registers were configured properly, [Richard's] custom radio was able to pick up the radio commands being sent from the lighting remote. All [Richard] had to do at this point was press each button and record the communications data which resulted. The Arduino code for the receiver is available on the project page.

[Richard] took it an extra step and wrote his own library to talk to the flashes. He has made his library available on github for anyone who is interested.

Brighten Your Day with Studio Strobe Power Hack

large capacitor bank for flash circuit

[OiD] picked up a couple of cheap studio strobes off eBay and was not happy with the power control. So he rewired it. These lights are like supercharged flashes for professional photographers, and contain some very large capacitor banks. His first hack didn’t work out too well, and he wound up welding the innards of a switch together. He was successful however, in his second attempt to tame the large voltages.

He’s using two 1N5408 diodes, which are rated at 3 amps, for charging the capacitor bank. A massive 60EPS08 diode, rated at 60 amps with a Frankenstein worthy surge rating of 950 amps is used to separate the charge between the two capacitor banks, and allows one to discharge into the flash tube.

Consisting of just a handful of components, [OiD]‘s hack greatly improves the performance of the strobe’s power adjustment settings. He does an excellent job at documenting the hack for all to see. Be sure to check out his bog for full details.

Safe-Sync protects your camera from older high-voltage flash modules

Since we’re not high-end camera aficionados it was a surprise to us that the hot shoe that allows a camera to interface with a flash module has changed rather dramatically over the years. Apparently the interface used to be mchanical-electrical in that the camera would use mechanical means to connect two electrodes from the hot shoe. It didn’t matter the voltages it was switching because the camera didn’t have an electrical system connected to the interface. The problem is that connecting a modern camera to what [David Cook] calls ‘legacy’ flash hardware could damage it. So he developed the Safe-Sync to interface modern cameras with older flash modules.

You can see the board which he’s holding up in the image. It includes a lot of nice features, like the ability to be powered from the external flash, or from a battery. There’s also an optional momentary push switch which can be used to test the flash control (or hack it for other purposes). In addition to providing protection with older equipment, this could also be used to interface flash modules from different manufacturers with your camera.

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]

Stroboscope project uses optical drive motor and Arduino

In the quest for a diy laser cutter made from DVD burner parts (that hack’s still in the works) this guy ended up with a junk box full of optical-drive leftovers. He put some of that surplus to good use by building this stroboscope. As the media spins, the white LED just out of focus in the foreground strobes to freeze the little black figure in the same place. The effect, as seen in the video after the break, is a dancing figure created by the optical illusion.

This is the same concept as that amazing 3D rowing skeleton build, but scaled down greatly. Each of the silhouettes seen above are slightly different, showing one pose that makes up a frame of the overall animation. They’re laser cut, but some careful paper-craft could probably accomplish the same thing. Assuming you could keep them from warping when spinning at high speeds.

[Read more...]

Burning Man 2011: Peter Hudson’s Charon Strobe Sculpture

Here at Hackaday the only thing we like better than giant whirling artistic desert based contraptions are interactive giant whirling artistic desert based contraptions. [Peter Hudston]‘s Charon is no exception. Known for his strobe sculptures [Peter] has returned from a two year hiatus with possibly one of the craziest and nightmarish sculptures found on the deep playa. The work features a gigantic spinning wheel that has posed human skeletons mounted on it’s inner edge. Onlookers can pull a series of 6 rope pairs which cause the wheel to rotate rapidly. When the rope pullers are coordinated enough to get the wheel spinning at the right speed, a strobe is activated revealing the skeleton’s animation.

I wandered over to this thing one night after hearing the local buzz about the piece.  The towering wheel was spinning away as the rope pullers of the moment tried desperately to get the strobe to activate, every couple of minutes or so somebody would try and coordinate the pulling only to confuse things.  From my perspective it seemed to be very difficult to get the right speed, and the pullers had to yank the rope practically to the ground. During the short time I was watching the piece (jaw to the floor) the strobe activated once or twice and honestly it was completely worth the effort. To see what this monster looks like in action check out the video after the jump.

[Read more...]

Water droplet sculpture using LEDs and Arduino

This water sculpture can stop drops of water in mid-air. This is accomplished by flashing LEDs to illuminate the droplets at just the right time. But it’s not limited to blinky lights alone. The top of the frame has eight nozzles, each fed by its own pump. An Arduino controls the pumps and the lights making it possible to create different motion effects by adjusting how events line up. For instance, the image above shows just two of the water nozzles on, but in the video after the break it appears one is dripping downward while the other is dripping upward.

Alas, there’s few build details for this but the source code is available for downloading. If we were going to build one of these ourselves we’d probably try to regulate the drips using some solenoids built from scratch. How would you do it? Leave your ideas in the comments.

[Read more...]

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