Get Tangled Up In EL Wire with Freaklabs

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[Akiba] over at Freaklabs has been working with electroluminescent (EL) wire.  An entire dance company worth! We know [Akiba] from his post tsunami radiation monitoring work with the Tokyo Hackerspace. Today he’s one of the engineers for Wrecking Crew Orchestra, the dance company that put on the viral “Tron Dance” last year. Wrecking Crew Orchestra just recently put on a new production called Cosmic Beat. Cosmic Beat takes Wrecking Crew’s performances to a whole new level by adding stage projection mapping and powerful lasers, along with Iron Man repulsor style hand mounted LEDs.

As one might expect, the EL wire costumes are controlled by a computer, which keeps all the performers lighting effects in perfect time. That’s where [Akiba] came in. The modern theater is awash in a sea of RF noise. Kilowatts of lighting are controlled by triacs which throw out tremendous amounts of noise. Strobes and camera flashes, along with an entire audience carrying cell phones and WiFi devices only add to this. RF noise or not, the show must go on, and The EL costumes and LEDs have to work. To that end, [Akiba] He also created new transmitters for the group. He also changed  the lighting booth mounted transmitter antenna from an omnidirectional whip to a directional Yagi.

The EL wire itself turned out to be a bit of a problem. The wire wasn’t quite bright enough. Doubling up on the wire would be difficult, as the dancers are already wearing 25 meters of wire in addition to the control electronics. Sometimes best engineering practices have to give way to art, so [Akiba] had to overdrive the strings. This means that wires burn out often. The dance troupe has gotten very good at changing out strands of wire during and between shows. If you want a closer look, there are plenty of pictures available on [Akiba's] flickr stream.

[Read more...]

Tron costume fits nice and snug

We’ve seen our fair share of Tron costumes and props, but much like [Sean-h] points out, they are usually pretty bulky and baggy. He’s gone a slightly different route by starting with a wetsuit instead of bulkier items like leather jackets. The lighting is done in the same manner we’ve seen before, copious amounts of EL wire and EL tape. The additional layers of this costume were made from foam, so they could be fairly form fitting as well.

[Sean-h] points out that there are some downfalls to his design. The wetsuit, while looking great, gets pretty hot while indoors and the foam layers have a tendency to detach if you move around too much. We think it looks great though. Good job [Sean-H]

Converting a lame Tron toy into a cool Halloween costume prop

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Instructable user [cubeberg’s] daughter saw Tron:Legacy earlier this year and decided right then and there that she wanted to dress up as Quorra for Halloween. Being the awesome dad he is, he decided to make her costume himself, and hit the stores in search of an Identity Disc to complete the look.

The toy was pretty underwhelming, and lacked the lighting that a proper Tron prop should have. He figured he had the skills to make it a bit better, so he gathered some tools, a bunch of LEDs, and set off for his workshop. He gutted the disc, cutting out any extraneous bits of plastic he could find. He wired up 64 LEDs between the disc’s inner and outer ring, which he controls using an ATmega 328 paired with a Max7221 display driver.

He doesn’t show any pictures of what the toy looked like beforehand, but the final product looks great. We bet that his daughter is pretty pumped for Halloween to roll around – we know we would be.

Continue reading to see a quick video demo of his souped up Identity Disc in action.

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‘Tis the season to decorate bags with EL wire

We hope you’ve already got parts on hand for your holiday projects because shipping might be a little slow at this time of year. But if you’ve got a bag and some unused EL wire here’s a one-day project you should try. Make yourself a Tron-inspired shoulder bag, or backpack.

On the right, [PT] is doing fantastic job of modeling with his electroluminescent offering. This is another Adafruit offering that holds your hand each step of the way from designing, to sewing, to wiring it up. This will go great with that glowing unitard he’s been working on.

[Alan Yates] has also done a spectacular job with his Tron backpack seen on the left. He picked up his EL wire on clearance at a place called “big-W” after Christmas last year. They were selling 3 meter segments (each with their own inverter) for just $3. We’re happy he got a deal and even more pleased that he found a use for it.

[Thanks Drone]

How to work with EL wire

As you can see, [Phillip Torrone] has a nice start on his Tron costume for the movie premiere. Electroluminescent wire is what makes these costumes glow and if you’ve never worked with the stuff before you’re in for a treat. Adafruit posted a tutorial explaining how to work with EL wire. The process isn’t hard, but they’ve got a few nice tips, like using copper tape as a platform for soldering the corona wires. There is also a discussion of the math involved with properly powering your setup.

In this case, Adafruit is using ready-made power inverter units. If you’ve interested in hacking together your own inverter take a look at the background information from [Jeri Ellsworth].

Racing game uses a physical race track and vehicle

Racer is a racing video game with a very real element. The player sits in an arcade-style console; wheel, pedals, shifter, and television display. But in what must be an homage to Tron the game taking place is very real. You can see the track above, designed in CAD and cut from cardboard, which is navigated by that little vehicle the gentleman holds in his hand. It’s wireless and broadcasts video back to the control console. What we have here is a homemade drone but for now it’s confined to the gaming grid. Don’t miss the demos after the break. [Read more...]

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