Control Lighting Effects Without Programming

Working in a theater or night club often requires a specialized set of technical skills that you might not instantly think about. Sure, the audio system needs to be set up and managed but the lighting system is often actively managed as well. For simple setups, this is usually not too difficult to learn. With more complicated systems you will need to get elbow-deep into some software. With [trackme518]’s latest tool, though, you will only need to be able to edit video.

Sure, this sounds like just trading one piece of software for another, but it’s more likely that professionals working in lighting will already know how to edit video rather than know programming or complicated proprietary lighting software. All you have to do to control a set of lights is to create a video, or use an existing one, and the lighting system will mimic the video on its own. If you do know programming, though, it’s written in Processing Java so changes aren’t too difficult to make.

The software (available on the project’s GitHub page) will also work outside of a professional environment, as well. It’s set up to work with DMX systems as well as LED strips so you could use it to run a large LED display board using only an input video as control. You could even use it to run the display on your guitar.

Photo courtesy of Rob Sinclair (Gribiche) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

LED-ifying A Guitar, Part Two

An electric guitar is all about stage presence. Need to be cooler than a single guitar? No problem — there are double neck guitars. Need to be cooler than that? No problem, the guy from Cheap Trick has a five-neck guitar. Need to be cooler than that? Robbie Robertson played a guitar with an extra mandolin neck on The Last Waltz. Where do you go from there? Obviously, the solution is putting a TV in your guitar with a boatload of individually addressable LEDs in a guitar. That’s what [Englandsaurus] is doing, and the build thread is now getting into how to turn a bunch of LEDs into a display.

In the first installment of this build thread, [Englandsaurus] went over the construction of the guitar itself and how a hundred individually addressable RGB LEDs were installed inside two pieces of plexiglass. When the guitar is displaying white at full brightness, the power draw is 500 W. This, in itself, is remarkable; no sane person would ever plug a guitar into a 500 W amp, and even 100 Watts is just too damn loud. There’s more power going to the lights here than the amplifier, and that’s awesome.

Simply sticking LEDs in a guitar does not a build log make, so how are these pixels addressed? How do you make a display out of a bunch of LEDs? This is a hell of a problem, but with Artnet and Resolume Arena 6 these pixels can be mapped into a cartesian grid, and from there it’s just putting video on the guitar.

While the first installment of this build is great and shows you how far you can take electronics in a guitar, this installment is a great demo of turning a bunch of LEDs into a display, something that applies to more than just a gigantic glowey guitar.

Friday Hack Chat: DMX512 Gon’ Give It To Ya

DMX512 is the standard for theatrical lighting, and it’s best described as, ‘MIDI for lights’. It’s been around since the 80s, and in the decades since it’s been used, abused, and shoved into just about everything imaginable.

For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re talking all about DMX512. What is DMX512? How does it work? What can you control with DMX512? What Open Source projects use it? There’s a wealth of information out there, and a lot of very cool tricks you can pull with this ubiquitous lighting protocol.

Our guest for this week’s Hack Chat is [Martin Searancke], owner of Dream Solutions Ltd. [Martin] was contacted early on in the development of Coca-Cola’s impressive 3D Times Square advertisement to see if Dream Solution’s LightFactory software could be used to drive this 3D screen. This software has pixel mapping and media playback capabilities and was used for the prototypes for the project. A subset of this product made it into the final installation, and is now driving a gargantuan display above Times Square in New York City.

This is a community Hack Chat, and of course we’re taking questions from the community. If you have a question you’d like to ask [Martin], add it to the discussion sheet.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. Our Hack Chats usually take place at noon, Pacific time on Friday, but this week is different. [Martin] is in New Zealand, so this Hack Chat is happening at 2pm Pacific, Friday, October 27th. Is that too hard for you? Here’s a time zone converter!

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

We’re also looking for new Hack Chat hosts! If you’ve built something cool, you’re working on an interesting project, or you’re about to introduce a really cool product, hit us up! Email our wonderful community managers, and we’ll see if we can slot you in.

The $50 DMX Tester

DMX

Despite being around for about as long as MIDI, DMX, the industry standard for controlling stage lighting and smoke machines, is still an astonishing expensive protocol to work with. Where MIDI can be banged out with a simple microcontroller – with odd bit rate requirements, no less, DMX testers cost hundreds of dollars. Of course this means the market is wide open for a DIY DMX tester, and over on the projects site [Tony] has just the thing.

For the hardware, [Tony] is using few 4×4 matrix keypads for user input, and a character LCD for the display. With this, he can set any of the 512 lighting channels in a DMX setup to any one of the 256 intensity values. Setting a range of channels to any intensity is a snap, with an extremely cut down command protocol. All the processing is handled by an Arduino, which seems more than capable of handling the DMX protocol thanks to the Conceptionetics DMX library.

While it’s not a full-blown lighting console you’d find in the back of a theatre, it’s more than sufficient to test a lighting rig. It also seems pretty simple to use, just the thing if you’re trying to wrap your brain around some theatrical lighting.

FLASH.IT: The RGB LED Climbing Wall

rockWallLEDs2

[Chris] and his friends were kicking around ideas for a Burning Man project, and this is the one that stuck: a rock climbing wall with RGB LEDs embedded in the holds. The holds themselves were custom made; the group started by making silicone molds of varying shapes and sizes, then added the electronics and poured in polyurethane resin to create the casting. The boards for these LEDs are equipped with a central hole that pairs up with a peg in the silicone mold. [Chris] also solved an annoying spinning problem by affixing a bolt to the far end of the LED board: once embedded in the polyurethane, the bolt provides resistance that the thin board cannot. The finished holds bolt onto the wall with all their wires neatly sticking out of the back to be hooked up to a central controller.

The Instrucables page suggests a few ways to get the lights working, including grabbing the nearest Arduino and relying on the Neopixel Library from Adafruit. [Chris] went the extra mile for Burning Man, however, designing Arduino-software-compatible controller boards capable of communicating via DMX, which expanded the system from a simple display to one capable of more complex lighting control. Stop by the Github for schematics and PCB layouts, and stick around for a video of the wall after the break. If the thrill-seeking outdoorsman inside you yearns for more, check out WALL-O-TRON from earlier this summer.

Continue reading “FLASH.IT: The RGB LED Climbing Wall”

Guerilla Theater Hits Two Wheels

[Tom] wanted to take the show on the road so he added lights to his bike using theater grade control hardware. The picture above shows three tail lights comprised of 195 LEDs. Built on perf-board, a DMX512 controller can display several patterns on each module. The lighting technician (bike pilot) controls the patterns through a series of switches on the handlebars. There’s several pages of details posted including schematics and firmware. This would bring a little extra fun the next time you ride in a Critical Mass event.