The above Ad will no longer appear after you Sign Up for Free!

Control/Dimming Tom's Projects

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by TNasty, Jul 1, 2018.

  1. TNasty

    TNasty Active Member

    Messages:
    194
    Likes Received:
    30
    Occupation:
    Technical Adviser. Aux Police Officer.
    Location:
    New Jersey
    First Project!

    So the first project I'm working on is what I call the "Contender". It's basically an architectural lighting panel, just cheaper, running on an Arduino Uno, and features relays to cut power to the lights (helpful for when they're not in use for a while).
    Architectural Prototype.png
    The reason I'm making the Contender is so I can convince my dad to hang my batten in the garage- he'll get to use the lights as work lights when he's working on the mower or cars, and whatever else he does in the garage. Pretty much just a system that'll keep him from needing to learn the basics of some control software.

    I wouldn't be able to say the price of this so far, as I forget the price of the DMX shield (Maybe $30? Hard to guarantee that, since TinkerKit is now belly up), but really the only other things that'll cost much is the Arduino, nicer buttons, and *maybe* Neutrik connectors (I might also get the covers, considering the fact that it'll be in the garage, I don't want to clog up a connector with condensation or general crud).

    So far it's practically done as far as code construction and testing goes, so all that's left is cleaning up the code (there's a lot that can be shoved into functions), polishing up the unit (project box, actual buttons, the works), and creating the presets (which can't be recorded, so I need to pull the code from the Arduino, copy values into it, and then reflash it, but that's not too bad). I think I might be able to make it have three presets, basically by pressing both preset one and two at the same time. Another thing worth noting is that I'll probably need to use relays to switch between "active" and "passthrough" modes, unless somebody can tell me what I'd need to know about transistors for that, but in the meantime I can just switch the plug around.


    I'll upload a video on this within the week demonstrating some basic functionality and operation.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    Second Project!


    The next project I'm working on is a basic fader/control wing, which I'm calling "J-Wing" (I just had to somehow refer to Hendrix's "Little Wing", without mentioning the word little). I'm working on this because I want to actually finish more than 30 seconds of a light show before saying "nah, too much rhythm" or something (who doesn't love playing with faders? Not to mention mixing RBG with my G27 pedals isn't really logical, but certainly possible if you're still flexible and willing to settle on "okay" pallets). Currently it's going to run off an Arduino Mega, as I certainly want the 15 analog input pins instead of the Uno/Leonardo's 5.

    So the plan is to have 10 faders (ordered a ten pack of replacement Behringer slide pots from eBay... Interestingly that was the most economical option), 5 rotary pots, and I'm starting with 10 buttons (I could put more on, but I decided ten should be enough to start with... I also wound up getting Cherry MX Blue switches, because clicky mechanical switches, not to mention the keycap versatility).

    Basically since QLC+ works with HID inputs such as flight sticks and game pads, I figured there has to be some way to make/mod a controller to have faders instead of triggers and joys. I wound up going with the "make" route, because it only cost me like $12 for a Mega, compared to $20 for an Xbox controller. Amazingly, this one project has only cost $35, and I'll probably just fire up my 3D printer to make an enclosure and keycaps (although I did buy the fader knobs, which I'm probably going to airbrush them with enamel in colors corresponding to a general config).

    I'd use a MIDI interface for this, except for the facts that I did find HID libraries for the Mega, it's just another thing that I'd need to buy, and I'd need cables and an adapter to actually use it. So no MIDI right now, but I might implement that down the line.
    I might also look into implementing ArtNet, but that may require stepping up to a Raspberry Pi, although I do like the idea of going wireless/networked with it down the line so that it can be used like a (W)RFU

    My friend/manager Chris also mentioned that we could use something like the J-Wing as a streaming control pad, along with some editing scripts.

    Here's a little representation of the J-Wing in QLC+ (only lacking the planned power LED):
    JWing Proto.png

    I'll have more on the J-Wing once stuff starts arriving for that.
    ------------------------------------------------

    Feedback is really appreciated; I likely plan on releasing the code as open source once it's in a polished enough state, along with accompanying How-To tutorials. I'll certainly take it into account while making the designs, because as I had said, I hope that other people will find the resources useful, and I might even sell a few prefab units to make some money on the side.
     
    STEVETERRY and JohnD like this.
  2. TNasty

    TNasty Active Member

    Messages:
    194
    Likes Received:
    30
    Occupation:
    Technical Adviser. Aux Police Officer.
    Location:
    New Jersey
    So a small update on the Contender project; talked about the idea of "work lights" with him, and we went out and bought the hardware to hang the batten. If he didn't spend the whole afternoon cleaning the garage, we likely would have put it up today, but I don't blame him (It was roughly 92 degrees today, and felt even worse in the garage without the breeze... Maybe I should get a massive fan for in there at some point), so it's going up on the 4th this week- Yay!

    If you're curious about the hardware we bought, we wound up going with 6' of 3/16" galvanized grade 30 proof chain, 4x quick links, and 2x eye hooks. The weakest point is the eye hooks, which are rated for 260 pounds- the quick links are rated for 450 pounds, and the chain is rated for 750... Certainly enough to hold a 10' steel batten with several lights (right now the batten and fixtures weigh just under 100 pounds in total), and if we ever needed a higher capacity, it'd be easy enough to upgrade to stronger anchors. All of this puts the batten just around two feet away from the ceiling, which is high enough to stay out of the way, but low enough I only need a step ladder we keep in the garage to adjust fixtures.

    With that said, I think either tomorrow or Tuesday I'll start cutting the lengths of chain (already marked, measured, and counted sections... I do have one extra link- go figures), and making some DMX cables (hopefully nobody minds the blue CAT5e, I'd use black if I had any on hand).

    Not sure if my dad was being serious when he said he wanted a party mode of sorts... luckily I think all of my fixtures have some autonomous macros, but it might be interesting to program a party mode preset anyways.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
  3. TNasty

    TNasty Active Member

    Messages:
    194
    Likes Received:
    30
    Occupation:
    Technical Adviser. Aux Police Officer.
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Today's update:

    -Cut the chain for the batten... I love angle grinders, but I would've used cutters if we had any.
    -Started making cables, I plan on having ~10x 3' cables up on the batten, which should be just the right length to neatly manage, and just enough to act as quick disconnects for when I move/add fixtures.
    -I'm looking into getting two power strip "bars" (4' with 12 outlets or something), which would give me more than enough plugs, and not worry about if a power cord is going to reach.
    -Made a log video!


    Cut Chains:
    P_20180702_112116_vHDR_On_HP.jpg P_20180702_112455_vHDR_On_HP.jpg

    All of this is making me think that Chris and I should specialize in video production services; our "set" is getting more awesome each day, and he's already done a few paid music videos for some department guy for his school.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2018
    Chris Pflieger likes this.
  4. TNasty

    TNasty Active Member

    Messages:
    194
    Likes Received:
    30
    Occupation:
    Technical Adviser. Aux Police Officer.
    Location:
    New Jersey
    So today progress was pretty slow. Soldering wires in the garage with sub-optimal lighting and excessive heat and humidity isn't quite enjoyable when you find out your favorite solder is dry, you don't have any rosin flux (all I have is Worthington petroleum based, which is worthless for anything electrical, unless you want it to be fully rusted over night, or give everything a nice rinse), and nobody within 20 miles carries rosin flux in their store. I digress- wound up going to a local hardware store and buying some silver bearing solder and flux marketed as "non-aggressive", and filling the solder cups on the connectors is a lot easier now, so hopefully the same holds true for actually wiring things up.

    Hopefully I'll be able to get some of the cables made tonight. Worst case, I do have enough cables laying around for temporary use, but I'd rather have consistent cable designs and lengths (and ones that I know are actually DMX). Really excited for the batten to go up tomorrow, as that'll allow me to do more testing with the Contender project, and also make the actual presets for it as well.
     
  5. TNasty

    TNasty Active Member

    Messages:
    194
    Likes Received:
    30
    Occupation:
    Technical Adviser. Aux Police Officer.
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Having not made an update yesterday, there's a couple developments with the projects.

    Wednesday: Batten and fixtures got rigged! Took about 15 minutes to put the batten up. Ten of those fifteen minutes consisted of Dad fumbling with the tape measure trying to measure from the wall to get the rigging nice and square with the walls.
    P_20180705_123503_vHDR_On_HP.jpg P_20180704_221827_vHDR_On_HP.jpg
    There's still some rigging work to be done, as I still need to neatly run electrical to the batten, along with their DMX line. I'm also behind on making cables, so there's some DMX segments that are a tad tight.
    Personally, I think the batten has worked really well for the two days it's been hung for me. It's high enough that I don't need to duck under it, but it's low enough that I can do some focusing without a ladder (but it's certainly helpful).
    On a side note from Wednesday, Chris and I put an AC unit in the garage, so now it's actually bearable working in there, and amazingly gets to the point that it feels same in the house. Even better is that we're using the top of a pizza box to seal off the gap in the window, and the seams are covered with painter's tape. I just have to be careful, because there's two circuits in the garage, and one of them also powers Grandma's fridge (in the basement, on the literal opposite side of the house) along with an outlet outside next to her door- I really hate the electrician who okay'd this.

    As for today's happenings, the Arduino Mega for the JWing project arrived, but lacks the 16u2 chip needed for HoodLoader2 (custom code that makes the arduino show up as an HID device), despite the listing saying it had it. Talked to the seller about the issue, and not only has he fixed the listing, but also is sending a Mega with the 16u2 chip. Still trying to get over the fact that I basically just got two functional Megas for the price of one really cheap one.
    I also did a little tuning to the Contender code. Presets are now their own functions, which in turn means it's easier to find and edit the presets in the code. I've also finally coded in the preset LED indicators, which should help with system troubleshooting when things go wrong.

    Tomorrow I'll probably go out and get one of those weather resistant dual gang thermoplastic junction boxes. I am still debating if I want to drill and cut a faceplate myself, or if I want to custom order one from the likes of Redco and make it look real nice. Either way, it's hard to resist buying the Neutrik waterproof connector lid for the DMX port... just seems neat, but also like a good idea for an environment like a garage with all the potential for FOD.
     
  6. Les

    Les Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Messages:
    3,992
    Likes Received:
    745
    Location:
    DFW, Tx.
    You need some yellow batten end caps to make it all legit!
     
    TNasty and RonHebbard like this.
  7. TNasty

    TNasty Active Member

    Messages:
    194
    Likes Received:
    30
    Occupation:
    Technical Adviser. Aux Police Officer.
    Location:
    New Jersey
    I was wondering what those were called and where to buy them- At $2.50 a piece, I very well might buy a set instead of just painting the thread caps yellow. Luckily I did in fact get 1-1/2" pipe, so that's perfect! I also like the space for max capacity, that's one less tag I'll have to put on something.

    I didn't get much done yesterday, since I spent most of the afternoon napping. However, the rotary potentiometers arrived along with a new dimmer/driver module for a Chauvet Intimidator 350 I've been working on (which seems to have fixed the random flicker issue), and I did get some electrical hardware from Home Depot including a dual gang PVC junction box by Hubbell, heavy plastic faceplate (trying to avoid metal, just to make things easier with holding the electronics for the Contender), an "Industrial" male power plug, and an illuminated female one (again, going with indicators to help with any troubleshooting... the female plug is going to be relay controlled). I also tested the plugs, and all is good with them.

    Today, it looks like most of the parts for the JWing project arrived at the post office, so I might be able to start some basic stuff with that; I'm just waiting on the Mega that actually has a 16u2 so I can start real work on it (currently USPS says it'll get here on Monday, which'll be a nice treat after my calc mid-term that day). I'll probably finish another cable or two, and do a little bit of cable management, and get DMX values for the presets for Dad to use. I might put them in the code today and do a quick sample for Dad.
     
  8. TNasty

    TNasty Active Member

    Messages:
    194
    Likes Received:
    30
    Occupation:
    Technical Adviser. Aux Police Officer.
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Yesterday evening I had an epiphany and wanted to play around with ArtNet. The result? I now have a little Optiplex 760 running QLC in Ubuntu acting as an ArtNet --> DMX node, of which I plan to have running in the garage 24/7.
    P_20180707_224934_vHDR_On_HP.jpg
    Based on my observation that QLC's ArtNet output is "continuous" instead of "momentary" (based on activity LEDs, it's a continuous stream instead of only sending data when there's an update), I won't be using the normal house WiFi, but instead setting up an access point solely for ArtNet (direct ethernet will still be an option, but I like the idea of having one less thing to connect) so I don't jam one of the two AP's that service the rest of the house.
    That said, I'll be testing how DMX behaves when it's sent through a relay. The plan is that since I don't need simultaneous control with "NODE" (the ArtNet node) and the Contender, I'll make the Contender control a set of relays to "choose" the active DMX source. In short, NODE will be the default DMX source, but the Contender will "disconnect" NODE from the DMX line and "connect" its own DMX output to the line when it's engaged. This way I don't need to fiddle with patching every time I set up out there.

    Thinking about it, I could also power the Contender off of NODE, enable some sort of remote desktop, and I'd be able to remotely reprogram the Contender if I ever needed to do so. Pretty cool stuff if you ask me.

    Also, I did make (3?) more cables. Seems like I'm getting my old soldering skills back again. I'll probably make another log video today, which might show us working on the projects. If anybody's familiar with Blender, Chris has pretty much finished a set of batch files that bring a whole new level of automation to network rendering... He's got a "send to render" context menu entry, everything starts automatically, and then a script under "send to..." that fetches render outputs to the selected folder. Really cool stuff!
     
  9. TNasty

    TNasty Active Member

    Messages:
    194
    Likes Received:
    30
    Occupation:
    Technical Adviser. Aux Police Officer.
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Today wasn't too big of a progress day for the main projects, but more so some testing and research.
    P_20180708_164821_vHDR_On_HP.jpg
    If you excuse the really messy wiring (it's just temporary, wanted to test as quickly as possible, so I wasn't going to solder and heatshrink things), this was the setup for testing if DMX kept its composure if sent through relays. Turns our it works perfectly fine, so relays it is for switching between the NODE and Contender for DMX. It is pretty satisfying hearing several relays click all at once. Only thing I did notice is that a couple fixtures may "blip" for a split second when switching, but that's not a huge concern right now. I might figure out how to do the same thing with MOSFETs or something after my EE course this fall.

    P_20180708_164558_vHDR_On_HP.jpg
    Here we have the very budget friendly project box for the control systems. A gang box is just a tad short for most of the stuff, a panel box seems overkill, and a lot of project boxes sell for a lot more than they really should ($25 for a little plastic box that just holds an arduino, not even considering space for plugs? Really?), so as a result this poor organizer box is about to learn a whole new definition for the word "useful". (Do we have an award for "Largest DMX Widget"?)

    P_20180708_194353_vHDR_On_HP.jpg
    Here we have the NODE in its current new home. It's a fairly basic system; boots Ubuntu, automatically opens the QLC+ workspace, and just sits converting ArtNet into DMX. Pretty much an over-the-top ArtNet node, but I like the fact that it offers a little more versatility, and that I already had the system on hand. In addition to NODE, there's a router that I've got DD-WRT loaded on, which is acting as a wireless client to get a decent wireless signal out in the garage (that's also dedicated for control data). I do love the somewhat novel aspect of being able to walk around the space with my laptop or tablet while controlling the lights, all without any wires on my end. I was concerned about latency at first, but the whole system seems pretty snappy, even over wireless (I do think I'll be doing direct out of my desktop when I'm working on my light shows, though).
    I also like how with this system in place, I can use any software that supports ArtNet (instead of needing support for the "Enttec" open DMX widget), just in case I run into a big issue with QLC.

    Tomorrow the new Arduino should show up, so I'll be able to actually start work on the Jwing project- Sweet.
     
  10. TNasty

    TNasty Active Member

    Messages:
    194
    Likes Received:
    30
    Occupation:
    Technical Adviser. Aux Police Officer.
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Haven't done much the past day or two, so here's a quick update video I shot real quick a couple days ago but never linked here.
     
  11. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

    Messages:
    6,126
    Likes Received:
    407
    Location:
    Illinois
    Lots of work, let us know.
     
    RonHebbard likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice