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Discussion Starter #1
Hi gang,

I want to get my hands dirty doing an animatronic. I have done the Dougie hack and it was ok...worked fine...just looking for better. I have MAD tech skills, strong programming skills just haven't used the language to program servos with but I'll pick it up and can fab up no problem.

What do you guys recommend.
  • programming and burning my own chips but $$$$$
  • mini SSC
  • build my own boards
  • VSA software I think it was only $50
  • roboware
You guys see what I'm getting at. I know some is personal preference but since I have no experience I don't want to buy something so-so to upgrade later $$$$$ is at a premium like for all of us. If needed I would rather save up to get the more pricey better components then hate what I have. BUT I don't want to go over board either.

Any suggestions or input would be great. I have a little left over B-Day money, mine is just before Halloween :D

Thanks
-PB
 

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Hauntless
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I have no tech skills and using VSA and DMX worked very well for me. There were a few gotchas here and there but I popped onto this forum and got them answered right away. So, I would really say I used VSA, DMX and this forum.

Now, you could just go with VSA and a simple controller and you would be good to go. For the future, you could eye upgrading to DMX. Right now, the flaw with DMX is that there isn't a cheap/easy way to activate your prop. I've been told that the best/easiest way is to buy the $300 eXorcist box so that it what I'm aiming for for next year. The upside to DMX is the ability to use DMX lights and fog machine controls using one daisy-chained DMX cable. I used two DMX LED RGB lights and a simple trouble light that allowed me to create a light show unto itself that took an ordinary coffin-opening animatronic and make it much more exciting. Here's a vid:

YouTube - Final DMX Coffin Set-up
 

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I second Terra's comments. VSA is a pretty powerful package for only $50 and there are tons of people using it now so getting help is easy. The only servo controller board I have used is the SSC-32 from Lynxmotion which I have had no problems with and would recommend. The VSA people also sell this RAPU board (about $300 - so the eXorcist box may be a better choice overall) which allows you to develop your routines on your computer and then download them to the RAPU board and it acts as a "stand-alone" controller (including interfacing to DMX if necessary)...but<heavy sigh> it still does not directly provide the means for automatic triggering. To solve this problem I created my own sensor/controller board that looks for a trigger and then tells the RAPU board (via RS-232) to randomly select a routine and play it - and it worked great.
 

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Wow

you could have done all of that with a $150 Gilderfluke minibrick...either 4 or 8 channels...free software to program and download onto the brick. No need for relays if you're switching 24v DC or less. Use relays to switch higher voltage. That seems like an aweful lot of work and $$$$ for simple on/off routines. If you're dimming lights and whatnot, then DMX is the way to go...Just my 2 cents. Their 8 channel minibrick is about $250.:D
 

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Maniacal Imagineer
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My personal preference is VSA which I will soon upgrade to the new version with 128 channels. I use it to control 3 relay boards (24 relays total) and various servo controllers. The Lynxmotion SSC-32 seems to be the latest controller of choice.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
VSA sounds the way to go then.

If I go SSC or Lynxmotion ( link anyone? ) after I upload the program are these then stand alone? I don't want the prop connected to a computer. I may be able to build a trigger.

If I connect this to a pneumatic prop, can I add an ice cube relay as my solenoids are all 110v?

Can I add sound to the SSC or do I need a chip recorder?

Any good projects/how-to's that you can recommend to review and study?

Thanks for the input on this. Looking forward to adding something bigger, better to the haunt
-PB
 

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I, too recommend VSA. (Brookshire Software - Visual Show Automation (VSA) - The Solution for Show Control Software)

VSA allows you to load audio files and sync up your servo actions to the sound.

I have used the Lynxmotion SSC32 card (SSC-32 Servo Controller).

I am using VSA version 4 with the 128 channels. If you use a kit74 relay board, you can switch a couple hundred watts right from the relays on the board. You can add heavy duty relays for bigger jobs or motors.

Kit 74 board: PC Relay Driver Board Kit 74 and Parallel Port Relay Board

Take a few minutes and review this thread:

http://www.halloweenforum.com/halloween-props/62161-my-3-axis-skull-progress.html

I made these guys and started that thread as a "How-To".

YouTube - Sindy Skinless & the Decomposers do "Skeletons in my Closet"
 

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Discussion Starter #10
YEP I saw that thread but not sure I wanted to read 147 pages :D

I want to start small. Lets just get a head working ;)

If I recall from a long time ago this is a stand alone, correct? Once programmed I can trigger it and run it off the puter.

Those are way cool, and my whole thing started by wanting to do a "Killer Clown Band" kinda like what you have but with clowns.

I'm gonna order the VSA combo: Software V1 & V2 on cd, SSC and cable

-PB
 

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Most of the information you need if you are planning to make one yourself is in the first 20 pages.

It isn't until much later on, I think around page 100 or so that the 3 axis kits become available.
 

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Captain o'th Black Pearl
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PB,

Nearly everyone here got their starts on animatronics from the Grand Poobah, Great Kazoo and All-Knowing and powerful OZ, more commonly refered to as HalloweenBob. I think it's pretty safe to say tha' HB's recomendations are really grounded, and probably the best poop you can get anywhere.. tha' be why so many here tried their 3-axis projects after seeing HB's success.

VSA's been th' easiest to use, and adapt.. Naught without a few bugs, including the latest version, but still th' best one out there tha' most of us 'ave seen for th' price.
I'll be writing to Jon at Brookshire to see if we can get some sort of a standing discount for anyone from here (HF).. couple dollars off without having to do a specified Discount Coupon Day.. Last week I asked him how we ended up doing on Discount Day last month, did we hit our allotment? He said he wasnt sure, but he hadnt seen the actual totals for it. I think if we can promise him, a set amount of people d/l'ing it, and actually hit that number (no one sleeping thru that day/night AGAIN!!), we might be able to get a lil better discount than $5 (but then anything off is good) or get a standard discount using a typed-in key or something like that.. eBay has those on all their payment pages.. anyway, jus' a thot fer th' future.. I know naught if 'e 'as a screen name bu' did say e's been 'ere ta see th' 3-axis projects..

Th' Lynx SSC32 board also seems ta be th' first board o' choice fer most, an' th' Kit74 board be second.. cost be th' same, support good on both..

I dont 'ave any comments abt Skulltronics DMX controllers. They look good if you can afford them. Several here have tried DMX and like it..

Stand alone controllers, again, if you can afford them.. but then, who does naught 'ave an old computer laying around to run these props? I tell ya mate, ya cant swing a dead black cat without hittin' 'least 10 old computers on eBay fer less than $20..
Thar be a number of inexpensive controllers ($20-$30) tha' can run a servo or two, fed with nothing other than a CD, tape player or iPod, convertin' audio to anolog or digital movements to run a jaw servo and most with posts for LED eyes.. an' thats ALL you need. An audio source, a servo, a controller an' tha' be it. No VSA, no computer, no programming, total cost, abt $50. ScaryTerry's comes ta mind: http://www.cowlacious.com/ScaryTerry.htm. Only drawback is tha' it runs a single(maybe two) servos, so 3-axis movements nigh possible with it..

Help with yer prop's somethin' tha' ya will most certainly find 'ere 'mate..

Capt. Jack
 

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Discussion Starter #13
OK guys I found this

Mini SSC w/USB port but I don't see the power connections for the board itself. Does it power off the USB, meaning it would have to stay connected to the PC?



$42 seems about right on the price. Is this as good as the Scott one. I like the USB option.

Still wondering is this stand alone or needs to be connected to the puter. Cpt Jack I do have a laptop I could use but I kinda wanted it to be stand alone but if not, oh well

-PB
 

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Pb,
The 'logic' portion of the Parallax board is indeed powered off of the USB port. However, you would have to keep this board connected to the computer anyway as it does not have the ability to "store" any commands - all commands have to be sent from your computer.
 

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Just a note...

This quote from a couple posts up suggests that these two controllers do the same job:

"Th' Lynx SSC32 board also seems ta be th' first board o' choice fer most, an' th' Kit74 board be second.. cost be th' same, support good on both.."

They do not. The SSC-32 is a servo controller board and the Kit 74 is an array of 8 relays that simply turn on and off. There is no way to control a servo with the kit 74.

The wording of that quote makes it sound like they are interchangable. They in fact serve different purposes.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks for the help everyone!!! Been doing tons of reading and pic/video watching. Lots of info to decipher.

I now know that the SSC either one must stay connected. The pic or stamp does not.

Can the SSC be used in conjunction with the Kit74? What output would I use to energize one of the coils on the K74 to trigger it?

As stated a while ago, I want to start small. Just a single 3 or 2 axis prop. For this reason I think the Mini SSC with limited out puts would be fine. I may do the Killer Clown Band later and at that point I will switch to the Lynxmotion for the more output.

I dug out a bunch of my servos from my RC days. I will be trying to assemble something very soon. Going through my stock to see if I can start.

Servo Question: How do you decide on a torque of the servo to use? I have been to ServoCity, Jameco carries servos I think about the same price. Is it kinda once you use them you get to know the abilities/limitations of each one I would guess?

Thanks again for the tech help guys
-PB

I hope to be able to add my pics to the posts of others 3axis's on the list
 

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Yes, any controller board can be used along with the kit74. They use different ports from the computer. The kit74 board uses the parallel output (or printer port) referred to as the LPT1 port.

If you are planning to use a laptop as your computer, you probably will not have this port on your laptop. They stopped putting parallel ports on laptops about 8 or 10 years ago. You can get a card for your laptop or a usb adapter that will provide you with a parallel port.

My personal take on the servo controller board is that the SSC-32 is the best buy for the money. It gives you 32 servo outputs on a single board and costs about the same as other controllers that only give you 8. If you are going to spend the money, why would you get something that gives you fewer outputs, yet costs the same? I have used the SSC-32 now for 2 years and they work just fine.

I hope that clears things up a bit.
 
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