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Shadow box dancer
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Discussion Starter #1
I have never used servos before and I am looking to replace the motors I have in my props with them. I would like to be able to control them in a Light O Rama routine if possible, but it would also be ok if they were controlled by a stand alone unit. I do not want to use talking skulls, because I want to convert the props I already have. I welcome suggestions on prop making, but I already have built all my own props and don't need help with that, however I am a complete moron when it comes to computer controls and do need help with that. :) Thanks in advance for any possible help you might be able to provide.

So basically the things that I want

1. to control 5 or 6 servos via my computer or a stand alone unit
2. possible add them to a routine via Light O Rama or vixen (if i knew how to program a routine myself I wouldn't be begging for help here). :)
3. to add sound in the routine
4. and if it wasn't already implied, do it as frugally as possible.

Things I know I don't want.

1. to use modified talking skulls(thanks for all the help with that by the CraigInPA).
2. to use motors to turn cranks(all my props already do that).
3. to use rc controls.
4. use a single controller for each servo.
 

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Well what servo controller are you going to use? The reason i ask is i used the ssc32 board and the movements were choppy like stutery(is that even a word) and there is this fella on here that used a prop board from efx tek i dont know which board but his movements were super smooth! and the only thing different was the board so i assume that had to be 1 reason. One problem about efx tek boards though is you have to know how to program in basic....but i have heard that the people that work there will write the code for you if your nice enough :) and i think prop boards are stand alone. So i guess it depends on what your after and your budget. Hope this helps a little bit.
 

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Shadow box dancer
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Discussion Starter #3
Well what servo controller are you going to use?
That is what I am trying to figure out? Like I said I would love to be able to use it in conjunction with a Light O Rama show, but I also wouldn't mind if it was a stand alone that was motion activated.
 

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Light-O-Rama has a new controller hopefully coming out later this year - the DIO32 - a 32 channel digital I/O controller that will be able to control 16 servos. Here's a link to the preliminary manual: DIO32 Controller Board. Latest word is it will be out sometime in June. No pricing details yet, but I bet it will run in the $200 - $250 range.

Lacking that, I'd say your next best option is to run VSA (~$60) Visual Show Automation on a computer connected to a servo control board like a Parallax Servo Controller, or a SSC-32 Servo Controller. For a really cheap alternative (~$20), you can get this Pololu Micro Serial Servo Controller. All of these require a serial connection, but you can always pick up a USB-Serial converter for less than $10 if your PC doesn't have a serial port on-board. You can run servo extension cables at least 10-15 feet with no problem - maybe longer. Depending on how far apart your props/servos are, you should be able to keep the controller board count to a minimum.


Mark
 

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Shadow box dancer
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1,443 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Light-O-Rama has a new controller hopefully coming out later this year - the DIO32 - a 32 channel digital I/O controller that will be able to control 16 servos. Here's a link to the preliminary manual: DIO32 Controller Board. Latest word is it will be out sometime in June. No pricing details yet, but I bet it will run in the $200 - $250 range.

Lacking that, I'd say your next best option is to run VSA (~$60) Visual Show Automation on a computer connected to a servo control board like a Parallax Parallax Servo Controller, or a SSC-32 board SSC-32 Servo Controller. For a really cheap alternative (~$20), you can get this Pololu Micro Serial Servo Controller All of these require a serial connection, but you can always pick up a USB-Serial converter for less than $10 if your PC doesn't have a serial port on-board. You can run servo extension cables at least 10-15 feet with no problem - maybe longer. Depending on how far apart your props/servos are, you should be able to keep the controller board count to a minimum.


Mark
Thank you for all the great info. SkinDeep F/X, the guy who is now famous for his Lucy dragon, has been helping me out. I decided to use the SSC-32 to control my servos. So basically I have it boiled down to 2 options.

1. Run a Light O Rama show at specific times with breaks in between. Then Schedule VSA routines in the in between times to control the servo part of the show.

2. Sell my Light O Rama and just go with VSA and buy DMX controllers for the lights.

The 3rd option is a new one now that mark suggested that Light O Rama might come out with a new board. That would be to hold off on everything until Light O Rama comes out with their board and run everything off of that. But, I have to be honest I have been reading the forums and it sounds like they have been saying they were going to come out with it for a long time. So I don't want to get my hopes up on that. So it looks like option 2 is getting more and more likely every day.
 

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BAD INFLUENCE
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Just a thought, Servo city has a servo controller that can record and play, I think they will control up to 8 servos at a time. Not sure that's what you're looking for, but might be wirth checking out.
 

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Thank you for all the great info. SkinDeep F/X, the guy who is now famous for his Lucy dragon, has been helping me out. I decided to use the SSC-32 to control my servos. So basically I have it boiled down to 2 options.

1. Run a Light O Rama show at specific times with breaks in between. Then Schedule VSA routines in the in between times to control the servo part of the show.

2. Sell my Light O Rama and just go with VSA and buy DMX controllers for the lights.

The 3rd option is a new one now that mark suggested that Light O Rama might come out with a new board. That would be to hold off on everything until Light O Rama comes out with their board and run everything off of that. But, I have to be honest I have been reading the forums and it sounds like they have been saying they were going to come out with it for a long time. So I don't want to get my hopes up on that. So it looks like option 2 is getting more and more likely every day.
I've been using LOR product for a couple of years now - mostly for Our Christmas Light Display. I'm up to 104 channels plus a CMB-16D DC board which I used in my Halloween display last year to control low voltage landscape lights and assorted LED flashlights I had directed on individual props. I've followed the forums and seen the delays on the DIO product as you have. Dan claims it is in use now commercially, and will be available for the sale they have in June. But we'll have to wait and see.
If you're going to go the DMX route, don't forget the LOR boxes can be used a DMX dimmer packs - DMX-DOC.pdf. Just as long as you have the latest firmware and a cable - RJ45 to XLR 3 pin Adapter or you can make your own for the cost of a female XLR connector and patch cable. I've tested it out and it works fine. You'll need to get a USB-DMX adapter like the Enttec Open DMX interface. And for DMX servo controller option, for $50 you can pick up a Northlight Systems 8 channel DMX board. I actually bought one of these when I first started building my 3-axis skull, then decided to go with the Board of Chuckee Servo controller due to the additional features like the ability to set servo end points and the RGB LED driver circuit which I want to use for the eyes. I've decided DMX is the way to go since a single cable can be daisy-chained to control all of my props and lights. I'm also planning on purchasing the a DMXorcist Haunt Controller. This will allow me the greatest flexibility with my plans for multiple 3-axis skulls, other props as well as DMX lights like the Chauvet ColorSplash JR washlights I picked up last year at a garage sale.

Mark
 

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Shadow box dancer
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1,443 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
I've been using LOR product for a couple of years now - mostly for Our Christmas Light Display. I'm up to 104 channels plus a CMB-16D DC board which I used in my Halloween display last year to control low voltage landscape lights and assorted LED flashlights I had directed on individual props. I've followed the forums and seen the delays on the DIO product as you have. Dan claims it is in use now commercially, and will be available for the sale they have in June. But we'll have to wait and see.
If you're going to go the DMX route, don't forget the LOR boxes can be used a DMX dimmer packs - DMX-DOC.pdf. Just as long as you have the latest firmware and a cable - RJ45 to XLR 3 pin Adapter or you can make your own for the cost of a female XLR connector and patch cable. I've tested it out and it works fine. You'll need to get a USB-DMX adapter like the Enttec Open DMX interface. And for DMX servo controller option, for $50 you can pick up a Northlight Systems 8 channel DMX board. I actually bought one of these when I first started building my 3-axis skull, then decided to go with the Board of Chuckee Servo controller due to the additional features like the ability to set servo end points and the RGB LED driver circuit which I want to use for the eyes. I've decided DMX is the way to go since a single cable can be daisy-chained to control all of my props and lights. I'm also planning on purchasing the a DMXorcist Haunt Controller. This will allow me the greatest flexibility with my plans for multiple 3-axis skulls, other props as well as DMX lights like the Chauvet ColorSplash JR washlights I picked up last year at a garage sale.

Mark
the question i have is can you control servos in that scenario? i don't want skulls. i want to adapt my props i have and build new ones. it sounds like the most simple solution would be to go the VSA route. That way it is one source for everything.

Lights run through a DMX controller.

Servos run through a 32 channel servo controller.

Then maybe a DMX controller in the future for pneumatic props.

This way everything can be part of one simple show.

Oh and the other question is who in the world has color splash jrs at their garage sale? :)
 

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Insane Genius
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Or you could just go completely DMX and use a DMX servo board, there are several available, and you will get a lot more flexibility out of a VSA based DMX only system, especially if you consider a later upgrade to DMXorcist.

DMXorcist is pretty much a vital component in large scale control project design, the problem you get with VSA alone is that you can get stuck on just a single track/routine/loop, DMXorcist gives you the opportunity to run multiple routines and tracks down a single DMX network.
 

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the question i have is can you control servos in that scenario? i don't want skulls. i want to adapt my props i have and build new ones. it sounds like the most simple solution would be to go the VSA route. That way it is one source for everything.

Lights run through a DMX controller.

Servos run through a 32 channel servo controller.

Then maybe a DMX controller in the future for pneumatic props.

This way everything can be part of one simple show.

Oh and the other question is who in the world has color splash jrs at their garage sale? :)
This was answered in the previous reply, but to reiterate - nearly all of the talking skulls use servos to control the movements. It can be as few as one for the jaw for a basic talking skull to as many as six for a 3-axis with 2-axis eye movement. As far as the servo controller, Phoenix's suggestion elaborates on my position from my previous reply where I gave links to two DMX servo boards as well as the DMXorcist product.
The Colorsplash Jr find was a total fluke. I just happened drive past a garage sale that had a lot of tools displayed which I'm always looking to pick up. I stopped to take a look and saw 2 Colorsplash lamps on a table loaded with a bunch of kitchen junk. I asked if they worked and how much they were asking for them. He said $50 for the pair and I replied how about $40? Not a bad deal in my opinion since they were perfectly.

Mark
 

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Shadow box dancer
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1,443 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
Or you could just go completely DMX and use a DMX servo board, there are several available, and you will get a lot more flexibility out of a VSA based DMX only system, especially if you consider a later upgrade to DMXorcist.

DMXorcist is pretty much a vital component in large scale control project design, the problem you get with VSA alone is that you can get stuck on just a single track/routine/loop, DMXorcist gives you the opportunity to run multiple routines and tracks down a single DMX network.
Thanks for the info. I am just a home haunter and don't need to sync video, have stereo audio or run multiple VSA routines at a time. So I don't think having the ability to start stop routines would justify the added expense of either of the Exorcist products in my particular case. Plus I was looking at the VSA version 4.0 and it has the ability to play multiple audio files at once and support for multi-channel audio files (mono, stereo, 5.1, 7.1, etc.).

I am new to this and appreciate the help. I am sure I have made some errors in my research here so I would greatly appreciate any feedback. Thanks again.
 

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Insane Genius
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Thanks for the info. I am just a home haunter and don't need to sync video, have stereo audio or run multiple VSA routines at a time. So I don't think having the ability to start stop routines would justify the added expense of either of the Exorcist products in my particular case. Plus I was looking at the VSA version 4.0 and it has the ability to play multiple audio files at once and support for multi-channel audio files (mono, stereo, 5.1, 7.1, etc.).

I am new to this and appreciate the help. I am sure I have made some errors in my research here so I would greatly appreciate any feedback. Thanks again.
Sorry, the point I was trying to make is that the VSA/DMX route is very versatile and can lead to much bigger and better things. The most common 'error' people new to this kind of control system make is to go down a route that does not and cannot grow, and all too often their past investment in hardware gets pushed aside because it has become limiting.

The truth about all the features in Exorcist and DMXorcist is that nobody uses them all, most of them were added because users wanted to do something new and needed a new feature to make it possible, and if it was feasible it got added, this is how Exorcist grows and evolves, in direct response to users needs.

The one feature that everybody does use however is the ability to trigger VSA routines using PIRs and mat switches, not only does Exorcist give you the software but the hardware as well.

The addition of multi channel support to VSA (which was 2 years behind Exorcist) does help a lot, and with VSA alone you have a pretty good platform on which to build a control system.... after VSA then I strongly recommend you concentrate on DMX hardware, and you can buy Exorcist, DMXorcist and a host of other features as and when you need it and your budget can afford.
 

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Shadow box dancer
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Discussion Starter #16
Sorry, the point I was trying to make is that the VSA/DMX route is very versatile and can lead to much bigger and better things. The most common 'error' people new to this kind of control system make is to go down a route that does not and cannot grow, and all too often their past investment in hardware gets pushed aside because it has become limiting.

The truth about all the features in Exorcist and DMXorcist is that nobody uses them all, most of them were added because users wanted to do something new and needed a new feature to make it possible, and if it was feasible it got added, this is how Exorcist grows and evolves, in direct response to users needs.

The one feature that everybody does use however is the ability to trigger VSA routines using PIRs and mat switches, not only does Exorcist give you the software but the hardware as well.

The addition of multi channel support to VSA (which was 2 years behind Exorcist) does help a lot, and with VSA alone you have a pretty good platform on which to build a control system.... after VSA then I strongly recommend you concentrate on DMX hardware, and you can buy Exorcist, DMXorcist and a host of other features as and when you need it and your budget can afford.
It is definitely a great product. To have the option sometime down the road would be nice. Do you basically use it to trigger independent scenes in a haunt?
 

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Insane Genius
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Last year I used it to play an ambient background track on a loop, had a prop which triggered lights and sound on a mat switch, triggered a pneumatic ankle tickler on another mat switch, a cackling pumpkin on a third, two button switches were assigned to trigger the whine/angry features on the monster ina box, it controlled my DMX laser for the laser Vortex tunnel and a random trigger feature for the thunder lightening round the front of the house,

I also played with using a light beam sensor to make sure that there was a constant amount of smoke in the vortex tunnel, this worked by a light beam and when there was 'too much' smoke it disrupted the beam causing the fogger to stop, and when the fog dissapated it turned the fogger back on.
 
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