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Discussion Starter #1
Hey all,

I've been working on a project, and need your input! During the last couple of years at the Heritage Haunt, it's become apparent to me that there was need for a budget-minded DMX control solution for character animation as well as props. So, I've put together an interface board for the Heritage Haunt to use, and am wondering who else might be interested.

I have 3 boards being beta tested right now, but I haven't yet tested the extremes, so I don't have a complete spec for it. But here's the basics...

DMX input
(any source)

8 Servo control
Selectable 90 / 180 degree swing to support different styles of servos

8 Dimmer outputs for LEDs
Hi-rate PWM - no flicker!
String and parallel support

8 Switch-type (open collector) outputs for controlling relays
Connect to any DC-type relay

6V-12V supply power
Can use one supply for both board & servos

DIP switches for start address
Full universe support (0-511)
Use along with other DMX devices, or more boards

Jumper-selectable on board termination resistor
Use with other DMX devices, or more boards
No separate termination needed

View attachment 4127

So, I'm looking for both opinions on things I might've missed, as well as how many people might want something like this. The guiding principles here were...

1 - Make it small, so it could be easily hidden
2 - Support LEDs / servos / relays
3 - Require external resistor for LEDs (allows more versatility for voltage and current)
4 - Don't supply relays (see #1, would be significant and unnecessary cost adder for those not using all 8 relays, would lock-in relay type - SPST/SPDT/DPDT)
5 - Provide easy connection for just signal leads of servos (simplifies wiring if wires need to be extended)

Lemme know whatcha think!
- Hook
 

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I echo Mr. Chicken's statements...please more info
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Getting VSA to work with a DMX device isn't too hard.

Normally with VSA, you'd connect whatever you'd like to control directly to the computer. This works with servo controllers and relay boards, etc, each of which connect through USB, the serial port, or the parallel port.

DMX devices, however, need a DMX-512 signal to control them. They can't be controlled directly by the USB/Serial/Parallel ports. Instead, what DMX VSA users do is connect a USB-to-DMX bridge between the computer and the DMX devices. This still connects to your USB port, but what comes out the other end is DMX-512.

There's (3) USB-to-DMX bridges that VSA currently supports (according to their site). The Velleman, the Enttec USB DMX Open, and the Enttec USB DMX Pro. These range in price from $60 to $150. There are differences in performance between the 3, mostly in frame rate for a given number of channels.

Once you've got one of those hooked up, you just run the signals to your different devices. There's DMX strobes, DMX smoke machines, loads of DMX controlled lights, and a few boutique boards like the one I designed. You run the cabling from one device to the next, in a daisy-chain fashion, and up to 512 devices (channels) can be run off of one string - although I think VSA supports 127 right now.

Another main benefit of DMX is that the signals are very robust, compared to USB or serial ports (RS232). If proper wiring is used, the signals can travel hundreds of feet. This was the reason I chose to go with it for the Heritage Haunt. The props were in the graveyard in the front of the house, and the control room is up on the second story.

As far as pricing on the board mentioned above, I haven't gotten all of that figured out yet because I really don't know what kind of market exists. Given the other DMX products on the market, I'm thinking around $100, give or take.
 

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So much to say, so little time, I have one of these little gems to help out with the beta testing, and so far, so good, being able to control servos, lights, and relays all in one board has lots of potential. I am working on several six axis skulls right now, so I will keep everyone up to date if you have interest on need for such a control board.
 

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I'd be intrested in doing some beta testing on one of these boards and if it's all it sounds like would be happy to sell on my site.let me know if you would be intrested.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Hey guys! Thanks for the interest. I posted a reply last night, explaining how DMX works with VSA. But when I submitted it, the site said the moderator would have to approve the message first. What triggers this? I had 3 links to USB-to-DMX converters in there, maybe that?

Anyway, I'll check back tonight, and if the message got lost somehow, I'll repost.

- Hook
 

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Scared Silly
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Hey guys! Thanks for the interest. I posted a reply last night, explaining how DMX works with VSA. But when I submitted it, the site said the moderator would have to approve the message first. What triggers this? I had 3 links to USB-to-DMX converters in there, maybe that?

Anyway, I'll check back tonight, and if the message got lost somehow, I'll repost.

- Hook
That's weird....I would just try posting it again. Then again, if it said a moderator will approve it, Larry should get it and have it approved soon. You might pm him just in case.
 

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Sounds good, I would be willing to B test one for you, if not I still would like one when they come out. I am a control freak, cant help myself.
 

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This sounds like something even I could get into. I have no experience with DMX, but with what you have put together, I may just go this route soon! Keep us posted.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
The board's built to control up to 24 channels. Channels 0-7 are servos, 8-15 are switch-closure outputs, 16-23 are LED dimmer outputs.

Larry added my previous message (see above in the thread), so hopefully the DMX/VSA primer will prove useful to someone. DMX is a great interface for robust control, since it's decent speed and capable of long runs.

I'll have to figure out what the next step should be for this board. I think it at least needs a status LED to be added, but what else, I'm not sure. I appreciate all the offers for beta testing, and will definitely hit some of you up, once I get some more boards. I guess it's a little much to ask for feedback on something you don't have in your hand, but if anyone's got any to offer, I'm all ears!

- Hook
 

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I'm not sure what price-point you're aiming at for this, but one feature I find very useful on the Board of Chuckee controller is the ability to set the min and max settings for each servo. It also has a trim setting for each channel on the RGB LED driver that allows you to achieve something close to white when all colors are at full intensity.

Mark
 

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with the board of chuckee everything is done with software to set it up. the board of chuckee on has one led output and 16 servo channels. boc needs an led channel for every 4 servo channels for the person that wants to create 3 or 4 three axis skulls.

if this was me i would go with 16 or 32 servos and 8 switch outputs and 8 rbg led outputs.. but of course their may be some limits by the chip makers
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Ahhhhh... some feedback! Mua-Ha-Ha-Haaaaa!! [rubbing hands]

I took another look at the BoC, and am again impressed with what they've accomplished. From a technical standpoint, it's quite a lot.

Mark,
You mention you like the min/max settings. VSA supports this too, no? Does setting it in the board bring other benefits? I haven't used one of these before. Does the white-balance trim affect the balance across the range of brightness, or just at the brightest?

Kenny,
Software setup is a plus or a minus? What's par for a '3-axis' skull? Nod, shake, head-bobble, jaw, eye-up/down, eye-L/R? Or... you say 4 servo per 3-axis... so, would that be just head movements + jaw?

Given the complement of outputs, it looks like the BoC was designed to control a full Skeletron (7 axis) + Skulltronix (6 axis + 1 RGB) - it's got one servo channel left. I was thinking of the board I'm designing as more of a universal scene controller, than a skull controller. Be able to control some servos and RGB LEDs, but also have outputs left over to control some ambient/special LED lighting and popups, motors, or whatever else you can connect up to with a relay.

For example...
(2) Skulls with 3-axis neck + jaw & RGB eyes
(2) Spotlight LED clusters (one-channel each)
And on the switch outputs (connected to external relays)
- Something scurrying in the leaves (motor or air cylinder)
- Lightning strobe
- Smoke machine trigger
- Coffin lid (air cylinder)
- Convulsion of corpse in coffin (motor or air cylinder)
- Air cannon
- Flame thrower
- BFG10k

..... or, maybe not the last 2. Truth be told, the BoC is darn near perfect for controlling a skull. No point in reinventing the wheel. Is there merit in the switch outputs and additional LEDs?

- Hook
 

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boc probably was designed for the whole skull but i have seen a few people use the board for 4 3axis skulls and not to worried about the eye axis but they wanted each skull to have there own eye rgb channel

with the boc the downside to the software and they even tell you not to hook it up if something else is using the same channels it may render it useless
also if you have the enttec pro you cant use the software to configure it it is ony supported by the enttec open so if you have the pro you will have to buy the open to use the software

i think boc is a good controller alot of features from the jpg of the software

hooked you dont have this problem with your plug and play
can you put a potentiometer on yours to limit the servo travel? just an idea



skulltronix is not interested in home haunters on a budget
 

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Shadow box dancer
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Oh no. You poked the bear. Be aware that you might be ostracized now. Don't ever and I mean ever question anyone about prices of electronics on this board. Pay what they want and do it with a smile on your face even if it isn't really what you need or want. Oh and don't suggest alternatives(unless it is about non electronics related things) that might cost less for home haunters on a budget. :)
 

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Shadow box dancer
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Oh and for the love of all that is holy do not under any circumstances use any board or servo combination for anything other then a talking skull. Unless you are going to add another axis. Because we all know that there is someone out there just waiting to show off a 5 axis skull with 3 axis eyes. Or maybe just maybe a 6 axis skull with 4 axis eyes and a 2 axis nose and one axis ears. (No offense to the Frankenstein guy. I really really really hope that works out., because at least it is something different.) :)
 
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oh and for the love of all that is holy do not under any circumstances use any board or servo combination for anything other then a talking skull. Unless you are going to add another axis. Because we all know that there is someone out there just waiting to show off a 5 axis skull with 3 axis eyes. Or maybe just maybe a 6 axis skull with 4 axis eyes and a 2 axis nose and one axis ears. (no offense to the frankenstein guy. I really really really hope that works out., because at least it is something different.) :)
!!! Lmao !!!
 
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