Nov. 4th, 2016

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I may have mentioned that I've been working on building a prop for a local theatre company on here, though not as much as I've talked about it on a forum I frequent. Anyway, progress on that has pretty much stopped due to several factors, mostly stemming from the fact that I don't have a base to work from and have to build the whole thing from scratch.

Anyway, this year's panto is Beauty and the Beast, and since my boss has started to refuse me Saturdays off, I'm not able to participate in the same way anymore. Apart from that, I'd also noticed that the script mentions a magic mirror. Many movie versions depict the magic mirror as glowing shinily when activated and used, so why not add some LEDs to the prop so it does some cool effects like that?

So I've been given the task, about two weeks ago, and now I'm almost done building the prop! =^.^=

Nearly instrumental was a lady at a higher-end secondhand store around here that helped me find a cheap kid's racquet made of plastic. A layer or two of tape on each side got rid of the annoying bounce sound from the plastic sheet in the middle, and foam board is doing very nicely for fleshing out the back side.

To use the mirror, you're supposed to "polish" it three times, then it flashes and shows you a glistening image of what you want to see.

To provide the lighting effects, I'm using NeoPixels, individually-addressed LEDs with the LED driver chips built right into them. See the article for more info. Anyway, what that allows me to do is to control the RGB colour of each LED independently of each other, but only use a single data line for an entire string, instead of having three separate control lines per LED.

Finally, to provide the brains of the operation and effects, I'm using a Pro Trinket, a tiny microcontroller by the same company as the NeoPixels, that uses the same software development toolkit as the very popular Arduino series of boards. They're very easy to write code for, all the way through to programming the board itself, as well as being fairly cheap to buy, running around $16CDN each.
(compare that to $40 and up for the official Arduino boards)

Power will be supplied by a cheap dollar store USB power bank, which provides a reliable 5V supply, which both the LEDs and control board needs. Plus, it's cheap, around three bucks. Pity I can't find any more for the moment, so as soon as I do, I'll be buying a whole bunch.

So far, I have a semicircle of wire with the LEDs spaced out around it that fits just inside the outer edge of the racquet, and a temporarily wired up microcontroller, with a program that is about 90% of the way to being what I understand we want thus far. Once I have it properly attached to the mirror frame, I'll be bringing it to the next rehearsal for more feedback.


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Carl Foxmarten

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