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[personal profile] carlfoxmarten
I'm mostly just posting this for my own reference, but if it helps you guys, that would be great too.

Big Clive on YouTube dissects a lot of cheap Chinese electronics and posts the results online for others to see and learn from. Granted, it doesn't have to be cheap Chinese crap, as he does work for a large theatre-type company over in England, so sometimes he has to take large and ludicrously expensive theatre lights apart to see what went wrong and try to fix it, which is often as enlightening as his usual content.

Anyway, he once did a series of videos on Chinese "meteor" lights, or the type of icicle lights that actually look light raindrops are falling down the length of each icicle. The sheer complexity the Chinese engineers have been able to squeeze out of such inexpensive components is very impressive.

First, an explanation of how these work:
Everything you didn't want to know about Chinese meteor lights.

Second, how he was able to repair a damaged string:
Fixing a faulty meteor light.

Next, how you can make your own icicle/meteor lights:
Make DIY meteor lights with multiple effects.

And finally, a project he experimented with to get different types of effects out of a string of meteor lights:
Experimental meteor light software.

Why I'm posting this is for an idea I just had for an electronic game timer. Now, one disadvantage of using this technique is that it's only possible to have one LED lit at a time, but the major advantage is that you can control twelve discrete, single-colour LEDs with just three control lines from the microcontroller. This simplifies things a lot on the hardware end, and makes it even cheaper to run a lot of LEDs, but means you have to keep cycling through all the lit LEDs constantly. And because of that, it's not constantly lighting the LEDs, but flicking through them, so it's not going to look constantly lit.

The alternative is to use digitally-controlled LEDs, known also as NeoPixels or the WS2811(B). That would use only a single data pin for the entire string of LEDs, but adds a fair bit to the costs, though not as much if you buy unbranded ones.

The general idea of the shape of the timer is a pillar-shaped bar graph kind of affair, with the lit segments lowering down like sand until it expires. I'll be coming back to this idea later, I just want to get it down somewhere I can refer back to it when I have the time later.


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Carl Foxmarten

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