I am Kurt A. Kroh, in my professional life, I am the System Integration Manager for OneSolution Light + Control. I have been working with entertainment and multimedia technology for almost 30 years. I have decided to keep a sort of journal or blog about the projects, technologies and software that I work with or run into. I will include credits of my friends, co-workers and associates. I will mention these people in first name only as I do not know if everyone would want to be included in a public forum such as this. Most recent information will appear on this main page, as projects are completed they will be moved to the projects pages. I hope someone finds this useful, informative or at least entertaining.
Yard Haunt 2009
My family, friends and I create a yearly Yard Haunt and a Christmas Display to act as a sort of proving grounds for software, technologies and techniques. We also have a blast doing it and it keeps me out of trouble for the entire late summer and fall. This Year we are adding a few elements and reworking our animatronic Bucky skull to have three movements.
Spike is our 2009 Chair Prop. He will have a color changing LED fixture in his head to light his eyes. As you can see he has a pneumatic cylinder in his butt. When a guest approaches Spike, he will lurch forward as his eyes light up and a speaker under the seat plays a screaming sound effect. He is a bit naked as of yet, he will get body, arms and legs. We found a great hoody at the thrift store that will be great as torso and will cover the back if his head. I am thinking that for 2010 I may pipe smoke out his mouth. If any of you saw our 2007 Dead Pirates Path, this is the cylinder from the candy chest.
After spending a great deal of time re-installing windows and all my applications this weekend, I was able to get a little more done for the haunted house. I needed to hack the remote controls for two small smoke machines, so they can be controlled by the computer. I have a couple of Blue Point Engineering’s 8 channel DMX relay boards. I was already going to use one channel of one of these boards in the prop to control the pneumatics from e:cue. This board has 8 simple SPDT (single pole double throw) relays that can be wired NO or NC (normally open or closed). I opened the remote control and used my meter to determine that the momentary switch is SPST-NO (single pole single throw, normally open) and that the current passing through circuit is very small, less than .25 amps. I took Tom’s advice and decided to use a 1/8” phone jack inside the unit to allow my control hack to be easily plugged in and unplugged. I soldered the jack in parallel to the switch so it would still work and soldered a 1/8” plug with a couple of wires so I could test the controller with the relay board. Everything worked great and I was able to get this all done for a couple of bucks. Here are some before and after pictures and a simple schematic drawing.
We finished the building and testing of the basic Monster Crate. We still need to add the diagonal braces and some paint to make it look old. We will also use a large stencil to put “DANGER” on the front and top. I have begun the sound design for this prop and will work on it as time permits, over the next two weeks. I also need to hack the smoke machine remote control so I can control it from e:cue.
Bucky Skull Learns How To Move
8-29-09 Bucky Update
I have been researching the best way to enhance our animatronic Bucky skull. After getting advice from Tom during our weekly Saturday get together, I have decided to use a Heim joint (see below) instead of a hinge and swivel. I have ordered the parts and will work on it more after they arrive.
Heim Joint: An extremely rigid articulating joint, commonly known as a "spherical rod-end," used in any precision linkage. Heim joints are often used in the suspension links of race cars because they locate wheels very precisely.
In late 2007, we built an animated Bucky Skull with the ability to open and close its mouth. This was very effective, but I’ve always wanted to take the time to finish him. When I first built Bucky I purchased a total of three servo motors, with the intention to do head tilt and rotation. Next weekend I intend to finish this project. I am hoping to get it done over the weekend so I can begin outlining and scripting the sequences for the show. After I finish the moving elements, I will paint him to look very old and add a stringy wig to cover the gap in his head. The photo to the left is of the original unfinished Bucky. I will post more photos and comments as this project progresses.
The control device I used for the Servo motors, is Blue Point Engineering’s DMX Protocol Converter, with four channels of servo control (see photo). In the end I intend to do a true three axis skull with mouth movement. This will require all four channels of the controller and a tricky gimble device. Maybe next year.
Software: e:cue LAS 5.1 for lighting and servo control. SoundMan Server for sound playback.
Here is a quick rendering of the new Monster Crate Prop we will build this year. This will be chained mostly shut. When a guest passes by the prop, a beam break or PIR sensor will trigger two small pneumatic cylinders to bang the lid against the chains. As this is happening a small smoke machine inside the crate will blow smoke and sounds will be played from speakers inside the crate. There will be several Color Kinetics iColor Cove MX Powercore RGB LED fixtures inside the crate to light up the smoke in any color. I will probably program six or eight different sequences, with different light colors and sound effects. I will use a macro in e:cue to randomly choose from the different programs. I like this approach in haunted attractions. If a guest goes through the haunt several times the experience isn’t always the same.
Software: e:cue LAS 5.1 for lighting and show control. SoundMan Server for multi track dynamic sound playback and matrixing.
About the Rendering
I decided to use this project to learn the FREE version of Google Sketchup 7. It is the most intuitive 3D modeling software I have ever used. This drawing took about 6 hrs to do but now that I know the software, I could recreate it in about 1-1/2 hrs. This is a full 3D model so I can render any view of the crate.
The information provided in this website is intended to provide general information on how we created these effects and projects. The Author does not accept any responsibility or liability whatsoever whether in contract, tort, equity or otherwise for any action taken as a result of attempting to make these props or projects, or reliance placed on the Author because of having read, any part, or all, of the information in these pages or for any error, inadequacy, deficiency, flaw in or omission from the information provided in these articles, tutorials, postings and case studies.