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Thread: xLights controlling Skulltronix Skull via DMX

  1. #1
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    Default xLights controlling Skulltronix Skull via DMX

    Despite what you may read in other sub-forums not all sequencers do a poor job with DMX devices like moving heads. I'll admit I haven't done a good job of teaching everyone how to use the DMX Model and DMX Effect in xLights but that should change this year. I'll be teaching at least one class on DMX moving fixtures at the xLights conference in Vegas and one of the classes I've proposed to teach at the Expo will be on this topic.

    If you use the DMX model you can teach xLights which channels contain your red, green, and blue data and for moving devices you can teach it which channels map to each servo. Then the DMX effect is great for setting values to any of those channels and you can normal On and Colorwash effects as well which will figure out where to write the color data. Using multiple layers you can combine the DMX effect with the normal color effects at the same time which provides independent motion control while painting the color data. With the value curve feature on every channel you can create custom curves which provide for smooth motion effects.

    For the next xLights release I'll be adding a new DMX model sub option for skull control and to support running 16 bit servos I've added the Servo Effect which can be used to drive any 8-bit or 16-bit DMX output. Technically you could use the Servo Effect to drive a light channel but its meant for motor control.

    If you've been doing any animatronics you may have been using a program called Visual Show Automation (VSA). Since there are already many routines created using VSA I'm working on a VSA file importer that will be able to convert that data to xLights native effects. Below is a video I created with my first trial run of the VSA file importer. There were 2 issues I found with the importer that make a couple things in this video incorrect but I didn't feel like processing another demo video. I'll just mention them. At the start the preview model is not in sync because I realized I needed to create filler effects when importing to define the initial default positions for the servos. The other issue is the eye colors. For simplicity of the import I use the same servo effects to drive the eye colors and they also needed filler effects to latch the values between VSA effects and I accidentally left the 16bit checkbox set which caused the color data to write into the wrong data output. The result is there are eye flashes in the video that shouldn't be there.

    Technically this model type could be used for any 3 axis motion control. I'll probably also add a generic 3-axis option once I have all this working. There will also be work done in the future to support controlling a full Skulltronix skeleton.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: xLights controlling Skulltronix Skull via DMX

    Looks great Gill, When I ran my Halloween show at my old house I used to use VSA to run the entire show via DMX including my Skulltronix (which was an early version than ran with the parallax usb servo controller).
    Jeff Squires

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    Default Re: xLights controlling Skulltronix Skull via DMX

    That is VERY cool! OK, I have not done any research (yet) on ....... I don't even know what you call it... animatronics? lol. But, I'm wondering how awesome it would be to have this skull set up to greet visitors at the door. Maybe have manual controls that a person could use to move the skull and jaw while talking to the folks as they approach the door. Now, this is probably WAY out there but,... what about this scenario.. the operator sits inside the house viewing a monitor that is fed from a camera in, or near the skull, that enables the operator to see the approaching people. Speaking into a microphone that is hooked up to a voice effects unit ( I have one of those!), that feeds a speaker near or in the skull, which moves the skull by voice activating the servo motors??? OK, now back to earth...

    Could a motion detector be set up to play various sequences in xlights, randomly? Pre record various greetings or songs, or whatever, then have xlights play, and the skull come alive when the motion detector is set off. Or, every 4th or 5th time it's set off to make it more random?

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    Default Re: xLights controlling Skulltronix Skull via DMX

    I'll be adding some of the building blocks that could accomplish some of that. But there are already other things out there that might be better suited for that. Checkout this video and the link below it for the product:


    http://www.skulltronix.com/liveaction.shtml
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    Default Re: xLights controlling Skulltronix Skull via DMX

    That is sweet. Keep us informed on what you do!

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    Default Re: xLights controlling Skulltronix Skull via DMX

    Quote Originally Posted by Ronnie View Post
    I'm wondering how awesome it would be to have this skull set up to greet visitors at the door. Maybe have manual controls that a person could use to move the skull and jaw while talking to the folks as they approach the door. Now, this is probably WAY out there but,... what about this scenario.. the operator sits inside the house viewing a monitor that is fed from a camera in, or near the skull, that enables the operator to see the approaching people. Speaking into a microphone that is hooked up to a voice effects unit ( I have one of those!), that feeds a speaker near or in the skull, which moves the skull by voice activating the servo motors???
    Check out PicoTalk. I've kludged together a system based around one of these for a couple years. Visitors love it!
    It is purely a hack but I had the gear available. I've used iSpy software on a laptop and old android phone. I include a night vision surveillance camera. I get a lot of lag and echo on my end, but it still gives a great effect.

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    Default Re: xLights controlling Skulltronix Skull via DMX

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry-Rigs View Post
    Check out PicoTalk. I've kludged together a system based around one of these for a couple years. Visitors love it!
    It is purely a hack but I had the gear available. I've used iSpy software on a laptop and old android phone. I include a night vision surveillance camera. I get a lot of lag and echo on my end, but it still gives a great effect.
    That is cool stuff! Do you have any video of what you've done?
    "Honey, remember the budget for all that Christmas light equipment?... Um, how do you feel about Halloween?"

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    Default Re: xLights controlling Skulltronix Skull via DMX

    Unfortunately no. 2015 was the first year that I actually pulled it off and I had a 2 camera view. One camera (from the phone) was tight from just behind the skull a security cam was high and off to the side for a wide view. 2016 I ended up with one wide camera well to the side. The plan was always to record a lot of the night but I tend to put things together at the last minute so not everything gets done. Recording fell off the list.

    I learned a wide view is -very- helpful for situational awareness and a tight view aimed at the visitor's face is -very- helpful for a conversation.
    At the skull, I used PC speakers at the skull and the mic from a Play Station Eye camera. The mic was very good but I couldn't get the camera working with everything else so I lost the visitor face view.
    I got a lot of echo back through the mic from the speakers. I've sure there is a solution to that but I didn't have time to research it.
    At the operator station, I used a USB headset with boom mike and it worked really well.
    The skull servo mounts and moving eyes were all custom made by me and it took me a while to get everything fitted into the irregular space inside the skull.

    The PicoTalk has actually been around for several years and its a pretty simple device conceptually. It moves the servo based on the level of the audio input. Of course moving from concept to functional unit is the trick. The PicoTalk is pretty well done. I'm curious if there are single board controller/computer solutions that would be cheaper today. Still the PicoTalk is a lot less expensive than the pro Skulltronics system.

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    Default Re: xLights controlling Skulltronix Skull via DMX

    Just saw this thread and am very curious how this has come along.

    Have used VSA for past couple of years, but their support is lacking. I would like to see support for other servo controllers besides DMX and would be willing to help.

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