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dirknerkle
05-28-2012, 05:06 PM
For 2012 I thought I'd try something I've never tried before -- a physically animated display element instead of blinky-flashy only. I chose a snowman because it's the closest to my own shape, and therefore, I'm my own model for it.

The "spine" of the snowman is made from red cedar -- partly because it's easy to cut and withstands weather well but primarily because I had an 8' unfinished cedar plank down in DIGWDF and I'm going on the cheap... This is truly a seat-of-the-pants project. No design template, no measuring, just working out the interior details to get the basics working first. After the "guts" are working, I'll make the outer body shaped from chicken wire and covered with a few layers of cloth that have been dipped in DryLok cement sealing paint. When the shell is dry and hard, I'll spray snow flocking over it when the Christmas decorations come out again this fall.

The goal is a head that will turn from side-to-side, two arms that will move independently, eyes that move side-to-side, and a mouth that will be matched to audio for a total of 5 servos. I plan to use the snowman for announcements, lighting it with a small front floodlight. If I get really energetic I may articulate it to a song or two.

Internal electronics will be a MiniRenServoXB driving the servo motors, and being that only 5 channels are in use, I may use the remaining channels for additional lighting effects, we'll see how that goes.

Here's a brief video that incorporates some stills and a short first test of the servos to make sure they're strong enough to drive the mechanisms.

http://digwdf.com/dirknerkle/video/snowman_project.wmv

ctmal
05-28-2012, 06:07 PM
Sounds cool. What sort of movements are you going to have for the arms?
The reason I ask is that I'm(letting the cat out of the bag now) updating the Skull Plugin and Skull Sequencer AddIn to hopefully allow anybody to create and use their own 3D Models. So, if all goes well we could create a 3D snowman with Blender and use that for easier sequencing.

bigredsoftware
05-28-2012, 06:10 PM
Very nice! I like the paper towel head, you could have something for Bounty to advertise with :hmm:
Seat-of-the-pants is when most of us shine. How about a top hat like Frosty? When he puts it on he could come to life. "Happy Birthday"
Where did you get those monster servos?

dirknerkle
05-28-2012, 06:26 PM
@Chris - The arms will move only in 2 dimensions, up/down, essentially to gesticulate some of the audio. However, I plan to hang a short string of lights on one of them to appear as if he's still putting lights out... There's a somewhat limited range of motion with small servos -- If it used an actuator I could really do a number on it but I want to keep it low budget. I haven't really thought it through very well yet... obviously!!!

@bigredsoftware - Bounty... hmmmm... I've thought about a top hat and I might do that, but I'm going to wait until I see how heavy the head is going to be. It's resting on a ball bearing turntable unit so I think the servo should be powerful enough to work it, but not complete sure. The servos are Futaba S3003's I bought off eBay - got a great price on them -- about $4 each when retail is about $15. Lots of R/C gear available on eBay...

Ponddude
05-28-2012, 08:48 PM
Don't know if you saw this or now but I have had an animated snowman for the last few years. Here is last years video...

http://christmasonmanor.com/2011video.htm

There are a videos from the years prior as well. He is always a huge hit!

All controlled by servos.

Greg

Jrd
05-29-2012, 12:47 AM
Looks great Dave! Look forward to seeing more updates.

P. Short
05-29-2012, 01:57 AM
FWIW, if you ever become interested in making that standalone, I'm working on a project that controls six servos, based on digitally-encoded data on the second channel of an mp3 player. Basic idea - use vixen (presumably along with ctmal's tools) to create a sequence (music + servo positions), then use a windows program that I've written to encode the event data into a one-channel audio file, merge that with an actual one-channel sound file (using audacity or the llike), encode that as an mp3 file (audacity, again), and store the result on an SD card. As the mp3 file is played, the widget that I'm working on sends one channel to a speaker and decodes digital servo information from the other channel (55 times a second it will read six bytes of data plus two bytes of CRC to update the positions of six servos).

Right now most of my musings on this project are over on the hauntforum.com site.

dirknerkle
05-29-2012, 09:14 AM
FWIW, if you ever become interested in making that standalone...

I knew you were working on something unique and fun! Are you planning to roll it out this Halloween?

Since the MiniRenServoXB is wireless, this is *almost* a standalone display piece as it is. I'm kind of working the basics up as a sort of 3D action template for other animated figures because...

...the stimulus for this project is that I'll be a grandfather soon (August, God willing!) and it's time to start working on a fairyland kind of display to augment the blinky-flashy for Christmas 2014 and beyond. I think action displays will be far more interesting to little kids than just lights...

DanoNJ
05-29-2012, 02:02 PM
I'm following along closely on this project! I have an number of animated items, though none with servos - on the list of things for this season. Nice idea.

JackFrost
06-03-2012, 08:21 AM
There's a somewhat limited range of motion with small servos

with the 3003 you CAN make/alter them for 360 degree . And I honestly think you should consider using a stronger servo ... Rather than burn out a standard servo right in the middle of your show . Might want to try a 1/4 scale or giant scale ( as long as size isn't too much of a problem . ) Might want try ( if using Futaba - http://www.servocity.com/html/s3306.html ) or if using HITEC - http://www.servocity.com/html/hs-755hb_1_4_scale.html




And then ... if you need one to jack up your car when you get a flat tire ... :lol: http://www.servocity.com/html/ms530-2_mega_servo.html

dirknerkle
06-03-2012, 09:57 AM
with the 3003 you CAN make/alter them for 360 degree . And I honestly think you should consider using a stronger servo ... Rather than burn out a standard servo right in the middle of your show . Might want to try a 1/4 scale or giant scale ( as long as size isn't too much of a problem . ) Might want try ( if using Futaba - http://www.servocity.com/html/s3306.html ) or if using HITEC - http://www.servocity.com/html/hs-755hb_1_4_scale.html


And then ... if you need one to jack up your car when you get a flat tire ... :lol: http://www.servocity.com/html/ms530-2_mega_servo.html

Thanks for the tip. I'll certainly take a look. As far as anything heavy is concerned, such as the arms, they will be counterbalanced so that the servos have very little mass to move. The head is also incredibly easy to turn as it runs on ball bearings. But I like "heavy duty" stuff and whenever given the chance, almost always opt for more instead of less... (unless it's a DirkCheap SSR, of course...:lol:)

JackFrost
06-10-2012, 10:58 AM
Please keep us posted/updated on this project . I know you have a lot on your menu lately , but , this ONE , is one that I would LOVE to see the outcome . hint hint ... vids are SUPER ! ( so far , so good :smoke: )

dirknerkle
06-10-2012, 04:11 PM
As a matter of fact, here are a couple photos taken this afternoon -- I moved my boat out of the DIGWDF garage so I could work on it, unencumbered by the DIGWDF engineers... who heard the garage door open and started salivating because they thought there were going to go out for a walk...

I had a few old 3/8" plywood tabletops leftover from a garage sale a few years ago and they were perfect for shaping the body. I strapped them to the snoman's spine (using ski rope from the boat) and drew freehand what I thought might work as far as proportions. After cutting one of them out, I used it as a pattern for 3 others (only 3 shown in the photo). Chicken wire will be used to attach to the frame and, of course, bent into the snowman shape. Then I'll wrap it with wet cloth and paint it with a few coats of DryLock basement waterproofing paint.

Still working out the details of the mouth and eye movements, but I'll start making the head pretty soon -- probably block that up out of plywood, too. Thinking of naming him Charlie Brown because, after all, he'll be a 'block head'

BTW, I'm just having a ball messing around with this thing! It's the most fun I had in quite a while!

:lol:

lightman
06-10-2012, 07:51 PM
Looking good! Can't wait to see it moving... BTW... what is "wet cloth" (Starch or epoxy and cheesecloth or fiberglass cloth to form hard shell before painting?)

Regards,
Lightman

dirknerkle
06-10-2012, 11:43 PM
Looking good! Can't wait to see it moving... BTW... what is "wet cloth" (Starch or epoxy and cheesecloth or fiberglass cloth to form hard shell before painting?)

Regards,
Lightman

Thanks, Brian! This animatronic stuff is a hoot!

Wet cloth is just that -- some old sheets torn into 24" widths, soaked in hot water and wrapped on the form. The theory is that the cloth will form to the 3D chicken-wire shape better than if they're dry. My original plan was to soak them in DryLock paint but if you've ever used DryLock, you know it's unbelievably thick and you probably couldn't soak anything in it. I toyed with the idea of using fibreglass cloth and boat repair resin, but I came to my senses when Mrs. Dirk gave me "the look" that made me realize I was quite possibly overengineering this one... The cloth is only to create a subsurface that will hold the Drylock until it hardens.

I still like the fibreglass and resin idea though... :wink2:

JackFrost
06-16-2012, 08:20 PM
:thup: Good so far . So , I take it that the body will be solid ?

ctmal
06-16-2012, 08:33 PM
:thup: Good so far . So , I take it that the body will be solid ?

Knowing Dirk it'll probably be bullet proof and flame resistant.

JackFrost
06-17-2012, 08:19 AM
Knowing Dirk it'll probably be bullet proof and flame resistant.


LOL .... :biggrin: Sorry ... should have clarified . I meant that the body would not be moving ... :biggrin2:

Skunberg
06-18-2012, 01:25 PM
Hi Dirk, I thought you might like a peek at the competition ;-)

http://www.papasplace.us/video/2012/Lester_The_Streak_LQ.wmv

Brian

dirknerkle
06-18-2012, 01:45 PM
That's pretty clever! Thanks for the link, Brian! Messing with this thing is great fun.... working on the head today....

JackFrost
07-06-2012, 08:27 AM
Hey DIRK .... any new progress yet ? :freak:

LightUpMA
07-03-2013, 09:24 AM
Don't know if you saw this or now but I have had an animated snowman for the last few years. Here is last years video...

http://christmasonmanor.com/2011video.htm

There are a videos from the years prior as well. He is always a huge hit!

All controlled by servos.

Greg

Awesome display Greg. Just curious about those "spokes" of lights on the ground around the mega tree. How many strings on each?

-wayne

dirknerkle
08-28-2013, 12:59 PM
Hey DIRK .... any new progress yet ? :freak:


As a matter of fact, yes. Quite a bit!

http://diychristmas.org/vb1/attachment.php?attachmentid=1396&d=1377469754

dirknerkle
10-02-2013, 11:20 PM
For some of you that may be wondering if this project will ever be finished, here's a little status update... and a video...

We are making hands to attach to the arms. We decided to animate the mouth with LEDs instead of a physically moving mouth because of snow issues and clogging, etc. Same with the eyes, which are replaced with some blue LEDs. We've named him "Lars, da Sveeedish Snoman" primarily because of the blue eyes, I guess... The electronics is mounted and everything is working properly. We are almost ready to start Lars' sequencing, but this year he'll only be doing announcements, so we have to write those first. We will be sealing the foam body and spraying it with fake snow, and we'll use ctmal's excellent software for animating the arms and head.

The video only shows a test of the head and head circuits after mounting it on the body. No arms are attached (but they plug in). Each eye can be individually controlled, as can the three lip elements that make up the mouth. I won't go into the explanation of why only three...

75820865

barnettd
10-03-2013, 07:34 PM
Thats great !!!! Wish I had the time and money to do projects like that !!!!!

dirknerkle
10-04-2013, 04:17 PM
Thats great !!!! Wish I had the time and money to do projects like that !!!!!

Spare plywood, some 2" thick construction insulation high-density foam, a dozen cans of spray foam insulation, a few LEDS, a small piece of coroplast, 3 or 4 servos, it's not a horribly expensive thing but it's a little time-consuming....

dirknerkle
11-23-2013, 11:29 PM
The DIGWDF engineers have been messing around with the face animation and wanted me to post this... their first try at making Lars sing...

He's still in the garage while arm and head movements are being finished, and Mrs. Dirk is knitting a long scarf for him, but he'll be out there sometime this week... with luck...

80171339

griffixdc
11-23-2013, 11:38 PM
The DIGWDF engineers have been messing around with the face animation and wanted me to post this... their first try at making Lars sing...

He's still in the garage while arm and head movements are being finished, and Mrs. Dirk is knitting a long scarf for him, but he'll be out there sometime this week... with luck...

80171339

thats awesome :) !!

dirknerkle
11-26-2014, 04:52 PM
Lars is finally making it into the show this year... hauled him out and plugged him in today alongside Elf House and Santa's Workshop.

Jrd
11-30-2014, 11:24 PM
About time!

He looks happy as a clam, or, a snowman in Minnesnowda...

DaveJZ
12-01-2014, 01:39 AM
Oh he looks so happy.... Poor guy has been sitting in the garage looking out the window for how long now???... Prolly had to wipe the tear marks off the painted spray foam..

dirknerkle
12-24-2014, 02:27 PM
Thought I should finish this up with what the final project looked like...

Merry Christmas to you all!

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