Electronics help with a UFO prop

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Eric_L, Oct 22, 2003.

  1. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    I'm hoping that there are some electronics guru's here who'd be willing to help me with a project. I'm building a 'UFO' for a halloween lawn decoration.

    I've got two kid size swimming pools which I plan to glue together and paint silver. I plan to use some dowels to create a tripod stand for it. I'll place some LEDs around the perimeter. I'm going to cut a 3" hole in the bottom and have a fog machine to place inside. I then have a light globe to place inside which should give a nice effect on the fog as it comes out the bottom - multi colored light beams.

    Here's where I needs some help:

    I want to create a 5 tone sound and light pattern that repeats every 2-5 minutes. I want the lights to synchronize with the tones - and the tones will, of course, be the familiar five tones from 'Close Enocounters'.

    Trouble is, I have no idea how to go about this. I went to my friendly neighborhood Radio Shack and asked for help. The salesman had no idea either - then offered me cellular service! [​IMG]

    Can anyone here tell me a way to do this in simple terms a numbskull like me could follow?
     
  2. Kevin P

    Kevin P Screenwriter

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    How advanced an electronics geek are you? I think Radio Shack carries a chip that can record and play back sound; you could record the Close Encounters theme into that chip and play it back, and have the lights start at the same time. Or you could use one of those voice message-takers, hotwiring the "play" button so you can trigger it externally, and connecting it to an amp/beefier speakers. Or just use a computer to control everything.

    If I knew more of your abilities/knowledge/ambition/budget maybe we can come up with some ideas that would work for you.
     
  3. Tony Whalen

    Tony Whalen Producer

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    Wish I could help Eric! That sounds like a really fun project! Post some pictures of the finished Halloween UFO for us! [​IMG]
     
  4. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Cool way would be to remotely hook up a speaker into the UFO (maybe ever wireless ones) and burn a DVD consisting of the Close Encounters tones and use a DVD player on repeat to play those tones in a loop.

    Jay
     
  5. TimDoss

    TimDoss Second Unit

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    What you want is a "color organ kit" or "light organ kit".
    Look at hobbytron.net. You should be able to adjust to
    light specific lamps at specific sound frequencies.
    If hobbytron doesn't have what you need just do a google
    search for color organ or light organ and you'll find
    a way. Good luck.
     
  6. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    Thanks everyone for your help so far.

    My 'electro-geekness' is limited I'm afraid. I don't know the difference between a transistor vs a capacitator.

    I'm a quick study however. I did manage to build my FP HT from scratch - including a HTPC and all wireing. So I ain't no dummay.

    So far the audio recorder chip sounds good for the sound, and the sound organ for the lights, but I see a few problems. How would I set the sound to repeat without manually going out there every five minutes?

    Also, the largest light organ is 4 channels, and it looks very hard to seperate the response tones. Is there a way to use a one-channel sound organ and then have it activate one of five different lights in rotating sequence?

    It is starting to look like I may not be able to piece this together with ready-made items, but maybe I can do a slight mod of an existing item to get the desired result.

    Do you think that is beyond me right now? Is it even possible? Would I be better off just playing Elvis tunes?
     
  7. TimDoss

    TimDoss Second Unit

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    Well, there are higher channel light organs out there(possibly you could use two 3 channels)... I personally think that
    this would be the best way to go as you wouldn't have any
    synch problems. You could even record the five tones at varying speeds like in the movie instead of always the same.
    That said, I suppose you could also find yourself an adjustable
    5 channel light chaser and try to synch that to the sound.
    As for the sound, I would just record it over and over on a
    CD and have a boombox sitting inside the spaceship.
    A cheap thunder and lightning machine or one channel light organ would activate the light chaser. As for having
    it only play every 2-5 minutes, just record it onto the CD that way.
     
  8. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    Actually I was wondering if a one-channel light organ would work for sync also. It would just go on/off with the sound, but each time it activates it would rotate to a different light. Five lights in sequence, on/off with any sound. Touble is that I don't know how hard it would be to make the lights rotate.
    I'm going to try ordering the light organ today - I am running out of time! There ain't one at the local radio-shack! (but the got cell phones! Dang I'm tired of being hit up for that all the time)
     
  9. Justin Lane

    Justin Lane Cinematographer

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    Eric, the easiest way to do this right is purchase a micro-controller of some sort (many kit based controllers as well as industrial PLC out there), program your desired sequencing using timers that trigger a digital output on/off output. This output would have to be tied into a device which could be controlled by an external trigger (i.e not most products you can buy in wal-mart). However, I don't think you will be able to accomplish this task in only a weeks time, nor learn the proper programming (C++, ladder logic).

    I would probably just record the desired music sequence from close enocounters to a Wav file and then populate a CD with the same track repeated over and over. Using a light organ for your lights would probably be fine as well. It may not be as perfectly executed as the movie, but it will probably be good enough for a couple of painted swimming pools [​IMG]

    J
     
  10. Mark Shannon

    Mark Shannon Screenwriter

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    Oh, be sure to take lots of pictures when its all done!
     
  11. TimDoss

    TimDoss Second Unit

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    Well.... any luck?
     
  12. Tony Whalen

    Tony Whalen Producer

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    Yes yes Eric! Wanna see some pics! [​IMG]
     
  13. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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  14. Tony Whalen

    Tony Whalen Producer

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  15. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    I decided to put it off until next year since I would have to order the light organ. Delivery would not have been on time or too close for comfort.

    Some thoughts I've had for next year:

    1) 'Chasing christmas tree lights' I'll punch holes in it about 1-2" apart and push them through in sequence.
    2) I think getting an old 'Merlin' game and disassembleing it will work for the lights + sounds.
    3) A tupperware bowl for the clear dome on top.

    I'd be really happy if in the next ten months I can figure a way to replicate the 'close encounters' sound and light show with it.

    Thanks everyone for your help. Sorry but no photos this year.

    Though I could show you the 8' spider we hung over our entryway....

    (yes, as you can see I have an overactive imagination and too much free time)
     
  16. Tony Whalen

    Tony Whalen Producer

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    Well, we expect photos next year! [​IMG]

    8-foot spider? Yikes!
     
  17. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Hmmm, next year, my (real live) tarantula may have a legspan of 8 feet!


    Lets see how many trick or treaters it can eat.......

    [insert evil laugh here]

    Jay
     

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