Monthly Archives: October 2008

Talking Birds, Part 5

Here are the ravens mounted up for programming:

Now, all I have to do is:

  • Write a script
  • Record the voices
  • Create about a thousand stop-motion animation frames
  • Integrate the animation in with the lighting queues
  • Make a gravestone for the ravens to sit on

I am totaly screwed. Time to start taking vacation days.

About four months ago I had an idea about the ravens doing a kind of Abbott and Costello routine. I planned on writing another so that the birds would have two alternating speils. With one week left, this isn’t going to happen. I need one good short speil.

Over the last several weeks I have been learing to use some new software. There is this lighting queue program called FreeStyler. It’s free and seems to do most things I need it to do. And it’s free!

The most important feature of FreeStyler is its ability to run sequences in parallel. This makes life easy because the bird’s sequence can be started independantly from the other lighting sequences.

Each FreeStyler sequence can be MIDI controlled, so I can plop the audio into Cakewalk along with MIDI events that trigger the lighting queues. This should be easy…

Talking Birds, Part 4

As previously discussed, the first generation talking bird was mechanically larger than the feathers covering it (fur, actually). While I did not have time to improve on the first bird, the second bird will be mechanically more compact.

The trick is in how to mount the ball-and-socket rod ends. While the the ball-and-socket allows for the rod to swivel 360° around the pivot point, it allows only a couple of degrees of movement up and down. That is if you screw it down on a flat surface.

I figured out that by cannibalizing a rod end, I could screw the ball down atop another ball. This gives a lot greater freedom of movement. By doing this I’m able to place the rod at a steeper angle; thus, the servo can be placed closer. See the rod end mounted to another ball:

Fascinating, you say? If you had spent 4 hours of your life staring at the end of a threaded rod, you too would find it fascinating.

I know I’m not improving my position, so let’s move on.

Having made my minor improvements to Rev. 2, we now have two functioning mechanisms:

Note that I also tightened up on the chain. This is an easy thing to do when working with plastic chain. Twist it sideways and the links pop off, allowing you to shorten or lengthen at will. Assuming the chain is perfectly straight in the sprocket, the chain should take quite a bit of tension before it breaks.

How much tension? I have no idea. Doesn’t matter because I have no idea how much torque is required to lift two puppet wings. Let’s hope not much.

Talking Birds, Part 3

There has been quite a bit of head scratching over the last two weeks. Somehow the design I scratched on a Post-It Note wasn’t exactly to scale. I was close, though. Damn close. I’ll continue to use the Post-It Note method.

The plan was to mount the servos along the backbone such that there could be levers that push the mouth, neck, and wings. Moving the mouth turned out easier than I thought. There was enough space in the head of the puppet place a servo:

The neck and wings still presented a problem. The neck levers had to pass over the wings servo and shaft. In order to make the geometry work out, the servos had to be moved to the very rear of the puppet:

Actually, they end up hanging out the ass of the bird:

Unpleasant, I know.

At this point I am in total disbelief that I got it this far. I hooked this thing up to my new Northlight Systems servo controller and the thing actually works! Sure, this is a simple machine and I pretty much knew that the pieces could move by pushing them with my fingers. Still, there is always that chance that the thing could somehow go nuts and destroy itself.

I’m easily entertained by mechanical systems. The is an obvious byproduct of working in the software industry. I have issues with having spent my entire career never having made a product that does something. Maybe I wouldn’t think about it so much if I were an accountant or policeman. As an engineer I’m very much jealous of people who get to make things like cars or bombs. Maybe not bombs. Let’s consider it an extreme exemplar.

Anyway, now that we have one working, all we need to do is copy it…