So the festival I was working on with my buddies has been and gone! I was hoping to get a good number of build photos from the construction of our creation, but the schedule was so manic that I was often working until early morning, with my focus being directed at getting the work done, rather then documenting my efforts!

Having said that, I did manage to get some photos of the finished work and a couple of build photos. Let me introduce you to the front door of our creation:

Read on to see a few more photos and to get a feel for working on a festival site!

What we had built was a slice / section of a level from a video game. Maze like in layout, it was a one-way system, that individuals would be lured into, trapped, and left to find their own way through the maze of live-action zombies, creepy sound-scapes and ambient / accented light effects.

Working on site at a festival often involves getting there long before the crowds. In this case, we turned up a full 7 days before the general public, and we used nearly every hour of that time to build and perfect the maze. This has some obvious implications, in that you are working in little more than a field. Electrical and water infrastructure is rarely present at this time, so simple things like charging power packs and drinking water involve a fair bit of time that could otherwise be spent building. Also, you get things like this happening:

This is what happens when you take away a mans circular saw!

Did I mention we were doing this in the rain? After many days of measuring, sawing, screwing, sweating swearing and painting, we had something that looked a little like this:

Lights On…

It’s pretty hard to get a representative shot of what the inside looked like with only the LED lighting in action, but I loved the way this one came out!

Lights Off..

Most of my time was spent building the LED modules you can see above. They involved one piece of strip-board, and 6 RGB LEDs, though I was only using the Red and Blue channels. Below is my handy soldering jig / solder stand that I had to use in absence of a desk, untill the central “control room” had been constructed.

Improvised soldering jig.

There were about 25 of these modules needed, total time taken was probably about 6 hours, not including the time needed to recharge my soldering iron (20 minutes for an hours soldering time!) Below, you can get a feel for the construction of the modules. They are very simple, containing only LED’s and the required current limiting resistors for 12V operation. All the LED modules are fed from a switchmode PSU, through two MOSFETs, controlled by an ATMEGA-328 for PWM control. This allowed the Blue LED’s to be run at a pleasing level, whilst allowing the Red LED’s to be faded in and out, to give visual reinforcement to the audible alarms.

13 / 25 LED Modules

The small number of LED modules required meant that this approach wasn’t too technically challenging. The only real problems I encountered were the time taken to hand build the entire set and wire them into place, and a cheap “wall wart” PSU, that encountered thermal overload when driving the stringsĀ  of LEDs. The strings pulled about 3A (peak), and the PSU simply wasn’t up to the task. The use of a open-frame switch-mode PSU fixed this, and with a capability of 7.5A, meant I was able to run several other accent lights / features from it, including the rotating lights and sign on the front door, seen above.

The entire show of lighting, sound, smoke and doors was controlled from here:

The Control Room…

It might be cosy, but it’s got a desk, 4 seats, shade and a beer fridge next to the amps. Can’t ask for much more as far improvised labs go!