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Stevie C’s Blog.

What I’ve been up to…

Lighting, crew & technical services for events & theatre.

Acetone Paranoia

April - June 2020

“Well, … Shit.” Was going to be the original title for this entry - no explanation required. To my surprise, I’ve found lots to write about. The new title - while it could be a fitting name for a one-shot college thrash-metal band - reflects the happenings during this very weird time.

I’ve started designing and making my own PCBs (printed circuit boards) for my various mains/low voltage LED and neon projects. I’ll probably make a video on the subject once I’ve improved my technique. One of the very useful chemicals for cleaning PCBs is Acetone (the main component in nail varnish remover), which unfortunately also has less productive uses (more destructive if you get my gist). So I’m now paranoid that I’m on some kind of watchlist. Cue Detective Inspector Robbie Ross on the phone to the bomb squad: “C’mon guys - I’m watching a bomb being made here” - while watching a guy repair his VCR. He’d shit bricks if he saw my breadboard with a PICAXE LED sequencer with all the red wires connected to it…

PICAXE LED Sequencer

Having learned a bit about BASIC STAMP at school, I thought I’d get back into working with microprocessors. I’m not a fan of Arduino, STAMP seemed too expensive and bulky, PIC + Assembler took me ages to wrap my head around, so I decided to start with PICAXE BASIC. It’s still an Arizona Microchip PIC, but with Revolution Education’s BASIC interpreter firmware on top. More to the point, I can program the IC with the USB-RS232 cable from either my Mac or Windows7 PC.

I’ve been working with the PICAXE 08M2 & 18M2 series microprocessors and getting to grips with the basics (if you’ll pardon the pun) of LED sequencing, subroutines, functions, I/O switching, tri-state multiplexing (Charlieplexing) and the like … These experiments will make appearances in future project videos.

Ice Factory Best Bits

Having time off work (in the worst way possible) has given me time to go thru some old footage from my phone. I’ve put together a video from the NYE event at The Ice Factory in Perth with AudioWave. We supplied full rave PA, lighting, video, DJ decks, stage risers and backdrops. We had a countdown to New Year running, using nothing more than HTML5 graphics, JavaScript and Firefox.

The Dealer in Lockdown - MTT

The Trade (from Forfar) had reached out to their fans, asking them to send in video footage of them dancing to include in their upcoming music video “The Dealer (in Lockdown)” (not dissimilar in style to Feeder’s “Just A Day” music video). I reached out and said that while I’m not dancing, I could send them footage of me creating a custom LED project for the occasion - namely, a color-changing LED sign that read “MTT”.

Here’s my complete video showing construction using Vero prototyping board.

Buckie Bulb (Buckfast Tonic Wine LED Bulb)

To celebrate being sober for 14 weeks, I decided to recycle an empty Buckie bottle into a lightbulb. Alcohol and electricity, what could possibly go wrong? (Spoiler: no alcohol was imbibed). I might make a Version 2.

Neon Test Tube Bulb

I started making lightbulbs out of test tubes. In my first Test Tube Bulb project, I used a parallel bus-bar arrangement with single neons or pairs of neons and a resistor across the line and neutral. I used various combinations of 100k, 220k, 470k and 1M resistors on my 240VAC supply for varying flickery effects.

Neon Relaxation Oscillator

In keeping with the test tube bulb theme, I made another neon version - this time in the form of a neon relaxation oscillator. This uses a resistor to limit the current to a parallel array of neon lamps, driven half-wave courtesy of a 1N4007 diode. A capacitor across the array slowly charges up until one of the neons strike - this happens around 90V - which lowers the voltage over the capacitor to 50V (the neon hold voltage). The neon stays lit until the end of that sine wave cycle, at which point the charging & striking process starts again. Only one neon can light at a time, as whichever one strikes first hogs the voltage (and holds it down at 50V) so that no other neon can strike during that cycle.

Once again, thanks to BigClivedotcom for helping me out.

Converting Tungsten Fairylights to LED

This project was a much bigger PITA than it should have been. Because of the construction of the fairy light string (they used lots of glue), it was a tough job separating the tungsten lamps from the lamp holders - I had to use my heat gun (whose instructions warn you not to use it as a hairdryer). With most other light sets, it’s straightforward to pull the glass lamps out. My video shows how I inserted the LEDs into the lamp holders, and designed a power supply to run the light string from a 240VAC mains supply - using a capacitive dropper and bridge rectifier.

More Light Painting Art

I’ve been using my LED fairy light projects and the Slow Camera app to produce some light-trails artwork.

Artistic light painting using a Slow Shutter app to produce LED light trails
Artistic light painting using a Slow Shutter app to produce LED light trails
Artistic light painting using a Slow Shutter app to produce LED light trails

I think there might be a problem with my app, as it keeps drawing knobs.

Artistic light painting using a Slow Shutter app to produce LED light trails in the shape of a smiley face
Artistic light painting using a Slow Shutter app to produce LED light trails in the shape of a knob
Artistic light painting using a Slow Shutter app to produce LED light trails in the shape of a knob

Also, I am the Dark Lord Voldemort, the camera doesn’t lie.

I am the Dark Lord Voldemort, and I have LED light trails to prove it
I am the Dark Lord Voldemort, and I have LED light trails to prove it
I am the Dark Lord Voldemort, and I have LED light trails to prove it

Supergayrainbow NHS Test Tube Bulb

While everyone was clapping for the NHS, I decided to build a SuperGayRainbow Test Tube Bulb instead (you can hear clapping in the background), with the intention of giving it as present to one of my friends who is a junior doctor. This project recycles LEDs (with “cracked ice”) sourced from those cheap (and dangerous) light sets from online auction sites.

PAT-SRC Software

I’ve been working on my PAT test software, which I’m arrogantly calling PAT-SRC (pronounced PAT Source - think AV SRC on your TV). It’s written in Visual Basic 6.0 (yeah, I love the BASIC programming language) and runs on Windows XP, Vista & 7. It enables me to download data from my Seaward Europa+ PAT tester over USB or RS232 and produce a clean-looking PDF PATest record. So that’s another service I can offer.

As a side note, because I specialise in theatre, DJ, band, recording studio and festival equipment - I won’t cut the 15A plugs off your PARcans, nor will I a ram 500V up the arse of a SurgeGuard lead or test only one output of a dimmer-pack with an earth current of 100mA - unlike other “qualified” PA Testers out there. I’m quite capable of creating custom tests that cater to the equipment that our industry uses.

PAT SRC PAT test software running on a Windows7 laptop and downloading from a Seaward Europa plus tester

#LightItInRed

Light it in Red was a social media campaign aimed at highlighting the plight of theatre, arts and music venues and the technical staff that ran them. Our industry brings billions into the economy each year, but the government has so far dragged their heels and dithered over helping us.

Because my equipment is in storage and I was self-isolating, I decided to make a video from my workbench instead of a local venue. It was an experiment to see if I could create a cheap GOBO (the thing that makes a theatre or disco light produce patterns and shapes) from PCB/T-shirt transparency film. The GOBO design I used was the logo of a company I’ve enjoyed working for over the years - AudioWave from Dundee.

I’ll probably make a version 2.0 if I can get my printer to produce a blacker black.

DD8 Music LITD

At or around this time of year, I’d be rolling out of bed with a hangover to go help setup Live in the Den in Kirriemuir. I got round to editing and uploading some footage from last year featuring Sonnet 65 (with permission). Hopefully I can return to outdoor events soon.

COVID-19 brings out the worst in people…

Tory Voter: “We are all human, how dare you wish misfortune on dear old Boris!!!”
Also Tory Voter: “YAAASSSS the Sinn Fein leader caught it! Hope she suffers!!11!!…”

Tory Voter: “The Scottish and Welsh governments are doing a terrible job!!!”
Also Tory Voter: “It’s not the british governments fault that so many people are dying in England.”

Corona Charts Entry 2

  1. Wake Me Up - Avicii
  2. Brave New World - Greta Van Fleet
  3. (I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight - Cutting Crew
  4. Acquiesce - Oasis
  5. Beg Steal and Borrow - The Trade
  6. L.O.V.E. - Deaf Havana
  7. It Ain’t Over ’Til It’s Over - Lenny Kravitz
  8. Union City Blue - Blondie
  9. Forever - Papa Roach
  10. Feel Good - Phats & Small
  11. The Other Boys - NERVO (with Kylie)
  12. Morning Glory - Oasis
  13. Subliminal Criminals - HanneY
  14. I Write Sins not Tragedies - Panic! At The Disco
  15. Fake My Own Death - Sum 41
  16. Lonely - Walter Trout
  17. Spiral - Todd Terje
  18. Fire - Inspiral Carpets
  19. Heading to Arcadia - Runrig
  20. Fight Club - The Trade
  21. Tunnel of Love - Dire Strits
  22. Timeless - DMA’s
  23. Dem a Sus - Riot Jazz Brass Band
  24. Psychosocial - Slipknot
  25. Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd
  26. Rock Out - Motörhead
  27. Desire - Ozzy Osbourne
  28. Better Days (House of Virus remix) - Jimi Polo
  29. Song for Lindy - Fatboy Slim
  30. Time Is Running Out - Muse
  31. Watching Over - Greta Van Fleet
  32. I Got You Babe - UB40
  33. Fat Lip - Sum 41
  34. I’m Still Remembering - The Cranberries
  35. Born Again - Badly Drawn Boy
  36. Trying for Tomorrow - The Wyre
  37. Just A Day - Feeder
  38. Who Are You - Stereophonics
  39. What Kind of People Live in These Houses? - Morrissey
  40. Lost Reality - Dual Core
  41. Land of Confusion - Genesis
  42. Forget About Tomorrow - Feeder
  43. The Swing - Everclear
  44. When The Curtain Falls - Greta Van Fleet
  45. Tubthumping - Chumbawamba
  46. Love Kills (Freemasons Mix) - Freddie Mercury
  47. Roll With It - Oasis
  48. Fear of Flying - Feeder
  49. Gravity - Papa Roach
  50. Slide Away - Oasis

I’ve just recovered from an illness where I can’t stop singing Barenaked Ladies songs. It’s Been One Week…

One More Thing…

Feel free to follow & support me and suggest ideas on my YouTube Channel.