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SPX Control

Special Effects Control

The Mission

Enable low-cost DMX control of practical fixtures and effects.

The Execution

I developed and built a custom control module with the assistance of associate designer Christian Curry. The main control module was built with three power supplies at the common voltages that the equipment we used required. Each power supply was fed through a monitor for voltage and current, to provide instant feedback for monitoring and troubleshooting on the output. Each supply fed a terminal block that could then be wired as needed into an 8 channel DMX relay that provided control from the lighting console, that also provided feedback of when a channel was activated. With the relays, it was possible to use both normally open and normally closed switch logic, which allowed us to do effects such as a magnet drop that needed to be powered the whole show.

The Results

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Projects

Blood

Blood

The Mission

Carrie: The Musical is an infamously bloody show, with one of the more notable scenes involving an entire bucket being dumped. The goal was to create a cheap and simple blood solution that could be produced in bulk to use on stage, and enable precise control of the blood.

The Liquid

The props team conducted initial research into potential blood recipies, narrowing down the options to a base of corn syrup mixed with cocoa powder and food coloring. After they conducted small-batch testing to ensure the blood would not stain fabric, we took over and handled scaling to the show quantity. In total, we produced just over 4 gallons of blood for the blood drop, in addition to a smaller batch utalizing glycerin as a corn syrup replacement for a seperate effect.

The Effects

The main blood effect of the show is the blood bucket drop. For the sake of safety and simplicity, the bucket lifted by the actors did not contain any of the blood that got dropped. Instead, the empty bucket was hidden behind a border in the same location as a bucket filled with the dropping blood. This blood was released through a solenoid controlled by the SPX control module, and fed through a wide spray nozzle to give it a more authentic blood look.

The glycerin-based blood was used for an on-person rig. This rig enabled the actor to “bleed out” from their chest. The rig utalized a CO2 cartridge with a regulator, fed into a solenoid for activation. To prevent a misfire, the rig had to first be enabled by a second actor before the first was able to push the button on their chest and fire the rig.

The Results

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Projects

The Lordvitator

The Lordvitator

The Mission

Create the illusion of levitation in a large open space without requiring a stagehand, in a way that can be set up and struck within seconds.

The Process

We assembled various components to test the effect with prior to committing to the full rig. This included two types of thread, as well as an Elmo toy as we did not yet own a Jesus statue.

The Execution

The unit, affectionately named the “Lordvitator”, consisted of three DMX controlled stepper motors. These motors have spools attached and wound with fishing line, that then get attached through magnets to the statue.

The software for the rig ran on an Arduino Uno with a MAX485 based shield for DMX input. The unit looked at two DMX channels – one for speed, and one for direction – and updates the movement accordingly. This allowed us to perform the correct movements and speeds with board control.

Not everything goes to plan, and during install one of the connectors snapped off of the DMX board. We made a switch from digital to analog – by simply using a rod mounted behind a wall to move the statue up and down. While this method was more visible, it provided a needed solution to make the effect happen.

The Results

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