Main viewscreen scanning lights

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Main viewscreen scanning lights

Jeff Haas
Joined: 09 Mar 2015, 08:14

30 Mar 2017, 22:33 #1

I have a small project in mind to reproduce the scanning lights under the main viewscreen.
It's easy to see how many - they are in a set of 3-6-3.  The key part is getting the various animation patterns down.
As far as I can see there were two patterns I can identify:Scanning: Left to right, one light at a time, speed varies depending on what the ship is doing.  Faster when a tense situation is happening!Back and forth pattern, one or two lights at a time, sort of an "idle" state.
Are there any others?  And has someone documented these anywhere?  Specifically what the pattern is and how long each light is on?
When I know the patterns I can to code up software that will run them with a microcontroller like an Arduino or Basic Stamp.
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Jeff Haas
Joined: 09 Mar 2015, 08:14

13 Apr 2017, 18:55 #2

I've done some more research on this, to try to understand both what the original tech did, and how to reproduce the effect.

As someone told me earlier on this forum, the original lights were likely controlled by cam timer or drum sequencer. (However, if you Google "drum sequencer" these days you get mostly results about music). So after reading the docs for some cam timers, I realized I had to figure out:
- How many channels (each light is a channel on the sequencer)
- How fast the sequencer was running

I started at the beginning of the series, with The Man Trap. The main viewscreen is shown twice, once at the start and once at the end. Here's the sequence at the start:

0:18 - 0:23
5 seconds, 13 changes
000 000000 010
001 000000 000
000 000000 001
000 010000 000
000 000001 000 - red
001 000000 000
000 000000 100
000 010000 000
000 000010 000 - red
000 100000 000
000 000100 000 - red
001 000000 000
000 000000 010

A "1" indicates the light is on. Timing seems to be .5 second per change.
Note that the scanning lights are not completely masked, there is bleed from one light to the next! Also, because they are incandescent, when the lights go out, they fade out for part of a second, unlike modern LEDs.

The right three lights of the center six are red. The rest are white/yellow.

I have software that reproduces the drum sequence output. So now it's just a matter of watching more episodes and figuring out what other patterns exist.
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feek61
Joined: 29 Apr 2007, 15:38

13 Apr 2017, 20:32 #3

I don't think these lights were controlled by a cam timer or drum sequence. More likely it was control by a guy off stage with a nail board. The repeated patterns seen in multiple episodes are likely from recycled effects footage elements of the screen.
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Jeff Haas
Joined: 09 Mar 2015, 08:14

13 Apr 2017, 21:41 #4

Ok, so what's a nail board? A Google search turns up modern electronics applications, usually for building PCBs.
In reviewing The Man Trap, the timing is completely consistent, which suggests a motor of some kind controlling things.
Last edited by Jeff Haas on 13 Apr 2017, 21:44, edited 1 time in total.
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Jeff Haas
Joined: 09 Mar 2015, 08:14

14 Apr 2017, 06:53 #5

Ok, I think I figured it out. These days, a nail board is used to manually trigger fireworks. It is literally a bunch of nails pounded into a board with wires connected to them. There are lots of videos on YouTube with demos of how to make and use them.

I'll watch closely, but my sense is that the main viewscreen lights are drum controlled, there is just not the variation you would see if a person was doing it.
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Jeff Haas
Joined: 09 Mar 2015, 08:14

16 Apr 2017, 21:05 #6

Actually, after thinking about it, I've changed my mind - the nail board can be "played" like a musical instrument. So you just get a crew member who has some music background (drums, piano, etc.) to "play the nailboard" so the lights under the main viewscreen run.

However, for simulating it with a microcontroller - the easiest way is to run a software version of a drum controller. Then you can take the pattern of 1's and 0's like I have above and use them to control the lights.

I've gone through "Charlie X" and have notes on the viewscreen lights in that episode. Eventually I should have the three or four patterns worked out.
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eagleman39
Joined: 24 Jan 2011, 10:01

17 Apr 2017, 01:00 #7

ImageIn simple terms a nail board is used by the TV and Movie
industry to cheaply activate induvial electrical circuits to control lights,
set off explosions etc.


The wood board has nails in it. Each nail has a wire
attached to the nail which goes to each separate light. The wire from each nail
will control a separate light. The power supply wire is connected to another
nail that you hold in your hand.


By touching any of the nails that are attached to the wood
block with the nail in your hand will complete the circuit there by turning on
the light as long as the two nails remain touching.
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Jeff Haas
Joined: 09 Mar 2015, 08:14

17 Apr 2017, 20:43 #8

That's a great picture, you can see how you'd "play" the nail board like it was a xylophone. So the pattern of the lights under the viewscreen wouldn't always be exact, like a drum controller would be.
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Treadwell
Joined: 24 Aug 2014, 03:21

23 Apr 2017, 10:54 #9

"playing" would not be necessary. You don't have to wire the nails in the same order the lights are arranged. You wire the nails in the same order you want them to BLINK. Two wires would be connected to one nail each: first nail for the inner two lights, second nail for the next outer pair, and so on. So you just drag the lead across the nails in the order they are on the nail board. You don't have to think "tap #3, then #6..." and so forth. Just drag.
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Jeff Haas
Joined: 09 Mar 2015, 08:14

24 Apr 2017, 07:45 #10

That works if you want the same pattern each time. If you want a different pattern, then you have to rewire things.

Also, from watching the patterns closely, they don't repeat identically, the way you'd get if they were wired for one pattern - so far I've seen a few lights that go in a slightly different sequence each time through. I'm re-watching the series for the first time in years, so it's fun to see the episodes anyway. I'll keep making notes.

I've also got the software for the Arduino and shift registers mostly sorted out. This is a really inexpensive project these days, with ebay prices. An Arduino clone is about $4.00, you need two shift register breakouts (five are about $4.00 delivered), and then either the LEDs and resistors, or solid-state relays to control bigger lights.
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