Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Idiot Box

Well it's time I made a noisy toy for my sister. It's her 30th birthday! So here's something fun that she will love -- and her cat will probably hate. Like a Thingamagoop, The Idiot Box is equipped with light sensors that control the sound output and light generators the "musician" can use to affect the sensors. The whole package is wrapped up nicely in a hand-carved wooden tarot card box, imported from the far-off land of eBay.

The brain is a few square-wave oscillators around a 40106B schmitt trigger IC. Two oscillators play the two notes you hear, one controls the rhythm, and the rest control the blinking lights. You can cover the corners of the box with your hand to reflect the light from the blinking LEDs back on to the light sensors, and make crazy combinations of noise. I used a similar circuit on Mike's Circuit-Bent Quellotone.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The 9-Volt Tesseract

An outer-space disco theremin! This is birthday present for my friend who loves music, has always wanted a theremin, and is pretty easy to please with bright colors and flashing lights. I've been toying with the minimum-theremin circuit for a long time, trying to create a miniature version of The Bad Hand's Imipolex G. When I finally got a stable version of the circuit, I wanted to add some big flare for my outerspace disco girlfriend! I had a leftover 4017 IC which I combined with a regular schitt-trigger IC to produce 16 LEDs flashing in luminous cacophony. The magic part is, the pitch of the theremin affects the speed of the blinky-blinky! So as you move your hand into its body, the "Tesseract" goes nuts.

Well... it worked REALLY well on the breadboard, but for some reason when I finally soldered the contraption together, it lost a big part of the effect. The pitch still does change the speed of the lights, but it is not as profound as it was on the workbench. This darn theremin circuit! It is designed to be incredibly unstable and sensitive to the environment, and so I am not too surprised that moving to a permanent circuit board changed its behavior.

I decided a nicely stained and carved up picture frame would be an ideal package for the device. Mainly, because there were these totally awesome unfinished picture frames in the art store I was standing in when I got this idea. It provides plenty of space to house the large copper plate that I used as an antenna and, most importantly, this way the "Tesseract" can easily be hung up (she has plenty of wall in her room). All the Tesseract you can expect for 9 volts. What'd you expect, a wrinkle in time?

The "Zippy Stardust" Radar-Laserbeam Goggles

As I finished mixing the Easystreet album earlier this year, I decided to show off to Michael Blitzen and Velvet Chang my light up epihone guitar. It seemed to fit with their style of outerspace disco rave nonstop sparkle sequin party. Michael was very excited and, having always wanted an angry mad bitchin' guitar solo at the end of their song Robotobahn, invited me to join them as a special guest (for about :30 seconds) during their live shows. Well, the guitar is pretty amazing but I would need more of a costume than that to join THIS act. You can check out Easystreet's music video for Robotobahn featuring Zippy Stardust rocking all the lights and more, at around 3:30...

The knight-rider LED circuit is easy to find online, and easy enough to add a few extra LEDs to the "carry-out" output of the 4017 IC at the heart of the matter. I run the circuit from a very convenient 12 V "N-size" camera battery, and a tiny wheel to control the speed of the effect hangs out from under the ear-piece. The hardest part about this build was finding a pair of "old-person glasses" big enough to house the circuit! We looked all over town, and eventually just had to buy a pair online.

Mini MesaBoogie Footswitch

Because, seriously Mesa-Boogie -- why do you need to take up so much real estate on my pedal board for only two buttons? Besides the actual footswitch switches, I had enough spare parts around to put this working miniature together. I just bought that Furman pedal board and everything is going to fit on it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Click Of Death! Featuring MtMS Robot Hard Drives

I can't reveal too much about how this viral video was put together for my friends at Publicis and Hal Riney (for their client SanDisk), but I did build a massive amount of robotic "puppet" hard drives. By soldering wires directly to the coil on the reader-arm, and switching the polarity on an 18V current, a controller can make these little guys DANCE! Also featured in there is a separate oscillator circuit for blinking lights on certain drives. I used phone wire all over the place, like a mile of the stuff. Because each drive needed 4 wires and because they were breaking all the time, they needed to be modular, and the jacks helped a lot. I had to drill holes through the casings to feed my tricky little wires through.

After the construction and the shoot days (special thanks to Cyrus W-W for keeping the fragile robots alive long enough for a precious few full takes) I also helped with the audio post -- although there wasn't much to do there because EVERYTHING YOU HEAR WAS (we are not making this up) ACTUALLY PRODUCED by the hard drives in the video! no joke! no kidding! for real! what...? My friend Ben Mullins, producer of the video, is the guy in photo #1 posing for a demo of the project before we got client approval.