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Thread: I want to use my laptop to fire my show

  1. #1
    Member Array MrDusanMandic's Avatar
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    Default I want to use my laptop to fire my show

    I have a few spare laptops just laying around and I've been thinking about using one to light my show this year.

    Does anybody have any information on how this is done? I've done a general search and couldn't find much.

    Any help is greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Member Array Hephaestus's Avatar
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    Default Re: I want to use my laptop to light my show

    Do a search under the "firing systems" category for "computer" and you'll find tons of info. Unfortunately, unless your show is very small, we're not quite there yet in the amateur class. A few have created their own from the ground up, but nothing for the average DIY'er yet. (Check out the posts by Triskal). This is sure to change in the near future. In fact, I know of someone creating a system with almost entirely off-the shelf components that will be user-friendly, affordable, secure & something the average geek can put together. Only the software will be proprietary. Give it about two years & any serious amateur will be able to computer-fire their show with precision.

    Now, if you're just talking a few cues, the internet is full of info on how to use a serial or parallel port to control relays. You're limited to 8 relays (16 cues max).
    Last edited by Hephaestus; April 23rd, 2009 at 05:59 AM.
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: I want to use my laptop to fire my show

    I'm using my laptop to fire this year's show too.
    I'm using a setup very similar to what I used to control my Christmas lights.
    You have basically three options:

    Parallel port: cheap, but only 16 cues
    DMX-512: very expensive, 512+ cues
    Homebrew: as many cues as needed, roughly $1 per cue

    I did a homebrew solution. The design uses two chips to connect the
    computer to the relays, plus an off the shelf USB to serial dongle that
    can be had on ebay for maybe $10. The design has 8 relays per bank,
    so I'll talk in terms of eight, but that same 8 relay circuit can be repeated
    for as many relays as you wish using only one serial port. My software
    synchronizes to music, firing cues based on the song position.

    I'm using relays purchased from Emadeinchn. The relays are controlled
    by ULN2803A Darlington arrays. These are inexpensive chips that take
    8 signal level inputs and boost them enough to turn the relays on and off.
    They have built in snubbers. To convert to the eight signals needed by
    the darlingtons, I'm using a 74LV8153 serial to discrete output chip.

    The computer sends a serial signal to the 74LV8153. Each 74LV8153
    converts the serial to 8 on or off signals, fed to the 2803A. The 2803A
    boosts the power and turns the relays on and off.

    The 74LV8153 serial chip was a bit hard to figure out due to poor
    documentation. Had I known how long it would take me to get the
    software and the very simple hardware working to get the 74LV8153
    to respond to the computer, I probably would have used a PICAXE-18A
    or 28X1 instead.

    As I mentioned, I already used this design to control my Christmas lights,
    so it's tested and working. There is a small difference between Christmas
    lights and fireworks, though - fireworks fire one at a time, while with Christmas
    lights you need to be able to turn them all on at once. That
    means that Christmas lights need one relay per cue, while fireworks
    can use a grid, with 8 positive and 8 negative relays making 64 cues.
    So with fireworks you get many more cues from the same circuit by just
    changing the terminal arrangement. That's my job for this morning -
    building fireworks style slats, probably with 8 relays controlling 16 cues
    on each. I may also do 8X8 for 64 cues per slat, or even put the relays
    in the master and have the same 144 cues duplicated on each slat.
    That would require 24 conductor wire between slats, though. I think
    I'll do slats of 16 cues on 8 relays.

    You could build this on perfboard, but as your cue count increases there
    are a lot of connections to make. I designed my own printed circuit board
    which I had made by a pcb house in China.

    The Christmas light system was wired, but the serial cable could easily
    be replaced by a wireless link. I bought the inexpensive "noisy" wireless
    receiver from e-madeinchn. It works, pretty much, but the noise is a problem.
    They sell one without noise for a bit more and I should have bought that one.
    Noise on the control line could well mean fireworks going off at the wrong time.
    I'm going to trying feeding the input from the noisy receiver into a picaxe and
    see if the picaxe can filter the noise.
    Last edited by raymor; April 23rd, 2009 at 06:52 AM.

  4. #4

    Default Re: I want to use my laptop to fire my show

    It is not my intent to rain on anyone's parade here, but DMX512 lighting control is not safe for firing pyro. This was discounted years ago by the electronic engineers that invented DMX512. You might want to take a look at the thread linked below before you invest time and money in that system. You will see a link in that thread to USITT, giving specific warnings about using DMX512 in hazardous conditions. http://www.pyrouniverse.com/forum/sh...ghlight=dmx512
    I know a lot of guy's have ignored the warnings and have constructed systems anyway. If you choose to do this, Keep in mind your whole show could launch on one cue.
    Last edited by graybeard; April 23rd, 2009 at 08:04 AM.

  5. #5
    Member Array Firecracker-Jim's Avatar
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    Default Re: I want to use my laptop to fire my show

    You look like your new to this, so here is a system by ODA Enterprise that their selling. i never used it myself but i know there is someone that can chime in on this system.

    http://oda-ent.com/Software.htm

    It looks easy to use fro the looks of it.

    Hope this helps!

    Jim
    CDL / Hazmat Endorsement
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    Default Re: I want to use my laptop to fire my show

    Look out a PC with W2K or XP forget Vista for minor market software. Feret deply in this forum (firing systems) for several old partly developed systems with software for free download.

  7. #7

    Default Re: I want to use my laptop to fire my show

    Quote Originally Posted by Firecracker-Jim View Post
    You look like your new to this, so here is a system by ODA Enterprise that their selling. i never used it myself but i know there is someone that can chime in on this system.

    http://oda-ent.com/Software.htm

    It looks easy to use fro the looks of it.

    Hope this helps!

    Jim
    I was lead on 15 shows using the ODA computer fire equipment. It is a very nice system and can do almost anything you would want it to do. For the money it is tops.
    www.nhpyro.org/forums
    100% Red Blooded American Constitutional Libertarian

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    Member Array cexshun's Avatar
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    Default Re: I want to use my laptop to fire my show

    So not much to auto-fire the show via PC. I remember some software someone posted a while ago, can't find it with search. You program the show into the laptop and it counts down, then tells you when to fire the cue manually. Anyone know it?
    Member of P.G.I.
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    Member Array dbroome's Avatar
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    Default Re: I want to use my laptop to fire my show

    See this thread:
    http://www.pyrouniverse.com/forum/sh...ad.php?t=18648

    I'm using my laptop to fire my show. If you can build a firing system based on JoeRatMan's designs, you can use the software discussed above (there is a test video down near the bottom somewhere)...

  10. #10
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    Default Re: I want to use my laptop to fire my show

    Check some of my video's on YouTube, i used a 8ch relays board that i bought on Ebay for 44,- dollar. It works pretty good, i can time with the software, shoot manual and an all mode.

    Here the link to my channel and to the videos:
    Channel: http://www.youtube.com/pyrorola
    Relaysboard on discoflash: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vq6k3BzesYU
    Relaysboard on a prof igniter (test): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0CETgq0jcw

    Here is the link to ebay, 8 channel relays board with software (12v):
    http://cgi.ebay.com/USB-8-Channel-Re...3%3A1|294%3A50

    Greetz,
    Pyro-rola

  11. #11
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    Default Re: I want to use my laptop to fire my show

    Quote Originally Posted by Pyro-rola View Post
    Check some of my video's on YouTube, i used a 8ch relays board that i bought on Ebay for 44,- dollar. It works pretty good, i can time with the software, shoot manual and an all mode.

    Here the link to my channel and to the videos:
    Channel: http://www.youtube.com/pyrorola
    Relaysboard on discoflash: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vq6k3BzesYU
    Relaysboard on a prof igniter (test): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0CETgq0jcw

    Here is the link to ebay, 8 channel relays board with software (12v):
    http://cgi.ebay.com/USB-8-Channel-Re...3%3A1|294%3A50

    Greetz,
    Pyro-rola
    So theoretically if you have 6 USB ports on your computer you could fashion this system to fire 48 cues... you would just have to have a program that would differentiate between the different ports...

    Uh oh, looks like my software, electronic engineer father and I are gonna have to go to work.......

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    Default Re: I want to use my laptop to fire my show

    Quote Originally Posted by runvs00 View Post
    So theoretically if you have 6 USB ports on your computer you could fashion this system to fire 48 cues... you would just have to have a program that would differentiate between the different ports...

    Uh oh, looks like my software, electronic engineer father and I are gonna have to go to work.......
    I think it's possible to shoot with more boards because you can choose between different relayboards.
    Maybe you can send the seller an message with the question.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: I want to use my laptop to fire my show

    USB has a range of 5metres not really pyro suitable! Most systems are slow data serial.

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    Default Re: I want to use my laptop to fire my show

    Quote Originally Posted by Arthur Brown View Post
    USB has a range of 5metres not really pyro suitable! Most systems are slow data serial.
    That is true, but my firing system stand always beside my laptop. And then i can shoot for about 100meters or more.

    But if you want your firing system in the field, then USB is not a good option.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: I want to use my laptop to fire my show

    http://www.pyrouniverse.com/forum/sh...95&postcount=4

    Is a small board for remote use from a PC with serial control and lots of range from the PC.

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