Motion-Sensor-to-MIDI-Converter

An idea that came up during the 31C3. The guys from VisualPhi had some motion sensors lying around and wanted to use them to control their VJ-software. That’s why I built them a Motion-Sensor-to-MIDI-Converter.

As usual it all starts on a breadboard. Most of the times I draw the schematics parallel to building the circuit on a breadboard. Guess that’s the usual way.

CIMG0230

 

 

The circuit itself is rather unspectacular. 8 inputs are polled from a 74HC165. Then there’s a little bit of logic implemented within an Arduino and then there’s 16 LEDs, a rotary encoder and MIDI out.

CIMG0231

 

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This project is the first one to benefit from my new 3D Printer. Due to the fact that I don’t have a dedicated toolshed anymore it’s kind of impossible to reliably manufacture the case anymore. Seems as if I don’t need one from now on.

CIMG0261

 

I really think the fixation of the rotary encoder is one of the smartest pieces ever done by mankind. Ever =)

CIMG0264

 

CIMG0263

 

The LEDs are driven via Charlieplexing. It’s rather easy to implement but you really need to concentrate while soldering. By the way: If everything else fails I guess I’ll become a Soldering-Artist one day.

CIMG0269

 

The function of the device is easy to explain. Every input is triggered when the state of a connected switch changes. This is indicated by the red LED below the channel. The green LEDs indicate the channel that’s influenced by the rotary enoder: The encoder gives the possibility to set the time that has to pass from the moment the input is triggered until it can be retriggered again. Something like a ‘Retrigger Threshold’. The value can be set to values between 0 and ~2 seconds. When the lower / upper limit of the value is reached the green LED flashes. Pressing the rotary encoder (it has a built-in switch) switches to the next input.

A triggered input sends a MIDI note.

CIMG0266

 

 

 

CIMG0276

 

 

 

CIMG0275

How to use Traktor Audio 6 with Ableton

I don’t know why I have never encountered this problem before but recently I tried to use my Traktor Audio 6 together with Ableton and had a fair share of problems. Basically I couldn’t route Ableton’s output to anything different then ‘Output 1&2’ which is the main output at the Audio 6’s front side.  Everything else could be selected but just didn’t take effect (Ableton wasn’t even showing any kind of levels).

Same problem on the inputs: I have two turntables attached to the Audio 6 and wanted to use their inputs within a vst-plugin (MsPinky, as you may have guessed) but I just wasn’t able to get any signals coming into Ableton.

Of course the settings in Ableton all were correct. The screenshot only shows the output config but the input settings were accordingly.

 

I had a simple clip running on a track and changed the Master Out settings a few times. Whatever I tried it only sent out real music (into my mixing desk) when I selected channel ‘1/2’ for Master out. 3/4 and 5/6 just kept being numb.

 

The problem behind all this is that the Audio device’s input settings for both channels 3/4 and 5/6 was set to ‘direct thru’. Meaning: Everything that is connected to the inputs is directly routed to the outputs. The device itself is not able to send audio data to these outputs in this case. Looking at it from a little distance it’s something I could have known before because every time I had Traktor Scratch running and attached the Audio 6 to my computer I was presented with a ‘direct thru’-configuration for both decks. I had to deactivate this every time I used it.

 

The solution is simple: Just open up the Audio 6 Control Panel and deactivate the checkbox for ‘direct thru’-mode. It’s probably a good idea to do this in the ‘startup’ tab since this changes the device’s configuration to behave like this automatically every time you connect it to your computer.

 

I don’t know if it’s necessary to do a reboot afterwards. While trying to find this solution I made so many of them I don’t know for sure.

Anyways: After making these steps I was able to select every possible input and output combination for my Audio 6 in Ableton – and all of them worked like a charm.

Easy Button USB hack

I guess everybody knows the Staples Easy Button.

There are numerous hacks out in the wild adding some weird functionality to it. For quite some time I wanted to something similar. This is the documentation of how to make the Easy-Button a MIDI-USB device based on Atmega328 (Arduino).

Many hacks have in common that they are either relatively expensive (like…involving something with a dedicated teensy device) or rather ugly (due to holes just being sawed into the Easy Button’s case).

 

My first goal was to build a device that automatically identifies itself as an HID-compliant USB-MIDI device and gives simple MIDI functionality by using an Atmega328 and V-USB. In order to achieve a correct enumeration and to get a useful starting point I used the demo-versionof USBLyzer to get the necessary data from my KORG nanoKey and altered them in various places (Vendor ID etc..). (You will remember this one later.)

When the button is pressed a ‘MIDI Note ON’ signal is sent. Upon release it sends a ‘Note OFF’ message.

The second goal was to give it a clean overall look.

Let’s see…

 

This is the Staples Easy Button with the cap and the clicker already being removed (which makes it just a pretty unidentifiable bunch of electronics and some plastic)

 

we don’t need the speaker so it will be gone soon….

 

The black line shows how deep the cap goes when it’s pressed.

 

This is the spot where the USB connector will be placed

 

 

 

 

I might not be the best craftsman around (already mentioned that once before) but after some filing this one looks pretty decent:

 

 

The plastic on the inside has to be cut as well

 

 

This DOES look quite well

 

Now I need to add the circuit board. Due to the speaker being thrown out there is lots of space for that now.

 

The circuit is basically a 1:1 copy of the V-USB keyboard example. The Button is connected with data pin 6 of the Atmega. It involves some creative soldering of the diodes because I didn’t care too much about the circuit’s layout before I started soldering.

 

Everything’s coming to an end soon

 

It seems impossible for my camera to do any decent shots that contain the color red.
Anyway, you might get an idea of how the circuit fits into the structure.

 

 

Some detail of how the actual button-mechanism is connected to the Atmega (the blue wires, you guessed it)

 

To make future additions a little easier I added an ICSP connector which fits nicely into what has formerly been the battery case

 

Finally… in all its glory.

 

I had this in the back of my mind for ~2.5 years now. Shortly before starting with this built I started wandering whether this might make sense or be worth the money or time invested or…..

F*CK IT.  Never let doubts get in the way of your creativity.  If this wouldn’t make sense than I probably wouldn’t have built it. Word!   =)

 

 

The whole Arduino project (I did that arduino IDE 1.0.3) can be downloaded here. Unzip and copy the folder ‘Nanokey’ to the libraries-folder of your arduino IDE. Feel free to contact me if anything is left unclear.

 

Terrassenfest 2013

This post will be about my third time at the Terrassenfest (Facebook). It’s an annually held 3-day event organized by volunteers of the senior technical college in the city of Osnabrück. Every night there are 2 bands and a DJ afterwards. We are doing the stage for the third year now and I guess it’s the right time to go a little more into detail than the years before.

This is the 38th year this event takes place. Last year my former boss visited me when I was working there and told me he had been organizing this event ~25 years ago himself.

It all begins at home in Hamburg. I am in charge of lights and visuals and I will be using VDMX for the first time. I already created some footage and am working on the basic screen setup.

 

The stage-setup will contain 10 units of 42 inch monitors. 6 being twisted by 90 degress, hanging overhead in the truss, 4 being packed together in a somewhat classical 2*2 matrix-style stetup. The monitors themselves are configured in 3*3 matrix mode. This means every monitor gets the same input data but only displays 1/9th of the actual picture depending on the position that was set in its configuration.

 

Codec shootout based on visual impression and CPU usage. VMDX’s new HAP codec won.

 

Packing my stuff for staying out of Hamburg for 5 days (sat – thur).

 

 

This is only the technical stuff i’m carrying:

MacBook pro, Lenovo Thinkpad, Akai APC20…. to name just a bit of the stuff i took with me. It’s important to know that I will be meeting friends of mine there and I’m planning to play arround with different stuff so I am taking way more than I’d need to.

 

 

 

 

Entering a 4-day mayhem.

 

The foh (front of house) will be by new home from now on. The most important thing (the fridge) is already there. Though the Terrassenfest is organized by volunteers it doesn’t lack professionality at all. We get the best support one could think of. Including a never-ending amount of energy-drinks, beer and grilled food.

By the way: It’s one of the better ideas to use an extra cable only for the fridge at the foh. Trust me.

 

Working for the company doing the stage for me as the guy for lights and visuals also means: Bringing up the complete stage! From zero.

 

Well…. it IS that much. It took us Sunday to build up the stage.

 

Yes, this is a friggin’ huge PA-System. It IS way too much for such a tent. But it DOES sound incredibly good.

 

Part of the monitor setup. 4 Monitors are hanging in the back truss, one is hanging at each side.

 

That might be me…

 

And that might be another pile of cables

 

Slowly growing

 

 

Oh… and by the way: we’re also doing the trussing and lights for the bar…

 

And YES: we are going full pro on this one.

 

First impressions at night. All lights on 100% to check whether we calculated our energy consumption correctly. We did.

 

Getting a little bit into detail. The dmx data for the lights are transmitted via lumenradio. The video is transmitted via ethernet cabling based on Kramer technology.

Signals arriving at Dimmerland, Amptown city. From here the DMX data are fed back into cable and the video data are sent to various multiplexers to reach the monitors.

 

 

This is the final stage setup. The DJ booth will be put aside as long as the bands are playing. One aspect of this setup is to be able to change from band to DJ as quick as possible. It took us ~5 minutes each time.

 

For the videos I created two main groups in VDMX. The ‘Truss-Group’ and the ‘DJ-Group’ (guess which is which). The Truss-Group consists of three layers: Background, Center and Front. The Background layer spans over the 6 monitors completely and the visuals will be twisted by 90 degrees. That’s okay since this layer is intended for blurry-motioned video backgrounds. The Center and Front Layer are twisted by 90 degrees within VDMX so they will be ligned up correctly on stage. Both layers are cropped and resized so the whole video of the layer will be shown on every screen.

The DJ-Group only consists of two layers: Background and Center but the configuration is similar – without the 90 degree twist.

I could have done more but I wasn’t too sure about overall CPU usage and stability so I decided to better be safe than sorry. Next time I guess I will be doing 8 layers each since VDMX showed no problems at all.

Everything that I wanted to have control of was connected with a custom control interface which was then connected to different midi inputs. That way everything stayed clear and easy to handle… just in case…

 

Everything is controlled via an APC20 from Akai

The buttons on the right select the page in the media bin (‘Chroma’, ‘Ballern’, ‘Stuff’, ‘Strahl’ and ‘Atmo’). The butons above the big stripe of yellow duct tape select the layer the video clip is played on and the 40 main buttons finally select the video clip itself. The faders from left to right control each layer’s opacity.

Btw.: The duct tape is the expensive type which is used by professional painters. Not the cr*p you get in your ordinary hardware-store. It’s 3 or 4 times as expensive but absolutely worth the money. You can stick it on, leave it there for a year or more and remove it without leaving just one bit of ugly residue. Try this with your Gaffa-Tape.

 

That’s my setup at the front of house. From left to right: MacBook pro 13″ running VDMX being controlled by an APC20 from Akai. Some earplugs and a Korg Kontrol 49 Keyboard for controlling GrandMa onPC running on a Panasonic Toughbook. If you look carefully you’ll spot a Wiimote as well. This was used to control two effects in VDMX. Pixelate and Strobe. Though I am generally not too much into using video-fx this sure was huge fun, especially for the people hanging around at the foh.

(click for a larger image)

 

The way the lights are connected with the keyboard has grown over the years. It evolved from the very first show that I used when working in a discotheque. It has become so intuitive even my mom can do it:

 

By the way: I was staying with my parents for the time which was quite a lot of fun. I moved out ~15 years ago and haven’t slept there more than 6 nights since. They brought me to the event every day and my dad was totally eager to carry my bag:

Considering the amount of bullsh*t (a.k.a infurious pain) he is going through with all his back this has to be accepted as one of the coolest things a dad can do for his son.

 

That’s part of what the setup is capable of:

 

 

This is one bad mobile-phone photo giving a glimpse of what it looked like when the bands played. During their set I brought their logos on the screen together with some background videos colour-fitted to the rest of the lights. This always looks amazingly cool and it shows that you don’t need an LED-Wall in the back to do a good show.

I will add more and better photos with overall impressions within the next days.

 

By the way: We intentionally didn’t use an LED-Wall. Right now I see LED-Walls on every yet-so-small village-party-stage. What’s wrong with the people out there? Is an LED-Wall the new huge phallus-symbol in stage design? Does every average top40-band really need hi-res image processing in the background? Wake up guys: It’s about the band and the music! Not about what you are able to dry-hire …..

 

Some hours into the first night (bands were done, DJ was playing) the event got into some trouble with local authorities because of noise. Fact is: we couldn’t get more silent than ~80 decibel just because of the people themselves making this amount of noise purely by being there. Anyways, It was on us to turn the music down. This ended in the situation that we needed the Master-Out on a headphone in order to -literally- hear anything from the music.

 

The second night we caught a glimpse of the music because the DJ turned his monitor speaker up enough so we could hear him through the tent. Foh seemed to be a good place to catch some … sleep. Cool thing: Nevertheless people stayed there until the end at 3’o clock in the morning. I was told there were ~3500 patrons every night.

 

Growing chaos at the second day.

 

Oh and by the way…..this is a f*cking NON SMOKING TENT….damnit

 

Revenge of a non-smoker

 

I learned from past events that it is important to NOT drink all the energy drinks that are available but only so many you really need to. Last time it took my body 5 days to  come back to normal digestion…intervals….

 

This is the event ground at the dawn after the last day. the event left its marks.

 

This is me going to bed after dawn after the last day after taking down the complete stage. Being all comfy and stuff. I guess the event also left its marks on me.

I am writing this right now so probably I’m not dead by Terrassenfest.