Instructables

Building a "Billie Jean" Sidewalk

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billie-jean-448.jpg
Although it's not a scary addition to our Halloween decor, I built a lighted sidewalk (the famous effect from Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" video) to entertain party guests and treat-or-treaters on their way to our door.

Only the wiring was a little tedious, the rest of the construction was pretty simple, and we've gotten lots of great comments and impromptu dancing.



 
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Step 1: Goals

Picture of Goals
First I came up with these goals:
  • Keep any additional platform low to ground. I don't want people to feel like they're stepping up onto something.
  • Span the whole 12-15 length of our sidewalk. It wouldn't look too cool if only a few feet were done.
  • Outdoor-friendly and fairly immune to moisture (we typically get rain in October).
  • And most of all it would have to work with fairly light people, but not crumble under foot of heavier ones. I had to figure people might start dancing on this, so it'd have to take a fair bit of abuse.
xadevox4 years ago
where can i get acrylic panels and how much are they?
flaming_pele! (author)  xadevox4 years ago
Most hardware stores don't carry acrylic that is thick enough, so you need to look for a plastics supplier. If you can find something local to you, you'll save a lot of money in shipping (the panels are pretty heavy). I bought mine online though, somewhere like http://freckleface.com/shopsite_sc/store/html/acrylicsheet.html. The price varies with the size and thickness of panels you use - the 1/2" stuff runs about 9 bucks per square foot.
dang... so if i wanted to make say 20 panels thatd be like $360! dang! haha
actually $720 (20 panels x 4 sq ft each x $9 per sq ft), I wonder why acrylic cost so much. From what I found the frosted/colored translucent panels cost more.
PMadds3 years ago
What is this different-colored material in the middle of the square?
flaming_pele! (author)  PMadds3 years ago
You mean on the acrylic square tilted up in the top part of the picture? That's tan color is the protective paper that's on one side of the plastic when it's shipped. I thought it looked decent and defused the light pretty good so I left it on.
CyborgGold3 years ago
I may be doing something similar to this in the future now... but instead of using multiple LEDs and acrylic... I may use cement with fiber optic cables running through it (found in another instructable I read a while back) and have the loose ends running to the LED. Maybe even find a way to make it water tight so I can have a year round lit pathway.... if I ever find the money for the project I will definitely have to put it on here....
eoutlaw4 years ago
"I had to figure people might start dancing on this, so it'd have to take a fair bit of abuse."  Haha!  Have they?
Yea cause you know people are gonna "Beat it."
haha, You better don't play that song when they walk over it :)
Haha, especially when the kiddies come near....
flaming_pele! (author)  eoutlaw4 years ago
Oh, absolutely. Everyone from little kids to pizza delivery men. If I keep this intact beyond this year I should add speakers and have your first step trigger the Billie Jean bass line ;)
 You've got to do that!
queesy4 years ago
I wish I knew what was going on here Im a fairly "newbie" type of user here. I was really interested in this but I feel there on detailed instructions missing for people like me to actually build this =(
Fl0ris queesy4 years ago
First you need some wooden frames, a translucent (lux=light, only permitting light) material, e.g. arylic, (you walk over this) and some weather stripping to seperate the transluc. material and the wooden frames. You put some wiring attached with foil duc tape on both sides (so you put this on the translucent material and the wooden frames on the left and the right). If the duc tape foils touch each other the circuit is closed. More info about schematic circuit in step 3.

If you have more questions please reply
implaxis4 years ago
This helps me with a couple of problems I've been having with my sensors.  I'll have to try those options!
www.instructables.com/id/3D-DDR-Frame-for-PS2/
I love your homemade pressure switch idea.  Just a thought on making assembly easier, if you put the foil duct-tape on as just a portion of a leg of the circut, but cut out a break a second piece of foild on the acrylic could bridge the gap and act as your switch.
Just my idea.
flaming_pele! (author)  roccopeterbilt4 years ago
Great suggestion!
xadevox4 years ago
where can you get weather stripping?
flaming_pele! (author)  xadevox4 years ago
Just a hardware store like Home Depot. It normally is used for windows and doors.
winterfresh4 years ago
 Congrats on your win! Great Instructable!
StkMtd4 years ago
I suppose this is pedantic, but you really ought to have some resistors on those LEDs. Awesome project otherwise. Any reason you used 2 switches here?
flaming_pele! (author)  StkMtd4 years ago
The two switches is just for added sensitivity. These panels are large enough that just stepping toward one edge may not trigger the switch on the opposite side.
ampeyro4 years ago
i've been trying something like this for a long time, but didn't find an effective pressure swich, will you be angry if i use this as "inspiration"?
flaming_pele! (author)  ampeyro4 years ago
Have at it, that's what this site is all about :)
 Video Please!
Camisado4 years ago
Epic win in it's effing best. 5 stars, voted, subscribed.
This is awesome!  I'd want to make one for a catwalk or something.
soshimo4 years ago
I noticed you didn't have current limiting resisters on your leds.  The forward voltage bias is fixed on leds (depending on the led, color, and manufacturer anywhere between .7vdc to 1.7vdc) but you should still take measures to limit forward current to 20ma (or whatever peak current is for your device).  Typically 220ohm to 470ohm resisters are used.  Also, remember since you are in parallel you will have supply a resister on each current branch or you risk frying the one without a resistor.  You will also notice longer battery life if you limit your current draw on your LED.  I've seen the ultra brights light up plenty on 10ma and they blind at 20ma so it's up to your utilization.

Other than that, great idea and outstanding implementation.  I like your attention to detail.
flaming_pele! (author)  soshimo4 years ago
I lucked out that the forward voltage of my particular LEDs is very close to 3V (I think 3.2 to 3.3). But this is a great point for anyone building something similar, thanks!
canida4 years ago
This is awesome! 
Agreed with the others, video would be great - do you have any friends who can moonwalk?
cancast4 years ago
Would love to see a video of people using it!
Ninzerbean4 years ago
 I think this is really scary, anything to do with him is perfect for Halloween.
You just hurt my feelings lol.

But really, whats your deal with MJ?
 Instructables has a "be nice" policy that I must adhere to. I am a big fan of Instructables.
mskogly4 years ago
Love it! And I second the addition of video to this tutorial. And yes, Billie Jean baseline is a must!
eoutlaw4 years ago
This is so friggin' brilliant!
It would be cool to see someone cover a hallway floor with these things.  Very nice.
Klappstuhl4 years ago
Awesome.

I'll so build one in my apartment, all the way to the toilet! XD
that would be awesome
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