Introduction: Sound Reactive Light Bulb Displays + Stranger Things...

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Step 1: LBD Chandelier

32 Light Bulb Chandelier with Individual Bulb Intensity Control

This lighting fixture was originally designed as a part of a larger installation. Unfortunately, the larger installation was abandoned, and this piece was left over. The plants were actually an after thought, but it turned into one of my favorite pieces.

Step 2: LBD Chandelier - Design and Structure

The original concept wasn't actually to include the plants in the design, but was to make a modular system for a grid of light bulbs on a ceiling. The decision to use copper tubing was influenced by the aesthetic of the location for the original project, but it fits well in many places.

The concept is simple enough, 32 bulbs are attached in a 4x8 grid, with two wires extending from each socket back to a main control box at the center. The fixture can be hung from a high ceiling or drilled directly into the ceiling using brackets.

For the copper tubing, I just used standard plumbers tubing from a hardware store. It's extremely flexible (almost too flexible) so much that all of the bend joints in the final design were done by hand. To cut the tubing I used a standard tube cutter. Holes were drilled in the larger tubing, just slightly larger than the small tubing, then the small tubing was fed through and soldered in place using a torch*.

*Torch soldering is what plumbers use for this kind of work, when you've done it a bit, it's extremely easy, but that doesn't mean it's not still very dangerous. There are plenty of guides out there on soldering copper tubing, and I'm not that experienced, so I'll leave those tutorials to the experts. But please heed their advice, may save you a trip to the hospital or burning your house down!

Step 3: LBD Table Settings

This project was done in about two weeks as part of a small local dinner event. The curator of the event was nice enough to invite me to make some custom table settings as seen above. I wasn't responsible for the other decorations around the table, but it turned out to be a beautiful event that I was very happy to be a part of. The budget for the event was very small, as was the amount of time to design and prepare the piece. I included the drawing above to show what can be done in a short amount of time, from concept to completion with a lot of long nights in between.

Step 4: LBD Wall

Since this piece was only made for a single event, I was able to keep it after it was over. After a few different ideas of what to do with the table settings, I had the idea one night to see if they would fit on my wall. Sure enough, six of them were almost the exact length of my longest wall. I was able to stack them length wise, with the other six upside down, and they fit perfectly. Honestly, it wasn't intended for that purpose, but they probably look just as good if not better in that configuration then they did on the tables.

Step 5: LBD Equalizer

8 x 32 Equalizer Display with Individual Bulb Control

This was one of the first displays I built, really as a proof of concept. The display is usable just like an LED grid, where you can do scrolling text, or anything else dot matrix related. Most of the time I just use it as an EQ, it has the best look in my opinion.

Step 6: LBD Equalizer - Build

The electronics for this one rely on an Arduino Ethernet, which really just combines an Arduino and an Arduino Ethernet shield in one piece. Then I made a custom add on board from OSH park to connect to all my relay boards.

The relay boards have standard 74HC595 shift registers that control the LEDs of the solid state relays. All the timing synchronization is done on the arduino. Since the synchronization only has to happen at 120 HZ, there's plenty of time for reading the UDP messages coming in from the ethernet port and to do intensity control on 256 bulbs without any hiccups.

Step 7: Stranger Things

I made this for a xmas party last year using the same hardware from the LBD Chandelier described before. I bought a standard xmas light strand from the store and cut the wire from each bulb on the same side. Still lots of wiring required, but you can at least cut that wiring in half by allowing each bulb to share the same neutral line. On the line side, you can cut each wire from the strand, and run an individual wire back to the controller. That still means at least 26 wires to control all the letters, but theres' really no way around that with this method. The upside is since you're only using a very low wattage bulb at the end, you can use a higher gauge (thinner) wire so you don't have such a thick cable going back to the beginning.

Utilizing the WiFi module built into the hardware, was able to control the text displayed remotely using OSC string messages.

Step 8: Safety and Bulb Design Choices


Feel like that needs to be said once more, if you don't know what you're doing, this kind of project isn't for you. There are some simple things that you can do to avoid working with mains voltage, but still make a project like this work. First of all, you can use lower voltage 12V lamps, then you wont' even have to deal with all the PWM dimming issues. There's a very simple reason I didn't use those, they're much more expensive.

Originally, this project was going to be a prototype, requiring many hundreds of light bulbs in the final design. To reduce the cost of a project like that, lower cost incandescent bulbs were the only option, they are almost 100 times cheaper than their DC equivalents. The reason for that is simple, most people who buy large quantities of these bulbs are using them in things like Christmas displays or indoor lighting using long strands. The 12V DC variety are typically used in low voltage lamps, in RVs or other applications where you typically need one or two bulbs.

So the cost per bulb is really only driven by the fact that there is much more demand for the 120VAC variety than there is for the 12VDC. So, if you're doing a project like this, and you think you need about 32 bulbs, and that's it? Just use the low voltage bulbs which are safer and easier to use, the cost saving just aren't worth the safety and complexity.

Lights Contest 2017

Participated in the
Lights Contest 2017