Friday, 3 February 2017

Advanced Effects

Automating effects

Once you’ve lit things up, the next step you could take is to automate some effects.
There are a variety of solutions available that don’t involve soldering, and therefore are much easier and safer for children. The boards, which are essentially mini computers, all have sockets on them so you can plug wires in.

The Arduino.

The Arduino range of controllers is my favoured choice for controlling Lego lighting models, as it is a free open source platform that you can buy cheaply from various places around the world. You can pick up plug into breadboard controllers like the Arduino Mini and a breadboard itself for around £5. These can easily be hidden inside models as we will see later. I’ve used both the official boards and the copies and have had equal success with both. The difference is purely in the price and how quickly you can get hold of them.
[Imperial hotel]


As of writing, the Uno Revision 3 is one of the cheapest ways to get started with lighting projects.
It supports add on “Shields” as they are called, which allow you do add WiFi, GSM (Mobile Phone) and Breadboards directly onto it, either now or at a later date in your exploration.


The Arduino Yun has some advantages over the Uno in that it has built in Wifi and also runs a UNIX environment which allows us to run a web server, and control your lighting creation using it. This board runs a version of Linux from an SD Flash card, and so you can program pretty much what you want with it. For example, it can fetch data from the Internet and you an control its output pins based on that.


The Micro is much smaller than the other Arduino boards, and plugs into a breadboard. This makes it extremely easy to connect up a set of lights to it, although it won’t power as many as the other larger boards.

Raspberry Pi

Whilst not having as many ouput pins out of the box as most of the Arduino solutions, the Pi does have the advantage of having a Linux environment and HDMI/Composite display advantages without any extra cost.
A cheaply available USB WiFi adapter can be added and you have all the power of the Yun with a different programming environment which you may be familier with – such a JavaScript, Python, Perl and others.
It’s also very easy to set up a web server on it and access the files from your Mac or PC.
[Pin Breakout 1]

Wifi Shield

If you are looking to use Wifi, you are probably wanting to use a web server to remove control you device and lighting setup.


Sim Card Shield

Pay as you go SIMM cards are a great way of getting value for money here. As you only need to receive text messages
For connecting the components on your breadboard, and the breadboard to the Arduino, you need male to male cables.


Chip is a great little computer for just $9. It cost me a little over £10 to import one in 2015.



Candles and Fireplaces

You can buy various coloured LEDs from sources such as ebay, so choose what you want to achieve.
The yellow or orange is best for standard looking candles.
Lego have a wide variety of bricks that you can use to bould fireplaces including actual flame pieces but these are harder to light than other bricks.
Here are a few ideas. 
There are many ways you can create a fire with Lego, from the pieces to the lights you can create all sorts of effects.
There are various translucent bricks, and also various flame pieces in various colours.
This is the basic Arduino code that flickers two LEDs randomly, it will work on an Arduino board that has analogue output pins, or PWM pins as they are often called meaning pulse width modulation.

Arduino code for Fires or Candles


int Fire1 = 5;
int Fire2 = 6;

void setup() {
pinMode(Fire1, OUTPUT);
pinMode(Fire2, OUTPUT);

void loop() {
analogWrite(Fire1, random(0,255));
analogWrite(Fire2, random(0,255));

Fluorescent Lights

I managed to get one of the limited edition Lego models that they sell when they open new stores, and thought it would be good to light it up in an authentic fashion – which meant having the fluorescent shop bulbs light up as they normally do.
In order to get the blinking on effect I headed to YouTube and downloaded a slow motion video of a fluorescent tube coming to life. I then placed this on the timeline in a video editing program and noted the delay times between blinks.
Thanks to the person who took this video for helping me out.
[Timeline Pic]
Finally, I used the Blink code from the Arduino software as a starting point and added delay commands between turning the light on and off to mimic what was happening in the slow motion video.
I added some Define code at the beginning so you can easily tweak it to have your effect. In essence, as you can see from the pictures I put two lights in the back of the shop and a light behind the sign.
By adding more similar code – just copy and pasting then changing the numbers – you can easily add more lights to it if you want to use this in bigger buildings.
Adding a random element to it is easy, and makes it seem more realistic.

Arduino Code for Fluorescent Lights

#define OnDelay 100
#define Brightness 60

#define Light1 10
#define Light2 11

int TurningOn = 1;
int TurningOff = 0;

void setup() {
  pinMode(Light1, OUTPUT);
  digitalWrite(Light1, LOW);
  pinMode(Light2, OUTPUT);
  digitalWrite(Light2, LOW);

void loop() {

  if (TurningOn == 1) {

    analogWrite(Light1, Brightness);
    analogWrite(Light2, Brightness);
    delay (500);

    for (int i=0; i <= 5; i++){
        analogWrite(Light1, Brightness);
        analogWrite(Light2, Brightness);
        analogWrite(Light1, LOW);
        analogWrite(Light2, LOW);

    digitalWrite(Light1, HIGH);
    digitalWrite(Light2, HIGH);
    TurningOn = 0;

Disco Lights

Much like the fluorescent lighting effect you can create disco lights by obtaining different coloured LEDs and then blinking them in a pattern that suits you.
[Disco Ball picture]
[DJ Desk picture]
[Modular pictures with dancers] [Video]

Water Shimmers

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