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Thread: Using PCs as a central haunt control system.

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  1. Default  
    #11
    Sound would be the real cool thing here. A great program that could run MANY audio tracks at once, feeding into some sort of attached Pre-amp with RCA outs you could take to multiple amps, now that would be great! It would wipe out the stacks of CD players most of us have, that really don't like fog! Could you have a single PC playing 30+ Tracks, with an attached Preamp? What would it cost?

    Its too late for me on this, We have been converting to Gulderfluke paybacks. This lets me zone the sound and not put "all my eggs in one basket" so to speak.

    But still what is available on this front?

    Thanks!

    Ben
    NETHERWORLD
     

  2. Default  
    #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Posts
    70
    Quote Originally Posted by Speculo View Post
    Sound would be the real cool thing here. A great program that could run MANY audio tracks at once, feeding into some sort of attached Pre-amp with RCA outs you could take to multiple amps, now that would be great! It would wipe out the stacks of CD players most of us have, that really don't like fog! Could you have a single PC playing 30+ Tracks, with an attached Preamp? What would it cost?

    Its too late for me on this, We have been converting to Gulderfluke paybacks. This lets me zone the sound and not put "all my eggs in one basket" so to speak.

    But still what is available on this front?

    Thanks!

    Ben
    NETHERWORLD
    Provided you don't want more than 8 sound channels then I cracked that issue several years ago.

    A useful add on to a PC that costs about $20 is a 7.1 sound card, you can then mix your sounds to play out of any combination of the 8 output channels.

    PCs have the capacity to play many sounds at the same time, I used this combination of features in Exorcist it works to great effect.
     

  3. Default PLC E-stop clarification 
    #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Oxford, CT
    Posts
    75
    Quote Originally Posted by Phoenix View Post
    Networked E-Stops is an absolute NO unless you are using a network protocol thats categorized for networked E-Stops such as azibus, if you are using an E-Stop then it must be hardwired, fail safe and have a degree of redundancy.
    Agree 100%. Sorry if it sounded like I intended to e-stop thru the PLC. We use push to activate / twist to release e-stop buttons from A/B. They have two sets of contacts. One set is a continuos loop from one e-stop to the next run thru the whole haunt. All hardwired and designed to fail safe (open w/ power off). The 2nd set of contacts are all wired individual and back to your central station. Be it a PLC or PC or even your own home made bank of lights. When one estop is hit and evrything screeches to a halt, now you know which button was hit and can immediately address the issue.
    So the PLC or PC is monitoring the e-stop not actually breaking the connection. One thing the PLC does do though is prevent the e-stop from being re-energized after tripping until the PLC says its ok. So if you reset the twist lock button at the prop you also need to hit the master reset back at the station.

    But all your points are valid. They are not cheap. They can be difficult to program if you have no experience with them. They are easy to design in up front but tougher after the fact. Believe it or not the PLC itself is pretty cheap. Depends on what you need to do. But now you need to put it in a enclosure, terminals, wires, switches, etc. Assuming your doing it all correct up to code as if you were building a piece of automation machinery now your 3-4 x's the cost of the PLC for the finished system. Ever price a good industrial quality switch? Easily $30 each. Not that you couldn't put a PLC on a piece of din rail right on the wall and it wouldn't work, just not the way you do it. Unfortunately a quality robust system costs a bit of money. We can put a touch panel color display on it so you have anice interface and don't have to program it direct but that adds big cash to the project. I can get micro displays in the $200 range but very limited functions. A 15" could go way over $1200. And if you nee da major program change you gotta call someone out to do it for ya.

    For an established haunt I couldn't justify the expense. Maybe think about a cheap PC for controlling ambient lighting and sound only.

    Attached are photos of my lab - well mine as in I run it, but it belongs to my employer : ) Central computer monitors individual PLCs right thru Excel. Now don't jump all over me since the PLC's aren't in enclosures. There's 48 of them so we turned the room into an enclosure by using an interlocked door.
    Attached Images
    Scott Ames
     

  4. Default E-stop 
    #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Oxford, CT
    Posts
    75
    Here's the e-stop button itself. There are six total wired back to the circuit breaker panel. Have panel next to CB panel with master relay that cuts power to PLC, signals master controller, and dumps air.
    Attached Images
    Scott Ames
     

  5. Default  
    #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Posts
    70
    Excel..... that's got to be backed by VBA code

    I actually wrote a complete control package in Excel, the theory was that Excel would make a pretty familiar interface for people to do their own logic programming.

    http://www.mordor.plus.com/Control.html

    the latter versions of Excel control also had DMX and VSA interfacing abilities, but I never got around developing it into a distributable version.
     

  6. Default Yup, VBA at the core. 
    #16
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Oxford, CT
    Posts
    75
    [QUOTE=Phoenix;35139]Excel..... that's got to be backed by VBA code QUOTE]

    Yup. But we cheat a little and use commercially available OPC (based on Microsoft OLE) software. Basically acts a s a bridge between your OPC client software, in this case Excel, and the PLC. But the engine is Visual Basic \ .NET framework.
    Since in the lab we're mostly about data collection, a spreadsheet made the most sense. Suppose we could use Access to dress it up to make it more user friendly.
    Scott Ames
     

  7. Default  
    #17
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Oxford, CT
    Posts
    75
    Quote Originally Posted by Phoenix View Post

    I actually wrote a complete control package in Excel, the theory was that Excel would make a pretty familiar interface for people to do their own logic programming.

    http://www.mordor.plus.com/Control.html

    the latter versions of Excel control also had DMX and VSA interfacing abilities, but I never got around developing it into a distributable version.
    I've got to check this out. Looks interesting. What made you put it on the back burner, just time constraints or did you not see it as viable solution?
    Scott Ames
     

  8. Default  
    #18
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Posts
    70
    Excel control used a custom class I wrote that interfaced the Velleman DLL's with Excel

    I stopped developing it because the Development of Exorcist took over, I wanted a package which was based on my own hardware and I could get some return to justify my time.

    .... and my theory that just about anyone could understand Excel ie =IF(AND(A1,A2),1,0) was EXTREAMLY misguided.

    It all added up to Excel control being unviable, I wanted something that was easy to use, and I think I've got a lot closer to the mark with Exorcist.
     

  9. Default  
    #19
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    6
    Quote Originally Posted by Speculo View Post
    Sound would be the real cool thing here. A great program that could run MANY audio tracks at once, feeding into some sort of attached Pre-amp with RCA outs you could take to multiple amps, now that would be great! It would wipe out the stacks of CD players most of us have, that really don't like fog! Could you have a single PC playing 30+ Tracks, with an attached Preamp? What would it cost?

    Its too late for me on this, We have been converting to Gulderfluke paybacks. This lets me zone the sound and not put "all my eggs in one basket" so to speak.

    But still what is available on this front?

    Thanks!

    Ben
    NETHERWORLD
    --

    No problem. This can be done easily, and with as many outputs as you like depending on your $. You could use a program like pro-tools or even something cheaper... dump audio on individual tracks, and feed to outboard outputs run to whatever zones you like. it's nothing. I'd recommend getting an external mixer so you could be more hands on with it... But the cd players could be tossed to the side and forgotten for a few grand.. Even less really. Hell, I bet I could put together a setup like this for less than 2 grand.. And it would be super flexible and have the ability to throw in off the cuff audio scares in separate areas of the haunt if the person at the board had closed circuit cameras and zones mapped out... I'm day dreaming now... Whats funny is, I don't have a haunt, I run a recording studio and do sound design & production, but when I daydream about owning a haunt, I'm usually mapping out audio... lol.. If you're serious about this, I can sit down an map it out.. Throw me a budget on how much you want to spend and I'll post the pieces you'd need.... It's really as simple as setting up half a studio session. The monitoring section. I've set us this configuration 1000+ times when a band records and everyone wants to hear a different mix in their headphones... Only difference is, you're not recording anyone...
     

  10. Default Haunt audio 
    #20
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Southern CA
    Posts
    141
    If you have multiple soundtracks in your haunt, the best way I have found is to use MP3 players. You avoid all the problems that are associated with CD players, and I think the price is lower than any other system you might find.

    You can get a brand new, name brand player for around 30 bucks... but since you only need one track per player, you can pick up a nice older model with less memory for a very cheap price. Power supplies are another $10-15, but you can get a power supply with 2 USB outlets to power multiple players, since most players these days can be powered through USB.
    Spinning Tunnels www.spinningtunnel.com
     

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