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TOPIC: What do you want in a RGBA saber?

What do you want in a RGBA saber? 4 months 2 weeks ago #82873

  • ToyKeeper
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Hi, just looking for info about what people like and dislike about their RGBA/RGBW/multi-color sabers, and what you want it to do that it doesn't do already.

I'm wondering because I made a new RGBA driver designed to fit into SaberForge sabers, and it does the things I want, but I'd like to make sure it does what other people want too.

So what do you like? What do you dislike? What would you add or change or do differently?
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What do you want in a RGBA saber? 4 months 2 weeks ago #82874

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Oh, um, for some context... I make open-source flashlight firmware based on the desires of the flashlight community (BLF, mostly), and have been wanting to do something similar for lightsabers. If nothing else, this means I get a cool saber which does whatever I want, but I'm hoping it can be useful for others too.
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What do you want in a RGBA saber? 4 months 2 weeks ago #82877

  • KelbornX
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Out of curiosity, have you looked at the current offerings on the saber market? And are you making a soundboard, or simply an LED driver for stunt sabers? I remember your other post about this and it seems like it'd be a cool idea... if it can be different enough from what's already out there.

Also, you say you develop the firmware? Firmware for... what? Arduino? Teensy? Something else? Whatever card you intend, it's going to need to fit into sabers as well.

7-Chambers makes the CoreFX and JQ Sabers makes the Spectra, which are RGB blade controllers/drivers for stunt sabers. Preset color mixes, blade effects (Flash on Clash, shimmer/flicker/pulse), etc.

Those two boards do everything I would want in a basic LED driver already. Only thing I would add would be two more color presets: a "mint green" and indigo/violet.

Do note that most RGB setups are actually using RGrB; Red, Green, Royal Blue. Standard Blue is quite a bit toward Green and you get a better color range from using Royal Blue.

And between Naigon's Electronic Creations and Plecter Labs, there's quite a few options for soundboards.

Personally, I strongly dislike "RGBA/W". There's just not a good LED solution for that. The "all four dies in the middle" that SF and Electrum use is better than the "all four dies spread out in a + pattern" for our purposes, but it still has its drawbacks compared to an RGB-tri LED: namely uneven color mixing and a large base flare with a dimmer tip. The quad does give the benefit of a dedicated White or Amber FoC, which is an acceptable trade-off to some.

If you decide to proceed with this project, I would suggest something that would accommodate both a tri-RGrB and a quad-RGrBA/W. Perhaps some menu selection to differentiate the two for handling Flash on Clash (using either the dedicated A/W or mixing the RGrB for White/Silver).
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What do you want in a RGBA saber? 4 months 2 weeks ago #82881

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Thanks, KelbornX. I have indeed looked at other saber drivers, and I'm pretty sure there's nothing like this yet. Coming from a different background, it seems I'm taking a different approach to a lot of things.

This version is light-only, no sound. I'd like to do one with sound too, but that depends on how this first project goes.

I have it working already, and in my practice saber. The default is RGBA but it also works fine with RGB or, really, anything with up to 4 colors of emitter at up to 4 A / 16 W total power. Can even do photo red, green, royal blue, and ultraviolet, to get a wider color spectrum. The user can select any color, including mint green and indigo/violet... or even both at the same time since it allows somewhat complex color and lighting effects. For example, one of the default modes is a red/blue police flasher.

No accelerometer on this version though, so no automatic flash on clash, but the user can at least flash the blade manually.

Lots of other details too, but I'm more interested in hearing what people want than talking about what I already have.
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What do you want in a RGBA saber? 4 months 2 weeks ago #82886

  • Kouri
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Mmm~ since even the basic boards in each of the major lines support color changing, my only real interest in a dedicated driver would be something I could tack onto an Economy board like a BladeBuilder or ForceFX.

Kind of like how UltraSabers' Emerald driver reads from the LED- and FoC- pads on the Obsidian board to know when to turn its LEDs on or off, something that could be tied to the PNP transistor on a BB board or the NPN on an FX board to turn itself on/off without needing another switch.
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What do you want in a RGBA saber? 4 months 2 weeks ago #82893

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Kouri, you've been consistently helpful and knowledgeable. Your posts have been very useful to me while learning about what's available and how it works.

I've always found some aspects of saber electronics a bit strange though, like putting light and sound on separate boards, restricting accelerometer responses to merely triggering .wav files and simple flashes, and requiring extra hardware (inline resistors) to avoid blowing out LEDs. And short standby times.

Looking at light-only boards, I find things seem pretty limited... like, 12 colors and 5 patterns, and that's all. More full-featured drivers improve that, but they still seem somewhat limited in scope and awkward to configure. And as far as I can tell, none of the driver developers share code or schematics with each other or tries to collaborate, so each vendor ends up in their own proprietary silo. This is odd for me since I've done free software for so long.

Since I'm approaching these things differently, it may perhaps be useful to give a bit more detail about what I'm doing.

Instead of predefined colors and patterns, I've set things up so the user can intuitively choose any colors they want and create their own patterns in ways which are too numerous to count in a meaningful way. They can basically turn knobs while watching the results real-time, until the saber looks how they want... similar to how one builds new sounds from scratch on an analog synthesizer.

Instead of converting analog inputs like accelerometers into digital events like "clash" or "swing", the plan is to embrace its analog nature and turn the saber into a thing which can be played like an instrument... responding in direct proportion to what the user does. For example, a light tap would produce a different result than a heavy strike, naturally, by using the analog data directly instead of trying to interpret it to trigger events.

Instead of playing a set of .wav files, the idea is to synthesize the sounds real-time... using a variety of digital and analog inputs to help shape the sound. Tapping the saber against a wine glass would produce a different sound than tapping it against a wooden table, which would make a different sound than hitting a pillow. Wiggling the blade gently would produce different sounds than a hard slash, which would produce a different sound than an extended spin. Ideally, users would also be able to create their own unique sound by turning the knobs and moving the virtual patch cables.

Instead of separate light and sound, the two would be driven by the same synthesis engine, with lighting and sound directly synchronized and even capable of affecting each other.

Instead of inline floating resistors with no heat sinking and no consistency across voltages, I'm using current control. I also have thermal regulation working, though I'm not sure it'll be much use in a saber due to the physical design of the hosts. I eliminated the need to use a kill key while off, by making parasitic standby drain lower than the cell's self-discharge rate... so standby time is like a decade. I also integrated battery check and lockout functions with no need for a DMM or kill key.

Instead of keeping all the code secret, I'd ideally like to make it all open-source. Given the amount of work involved in the full project though (with sound), I'm not sure how feasible that will be... so hopefully I can figure out some way to fund development without making it a black box. Light-only was pretty inexpensive to develop since it was only a small step from flashlights to lightsabers, but sound adds at least an order of magnitude to the time investment.

Since I'm coming from sort of an outside perspective, hearing people's thoughts so far has been very educational and enlightening... and I hope to learn more. For example, some of the suggestions will require more MCU pins than I currently have, like talking to other boards, so I should probably prioritize a MCU upgrade. Was already considering it so I could add an accelerometer, but it seems even more important now.
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What do you want in a RGBA saber? 4 months 2 weeks ago #82907

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Mmmm, speaking of synthesizing sound, one of the new ideas floating around is accelerometer based sound generation. I don't have the exact formulas, but the idea is that three hum files (low, medium, and high frequencies) are stored in memory and mixed in real time based on accelerometer/gyroscope data. No need for separate swing sounds.

I don't have any links on me, but the designer is TeensySaber wrote up his own interpretation of the SmoothSwing code based on descriptions of the v1 algorithm. The code is available on the website and might offer some input.

As for dynamic lighting, the FX-SaberOS used in DIYino apparently has a color selection mode where each axis of the motion sensor controls one of the RGB values. That might be something you can consider implementing in real time. That code is also open source.

Mmm~ dunno.
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What do you want in a RGBA saber? 4 months 2 weeks ago #82912

  • jbl420
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As for synthesis, I'm wondering if that's biting off a bit more than can be chewed.

While there are some tiny synths out there, they are also quite limited. And tbh, a good transistor hum that matches the users wants would be quite possible but to add other sounds will be trickier bc you'll need a polyphonic synth engine which would need more circuits and a much more complex OS. Can you code?

The Op-1 is a synth with accelerometer. For super small synths check out little bits system. There's also bastl synths. These guys have some small block synth systems. Mutable instruments have multiple open source synth board plans available as well. I built one (well, tried lol) and it was a mono, dsp with anolog filter and about the size of a paperback.

Maybe a paraphonic two voice digital would work but you'd need to either create a user friendly interface to tweak sounds or program them yourself and offer as patches.
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What do you want in a RGBA saber? 4 months 2 weeks ago #82913

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Kouri, those ideas are kind of on the right track, but it sounds like they miss the mark a bit. I'm aiming more along the lines of a full synthesis engine which doesn't need .wav files at all. That's well beyond the scope of this first project though, since it's light-only.

I already have working code to integrate accelerometer data (or other inputs) into the light patterns, but I don't have the actual sensor yet so it's just mapped to the button in an all-or-nothing sort of way. This gives a nice manual flash-on-clash or lockup effect which automatically adapts to match the current lighting pattern, but it'd be a lot better with a sensor instead of a button.

Somehow I haven't heard of TeensySaber before. It looks like an awesome project and I should probably get in touch with the author. :)
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Last Edit: 4 months 2 weeks ago by ToyKeeper.
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What do you want in a RGBA saber? 4 months 2 weeks ago #82914

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Jbl420, that's more along the lines of what I have in mind. I've been experimenting with sounds on several relatively-simple synths, and I think it would work pretty well. This would have to be analog-modelling though, not true analog, because of space and cost constraints.

I'm familiar with several bastl devices and have an OP-1, along with some other noise-makers. They're great fun. The microbrute is particularly enjoyable to play with, and very good at making rich bass sounds.

Patch editing remains to be determined. I'm going to want a convenient way to do it for my own use, which may turn into a more generic interface for everyone to use too, but that'd have to be on a computer because a couple buttons on a saber just isn't enough. I've got onboard editing for lighting, but sounds are a lot more complex.

The overall idea, though, is to build it primarily as an instrument... which happens to have some buttons and an accelerometer and possibly some other inputs instead of using knobs, sliders, and keys.
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What do you want in a RGBA saber? 4 months 2 weeks ago #82915

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Cool!
I'll have to keep up with this and maybe beta test :-)

The op-1 is great fun. Actually I sold it and my microbrute (true the bass was good but it didn't really fit for me).

Honestly, I'm more of a sampler guy and can't wait to get the sc3 I ordered bc I'm gonna build a few new fonts like blade runner, tron and BG.
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What do you want in a RGBA saber? 4 months 2 weeks ago #82920

  • Kouri
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Unrelated, but I thought I'd ask since you've the flashlight experience - how vital is a heatsink on a 7135 driver? A while back I'd been toying around with the idea of stuffing a tri-XP-L inside a saber with a 6A linear driver and a couple parallel 18650s.
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What do you want in a RGBA saber? 4 months 2 weeks ago #82927

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Kouri wrote:
how vital is a heatsink on a 7135 driver? A while back I'd been toying around with the idea of stuffing a tri-XP-L inside a saber with a 6A linear driver and a couple parallel 18650s.

Most AMC7135 chips will regulate their own temperature by throttling back when they get too hot, but they do nothing to help with heat-sinking the emitters. It's still a good idea to make sure the chips have a thermal path to the outside if possible, but they at least won't destroy themselves if insulated.

So I'd mostly focus on heat-sinking the emitters, making sure the LED module has good solid contact with the outer host. Most saber hosts I've seen are designed so the LED module slides in and is retained by a single screw, which doesn't make a very good thermal path, and 6A is enough power for that to matter during sustained use.

Another option is to just use a single FET instead of 16x7135 chips, and a single XP-L emitter. The XP-L typically takes about 6A if it has good heat sinking, and has a high enough Vf to settle there naturally with a single high-amp cell or a couple parallel medium-amp cells. It won't have a flat runtime graph, but it's a lot simpler and cheaper and the FET won't even get hot. This makes more heat at the emitters, less heat at the driver.

Or with triple XP-L, you could go for much higher power, limited mostly by how effective you can make the thermal path. I have a quad XP-L in a roughly saber-sized host which runs at 20A, though for sustained use it generally should be throttled back a bit.

In all cases, if you have long or thin wires between driver and emitters, it'll raise the effective Vf and lower the current and spread some of the heat along the wire. I'm accustomed to having the two only 1-2cm apart with 22awg or thicker wires between, but a lot of sabers I've looked at are more like 26awg and 10cm, which makes the wire a much bigger source of resistance.
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