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Discussion Starter #1
I'm going to be modifying a Bucky skull soon in an attempt to get him talking. Originally I wanted to use a Prop-1 controller, but I saw a video online of someone that used the Prop-1 and I didn't like the movement to much. So I decided to give the Brookshire software a try using a Parallax USB servo controller.

I haven't purchased anything yet, but I wanted to know if anyone has any experience with these components or any suggestions for me. Initially I want to simply get the jaw movement dialed in and perhaps, at a later date, try to upgrade it with additional animation such as panning, head tilting, and eye movement. From what little I know, the Brookshire software enables you to program movement using the computer mouse rather than having to actually write code.

Lastly, is there a compromise when it comes to using high end metal gear, dual ball bearing servo's as opposed to nylon gear type servo's? The metal gear type seem to emit a high amount of gear noise, but also seem to be very smooth, which is essential when it comes to a talking character. What is the general consensus with servo type that most of you use? Thanks.
 

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I just got the Parallax board and VSA for a similar project you are working on. After playing with it, I really like the VSA interface. Although a tad time consuming with regards to inputing the commands (yes, via mouse), it's fairly easy once you get going. Metal geared servos are stronger, but wear out and you get "play" int he gear mesh eventually. Composite gears and nylon gears aren't as strong, but if you aren't putting a heavy load on them they last longer. Titanium gears are the rolls royce of servo gears, but of course are most expensive. Really it depends on your needs. For your project, you can get away with nylon gears for everthing but the tilt mech. For that you should have a high torque metal gear servo, because the front face of a bucky is kinda heavy. Hope that helped.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Hi Morbius,

Glad to see you're doing something similar and are using the same components. Yeah, I have no doubt whether writing code or using Brookshire's software, it's a very long tedious process to do something like this, not to mention really getting it dialed in correctly.

Rather than use one of my existing Bucky skulls, I'm going to order a 1st quality version off of Ebay since they are inexpensive. I'll also be purchasing the Parallax board too this week. Can you recommend a nylon gear type servo that is fairly reliable for the jaw movement? Thank again.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
BTW...I take it the servo controller is simply just that, but do I need another basic stamp component that actually gets the code written and saved to it? I'm downloading the servo controller instructions now, I'll see if it mentions anything.
 

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You can download the demo VSA from www.brookshiresoftware.com. Its fuctional and you can see what it does. If you do the online purchase they will email the key to make it fully functional.

You wont need a stamp...just the servo controller. But keep in mind that the controller has to stay connected to a PC.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
[QUOTEBut keep in mind that the controller has to stay connected to a PC.[/QUOTE]

I didn't realize the computer would have to be connected while in use. I do have a spare desktop that I could use. I'd just have to get a long enough USB cable to reach the prop. Thanks.
 

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Yep...I forgot about about the RAPU

http://www.brookshiresoftware.com/rapu3_order.php?ct=yes&PHPSESSID=6a30a105f79f39ff104bff62221d3f5c

Its pricey... and you would still need a servo controller. Id sure like to have one.

Another consideration... With a USB servo controller (...and serial too) there are some distance limitations.

"The maximum length of a USB cable is 5 meters (16 feet). The maximum number of USB hubs that can be daisy-chained (connected in series) is five. Thus if a device is connected to a PC through 5 hubs, then the maximum distance from the device to the PC is 30 meters (98 feet) (6 cables @ 5 meters or 16 feet each)."

Im thinking the max run for a serial connection is 300 feet.

So, it would be less expensive to keep the servo controller (USB or serial) close to the PC and use a cheaper cable between the servo controller and the prop servos. Some use a heavy guage servo wire, shielded 3 wire cable, standard phone wire, CAT3/CAT5.

But then that presents another proplem...possible signal loss to the servos due to voltage drop over distance and/or induced noise on the cable. However, there are several people who have reported that they used standard phone wire or CAT5 to around 100 feet without problems. I've used CAT5 cable to about 30 feet and didnt have any problems with servo signal.
 

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The Brookshire VSA software / Parallax USB controller is very easy to use...A Laptop works best for props....We used a Rapu at the Haunt but it was buggy at best. After loading the VSA software and connecting the Parallax board you will need to load the FTDI drivers for the parallax board.

Connect a servo motor to port 1 on the Parallax card, make sure switch is in the on position, and the 5 or 6 volt dc adapter is connected.

1. Launch the VSA software
2. go to settings (f3) Make sure type is "parallax servo", com port maches your parallax usb port, and all port settings are 38400.
3.Load audio file (f2)
4 You can create a instant jaw routine using wavemotion analysis. hit enter to play it back.

or you can connect a joystick and use capture mode to do a jaw movement.

These steps are great for a test drive...When you install your servos in the skull you will have to set servo range limits before you finalize your routines

You are not limited to just servo's... there are PWM relays, relay driver boards, and DMX devices too.

As far as noise goes...you just turn up the volume on a good set of computer speakers and you wont even hear the servos operate.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Hi folks,

Thanks for all the great responses. While reading the downloaded instruction manual, I came across the RAPU. I remembered this was the same components recommended by the Skultronix people. I seem to recall the RAPU may have been like $300.00. For starters, I think I'm going to go with my spare tower computer that runs Win XP Pro. I can set the computer in my garage about 14 feet from where the prop would be placed outside. If it doesn't work, I can always consider the RAPU, which would be a great thing to have.

I also seem to recall that the RAPU is not weather proof at all, so I assume mounting it in an enclosure, or even underneath a table of some kind to keep it away from the elements. Either way, I would just make installation of the RAPU a modular type so it could be removed and brought in the house at night. I'll keep you all posted as to my progress. I just ordered the servo controller from Parallax, so my parts quest has begun. Thanks again for all your help.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Also, I would stick with the Hitec HS-425 servos. I use them in my talking skull and haven't had any issues.QUOTE]

Hi Zeenon,

It looks like your website was the one I was looking at the other day. I started this tread in an attempt to follow what you have done. By the way, great job on your props. If by any chance you decide to sell those neck brackets you installed in your skull, please keep me in mind. I've studied all your photos, but the process of actually creating that part so the skull can tilt and pan eludes me. When I get the jaw action to the way I want it, I'm going to move forward with it and try to get the eyes to flash to the audio phrase and also pan left and right. I'm just going to take it one step at a time. Thanks again for the information about the Hitec servo. I'll be sure to use them.
 

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I was in the same boat as you Richie, I stared at Deadman's Inn for months trying to figure the pan/tilt mechanism out, and then one day it all fell into place and I built one! You can probably cheat and go to ServoCity.com where for about $35. they sell a pan/tilt setup that you might be able to adapt to your skull. Zeenon, I know you eventually went to a VSA system, but initially you had your skull running a ST100 and a Prop1 and had it all going pretty good. I'm trying the same thing with the Prop1 with Jon at EFX, but it's going kinda slow, and I was wondering if you might have any advice for setting up pan/tilt programming?
 

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Just wanted to show you why I decided to go with the Prop1 vs VSA. I'm trying to keep everything tucked under the clavium with as few wires exposed as possible (sorta plug-n-play)
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Brad,

You just overwhelmed me with that photo, holy cow! In addition to how impressive it looks, I never would have thought with so much electronics that it would be installed so neatly. You can do all that and you're still having issues? Looks like I have a very serious amount of work ahead of me. I can't wait to see a video of this.

Also, I was originally going to use the prop-1, but after looking at Zeenon's first two video links, the third one when he switched to the other software or servo controller, really appeared to be much smoother working. I think he mentioned it was also due to the limited memory of the prop-1. Speaking for myself, after seeing what the Skulltronics folks did, setting my sights on something at that level is the only way to go, and I know it'll be anything but easy.
 

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I'm pretty sure that the main reason Zeenon went with the VSA and parallax setup is limited space inside the bucky with all those servo's...when you go this route you can eliminate the Scary Terry audio boards. See his before and after pics. and you are also correct the prop1 is very limited in storage space.

I am not knocking the Prop1 or Prop2 boards....All of these solutions have thier place for the home haunter.
 

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You may be right on that one Halloweenguy, I'm right at maximum capacity with 3 servos, pan/tilt device, ST100, Prop1, mp3 player and all the wiring, let alone trying to cram eye servos in place. Granted, I do agree with Richie that the action with a VSA setup is smoother, but, with alot of fine tuning, I think I can get pretty decent results with what I have, plus the fact that I'm bound and determined to get ALL of it inside this skull if it kills me! There's only two wires jacked into it now, and I intend for it to stay that way. If I'm not off the mark, the other reason Zeenon went with the VSA is the length of his dialogue was pretty substantial, whereas mine is just using the Stephen Lynch song "Halloween" (2min, 38sec) and then resetting.
 

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Perfect timing guys!! Just got my servo board yesterday and am still working on getting all the servos mounted in the skull. Look forward to updates from all. Hopefully I'll get some time to experiment this weekend.
 
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