Prevent Accidental Switch Flips

This is really simple, but also very helpful. Are there light switches in your building that should rarely be turned off or on?

You might have some exterior lights by your doors that need to stay on all the time. Or even lights in your sanctuary that need not be accidentally turned on during service.

You might fix this by tapping a sign above the switch pleading with the reader not to touch!! But they will. You could even just put tape of the switch its-self, but that looks terrible.

The best and dare I say classiest way of dealing with the issue is to buy some inexpensive switch covers. I’ve purchased several of these particular ones on Amazon for my church and I love them!

They have 2 modes of operation. You can cover the switch so that only a pencil or pen can turn it on/off. Or you can break off the side tabs so that your fingers can pinch the switch to control it, while still preventing the accidental flick.

Let me know your worst accidental light switch stories below, and protect your switches!

QLC+ LED Matrix Tutorial

The Harware

This quick tutorial will be based on using a 24ch DMX Decoder which is available at Amazon, however, you can use any group of light fixtures you have. This tutorial assumes you have a basic understanding of how to use QLC+ and have been able to control lights with it in the past. Also, that you know how to connect the DMX decoder to LED Strips and your lighting system.

Setup

In QLC+ make sure you have the Fixtures tab selected. Next, click the + icon in the upper left corner as shown below. 

Because the decoder we want to use isn’t an option in the list of fixtures we would need to create our own fixture definition, but because fixture authoring is out of the scope of this tutorial I’ve made one you can download here and put it in the following folder Windows: C:\Users\MyUser\QLC+\Fixtures Mac: MyUser/Library/Application Support/QLC+/Fixtures

You will need to restart QLC+ after you place the file.

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Match your settings to the image above. You can name your fixture whatever you’d like. Set the address in accordance with the rest of your lighting setup. (If you already have other fixtures set up, then make this address whatever the next available address is in your system.) Set the mode to 8 Head. The quantity depends on how many of these decoders you have or are using for this specific matrix. You can set it to 4 here for example and it will generate 4 fixtures, and you can go back and rename each if you’d like. Address Gapping is used to add a buffer between fixtures to prevent the fixtures from mixing up the signal. I’ve never had an issue not putting a gap and there’s on 512 channels available per dmx universe so I don’t like to waste them!

Now that we have all our decoders set up in the software we need to add them to a matrix. I’ll show you how to make a basic 8 x 4 matrix first, then show you how to set it up to make something like this Light Pyramid which is a little trickier.

Select all the DMX Decoders we just set up. Right click them and select “Add fixture to group” then “New Group”

Name the group what you’d like. Again, for this example we will make a Matrix that is 8 pixels wide by 4 pixels high.

You will see a new folder has appeared above “Universe 1”. Click on it and you will see each “head” of all 4 fixtures laid out into a matrix.

Cool… now what?

Now that we have our matrix set up we can add a function that will through color over the whole matrix and change each “Head” to whatever color is theoretically on top of it.

Click on the Functions tab.

Select the RGB Matrix function which is 3 circles blending together as pictured above.

A fancy new window will pop up on the right side of the screen. Name the function what you want. Select the LED Matrix you created in the fixture group drop down. Now you can play around with all the different patterns and their various parameters. The large black rectangle on the left side of this window shows a simulation of what color the lights in the matrix should be representing as. Play around with all the different settings to figure out what they all do. 

Let’s get this thing going!

So you’ve figured out what you want the matrix to do, how do you get it to the lights?

Click on the Virtual Console to set up a button that will send the matrix pattern to your lights.

Select the square icon then double click on the button it creates. which will pop up another dialog window.

Change the button text, and click the Function section icon shown above. 

Select the Matrix function you made and click ok. Also, click ok on the button settings window.

Click the play button in the upper right hand corner to put QLC+ in operational mode. Then click your new button and watch the beautifulness unfold. (Or your face get red with rage when something didn’t work correctly…)

Slightly more advanced set up

If you have a group of elements that are not rectangle you need to add more pixels than you will actually use. For the pyramid, I needed 11 pixels wide by 5 pixels high. I also wasn’t using all 8 heads on 2 of the decoders so I set those two to be using the 7 Head mode.

I then rearranged the heads to reflect their physical arrangement as close as I could. It’s important to realize that you don’t have to use every block in the grid.   

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments below, or tell me what I did wrong. Thanks! 😀

DIY Stage Design: LED Light Pyramid

DIY Stage Design Overview

The overall design for this DIY stage design is 35 feet by 9 feet. It consists of 22 triangular frames with LED rope facing inward. Each of the 22 triangles are individually controllable via DMX and can be whatever color you want. The structure is controlled over DMX from a pc running a free software called QLC+. This software allows the triangles to be set up in an LED matrix which in turn enables color patterns and gradients to be animated across the entire pyramid.

Quick Backstory…

I was recently tasked with creating a new stage design for an upcoming series for which I was also designing the look of. This series was called “Ascend – A long obedience in the same direction.” The pastor wanted the concept of the design to somehow express traveling up a path.

For a long time, I had wanted to create a large stage design with light boxes or frames. I decided I was going to create that effect with this series. So, keeping in line with the series’ aesthetic I thought that a triangle would be a good shape to use and they are much sturdier than a square. If you don’t properly support the corners of a square it will skew and well, not look square anymore. Another reason a triangle is such a good shape for a lightbox is that each side the light is coming from is closer to the center of the shape, therefore you can achieve a brighter, truer color.

The Process

Designing the pryamid

I started my design process in Adobe Illustrator with a document the width of the church stage (scaled to inches) and the hight of the truss I was going to hang the triangles from. Then I used guides to break the space up into rows and columns to figure out the right aspect ratio for the triangles. I was trying to make the triangles and overall design as big as I could while considering these factors:

  • Lumber use (getting the most out of each board)
  • Surface Area (having the triangles small enough to still be bright)
  • DMX Control (number of triangles that will need to be controlled)
  • Keeping a nice grid for color animations
  • Good Design
  • Weight

Layout

With the rows and columns figured out, I drew the first triangle, copied it and scaled it up to fill all the available space. I used the larger triangle as a guide to place the other triangles to form the larger shape. I moved things around a lot adding and taking away triangles until I ended up with the above design.

Planning in the real world

After I had the design and layout, I brought it into Google Sketchup to create plans with real-world measurements and figure out more of the details like how much wood, fabric, wire, LED strips I needed, and how I was going to actually pull it off. I planned on using 1×3 boards to build the triangles. (I ended up getting 1x6s I think, and ripping them down to a little less than 1×3) Also, I used a thin white fabric and white paneling that seemed like it was made from mdf with a whiteboard-like finish on the front. I wanted the insides to be white so that light would bounce around inside making it as bright and colorful as possible. This also diffused the light making it softer as well.

Construction Overview

  • Ripped the boards down to 1x3ish
  • Cut the boards to length for each side of the triangles (Two sides were identical)
  • Mitered the respective angles on each end of the boards so they fit together to make a perfect triangle
  • Cut a 45° angle on the front edge of the boards with the table saw
  • Routed out a channel between the 45° front edge and the back edge
  • Glued and shot a nail into each edge connection
  • Painted the frames white
  • Cut out and stabled white fabric to the frames
  • Soldered connectors to LED strips
  • Glued LED strips into routed channels
  • Cut out triangular backs from the white paneling
  • Skrewed on backs leaving the connector hanging out

45° Angled Front

cutting the 45

I came up with the idea to cut a 45° angle on the front edge of the frames because of my pastor’s perception of the project. The triangles were designed to be reusable. I told the pastor this and he said: “Oh cool, we could put two of them together and make a square.” Which made me realize since the frames were going to be made from 1 by, if you put two together there would be a2-inch thick dark line running through the middle of the square. After a few moments of panicked disappointment, I thought of cutting the 45 so that light could shine edge to edge. I think it made them look even cooler regardless of if we put two together or not.

Fabric

Putting on the fabric

I tried to find a cheap translucent fabric that would let the most amount of light through while also not revealing the LEDs themselves. With no clue what to get, I went to a fabric store and held the cheapest fabrics up to the light to see which would work. I made a pattern from the triangles and added three or four inches to each side so the fabric could wrap all the way to the back. Making sure to leave enough extra to pull it tight as I stapled it to the frame. This took some trial and error to figure out how to do it properly. I think I was able to make it turn out nicely though. There were some wrinkles but these weren’t visible when the lights were on.

Connectors

Connecting the connectors

To help make the triangles reusable/reconfigurable I added a connector to each triangle. This made it so much easier to build the big pyramid. I don’t know how I could have done it without them easily disconnecting from the main shape. This also proved indispensable when needing to repair some of the triangles when the LEDs came unglued. It was a lot of extra work, but again, I think it’s a must!

Structure

Drawing out the structure

I spit the triangles up into 3 groups for control purposes and so that they would be easier to hang from the truss. The DMX decoder I used can control up to 8 LED strips. The two structures on each side are made up of 7 triangles, and the middle consisted of the full 8. Each structure had it’s own decoder and 30 amp power supply.

Building the structure

Once I built all of the triangles, I laid them out one row at a time and attached them to boards. I then connected those rows with more wood creating the different levels of the bigger pyramid. Looking back I would have used kindorf which is a sturdy metal material. The wood bowed with the weight of the triangles, and the wood wasn’t completely straight, to begin with.

DMX Decoder & Power Supply

Control and power supply

A DMX Decoder takes a DMX lighting signal and converts it into a signal the LED strips can understand. Basic decoders only allow you to control one strip, they have three channels, a red, green and blue. The decoder I used, as I mentioned before, controls up to eight separate strips (24 Channels vs 3). This means you can have eight totally different colors being controlled from the single box. The decoder gets an address from 001-512 depending on how other lights in your system are addressed. Let’s say the address is “001”. So the next decoder would be addressed “025” leaving a 24ch gap. But that’s a little more in-depth than this article goes.

To choose the right power supply you need to know the voltage the strips operate at, and how many watts per foot they consume. The strips I used run 12v at 5amps for a 16.4ft. Each triangle only used half a strip so that’s 12v at 2.5 amps. The middle structure has 8 triangles on it so it needs a power supply with 20 amps or 240 watts. So my power supply was rated for 12v at up to 30 amps or 360 watts. The power supply wattage should be greater than your need.

Supplies!

  • And:
  • •Spray Paint
  • •White Cotton Fabric
  • •White Paneling

Tools:

  • Table saw
  • Miter saw
  • Router
  • soldering Iron
  • Wire Strippers
  • Drill
  • Screw Driver

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions ask them in the comments. If you liked the post please share it on the web!