ACW Sign

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The Art Car Wash (ACW) Sign was created by Disorient founder Leo Villareal in 2010. This series of L.E.D. lights made its debut at Burning Man in 2010 where it complimented Disorient’s Art Car Wash project. Since then the ACW Sign has lit up events on the East Coast from Pornj Star to Black & Light Ball.

Android App

by XO
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=info.disorient.acw

Items

First, locate these items (at the dock):
- 32 x 8 ft aluminum channels with 8 led clusters each.
- 8 numbered plastic boxes, four of them have power supplies and LED controllers, four of them only have LED controllers, one of them also has a Leoplayer. Due to a damaged power supply at Gratitude last december, there's a bit of a mess going on with the power distribution but everything should work; I had to rewire some of the power on site, and the bad PSU was never replaced. The 8 controller boxes are normally stored in two blue tote boxes. One of the blue boxes should also contain a bag of hex screws and a box with tools.

Setup

- Align the aluminum channels in pairs. (photo 1)
(photo 1) Align the aluminum channels in pairs.

- Use the hex screws to attach them to each other. (photo 2)
(photo 2) Use the hex screws to attach them to each other.

- The aluminum channels are identical so you can mix and match as you like. You may need to apply a bit of brute force to make some of the alu blocks slip into the channel.
- You now have 16 x 16 ft channels! Place them vertically 1 ft apart and secure them with zip ties. In picture 6 you can see how we tied them to the conduit about 12 ft up.
- Now it's time to hook everything up.

- Connect the DMX cable from the first box to the next, and so on. (photo 3)
(photo 3) Connect the DMX cable from the first box to the next, and so on.

- Each controller box has four gray output cables for a total of 32 outputs per controller.
- Let's name the controller boxes 1-8 and the cables A, B, C and D. When you're looking at the sign, the connections should be as follows:

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1A 1C 2A 2C 3A 3C 4A 4C 5A 5C 6A 6C 7A 7C 8A 8C
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1B 1D 2B 2D 3B 3D 4B 4D 5B 5D 6B 6D 7B 7D 8B 8D
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Unfortunately the cables are not labeled (yet), so you'll have to trace them back to the box to see which channels they connect to: A: 1-8, B: 9-16, C: 17-24, D: 25-32.

Important: While you are setting everything up and connecting the cables, check that all pixels are held in place by the velcro pads and that the solder pins are not touching the aluminum channel. You may need to zip-tie the controller cables to the alu channels to avoid that the cable pulls on the pixels (see picture 4).
(photo 4)

- Now power the whole thing up. No blue smoke? No explosions? Great!
- You should see a green flashing light on each controller.

- Locate the leoplayer (picture 5).
(photo 5)

- The small black square with the white tap below the LCD is actually a mini joy stick. Push it sideways until the display shows: "Test: DMX 512". This will run a chase sequence through all channels, then all pixels 10% on, then full on, then repeat forever. Only 256 out of the 512 channels are actually visible so don't freak out when the whole thing goes dark for a minute during the chase part of the sequence.
- Confirm that each LED cluster is ok. The chase sequence will scan A and C segments from the top down and B and D segments from the bottom up. This is normal :)

(photo 6)

Trouble shooting

- If individual LEDs (of the 9 LEDs in each pixel) are not working: We have replacement pixels in the blue box and/or at the dock, but soldering is required.
- If individual pixels are not working: Check for short circuits between the pixel and the alu channel. Check the controller output for that channel. Maybe the wire came out of the green terminal blocks?
- If strings of 4 or 8 are not working: Check the black connector. Is it properly seated? Did it click into place? Check the output cable from the controller, inside the box. Maybe the red/orange wire(s) came out of the wire nut?
- If groups of 32 pixels are not working: Check the controller. Is is powered on? Is the LED flashing green? Slowly? That means no DMX. Quickly? That means DMX ok. Flashing RED? Something is wrong with the DMX signal. Solid RED? It's dead (but powered on).
- If more than 32 pixels are not working: Are the power supplies ok? There's a green LED on each power supply. Is the green light on? - If nothing is working. Did you plug it in? Is the generator running? :)

Software

The software to drive the ACW sign runs on Windows, Mac OS or Linux and may be downloaded from here:
https://github.com/disorient/acw

but first you'll need to download and install Processing 1.5.1 from here:
http://processing.org/download/

and download the required UDP library from here:
http://ubaa.net/shared/processing/udp/

Place the contents of the udp.zip in <your document folder>\Processing\libraries\udp

There's also an emulator here:
https://github.com/disorient/acw_emulator

If you run the emulator and configure the main acw sketch to use "127.0.0.1" instead of "192.168.1.130" (line 16 in acw.pde) you can see what it should look like right there on your pc and confirm that your Processing setup works before going on site.

On Site

Once on site, connect the Ethernet cable to your pc and configure TCP/IP address manually to something like 192.168.1.100. The leoplayer should be configured for 192.168.1.130 and it will display this on the LCD when powered up. The red "dongle" on the Leoplayer is an Ethernet crossover plug, it may or may not be required depending on your whether your pc/mac/nb supports auto-crossover. When the Ethernet link is good, the green LED should be on on the leoplayer, if the LED is RED, there's something wrong with the Ethernet connection. The Ethernet connectors have seen a lot of playa dust so if there is no connection, try to unplug/replug the Ethernet cable. If it still doesn't work, do it again!

Finally! Run the ACW sketch in Processing, remember to change line 16 back if you have it at 127.0.0.1. If nothing works, check the Processing output window for network errors and such.

It will probably take you 5-6 hours to set this up. An extra pair of hands is good to have.

And ... what could possibly go wrong?