Some pretty cool information about the costume that will be Wes’s outfit for the upcoming Bizkit tour that starts next monday in Argentina.
As I indicated before, Wes’s costume is the result of many talented people.
My part was electronics and programming. The “brain” that runs the lighting is called the Propeller chip, from a U.S. company called Parallax. Some of your technically-inclined readers may wonder why I didn’t use the Arduino, which is the most popular microcontroller in the world right now. The fact of the matter is that the Arduino, as nice as it might be, doesn’t have the power to run this costume or any of the other projects I’ve work on with Steve and his team (including four characters for Riot Games).
The Propeller is actually a multi-core processor, that is, it has eight processors inside one chip. This is important. On Wes’s suit, for example, we have about 180 RGB pixels on the head, and about 110 on the arm. Each of these LED sets are being updated by their own processor inside the Propeller 200 times every second. This allows us to do animation programming in another processor and have confidence that we’ll see what we expect.
The LED pixels use the WS2801 driver chip (each pixel has a chip). I wrote a custom driver for the Propeller in assembly language (PASM) for best speed. As I indicated a moment ago we’re actually running to copies of this driver in separate cogs (processors); one for the head, one for the arm.
The main program is written in a language called Spin. This was created for the Propeller to make multi-core programming very easy. Experienced programmers can learn Spin in about a day; it has features from popular languages like C, Pascal, and Python. There are other languages available for the Propeller, but I am very comfortable with Spin and have an enormous code base built up that is written in Spin — that helps when we have quick-turn projects like Wes’s costume.
Wes wears the controls and a battery (11.1v LiPo) on his belt (in back). We engineered the sequences so that a full charged battery will run longer than a typical show.
For any of your readers that might be interested in the Propeller, have the go to www.parallax.com. I write about programming the Propeller for a magazine called Nuts & Volts — many of my past columns are available on-line at Parallax.
Photo by Matt Demers
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