Drop Controller DIY

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One of the things that was evident after my week of playing with drops is that I think I had reached a limit with my current drop controller…

A while back I had bought two extra valves and spent not a small amount of time trying to set them up without a lot of success…

Problem being that without having almost macro rail micro adjustability on the valves to get the drops to land at the same time you need to be able to control each valve individually… unfortunately the HiViz controller doesn’t have that functionality so I just put the valves away and up until ‘drip week’ I hadn’t touched the drip rig at all…

Did some research and came across a guy called Martyn that had built his own controller on a breadboard using an Arduino Nano to control it… the spec was appealing… there was a PC app and an Android app to control it using USB or Bluetooth… individual control of valves, proper fine control over time and drop size values and totally DIY… was right up my street and was also very cheap to build parts wise…

I ordered up a load of parts…
Drop Controller DIY

The site has a guide for building a breadboard version and a perf board version… circuit diagrams were essentially the same but the breadboard version had a couple of nice extras so decided to use vero board instead and pick and choose between both circuit diagrams to build what I wanted…

Meant that I had to design the layout on the fly but to be honest thats half the fun 🙂
Drop Controller DIY

The vero boards I bought weren’t quite large enough for all the components but that was no bad thing… completed the PSU, valve, camera and flash control circuits on the one board… decided it was a good time to power up and test that it would hold its blue smoke in…

Drop Controller DIY

I used a second board for the Arduino Nano and Bluetooth board (which took a little time to arrive) and then using the Arduino IDE I loaded the ‘Sketch’ that Martyn had already written..
Drop Controller DIY

As I was waiting for the Bluetooth module I used the PC software over USB to test the controller

Happy with that…

A couple of days later the BT module turned up so did a quick test of the app and all was good…
Drop Controller DIY

Only thing I didn’t have at the moment was a project case as I wasn’t sure how much room the vero boards would take up once complete… it was while having a well deserved takeaway…
Drop Controller DIY

…that I had an idea 🙂
Drop Controller DIY

Sorted! 😀

On the subject of ‘ideas’… I had been looking at a better way to manage gels on the flashes… the lighting gel I was using was cheap enough so needed a suitably cheap solution… the various slide in filter housings were mostly around a tenner each… I had four flash guns so 40 quid seemed a bit excessive… I then found some perspex place name holders that were pretty much the perfect shape… less than a quid each too…

They needed a little bit of work to be where I wanted them…
Drop Controller DIY

So using a heat gun I carefully warmed the plastic up to bend it to the position I wanted..
Drop Controller DIY

..and cut the lighting gel to the right size… result 🙂
Drop Controller DIY

Time for a proper test… hooked up the controller..
Drop Controller DIY

Just used two flashes, one valve and plain water to test the controller… wanted to keep it simple so as not to introduce too many variables to the test..

The video shows the flashes in front bouncing off the plexi background but lighting wasn’t quite right so changed them to fire through a frosted piece instead…
Drop Controller DIY

Dialling in was much much easier… was nice having so much precision over the control… the increment/decrement feature is brilliant… takes far less shots to get results and tapping away at the app over Bluetooth just seems more efficient…

Most of the shots I took were just faffing about to get a feel for the hardware and software… I did process out a couple though just because…
Drop Controller DIY

Drop Controller DIY

Very happy with the results so far… looking forward to experimenting more and the next step is to add the other two valves in and see how that goes…

Some useful links…

Martyn’s drop controller website if you fancy having a go yourself…
http://www.dropcontroller.com/

Arduino website…
https://www.arduino.cc/

Martyn’s own site containing some nice info on Arduino stuff
http://www.martyncurrey.com/

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