by Jamie Nash and Steve French


For those of you who just stumbled upon this blog post and are now asking, “Installment 2 of 7? What happened to Installment 1?” Here’s a breakdown of our Sounds of the Night blog series:


  1. Overview, concept and background
  2. Creation and build
  3. BeagleBone Black, USB Audio interface and speakers
  4. Implementing the light sensors that were read by the BBB
  5. Designing and driving the LEDs with power mosfets controlled by the BBB
  6. Programming the BBBs with node.js and Bonescript
  7. Challenges we had (both technically and with the weather)


In this post, we will be talking about the creation and build of the interactive critters from our Sounds of the Night exhibit at the Jamestown Audubon. We were very lucky to hire the wonderful artist Gary Peters, who recently animated the official music video for 10,000 Maniacs, as our Artistic Director for this project. Gary was responsible for making all final decisions pertaining to aesthetics and art. A lot went into making these fellas, so we’re breaking it down and starting with the basics: foam and plywood. That’s what they’re made of on the outside, and we’ll talk more about their insides later on. Check it out!


The foam is standard 2″ Owens-Corning XPS Pink Foam Insulation right off the shelf from your local hardware store. Gary hand-carved these into animal shapes and cut the plywood to provide a backbone and mounting for the LEDs. We actually had to use two thicknesses of foam for 4″ total thickness. This is because we needed to hold the LEDs more than 3 inches away from the front surface of the animal so there was no bright spot caused by the proximity of the LED light strip.


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The animal’s foam body is equipped with the LED strip that will eventually light up the critter from the inside out. As you can see above, we simply made a back-lit light box in the shape of an animal. That strip inside the foam body is the white LED light strip.

LED specs:

    • 5000k color temperature white
    • 12VDC
    • 9W/m
    • 120 LEDs / m
    • LED Size: SMD3528
    • IP68 waterproof rating


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In the picture to the right, notice the silicone outer sheath plus the inner silicone jelly. A few comments about this: Most generic LED strips from China do not implement this robust IP68 rating. Volt Vision’s LED strips are used mostly outdoors and often in the sun. Because of this, we use materials that are more expensive than normal strips. We use silicone instead of epoxy for both the outer sheath and the internal jelly. We have learned through years of experience that the normal epoxy material yellows and cracks over time. The silicone material that we special order costs more, but is more professional and lasts for years. The IP68 rating comes from this dual protection layer. Volt Vision has confidently used these materials in many underwater projects.

Most LED strips nowadays come in 5 meter reels, and you can cut them to any desired length with scissors. We will be talking about the soldering and LED driver electronics in Part 5 of this series.

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High Impact Polystyrene

 The front “skin” of the light box is hand-painted using acrylic paint onto High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) 0.040″ thick (40mils). In choosing a material, there is always a trade-off. If the material is too thin, it will easily tear and puncture. If it is too thick, it won’t let enough light through. This 40mil thickness is the sweet spot because it is thick enough to stand up to abuse, and thin enough to allow a nice, uniform glow.


And now for the paint: We have found that acrylic paint works excellently to give good detail for the paint job while still allowing adequate light to come through from behind. Gary used a clear coat finish to protect the paint job from bumps, scrapes and weather.

And if you’re wondering just how large these animals are, check out this photo of our deer next to a person.

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Regarding scale, Gary has learned through experience that when you get things outside and any distance away from people, they get lost quickly. And because it’s an art project, we didn’t want that “larger than life” quality to go away. This is why all of our animal creations are roughly 2 to 3 times the size of an actual animal.

Thanks for reading! Check back for our next installment where we cover the BeagleBone Black, USB Audio interface and speakers for this Sounds of the Night project.

 Posted in Events, Interactive, LED Art Projects, LED Flex Lights, LED Strip Lights, Winter Night Lights at Audubon |  Tagged , , , , |  Leave a comment

by Jamie Nash and Steve French

Hello everybody! We are excited to announce that Volt Vision is launching a seven-part series of blog posts about one of our many BeagleBone Black projects: Sounds of the Night. This series will be a technical walkthrough detailing every aspect of building this project. This post will be number 1 in that series, so check back each week for the next installment!

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As you may know from our blog, Volt Vision’s workshops at FIT2013 in Guatemala focused heavily on the BeagleBone Black and how students could implement it into their own projects. Now, we’ll show you how we incorporated it into one of our own: Winter Night Lights at the Audubon 2013.


One of Volt Vision’s five “wows” at the Jamestown Audubon Center was Sounds of the Night — an interactive project with an environmentally educational theme. The exhibit included five animal creations, all of which represent animals native to the Western New York area. They were hand painted by Gary Peters and equipped with interactive LED lights and sound effects. When a flashlight’s beam pointed at the light sensor, the animal came to life! Each animal — an owl, a raccoon, a bobcat, a deer and a fox — lit up and serenaded the crowd with its own sound.

Check out this clip, from a larger video by cinematographer Nigel Eastman, to see the animals in action.


During the development of Sounds of the Night, Volt Vision had the pleasure of working with node.js master Daniel Zavala from Mexico. The following video is a celebration, showing Daniel the exciting moment when his program first works! As you can see, the “animal” is not yet attached, but the sensor and sound are ready to go.


As we mentioned earlier, this post is just the first in a series of seven blog posts detailing our work with the BeagleBone Black. Next time, we’ll go more into depth about the creation and building of Sounds of the Night. So stay tuned! Here’s what’s in store:


1) Overview, concept and background
3) BeagleBone Black, USB Audio interface and speakers
4) Implementing the light sensors that were read by the BBB
5) Designing and driving the LEDs with power mosfets controlled by the BBB
6) Programming the BBBs with node.js and Bonescript
7) Challenges we had (both technically and with the weather)
 Posted in Educational, Events, Interactive, LED Art Projects, LED Flex Lights, LED Strip Lights, Winter Night Lights at Audubon |  Tagged , , , , |  Leave a comment

Yay! We won! *cue confetti and obnoxious noise makers*

Remember that blog post where we told you we were entering NI mate’s birthday contest? Well, we won that contest, and we’re super excited about it! Check out NI mate’s site to see our graphic and video front and center.


We’d like to thank Julius Tuomisto and everyone at Delicode for featuring us. You guys are awesome!

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by Jamie Nash and Steve French


FIT2013 may be over, but the concepts, learning, and inspiration are still ongoing for us. Looking back at the past FIT conference, we’ve put together an informative video, a compilation of highlights from the experience, and lots and lots of Thank-Yous. So come on! Take a virtual trip to Guatemala with us!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with FIT, or Foro de Innovación Tecnológica, the event is a meeting-of-the-minds that takes place at Universidad Galileo in Guatemala. This past year, a lineup of presenters including Volt Vision President Steve French conducted a series of workshops meant to teach and inspire. Volt Vision’s FIT workshops taught electrical, computer, and software engineering students the tools they need to change the world for the better.

One of Volt Vision’s main focuses was the BeagleBone Black — an easy-to-use development platform for both developers and hobbyists — created by BeagleBoard. BeagleBoard is a collaboration of innovators that includes several employees of Texas Instruments. In Volt Vision’s workshops, the students learned how Digital LED strips work, then dug deep into the BeagleBone Black and learned how to configure the hardware. They also learned about OLA (Open Lighting Architecture) and how to leverage new open standards to implement professional lighting. And all this was done through hands-on, interactive, and deeply engaging work — or, as we call it, play.

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For more information about presentations given at FIT2013, check out Frenchy’s blog post that details each workshop.

And, we promised more Thank-Yous, so here they are! Volt Vision would like to thank:

Oscar Rodas
Eduardo Corpeño
Edgar Martinez
Marcos Cano
Christopher Reyes
Emérita Quevedo
Cristian Aguilar
Fernando To
Milky – Amílcar Véliz
Preng Biba
Rodolfo Rodas
Antonio Galicia
Mariano Mazariegos
Wifi Cordon
Anton Olsen
Eli Hughes
Julián Duque
Daniel Zavala
…all the guys from CODE Ingenieria!!!
Jean Paul Suger
Rodrigo Baessa
José Raúl de León (Chepe)
Byron Carranza
José Rojas

 Posted in Educational, LED Strip Lights |  Tagged , , , , , , |  1 Comment

by Jamie Nash and Steve French

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Remember those adorable plant animations featured at Night Lights at the Botanical Gardens 2014? Ever wonder how those little guys were able to mimic your silly dance moves? Well, a how-to video by our creative partner Gary Peters has all the answers you’re looking for.

Cool, right? We hope so. Because we’re entering this workflow video in NI mate’s contest in honor of their second birthday. Our animations wouldn’t have been the same without Delicode‘s NI mate, and here’s why: The NI mate software allowed us to hook into the OSC skeleton data of whoever is standing closest to the camera. This NI mate skeleton data is pre-formatted in a way that Animata — the animation program we used — understands right out of the box. It was very easy to set up, and the NI mate support was great!

Check out this flow diagram for a breakdown of the animation process.


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While these animations really stole the show, they had some competition with another one of our Night Lights 2014 features: A Wii-mote-controlled LED sculpture called Letting Go. A VoltVision collaboration with the Chautauqua County Arts Council and Falconer High SchoolLetting Go is also explored in WGRZ’s video “Gardens Aglow in Buffalo.” To see the full video, check out our YouTube channel.

 Posted in Animation, Educational, Events, Interactive, Night Lights at the Buffalo Botanical Gardens |  Tagged , , , , , , |  1 Comment

For three  consecutive years, Volt Vision has worked with the Arts Council for Chautauqua County to think up fun and innovative ways to combine electronics, LEDs and art. It all began with “magic” light boxes (the magic, of course, being LEDs) and took off from there, with last year’s group creating the colorful magic lanterns displayed at Night Lights at the Buffalo Botanical Gardens 2014. All the lanterns seen at the Gardens were created by Mrs. Clark’s art class at Falconer High School. Combined with light kits from Volt Vision, these projects really shine!

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This year, the collaboration reached a whole new level: “magic” sculptures. Eight Falconer students in Mrs. Clark’s sculpture class teamed up with Volt Vision to engineer five life-sized, LED-lit sculptures from Eco-friendly packing tape. Like last year’s lanterns, the sculptures were featured at the Buffalo Botanical Gardens during Night Lights 2014, and they were a big hit! One of the sculptures, Letting Go, by Sydney Moore and Katelyn Rodgers, was controlled by a Wii-mote that rotated her dress and torso through the color spectrum. As the students learned, this sculpture’s dress and torso were always in sync to display complementary colors, or colors on the opposite ends of the color spectrum. The elegant sculpture also boasted 207 full-color pixels and, given the correct programming, she could even serve up her own web page! This sculpture was featured on the local news, WGRZ; check out our YouTube channel to watch the video.


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Through the collaboration, Volt Vision had the opportunity to fulfill one of its core objectives: Education. In teaching students about the science of color, the possibilities offered by LEDs, the inner-workings of electronics and the joys of creating art, Volt Vision is giving off STEAM. A winning combination of interdisciplinary educational fields, STEAM is a model for teaching the real-life relationships between Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics. With STEAM, students don’t simply sit and listen; they do. And that’s what Volt Vision is all about!

Volt Vision is just getting started defining the engines of interactive art for tomorrow. The avenues for education are endless. And with the STEAM framework, collaborations like this one, and the cooperation of Arts Councils, it looks like the future will be a bright one.

Got questions? Interested in collaborating on your own unique project? Contact us for more information.

 Posted in Educational, LED Art Projects |  Tagged , , , , , |  1 Comment










Winter Night Lights is transforming the nighttime landscape of Audubon into a multicolored light-time extravaganza, but it’s more than that.  Audubon naturalists teamed up with Engineer Steve French of Volt Vision in Warren and artist Gary Peters of Jamestown to create an amazing show that is fun and educational at the same time. Read More from the Jamestown Audubon Center & Sanctuary

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Steve French of Volt Vision is very happy to be writing this from FIT2013 in Guatemala!!  Thank you very much for inviting me back for the 3rd year in a row!!  The event is for Electrical, Computer and Software engineers….to inspire them… to help them change the world for the better…

Here is a list of the various presenters this year… (check out the picture they found for me!)

Here are some highlights from today!

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I am giving several presentations as follows…

Workshop #1 Name: Audio Ears for your Embedded Project (Hands-on with Volt Vision’s Electret Mic Board

Workshop #2 Name: Professional Lighting with Embedded Linux! (Hands-on with the new Beaglebone Black)

Workshop #3 Name: Schematics & Simulation with Eagle

Workshop #4 Name: PCB Layout & Gerber Details with Eagle

Workshop#1, here is a link to the presentation:  here

Workshop#2, here is a link to the presentation:  here

Workshop#2, also here is a link to my journey getting OLA (and WS2801 digital LED strips) working on the BeagleBone Black: here

Workshop#3, here is a link to the presentation:  here

Workshop#4, here is a link to the presentation:  here

Get it!



 Posted in Educational, Events, LED Art Projects, LED Controllers, LED Flex Lights, LED Strip Lights |  3 Comments