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How To Make a 3D Printed Gaff Tape Dispenser
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Turn a $10 Amazon Tape Dispenser into a specialized Gaff Tape Gun

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Step 1

Buy [this specific tape dispenser] from Amazon.

 

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Step 2

While you're waiting for it to arrive, print out the three files in [this Dropbox folder].

Step 3

Remove the four screws from the red back plate. Be careful, there's a spring-loaded part that will try to relax.

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Step 4

Take the roller assembly apart further.

Step 5

Replace the old roller with one of the 3D printed ones.

Step 6

Replace the handle, screwing through the 3D printed cable guide part.

Step 7

Screw the roller assemble back in, making sure the spring-loaded part rests against the roller wheel.

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Step 8

Add Gaff Tape and tape some cables!

Included in the Dropbox folder is a Vectorworks file of the original parts, so you can modify them and make improvements. If you do come up with something, let me know!

Also, full disclosure, that Amazon link is a referral link.

Alec Sparks
QLab 4 Color Picker

QLab 4 was released today. It doesn't include a native color picker for Light Cues. As an experiment, I added that functionality with a script cue. Here's a demo workspace.

QLab 4 is rad.

tell application id "com.figure53.QLab.4" to tell front workspace
    -- either 100 or 255
    set max to 100
    
    set selectedCue to last item of (selected as list)
    
    if (q type of selectedCue & "") is not "Light" then
        return
    end if
    
    
    set uglyInput to command text of selectedCue & ""
    set AppleScript's text item delimiters to {linefeed}
    set cleanerInput to text items of uglyInput
    set AppleScript's text item delimiters to {" "}
    set cleanerInput to cleanerInput as text
    set AppleScript's text item delimiters to " "
    set splitInput to every text item of cleanerInput
    set colorPick to choose color default color {65535, 65535, 65535}
    set divide to 65536 / max
    set outputString to ""
    set AppleScript's text item delimiters to "."
    
    set red to (first item of colorPick) / divide as integer
    set green to (second item of colorPick) / divide as integer
    set blue to (third item of colorPick) / divide as integer
    
    set x to 1
    repeat ((count of splitInput) - 1) times
        set parts to every text item of item x of splitInput
        if ((count of parts) is 2) then
            if (second item of parts is "Red") then
                set item (x + 2) of splitInput to red & ""
            end if
            if (second item of parts is "Green") then
                set item (x + 2) of splitInput to green & ""
            end if
            if (second item of parts is "Blue") then
                set item (x + 2) of splitInput to blue & ""
            end if
            set item (x + 2) of splitInput to (item (x + 2) of splitInput) & linefeed
        end if
        set x to x + 1
    end repeat
    
    set AppleScript's text item delimiters to " "
    set Final to splitInput as text
    
    set command text of selectedCue to Final
    prune selectedCue
end tell
Alec Sparks
City of Angels

My final thesis project in undergrad is a scenic design for City of Angels. More than half of this musical is set in a film noir movie. Traditionally, those scenes are lit in black and white to contrast them. Our concept is instead to film those scenes live, with cameras onstage, and project them up for the audience to view in black and white.

Alec Sparks
DIY Dmx Tester

My basic electronics final project is a Arduino-powered DMX tester. Any address can be selected, with its value displayed graphically and in text. Once I add a rechargeable LiPO battery and a 3D printed case, It'll make a pretty slick addition to my toolkit.

Alec Sparks
Macbeth@SU

A few months ago, Figure 53 (makers of QLab) ran the We <3 Live Theatre Contest. Entrants would send in their pitch, and if they were lucky, they would receive funding to turn their pitch into a real production.

My pitch (on behalf of a team of students) for Macbeth won! We're keeping a blog of our progress at http://macbeth-su.tumblr.com/


Alec Sparks
The Tractor I've Always Wanted

When I was a kid, my neighbor had a Power Wheels Barbie Jeep. You know, the kind with the pink bench seat and plastic wheels. My 10-year-old self didn't care about the pink. She had her own little cart thing, and it was awesome. I was jealous.

A few weeks ago, I spotted this baby at a yard sale.

Editor's note: Not my foot.

It didn't come with a charged battery or a charger, but it did come with a trailer. No matter, I wasn't planning on keeping the existing battery for very long.

I substituted the old 12v 8Ah Lead-Acid battery with a 12v 3000mAh Ni-Cd drill battery. Initial tests with the single battery went well, so I decided to kick it up a notch. MORE POWER.

Four batteries, wired in two series pairs, which are then wired in parallel. That gives me 24v at 6000mAh. It's so much power that starting at full power trips the overdraw protection in the motors, so you have to get going at 12v before shifting to 24v.

My iPhone speedometer clocks it at 9mph with a full charge. It doesn't sound like much, but it's more than adequate for a toy that's entirely made of plastic. With a trailer full of charged backup batteries, it'll go for miles and miles. One last detail remained, however.

RGB headlights. That's more like it.

Alec Sparks
The $100 Theatre Project

Over the weekend some friends and I converted a dusty, dingy basement into a welcoming, immersive 14-seat performance space. We did everything for $100. Here's how:

Seating- $0

What would ordinarily be the most expensive part of the project was, for us, the cheapest. We rescued old office chairs from a dumpster. After removing the casters, we screwed the chairs to simple wooden 2x4 frames. This locked them into banks of 3 or 4 chairs. Bonus: Each seat gets its own armrest so you don't have to share with your neighbor!

Masking- $40

Since our space only occupied half of the basement, we needed to mask out the ugly "backstage" part. We stapled black flat sheets (with pleats) along the back of the wooden beam that splits the basement. It took four ($10 each at Walmart) sheets to cover the 25' length, plus mask off entrances.

Lighting- $54

Lighting is what really changed the feel of the space to something more theatrical. We swapped the existing overhead lighting for 120w soft flood lamps, and changed the wall switch out for a dimmer switch.

On top of that, we screwed two 250w work lights ($10 each at Home Depot) into the ceiling in opposite corners of the room. We circuited those into another dimmer. Eventually we plan on adding another circuit of lights in the other two corners, and gelling them for color.

The Plan

My University has only been on summer break for a few days and students already have an off-campus space to perform in. We're expecting a summer full of experimental student-written performances!

Alec Sparks
USITT 2015

I went to USITT. It was my first. Here are some things that I learned:

  • Penn State maintains an incredible inventory of important fixtures and paperwork from lighting history
  • AutoDesk's 123 modeling applications are all incredible
  • Setting where the z-axis homes (to top of material or top of bed) on a CNC machine is important
  • You can make awesome custom extruders for a CNC machine (like plaster)
  • I want my school to get a CNC machine
  • Drafting standards are still important with CNC
  • Windows networking configuration sucks on XP but does suck a little less on Win7
  • Costumers are totally into 3D printing
  • There's a lot to know about threaded fasteners
  • I already knew this, but Figure 53 is good people
  • I missed Wednesday, and should not have done that
  • Some companies just can't manage to create software that's both powerful and well designed
  • Always know someone from FSU
  • Ballroom A is not Grand Ballroom A
  • There are many many ways to automate something to slide back and forth on one axis
  • Test, test, test, be smart, test
  • What happens when the power goes out?
  • You don't have to be young to be into show control technology
  • SysEx
  • I live in the golden age of show control
  • TAIT uses VR to demo some of their designs
  • TAIT is the coolest
  • I want to work at TAIT
  • QLX has been used Off-Broadway a show designed by a Tony nominee. Humblebrag.
  • Lots of people use QLX
  • I need to make time for more projects involving programming
Alec Sparks
Performer Tracking Experiment

Performer tracking systems like BlackTrax are A) incredible and B) super expensive. I'm attempting to replicate one of the most common effects, tracking a performer with a moving light. It's an experiment.

My concept is to put a small IR LED on the performer and have an IR (and only IR) sensitive camera mounted to the moving light itself. This avoids the need for multiple cameras or RF technologies. Then software can move the light until the LED point is in the middle of the camera image.

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I elected to use nodewebkit for its flexibility and simple Artnet output. Capturing the webcam and identifying the spot proved easy. However, the pan/tilt would always overshoot as it moved towards the center. I believe the problem stems from the high-latency network cam I was using.

I'm going to get a Playstation Eye camera, which runs at 60fps, and try it with that. It's $8 on Amazon.

Alec Sparks
JSLX

I'm developing a light control application in Node.js. Part of it is the command line console, where you can use syntax like "1 thru 5 @ 90"

I've decided to splinter off this part into its own public repo, with the imaginative name JSLX. It's on Github.

Usable keys are 1-9, -, =, T, A, C

Here's a demo:

Alec Sparks
On User Interface

My University requires every student to log on to a website to enter their health insurance information. If they don't have insurance, they have to sign up for it and pay. This is the interaction they have to perform.

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The correct choice for most students- where they already have health insurance and do not wish to purchase it- is scary, red, and listed second. It suggests it's the "wrong answer."

It's definitely a ploy to get confused college students to pay for extra insurance. Gross.

Alec Sparks
Harpers Ferry
Alec Sparks
Construction Textures
Alec Sparks
SSMT Branding

I was asked to design a short title card for future videos on Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre's Youtube channel. The animation, which adheres to Shenandoah University's Graphic Identity Guidelines, is the product of just an evening's work.

Alec Sparks
Tibbet Knob Hike

Lovely day out with some of the summer stock crew. 3.6 mile (total) out-and-back, a bit rocky, but not heavily trafficked. Bonus geocache find at the top. Shot on a GoPro Hero 3.

Not Quite a Subway Map

One of my favorite Gizmodo articles is this one that traces the history of NYC Subway Maps. I love to see the Subway evolve as new tracks are built, and see how designers attempt to visualize the information as it grows more complicated.

I made this poster partially as tribute, but mostly to answer a question that's constantly posed in my University's main theatre- where are the circuits I can plug lights into?

Design from NJT Regional Transit Diagram for Super Bowl XLVIII, itself derived from work by Massimo Vignelli

Alec Sparks
MCCORMAC AMPHITHEATRE

A group of technical theatre majors from Shenandoah University were invited to partner with Winchester's Parks Department to come up with designs for an amphitheater in a park adjacent to campus. The project was a part of Shenandoah University's Partnership With Community Day, a yearly event where every student spends a day working on one of many service projects to benefit the City.

This design, one of three submitted by student teams, would service as a durable, maintainable, multipurpose space for all sorts of park events. It also could host student productions from the school just a short walk away.

Alec Sparks
AppleScript DMX Control with Arduino Serial

I have an Arduino with DMX Shield plugged into the computer with USB.

TinketKit's DMX Master Shield comes with SerialToDMX example code. I uploaded it with no changes to the Arduino. This Applescript function will print commands into Arduino's serial window, which you need to have open for this to work. Then the SerialToDMX program will interpret the commands and send out DMX. Simple.

# change this to reflect your serial port
# (found in the Arduino serial window)
set serial_port to /dev/tty.usbmodemfd131


my DMXUpdate(4, 1, 255)

# address, channel, value
on DMXUpdate(a, c, v)
set out to "echo -e '" & (c * a) & "c" & v & "w' > " & my serial_port
do shell script out
end update
Alec SparksApplescript