GE G35 ColorEffects Christmas Tree (part 2)

I pretty much have the “Mini Mega Tree” and sequencer enhancements all wrapped up. I only got my hands on five 50 bulb strings of G35′s, so my tree isn’t as big as the “original” Mega Tree, but I was able to get 20 lengths of 12 bulbs out of the setup, which made for a decent tree almost 12 feet tall.

I figured it would be a challenge erecting it, so to simplify things a bit, I bought a collapsible painting pole from Lowes for about $15 bucks and screwed a bent-up paint roller onto the end of it to hook the strings over.  

Just for the hell of it, I also got a PVC end cap to keep the pole from sinking into the yard. Since I plan on actually using it to paint with too, I don’t want the handle to fill with dirt and mud.

To get a sense of the circumference the base would have to be, I first laid a string out in a circle. I marked the location of each bulb with a stake. I bought the stakes in the garden center at Lowes and bent the tops in such a way that I could slip the flat wire of the strands into the slot.

I drilled a hole in the handle end, drove a 36″ piece of rebar into the dirt, then slid the handle end of the pole down over it. The rebar kept it upright (in collapsed position) while I looped the strings over the roller bard on the top end.

 I roughly positioned the ground-side ends of the strand lengths and secured them with the stakes I described previously.  Then I got in the middle of the collapsed tree and simply expanded the pole, raising the whole thing to its full height.

Since Part 1, I’ve done quite a bit more coding and worked a number of bugs out of the new plugin for my sequencer which supports driving grids of G35′s. Though not perfect, it’s working pretty well.  There is still a limit to how much data I can pump across the serial port to the Digilent Uno32 Arduino clone (which was necessary to get any speed at all).  If I use bitmaps that require updates to many LEDs, for example, when multiple rows or columns (depending on which way the bitmap is scrolling), it gets bogged down and falls behind.  Nevertheless, I can achieve some really nice patterns and don’t have to custom program each one in “C-like” code or whatever. I think perhaps next year’s project will be to change the way the plugin works. I think I could just download the bitmap to a buffer on the Arduino clone along with some instructions on what to do with it (i.e., scroll in and loop 5 times). This would require a burst of serial data, but less overall. Too much refactoring to do this year,’s going to have to wait!

UPDATE: (11/25/2013) I recently realized I’ll never get high frame rates with several G35 strings running on the current platform…read more here.

Anyway, here’s this year’s final product: “Mini Mega Tree”  If you want to try out this latest version of the sequencer, which includes the G35 Grid plugin, you can download it here:

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