Drums Almost There

Last night I finished wiring all but one 3V piano light. They really sell the scene. Here, there are only four of them turned on in a dark room.

The only instrument left to do is the Farfisa, but I ran out of those nano LEDs until tomorrow’s delivery from eBay. Each of the seven substage platforms can have any combination of 3V, 5V or 12V lights — and they all interconnect via JST or 2-Pin soldered harnesses I made.

Meanwhile, today I finished wiring up and gluing down Patsy’s drum kit. I found a couple kettle drums left over from the rave scene in POSERS, so I made smart Pixel LED lamps out of them too. I’ll cut the translucent skins for them later, cuz I’m exhausted.

Ronaldo made those Ludwig decals for me. That’s the kit Nick Mason uses. It took four trips to Ace Hardware today to round up all the specialty hardware like 1/4” nylon and 1/2” brass grommets. Those nicely trim the holes in the substage bases which will route and hide all the wiring below decks during final assembly. Everything is glued down with either superglue, silicone adhesive or a hot glue gun. And each of those are very frustrating to work with. But it’s vitally important to glue down your set pieces when doing stop motion animation, since one fallen puppet or one bumped elbow can ruin a shot.


Today I’m trying to finalize my stage layout, so I moved almost everything downstairs to the dining table again.

Here I have enough room to measure, mark and align each substage on 60° and 30° angles to form a near-perfect hexagon. I didn’t have a good protractor so I just printed one I found online, then marked each substage with pencil lines and red dots that are easy to line up.

The idea is to optimize for sight lines from my main camera track, and possibly one or more reverse angles. Once I make everything aesthetically and ergonomically happy, I’ll begin gluing things down and running the modular wiring connectors discretely out various holes in those upside-down gray serving trays.

I also solved my stool height problem by ordering these metal bed risers that are adjustable for height. Four of the substages will have these “stools” fixed in position so when I animate the scene, I don’t have to worry about them moving or being the wrong height for when a character plays an instrument. Some of the keyboards are shorter than they should be at 1:6 scale, so rather than putting them up on risers I can just vary their stool height and it’ll be less noticeable.

Wired for Sound

Wednesday I got my package from Brazil, much faster than anticipated. In it was all the 1:6 scale keyboards and synthesizers hand-crafted by Ronaldo. Simply amazing work, worth every centavo.

I immediately broke out my soldering station and went to work. First up was installing my own custom LED vacuum tubes inside the two HIWATT amplifier heads. This was as delicate an operation as it looks, negotiating the various layers of balsa wood and embossed paper. But once the 5mm UV lights are powered up, the effect is stunning.

Next came David Gilmour’s Hi-Fli Guitar Synthesizer. For this piece, I just drilled through it and installed one of ten N-scale train lights, securing it with a drop of super glue. Here it is lit up with a 3V battery pack (two AA batteries) for testing purposes.

The AKS synthesizer is probably my favorite piece. It doesn’t have a stand and I want Roger Waters to be using it in my scene while standing upright. And because he’s 79 years old I thought, hey, why not reuse the medical walker I made for James Bond in POSERS? It’s a near perfect fit. I only had to make a foam board brace across the bottom of the AKS’s briefcase shell to hold it in place. Then I mounted another piano light to it and attached a foot switch for it (not pictured).

Today I added three more vacuum tubes inside the open back of the Hammond organ’s cabinet. This too was tricky, but I eventually found a way to route their wires in a self-contained manner. The Hammond also got two piano lights on the left and right sides, up top. There was no place where I could drill straight through, so instead those wires make a 90° turn and come out the sides.

I also added lights to all the other instruments, including a sixth microphone. I’ll post better photos once I get them all placed on stage and wired up to power. I’ve made the connections as modular as possible but avoiding a rat’s nest will be a challenge.

This project involved a crash course in soldering. Some of these wires are literally the size of a human hair. It still takes lots of trial and error to successfully attach these tiny 2-pin connectors to 28 AWG and Kynar bare wire I can barely see. And my $79 soldering station’s “helping hands” are minimally helpful, as is its lighted magnifying glass — which is just in the way. But, I started to get the hang of it after a few frustrating hours of swearing and starting over. It feels good to learn a new skill and level up a bit.