Controls

Battery Power:

The motors, E.L. backlights, and eye actuator all use 12 volts for power. The sound chip uses 6 volts, and the LED flashers use 3 volts. Although I could regulate the power for the sound chip, it is easier just to throw a small battery pack into the head. I just connected a four-cell AA battery pack to the circuit and strapped the whole thing to one side of the speaker tube. While the LED flashers use low voltage, it takes a fair amount of current to power the 40 assorted LEDs attached to it. Again, I could regulate the 12V down to 3V, but all the excess would be given off as heat (which I don't want or need.) It is much easier just to make room for a pair of alkaline "D" Cells in the battery assembly.

The back frame will support most of the weight of the costume and extinguisher. To offset this a little, I decided to mount the batteries on the front of the frame. A lightweight frame was made from brass rod to fit a pair of 1.9AH batteries, but later modified slightly to hold a single 7.5 amp-hour sealed lead-acid battery. Another frame was made for a plastic battery pack for the D cell batteries. Two sections of 1/4" tubing support the battery frames under the curved bar on the front. Ultimately this may prove to be a bad idea since it partially blocks my view down the front of the costume.

The switch panel for all of the motors and electronics was constructed from a sheet of PVC plastic. Holes for the switches and push buttons were drilled or cut into the sheet, then the switches mounted and secured with hot glue. Four sheet metal screws hold the panel to the top of the curved frame. Holes for indicator LEDs were made next to each of the rocker switches, and wired with resistors to each switch. (Resistors are necessary to limit the current passing through the LEDs. For LEDs connected to the 12-volt source, a resistor of about 500 ohms was used, while a resistor of about 150 ohms was used for the 3-volt source. The black switches should be visible against the white plastic, and the LEDs will also aid in locating switches in the dark.

A master power switch at the front will allow me to cut 12 volt power easily. Momentary push buttons are placed on each side of the panel, one for the sound effect, and one to manually trigger the eye actuator. The other six rocker switches are for:

  • Eye back lights
  • Eye actuator power
  • Eye light sensor power (triggers eye actuator in bright light)
  • Tail wag (wiper) motor
  • Tail twitch (gear) motor
  • Video camera power

A last rocker switch was added to control the 3 volt LED power from the D-cell pack to the extinguisher funnel "fire" FX. Battery clips attach the wires to the battery terminal tabs. Attaching a transformer to one of the tail motor connectors, and switching on the main power and tail switches, can charge the 12-volt battery in the framework.

Batteries mounted in the front will help counter balance the costume weight (slightly.)

The plastic control panel is attached with four sheet metal screws.

Wiring:

Each of the circuits used in the head is connected to a length of wire long enough to reach down the neck to the supporting frame. As each circuit or motor is connected, the cable is anchored to the head framework or the mesh on the top of the head. A piece of masking tape is attached to the end of the wire pair, identifying what it is connected to. After all connections have been made, a piece of split-loom tubing is used to contain and protect the wires. The tubing is run down the neck and anchored using plastic wire ties.

After the wires are run the length of the neck, the excess wire and tubing is trimmed off, and the wires soldered to a 9-pin harness connector. Each colored wire of the harness is documented so that matching connectors on the other harness connector can be correctly wired to the control panel.

Connectors are used so that all of the various connections can be made quickly and simply. Sections of costume are also being constructed so that they can be disconnected for transport. Planned disconnect points are at the base of the neck, and the base of the tail, where they connect to the shoulder frame. Additional break-apart sections will be made at the base of the wings and perhaps somewhere in the foot or lower leg.

Wires are anchored to the mesh or tube framework. Split loom tubing contains the wires and protects them from crimping or wear against the moving parts. The tubing is anchored to the neck and frame using wire ties.

Tape identifies what the wires are connected to at the other end.

"DragonCam"

One thing that must be planned into the costume is a way to see out by the operator. In past costumes, such as the Dark Trooper, the eye holes were covered with sunglass lenses. The spandex in "The Tick" allowed viewing when the fabric was stretched tight. Chernobog viewing was through the mouth, and a screened opening under the chin of Detritus the troll allowed me to see the floor.

In this costume, multiple view slits will be added between the front belly scales. This will allow several openings to view the floor and stage. The lower belly between the legs may also be left open. To view the audience and control where the head is "looking", I added a small battery-powered video camera under the chin. The camera is a low power, web-cam ball with an integrated microphone. To mount the camera, a socket was carved in dense foam, leaving enough material to glue to the neck foam. A foam cover with an opening for the lens was prepared, and then glued on to the back piece. The camera can be still be positioned to a limited degree within the foam socket. A separate cable was pulled up through the neck openings to the exposed neck segment and connected to the camera. The foam assembly was then glued to the neck section.

The camera uses an 8-pin RJ-45 modular connector, although only 5 pins are used. Two wires for 12 volt power, and three wires for video signal, microphone, and a common ground. A matching connector was added to the 9-pin harness, and power routed from the control panel. A cable with a 1/8" stereo connector was tied to the connector and follows the split-loom tubing back up to the control panel. For a monitor, a small, battery-powered LCD TV with video input will be attached. This allows me to view what is immediately in front of the dragon's head.

Fabric will cover the opening in the neck, and various black glass jewels will be added to the scales to create an appearance similar to the camera lens. Additional foil-back jewels will be added to the head ridge to camouflage the light sensor that triggers the iris to close.

Follow-up Notes: I tried the camera during Marcon and discovered that it had problems in the darkened room. The only thing I could see were bright stage lights, everything else was dark. It was also suggested that I use only a manual-iris type camera, since the auto-exposure feature of most of these small cameras will adjust to the brightest source, not the dark regions.

Mounting the ball-style camera in a foam socket.

The camera is mounted below the dragon's chin, in the top neck segment. A cable for power, and video and audio signals runs down the neck where it will be tied into the power and a TV adapter cable.

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