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ricka

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Posts: 148
Reply with quote  #1 
oldway.jpg

We've all seen pictures like this. Laptops on tables, flat screen or projection MVS and that is what drives us to create better LBE's. 

My goal is to create a highly portable and relatively cost effective LBE specifically for cons. I've been reading everyones threads and I'm finally ready to share where I'm going with my project and solicit feedback.

A lot of cons I've found have space issues. They're trying to pack a lot into a little space. So to create the set I decided to go with a 12x12 popup canopy and build inside that.

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Coleman-12-x-12-Gazebo/23428071

With this in mind I created this layout:bridgelayout.jpg 
For the main view screen I picked up two NEC U300X short throw projectors which will create 111" screens. The projectors will be places by the opposing bridge in a sort of 3ft DMZ between bridges. These cost a lot but I felt it was worth it because of the space constraints and the size results.

http://www.projectorcentral.com/NEC-U300X.htm

For the screen I've ordered white and black tendo fabric, 2 yards per bridge for a total of 4 yards. Because of how much stretch this has I expect I will actually be able to use this to expand and create side walls for each bridge to create a more of a bridge feeling and drown out outside distractions but still allow light to escape the bridge to catch the eye of outsiders.

http://www.rosebrand.com/product1998/122-Tendo-IFR.aspx?tid=2&info=tendo

I plan to allow the venues to provide table cloths, tables, and chairs. Though I may breakdown and get my own table clothes when all is said and done.

I'm planning about 50ft of DMX lighting using Davr's wonderful http://artemis.forumchitchat.com/post/my-dmx-rgb-strip-for-ultra-cheap-6467023 thread.

Each station will have 4ft of lighting (20 ft), two side bars for the main view screen 5ft each (10ft), and at the entrance on each canopy leg I plan to make a 10ft tall light column (20ft).

Two speaker systems for the sound value.

testconsole.jpg 
I'm self-frosting acrylic and using bareconductive ink to create a capacitive touch button interface beneath the acrylic for each station which will come back to an arduino controller. I don't like the current depth and plan to make that more shallow. Each station will have its own arduino so I'm building my own boards rather than buying pre-made ones. That will save about $5 per station. I'm also getting silver reflective material from stumpsparty.com to reflect the light under the acrylic, that is not in use in the picture.

The cost per bridge up there but I think the results will be worth it. The goal is for everything needed for 4 bridges to fit into the back of my jeep liberty. I'm building this for 2 bridges. I got lucky and picked up the projectors for half off.

I've got all the materials at this point and I have an engineer friend who is working out the technical details of creating the touch panels. Once that is done I just need to assemble everything, which I plan to do around March.

vfrdirk

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Posts: 129
Reply with quote  #2 
Good luck! It's definitely an ambitious plan.
Captain

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Reply with quote  #3 
Looks very nice. I wish you luck.
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LawsonThompson

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Reply with quote  #4 
Curious: what PC gear are you using? You could reduce your hardware down to a single PC per bridge if you have the monitor outputs for it.
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ricka

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Posts: 148
Reply with quote  #5 
I got 20x refurbished Dell Latitude D620's for $85 w/HD & Charger from a local computer recycling outfit
and another 10 off an auction on govdeals.com for $270 (2 broke in transit but at that price who cares).

I avoided tablets because I'm bringing 3+ full size bridges to cons and the wifi architecture to make that many computers work was a nightmare. I'm using a couple of cisco switches that I got free through a friend of a friend.

If I were doing it again I'd consider the app that lets you split out the screens from one PC but the laptops are just so easy to transport and the cheapest monitors I was finding were still another $100 over my current cost and 30x$100... Although I will say the D620's as server have a rough time when you enter a nebula. The MVS stutters and I'm thinking I need to upgrade my server.

I assume you're refering to the software program that lets you run multuple XP's at the same time? Have you tried running multiple DMX outputs from that by chance? If that would work I'd definitely use that for my server.
LawsonThompson

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Posts: 625
Reply with quote  #6 
Been there, done that! Literally. I'm the I.T. director at my company and we just refurbished over a dozen of these Dell Latitude D620/630 and gave them away to employees.

The server--more particular, anything doing Main Screen graphics--needs to have a decent video card, anything from the past 4 years will suffice. Check your collection of D620s; that model had an option for nVidia Quadro graphics which were far better than the default Intel graphics. You might find an nVidia gem in there; hit F2 to enter the BIOS at powerup and see what the video card hardware is.

Regarding multiple DMX outputs: in theory this is possible, but I've not tested it. SoftXPand has a configuration tool where you can drag/drop USB devices into a specific session. Coupled with Sandboxie I'd suppose it could isolate multiple DMX controllers. Gotta try this someday...

Another pointer: in the BIOS ensure you turn on SpeedStep (if available), and in Windows set the power settings to "Presentation" mode. There are some edge cases when disabling SpeedStep in the BIOS makes the laptop use slower speeds to save battery life. Also refurbished Latitude D620/630 frequently suffer from loose/failing WiFi switches on the side of the laptop. If you're going Ethernet (and you should) turn off wireless devices in the BIOS to prevent a dodgy WiFi switch from triggering connect/disconnect events. 

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ricka

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Posts: 148
Reply with quote  #7 
wow thanks, great tips! yes definitely hard wiring everything for the network.

one question for you, you'll notice if you scroll up the base isn't visible, just the monitor & bezel. I was thinking of removing the bezel's so it looks a little more industrial. do you foresee any issues with that?
LawsonThompson

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Posts: 625
Reply with quote  #8 
Hm, the bezels cover the WiFi antenna cables, but little else. The only problem is (if I recall correctly) the bottom of the bezel protects a connection to the backlight transformer. You don't want any curious fingers poking around in THAT part of the frame or pulling things loose. I'd be concerned about snagging something.

Are the laptops under the acrylic with just the displays threaded through a slot? Make sure the laptops get good air circulation: intake is through the base, and outflow is to the rear. Make sure those refurbs all have free-spinning fans; it's worth the time to remove the keyboard cover and check for dust wrapped around the fan spindle. A side effect of overheat is the CPU will throttle down. You should hear the fans kick up pretty loud under lengthy gameplay conditions.

If the laptops are under the acrylic and not accessible directly by players, you could remove the top keyboard bezel, the base plastic bezel, (and depending on your Arduino connection method, the keyboard too!) and leave the laptop base dimly visible for a more industrial effect. This removes the clear plastic covers from the power and hard drive LEDs, so instead of tiny dots, they'll appear rather bright and scattered around the underside of the acrylic perhaps.

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mmesich

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Posts: 75
Reply with quote  #9 
I just finished up a convention.

Rear-view:

[1899888_10151883066387540_1310765594_n] 

Front view:



I demand enough space for a 2 station - captain - 3 station configuration.  I also highly recommend that they give me enough space for a viewing gallery as convention goers just love to stop in and watch inbetween event and just to decompress and enjoy the frenetic drama that each crew goes through differently!

This year, the room was a little too small for that.  But since it's such a popular draw, they explicitly approached me and showed me a much larger room for next year that would at the least afford a generous viewing area and at most accommodate two bridges of this size with still some viewing area left over.

I started with a mismatched collection of laptops, but gave them up because they were heavy (relatively) and when assistants would help me set up, they would accidentally put the wrong power adapter into the wrong system and that's no good!

So I standardized on Windows 8 Slates with little docks.  Every system is the same so aside from identifying the Helm computer that has flight-stick/throttle drivers on it, every system is freely interchangeable and I can just scoop up all the docks/power adapter into a bag and never worry about which is which!  Also, I like the futuristic appeal of touch-screen only. 

I very much like the idea of your canopy space and rear projection for the main screen, but the other thing I've optimized in portability and set-up/tear down.  All the stations, server, lights, projector and cords fit into two still liftable bins.  I can set every thing up in an hour and tear it all down and pack it in 45 minutes. 

That's my story, anyway!  I look forward to seeing what you come up with and seeing it in action!

Edit:  Oh!  I also meant to add that relying on hotel/convention center tables is RISKY!  That's why I have these little foldable tables. I do rely on them fro chairs though.

There has only been ONE time when provided tables were awesome:


[970686_10151406106037540_2116210386_n] 


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