DHD Original prop from Stargate : Renovation

Sendel

Active Member
Here is a second project directly linked to our Life Size Stargate replica !

I think it may cause some sort of debate as we're renovating an original DHD prop as seen in episode 9 season 3 of Stargate Atlantis in which it was used to be destroyed. The base of this DHD was also used lately on the production of Stargate Origin. The now you see on scree is actually a mix of the head of the SG-1 DHD and the base of the destroyed SGA one. It was made that way as shipping costs were too high and the first DHD was in Switzerland while the second one was already on the US territory.

As you may know the DHD from SG-1 and SGA are the same prop, only the Glyph tiles were switched between the series, so there is only one original DHD hero prop in the world (and fun fact, it’s kept a few minutes from my place). The one we have is a copy of the original, so it’s nearly the same one.

Our goal is to go from destroyed SGA DHD to clean working SG-1 DHD which means a bit of modifications… on an original prop… is this blasphemy ?

It’s a friend of mine, Julien aka Atlante313 who owns the one we’re renovating together. Here it is :

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And here is what we want to achieve :

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So, what will be the modifications ?

-We’ll make it sturdier as this cast is thinner than the original one. We really want it to last because we will transport it from town to town in conventions and festivals and let people dial it (if possible with the Stargate too). We’ll use resin on the inner side of the DHD to do so.
-The back of the DHD head was cracked and falling on itself. We'll have to fix it.
-The whole dome (with the tiles, not only the red one) has been kept by the first owner, so there is a big hole at the center now. We’ll make a brand new dome based on the original hero prop (remember we had access to it for measurements, taking pictures, make molds of some parts…).
-The paint : It seems that after the SGO episodes the back of the DHD became black for unknown reasons, we were puzzled. It shouldn’t be. Anyway, we may have to repaint a part or the whole DHD. Of course we’ll have to paint the tiles too and it’s a really nightmare it’s impossible to find the exact technique that was used for this iridescent effect.
-The heart of the DHD has a hole too (as used for sparkling exploding effects) we’ll make a new panel there and later add the inner… things.
-We’ll also design the light and sound system to be able to dial correctly.

Julien already began to work on the body of the DHD, but I’ll let him talk about it. My part is about the electronics and I’m ready to order all the parts needed, but I thought I may ask you if you had any idea to make something better or easier first.

Sendel corp. proudly presents it’s new creation : The DHD system 2.0 !

Your DHD head is too heavy because it’s made of large pieces of metal ? Don’t worry our system doesn’t produce too much heat, you’ll be able to use light weight plastics now !

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Cable management is a mess ? Our system is clean and uses more than 2 times less cables for the same effect !

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Old light bulbs are using too much power on your battery ? No problem, we’ll now use LEDs !

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Your manual cabled remote is not really discrete ? Let’s use YOUR PHONE to access the DHD wirelessly !

Dialing your DHD is boring as it has only lights in it ? We’ll include the ORIGNIAL sounds from the series in it for more fun !

Additional features may be : As we'll use RGB LEDs we can add a disco lighting show, yaaay ! Other animations like overheating or things like are being developed. Actually every cool things you may think of is possible. You’ll even be able to dial a Stargate also linked wirelessly (Stargate not included).

As you may have guessed, all these images ares from the original system, they’re from the auction and from the Stargate Prop Show FB page (who’s the owner of the hero prop).I thought it was interesting to show you what it was before I tell you how I designed my version.

List of parts !

-First, the brain of the DHD, I’m sure you guessed, it will be an Arduino and as we’ll use a lot of different modules, we’ll use an Arduino Mega.

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-To use less cables, the LEDs are actually the same as the Dot-Stars from Adafruit. They can be chained using only 4 cables and are using 5050 RGB LEDs. I first thought of using a LED strip and solder 4 parts of 4 LEDs to create square sources with more light, but then I found these square modules that are already a 4 by 4 source and it’s possible to chain them too.

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-Also to use less cables, I designed a matrix switch. The hard part was to go from a simple square alignment to a complex circle alignment. More about this later. (Also : Not sure about this joke...)

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-To read the sound I chose a DF Player Mini which can read both .mp3 and .WAV

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-For now, the wireless system will use a HM-10 which is bluetooth technology. I wanted to try Wi-Fi but hasn’t be able to figure out how to do so with my ESP-8266.

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-A DS3231 to keep the time and date right even when the system will be shut down (working on battery)

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-I also added a DIP switch to allow different modes, there will be a rotating fader to dimm the lights (as on the original one, they had this because when the brightest thing in the room was the DHD, the difference of light would have made the whole place looking really dark), also a speaker, a battery, a battery charger, some cables, a main switch… and some other bits and bots.

In theory the wiring looks like that (don’t worry about Volts and Amps, that’s a WIP, the clock isn’t depicted here I’ll update that later) :

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Now, let’s speak about the switch matrix. It’s simple, for the Arduino to understand which switch is pressed without using 2 cables for each switch you just have to link one pin of each switch in the same row and one pin in the same column. But making that as a circle is a puzzle level 6.

For you to understand what I did, let’s give each column a color.

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Now he is the real wiring, the blue part being the blue wires on the first picture. Also the square around the gray switches in the first picture is the center of the system for the red button which will have multiple switches (as on the original) to be sure it works every time you push it ! If you look on the right of the center you can see that the wires linking each color are not linked together.

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The rest of the theory is not that interesting it would only be lines of codes (I’ll be happy to answer any question about this part though), so let’s just explain what will happen :

-When you push a button the Arduino will read which one it is and record it for further use.
-The sound starts immediately.
-The LEDs are switched on (in a quick fade) after a quick delay (yep was like that in the series).
-If you push the red button before an full address has been dialed or if it’s a wrong address, everything goes to black
-If it’s a good address, the red button lights on the same way as the others.
-Later, the arduino should be able to send data to the gate (which will include 1 or more arduinos too) this way the gate will light up with the DHD.

-From a smartphone you’ll be able to dial live (the tiles are lighting on the same time you push them on the phone) or record an address that will be dialed at a certain time (like an outworld activation). It will be possible to click on a symbol in the app and choose a color (don’t know what to do with that but it’s funny). The DHD will send data to the app room this way using the app you can know the last addresses dialed and which symbol is actually on if semons is using the DHD (which is a good way to spy on your enemy).
-The DipSwitch and the Fader will be hidden under the red button. The Dip includes only 8 channels but allows 255 addresses (I can explain how if needed) So let’s assume I want the DHD to « overheat » glowing red when someone tries to dial, I could say it’s the address n°10 on my switch. This way I don’t have to reprogram each time I want to change the features. N°2 could be for a cooler light when the Atlantis tiles are on for exemple.

-The external clock will allow us to program activations at a certain time of the day. This could be useful to display it in festival and not have to touch it to dial every 10 minutes or for a LARP if an invasion is planned at a certain time.

And that’s it ! I had to understand how every module was working, make some tests for each one them then assemble everything to see if the Arduino Mega was able to handle that.

For example here is a test for the sound :


And what does it look like for now with light and sound ? Take a look :


As my save of my android app has been lost… I can’t show you that right now sadly. I’ll have to make this all again. I remember it was pretty complicated but shut to light on and off the glyphs should be quick to reprogram.

If you have any question / recommandation or if you want to give your point of view about modifying an original prop please do so !
 
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AvZ

New Member
I was already wondering if it would be Julien who would do the electronics. Great project for the both of you! I've seen some of Juliens supplies he bought for the restoration and preservation, most impressive. Good luck on the electronics!
 

Sendel

Active Member
Thanks !
Julien seemed more confident about the physical part than the electronics so I made this part. We discussed a lot about both sides though. I worked for weeks on this, I really hope it will be a success !

Edit :
Wasn't sure if you were mentioning Julien from Atlante Props or Julien from DbFx. ^^'
 
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Sendel

Active Member
The Simon is a good idea ! I also thought about using it as a piano with lighting keys to help learn the songs easily you know ? :D
 

Nicodema

New Member
This looks awesome!
Just wondering, the 4x4 LED board you show is actually a "NeoPixel" style, not the SPI driven "DotStar" type. The NeoPixel boards are easy/cheap to find, but are pretty terrible for large arrays. I was wondering, have you found some good DotStar 4x4 versions?
 

Sendel

Active Member
Thanks !

And damned... you're right, good point ! I've been fooled by the 4 pins but there is just 2 times the GND on these panels and no Clock pin... I bought 3 of them to make some tests anyway, I'll see what it's like. But as it's WS2812B (the worst you can find) I have no high hopes.
So you say large arrays of NeoPixel are terrible ? Even if I connect my power source every 30-50 leds ? Because I have 624 pixels in this thing and most of the time when you see the color changing between the start and the end of the strip it's because of the voltage loss, but there may be something else, I didn't work enough with NeoPixel to know for sure. Any idea if this would work ?

I'll search for DotStars panels, but I don't think I'll find anything. I may have to solder 4 by 4 panels (from strips) myself after all...

Edit 1 :

Ok, here is what I found :
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There is more space between each pixel but it's indeed the APA102 (one of the best you can find for now) used for DotStars.
The price is of course 4 times higher. It's flexible.
 
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Nicodema

New Member
I could be being too harsh, since you've only got around 600 LEDs. The downsides of NeoPixels are the 800kHz data rate, which can get tricky to keep up with lower spec boards, occasional glitches if you're using interrupts and the 400Hz refresh rate. But in your application I guess you won't be running into much of that unless you're using interrupts for any of your other modules.

I think if you're injecting the power at regular spacings you should be fine.

I don't know if you've read Josh Levine's blog post on NeoPixels, but if not it's worth a read...
NeoPixels Revealed: How to (not need to) generate precisely timed signals

It's such a shame the APA102/SK9822 devices are still at a premium. They're definitely easier to drive and better for high speed stuff.
 

Sendel

Active Member
Hey, thanks a lot for the link ! I started to read and I'll finish it before my final order, but I think it demonstrates it's possible to use 600 NeoPixels on this project especially if the power is distributed correctly along the chain.

I don't use interrupts as I didn't know about them. My code is a mess for now and I'll have to read a lot to understand how to make something cleaner. The use of all these modules is tricky.

I received my matrix of WS2812B (the cheapest ones) and it's kind of ok. I mac-gyvered a DHD key (I'm waiting for a better tile from Julien) just to know if the LEDs were powerful enough. Well here it's in a pretty dark space so it's ok but I'll have to test it during the day outside.
Anyway I don't think I've got a lot of alternatives so I think we'll use these 4x4 matrix.

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zapwizard

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Once I learned how to write a state machine in C it made my Arduino programming so much smoother. I highly suggest looking up how to do this.

Otherwise, another great project to watch..
 
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