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My lantern collection

I have over 50 animated lanterns, which were made using tissue paper and various frames such as:

  • Bamboo
  • Grapevines
  • 10 AWG wire with brazing
  • Round reed
  • Chicken wire

They have been on exhibition at the following venues:

  • North Delta Luminary Festival
  • Renfrew Stillmoon Festival
  • Deer Lake Luminescent Art
  • Secret Lantern Society Solstice Festival
  • Maple Ridge Celebrate the Night
  • Surrey Garden Light Festival
  • Scouts Canada Watershed Fun Night

Click on images in the article to see an animated version. The animations are customizable via Wi-Fi.

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My Kennedy Songs

The listing of songs has been uploaded to:

The PDF’s and MP3’s of these songs:

  • Are playable with (easy) open chords.
  • Do not require a capo.
  • Are found on
  • May have the pitch adjusted for use with no capo.
  • Are updated regularly.
  • Are not available for public consumption.
  • Are not on this web site.

Edit: I’ve since added another 50+ songs to our repertoire.

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Addressable LED options for lanterns

There are several commercial and non-commercial options available to control LED displays. These range from small portable displays running on a dedicated microcontroller to large commercial ones that are controlled by custom applications running on a dedicated computer and multiple controllers. WLED is a non-comercial (open source) program and is the probably the best available for portable displays as it supports a wide variety of animations/colour palettes and can be controlled by your cell phone over WiFi. In order to make your own WLED displays, you will need a laptop/desktop and:

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WLED and FastLED

WLED is a relatively new platform for communicating with and animating LED’s without requiring a PC to drive them. As a FastLED afficionado, I’ve been developing my own code to communicate with several displays. The summer of 2019 was spent implementing an MQTT infrastructure that would support my FastLED sketches and after MUCH trial and error, I got it to work as shown here:

As a result of the challenges I faced, this effort took several months and I still didn’t accomplish my goal at the end.

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Cost of an Addressable LED Lantern Display

These links provide a rough pricing guideline for sourcing addressable LED electronic components from Lees Electornics locally (or Amazon):

Cost of purchasing electronic components is approximately: $63.50 to $70.50 plus tax + shipping

plus tax + shipping

Lantern consumables include:

  • Bamboo, grapevine, round reed
  • Masking tape
  • Zip ties
  • Hot glue gun and glue
  • White/vanilla/coloured tissue paper
  • Specialty paper (tissue or mulberry)
  • White glue or Mod Podge
  • Optional acrylic matte finish
  • Water
  • Fishing line
  • Table covering
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Coordinating Displays with ESP8266’s and MQTT

My goal:

To be able to control multiple lanterns at the same time in order to create a coordinated display.

The Reality:

The MQTT client library I use for Arduinos (pubsubclient) is ‘blocking’ in that if your connectivity to the server is not reliable, then the display sometimes stutters and possibly stops. I’ve tried some non-blocking workarounds, but it’s not 100% reliable.

In addition, although I can control these lanterns in a lab environment, the message often doesn’t make it through to one of the 10 Arduinos I’m testing with and has to be resent. Therefore, a command for them to simultaneously reboot works maybe 1 in 5 attempts across those 10 lanterns.

As a result, I think that while controlling lanterns via wifi and MQTT is pretty good, controlling them for coordinated displays is not that reliable.

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