16 Nov 2018
Musical fountains and animated fountains are a specialty of Atlantic Fountains. We have provided hundreds of musical fountain systems for homes, businesses, parks and various entertainment venues.
We have mastered the control, pump, lighting and motion control technologies required to build a backyard or world-class musical fountain.
We receive frequent requests for dynamic water features, so I thought it would be appropriate to write a few words addressing what is available.In our terminology, an “animated” fountain is one that has water or lighting that changes state ove r time. A “musical” fountain builds upon this by synchronizing these effects to music through programmed choreography.
An animated fountain may use technology as simple as a “color blender” --a motorized cam switch to sequence colored lights through all their combinations. A more advanced approach uses a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC --a small beige box with relays) to switch the combinations to make them less predictable or to allow the user to select the sequence and rate of change. The basic sequences, however, are factory programmed. A PLC can also control dimmers to allow continuous flow between colors instead of simple on/off switching, but by this point, a more advanced method is usually desired.
Musical fountains need tight choreography between the music and fountain resources (lights, valves, pumps, pneumatics, whatever), and need the ability to develop and edit the choreography in a fashion that does not drive one crazy. "Crazy" in this case means having to call a specialist with a laptop and data cable to reprogram your PLC or using software designed for stage lighting which is really not adapted to fountain components or scheduling dozens or hundreds of musical selections for automatic playback.
The optimal solution requires the flexibility of a personal computer (PC) as the hardware and our ACCESS program as the software. A fountain will have certain fixed costs (pool, pump, manifold) as well as "per point" costs (number of nozzles, valves, colored lights, electrical connections). Obviously, as more and more devices are added the "fixed" costs will jump up to the next plateau, with a larger pump, piping, breaker panel, etc. The cost for controls also depends on the control platform, PLC or PC, that must be sized to handle the number of resources out in the fountain.
There are myriad ways to perform device control. As mentioned earlier, lights can be switched or faded. Valves or pumps can also be switched or “faded” (proportional control). Such control at each point can be performed with small pilot valves ($70), proportional pressure transducers ($700) or with variable speed pumps ($500++) depending on the exact effect desired. You can see how the technology selected for a twenty-point system can dramatically impact its total price.
An important design concept is "balance." If you spend most of your budget on expensive nozzles and have to put in cheap speakers, or cut fixture colors, the design is not a success. Furthermore, even if the design is viable on paper, it should not require people with an engineering degree to care for it.
Regardless of the technical platform employed, we will give you value. It is all a matter of the effect you want to see, and balancing your budget with the “oohs and ahhs” you deem appropriate. We have provided miniature valves and sequencers for under $500 for the hobbyist as well as musical fountains in the six figures. Provide us with pool dimensions, a rough budget number and an idea of what you want the system to accomplish for you, and we will provide you with a balanced configuration. We have the scope of project experience, but also the zeal. (Lest the secret get out) fountains are fun!
Keywords: musical fountain
Originally published 16 Nov 2018, updated 16 Nov 2018.