Oct 102016
RS-232 Driven Double DMX Engine

RS-232 Driven Double DMX Engine

This has been shipping for a few months now, as free upgrade to any purchase of an XLR-5 or XLR-3 Engine. It features

  • XLR-3 and XLR-5 outputs in the same chassis.  Each output is controlled by its own drive chip, which means the system has a ‘built in’ 2-output optosplitter.  Currently the outputs are parallel copies of each other.  However, each drive chip is connected to a separate pin in the internal processor, which means that future firmware updates could allow two universes of DMX to be driven independently.  We use only genuine Neutrik connectors.
  • Mounting ears for easy panel mounting.

Today, we’re delighted to also announce a completely updated firmware build (v5.044), featuring the following improvements:

  • The internal dimming engine calculates fade levels 100x per second, rather than the previous 20.  This allows silky-smooth crossfades on LED fixtures.  “This LED strip now acts like a halogen bulb,” said one customer.
  • Built-in RGB color wheel engine performs rainbow color cycles without any controller overhead.
  • Startup scene and timeout delay can be set, so that lighting levels are instantly restored after a power cycle.
  • ‘Group Fade’ command lets multiple channels be set to the same level in a simple way.  ‘Group skip’ option makes it easy to control multiple fixtures at the same time.

The complete protocol description is available in this file: Double-dmx-engine-504.

Note that this protocol simply expands on the features available in our original DMX engine.  Code written for our earlier hardware will still work very nicely.  Check this page for older information.

Want free gear?  If you’re a Crestron, AMX, Lutron, Savant or Control4 guru, we need to talk.

We’re what the IRS would classify as a ‘very small business’, and don’t have resources to tackle this alone.  We don’t have the time or staffing to buy / borrow / rent hardware, then learn the software, to test against each and every major system out there.

Here’s what you get:

  • One RS232 Driven Double DMX engine
  • One 9v DC adapter
  • As much email and telephone tech support as it takes to make you happy
  • Full credit for your work if desired, including links to your website and a quick company bio if you’d like some extra exposure.

And in return, we want

  • A complete ‘plugin’ or ‘module’ or whatever it’s called on your particular platform, which we can publish here on this site and share with other customers.  The module needs to support all of the commands described in the PDF instruction manual linked to above.
  • A sample file / installation / setup which a new user could use for initial testing, before they integrate our gear into a larger system.
  • Basically, your work should include everything a brand-new customer – someone reasonably skilled in their trade, but new to using our gear – would need to get up-and-running, as quickly and painlessly as possible.  Source code, screenshots with annotations, even short video clips would be much appreciated.

Interested? Send email to drivers AT response-box.com.   Please mention your platform of choice and describe your experience in this world.

This is a first-come, first served-per-system sort of project.  We can sneak five or maybe ten boxes out the door before accounting notices and begins to gnash their teeth.

Thanks for visiting our little corner of the Internet.

-John Chapman, President, Engineering Solutions Inc

* New feature requests are always welcome, and existing gear may be easily and quickly updated in the field.  We thrive on that sort of feedback.  If there’s a function we’ve not considered which would make your life even easier, please let us know.



 Posted by at 3:24 pm
Jul 292016



The LMDI-100 Serial Interface allows third-party access to a Wattstopper lighting network.  Recently one of our customers needed to communicate with Wattstopper via DMX.  This was easily accomplished using the DecaBox and some custom DMX to RS-232 firmware:

From the mailbag:

I would like to thank you for all of your help with my latest installation project.  It seems that more and more often I am running into integration challenges with house lighting systems that need to interface with the DMX consoles.  Typically these systems utilize proprietary communication language, so it becomes necessary to convert them into something that can work with DMX.  

In this particular project, the only way we could make this conversion, was convert the proprietary system into RS232.  From there, we were able to convert the DMX system into a series of 232 commands, using the DecaBox Protolcal Converter to seamlessly interface both systems.  

At first, I was a little nervous about the prospect of making so many conversions, but the technicians at Engineering Solutions took care of inputting all of the necessary code and the system worked flawlessly right out of the box.  

When the contractor added additional dimmers to the system, all I had to do was ask for an update on the code and simply upload it onto the DecaBox the next day.  I wish all of my integration challenges were as easy to deal with as this was.  I will certainly be using the DecaBox in the future.  It saved me thousands compared to similar solutions.

Thomas Smith, Innovative Event Services Inc

Need something similar? We’d love to hear from you.

 Posted by at 6:27 pm

We’re in Love With Synchronized Fireballs

 DMX, MIDI  Comments Off on We’re in Love With Synchronized Fireballs
May 112016


Earlier this spring we spent a couple days helping the artists from UK-based Arcadia Spectacular* automate part of a production at the 2016 Ultra Music Festival in Miami.  In this case, they were using the ‘Spider’ stage, an enormous structure which travels in four full trucks and requires 15 people and two days each for setup and strike.  The distance between the spider’s feet is about 62 feet.

In this installation, they needed to convert DMX input into a very precise and real-time set of MIDI output commands.  The MIDI was monitored by a PC running custom software which in turn drove the pyro system.  Our DecaBox with custom firmware was a perfect fit.

small rack

Control Rack for part of an EDM festival. The medicine stored in the top left corner is telling.


Our left red LED indicates DMX reception. Since the right LED is also on, a MIDI message is being transmitted.

And here’s a short video clip showing the entire system in action.  Note that the fireballs and the right LED for ‘MIDI OUT’ in perfect sync.

Thanks, Arcadia Spectacular, for the opportunity to work with you on this project.

Need something similar? Let us know.



 Posted by at 4:35 pm

How to Control DMX Equipment from a Savant Automation System

 DMX, RS232  Comments Off on How to Control DMX Equipment from a Savant Automation System
Apr 142016


The process is so straightforward and gratifying it’s illegal in six different states.

Savant makes a very nice control system which can be used to automate many aspects of home control, including audio, video and lighting.  Recently several customers requested help integrating our RS-232 DMX Engine with DMX lighting equipment they had previously installed, including at times an array of our 4-channel LED drivers.

We learned that an integrator, previously unknown to us, had developed a driver for our engine and submitted it to Savant’s repository of useful files.  It had one small error, which we were able to diagnose and report to Savant.  Their internal team edited the driver and all seems to be perfect now. Here’s a copy for reference – it’s an .xml file inside a .zip file:  232 DMX Engine.  You shouldn’t need to bother with this file, ever, but we’re keeping a copy for reference.

One customer was kind enough to share project files, which should help future users get up and running very quickly.  Here’s a zip file containing everything you need.  It’s about 12 MB in size.  The developer included these notes as well:

There is one screen shot that is titled “keypad button function/led behavior” – It’s important to make sure that button function and led behavior is set to “none” otherwise the led indicator cannot be programmed independently to show status of the light. Also, important to note that in Savant’s profile info they indicate to use the yellow (no flow null) RJ45 to serial adapter, however, that didn’t work for me. I used the red (no flow no null) adapter.

Screenshots (click to enlarge):

Workflow to turn led indicator on

Workflow to turn led indicator on

Workflow to turn led indicator off

Workflow to turn led indicator off

Trigger - Led indicator to show status of light

Trigger – Led indicator to show status of light

Trigger - Button Press Light On

Trigger – Button Press Light On

Trigger - Button Press Light Off

Trigger – Button Press Light Off

Keypad button function_led behavior

Keypad button function_led behavior

Let us know if you need help getting something similar up and running.

 Posted by at 3:02 pm

DecaBox Summer Custom Work

 Case Study, DMX, MIDI  Comments Off on DecaBox Summer Custom Work
Oct 192015

This summer we were pleased to see the DecaBox used behind the scenes for a couple of high-profile events.  In both cases, we provided custom firmware which allowed the end user very precise artistic expression.

For the first project, we spent a few days in email discussions with one of the lighting directors at America’s Got Talent.  When the dust settled, we ended up with this DMX to MIDI functionality, which I shared with some less-technical friends the night of the first show:

On tonight’s broadcast, each time a contestant is chosen, a group of lights will pan, tilt and focus so that the artist is highlighted. Our box lurks on the lighting network and listens for that cue to occur. When it does, we send a special MIDI message to a computer in audioworld. This machine is in charge of playing the ‘whoosh’ effect on stage and as part of the master audio feed.

The designers love having light and sound effects exactly locked in sync, each and every time a contestant reveal occurs.

One instance of the effect can be seen within the first few seconds in the video clip below.


The second project involved some edits to our standard MIDI to DMX firmware (specifically, adding support for the MIDI sustain command, then making sure that the resulting DMX output behaved accordingly).  In the designer’s words:

When we were asked by Renegade Lighting Design in London who were putting together an installation for Swedish Lighting company Hem for the London Design Exhibition to provide a piano which could control the 88 lighting fixtures.

We were looking for a solution to a couple of midi to dmx related issues – the tricky thing was that for part of the time the Yamaha Disklavia would be in self-play mode getting midi files from a hidden playback system – for other parts of the day, various classical pianists would be playing the rig –

We turned to the Decabox after trying a few different solutions which didn’t really fit the bill as we needed sustain and velocity control of the lights vi midi.

John was such a help in trying to get the sustain pedal to also control the lights – Many many thanks and will definitely be getting a few more! The client was very happy so job well done!

Cheers – Laurie (www.playback.systems)


Click to Enlarge

Thanks to the AGT team and Laurie in the UK for the chance to collaborate during these events.

Need something similar? We’d love to hear from you.

 Posted by at 10:00 am

Chassis Misprint –> Discounted Pricing

 DMX, MIDI, RS232  Comments Off on Chassis Misprint –> Discounted Pricing
Sep 172015

September 17, 2015

This doesn’t happen very often, but we’ve got two damaged DecaBox chassis tops which are looking for a good home.



They were printed (briefly) out of registration, then re-printed correctly.  So if you enlarge either photo, you’ll see the bottom of a row of text  that’s in the wrong place.

Otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with the gear.  It’s 100% brand new, just cosmetically imperfect.  And if someone would like to use it at a discounted price, we’d be happy to oblige.

Usually when we list ‘scratch and dent’ gear like this, it only lasts a day or two.  Sometimes only a few hours.

Our offer today is that we’ll take $30 off any regular priced system we sell for each of these two parts.  So take a look in the online store and pick your favorite version.  Then send an email to sales AT response-box.com with ‘Imperfect Chassis’ in the subject line.  Let us know your delivery address and deadline, and we’ll send back an online invoice for the total + shipping – $25 discount.

This page will be updated as quantities change.  Thanks!

 Posted by at 9:37 am

Driving Smart LEDs From MalletKATs via MIDI

 DMX, MIDI  Comments Off on Driving Smart LEDs From MalletKATs via MIDI
May 132015
Click to Enlarge

Jason & Company – Click to Enlarge

88 DMX-Driven RGB LED Nodes

88 DMX-Driven RGB LED Nodes, circa 2005

This was a fun project.  Earlier this spring, University of Buffalo composer and percussionist Jason Ross saw our 2010 post describing a clever way to drive new-at-the-time ‘smart’ LED pixels via MIDI input.

He wanted to do something similar as part of a senior project. He was using a trio of MalletKATs to perform an original composition and hoped to map LEDs to individual notes as they were played. These particular ‘KATs contain four full octaves each, plus an extra ‘C’ on the top end.  He required a real-time, stable, hardware-based solution and we were happy to oblige.

Musicians will appreciate that this quantity of notes exceeds even the extended 128-step MIDI scale.  So we offered some custom programming for the versatile blue DecaBox which made everything work perfectly and simultaneously.

To make the installation a success, we provided three strings of smart LEDs, a power supply / decoder with modified programming, and our standard MIDI to DMX DecaBox, also with bespoke firmware.

We assigned each MalletKAT to a separate MIDI channel, and then mapped the specific MIDI notes generated (C3 – C6 inclusive, plus high C7) to three different ranges of DMX channels.  The DecaBox was then programmed to set all three colors of a specific RGB pixel to equal levels when MIDI Note On messages were received.  The brightness of the bulb tracks the note velocity (or loudness) as it is played. Thus, dynamics can be seen as well as heard.  The pixels are extinguished under MIDI control as well.

It takes a bit of math to route all the data to its proper end position, but that was all worked out through a few hours’ testing.  Our gear can receive and process a full pipe of incoming MIDI data in real time, so the lag between the input and display LED output is only about about .025 seconds.  This was especially important since the piece was to be performed live.

Smart LED DMX Interface - Click to Enlarge

Smart LED DMX Interface – Click to Enlarge

Shown here is the system which receives DMX from the DecaBox and generates the properly mapped control signals for the three smart LED strings.  This was a quick-turnaround project, so we secured the circuitry in a generic CATV demarc box with a laser cut mounting panel.  In this photo, the top cover was removed.

And finally, here is the YouTube link for Synth-phony in Lights:


YouTube Link – Click to Play

Nice work, Jason.  It was a pleasure to collaborate with you on this design.  Need something similar? Let us know.


 Posted by at 4:09 am

DecaBox Converts DMX to MIDI Program

 Case Study, DMX, MIDI  Comments Off on DecaBox Converts DMX to MIDI Program
May 022015

elationA few months ago a customer asked if we could help with a custom DMX to MIDI conversion problem.  They were using an Elation Show Designer 3 lighting desk and needed to recall lighting scenes via MIDI input.

They wanted a second DMX console to, among other things, be able to trigger these scene recall messages.

The Elation manual reveals that the console can store 48 scenes on each of 99 pages, or 4,752 different looks. These scenes can be recalled using a MIDI ‘Channel Mode‘ message, which is three bytes long.  The format is


…where $0X is the MIDI channel number [0 15] and then $XX and $YY are a pair of 8-bit numbers, of which the lower seven are available.

So, we ginned up a simple firmware personality for the DecaBox which lets the MIDI channel and values $XX and $YY be easily defined via three consecutive DMX channels.

Everything worked perfectly.  We asked the client if they could provide any other detail about the overall installation, and they replied with this short description.  Unfortunately, no photos or video were available to share.

I used the dmx to midi device to change scenes on a lighting desk in a roller rink to simulate what was going on in a laser zone arena.

For instance when a base station(let’s say red base) was under a attack the roller rink lights would flash red then when the base was destroyed the rink would flash white for a few seconds.

The setup I used was a computer running Light factory that controls the laser zone arena to send dmx to the midi box to allow it to change pages and scenes on a Elation Show Designer 3 lighting desk.

This setup worked great as I didn’t need to setup a 2nd universe or change any fixture addresses, I could simply tap into the prebuilt lighting scenes the desk provided.

Thanks again!


It’s always neat to hear what how our gear is used around the country. If you need something similar, please let us know.

 Posted by at 2:24 pm

MIDI to DMX Slowdowner Rescues an Installation

 Case Study, DMX, MIDI  Comments Off on MIDI to DMX Slowdowner Rescues an Installation
Mar 062015

Last month we had the chance to combine a pair of firmware versions – our MIDI to DMX Converter and the DMX-Massaging Slowdowner to help a client in Europe with a tricky installation.  Both firmwares are running simultaneously in the same chassis, which can be very useful in situations like this.

Unbranded DMX Decoder Doesn't Like Strict DMX Timing

Unbranded DMX decoder doesn’t like strict DMX timing.

In his words,

My company provides complete computer solutions to the broadcast industry specifically within the gameshow market.  As such I frequently visit countries all over the world and have to interface computers with many different types of dimmers and decoders.

The equipment I used to supply has become obsolete so I got in touch with Engineering Solutions.  Their Decabox interested me and with the Midi to DMX interface was exactly what I required.

It’s always a concern when changing over to new kit but I was reassured by quick responses to email and the phone support offered which was very fortunate because I have just finished a Job in Eastern Europe where the ‘slow’ firmware has just basically saved the show.

I had to connect my system to a ‘working’ lighting rig, already tested by the lighting engineer with his Martin lighting console.  I superficial inspection of the rig revealed unbranded decoders (photo attached), each controlling three desks of 12.  The RGB feeds all wired into one channel (I only need to switch desks lights on/off).  All I was told was that the decoders were manufactured in Turkey!

Firstly all appeared well during the usual channel configuration etc. but soon I began to experience some rather unusual effects.  ‘Desk’s’ 5 and 6 could not be controlled independently i.e. when switching on desk 6, 5 would flicker at random.  The same happened for desk 9 and 10.  I could re-create the exact same problem using my ENTTEC controller connected directly to my PC but strangely the lighting engineer had no problems whatsoever using his Martin lighting console.  Further, I was not able to fix the problem by dropping the DMX refresh rate, even as low as 20Hz.

Finally, after advice from John, I changed to the ‘DMX Slowdowner’ firmware which solved the problem immediately.  I was staggered by this apparently simple fix and extremely grateful for the expertise and experience of Engineering Solutions.

The moral of this tale – In future I will be much more wary of unbranded kit!

Thanks again for all you help,
Jeffrey Bowman
iUK Systems Ltd


Thanks, Jeff, for the chance to work with your company on this project.

Need something similar? Just let us know.

 Posted by at 6:33 pm

The 4 Channel Camera Friendly High Power DMX DC Dimmer

 DMX  Comments Off on The 4 Channel Camera Friendly High Power DMX DC Dimmer
Oct 072014
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge


Buy Online Now

The 4-Channel High Speed High Power DMX Decoder

This product’s grandfather was custom-engineered several years ago for a major Cable News Network in Atlanta.  Their redesigned set contained many tens of meters of RGB LED tape.  The basic DMX DC dimmers they originally procured were

  • hard to configure
  • limited to a only a few amps of current draw
  • looked dreadful on camera because their refresh rate was too slow.  A massive moiré interference pattern was generated, a mix of 30 (or 60) frames per second video capture and about 100 frames per second dimming refresh.

So we designed for them a custom system which could be set up in just a few minutes, had a very efficient final drive stage (resulting in lower waste heat) and refreshed the PWM dimming cycle far, far faster than any current or future broadcast camera standard.

The lighting designers were ecstatic that things worked so well.   Dimming and static colors as seen on-camera were as smooth as glass, and many, many decoders of the original design were installed.

The system has been redesigned and packaged for summer 2014, and now boasts the following features:

  • 12v DC power supply
  • 4 channel output
  • 15A at 12V (180 watts) per channel output drive capability, or 40A system total
  • Neutrik XLR5 input and through connectors
  • Bult-in termination switch
  • Power LED
  • DMX present LED
  • ‘Drive’ LED.  Lights if any of the assigned and sequential 4 channels are set above 0%.
  • Heavy-duty screw terminals for DC supply and dimming outputs.
  • Easy-to-use rotary switches for setting the system’s DMX address. (No confusing DIP switch charts needed!)
  • Built-in test modes: 4 channel fade up / fade down, color wheel on channels 1, 2 & 3, all channels at a single level in 10% increments
  • Durable aluminum anodized chassis
  • Mounting ears for wall or panel installation
  • Dimensions: 5.9″ left to right, not counting mounting ears, 3.6″ front to back, 1.7″ tall
  • Designed, fabricated and stocked in the USA

Instruction sheet / wiring diagram is in this PDF file: 4 Channel Decoder

Buy Online Now


System driving 19A at 12V, or 228 watts of LED power. The enclosure was barely warm to the touch.


 Posted by at 2:47 am