Check out the bargain bucket – we’ve got five Flapper MKII projector shutter systems, recently returned from long term rentals. Though there might be a few cosmetic scuffs, the gear works perfectly. Now’s your chance to grab a projector shutter at much-less-than-regular price.
This has been an unpublished firmware build for quite a while now, and we’ve finally had a moment to cut together a short video demonstration.
In summary, this firmware personality allows the DecaBox to
- capture static DMX scenes (single frame snapshots)
- … or dynamic looks (44 frames per second, with virtually no time limit),
- … then replay this data using a simple RS232 command syntax
- Also ‘build’ DMX scenes channel-by-channel using RS232 commands.
It’s been very popular with systems integrators who need more functionality than is provided by our RS232 to DMX engine. Though the smaller DMX engine is fairly powerful, designers often have other DMX authoring tools they prefer to use, especially in situations involving complex cues and hundreds of channels.
The DecaBox allows DMX data to be captured from any system. The data is stored internally on an SD memory card, and can easily be recalled.
The easiest way to demonstrate the different functions is with this quick video clip. This clip covers capturing scenes using the front panel. The serial syntax for capturing scenes is discussed below.
Command syntax is very straightforward. RS232 connection is 9600 8N1. If the DecaBox is connected directly to a PC, a crossover / null modem cable is required.
Here’s a screenshot from a terminal program, captured as the system boots up:
(Note that in this and all following screenshots, the image may be enlarged by clicking on it. Also, yellow text is generated by the DecaBox and green text is sent to the DecaBox through the terminal program / Crestron system / etc.) The text [cr] represents a carriage return character, decimal 13 or 0xod.
The system has two basic modes: DMX passthrough and DMX engine. In DMX passthrough mode, data connected to the DecaBox’s DMX Input jack is copied to the DMX Output jack. This feature is included because often an upstream DMX source, such as a lighting console, is used for primary control of the attached fixtures. In this mode, the DecaBox is basically transparent to incoming data. There is a latency of ~ 1 DMX packet, or 1/44 second, in passthrough mode.
In DMX engine mode, incoming DMX data is ignored. The DecaBox generates all output data internally.
These two modes may be toggled between by sending P[cr] or E[cr]. At power up, the system defaults to E mode.
The DecaBox can grab static (one-shot) DMX scenes or record continuous sequences at 44 frames per second.
To grab a scene, send the serial command
- G is a capital G and mnemonic for grab
- N is a decimal number, range is [1 999]
- [cr] is the carriage return
Here’s a screenshot of the process. Again, green commands are generated by the user, and yellow is feedback from the system.
To record a dynamic scene, with a time ranging from seconds to several hours, use this syntax:
- Ris a capital R and mnemonic for record
- N is a decimal number, range is [1 999]
- [cr] is a carriage return
The system creates the file for recording, and then prompts for a ‘start’ trigger. B[cr] begins the capture and Q[cr] ends it, as shown below.
Once DMX data has been recorded, it’s useful to replay it. To that end, both static scenes and dynamic recordings may be called through the serial port.
To play a static scene, the syntax is
- S is a capital S, and mnemonic for static.
- NNN is a three digit decimal number, which matches a pre-captured scene
- : is a colon
- TTT is a crossfade time, in tenths of a second, between the current DMX output and what’s stored in the file
- [cr] is a carriage return, decimal 13 or hex Ox0d
Here’s an example screen capture:
To recall a dynamic scene, use this syntax:
- D is a capital D and mnemonic for dynamic.
- NNN is a pre-recorded scene number. three digits, with leading zeroes if needed.
- : is a colon
- RRR is the number of times a file repeats. Use 000 for infinite loop.
- [cr] is a carriage return. Decimal 13 or 0x0D
Attempting to recall a scene which wasn’t previously stored in memory will return an error:
The command C[cr] can be used to instantly clear the DMX output.
If you need one of these, or something similar, please let us know!
For several years now, our DecaBox Protocol Converter with MIDI to DMX firmware has been received in a wonderful way. We’ve shipped systems all over the world, and they’ve been used with excellent results by musicians and performance artists in a variety of venues.
Today we’re thrilled to release a firmware update for the MIDI to DMX converters. We’ve borrowed code from our RS232 to DMX Engine (a smashing success in its own right, and the preferred tool of hundreds of A/V technicians and systems integration companies) and used it to create automatic, beautiful, silky smooth fades.
In the past, to create fades and lighting dissolves using MIDI commands, a series of either note or CC messages were required. It worked well enough, but wasn’t as elegant as it could be.
This new firmware build automates the entire process, in a very straightforward way. MIDI program change (also known as patch change) messages, which typically are used to switch between voices on a keyboard, such as grand piano, electric piano, vibraphone, etc, now control the DecaBox’s internal dimming engine.
These program changes all have a numeric value. What we’ve done is taken the value and then subtracted one. This number is the time, in seconds, that subsequent MIDI note messages will cause the DMX channels to fade in and out.
For example, Acoustic Grand is PC #1. 1 – 1 = 0. Zero second (instant) on / off times.
PC #10, the venerable Glockenspiel, generates a nine second fade time. 10 – 1 = 9.
And so forth.
Any combination of notes and PC messages may be transmitted. They’ll be processed in the order they are received. Fade times can overlap each other in any combination. The dimming engine calculates all fade times in parallel, so it can be fed a dizzying array of data without skipping a beat.
Note that as before, the MIDI note velocity corresponds to the final DMX channel intensity. The dimming engine only affects the time it takes DMX channels to move from one level to another.
Here’s a video clip which demonstrates the new firmware. In the clip, we used a handful of the LED panels which were left over from the Christmas project shown here.
You can click on the ‘Youtube’ link in the player to see the clip full screen, etc.
If you choose to purchase a DecaBox, this new firmware (v3.0d) will be included at no charge. You can grab yours in the online store – it’s a ‘Standard DecaBox with MIDI to DMX firmware’.
If you’ve ordered one of these after October 1, 2012, we can email you a copy of the new firmware at no charge. It only takes a few seconds to complete the update using your DecaBox’s USB port.
Update 2/6/2013 Firmware 3.2d has been released, with the following additions:
- ‘Note Off’ at any velocity clears the DMX channel. Speed is based on the currently selected engine speed.
- Dimming engine speed can be controlled by (a) MIDI PC messages or (b) MIDI CC#0 messages. This setting can be accessed in the DecaBox’s menu system, and the setting survives a power cycle. Note that if MIDI CC#0 is selected to drive the dimming engine speed, DMX channel #1 can not be also driven with CC messages. This was added because some sequencer programs don’t save program / patch changes messages very well. It was easier to work with a dynamic CC fader / knob tool (which can be automated as part of playback) rather than the PC messages. So now, either method can be used with equal results. In most systems’ MIDI implementation, CC#0 is also named ‘Bank Select’.
- Dimming engine speed is adjustable now in .25 second increments, up to a maximum fade time of ~ 30 seconds.
Finally, if your gear is older than October, we can provide an update for $26. Contact ‘sales AT response-box.com’ for more details.
We’ve got a trio of Flapper MKII projector shutter systems, recently returned from long term rentals. Everything comes with a full 1 year warranty, just like our new gear. Only difference is that there may be some scratches or scuffing on the chassis pieces.
Interested? Take a look in the Bargain Bucket.
Usually refurbished gear only lasts a few days (and sometimes, just a few hours) once posted here. If you’re looking for a deal, don’t miss this one.
As a result of customer suggestions, we’re happy to release version 4.0 of the dimming engine’s firmware. Lots of new and useful features, including scene storage and recall. It’s a free upgrade for existing customers, and ships standard with new purchases as of today. If you’ve got one of these systems already and the new functions seem useful, send an email and we’ll get you the new build.
…because the world has enough boring black gear.
Actually, this nifty console (and it’s identical brethren, comprising a six-wide litter), were commissioned by a local staging company in spring 2012.
They do a lot of corporate A/V work, much of which includes ballrooms and breakout rooms and the like. They’ve invested heavily in ETC’s seven-color LED wash light fixtures, and frequently use them as accents in smaller rooms. They wanted a simple and rugged way to control these fixtures in parallel.
We, on the other hand, wanted to experiment with heavy chrome plated knobs which featured red alignment dots.
The result is the 8-channel beast shown above.
On the rear panel are a pair of standard DMX outputs (each driven by a separate output stage), which makes it convenient to run cable to both sides of a room.
The chrome handles are 3″ tall, and identical to what you’d see on heavy rack mount equipment. Total chassis width is about 12″. The knobs are almost .7″ in diameter. The chassis is formed from durable steel, then finished with red and charcoal powdercoat. With any luck, the combination will prove sufficiently roadie-proof.
This is posted not so much as a ‘for sale’ offering (we could do a re-run, but on about a two week turnaround), but to demonstrate some of the custom – and often unpublished – work we’ve produced over the years.
As a result of our ‘Free Gear in Exchange for a Programming Module‘ offering a few weeks ago, programmer Wes Albert was kind enough to provide a big batch of Crestron files, which should serve as a springboard for integrating DMX output in your Crestron system. Take a look at this page for more details.
Also note that we’re currently developing a new system which features an ethernet port rather than RS232 control. A very similar command set (plus some even more powerful features) will be implemented as simple ASCII strings sent to a specific UDP port. The existing dimming engine will of course be preserved, thus freeing your host controller from calculating all the required data points.
New features will also include scene storage and playback, channel queries and an even faster way to access groups of DMX channels.
ETA? A couple weeks, hopefully.
If you’d like to bang around on one of these systems as a beta tester, drop us a note in the comments below.
P.S. Fortunately, most of these new ethernet engine features will be back-ported to the RS232 version as well, and be available for free (hopefully) or for a nominal fee (if the programming turns especially ugly) for all existing customers. If you’d like to be notified when it’s available, just enter your name and email address in the top right corner of this page.
Edit 8/6/2012 : Programmer Wes Albert was kind enough to provide a demo video and several Crestron modules. Take a look here and let us know how they work for you…
This little guy has been for sale now for a couple years, with great success. It’s very popular with systems integrators who need simple, straightforward control of an entire DMX universe through a serial port. Our customers have connected it to everything from an iPad, standard AMX / Crestron controllers, custom-written software for Mac or PC platforms, and surely many other systems we’re not aware of. Its easy-to-parse, human-readable serial command set results in a very short learning curve and very stable operation.
We’re well beyond checking for firmware bugs* at this point – the system has been field-proven by many many customers.
But here’s where we need help.
This summer’s goal is to make the system even more user-friendly and powerful.
We’re what the IRS would classify as a ‘very small business’, and don’t have resources to tackle this alone. So we’re offering converter boxes to a select group of people.
What You Get
- One standalone RS232 to DMX engine
- One 9v DC adapter
- As much email and telephone tech support as it takes to make you happy
What We Want in Return
- As you can probably imagine, we just don’t have the time to buy / borrow / rent hardware and software to test against each and every major system out there.
- So, we’re looking for 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. Basically, you provide with us 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. Full credit for your work will be given, including links to your website and a quick company bio if you’d like some extra exposure.
Interested? Drop a quick note in the comments below. Include your email address (which will be sent to us, but not shared with anyone else). Please mention your platform of choice, as we certainly don’t know who all the big players are in this arena. We’re hoping to work first with integration systems which have fairly broad market penetration already.
This is a first-come, first served-per-system sort of project, probably. We can sneak five or maybe ten boxes out the door before the accountants start to gnash their teeth. If someone else has claimed your platform already, make your best case for why we should double down on free bits of $200 kit.
And of course, as people have a chance to program against their gear and submit results, we’ll post them in a helpful gallery on this site.
Note that comments submitted are read and moderated by an actual human being, so they may not appear immediately below.
Thanks for visiting our little corner of the Internet.
* 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.
EDIT: As of June 13, 2012, we’ve got a group of several programmers working on different Crestron modules for this system. So no more freebies, sorry. However, if you’re familiar with a different automation platform, please let us know. Otherwise, keep an eye on this space, as we’re hoping to publish the finished modules within a week or two. Also, if you enter your name and email address in the top right corner of this page, you’ll receive automatic updates when new content is published here.
From a phone call we received last week:
I’m finishing off an art installation to be installed in our local library. The video projector we’re using needs to run all day, but be turned off each evening when the library closes. The library staff aren’t available to turn the projector on and off each day, so the process needs to be automated. Can you help?
It turns out that this is a bit more tricky than first imagined. The easy solution, of course, is to plug the projector in to a $4 mechanical timer, then set the on and off interval as appropriate. However, this won’t work for any modern video projector. Instead, (once mains AC is applied) they require a ‘soft’ power command, either through a remote control or on-panel pushbutton. And usually to turn a projector off, the power button is pressed once, and then a second time a second or so later, to confirm operation.
Since the DecaBox already does a nice job recording and replaying IR commands , it made sense to write a firmware module which included a clock and scheduling routine. Once this is done, any captured IR command can be replayed at any time on any day.
The DecaBox contains an internal socket for an SD memory card. On that card is a text file called, surprisingly, ‘schedule.txt.’ It looks like this:
As shown above, the projector is programmed to turn on at 09:00 and off at 21:00 weekdays. At 21:00, the ‘power’ command is sent twice to ensure proper shut-down. The Saturday and Sunday schedule is different, to match the library’s operating hours.
Here’s a quick video clip showing how easy it is to set up and configure the system:
Need something similar? Just let us know!
MIDI Note Inputs Trigger Arbitrary RS-232 String Outputs
We were contacted by a group who was using the Mac OS-based QLab software to run their show. Part of the show involved a pair of large frame video projectors (a Barco FLM HD20K and a Panasonic whose model number I can’t recall). The designers needed to control the internal shutters on these two large projectors, but QLab doesn’t allow serial output. However, its toolkit includes a full complement of MIDI note and show control message generators.
So, we developed a firmware build for the DecaBox which accepts MIDI input (any combination of note on, note off and program change) messages, and outputs serial strings up to 40 characters long. Setup is based on a very simple text file called ‘map.txt’ which is stored on the DecaBox’s internal SD memory card.
Map.txt looks like this:
; DecaBox Protocol Converter
; Engineering Solutions Inc
; Firmware for converting MIDI messages into
; RS232 serial strings, in a user-configurable way.
; This file is called map.txt and should be edited
; in either TextEdit (OS X) or Notepad (windows). Other programs,
; such as Word, may introduce unwanted garbage characters in the file.
; Note that lines which begin with a semicolon are comments, and
; are ignored by the firmware. A line can contain a comment or a command,
; but not both.
; First define the MIDI channel used to receive data. This is a two
; digit decimal number with the range [01 16]
; In this example, we’re using MIDI channel 1
; Next define the baud rate for the RS232 output. Valid values are
; 9600, 19200, 38400, 57600. No commas are used.
; Default baud rate is 9600
; Finally, define the cues which will be transmitted.
; This is done by selecting the MIDI note to be monitored, the note
state (ON or OFF),
; and the RS232 string to be generated.
; Characters which aren’t human readable and editable in a
; text editor (such as carriage return, line feed, STX,
; ETX and so forth, are defined by the escape sequence $AB, where AB
is a two digit
; hex representation of a single byte to be transmitted. Valid range
of AB is [00 FF]
; Leading zeroes may be required, depending on desired value.
; The protocol is not case sensitive. $AB == $ab == $Ab == $aB
; For example, to generate the string ‘Hello World’ + carriage return when MIDI
; note #3 is ON, use this syntax:
; N003 Hello World$0d
; Note that each line begins with either “N” or “F” (signifying Note ON or
; Note OFF, and is followed by a three digit note number, then another space,
; then the beginning of the string.
; Strings made entirely of hex characters can also be built using the
; escape sequences. Here’s how to send the five bytes $02 $04 $10 $22 $38 when
; note #6 is turned off
; F006 $02$04$10$22$38
; If the $ character itself needs to be transmitted as part of a serial
; string, it must be encoded as the hex character 24.
; F006 $02$04$10$22$38$2F$24
; MIDI notes can be added to this table in any order. If a note is duplicated,
; the string appearing farther down in the table will overwrite an
; earlier value.
; Up to 32 string characters can be assigned to each MIDI note.
; Finally, MIDI Program Change messages can be used to
; generate serial output. These are preceded by a ‘P’
; and the other syntax information above applies.
; Note that (currently) only program change messages 1-48 are
; supported due to processor memory space
;; The actual MIDI to RS232 Patch Chart begins here:
; Here’s a string for triggering the shutter on a Panasonic projector
; and this turns it off
; Here’s shutter close for Barco:
; And here’s open:
; Other sample commands for testing, etc.
;P001 MIDI Program Change #1 Received
;P002 MIDI Program Change #2 Received
;P004 MIDI Program Change #3 Received
;;N001 Midi Note 001 Received$0d
;;F001 Hey! Someone just released note #1$0d
;;N002 —>Here’s note number two!!$0D
;F002 _Stop Cue 123.45.67$0D$0A
;N005 Go Pyro Finale$0D
;N006 Open Trapdoor Stage Left$0A
;N128 Highest Note!$0d
Here’s a screenshot from terminal program RealTerm, showing the Panasonic and Barco strings generated by the DecaBox. Note that the Barco data looks garbled but it’s actually ok – only a few of the bytes required by Barco are human-readable.
That’s pretty much it. The system runs exactly as expected.
Here’s a couple pictures from the production. The projection control was handled by
Jordan Goodfellow The RARE Experience www.therareexperience.com
Since the control system was located quite far from the stage, a pair of RS232-over-CAT5 converters were procured to reliably span the distance.
Note here that MIDI data is daisy-chained from the QLab computer to the first DecaBox, and then to the second one.
If you need something like this for your next production, just let us know. And thanks again, Jordan, for the chance to work with you on this project.