Apr 232010
 

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Over the past several years, this sturdy interface has become the tool of choice for systems integrators worldwide.  It provides a refreshingly simple way to control DMX equipment from any system containing a serial port.  Our customers have used it in systems based on AMX, Control4, Elan, iPad and many other equipment brands.  Realistically, any gear which can speak RS-232 can drive the DMX engine. In May 2014 we released Firmware Version 4.85, which adds several exciting features:

  • Parallel, Simultaneous, Multi-Speed Fading  Any number of scenes and /or DMX channels can be set to any number of levels, at any speed, at any time.
  • ‘Halt’ Command stops a fade mid-calculation, and returns the current value of any changing DMX channels.  This is useful for updating user interface panels, so that on-screen information reflects actual channel intensities.
  • Comments can be sent via RS-232, and they are ignored by the system.  This was useful to a few customers who were using programs such as HyperTerm or RealTerm to control the system. These programs have the ability to send entire files automatically.  This lets designers include project notes in the file if needed.
  • Verbose Debugging can be toggled on and off.  In basic mode, the system replies via RS-232 when commands are received and executed.  In verbose mode, more detailed feedback is available. This is useful for initial programming and debugging.

In this demo clip, three groups of channels are shown fading simultaneously at three different speeds:

V4.85 firmware can be installed on any system we’ve previously shipped, and is installed on anything shipped today.

Cost for these new features is $15 if you’d like to update from an earlier firmware version. and the download may be purchased here. The hardware also allows for scene storage and recall. Since this box handles crossfade math internally, a simple level + timing command may be set.  This is much, much easier than forcing a PC or other controller to generate hundreds of commands over several seconds. The ASCII command set is straightforward and human-readable.

Once a serial connection is established, most users are able to fully control their attached DMX equipment within just a few seconds.

The DMX output stage is terminated in your choice of Neutrik XLR-3 or XLR-5 connector. Firmware can be updated in the field at any time, should future feature additions be useful in your application.  The re-flash takes only a few seconds to complete. Front panel LEDs show the status of applied power, DMX output and RS-232 input. The chassis measures just 4.6″ wide x 3.2″ deep x 1.8″ tall and is fabricated from durable aluminum stock.

Complete documentation is included in this PDF file: Serial DMX 4.85

These systems are in stock & ready to ship.  Contact us if you’d like to add one to your collection.  Or simply grab one from our online store.

Also, a third party has just released a driver which lets this system be seamlessly driven from a Control4 system.  Take a look on this page for more detail.

Other System Features Added Previously:

  • Add ‘Data’ mode for directly writing to the DMX output buffer.  This is the fastest and least overhead-intensive way to communicate with the DMX universe via RS232.
  • Add command for initiating a hardware reboot.  Emulates a power cycle.
  • Add command to pause fading mid-transition.
  • Add command for jogging individual channels by a specified amount.
  • Add scene recall masking.
  • Scene storage and recall
  • Add baud rate switching between standard rates, and rejection of non-standard rates.  System resets at 9600 8N1 in the event of an error.
  • Add channel query command.  System will report the state of any  / all DMX channels
  • Add ‘layer’ mode.  Scenes may be built up channel by channel, rather than one long command being required to describe a scene.

Troubleshooting

We’ve distilled a handful of support calls into this handy document.  Take a look if things aren’t working perfectly out of the box.

Savant Module

Super easy control via the Savant platform.  Here’s more info.

Control4 Module

Check out this link for a great way to drive this system using Control4 gear.

Crestron Modules

9/20/2015 – Updated Version

Integrator Ben Shoan from HI-I LLC in New Jersey was kind enough to provide this elegant driver.  Take it for a spin and let us know how it works for you.

(zip file) Engineering Solutions DMX Controller

2012 – Original Driver

As a result of our ‘Free Gear in Exchange for a Programming Module‘ offering in 2012, programmer Wes Albert was kind enough to provide these interesting files, which may work as a springboard for integration in your Crestron system.

Visit this directory to grab the Xpanel and demo movie.

However, a tech support phone call on 4/8/2013 revealed that at least some Crestron systems may not work properly with this plugin.  The module below specifies that no hardware flow control be used. This is important because, as mentioned in the instruction manual, DB9-4 (DTR) is used by our system to receive new firmware.  If DTR is set, our box is held in reset and waits for a specific serial handshake, which is followed by a new firmware image.  If the box is in reset, no regular serial commands will be received or processed.

However, in this customer’s Crestron installation, every time an ASCII character was transmitted, our box would be reset.  The obvious symptom of this behavior was that the LEDs on the front panel would flash, and an RS232 message similar to ‘System is Active’ would be transmitted. Even though the module specifically disables hardware flow control, it was still being toggled at every character.

The fix involved a pair of needle nose pliers and required a few seconds work, as pin 4 was gratuitously yanked from the RS232 cable.  System operation immediately returned to specified perfection. We currently offer a 3′ RS-232 M-F cable in which only pins 2, 3 and 5 are connected.  It’s available in the online store. So this anecdote is posted in hopes that it’s useful to someone in the future.

 

Archive


 

Best thing since sliced bread. I replaced our old McBride DMX bridge with this little puppy. Did a little extra AMX programming to work this baby and POOF! Like magic, our automation was alive. As our old McBride units die out, I will be upgrading to the newer Deca unit. Either way, it saved me THOUSANDS … and in the corporate world, those of us techs in the field become the companies heros for cost savings. Simply awesome. Rene Garcia Sr. Tech / Automation / Telco / IT Simon Property Group / Ontario Mills Mall

 

 Posted by at 6:28 am

  13 Responses to “RS-232 Driven DMX Engine”

  1. I’d like to purchase one of the RS-232 (Serial) to DMX512 Converters.
    How can I get one?

    Thanks!
    Chris

  2. @Chris – here’s a link to the friendly online store.

  3. I’m in Seoul, Korea.
    If I buy this Product, can you send it to South Korea?

    Thanks!
    Joo-han,kim

  4. Yes, we ship worldwide – enough that both FedEx and UPS sent us Christmas cards last year.

    Send an email to sales AT response-box.com with your address details and we’ll reply with a detailed shipping quote.

  5. Hi,
    Do you ship to Canada or you have a Canadian distributor? What is the delivery time?
    Thanks,

  6. We ship to Canada all the time. It can be as fast as overnight (FedEx Express) or 6-10 days through the postal service. Send an email to ‘sales AT response-box.com’ with your delivery address & timing requirements, and we can get you a final quote.

  7. […] with a systems integration group in Quebec, Canada.  A few months ago they purchased one of our RS232 Driven DMX Engines.  Once the box arrived, we spoke briefly on the phone to help them get started using the […]

  8. Dear sir,

    I like to buy this RS232 Driven DMX Engine. Do you ship to Belgium Europe and what do I have to do?

    Kind regards

    Jan Slembrouck

  9. Jan – send a quick email to sales AT response-box.com and we’ll sort out the international shipping. No problem at all.

  10. Do you plan on implementing this for Mac OSX use?

  11. @Kevin – I don’t see why it couldn’t work right now under OS X. There’s a whole flock of USB-Serial adapters out there (we’re partial to those from FTDI) which show up in /dev/tty. Any terminal program which can read and write to the port should work nicely. Since our command syntax is all ASCII-based, you should be up and running in no time. Here’s a free app which looks promising: http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/31352/coolterm

  12. […] We’re pleased to release firmware 4.85 for the RS-232 DMX engine. […]

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