Mar 232011

Or, “How to Trigger Cues on a Jands Vista Lighting Console“…

Jands Vista Lighting Console

In early 2009, we were contact by an engineer in Australia who worked for Jands, makers of really neat lighting consoles.  At that time, some of their customers were  trying to automate a production using a Show Control software suite such as QLab.  Unfortunately, the Jands Vista console they were using didn’t support Midi Show Control messages as input.  However, properly formatted RS-232 strings could be received and parsed by the Jands firmware and used to trigger various cues and cue stacks programmed in the console.

The Jands engineer asked if we could design a small ‘black box’ which performed the protocol conversion.

Midi Show Control messages are a subset of regular MIDI sysex commands.  They adhere to a very specific format and byte sequence.  Because of this, parsing these messages and then editing them to match the required Jands protocol is relatively straightforward.

A few weeks later we delivered a stack of standalone, custom-built MSC to RS-232 engines.  They were handsome enough and worked perfectly.

However, at the same time our  company was moving away from purpose built, 1- and 2-off hardware builds.  Obviously we were spending a lot of CAD time, programming effort and circuit board startup fees for each small job.  It made sense to consolidate our most commonly requested tasks into a single system, which became the DecaBox Protocol Converter.

This morning we’re thrilled to announce that a new firmware personality for the DecaBox has been created, and that it perfectly mimics the old standalone system.  Though we don’t have a Vista here in the workshop to test against, customer feedback confirms that the new firmware does exactly what it needs to.

Here’s a (silent) video clip of it running:

This firmware doesn’t currently appear in our online store, but if you need a copy, just ask.

A few words from happy customers:

Without a shadow of a doubt, the product from Engineering Solutions was a worthwhile purchase.

The fact that the box has a range of inputs/outputs which can be linked simply by which firmware is uploaded into it makes it perfect for our needs. Although I had a very specific use for it, in converting Midi to specific RS232 commands, we are already looking into further uses of it to utilise the dmx ports on the device. With so many control protocols used within the live events industry, it was interesting to find that there is only a handful of standalone products that will happily convert between them, and other products on the market can usually can only convert between one input and one output.

This is the first product that I have found which will convert between all of them simply with a change of the firmware. In addition to its functionality, its sleek but durable design makes it perfect for our hire stock within the live events industry.

We converted the power input supplied into a Powercon input, and installed our own small transformer within the box, thus getting rid of the need for an external power supply. Powercon sockets are more of an industry standard and so we were quick to make this small, yet useful change.

As an individual, I have already recommended Engineering Solutions to a number of industry professionals as I was extremely impressed with the level of service provided by the company in finding an outcome for my specific needs. Further to this, the fact that they were able to supply new edited firmware with 20 minutes of an email request makes the stand out against their competitors.

The product was delivered in an extremely impressive time as they were aware that I required it within a few days of the initial phone call.

-Tom Ralston

dbn Lighting Limited

Manchester, UK

(Editor’s Note: Tom was triggering cues on a Jands Vista console, using an external show control software suite which received dry contact closure inputs from somewhere on stage, then output MIDI notes. We slightly modified our standard MSC->RS232 firmware to make it more compatible with this particular situation.  Thanks, Tom!)


In June of 2009, we decided to put together a “live rock and roll arena rock experience” that would allow us to bring the look, sound, and feel of a major concert touring production to a corporate event or wedding. Everything, of course, would need to be scaled down in order to fit within the budget and space confinements of a smaller venue.

We decided to go with Qlab software for our show control. This one program allows us to output multiple stereo audio tracks, backing videos for our plasma displays/live camera footage, Midi Show Control, Midi Program Changes, Midi Control Changes, and Midi Tracks….all from a Macbook Pro 13″ laptop!

For lighting control, we chose Jands Vista PC software because of the ability to program with a “time-line” based GUI. Also, there is a great feature that allows you to swap different fixtures in and out of the show without having to reprogram them.

One drawback, however, was the fact that Jands Vista did NOT have any Midi implementation, but DID allow ASCII serial commands and SMPTE time code input. We were going to go with SMPTE, but that would require purchase of an S3 console at minimum and we didn’t have the need for an actual console, nor the budget to purchase one!

We contacted A.C. Lighting and discovered that John at Engineering Solutions, Inc. was the guru/go-to-man to make the “little black box” (actually a cool shade of blue) that would make all of this happen. After addressing my concerns, John was able to put the Decabox into my hands within a couple of days of ordering it, complete with Midi to Serial conversion software fully loaded and ready to go. Due to a few mistakes on my part, I was at first, unable to make things happen, so I phoned John. After only a couple of minutes, he was able to determine that his box was working perfectly, but that I had made a few mistakes…mistakes which he helped to immediately correct.

Today, March 30, 2011, we are finally able to KNOW that our “idea” can and will be fully realized. Our video shoot is coming up in less than a month and I have NO doubts that we’ll be fully ready thanks to John at Engineering Solutions.


Nathan Blankenship

Liveworks Entertainment, Inc.



 Posted by at 4:16 pm

  2 Responses to “Case Study: Midi Show Control to RS-232”

  1. […] new firmware revision is an extension of the custom work we did for controlling Jands lighting consoles.  That firmware receives MIDI Show Control messages, then repackages them as RS232 serial strings, […]

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.