A Handful of Weekend Wonders

 Case Study, DMX  Comments Off on A Handful of Weekend Wonders
May 242018
 

In addition to the standard products listed in our web store, we do quite a bit of custom / one-off work.  Here’s a collection of recent quick-turn projects we’ve recently shipped.  All images here can be enlarged with a click.

The DMX Triggered DMX Selector Switch

A theatre up north had several lighting control sources (a large lighting console, several wall panels, etc) plus safety rules which require certain channels be kept at a specific intensities 24/7.  Based on their sketch and pseudocode, we designed a five input DMX router.

For any input, setting a specific channel to a specific value lets that DMX source take control, and its full universe of data is passed to the ‘DMX Out’ jack.  In addition to switching between the five inputs, the system forces the safety channels to their proper values and sends the final signal downstream.

If you think about it, in this situation, a standard DMX merger running either ‘highest takes precedence’ or ‘most recent takes precedence’ wouldn’t work properly.  The system contains a USB interface for painless field firmware updates if they’re required.  Each DMX input is optically and galvanically isolated from its neighbor, which should keep lightning propagation to a minimum.

Side note #1: Our stock DMX receive circuitry has been installed in thousands of locations worldwide.  And in over a decade, we’ve never, ever received a report of it being damaged in any way.

A Countdown Timer / High Power UV Trigger System



Though not one of our usual DMX / MIDI / serial projects, we’d worked with staff at this childrens’ museum several times in the past.  It’s rewarding to deliver something which didn’t exist, anywhere in the world, until we made it so.

In a dark corner of the museum’s ‘color and light’ lab, an entire wall was painted with photoluminescent paint.  When excited by a xenon strobe light, flashlight or blacklight, the paint activates and glows green for several seconds, slowly fading away as the energy dissipates.

The designers envisioned a ‘photo booth’ where patrons could press a trigger button and then pose against the wall.  The paint is then activated by the light source, leaving a glowing silhouette.

We sourced a pair of 10W UV lights (395 nm and super intense, causing mild eyeball sunburns after twenty seconds of near-field exposure) and a 4″ illuminated pushbutton.

I felt that standard 7-segment displays looked mechanical and dated, but a quick search online returned a slightly stylized 7 segment font – ‘Modern Mini’ in bold italic.  The ~5 degree slant looked fun, and I liked how the segments jauntily meshed together.

 

It took a few steps in the CAD program, but the digits were converted to vector data.  On the shop’s laser cutter, we created a 7-segment display measuring 300 x 200 mm.   The display was loaded with LEDs whose brightness and color can be arbitrary controlled, segment by segment.   The finished assembly is a sandwich of several acrylic layers, using black, clear and white stock.  The segments are inlaid in the black layer, then covered with a clear protective layer.  The layers allow the light for each segment to be channeled, diffused and displayed in a pleasing way.

Also, the giant pushbutton contains a white LED which can be set to any intensity.

Our custom circuit board include a small display for changing and storing settings (UV / flash exposure time, countdown time and ‘timeout’ time).  It was somewhat overbuilt, supporting 4 contact closure inputs, 4 buffered logic level outputs, a pair of high power output stages and 4 SSR (solid state relay) outputs, in addition to connections for the countdown display and a smattering of indicator lights.

During normal operation, the display reads ‘5’ in green, and the pushbutton pulses slowly, à la sleeping iMac, drawing attention to itself in a tasteful way.  When the button is pressed, the white LED turns off and the countdown begins.  At time zero, the UV sources pulse for their specified time, the display switches to blue and begins begins counting down from the ‘lockout’ value, giving patrons a chance to enjoy their artwork as the phosphorescence slowly fades away.

Once the lockout time has passed, the pushbutton resumes its quiet pulsing, the display switches back to green and waits patiently for input.

Side note #2: The blue / green color scheme was chosen in a nod to the industrial designers at Disney. Green means go, blue means wait.  Red signifies danger and problems, so don’t bother the public unnecessarily.

 

 

 Posted by at 4:53 pm

DMX Multi-Zone Universe – A White Paper

 Case Study, DMX, RS232  Comments Off on DMX Multi-Zone Universe – A White Paper
Mar 092017
 



Mike Slattery, CTO over at TEKVOX in Dallas, wrote a short white paper about how our DMX Engine can easily control fixtures in multiple physical zones, and shows how the Engine’s ‘mask’ command makes it simple to adjust the look in each zone without affecting surrounding areas.

He writes from a Crestron background, but the principles apply to every major control platform.

Take a look! DMX Multi-Zone Universe [PDF]

 

 

 

 Posted by at 5:47 pm

DMX Control of a Daktronics Venus 7000 Video Controller

 Case Study, DMX, RS232  Comments Off on DMX Control of a Daktronics Venus 7000 Video Controller
Feb 142017
 

Canucks Arena & Video Ribbon. Photo from GLOBETREKIMAGES / 604 NOW FLICKR POOL

This was a fun one.  Turns out, the Daktronics Venus 7000 video controller can be trained to play content based on incoming RS-232 messages.  And, the trusty DecaBox can receive DMX and output all manner of RS-232 content.  When the dust settled, we ended up shipping a somewhat-modified version of our DMX to ASCII firmware.

Here’s the story, straight from the customer:

Recently, I was given this task of creating a lighting board to Daktronics Venus7000 lighting trigger and started out by looking at my relevant device ‘gozintas and gozoutas’ (ins and outs). 

I do not dabble too much in lighting control technology although I knew we are using a Grand MA on PC. I do provide in-house second tier support on our Daktronics LED systems and servers so I also knew that I needed to create some simple ASCII data strings on an RS-232 serial port. 

After asking the Google, I was able to find some articles about converting DMX to serial. This is the link that came up: http://response-box.com/gear/decabox-protocol-bridge-overview/ and this Decabox looked like the exact piece of ‘glue’ needed to convert lighting transitions to a Daktronics triggers. 

I took a bit of a chance and purchased the Decabox, (John Chapman at Engineering Solutions Inc. was also very helpful in that he returned my call and assisted me in determining a data scheme). I went back a to Daktronics Engineering and they were good with John’s proposed data string.  

Shortly after submitting my order, I received the Decabox which John had  pre-programmed and we were ready to test. We were very quickly able to see the appropriate serial data in our Dak server room and soon after got Dak to remotely configure the serial listen port. 

Success! 

This has solved an ongoing issue with playback synchronization of Daktronics content playback, and our house lighting.  We now have consistent and repeatable triggers during our game start opening sequences, whereas before we relied on an intercom countdown to mouse click (which was not very tight!). 

I would not only recommend this device, but also have kudos for John Chapman’s support and timely follow ups to our questions. 

GS | Broadcast Technician
Canucks Sports & Entertainment | February 2017

Need something similar? Contact us and let’s get started.

 

 Posted by at 11:07 pm

DMX Control of a Wattstopper Lighting System

 Case Study, DMX, RS232  Comments Off on DMX Control of a Wattstopper Lighting System
Jul 292016
 

wattstopperbridge

 

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

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 Posted by at 6:27 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)

JE5_0933

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