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

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

 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

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

$BX $XX $YY

…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!

-Joel

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

Engineering Solutions Goes Back to Burning Man

 Case Study, DMX, MIDI  Comments Off on Engineering Solutions Goes Back to Burning Man
Sep 052014
 

 

Suspended inside a 30' dome.

Suspended inside a 30′ dome.

From one observer:

Holy s^&*, this is crazy. I’m glad I’m not doing any drugs right now.

From another observer:

I was in the other night on mushrooms and it wasn’t even on (it was locked up) and I had a great time. But now that it’s on, I’m not sure which one I like better!

And from the client:

Our group was working on a project for Burning Man. We had been introduced to a ‘light show’ (they call it a ‘light labyrinth’) called the Holotope some months earlier. We thought it would be a great gift to bring this light show to the participants at Burning Man. I became friends with one of the Holotope creators and he said that his team had developed, over many years, specific color sequences that greatly enhanced the visual (and neurological) effects of the Holotope. It was developed on a system that used a MIDI sequencer and was simply gorgeous. They had developed their own LED light projectors using six different LED colors in order to get the wide color gamut they needed to make the Holotope really stand out. Their system cost was several thousand dollars, which was way over the budget our group could afford.

But, not being deterred by that, we purchased the Holotope canvas print and we thought we’d try to put a standard R-G-B light projector on it. We purchased an inexpensive light projector that had a few built in sequences on it. The results were lackluster, but we realized that this idea had some potential if we could control the color sequencing. That was last year.

I managed to find John Chapman at response-box.com. I spoke with him about our needs. One of the more challenging aspects of this project was that the Holotope sequencer ran on a six channel MIDI and our R-G-B light projector ran on DMX. What the heck is DMX? And is there a way to convert MIDI to DMX? “No problem” says John, “We do it all the time.” So, with hope in hand, we engaged John on this seemingly insurmountable problem. We needed to be able to not only do a color space conversion, we needed it to be adjustable so that we could mimic the MIDI colors as closely as possible using a three color (R-G-B) projector. John obliged.

He developed a color space convertor that we could adjust with a laptop. The next challenge we had was that the MIDI developer left the country for a month, and had no access to email! Arghhh.

John to the rescue again. We sent him the MIDI files, at which point he was able to play the MIDI file, capture it and convert it to DMX. He then put those files into a memory card, and programmed their box to loop continuously on whichever file we selected.

One of the inconveniences of this system is that we suspended it from a large dome so that curious hands wouldn’t be able to get access to it; nor could we. I wasn’t fond of the idea of getting a ladder out to change programs every time we wanted to change it. John installed an IR detector so that we could stand under it and change programs with a simple TV remote control. What a blessing!

We had some great reviews of the Holotope at Burning Man last week. It’s not quite as stunning a light show as the original Holotope, but it’s about $4,000 cheaper and it’s hard for me to see the difference between the two anyway.

Thank you John for your dedication to this project. For all the hours you poured into making this a reality. For your flexibility in the changes I asked for along the way. For your creativity in finding ways to work-around limitations.

Gratefully,
Edge Dancer from Deep Heaven.

We added a custom IR receiver (with matching and visible feedback LED) on a 6′ pigtail, so that the equipment could be mounted safely out of the way.  A simple IR remote from Amazon.com let up to 10 stored files be replayed and looped, and it could easily be read from more than 12 feet away.

The DecaBox stores the original lighting data ‘raw’, all six channels of it.  The conversion from R O G Cyan B Indigo to RGB happens in real time and can be easily adjusted by the user, should a particular color balance seem off.

IMAG0227

DMX Light Source and DecaBox Replay System

IR Receiver and green status / feedback LED, safely sandwiched between three sheets of 1/4″ acrylic.

 

One day we’ll make it to the Playa in person. Until then, it’s been neat to work with different artists who travel there each year.
As an aside, a YouTube search for Holotope returns this example, one of several:

 Posted by at 11:55 pm

DecaBox DMX Patchbay

 Case Study, DMX  Comments Off on DecaBox DMX Patchbay
Sep 052014
 
DecaBox - Laser Etched

DecaBox Protocol Converter with DMX Patching Firmware

From the field:

The box works flawlessly and was easy to get everything patched and set up. We are now able to execute our plan exactly thanks to you and your team!

We heard about Engineering Solutions a few years ago while researching how to stop our Chauvet ColorStrip lights from flickering while connected to certain consoles. While reading up on the site, we noticed a lot of custom solutions.

As our lighting rig grew, we knew we needed to expand our control capabilities. We knew that we could spend a ton of money on some sweet software and/or new gear, but the challenge was the fact that we tour with our equipment and visit different locations with different set-ups and wanted something we knew would allow our lights to work with any DMX controller big or small, without spending a ton of time addressing dip switches.

Our current set-up consists of two 48 channel dimming consoles that have been merged with some newer computer software. We pre-program most of our shows on the computer and had been wanting to use the dimming consoles to busk in some effects, chases, and submasters, but had no way to control anything from those consoles above the first 96 channels of DMX.

We asked Engineering Solutions for their help finding a solution that would allow us to Patch those channels to the control channels. After a short phone conversation, we were very excited to hear that the Deca-Box, the very same box we already purchased a few years ago (for the DMX slow downer) was capable of running software that could do exactly what we needed.

A short while later and some emails back and forth to ensure the software would fulfill all of our needs and button down some details, we had a complete solution. We opted to buy a second Deca-Box pre-loaded with the new software. While it was shipping, I was able to complete the DMX patching on my computer in a simple “.txt” file.

When the box arrived, I copied and pasted the DMX patching into the box, started it up, and it worked flawlessly! It took less than 2 minutes to unbox, load the file, and get up and running! I really appreciate the time and energy Engineering Solutions put into helping us achieve our goal.

Cameron Helwege

Statesboro First United Methodist Church

Florida

This is fairly simple work for the DecaBox.  DMX-512 goes in (and through, if needed) and new DMX-512 goes back out.  Any DMX input channel can by copied to one or many DMX output channels.

Granted, this is a fairly narrow niche project.  It’s something that would be a stock feature on any of the large-format lighting controllers.  But if your budget doesn’t include $7k for an ETC Ion desk (who doesn’t love that newly unboxed lighting console smell?), we’re here to help.

This file is called ‘patch.txt’ and is stored on the DecaBox’s internal SD card.

; Configuration file file for DecaBox DMX Patching sytem
;
; This file is called 'patch.txt' and can not be renamed.
; 
;
; Each line should start with a semicolon (;) or an actual command.
; It's best to edit this file in NotePad (Windows) or TextEdit (Mac)
; So that unexpected formatting characters aren't included in this file.
;
; The premise here is simple: 
;
; 1. All DMX input channels are connected in a 1:1 ratio to all DMX 
; output channels. If nothing else is added to this file, the DecaBox
; will act as an active XLR cable. What goes in comes right back out, delayed
; by approximately 1/44 second.
;
; Audio guys will recognize this behavior is 'normalling' through a patch bay.
;
; 2. However, if data is included in the two columns below, output channels
; can be patched to input channels. The ratio need not be 1:1. Any number of
; output channels can be controlled by a single input channel.
;
; 3. There are two columns here. The first is input and the second, output.
; If you'd like DMX channel #5 from the lighting console to drive 
; output channels 5, 8, 11, 14, 17 and 20, the syntax would be
;
;5 | 5 8 11 14 17
;
; This character | is comes from shift+\ on the regular keyboard. It denotes
; the column break between input and output. Note also that there is a space after
; the column break and between each DMX output channel.
;
; Again, all channels not specifically mentioned in the table below are copied 
; 1:1 automatically.
;
; So in this sample, input #13 drives output #13 AND output #74
; input #14 drives output #14 AND output 82. 
;
; Etc.
;
13 | 74
14 | 82
15 | 241 203 76
1 | 2
2 | 9 10 11 12 14 15 16 17 18
 Posted by at 11:27 pm

A Three-Output RS-232 DMX Engine With DMX Input Processing

 Case Study, DMX, RS232  Comments Off on A Three-Output RS-232 DMX Engine With DMX Input Processing
Jul 072014
 
3 Output RS-232 DMX Engine

3 Output RS-232 DMX Engine With DMX Input Monitoring

Here’s another in our series of ‘There’s Only One of These in the Whole World’ designs.

A client needed a modification to our very popular RS-232 DMX Engine.  They were using a PLC to drive a series of very remote DMX light fixtures.  This is a very common use case, and many of our customers who work in industrial control have done similar things.

However, this group needed three separate data outputs instead of one.  And further, their PLC needed to monitor several channels of a DMX stream which was generated by other equipment.  They asked if we could help.

Of course!

It took an afternoon to edit our regular circuit board design to include the new features.  Our across-town vendor can fabricate short runs of circuit boards in five business days*, so the files were emailed to them.  Once the boards came back, they were loaded with components, programmed and tested.  Per the customer’s request, we added a command to the firmware which allows the state of any or all of the incoming DMX channels to be queried at any time.

It took most of an afternoon to generate and fabricate the chassis design, including a few test cuts in thin card stock.

Test Cuts - Front Panel

Test Cuts on Cardboard – Front Panel

If you need something similar, or if you’ve searched the entire Internet and can’t find the precise thing you’re looking for, let us know.  There’s a good chance we can help.


 

* They can move quickly, too.  It’s stop-your-heart expensive, but we’ve done four hour turn times with these guys before.  Pretty neat.

 Posted by at 9:11 pm

The DMX Offset Machine

 Case Study, DMX  Comments Off on The DMX Offset Machine
Mar 042014
 
Racks of LED Dimmers, with a DMX Offset Machine Front End

Racks of LED Dimmers, with a DMX Offset Machine Front End.  Click to enlarge.

We were recently able to work with UK-based company Pixelite Ltd. They needed a custom DMX reformatting solution, which we shipped just a day after our initial discussion with them.

Picture a large rack cabinet loaded with a large group of high powered 3-channel RGB LED drivers.  Each driver has a set of DIP switches  for setting its start address.  Obviously it takes some time to address each driver.  But once the job is done, it doesn’t need to change.

Now suppose that this rack of LED drivers is cross-rented to someone else’s show.  If the original set of DMX address range (perhaps 1-120) don’t work nicely with the new LD’s patch, it takes a ton of time, probably in the dark and usually under pressure, to reconfigure everything.

The DMX offset machine, in effect, becomes a ‘master’ controller for the entire rack of LED drivers, combining many discrete drivers into a single system.  Once the address on the offset machine is set to anything which is convenient, the hidden sets of DIP switches never need to be touched again.

In their own words:

We use rack mounted LED DMX dimmers to control our equipment and were spending hours a week opening the racks to readdress them. We needed to find a way of offsetting the start addresses to avoid having to do this.

Engineering Solutions were the most helpful company we approached. They created a bespoke solution and shipped it to The U.K. in just ten days* for an impressive price.

Fantastic service! I would recommend them to anyone.

Mags

 

(*) This is delivery halfway around the world, 10 days from when they first contacted us. We picked USPS Priority Mail for a good balance of delivery speed and price.  UPS, FedEx and DHL are also available.  They’re faster but proportionally more expensive.

Click to Enlarge

Sample Setup – Click to Enlarge

This graphic shows how the system works.  Since the DecaBox has separate DMX input, through and output jacks, it was very straightforward to create custom firmware to do what they needed.  The pushbuttons and LCD make it easy to set the system’s start address.  Total latency is approximately 1/44 second from input to output, which is virtually unnoticeable.

As it turns out, the package spent more time waiting in line to clear customs than it did traveling across the ocean. We love being able to offer innovative gear and quick turnaround times to our customers.  Need something similar?  Let us know.

 Posted by at 2:52 pm

Easy DMX Control of Lutron Graphic Eye 3500s

 Case Study, DMX, RS232  Comments Off on Easy DMX Control of Lutron Graphic Eye 3500s
Feb 282014
 

newgraphicA theatre in the Pacific Northwest contacted us a few weeks ago.  Their space was set up with a pair of control systems running in parallel:  a DMX console and dimmers handle the theatrical lighting while a pair of wall-mounted 6-channel Lutron Graphic Eye 3500 architectural dimmers drive the house lights and some backstage fixtures.

Users on or near the stage can easily recall presets and adjust the lighting levels of the 12 connected circuits.

prg

In the lighting booth, an ornery Windows XP platform runs Grafik Eye Liason software.  Liason provides a GUI for remotely recalling stored presets and adjusting individual dimmer levels.  This machine is in turn connected to a Lutron GRX-PRG interface, which talks with the wall controllers mounted near the stage.

The somewhat awkward end result is that the lighting designer has to use two separate systems to drive all the lights in the space. To this end, they asked:

“Would it be possible to remove the computer and drive the Lutron system directly from our lighting console?  Running both systems all the time is a drag.”

We’re pleased to report that the answer is an emphatic yes.

What We Did

Research revealed that the GPX-PRG receives RS-232 data from the XP machine, massages it a bit, then sends it to the Graphic Eye dimmers via a balanced RS-485 system. More germane to our situation, this RS-232 protocol is well documented.

DecaBox - Laser Etched

We proposed replacing the large, slow and inconvenient Windows XP computer with a DecaBox.  The new system would receive DMX, impersonate Liason and drive the GRX-PRG (and by extension, the downstream Graphic Eye boxes) as if the stock installation had never been touched.

The theatre approved our design, so we shipped up a DecaBox containing this custom firmware.

It took two or perhaps three minutes to connect the new hardware and set the start channel.  The custom firmware we provided worked instantly and flawlessly.  12 consecutive channels of DMX are monitored.  Any time one of them changes, the appropriate control string is sent to the -PRG interface.

Et voilà!  The lighting designer has complete and convenient control of every fixture in the space.

And in the client’s own words:

“We run a small community performing arts center in an old historic fire station and needed a way to have our DMX light board communicate commands with our RS-232 based house lighting.
The DecaBox was the solution we needed. We called, outlined the situation, ordered  and received the unit in a few days and had it up and running perfectly in no time. I was surprised at how a seemingly insurmountable problem was dealt with at such a reasonable cost with so little effort. Thanks so much for the quality product and service Engineering Solutions!”All the Best,~Matt @ The Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Need something similar?  Let us know.

 Posted by at 4:54 pm