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

Announcing the RS-232 Driven Double DMX Engine

 DMX, RS232  Comments Off on Announcing the RS-232 Driven Double DMX Engine
Oct 102016
 
RS-232 Driven Double DMX Engine

RS-232 Driven Double DMX Engine

This has been shipping for a few months now, as free upgrade to any purchase of an XLR-5 or XLR-3 Engine. It features

  • XLR-3 and XLR-5 outputs in the same chassis.  Each output is controlled by its own drive chip, which means the system has a ‘built in’ 2-output optosplitter.  Currently the outputs are parallel copies of each other.  However, each drive chip is connected to a separate pin in the internal processor, which means that future firmware updates could allow two universes of DMX to be driven independently.  We use only genuine Neutrik connectors.
  • Mounting ears for easy panel mounting.

Today, we’re delighted to also announce a completely updated firmware build (v5.044), featuring the following improvements:

  • The internal dimming engine calculates fade levels 100x per second, rather than the previous 20.  This allows silky-smooth crossfades on LED fixtures.  “This LED strip now acts like a halogen bulb,” said one customer.
  • Built-in RGB color wheel engine performs rainbow color cycles without any controller overhead.
  • Startup scene and timeout delay can be set, so that lighting levels are instantly restored after a power cycle.
  • ‘Group Fade’ command lets multiple channels be set to the same level in a simple way.  ‘Group skip’ option makes it easy to control multiple fixtures at the same time.

The complete protocol description is available in this file: Double-dmx-engine-504.

Note that this protocol simply expands on the features available in our original DMX engine.  Code written for our earlier hardware will still work very nicely.  Check this page for older information.

Want free gear?  If you’re a Crestron, AMX, Lutron, Savant or Control4 guru, we need to talk.

We’re what the IRS would classify as a ‘very small business’, and don’t have resources to tackle this alone.  We don’t have the time or staffing to buy / borrow / rent hardware, then learn the software, to test against each and every major system out there.

Here’s what you get:

  • One RS232 Driven Double DMX engine
  • One 9v DC adapter
  • As much email and telephone tech support as it takes to make you happy
  • Full credit for your work if desired, including links to your website and a quick company bio if you’d like some extra exposure.

And in return, we want

  • 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.  The module needs to support all of the commands described in the PDF instruction manual linked to above.
  • A sample file / installation / setup which a new user could use for initial testing, before they integrate our gear into a larger system.
  • Basically, your work should include 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.

Interested? Send email to drivers AT response-box.com.   Please mention your platform of choice and describe your experience in this world.

This is a first-come, first served-per-system sort of project.  We can sneak five or maybe ten boxes out the door before accounting notices and begins to gnash their teeth.

Thanks for visiting our little corner of the Internet.

-John Chapman, President, Engineering Solutions Inc

* 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.

 

 

 Posted by at 3:24 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