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Discretely Controllable DMX Driven RGB Pixels

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Archive for the '2010 Project' Category

RGB Nodes and Controllers for Ricky Martin Tour

Posted by JEC on 4th April 2011

Engineering Solutions was pleased to provide ~8,000 RGB nodes and 12 E16 controllers (plus an appropriate stack of spare parts) to Ricky Martin’s 2011 tour.  We worked closely with Illinois-based Upstaging, who provided the larger lighting rig, and ShowFX in Los Angeles, who fabricated the scenic pieces on which the nodes were installed.

John travelled to LA to assist with patching and configuring the nodes and controllers.  On tour, the nodes would be controlled by a Hippo Critter pixel mapping engine, so a demo Hippo was set up in the shop for testing.  The lighting network was designed so that the Hippo sent data over a dedicated fiberoptic cable to the stage, where it was converted back to copper to feed the 12 E16s.  Somewhere between 36 and 44 universes of DMX are used to drive all the nodes.  The remainder of the lighting rig was controlled with other equipment, and on an isolated network.

The E16’s web-based configuration tool made it very easy to assign each node string to its proper address, based on the paperwork generated by the Bryan, the Hippo programmer.

As an interesting side-note, an Art-Net testing suite called ‘DMX Workshop’ has been published by Artistic License.  Free to use, it contains utilities for sending and receiving Art-Net data on any channel of any universe.  At one point during system testing, the entire pixel map was acting rough and choppy.  The frame rate was slow (way, way less than our regular 44 Hz throughput) and it didn’t look good at all.

So to test whether the problem was related to the Hippo, the E16s, or something in the middle, we disconnected the Hippo, plugged in a Windows laptop, and ran a ‘bandwidth test’ utility against the E16s.

We were able to totally load up the network by enabling universes 1 – 44.  Then we sent an ‘r g b’ walking pattern to the entire system.  That is, each node of each string was in red, then green, then blue.  The test started at a 1 Hz refresh rate.

At this speed, we couldn’t see any delay between nodes or strings.  All of the set pieces were changing color in exact synchrony.  This proved that the issue laid neither with the E16s nor the network switch.

Just for fun, we sped up the chase to 44 Hz and set it to ‘strobe’ (black white black repeating).

The many thousand RGB LEDs chased in unison with our throbbing eyeballs.

This high-speed test was promptly discontinued.

After a quick phone call to Hippo tech support, the jitter problem was traced to an errant setting in the software.

Most of the photos below were taken at the scenery shop.  However, the one of the top left was snapped during production rehearsals in Puerto Rico at the end of March.  Click any photo to enlarge.

 

 

Starting at 0:35, this video clip shows the nodes displaying content.  There’s other interesting looks at 5:00 and later.

 

Stay tuned for an upcoming post describing the ‘Tour Hardened’ E16 Controller and node string system we’ll be offering in a month or so.  We’ve added features specifically designed to make the system strong and road-worthy.  Bless their hearts, roadies can be rough on gear.  You’ll see that we’ve eliminated every potential ‘pinch point’ in the new hardware release.

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Posted in 2010 Project, 2011 Project, Drive Gear, Photo / Video Clips, Pixels | Comments Off

New Year’s Eve Tree

Posted by JEC on 4th January 2011

Just fooling around with cheesy transitions in the video editing program.  At any rate, the New Year’s Eve guests thought the tree was fun, even though (especially since?) the patterns displayed weren’t as subdued as what played throughout the Christmas season.

On a happy note, the waterproof E16 chassis withstood a week of nearly continuous rain, snow, warm and freezing weather between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Thanks, everyone, for your support and comments throughout the year.  It’s been a wild ride for sure.

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Posted in 2010 Project, Photo / Video Clips, Pixels | 3 Comments »

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree!

Posted by JEC on 18th December 2010

Late last night my amazing wife returned from delivering Christmas goodies to the neighbors.  She held out the five fingers on her right hand and asked, “Do you know what this is?”

Instinctively, I flinched, expecting a heart-stopping, up-close-and-personal demonstration of how cold her hands actually were.  This has happened before.

“That’s how many of the neighbors complained that you don’t have any lights up this year.”

Through an ironic and frustrating turn of events, I’d been too busy to hang or program anything for Christmas 2010.

Fortunately, today’s schedule was totally open.  I found enough inventory in the workshop (an E16 ethernet bridge + 16 strings) to assemble a nifty little triangle tree.  It measures 12′ tall and 11′ wide at the base.

After letting it run for a few hours, I checked the control statistics (the E16 contains an internal webserver which allows for easy field configuration and feedback) and was pleased to see that one point one million Art-Net packets had been successfully received and processed for each of the E16’s four universes.

Amazing.

Stills (click to enlarge):

Video:

(Note that YouTube was supposed to swap out the regular audio for a bouncing happy Christmas track.  But I don’t think it’s working for all playback locations.  Do you hear music or just road noise?)

Posted in 2010 Project, Photo / Video Clips, Pixels | 5 Comments »

From the Field

Posted by JEC on 18th December 2010

Florida Artist Jeff Slack built this amazing star for a local church service using 4 strings of RGB nodes, a T3 controller, precisely cut art glass and lots of patience.  It appears to be about 4′ in diameter.

Jeff's Christmas Star

Landy in Oklahoma (and author of the nifty and free .Matrix Art-Net Pixel Mapping Software sent over these fun clips.  His system includes 8 node strings and a couple T3 controllers.

Christmas Lights – 4 – Christmas Jam from Landy Bible on Vimeo.

Christmas Lights – 3 – Mad Russians Christmas from Landy Bible on Vimeo.

Christmas Lights – 1 – Christmas In The Air from Landy Bible on Vimeo.

Thanks, Jeff and Landy, for sharing your work.

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Posted in 2010 Project, Photo / Video Clips | 2 Comments »

Federation Square – Melbourne, Australia.

Posted by JEC on 2nd December 2010

We recently supplied about 2400 nodes and 4 E16 controllers to a lighting designer working in Melbourne, Australia.  This project is an interactive community display located in the city’s Federation Square.  It runs evenings through the end of December.

Mrpackethead captured some test video clips of the tree in action.  These, I’m sure, represent only a tiny fraction of the tree’s different looks.

They even have a webcam which points toward the main area.  When I checked this link this morning, I could see the tree flashing merrily away in (nearly) real time.

If you find yourself in Melbourne this month, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Posted in 2010 Project, Photo / Video Clips | Comments Off

More Video

Posted by JEC on 17th November 2010

Mrpackethead presents 84 strings * 42 pixels = 3,528 RGB nodes (10,584 DMX-over-ArtNet channels), synchronized and ready for a summer (down under!) yard party.

Madrix software runs on a quad core 3.4 Ghz Windows 7 beast of a computer.

Video captured with a Canon EOS 7D & 10-22mm zoom lens.

Video clip #2

Posted in 2010 Project, Photo / Video Clips, Pixels | 5 Comments »

2010 RGB Nodes – Video Clip Gallery

Posted by JEC on 15th November 2010

A collection of clips collected from around the Internet.

mrpackethead’s Comet Star is 5 meters (16 feet) tall and 2.5 meters wide.  Each tube uses 48 DMX channels to control 16 nodes inside a translucent waterproof enclosure.

24 strings (folded in half) makes a 48 x 21 grid of light.  Driven by Art-Net and a pair of E16 controllers.

Finally, the guys over at JS_Riddler.com (makers of some cool software which connects to an ENTTEC Pro USB dongle) sent over this demo clip:

If you’ve done something neat with your controllers and nodes, feel free to send over a link to photos, video clips and project information.

Posted in 2010 Project, Pixels | Comments Off

RGB Node Delivery Dates, E16 Production Photos and More.

Posted by JEC on 21st October 2010

What an amazing few weeks.

The only real way to describe interest in this project is ‘humbling.’  We’ve seen orders and inquiries pour in from around the globe.  Here’s a public ‘thank you’ for your interest and your trust.

I’ve included in this post several odds, ends & items of interest.

1.  Comment Spam

All comments on this site are held for moderation, unless something you’ve written has been previously approved.  A few days ago, this gem turned up in the queue:

My partner and I harmonise with all your data and can hungrily look forward to the following updates. Simply expressing thanks will never merely end up being enough, for the exceptional readability within your writing. I will straightaway seize your rss to keep up-to-date with all messages. Great work and much success with your business endeavors!

Sadly, it also contained links to an Internet get-rich-quick scheme, which I’ve thoughtfully deleted.

Moving on…

One of our customers sent a link to this YouTube clip.  He’s got a T3 bridge and string of RGB nodes connected to a Light-O-Rama iDMX-1000 controller:

E16 Production

The E16 Ethernet Controller went through 21 different PCB revisions before the final design was approved.  Of those 19, we ran actual circuit boards for 3 or 4.  And for each those designs, 3-4 board sets were populated and tested.

For these short runs, this was all done by hand.  Looking back on the process, it’s probably fair to estimate 3 hours per board for applying solder paste, loading components, cooking the board, then testing.

Yesterday mrpackethead snapped a few quick pictures at the factory where the E16s are now being produced.  The assembly robots (sadly, because of the factory schedule, we apparently were stuck with the slow one) churn out a panel of 3 logic boards every 4.5 minutes).

Unbelievable.

Field Installations

If you’ve already purchased nodes or controllers, we’d love to see your end results.  Feel free to add a comment to the bottom of this page with a short description, plus links to your own site, video clips or still images.  Some time in the future, we’ll condense the relevant replies into a new article.

Node & Controller Availability

In an attempt to wind down the bulk of production, shipping and tech support before December begins, we’re strongly urging that all node and controller orders be placed by Saturday, November 6.  Request a quote here, visit the online store here.

This gives us time to place our requests with the factory for more bits and pieces, should we run out of local stock.  Having played the ‘Pay FedEx a Fortune to Deliver Heavy Heavy Boxes Around the Globe at Lightning Speed’ game before, and having then been presented with the freight bill…

Note that November 6 isn’t by any means a hard deadline.  We’ll do our best to fill any order that comes in.  But life will be easier and much less expensive – for all parties – if we’re given time to work.

In Summary…

  • T3 Controller works with Light-O-Rama’s iDMX interface
  • Robots, even the slow ones, are blindingly fast
  • Send in your project photos and links
  • Order soon for best delivery

Thanks!

John

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Posted in 2010 Project, Drive Gear, Photo / Video Clips | 3 Comments »

E16 Controller Drives 16 Strings of 8-bit RGB LEDs

Posted by JEC on 29th September 2010

To simplify testing the E16 controllers, we made a simple 42 x 16  grid of holes on 2″ centers.  Backing material is a 4′ x 8′ sheet of double-thick cardboard.  The 16 strings of RGB nodes easily fit in the holes.

After configuring a Madrix patch to output four consecutive universes of Art-Net data, I grabbed this quick video clip.

The rainbow pattern runs at about 40% intensity, to avoid over-exposing the poor camera even more.

The E16 also features a Test Mode, which drives the strings with different patterns.  No ethernet connection is required.  This makes it easy to confirm basic system operation.  String #1 displays 1 red, 1 green, 1 blue and 1 white LED.  String 2 displays 2 red, 2 green, 2 blue and 2 white LEDs, etc.

E16 Test Mode - String ID Pattern

After about 10 seconds, the test mode switches to a ‘walking stripe’ pattern, where each entire string is driven in alternating red, green, blue and white colors.  On a 1 second tick, the pattern shifts from string to string.  Thus, it’s easy to confirm operation of each color on each node.

'Walking String' test pattern.

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Thanks!

Posted in 2010 Project, Photo / Video Clips | Comments Off

Testing and Shipping

Posted by JEC on 23rd September 2010

An enormous stack of 8-bit RGB LED Nodes

Though we’ve asked the factory to thoroughly test each string of RGB nodes before shipping them to us, I double-check that each color in each node works properly in our shop before sending them out to our end customers.

In this case, 185 strings of 42 nodes were tested today.

For them to be tested simultaneously (they weren’t, but just for fun…) the following calculations are required:

  • 185 strings x 42 nodes / string = 7,770 nodes
  • 7,770 nodes * 3 channels / node = 23,310 control channels
  • 23,310 control channels / 512 channels per universe = 45.5 DMX universes
  • 23,310 control channels * 21 mA per channel = 489.51 Amps at 5.0V DC

Posted in 2010 Project, Photo / Video Clips, Pixels | 4 Comments »