LED Tubes With DMX Interface

This clip comes from New Zealand, courtesty mrpackethead & co.

It’s 40 of the RGB Tubes, driven by DMX and some pixel-mapping software they ginned up.

More details, plus information about the release of the strings & controllers, is coming very soon.  Thanks, everyone, for your patience through this R&D phase.  We’re confident that you’ll be thrilled with the result.

Obligatory Video Clip From mrpackethead

It took a couple days to organize his kit (dayjob!), but here’s his string of the new 2010 RGB nodes flashing merrily away.

His toolchain is Madrix (running in a virtual Windows machine on a Mac, natch) –> Enttec USB Pro –> DMX / Pixel Bridge I designed –> 50 Nodes.

Video courtesy an EOS 7D SLR.

2010 RGB Nodes – Submersion Test

Yesterday I received my sample string from mrpackethead in New Zealand.  The factory made us two test strings of 50 nodes each. Hooray for DHL and 2 day (!) around-the-world service.  Hooray also for Chinese New Year being over.  It seems like most of the country is shut down for 2 weeks in February.

Spent a few hours figuring out the protocol (this new 8 bit controller speaks a somewhat different language than last year’s 5-bit system).  Once I could drive the nodes discretely and successfully, I wrote some quick microcontroller code for a DMX bridge.

Here they are, lounging happily in a bowl of tap water.  All we need is a fish.


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RGB Node Availability


The interest this project grown far beyond anything we ever imagined.

When we started out we had a few ideas about what we wanted to achieve.  We are pleased we’ve got over our own ‘line’, and are now able to ramp things up & make the technology available to everyone else.

In the process, we’ve been asked a thousand questions concerning ‘when’ and ‘how much?’

So here goes.

During 2009, we spent a lot of time (and money) researching and developing various design ideas. Where we are today is a long way down the track from the original classic pixels first released in 2005.  Our goal in 2009 was to find an affordable, reliable RGB node, suitable for large scale deployments. Getting a working design is only part of the challenge.  We’ve looked at various production options as well.

The difference in build quality between factories is significant!  Component choice is also important: inferior parts will run for a few days  or weeks, then completely or partially fail.

Sometimes cheap parts come at  a very high overall price.

Our testing will continue on some new products this year as well, but the new nodes that we have now, are performing well.

We’ve now invested a significant amount time and money ensuring our nodes will be reliable.  R&D is like that – lots and lots of sunk costs, destructive field testing, and often very little apparent result.

The nature of the Internet (and hardware hackers in general) almost certainly guarantees that someone else will find and start to sell an apparently similar product. There’s not much we can do to stop that.  And frankly, we’re not interested in trying.

Competing solely on price only leads to disappointment and frustration for all parties, and it’s not a game we’re interested in playing.

Know also that components which appear identical on a computer screen may behave in a radically different way in real life.

What we will offer – on absolutely everything that leaves the shop –  is a 100% money-back, no-questions-asked, we’ll-be-devastated-if-your-system-doesn’t-run-perfectly guarantee of support and service.  Each system will ship with a hearty helping of peace of mind.

That’s the value we’re adding to the process, and we think it’s significant.

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We have got a number of other products now ready for release in 2010.  We’ve thought long and hard about how to proceed.  Our goal is to offer something useful to both the ‘DIY’ crowd and those seeking a complete turnkey solution.

Led Wall Washers and Tubes

We have some very bright tubes and wall washers that we have almost finished testing.  More details will be released as they become available.


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Questions?  Comments?  Want to reserve your bits right now?  Send a quick email to ‘john AT response-box.com.’  We’d love to hear from you.

Warmest regards,

JEC & mrpackethead

New Video Footage


A couple days ago I rented a Canon EOS 7D + 28-70 F/2.8L lens, which I used to capture some footage of the house on a frozen and windy night.

The camera can shoot full-on HD video – 1080p at 30 fps.  5 minutes of footage fills a 4 GB flash card.  It’s compressed quite a bit by Youtube, but the actual color rendition is as close as I’ve ever seen.  Audio is the same as you’d hear if you visited in person.

This next picture is the physical incarnation of an idea my wife had.  She wanted snowflakes on the house.  Lots of ’em.

So we sketched up a family of flakes in the CAD program, then emailed the DXF files to the metal shop that’s just up the road.  The shop tightly arrayed the flakes on a 4′ x 10′ piece of aluminum stock, then cut them out on the laser table.

The large flake  shown here measures 23″ from tip to top and contains 83 RGB nodes on ~ 1.5″ centers.  83 nodes equals 249 channels of DMX and/or Art-Net.  So 2 per universe.

Since we left ‘practical’ behind several months ago, such a massive channel count poses no problem at all.

23" Aluminum snowflake with RGB DMX Nodes
Snowflake, fully loaded & waiting for installation.

The video clip below shows it running a simple – yet frantic – test pattern.  It’s really, really bright.

With any luck, we’ll have a whole flock of these mounted on the house after Christmas.  They’ll run through January & hopefully counteract the cold grey winter.

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A Grainy Video Clip

My wife’s little Nikon point & shoot shot these clips. They’re not spectacular, but they’re at least something. Note that these clips aren’t synchronized to music, they’re just part of a larger cue stack that repeats every 10 minutes or so.

Later this week I’ll be able to post some HD video clips + audio + decent color reproduction.

Still Photos

No video yet, but here’s some stills I took of the house. The purity of the LEDs’ color cuts through the darkness like a razor.

Current count is about 612 RGB pixels, driven by 3 Art-Net bridges. For convenience, the patch is spread over 6 universes of DMX.

Rough calculations say that at full brightness, the lights draw 60 mA per node –> 36.7 A at 5V –> ~160 watts total.

Note that the two pixels on the balcony which appear to be ‘dead’ are actually blocked by the balcony’s iron handrail.

Many of the blue / purple pictures are actually part of a longer ‘plasma’ sequence which features red, blue and purple blobs sweeping across the entire house. It’s pretty neat looking in real life.

Click to enlarge.

mrpackethead’s LED Tree

New Zealand co-developer mrpackethead finished up a ‘mega tree’ using 2,000 of the new waterproof LED nodes.  It’s 6 meters high and – I’m told – absolutely stunning to experience in person.

Here’s a video clip of its maiden voyage:

Other interesting bits:

Power When fully lit, the tree draws ~ 120 A at 5.0 V DC.  He is using 10 x 100W switch mode supplies. Cost per hour to run is about $0.05 NZ.

Drive Software Quartz Composer (OS X), Madrix, walker design (compatible with vixen btw)

Note that there’s been some additional discussion of the tree / controller system on the Do It Yourself Christmas forums.

Asian Node Control – Update

It’s been a busy couple weeks…

News: we have the beginnings of an Art-Net interface for the new 4-wire nodes from Asia.  For being totally unoptimized, it’s running fairly well.  The Art-Net input code currently barfs if more than a single universe of data is present on the wire, or if a single universe is updated at more than ~ 10 Hz.

However, it’s very satisfying to see the node appear and properly complete the ‘handshake’ process with Artistic License’s ‘DMX Workshop’ software suite.

We now have an official Vendor / Product ID from AL as well.

Next step is to streamline the code, remove the ugly bits, and increase throughput to support 2-4 universes at ~40 Hz refresh.

Onward! Thanks for visiting.

Pixel Driving Software

This post is meant to answer some of the questions I’ve received in the ‘comments’ section, as well as through private email exchanges.  Specifically, “Great!  I now have $X hundred pixels.  How do I control them all?”

Having a background in theatre / live production / staging, I lean towards tools written by and for those people.

There are many choices for controlling large arrays of RGB nodes.  A nicely written tutorial on the subject is here.

A google search for ‘pixel mapping software’ will return many options. Price ranges from free to many thousands of dollars, depending on the number of outputs required. Software options include Colour-Tramp by Artistic License,  Chamsys MagiQ PC (free, multiplatform!), RadLite/PixelRange, Green Hippo’s Hippotozer software, and many more.  Also interesting is Landy Bible’s .Matrix program – sort of a poor man’s Catalyst server – which speaks Art-Net and is free from his site.

There’s also possibilities of building custom patches using MAX/MSP.  Finally, the fine folks over at kineme.org have done some neat work using Quartz Composer under Mac OS X, plus plugins for USB-DMX dongles and Art-Net.

Note that our (coming soon!) Art-Net interface will work with all of these commercial programs…