E16 Art-Net Controller, Massive Node Shipment & More

First – and finally! – there’s an enormous batch of node strings en route to our shop.  The factory ended up being about 10 days late with the delivery, but we’re super excited.  This shipment contains 300+ strings of 42 nodes.  About 2/3 are spoken for already, and the factory is making several hundred more strings in addition.

If you’ve placed an order in the past few weeks, this is the shipment we’re waiting for.

225 pounds worth.

Next, a quick preview of the soon-to-be-released E16 Ethernet Node Controller.

E16 Ethernet Node Controller
  • Receives Art-Net 2.0 and (coming soon) E1.31 control data.
  • Input frame rate of up to 44 Hz
  • Drives 16 strings of 42 nodes, using between 1 and 4 universes of data
  • Simple web-based configuration wizard.  Node count, universe number, string start address and more can be set on a per-string basis.
  • Matching 5V / 50A power supply takes up less counter space (!) than the E16 controller itself.
  • Fuse per output for sleep-at-night safety.
  • Built-in test patterns for confirming wiring & string assignments, no ethernet connection required.

Below are a couple screen shots taken from the web-based configurator.

I’ve been playing with an early prototype E16 controller for the past few days and can’t stop smiling.  It’s amazing.

More soon!


RGB Star and Rock Concert Video Clips

First clip comes from mrpackethead in New Zealand, who used attached 60 1-meter RGB tubes to a section of motorized truss.  These tubes are available for hire, by the way.

The track is called “Everybody” by PlanetShakers.. They were actually doing that song, but the audio on my camera was terrible, so I used the original.

It’s downloadable from iTunes, that’s where I got it from.


Second clips is a 47.5″ star with 136 RGB nodes attached.  Video shot in here in our shop.

For the curious, this is an early prototype of a system which will be distributed by Animated Lighting.  Check with them for pricing, availability and more details.

P.S.   Video questions:  This was shot with a Nikon point & shoot camera, tripod mounted, autofocus off.  The camera was perfectly still during recording.  But, the captured image hops all over the place.  No idea why, and it drives me crazy.

It only seems to occur in high-contrast video clips.  Daylight shooting works as expected.

Camera glitch?  Anyone have an idea?

Open Source Bits

DMX Controller for RGB NodesOkay.

Here they are.  Finally.  Field-tested, known good goodies.

Open Source T3 Controller Schematic [pdf]

Gerber Files (zipped)

Eagle Files (Authored in Eagle 5.10 Professional)

T3 Parts List (text file)

Design Notes:

  • Processor is a PIC 18F2610.  It has many pin-compatible brethren.
  • Top of the schematic contains a neat RS-485 receive section which is both optically and galvanically isolated from the rest of the world.  This conforms neatly to the official USITT spec, and this particular corner of the schematic has been field-proven by many hundreds of our other customers, over several years.
  • There’s a single LED for power, plus a second LED for status / user feedback.
  • This PIC contains EUSART and SPI peripherals on (conveniently) separate pins.  To drive 4 different string outputs, we use a flock of ‘AND’ gates to select and route the data to its proper destination.
  • Expected power source is 5V DC via a switching supply, rated at 3A per 42 nodes driven.  A fully loaded card requires about 12A.
  • There’s no polarity protection included on this board.  Caveat emptor!
  • Most parts are SMD.  Chips are SOIC, discretes are 0805.  Easy easy to hand solder.

I have 7 remaining bare PCBs based on this design.  An additional 15 are en route to mrpackethead (.nz) for distribution.  $10 each or 5 / $45.  If you want some, email ‘john AT response-box.com’ with the subject ‘Open Source PCB’

I do not plan to re-run these boards once current supply is depleted.

Source code is coming soon.  Check back!

Snowflake Carcasses Need a Good Home

Late last year, I commissioned the metal shop to cut a full panel (48″ x 96″) of snowflakes.  A few days later, they arrived.  As it turns out, we got so busy that these were never used.

They’ve sat on the workshop shelf, lonely and forlorn, ever since.

Both designs have been laser-cut from .06″ aluminum, then finished with a smooth brushed texture.

The trick is that all the holes were cut to be 12.00 mm in diameter. This is the perfect size for last year’s 5-bit nodes, but they’re too tight for the 2010 build, which requires a 12.5 mm (not 12.0, not 13.0) hole size.

As with most things mechanical, the holes can be manually stretched using a drill press, a .50″ drill bit, and a bit of patience.

I won’t be using them all this year, so I thought they might be valuable to someone else.  There are two designs available, as shown below.

'Friendly' Snowflake, 23.5" diameter, 103 nodes. Camera perspective is a bit skewed here, because the design is perfectly symmetrical.
'Chickenfoot' Design. 13.5" diameter, 60 holes.

Clip above shows the big flake running a random and unmapped pattern.  No attempt was made to make it pretty.

Price for the snowflakes is… well, a ton less than what we paid the metal shop.

But, if it gets them off the shelf and into a good home, we’re thrilled.  $24 for the big design, $14 for the small one.

Current in-stock quantities, which will be updated to reflect any order received, are

  • ‘Friendly Snowflake’: 0
  • ‘Chickenfoot’: 0

Update 1:53 PM August 9.  The snowflakes were snatched up within about 10 minutes of the email notification being sent out.  My wife insists that they were seriously underpriced.  I’m inclined to agree, but am very happy that they’ll be used well this season.

    To order, send an email to ‘john AT response-box.com’ with the subject line ‘Snowflakes Please!’  Let me know how many you’d like, your shipping address and preferred payment method (Paypal, Google Checkout, unmarked and non-sequential small bills, etc).

    Our email list (see the top right corner of this page) is enormous, so I don’t expect these to last very long.  Subscribers to the email list always get instant access to new content, within a few minutes of it being posted here.

    So, if you’re at all interested, don’t miss this chance.

    – John

    P.S.   If you end up making something neat with your snowflakes, please send photos or links to your video clips.  It’s always exciting to see what other folks are doing.

    Coming Very Soon: Open Source Controller

    Just a quick note before the weekend…  On Monday, August 9, we’ll publish a whole batch of documents, including:

    • Source code for driving last year’s 5 bit nodes and this year’s 8 bit nodes (the control protocol is quite different) based on DMX input.
    • Schematics for a simple 4-string driver system.
    • Eagle & gerber files for a known-good PCB layout.
    • PCBs from the shop shelf – at least 50 pieces – will be available for a nominal fee.

    All information will be released under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial license.

    Stay tuned!

    July 4th Fun

    In January we pulled down the light frames from the windows, the balcony and the grand archway.  The controllers and cable were all put away, but we left the nodes on the raingutters and upper roofline.

    Wednesday morning I pulled out the controllers (last year’s Rev1 Art-Net bridge), extension cables and power supplies.  After about an hour of shuffling back and forth, I applied power.

    Gratifyingly, the entire rig sparked right up.  I was pleased to see that 6 months of outdoor exposure hadn’t affected the nodes in any measurable way.

    Driving RGB Nodes with MIDI Note Messages

    Question: Can a flock of RGB nodes be ‘played’ in real-time, like a piano?

    Answer: See the clip below…

    (Note that the sound doesn’t start until half way through.)

    Sorry for the rough video quality… The nice camera (EOS 7D + 28-70 f/2.8L) from last fall was a rental, and I’ve not found the courage to buy a set for myself yet.

    Nonetheless, I think the gist of the project is nicely conveyed.  🙂

    The DecaBox protocol converter is described in more detail here.

    RGB Nodes & Controllers: Now Available for Pre-Order

    We’re thrilled to announce that 8-bit DMX-driven RGB nodes and controllers are now available for pre-order.

    Click here for more detail.


    (Note also that mrpackethead is working on some amazing demo videos to post this weekend.  You’ll see video, graphics & text on a grid of nodes, plus a bunch of other neat effects.)

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