Jan 252013

For several years now, our DecaBox Protocol Converter with MIDI to DMX firmware has been received in a wonderful way.  We’ve shipped systems all over the world, and they’ve been used with excellent results by musicians and performance artists in a variety of venues.

Today we’re thrilled to release a firmware update for the MIDI to DMX converters.  We’ve borrowed code from our RS232 to DMX Engine (a smashing success in its own right, and the preferred tool of hundreds of A/V technicians and systems integration companies) and used it to create automatic, beautiful, silky smooth fades.

In the past, to create fades and lighting dissolves using MIDI commands, a series of either note or CC messages were required.  It worked well enough, but wasn’t as elegant as it could be.

This new firmware build automates the entire process, in a very straightforward way.  MIDI program change (also known as patch change) messages, which typically are used to switch between voices on a keyboard, such as grand piano, electric piano, vibraphone, etc, now control the DecaBox’s internal dimming engine.

Here’s a handy chart of the general MIDI voices.

These program changes all have a numeric value.  What we’ve done is taken the value and then subtracted one.  This number is the time, in seconds, that subsequent MIDI note messages will cause the DMX channels to fade in and out.

For example, Acoustic Grand is PC #1.  1 – 1 = 0.  Zero second (instant) on / off times.

PC #10, the venerable Glockenspiel, generates a nine second fade time.  10 – 1 = 9.

And so forth.

Any combination of notes and PC messages may be transmitted.  They’ll be processed in the order they are received.  Fade times can overlap each other in any combination.  The dimming engine calculates all fade times in parallel, so it can be fed a dizzying array of data without skipping a beat.

Note that as before, the MIDI note velocity corresponds to the final DMX channel intensity.  The dimming engine only affects the time it takes DMX channels to move from one level to another.

Here’s a video clip which demonstrates the new firmware.  In the clip, we used a handful of the LED panels which were left over from the Christmas project shown here.

You can click on the ‘Youtube’ link in the player to see the clip full screen, etc.

If you choose to purchase a DecaBox, this new firmware (v3.0d) will be included at no charge.  You can grab yours in the online store – it’s a ‘Standard DecaBox with MIDI to DMX firmware’.

If you’ve ordered one of these after October 1, 2012, we can email you a copy of the new firmware at no charge.  It only takes a few seconds to complete the update using your DecaBox’s USB port.

Update 2/6/2013 Firmware 3.2d has been released, with the following additions:

  • ‘Note Off’ at any velocity clears the DMX channel. Speed is based on the currently selected engine speed.
  • Dimming engine speed can be controlled by (a) MIDI PC messages or (b) MIDI CC#0 messages.  This setting can be accessed in the DecaBox’s menu system, and the setting survives a power cycle.  Note that if MIDI CC#0 is selected to drive the dimming engine speed, DMX channel #1 can not be also driven with CC messages.  This was added because some sequencer programs don’t save program / patch changes messages very well.  It was easier to work with a dynamic CC fader / knob tool (which can be automated as part of playback) rather than the PC messages.  So now, either method can be used with equal results.  In most systems’ MIDI implementation, CC#0 is also named ‘Bank Select’.
  • Dimming engine speed is adjustable now in .25 second increments, up to a maximum fade time of ~ 30 seconds.

Finally, if your gear is older than October, we can provide an update for $26.  Contact ‘sales AT response-box.com’ for more details.


 Posted by at 5:55 pm

  8 Responses to “DecaBox MIDI to DMX With Internal Dimming Engine”

  1. Hello, can I use the Kenton control freak to record midi info into cubase ( in real time ) then via your Decabox play back the sequence to control the lighting ?

    Kind regards


    Wakefield / West Yorkshire / England

  2. Hi Martin – Yes, I can’t see any reason why that sort of setup wouldn’t work.

  3. Hi John, received my decabox yesterday after a long stint in UK customs. Brilliant, within 10 minutes I had it hooked up to my Kenton control freak and cubase was recording all the slider movements and playing them back spot on. The only concern I have at the moment ( and I haven’t had it long enough yet to experiment ) is when I stop the sequencer ( cubase 6.5 ) the lights all go out and I need them to stay on sometimes. Can you think where I might start to rectify this niggling problem ?



  4. Sounds like your sequencer might be sending out the command ‘all notes off’ when stop is pressed. The DecaBox responds to this command by clearing all of the DMX channels. Perhaps there is a setting in Cubase which could change the behavior…

  5. Had a good look at that John and I think you are correct but cant find where it is in cubase to turn it off, preferences seemed the logical place but to no avail !

  6. John, Just a quick line to tell you I’ve sorted the problem I had with Note off messages and your unit is performing bloody superbly ! The fades I’ve created for our show are ( as the other band members say ) stunning. your deca box handles all the continuous controller messages I fire at it via my kenton control freak with ease. Once again a fantastic product and thank you for making it.

    Many thanks indees

    Martin Laycock

  7. Hi, thank you for creating this product! I play percussion in a band and we recently bought a Roland drum pad (Roland SPD-SX), this product has 9 different drum pads and I would like to use the various drum pads to trigger different lights via midi.

    So basically I would be playing the drum pad and different DMX lights would be getting triggered to the beat of the song, depending on what pads I hit. Is this possible through your DecaBox? It seems that this is possible, but I just want to make sure. Thanks for your time!

  8. @Brandon – Thanks for your note. I can’t think of any reason why this wouldn’t work perfectly for you.

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