Computer Controled DMX stuff

Joined
Jan 16, 2004
Location
CT
I'm pondering doing some control work with DMX, by a computer... What are some good, FREE lighting control softwares, that can talk with 'DIY' built PC to DMX controlers?
Also, does anyone have any good plans/schematics/links to DIY control interfaces?
 

wemeck

Active Member
Joined
Mar 3, 2003
Location
Chicago, IL, USA
I could not find any free stuff but I do have some experience with this stuff. You may want to check out this site http://www.dialsoundlight.co.uk/d-commerce/page1.html
Delnor has one and they work great. You just need a laptop to connect them to and you can use midi. I forgot what software packages he is using to run the system but it was pretty reasonable priced.

The problem with Free Stuff is you usually get what you pay for. Reliability is the key.
 

Inaki2

Active Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2003
Location
Chicago, Illinois
General rule is: You're likely to get free software, but you gottapay for the hardware. There are tons of lighting solution for PC. For example:

Martin LightJockey 2:
http://www.martin.com/product/product.asp?product=lightjockey

HogPC:
http://www.flyingpig.com/support/hog2/downloads/ (scroll down to HogPC)

They each have different specs and some are easier to use than others. And free hardware, its gonna be hard to find, not to say impossible. Only free I can remember seeing, but not too good, it was just a project came from Ujaal's DMX page. Never even tried it though.
 

Garen

Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2004
you also want to consider that computers are not as reliable as light boards, if you are considering using this to run a show on. Also, you can get the free DMX control software, but the actual hardware is VERY expensive. 3000+. The hardware runs in USB to DMX conversion, external DMX conversion boxes, and then the in-the-back-of-your-computer PC cards. All are pricey, although Chauvet, a more dance lighting company, sells a <1000$ external DMX box, although I dont know how good that is, although I have never worked with I, but I do know that Chauvet is a reliable company with good products.

hope this help you, or anyone else interested
 
Joined
Jan 16, 2004
Location
CT
Hrmm... Yes, I've seen much 'free lighting control software' now... after hours of searching and links provided here... but I mean come on, how hard is it to design a say, serial port to DMX convertion box? I would have thought people would have develped something...

And yes, I realize how unreliable computers can be... I wasnt planing on running a mission critical show off of it, it was just for testing purposes, and learning how DMX works, how to break it, etc.
hence, the budget limits...
 

The_Terg

Active Member
Joined
Dec 3, 2003
Location
Yonkers, NY, USA
Joren_Wendschuh said:
Hrmm... Yes, I've seen much 'free lighting control software' now... after hours of searching and links provided here... but I mean come on, how hard is it to design a say, serial port to DMX convertion box? I would have thought people would have develped something...

And yes, I realize how unreliable computers can be... I wasnt planing on running a mission critical show off of it, it was just for testing purposes, and learning how DMX works, how to break it, etc.
hence, the budget limits...
I think that the main problem is that most of the DMX controllers for PC's use either a Midi-based controlling system, or a DMX converter using a PCI or USB connection. The problem with serial is that I think it's a Liiiitle too slow for use for DMX. If you think about it, DMX is nearly identical to MIDI in the way that it uses individual commands (channel 53 off, channel 53 intensity 127.... etc) sent at a rapid speed to achieve control.
Neither do i think that serial can support such rapid data transfer (albeit very little data), nor do I see any Midi interfaces for Serial. If there arent any Midi interfaces available throu serial, I doubt that DMX would be able to handle the speed of serial...
 

Mayhem

Senior Team Emeritus
Premium Member
Joined
Jan 21, 2004
Location
Australia
I guess that the next logical question here would be "can anyone suggest a quality board for a reasonable price?" and it is certainly a question that I would like to hear the answer to.
Most of my lighting experience is in generic lighting (either using std 4pac dimmers or sound to light) or mobile DJ style lighting which tends to get used as sound to light or with DMX only to link heads to ensure that all do the same thing (trying to program scenes when the dance floor size and position changes from venue to venue tends to be tedious and impractical. Especially when an in house dimmer for the sun is not provided). The majority of my work is mobile DJ work or smaller lighting applications like up lighting of trees or buildings for corporate or private functions. Obviously, this can be easily done from a few 4 pacs but it means control is scattered from location to location.
Recently I rescued a Jands Roadpack Digital dimmer that had caught on fire and been given up on as having gone to god. This is a 12ch dimmer with DMX capability and is going to be perfect for me to provide better control over my lighting applications and also pick up bigger and better gigs.
My question now is what desk to plug into it? I am thinking that the Jands Stage 12 desk would be ideal.
http://www.jands.com.au/products.nsf/Products/8d7c9216c5dc6c06ca2569fc0007a4d5?open&group2=Product
I have also been told to give the Behringer Eurolight LC1224
http://www.behringer.com/02_products/prodindex.cfm?id=LC2412&lang=ENG&CFID=1568542&CFTOKEN=40256558
However, whilst I have never used any Behringer products I have been informed that their construction is not the best. I am arranging a demo of both.
I would welcome any feedback on these two desks from people who may have or are using them and in particular, people having serviced them. If anyone has any other suggestions I would welcome them also.
I hope that this post is also hopeful to Joren_Wendschuh as well.
Cheers,
mayhem
 

Inaki2

Active Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2003
Location
Chicago, Illinois
Well, you have many choices in the reasonably priced consoles, the Event I like actually, then you have Zero88, The XCiter from Martin or the Freekie. Nearly all console manufacturers have alower budget console. Maybe a Hog500...you gotta go thru the webpages and see what they have to offer.
 

Nephilim

Active Member
Joined
Jan 10, 2004
Location
Australia
Maybe I just had a bad experience then. It's just the memory system was so incredibly unintuitive for a ninth-grade board op to work out; we actually ended up having to just use it in two scene preset mode.
 

cruiser

Active Member
Joined
Oct 11, 2003
Location
Melbourne
I have found the programming on the new series extremly easy, set your how you want your scene too look on the presets, then just hold record and hit the assign master you want it into :) it automattically links it to the last one you recorded. Then all you have to do is assign your stack go/back to the last two assign masters and your away :)
 

Nephilim

Active Member
Joined
Jan 10, 2004
Location
Australia
I don't see how

a) Holding the Record button versus pushing it, and
b) Having to record 'go' and 'back' seperately

are particularly intuitive. Then again, I'm used to ETC, where you already have go and back and you push the damned Rec button instead of holding it.

Meh, it's of no importance anyway. Old, old, old news (2000) on my part :)
 

Inaki2

Active Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2003
Location
Chicago, Illinois
Ahhh ETC, never got to use one of those, I was about to use the Obsession 2 on a gig once, but after downloading the manual I decided I wanted a Wholehog 2...damn complicated!!!!! i must admit they are fine pieces of machinery. I did use Jands extensively and got used to it.
 

JamesCr

Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2004
Im trying not to make this into an add....

Im at present (right now) finishing off the code for Light Designer for Windows, which is a computer based lighting control program, mainly aimed at moving fixtures, but also has alimited thearter stack in as well. The operation of the system will be familiar to those who have used wholehog before, as the operation is similar, but has many changes which I personaly think inprove it, but it is also lacking in many of the advanced features that wholehog has.
It will talk to a number of dmx interfaces, that hook upto the serial port if you want to spend the time and write the data files for the interface, or at present I have it talking to a martin 2518 controler via the serial port and this lets you control upto 72 chans per controler. I will soon be letting you hook up two controlers to allow 144 chans, but this will require serial ports. I will be releasing a version as open source(with precompiled version avalible) but this will have many features removed including the WYSWYG and the built in effects). I will post later when I have finished, and a download location is avalible

James
 

RonaldBeal

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2004
Location
TN
http://www.artisticlicence.com/ has a few serial and usb dmx dongles in the $300 range, www.lanbox.com is another, there are a few more in that price range as well.
Also 2 corrections to The_Terg, dmx is nothing like MIDI as far as commands go. DMX sends 512 numbers over and over, approx 30 to 40 times a second, midi, on the other hand sends very specific commands only when needed (i.e. note 32 on at volume 127). MIDI runs at 31.25kbs and dmx 250kbs, both well within the speeds of most serial ports.
Back in the early to mid 90's serial was the ONLY way to interface with midi (i've got an old midi translator II for mac ADB i'll sell ya ;-)
these days, mfgs' are going with usb and 1394 for compatibility, and eas of use.
Hope this helps, and good luck.
 

DMXtools

Active Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2003
Location
Elgin, IL, USA
The_Terg said:
The problem with serial is that I think it's a Liiiitle too slow for use for DMX.
This much is true. The fastest PC serial port runs at less than half the bit-rate of DMX-512.

If you think about it, DMX is nearly identical to MIDI in the way that it uses individual commands (channel 53 off, channel 53 intensity 127.... etc) sent at a rapid speed to achieve control.
This is not true. Every DMX-512 packet contains information for all channels, regardless of whether there are any changes. The DMX packet starts with a BREAK (data held low) of at least 88 microseconds, a MARK (data held high) of at least 8 microseconds, one byte to indicate packet type (usually zero, to indicate dimmer control), then one byte of control information for each channel. The channel address is implied by the byte's position in the packet. The first byte after the packet type is channel 1, the second is channel 2 and so on. A packet telling channel 53 to go to intensity 127 will include commands for all the other channels as well, even if there is no change on any of those other channels.

MIDI does work the way you said; each packet consists of a status byte (note ON, for example), a note number (range 0-127) and a velocity (also in the range 0-127). There are exceptions, but that's the basic scheme.

By the way, the maximum bit-rate for most PC serial ports is 115,200 bps. MIDI is locked solid at 31,250 bps, but the hardware is a current-loop topology, incompatible with RS-232. DMX-512 hardware is RS-485, for which there are inexpensive serial-port converters, but it requires a bit-rate of 250,000 bps, beyond the range of most PC serial ports.

John