wow...

DMXtools

Active Member
Hello and welcome!

JahJahwarrior said:
...I would love to learn about moving lights and DMX...I get some of it, but I would like to learn to use a DMX board, and I'd like to understand just a little better ow it works.

I'm a full-time Electronics Engineer who got into tech theater more as a hobby than as a job - doing sound and lights for local bands. I've designed some of my own DMX gear and, a while back, tried to write an article on DMX-512 that you wouldn't need an engineering degree to understand. Check it out and see if it helps.

Once again, welcome!

John
 

dvsDave

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DMXtools

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JahJahwarrior said:
link isn't wokring for me....

thanks!
Sorry - I'm running my own server and occasionally forget that what I've got to type to get to a page isn't quite the same as what anyone outside my LAN has to enter. I've gone back and corrected the original post - the URL Mayhem gave is correct.

John
 

DMXtools

Active Member
dvsDave said:

JahJahwarrior said:
thanks....those articlesseem to talk about some product, not how DMX works....I'm confused....

Yes, the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) pages Dave pointed to talk about my first two products, gadgets that translate between DMX-512 and several different flavors of micro-plex. The DMX-lator I lets a DMX-512 board run micro-plex dimmer packs, while the DMX-lator II lets a micro-plex board run DMX-512 dimmers (not recommended for DMX scanners or color changers because most micro-plex boards can't handle them properly). By the way, I'm working on a stripped-down version of the DMX-lator I for small systems. It will only translate 24 channels of DMX to micro-plex, but will list for less than $200. It will be in production and ready for sale by July 23, 2004. As I did with the original gadgets, I'll offer them to ControlBooth.com members (by e-mail) at a reduced price: dealer net cost ($106.95 including shipping).

John

Added July 11, 2005: Well, the stripped-down version was a commercial flop: it didn't generate enough interest to pay the tooling charges for circuit boards... and the time needed to modify the standard DMX-lator board to work with fewer components cost more than the parts I was leaving off. Sorry, but it's no longer available. My offer of the standard DMX-lator I for $139.95 to ControlBooth members stands.

John
 

dvsDave

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:oops: oops, that would be my fault.

"Assumption is the mother of all screwups"

Refer to Under Seige 2: Dark Territories for the un-edited quote or just use your imagination. ;)
 

JahJahwarrior

Active Member
yeah, they looked like neat products. I'm gussing they are silk screeneD?? How/where do you get that done??

Thanks, I'll read that article tonight.
 

DMXtools

Active Member
JahJahwarrior said:
yeah, they looked like neat products. I'm gussing they are silk screeneD?? How/where do you get that done??
You guessed right. I did the artwork with the el-cheapo Adobe PhotoDeluxe that came with my digital camera, then let my fingers do the walking, i.e.- I looked in the Yellow Pages under Silkscreening. Checkout a couple different contractors and found one that would do small batches (I only build about 50 at a shot) for a reasonable price. I work in my basement, my silk-screen contractor lives a couple miles away and works in his garage... us startups have to stick together.

John
 

JahJahwarrior

Active Member
now, are the cases painted black beforehand?? Where did you get the cases from, or did you make them??


And, that article was VERY informative!! I feel like I understand this alot better! Now, ineed some hands on work....but thanks for that article!
 

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belated hello to you ,hope you find our community helpful
 

DMXtools

Active Member
JahJahwarrior said:
now, are the cases painted black beforehand?? Where did you get the cases from, or did you make them??


And, that article was VERY informative!! I feel like I understand this alot better! Now, ineed some hands on work....but thanks for that article!

Actually, the cases are an off-the-shelf item, BUD Industries part number CU-389, available from Newark, Digi-Key, or RS Electronics (RS usually has the best price - around $5, depending on quantity). They're molded from high-impact plastic - the plastic itself is black.

All I have to do is cut the holes for connectors and switches. I have a computer-controlled milling machine to do that. I built jigs to hold the box and its cover, and wrote the program to guide the milling machine. That was the hard part. The easy part is clamping a box in the jig and pushing the "go" button. The computer takes about 15 minutes to do each box, but once I start it, I can go do something else. It never makes a mistake.

I took the first batch of 50 cases to a local machine shop. They charged me $10 each to cut the same holes in each case and made mistakes on several of them - 5 of them serious enough that I had to throw them out. That's when I started shopping for my own mill.

One thing I'm pretty proud of is that my gadgets passed FCC tests for interference even though the plastic case doesn't provide any shielding. I looked at the design from the point of view of the sound guy as well as lights - if the lighting system makes the PA buzz, I wanted to make sure it wasn't my gadget doing it.

John
 

DMXtools

Active Member
JahJahwarrior said:
neato!!! that talents some people have are amazing!! where'd you get themill?? howmuch???
I'd rather not say just where I bought it, because they jerked me around on it: I wanted a Taig, and they implied they had it in stock and could ship immediately. When I didn't get it, three weeks after I'd sent the check, I called to find out what was up and found out they were back-ordered from the factory. It would be at least two more months before I'd get it. I switched my order to a more-expensive MaxNC... which they didn't have in stock either, but the MaxNC factory would drop-ship direct to me. Another two weeks after I did an e-check for the difference, I finally had my mill. Total cost, with shipping, was just under $2000.

The link should point to a black-and-white picture of it in the process of cutting boxes. It runs off the parallel port of a PC. The NC program is DOS-based - it has to take direct control of the port and timers.

The computer doesn't come with it. I resurrected an old Compaq 486-33 and loaded Windows 98 on it (gives me good networking and can restart in DOS mode). The only tricky thing was telling the NC software where Compaq put the parallel port (old Compaqs used a different I/O address from everybody else).

Anyhow, I clamp two boxes onto the jig and push the "go" button (the "C" key on the confuser keyboard). It cuts the north end of one box and the south end of the other. Then I switch the boxes, press "C" again, and it cuts the other end of each. The only problem I ever had was if I tried to cut too fast, it would melt the plastic rather than cutting it and I'd end up with a big glob of plastic stuck to the mill (standard .062" dia. 4-flute end mill).

Writing G-code (the command language for most NC tools) is a lot of math... mostly basic geometry. If you've read some of my other posts, you might have noticed math is something I'm sort-of good at. I didn't used-to be, until I recognized the practical value. Math, taken as an abstract, is boring. When it can be used to describe actual, real-world relationships and help solve real-world problems, it gets interesting real quick.
(steps down off his soapbox)

Have fun!

John
 

DMXtools

Active Member
Drilling a dozen boxes by hand would have been easier than writing the NC program... but I've used the program and mill to cut over 150 boxes so far, with many more to come. Besides, if I drilled a dozen boxes by hand I'd probably wind up with only ten that were good enough to ship to customers. I'm good at math, but only fair when it comes to manual dexterity.

John
 

JahJahwarrior

Active Member
and, the machine is quicker I'd guess...

anyways, it really is suprising to know that there are NSI-DMX converters.

Another question with DMX-- for an intelligent light, does it have the dimmer built in?? (beccause they dim mechanically I believe) Now, are there dimmers that are like theNSI dimmer packs, like they have a DMX input and then on the back they have edison outputs?

Thanks!
 

DMXtools

Active Member
Several companies make dimmer packs for DMX-512: that's what the protocol was actually designed for. I can name a few off the top of my head. Electrol makes really high-end stuff. Leprecon, Lightronics and NSI make DMX versions of their most popular microplex dimmer packs to cover the middle of the market. American DJ and Chauvet hit the low end of the market with units made in China. NSI recently decided to get into the low end with a unit that is practically identical to the American DJ box, also made in China. There are probably many more.

Not all intelligent lights are dimmable, but most of the ones I've seen have the dimmer built-in. Then there are moving-yoke and moving-mirror attachments for the S-4. On those, the dimmer isn't included (as far as I know).

By the way, both NSI and Lightronics also make DMX to microplex translators. It's just that they'd rather sell you several new DMX dimmer packs (or keep you locked in to their microplex products) than just one converter, so they price their converters pretty high and don't advertise them. Protocol translators are all I do, so I try to keep prices reasonable.

John
 

zac850

Well-Known Member
DMXtools said:
Then there are moving-yoke and moving-mirror attachments for the S-4. On those, the dimmer isn't included (as far as I know).

I don't believe that the dimmers are built in. I was looking around the ETC website, and I was looking at them for a bit, and I don't remember them saying that the dimmer is built in. I believe its just a normal s4 zoom on a moving head. I remember seeing that you can also add other moving things--an iras, zoom, and other things that i'm forgetting now.

I believe that most "normal" intelligent lights have a dimmer built in.
 

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