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Thread: DMX Lighting

  1. #1
    Automated Home Jr Member Gangsta's Avatar
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    Default DMX Lighting

    Hi

    I have been asked to do an article on my DMX lighting system, and was looking for some suggestions as to what to include.

    My current thoughts are to include a breif overview of what DMX is, and what it can do for you, what type of equipment I am using and why I chose it, the costs involved, the work involved, both setting up and infrastructure.

    Other suggestions would be more than welcome.

    Am I aloud to recommend sources for the equipment - eg the gear I am using, as my suppliers have been amazing with me?

    I have attached an overview of my system, so if there is anything that you think would need explaining, please let me know.

    Thanks

    Graham
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    Moderator toscal's Avatar
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    Don't see why you can't recommend sources for the equipment. Its no different to some posters asking where to buy stuff from.

    I actually posted a question a while back on why DMX is not used that much in the home automation market. Can't find the post at the moment.
    So it will be interesting to read your article.
    IF YOU CAN'T FIX IT WITH A HAMMER, YOU'VE GOT AN ELECTRICAL PROBLEM.
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  3. #3
    Automated Home Jr Member Gangsta's Avatar
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    Yeah, lol - the search doesn't like 3 letter words does it?

    Im guess this is the post you are reffering to:

    http://www.automatedhome.co.uk/vbull...ead.php?p=8746

    Just read it, and I have to agree with [most] of it, but the splitting the universe into rooms etc, and the set room 5 to preset 6 in 5 secs is exactly what my DMX light server does. (I have added 'zones' to my server, so now it also understands a command like zone 4, fade to 0, taking 5 seconds. A 'zone' in this respect is a group of channels, it could be 1 - it could be 500. A Channel can be part of multiple groups, although im still working on this bit)

    and this section

    Basically DMX is a single human interface system, home automation and commercial lighitng schemes need multiple human interfaces. Think of it as this, if you had a house with 10 rooms, each with 3 lighting circuits per room you need 10 different 'controllers', 10 different DMX lines and 10 x 3 channel dimmers, and then you'd have a real headache trying to work out how you do a house all off!
    is quite wrong, as you can see from my system diagram above.

    Oh, and I have about 6 years theatre experience, doing rigging and light operation - and even now run the lighting for our church (which is of course DMX based )
    Last edited by Gangsta; 9th February 2010 at 06:14 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gangsta View Post
    Hi

    I have been asked to do an article on my DMX lighting system, and was looking for some suggestions as to what to include.

    My current thoughts are to include a breif overview of what DMX is, and what it can do for you, what type of equipment I am using and why I chose it, the costs involved, the work involved, both setting up and infrastructure.

    Other suggestions would be more than welcome.

    Am I aloud to recommend sources for the equipment - eg the gear I am using, as my suppliers have been amazing with me?

    I have attached an overview of my system, so if there is anything that you think would need explaining, please let me know.

    Thanks

    Graham

    I'd like to see something about integration with other Home Automation systems (Homeseer, xAP, xPL, Misterhouse, or whatever.)

    Mark

  5. #5
    Moderator toscal's Avatar
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    How do you cope with feedback for the dimmers.
    Looking at the diagram your touch screens go via a server, which I guess can take care of feedback to the touchscreens. Just thinking if you switch a light off in another room, then go into that room, does the screen in that room know that the light is switched off.
    How did you design the flash screens, was it a home brew app that you did, or did you use a commercial app.
    Don't worry about replying here, you can add it to your article if you prefer.
    Last edited by toscal; 12th February 2010 at 02:16 PM.
    IF YOU CAN'T FIX IT WITH A HAMMER, YOU'VE GOT AN ELECTRICAL PROBLEM.
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  6. #6
    Automated Home Jr Member Gangsta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkHarrison View Post
    I'd like to see something about integration with other Home Automation systems (Homeseer, xAP, xPL, Misterhouse, or whatever.)

    Mark
    Hi mark, that is something that I dont think that I will be able to do, as I dont have, and have never used any other home automation systems - im doing all this on a very tight budget, and fell that if i choose a particular system, then I will be limiting my options somewhat.

    Toscal, They are very good questions, I'll do my best to answer, and put the best bits in my article lol.

    My light server mk1 was strictly one way (I had never used flash before the night I posted up about my MID) As you may know the MID is very restricted, it resets all your settings on power off etc. It does come with flash player v5, and v6 (I dont have a windows CE sdk, and I dont think the MID has .net installed) - anyway, I dug through my software box and found flash, installed it and started reading the help files, created a basic slider using code I found on the net. A few hours reading (and googling) later I found some code to send data over TCP - My light switch was working Its really basic - this is the full code for something that works (although it does need work)
    Code:
    var scrollMax:Number = 207;
    var scrollMin:Number = 141;
    var xsTestSocket: XMLSocket = new XMLSocket();
    
    cbtCallFW.onPress = function() {
    	var bSuccess:Boolean = xsTestSocket.connect("10.0.0.12", 2000);
    }
    
    myoffbtn.onPress = function() {
    	xsTestSocket.close;
    }
    xsTestSocket.onConnect = function(bSuccess:Boolean):Void {
        if (bSuccess) {
            trace("Connection to RPC Server opened");
        }else{
            trace("Connection failed");
        }
    }
    	
    Slider1.onPress = function() {
    	this.startDrag(false,this._x,scrollMin,this._x,scrollMax);
    	this.onMouseMove = scroll2;	
    }
    	
    Slider1.onRelease = Slider1.onReleaseOutside = function() {
    		this.stopDrag();
    	}
    	
    function scroll1() {
    	var iValue:Number = (Slider2._y - ScrollMin) * 4;
    	if (iValue > 255) {
    		iValue = 255;
    	}
    	iValue = 255 - iValue
    	var sFWCmd:String = "1,2," + iValue + ",X";
    	xsTestSocket.send(sFWCmd);
    }
    And thats how the lightswitch works (Ive ommitted the other channels, but they are identical code, only slider2, slider3, etc

    On to feedback - if you can understand the code above, you will see that there is no feedback - yet. But I have just finished coding DMX Light Server mk2, and this time it does have feedback.

    This one is a .net application, based on downloaded code for a multi-threaded, multi-client chat server, only I dont chat with it, I send light commands - any other connected clients get the information forwarded onto them from the server to update their display. I have included a 'hello' message, so that new clients that connect to the server get a list of the current channel settings - alloying them to be in sync with the rest of the system.

    Shortly I will add some code to my flash script to allow it to interprit this information and update the screens accordingly.

    As for homebrew vs commercial -> I tend to homebrew everything that I can, as I find it difficult to pay 50 for something that contains 2 worth of parts(hardware).

    I get microprocessors for 0.29 and they are very capable, and can be tuned to suit my needs.

    Software wise, its always homebrew, as again I dont like paying for something then finding out it cant/wont do what I want.

    Im scottish, and living up to the reputation - eg im as tight as a cats..... when it comes to money (more money for parts )

  7. #7
    Automated Home Jr Member nickgale's Avatar
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    As the author of the reply to toscal's original question I have to say that Gangsta's comment that part of my reply "is quite wrong" is actually not true! He has got round the limitation of DMX in a multi-room application using his controller and as far as I can see he is the only one who has done so. That's great, but I'm not convinced it will catch on commercially

    If you read up on the USITT spec for DMX512 it was never anything but an entertainment protocol - one desk talking to multiple dimmers or fixtures. Take Zero 88 for example, good range of control desks and dimmers, yet their sister company ILight produce an architectural lighting control system using their own protocol - ICAN - they chose not to use DMX for a reason - it doesn't fit well in an architectural control system. In fact Zero88's dimmers have some architectural control built in and that doesn't use DMX either.

    Oh yes and thanks for reminding me just how old I am - my theatre experience is 20 years......LOL

  8. #8
    Automated Home Sr Member MrFluffy's Avatar
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    I would *love* to see the article. Im still not 100% on which system Im going to go with (I like the look of idratek's hardware, but unless I can talk to idranet from a unix box direct without having windows involved the entire system is a no no for me, and despite asking nicely for more info the answer has been no), so the more options the better. Ive used dmx once or twice, but only in the case of plugging a few controllers into a few flowers etc setting up for a party.

    Fudge or not? who cares, what I care about is can I implement the system and have it working reliably at my house and can I plug it into my existing infrastructure and systems. Reliable being the key. I once made the dire mistake of buying and deploying thousands of pounds worth of x10 kit and how does the saying go "fool me once shame on you, fool me twice more fool me"...

  9. #9
    Automated Home Jr Member Gangsta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nickgale View Post
    As the author of the reply to toscal's original question I have to say that Gangsta's comment that part of my reply "is quite wrong" is actually not true! He has got round the limitation of DMX in a multi-room application using his controller and as far as I can see he is the only one who has done so. That's great, but I'm not convinced it will catch on commercially

    If you read up on the USITT spec for DMX512 it was never anything but an entertainment protocol - one desk talking to multiple dimmers or fixtures. Take Zero 88 for example, good range of control desks and dimmers, yet their sister company ILight produce an architectural lighting control system using their own protocol - ICAN - they chose not to use DMX for a reason - it doesn't fit well in an architectural control system. In fact Zero88's dimmers have some architectural control built in and that doesn't use DMX either.

    Oh yes and thanks for reminding me just how old I am - my theatre experience is 20 years......LOL
    Hi nickgale, my comments were not inteded as a personal attack, just a very different point of view. But based upon my (very) limited experience of DMX in a home - I just dont see what the problem is. There is one VERY VERY compelling reason not to do it, and that revolves around wiring.

    Almost every other system i have seen involves sending a coded signal to a module located locally to the load (eg lights/sockets) so I guess this is now an established view on things - and DMX is both expensive and awkward to route to every load device in the home (and would probably exceed the protocols length limit if daisy chained, its bad enough in a theatre where things dont need to be hidden - just tidy)

    I have done the exact oposite, my DMX cable is precisely 220mm long, it goes from my dmx module to my dimmers. Everything after that is through twin+earth routed to the load devices. Its not really suited to a re-wiring job (although if you have a bungalow like me - its not to bad) on a new build it would be a doddle to implement.

    There is also (probably the main) reason why DMX is not used in homes. You can buy the gear cheap as chips - where would the manufacturers make there money. Im willing to bet that you cannot buy a 'home automation solution'(id rather not pick on any specific brand) type lighting setup (for a full house) for under 300 - you would be lucky to buy a controller for that, never mind the switches etc. Yet you could do a whole house dmx system including switches and controller for less than 300

    I am also willing to concede that you have waay more experience of theatre lighting than me.

    On dmx, the one thing i will add is - just because others do it differently doesnt mean they are right (im not saying im right either - just offering an alternative - that works really well for not a lot of money)

    Mr Fluffy, I cant recommend any system cos I havn't used any, but if you like programming - dmx is easy to do from linux (check out dmx4linux) and is open, so you can write your own code easily. Also if you want to hand off the processing to a low power controller, then you can build a little module using a microchip pic processor (about 5-10) if you can configure linux - i have no doubt you could program a pic. It will draw about 1Watt on a bad day.

    As for reliability, no problems so far - although triacs do go in the dimmers every now and then (like any dimmer) they can be replaced easily and cheaply. And if it all goes tits up, its only 60-70 for a full new dimmer pack (12 channel). That all that can go wrong, as the rest of the wiring is standard mains. (your comp could crash, but my last linux server ran for 5 years without a single crash)

  10. #10
    Automated Home Jr Member nickgale's Avatar
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    I didn't take it as a personal attack...

    What you have created is central controller talking to some dimmers, that is no different to the theatre environment that DMX was aimed at. You have concentrated on the controller to dimmer link which in terms of an architectural control system is only one part of it.

    What connects the various light switches, sensors, etc? That isn't DMX is it?

    Why won't your idea take off? Well, what happens if your central controller stops working at 9PM on a Saturday night? How are you going to tell your wife / partner (or in my case customer) how to turn on a light when you're 50 miles away and enjoying a beer or two with a mate? Architectural lighting control systems such as Dynalite, CBus, KNX, Rako, etc. have no central processor - no single point of failure, each device is programmed individually - the bus is used to send messages from many controllers to many dimmers, if one fails then it's inconvenient but not drastic.

    Yes DMX dimmers are cheap, at least whilst the Chinese factory that is supplying Highlite with their Showtec brand, Transcension and Soundlab remains. To be honest the amateur theatre trust that I am a director of, uses a Soundlab dimmer for the house lights but for the stage we use Zero88, not least as I can pick up the phone and talk to someone in south Wales about any issues we're having, in just the same way I can talk to someone at Philips Dynalite for example.

    There is a big difference between an enthusiasts requirements and those of a professional installer. My company, Design Innovation, will continue to install the likes of Dynalite or KNX based systems as they work, repeatedly and for a long time with no failure. Would we ever consider installing a lighting control system that relies on a PC? No we wouldn't. I want to enjoy that beer on a Saturday night!

    Nick

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