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Interfacing with your custom bridge equipment; Part 2

posted Apr 25, 2012 01:56:31 by ThomRobertson
Okay, the last thread was filled up, and was getting stale, but I'm still fully committed to supporting my LBE-building customers. So let's look at this from a different point of view:

What control hardware do you want me to support? There are several remote-controlled power strips on the market. ThomasGanshorn suggested gembird silver shields, but those appear to be EU only.

Having said that, I don't want to use the X10 boxes, 'cause I've already tried and found them frustrating and opaque. Also I'd rather not have to build a custom arduino controller 'cause I'd rather find an off-the-shelf solution we can all be happy with.

But I'm willing to try anything that works, and that we can all work with. So let's discuss this. If you builders can agree on a device I should try, then I'll buy one and do my best to make it work with Artemis.
Creator of Artemis
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26 replies
kwadroke said Apr 25, 2012 02:04:12
I was just looking up the hardware (ETPW-322B) for Red Alert lighting. Since this post just came up, guess I'll hold off purchasing anything for a bit.
LeeKeiserII said Apr 25, 2012 02:37:01
I think this topic may be better suited if it were broke into two different pieces. The first one would be 'input hardware' where when the hardware is activated the game/sim responds accordingly. The second one would be when a game-state variable changes it activates the 'output hardware' to respond accordingly.

For Input Hardware, there is a ton of existing equipment that can simulate key-strokes. Since there are plenty of ascii keystroke input characters to choose from --and-- the keystrokes can be simulated by a wide range of devices, I think that just keyboard style inputs would be adequate enough for us LBE'rs to craft what we're looking for.

For Output Hardware, I think that this piece should be broken down into two sections as well. One would be video/computer display output and the second would be physical electronic outputs such as lights, foggers, flashers, relays, actuators and the like.

On the video side, I'd like to see a web-based interface that can poll the server for data and then display that data in web/html output on as many screens as I have the budget and the need for.

On the electronic side, I'm starting to commit to the DMX512 protocol. DMX has MANY very cool push button or slider-based hardware controllers that can be activated manually. It also has the ability to interface with a PC through a USB Dongle. There are open source DMX controller software packages out there that can create an entire light show synced to an audio track like this Halloween House Video. (Technically this house was done with light-o-rama hardware/software, but DMX functions the same way)

DMX has a long, established base and has a ton of compatible manual and computer-controlled electronic output devices available.

(p.s. Is this topic/thread in the right forum?)
Cmdr.Brandr said Apr 25, 2012 13:32:24
Looking at the info on DMX512 on wikipedia ( it appears that this would likely work well, though looking at the Architecture for Control Networks link ( of that page I think might be a better choice for the Artemis. This is an upgrade replacement for the DMX512 using an ethernet protocol
Wikipedia says:
Architecture for Control Networks (ACN) is a suite of network protocols for theatrical control being developed by Entertainment Services and Technology Association (ESTA). The first official release is formally referred to as ANSI E1.17 - 2006 - Entertainment Technology - Architecture for Control Networks.

It was designed as a replacement for DMX as the control protocol for lighting systems and can be used for controlling more complex devices like video playback servers (media servers) and audio mixers. The protocol is designed to be layered on top of UDP/IP and therefore will run over standard, inexpensive Ethernet and 802.11 (Wi-Fi) network links.

ACN relies on UDP in order to pass its messages. Where reliability is required, the Session Data Transport sub protocol allows semi-reliability of only the latest value for a particular "channel".
Commander Brandr
Commanding Officer of the ship Calamitous Intent

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Cmdr.Brandr said Apr 25, 2012 14:01:53
Another option might be the ArtNet protocol (, it's basically DMX512A over UDP on an ethernet. According to wikipedia its open for implementation for free with an attribution. Admittedly the idea of using the Art-Net for the Artemis suits my alliteration love.

This page over at Artistic License gives a download for their FREE DMX-Workshop tool for PC. Probably worth looking into.

Wikipedia says:
Art-Net is a proprietary protocol for transmitting the lighting control protocol DMX512-A (with RDM) over the User Datagram Protocol of the TCP/IP suite. The protocol was developed by Wayne Howell and his company, Artistic Licence Engineering (UK) Ltd, and is open for implementation with attribution but without charge [1], and make available a Software Development Kit. It is typically implemented as lighting-control nodes in embedded controllers, driven from a lighting desk or similar software operating as a server. Art-Net compatible products are made available by dozens of companies.


Art-Net is a simple implementation of DMX512-A protocol over UDP, in which packets containing lighting settings are transmitted over IP packets, typically on a private local area network such as Ethernet. Facilities exist to transmit or receive lighting data (eg, fader levels for individual lights or positions of movable lights), as well as management functions such as detecting the nodes available or updating their control parameters, or transmit timecode. More sophisticated functions include subscription, so that for example, nodes A and B can subscribe to node C; C will unicast information to A and B.
Commander Brandr
Commanding Officer of the ship Calamitous Intent

Check our crews adventures at
LeeKeiserII said Apr 25, 2012 18:09:16
I'm seeing more and more devices that have BOTH the XLR (microphone style) cables that are the DMX standard AND the Ethernet connectors as well. I believe that they can be mixed without to much fuss, although I'm not sure if these new devices are Art-net or just a physical-only cabling alternative for DMX.

Another nice feature of DMX is the ability to daisy-chain off the last piece of equipment. Most controllers have an In and Out in them. The do need a terminator at the end of the chain, but this is the only other requirement that I'm aware of.

Art-Net, as an expansion/replacement of DMX sounds pretty good if there is a sizable set of hardware/lights/foggers/controllers that will support it. If its still pretty new, maybe using just DMX512 is the right place to start with an upgrade to Art-Net sometime in the future???

Cmdr.Brandr said Apr 26, 2012 21:45:18
I think Lee has hit on the major criteria for the goal here; Equipment Availability. Certainly that's going to be key for this. I think it would be nice if it was some common/open standard that would allow us to versatility. I think DMX512 would do this. Probably the one thing I don't like about it is that it requires extra hardware, namely a EIA-485 serial port. Most machines have an RS-232 (EIA-232) serial port that can be hooked to a 485 system with a simple adapter. This is all doable but it seems to be linking game events with specific predetermined actions.

For example, when the red alert button is pressed turn on the red alert lights, but what if I don't want to simply turn on lights, I want to do something more exotic say, vibrating the chairs and sounding a klaxon. If the game is precoded for turn on lights how do I make interact with my system.

That's what I was suggesting on the previous thread. The game reports its activity/state through a web interface and then my system uses that information to make decisions on what to turn on/off/vibrate/sound. Perhaps state type information can be provided with the DMX512 but I was think that it was sending post-decision point information like turn on/turn off.

So what are you looking to provide Thom? Hardware support with predetermined responses to internal events or just sending out the information of internal events?
Commander Brandr
Commanding Officer of the ship Calamitous Intent

Check our crews adventures at
ThomRobertson said Apr 27, 2012 00:40:12
I definitely want to send event messages from the server, which your hardware can choose to interpret any way it wishes. But I've started this thread by asking "what hardware?" I think we all agree we want to use cheap, configurable, available off-the-shelf hardware that Artemis can send event messages to. What IS that?

DMX doesn't look very cheap, and seems to be about buying lights and disco balls from music stores. It is a venerable, well understood standard that is about sending unsigned bytes to various banks of hardware. Although said hardware is probably pretty configurable, and the bytes I send could be too, it's not at all like sending UDP messages over ethernet.

Still, if you guys think DMX lights and smoke machines are equipment you can buy and use, I'll buy some and get started building an interface to Artemis.
Creator of Artemis
edmundrw said Apr 30, 2012 09:42:22
It's worth bearing in mind the ideas TreChipman is exploring for his 'Epsilon Sector' missions - an external device for reading lore and other computer 'data logs' that can receive outputs from a script as well as input conditions into a script.
This kind of thing would have a big impact for both LBE and the home crew.
Cmdr.Brandr said May 01, 2012 14:46:54
What type of hardware....well for me I was looking at mostly hacked (in the hackerspace sense) items that could be controlled directly from digital lines on a computer/arduino/raspberry PI or via a relay. I managed to get my hands on some cast off relay boards that have a 240VAC support capability and plug right into the bus of a computer so that was where I was heading. I would have to program my interface to receive the info from the Artemis so I was going to adapt to whatever you wrote Thom. Of course, doing computer based hardware interface is my career so I might be in a different spot than most.

Perhaps the way to approach this is to start with a list of hardware items we would like to control then see what options we can find out there:

Lights, spinning warning
Lights, ambient
Lights, spot
Spark generator
Fog machine/Smoke machine
Fans, to blow the fog/smoke
Mechanical Actuators (okay so maybe this is just me)

Looking at things some more I am not finding a lot of inexpensive COTS components for any sort of lighting/automation control but with a little searching I found some open source projects for DMX that would be an option for those who wanted to "roll their own".

Does anyone else have some good hardware suggestions for this stuff?

Commander Brandr
Commanding Officer of the ship Calamitous Intent

Check our crews adventures at
christopher said May 11, 2012 19:33:46

Will there be a programming API that can be used to implement our own hardware, and if so do you have any plans to allow input (such as a "Red Alert" button)

ThomasGanshorn said May 12, 2012 13:43:21
i vote for a commandline system.
It is useless to have a specific set of hardware support. Every one has different hardware and needs.
So the best in my experience is having a mechanism to define comamndline calls that gets executed at specific events.

Eg. switchToRedAlert=c:\artemis\hardware\red.bat

and let do the batchfile do the work.
This is the easiest for Thom and the most flexible for all hardware developers cause they can do whatever they want and need.
Because a one size fits all solution is impossible here
avbeeri said May 12, 2012 15:05:21
All that you need is a way of allowing a program to read the status of the game, and then let people write software to manage their hardware.

Maybe get a program that polls some output file created by the server while running, with various properties in it and then sends commands to the hardware based on what is in there.

That might get a bit intensive though.

The commmand line approach works for a small number of outputs, but the moment you want to do a significant amount of things the line command becomes very large.
[Last edited May 12, 2012 15:10:04]
willofthemonkey said May 13, 2012 01:43:37
Just want to throw in my two cents real quick. DMX Is the way to go for sure. I saw a users talking about the diffrent cables needed for DMX. Most prosumer items "things you will find at a Sam ash if your in the states" will use a 3 pin "XLR" where as professional lighting gear will use a 5-pin. The nice thing about this is a turn over can be made for just about two dollars US and a little skill with a soludering iron. Also with a Portable dimmer pack you could add anything thing that uses standard power to this(ie. a red yellow and green light for bridge alerts.. A simple strobe light or anything else you may want triggered on at a certain time)

I would like to go into more detail about this later tonight when I'm not on my iPad at work.

Also almost all lighting fixtures made these days do not require a terminator. All though they all say they do.
willofthemonkey said May 13, 2012 03:39:51
I hope my above post wasn't too spastic. First some quick background on me..I'm a lighting technician for Royal Caribbean and I also install small and large scale lighting Rigs for schools, churches, and convention centers. in the states. So In theory I should know about DMX protocols and the likes. Also I'm going to bring up some companies which could be used as potential products for use as an option to add special effects to your bridge. I am in no way affiliated nor am I endorsing them as the only option. The great thing about DMX is it is a standard so you should be able to use any manufacture and accomplish the same outcome.

first things first. the interfacce. I believe the easiest way to achieve high quality special effect would be to have a well made and easy to use DMX interface that can run on windows and could be controlled by MIDI. if you go to you can find a simple USB to DMX interface. This program is an easy to use lighting program that you can quickly make Cue stacks that can be triggered by MIDI. This would make it easy for "Artemis" to say when event "A" happens trigger MIDI "#XX", This would then fire Cue Stack "1" which could have multiple things happen in a sequence (Smoke kicks in for 3 seconds, Red warning light flashes and fades out, Strobe Flashes on torpedo Strikes), On top of that this program can also fire sound and video at the same time within that same cue stack. So if you wanted to you could have a very elaborate effect (the nice thing about this is your not reinventing the wheel you telling a program that already exist to do what it already knows what to do and "Artemis" only has to have the simple command of firing a MIDI trigger.)

the next thing I want to bring up are dimmer packs. with a "Dimmer Pack" you can assign DMX values to them giving you a "Dimming" option that can be controlled by programs like the above interface. This would give you the option to add anything to your "cue stack" that cannot be normally controlled though DMX. This could be a simple light bulb to your TV power. The Sky is the limit. It is also great for the idea that you can add any "cheap" light that you purchase from any party store to your effect. (Strobe, Police Light, Smoke Machine, Air horn). Chauvet makes a great dimmer pack that is easy to use and not very expensive. I think at the end of the day were are trying to add "Affordable" options. and there are many options for both interfaces and dimmer packs. Not to mention just about any large music box store will carry a large array of "DJ Lighting" a lot of this can be purchased at a very reasonable price.

To sum up. With a "USB to DMX" interface and a "Dimmer Pack" you can add any lighting and Spacial Effect you want for a reasonable price. All of this could be triggered Via MIDI so the Programing on "Artemis" side should be minimal.

** I would love to answer any questions anyone may have. I do Travel a lot so It can be hard for me to check in on web sites very often. If anyone has any questions about lighting or would like to know of other options that may exist I would be glad to help as much as I can. Please contact me at I try to check this account at least once a week and if you add "Artemis" to the subject I'll be sure to respond as soon as I can.**
avbeeri said Jul 03, 2012 10:44:54
I'm considering creating a custom controller for some of the stations (helm and weapons, probably), and i want to have status lights on the controller, indicating various ship things, such as shields up, docking, etc.

I'm probably going to use an Arduino to do it, but for that, we need a way to pipe certain status outputs back to the Arduino, so it can flash lights to indicate which warp setting we are on, or how long left until jump activates, etc.

Lots of people here are talking about larger outputs, like smoke machines, rumblers, lamps etc, but its important not to forget smaller kinds of output.
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