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Cheapest solution that I can find for lighting effects.

posted Nov 19, 2012 18:26:37 by JoshuaHarris
This will get you a super basic DMX lighting solution for about $70.00 if you need to buy everything.

I have done some work with holiday lighting displays in the past using some really basic DMX stuff from I figured it was worth a shot to try it out since some people here reported success with other FTDI chipsets working. I managed to get it going with hardly any effort. The best part about this solution for a first timer, is that they have quite a few video tutorials on how to wire things like power supplies and controllers. Even if you have a very basic level of experience, the videos should be able to walk you through everything.

Here is what you would need:
PC Based DMX Module Address Programmer/Software
(You need this to program the DMX controllers, but it can ALSO be used as a dongle to let your computer output DMX commands)

Power Supply - Waterproof 12v / 3.75 amps / 45 Watts
(You could use any 12v power supply, but these are cheap, come with wiring documentation, and can drive 5-6 of the flood lights we will be using)

RGB Flood Light
(Now this is where the options come in. You could buy a DMX controller for $8.00 and whatever RGB light solution you want, like strip lights or spots or whatever, but since we are keeping this as cheap and simple as possible, this flood light kit is the way to go! This kit comes with everything you need except the flood light housing, Which can be purchased for under $10 at just about any hardware/home improvement/tool store.)

You will also need some basic soldering supplies, and an extra cat5 cable to wire everything up. I deviated from this a bit since I had some hardware on hand, but if you follow their video instructions for wiring up the light and the power inserter, you should be good! You can also follow the video tutorials to set up the DMX Module Address Programmer Software,and it will load all your drivers and everything you need.

The only hiccup with this in the DMX control file in Artemis seems to spit out the DMX signal one channel higher than it displays in the file. For example;
<setvalue index="4" value="0" change="0"/>
<!-- red value of first light box -->
<setvalue index="5" value="0" change="0"/>
<!-- green value of first light box -->
<setvalue index="6" value="200" change="0"/>
<!-- blue value of first light box -->
Actually spits out as channels 5,6,7. Not a deal breaker, but you have to compensate for it, and it can cause trouble in the 1,2,3 range sometimes with the offset, so I set my DMX controller address for the flood light to be channels 5,6,7 and I changes all the DMX commands in the XML file to be index 4,5,6. (I'll send anyone the edited file if they want it.)

A cool bonus with this set up is that it will allow you to add 4-5 more flood lights, for about $30 bucks each, since you only need one USB dongle, and the power supply can drive 5-6 lights worth of lighting. Two of these flood lights will light up the side of a house, so 4-5 in a room will be pretty effective. You could also then tweak the DMX addressing, and make different lights trigger off of different codes, to give you dedicated shield status lighting for example. Also, extra lights just get daisy chained in. One electrical plug, the USB dongle, and everything else chains together with cat5, which carried both control signals and the power. This is also a VERY portable solution for those that don't have a dedicated bridge location yet. It's quite literally a hand held work light and a small power strip.

Here is a quick video I took with my iphone last night to show it working, I'll upload some better pictures soon.
[Last edited Nov 19, 2012 20:04:00]
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53 replies
deathbygiraffe said Jan 11, 2013 23:59:49
@Mark, what's the tidy orange ring around the board?
MarkBell said Jan 12, 2013 02:31:36
That's actually the top of the shell of the light, the glass frame sits over and around it. Its this one. $6.88 @ home depot :-)
[Last edited Jan 12, 2013 02:35:36]
MarkBell said Jan 12, 2013 02:51:29
I can post a pic of the next one I put together, it does look pretty slick.
T.ClayArgo said Feb 26, 2013 04:47:58
I would like to attest to this being an amazingly simple and super effective setup. I got the dongle, pwr supply and 4 light kits. The build was just about an hour and these lights are very capable.
klideb said Mar 06, 2013 16:06:12
Ok, ordered the gear per Joshua's advice. I think I can get all the parts together without to much trouble. The one part that I am kinda fuzzy on is the output to the DMX gear. Am I to leave the address programmer connected to PC to output or is another option available? Thanks in advance for any help.
[Last edited Mar 06, 2013 18:42:26]
Jim Johnson said Mar 07, 2013 04:29:02
I was looking at the post where the guy made some light pylons out of plastic buckets and light panels (which actually look really cool - I highly suggest checking it out). My question is this - can anybody tell me if the flood light housing described in this thread will fit inside the plastic bucket described in the other thread?

Here's the link, if anybody's interested.

MarkBell said Mar 13, 2013 19:58:47
@klideb - Yep, the address programmer is also your USB-DMX connection. If you have another FTDI compatible USB-DMX converter you can use that instead, but I didn't and the address programmer has been working just fine for me.

@ Jim Johnson - I don't see why the floodlight kits wouldn't fit in the bucket - it's a standard sized bucket and the floodlight is pretty small. The one thing is that these kits aren't as bright as the commercial PAR cans you can buy, so you may want one at the top and one at the bottom.
klideb said Mar 14, 2013 16:23:53
Thanks @markbell for the info. I just hooked it all up per @joshua's instructions and all is working fine. I am modding a mid-tower case to hold the power injected setup from holidaycoro's website. I will post some pics when I am finished. I work for a software company and we play once a week at least.......ummm I should say we perform "network integrity testing" on a weekly basis.
MarkBell said Mar 14, 2013 16:31:41
+1 Network Integrity Testing. That there's also Team Building, Leadership Training, and Creative Problem Solving. :)
Jim Johnson said Mar 15, 2013 03:36:07

That's a point I hadn't thought about. My plan was to build two pylons, but to make them a little shorter than the ones shown. I'm guessing it will still be cheaper to build two lights myself, rather than buy one commercially.

I'll probably build two lights and see if they're bright enough. If so, I'll use one per pylon. If not, " Hello, Holidaycoro . . . "
MarkBell said Mar 15, 2013 15:54:25
Sweet, I'll be looking forward to your report (as I totally want to build those pylons too) :)
MichaelMesich said Mar 15, 2013 21:38:05
There's just something about being able to completely bathe a room with two ThinPar 64's ...

$99 each right now:
toumaltheorca said Mar 17, 2013 19:24:22
I found something similar to the Thinpar64, called the "American DJ Mega Par", for about 60 bucks on Amazon. Ordered one, will tell how they are ;)

I have a question about the DMX interface though. I found an OpenDMX-compatible interface that's build right into a cable, it goes straight from USB to DMX. It's quite a bit cheaper than the interfaces mentioned here, question is: Does anyone know if these are worth getting? Or is there some reason one should avoid those?
JamesDunnem said Mar 18, 2013 10:10:46
I asked a similar question in the DMX - what is needed (the basics)?? thread, but got no responses so I ordered the ENTTEC interface knowing it would work properly.
Once individual bridge lighting is implemented, I may order the all-in-one cable to give it a go, or if I build up enough Amazon points, roll the dice and see.
"There is an old Celtic saying: "Coimhéad fearg fhear na foighde."
-Beware of the anger of a patient man.
toumaltheorca said Mar 18, 2013 21:51:45
I got the cable ordered via ebay, I'll give a shout as to the success rate ;)
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