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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
MarkBell said Mar 20, 2013 13:55:25
I use a USB-DMX cable from the HolidayCoro site, which is effectively just the FTDI USB-485 cable with an Ethernet connector at the end (RJ-45). It has worked completely successfully thus far both for programming the software addressable DMX boxes as well as sending DMX commands during the game.

One thing of note is that the software addressable DMX boxes that I've used so far work as addressed when it's the onle DMX device on the bus. However, when any other DMX devices are added to the bus (even a terminator), then they all increment their addresses by one. Very repeatable, but I have no idea why it happens. There are plenty of physical switch addressing DMX devices (such as these from HolidayCoro, and I'm sure there are dozens of others on ebay or that don't have this bizarre incrementing "feature," but they tend to be a few bucks more since there's more physical components. Also, most don't include an enclosure.
[Last edited Mar 20, 2013 13:56:22]
klideb said Mar 21, 2013 22:07:47
Have you or anyone else for that matter tried the power injected setup on holidaycoro's site. I have been trying it and the power is getting to the RGB lights but the DMX signal isnt. I have checked all my rj45 connectors and cat5 cable yet still no DMX. I made two of the flood light setups and want to set it up so that the power and dmx are inside of a midtower case along with the server. It works just fine when I do the direct wire version, but I want it be able to disconnect the lights at will.
MarkBell said Mar 22, 2013 13:37:29
Yes, the power injector setup is how I run all my DMX lights. Double check that both ends of your cat5 cable are wired similarly - I ran into a problem where I had grabbed a crossover cable instead of a straight cable, and that was 17 kinds of headaches. Also, are you running the DMX Utilities program?

Also, I'm not entirely sure what you mean with "direct wire" vs inside a case - are you trying to run DMX through the server computer's ethernet card?
klideb said Mar 22, 2013 15:18:22
Yes, the DMX utilities program. By direct wire I mean not the power injector setup, the standard setup per the videos. I had a standard setup and the entire power adapter/dmx controller inside of a mid-tower ATX case and ran the RGB lights from a extended cable I made that ran through one of the cable holes in back of case. We were trying to cut down on cable clutter in our conferance room when we played. 6 laptops, projector, speakers and a dedicated Artemis server was clogging up the works and would make an OHSA inspector passout. I went ahead and ordered another set of RGB lights and want to use the power injection setup and keep the power supply inside of case and just route one cat5 out the back with the 3 way splitter. I know it seems like a lot of work for what it does but it works. And if I havent mentioned it before, thanks for all the help and input.
[Last edited Mar 22, 2013 18:49:48]
toumaltheorca said Mar 22, 2013 23:03:14
Just FYI, the DMX2USB cable works perfectly fine. Costs around 50 euros and is really well made. I also got the American DJ PAR light to work at the first try. No issues there.

Sadly the DMX disco ball I got doesn't seem to work. Oh well, doing the RMA dance now...

I changed the shields to raise "yellow alert" (instead of blue) and gave red alert a nice pulse.

[Last edited Mar 22, 2013 23:06:12]
MarkBell said Mar 23, 2013 19:42:40
I'm not sure I'm entirely getting what you're saying still, but as far as I know all the DMX setups use a power injector - either directly at the convertor box or further up the cat5 chain. Can you sketch a wire diagram of what you've got going on?

For example, this is how my network looks (very basically).
klideb said Mar 24, 2013 16:32:55
I found out the problem, one of the CAT5 cables had a messed up connector. Re-crimped and now both power and DMX signal is getting to the RGB floods. The RGB colors are off but I think that might be fixed when I finish the soldering. Thanks for help....again.
MarkBell said Mar 24, 2013 18:41:35
Aah, dig it. I hate that :P Keep us posted, I'd love to see your setup when it's done! I had an addressing problem for a while 'til I figured out that the digital boxes would auto-increment their addresses by one when plugged into a bus. Not a big deal, but if I wanted it to be channels 6,7,8, I had to set it to 5,6,7.
klideb said Mar 24, 2013 23:12:55
Here are a few pictures of the rig. I still need to tidy up the wiring. I installed the speakers inside the case. I used a 15 watt stereo amp from ebay and 30 watt speakers I picked up from amazon. Its as all in one as I could get. The last part of the rig will be the wireless router. I gutted a dead dvd drive and am going to put a routerboard running routerOS mounted inside. I ran something like that in an old lan rig from years ago and decided why not. Still have the problem with the RGB lights not producing right color when I have two floods plugged into 3 way splitter.

MarkBell said Mar 25, 2013 11:36:37
Hey, that's pretty nice! I like the cable management, mine always turns into an unholy mess within about 30 seconds of trying to get everything set up :P

How do you have your DMX decoders addressed and how do you have the addresses set up in your .xml file? I've got mine addressed to 5,6,7 and my DMX file is set to 5,6,7 also. If I'm just running one light, I've got to change either the address of the file or the lights.
klideb said Mar 25, 2013 12:55:29
I have the decoders set to 5,6,7 and the xml file set to 4,5,6. I set it up like Joshua recommended. I wonder if my problem with the two flood setup is due to the DMX channels. Both of the dmx controllers are set to the same channel....5,6,7. Plug one or the other flood in and it works fine, add both and I get crazy colors or nothing at all. I am going to chain the RGB lights together and test tonight, remove the additional controller from the equation.
[Last edited Mar 25, 2013 21:33:05]
klideb said Mar 26, 2013 13:30:56
Ok, did some testing and after I removed the second dmx controller the colors are working correctly. Duel floods running is pretty awesome.
MarkBell said Mar 28, 2013 19:00:37
Ok, sounds like it's a problem with both controllers - When more than one is online, they both increment their addresses. Joshua's method works if you only have one controller. If you've got multiple controllers, then set the xml file to the actual channels - they'll work no problem then.

Glad you're running the lights now! I love bathing the bridge in a hellish red when the alarm klaxons start going off...
anwoke8204 said Apr 09, 2013 23:16:03
hi, would this controller work for these lights as well
DMX Controller
Jim Johnson said Apr 11, 2013 03:38:49
Well, I FINALLY got my lights built, and they're working great. Most of it went together without incident, although, loading all the right drivers and software was a little dicey. I had a problem with the addressing software finding the controllers as well - finally tried disconnecting one of the lights, reading/writing the DMX starting addresses, then switching to the other light. Plugged them in and they are glowing away. Joshua, thanks for putting this post up, as I would probably not have jumped off this bridge if you hadn't shown me a more economical alternative. Also, thanks to all you guys who answered all my dumb questions.
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