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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 http://www.holidaycoro.com/. 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
http://www.holidaycoro.com/product-p/54-2.htm
(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
http://www.holidaycoro.com/product-p/55.htm
(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
http://www.holidaycoro.com/RGB-Flood-Light-p/171.htm
(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.

http://youtu.be/PgX3iZgw2is
[Last edited Nov 19, 2012 20:04:00]
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53 replies
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Jim Johnson said Apr 11, 2013 03:48:46
Oh, BTW: my addresses weren't offset by one channel. Not really sure why.
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ericksoninmotion said Apr 13, 2013 05:58:14
So want to try this out. Quick question for those that have gone before. I get that we need an interface (card/box) before the dmx device (light). Such as http://www.holidaycoro.com/productdetails_popup.asp?productcode=30 or http://www.holidaycoro.com/3-Channel-DMX-Controller-for-RGB-Lights-p/37.htm

It gets a bit more fuzzy on the PC to DMX. My goal is to build at least 3 lights so that I can have 1 for shields, 1 for tractor/docking, 1 for red alert. So running Cat5 based, home made, DMX lighting sounds like a great option. What I need to know is what is needed from the PC to the DMX controllers.

Do we need the Enttec-Pro Dongle? http://www.holidaycoro.com/Enttec-Pro-Compatible-DMX-Dongle-p/53.htm
or
Does the Software Cable to everything that is needed? http://www.holidaycoro.com/productdetails_popup.asp?productcode=54-2

-=-=-=-=-

Thanks in advance.
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MarkBell said Apr 15, 2013 11:44:22
@ericksoninmotion - The Software Cable is exactly the same chip that is in the Enttec-Pro dongle, which is the cable from http://www.ftdichip.com/Products/Cables/USBRS485.htm with a CAT5 plug on the end. I've been using the software cable for my DMX setup for months now with zero problems.

@Jim Johnson - I found that the addresses only need offset if you're running a single DMX controller from HolidayCoro. If you're running multiple boxes then the software in the boxes automatically increments their addresses, matching the incrementing in the xml file. So, if you set the xml and boxes to addresses 4,5,6, then they're technically both spitting out 5,6,7, but they're both wrong together :P

@anwoke8204 - I don't see any reason the controllers there wouldn't work, but you'll have to change a few things on the CAT5 cable to accomodate their different wiring. You'll still need a USB-DMX convertor. Instead of the Data+/- Power +/- Power +/- Power +/- arrangement that HolidayCoro uses, the CAT5 jack on this one takes Data+/- NC -/- NC -/- GND -/-. Not a huge change, but something to keep in mind. You'd need to either get the cable from FTDI directly and wire your own plug or order the cable from HolidayCoro, chop off the end and rewire.
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BrianKruise said Jun 21, 2013 20:38:59
Welp, I just bought everything on the top post shopping list, just around $70. Now the waiting begins!
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niranth01 said Jun 21, 2013 20:59:22
Mine shipped out today, but I added 10 pixel pucks and a smart controller to make a status board. (The smart controller will ship in the middle of July.)

Here is a link to the smart pixel pucks:
http://www.holidaycoro.com/Smart-Pixel-RGB-1-7in-Round-Pixel-12v-p/667.htm

I am going to put them in two rows of five, using the bottom row to act as a health bar. The top row will indicate shields, docking/docked and red alert. I hope that reverse gets a DMX hook also!
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BrianKruise said Jun 28, 2013 19:17:32
Mine worked great, thanks for the thread! I'm wondering what other programs would work with this DMX adapter other than Artemis? I wanna use this for more than just our monthly space ship game.
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MarkBell said Jun 28, 2013 19:21:41
@niranth01 - ooooh.... I hear my wallet emptying as we speak... That's wicked, man, I want to know how bright those pucks end up being.

@BrianKruise - Sweet! From the USB-Dongle page at HolidayCoro: Can also be used with xLights (free) to test and play LOR and Vixen sequences. Can also be used to in LOR S3 Advanced as an DMX Output device (unsupported by HolidayCoro or Light-O-Rama).
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BrianKruise said Jul 01, 2013 22:00:50
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