Archive for the ‘DMX’ Category

All that’s left is paint!

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

I went out to my Dad’s tonight and he helped me attached wheels and a handle to the enclosure for my portable sub-panel. I took the panel with me and fit it in the enclosure. It fits well, and looks pretty good too. I left it with him in the back of his truck to bring to me in the morning (don’t think the whole shebang would fit in my car), but we had quite a bit of rain tonight, so that should test the water tightness of it. The elbow coming out the protect the wire opening hasn’t been cemented in, but it fits tight enough that it should have kept the water out tonight. It’ll be a good test I suppose. Next I need to clean it up a bit and paint it. I’ll get some pics up as soon as I get it back in my hands.

I got pixel #6 working tonight. A set of the green LEDs wasn’t coming on, turns out it works a lot better if you actually solder the joint as opposed to just letting the lead poke through the hole. Oh well, I like easy fixes. I’ve got another set of LEDs in testing, but I doubt I’ll get to soldering up another until after the weekend.

I also took some time to install one of the Ren2DMX boards in one of the controller enclosures. Turned out pretty good except I drilled too close to one of the standoffs so that made everything a bit more challenging. I also think I drilled with one size too big of a drill bit (seem to be missing one), but I just filled in the hole with hot glue like on the previous holes. The controller works great with the adapter board. Good job Frank! I wired it up with the new Sewell Cat5 cable I got off, that stuff is nice cable, especially for being solid rather than stranded. It’s perfect for the kind of stuff I need it for.

I also got a nice surprise in the mail today. I was talking to RPM about his DMX dongle, and mentioned that I had intentions of getting one of his designs just to play with, but didn’t think I should be spending the money this year as things are starting to get tight, putting most of my Christmas Light project spending on hold. Anyhow he sent me the board and most of the parts for free. He even included one of his new Grinch DMX converter boards. Talk about the spirit of Christmas in June! I just want to thank Robert, he is what the DIY community is all about. Once I get a few more things sold on eBay I’ll put in a small Mouser order to finish populating the board and give it a try.

I put my PSP and Firefly Mini remote on eBay tonight, and the PSP already sold Buy It Now, which is awesome. Now I only need to sell about $130 worth of stuff to pay for my commitments over at DLA for the wireless DMX stuff, and any extra I can use to populate Robert’s DMX dongle and save the rest for an FM transmitter. Once I get the transmitter I should be able to put on a pretty decent show with the equipment I have and not have to put any more money into it.
Ren2DMX board Installed


Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

I finally got my camera back last week and was looking through the pictures still on the memory card and came across some that I took when I had to take apart one of the GFCI outlets on my temporary power panel. You are probably asking why one would want to do that, well let me tell you a story…

I was originally going to use ring terminals on all of the wires connecting to the GFCI outlets. Reason being I used stranded wire and stranded wire doesn’t play well with the screw terminals on outlets, so I was going to remove the screw, and screw it back in with the ring terminal attached. Well, apparently if you remove the screw from the GFCI outlets I bought, you can’t get it back in. I tried everything, I just couldn’t get the little nut part to stay in place long enough to tighten the screw. The only way I found to fix it was to take apart the outlet. So I proceeded to remove the “Do Not Open This Outlet” sticker, and I opened it. I got it fixed (whether or not it works, is still up in the air). I ended up shoving the wires through the holes in the back of the outlets and tightening them with the provided screws. Anyhow, I thought I would shoot some pics of a GFCI while it was open in case anyone cared.

Last night I put together the 4 Ren2DMX boards that I need to convert my Renard cabling to DMX. I think I know how I’m going to mount them in the enclosures, but I keep forgetting to stop at the hardware and pick up some screws for them.

Tonight I finished my 4th pixel. I think they’re starting to look pretty darn good and by my 30th, I should be a pro!

Check 1 More Thing Off… Maybe

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

I think [hope] that the portable sub-panel, or at least the electrical part of it, is done. I finished wiring up the SSRs tonight and did some more testing to be sure there aren’t any shorts and what not. I was going to plug it into the unused stove receptacle upstairs, but it turns out it is a three wire receptacle, not a 4 wire one. So as of yet, I have no way to test it. I’m going to peek around at work and see if we have any 4 wire 220 outlets, but I’m betting not because most of them are for welders and those are 3 wire. So probably the only way I’m going to test it is to get my outdoor receptacle wired up. That has to be on the list for a day that the wife and kids are gone (which is rare) because I want to completely turn the power off to install that rec, just to be safe.

I tested out the Ren2DMX board that Frank sent me that was already populated, works like a charm. Only three more to build… and 29 more pixels… and 3 more arches… and icicle lights… and sequencing… and many many cords to build… I’ll be busy for a while!

Pixels… Finally

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

The replacement pixel boards arrived Thursday. JEC even had them made with a fancy white solder mask in the hopes it would reflect better than the standard green solder mask. I rushed to assemble one Thursday night. I got it assembled but was up until 1:00AM playing with it. At first I tried the code in the DIYC file library that allows for addressing without re-flashing the PIC, but didn’t have any luck. It seemed like the firmware was working, but wouldn’t respond to any vixen commands, so my best guess is that I wasn’t programming the channel correctly. I quickly gave up and put JEC’s standard firmware on for testing purposes. It fired right up and worked as expected. The only hiccup was that I put an amber LED where a red one was supposed to go, so I spent a few minutes desoldering that and replacing it.

I got a few of JEC’s power injector boards and they made life a lot simpler for getting power to the pixel. I wired the injector to a molex connector from an old CPU fan and plugged it into an old power supply to get my 12V. Friday night I put the pixel on my multimeter to see what the LEDs I chose draw at full power. It was a little under .5A, so in theory this power supply should be able to power 50 of them, or in my case, my whole string of 30. JEC recommends anything above 20 be powered separately because the CAT5 cable can’t handle that kind of load.

I wanted to see the pixel do a rainbow of colors, and didn’t want to hand encode all the values in vixen. I’ve been working on a PHP script that will let me modify vixen sequences, so I used it to do it. I found that rather than using RGB, HSV allows you to quickly do a rainbow by holding S and V constant at 1 and varying H from 0 to 1. I also found a bit of PHP code that would let me convert HSV to RGB. Once I had the RGB values I wrote them to the vixen sequence channel data. I still need to figure out how, from an RGB value, to determine the yellow and white components of that value, so that I can introduce the yellow and white channels appropriately. I also tested out my vixen script that generates a flicker effect on given channels with the amber LEDs on the pixel. The effect was actually quite convincing and still has room for some tweaking.

Pending water tightness tests, I’m planning on using 5LB white containers that deli salads come it. I have easy access to them and they’re free so I like that aspect of them. You’ll see in the video below, that the white plastic diffuses the LEDs quite effectively and still allows enough light out to keep it bright.

Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday party, so I didn’t have time to play, but today I took some time while the other daughter was napping to shoot a quick video of the pixel in action. I was rather disappointed because there is some very noticeable flicker in the video that isn’t apparent to the naked eye. I’ll have to see if there are any other settings on the camera that will help that in the future.

Saturday I finally received the DMX2Renard converter boards from Frank. He only had 5 so sent me one he had already populated. It was kind of neat because the one he populated, he put a RJ45 plug right on the back rather than the specified jack and needing a small patch cord. I think I’m going to try that trick on the other ones I assemble. It makes for a neat little add-on module. I think that pretty much catches up on all the news. We’ve decided to go on vacation this year, so pretty much any further blinky spending will be put to a stop, but honestly I think I have enough to keep me busy and still put on a great show for 2009. I’ve still got to pay for the stuff I’ve committed to over at DLA for the wireless DMX stuff. I went back and forth whether to drop out of the coops, but in the end, to run the Pixels I’d need a DMX splitter, so I might as well keep with the wireless and then effectively have a splitter.

Haven’t done much lately :(

Monday, April 27th, 2009

The last few nights haven’t been very productive. Between lack of sleep, work, and other things I haven’t felt much like finishing the last Ren24. Last night I probably could have worked on it, but I got my shipment of Ren24LV PCBs yesterday (Well Saturday, but I didn’t go into work Saturday) and I had ordered 6 Renard To DMX Cabling boards. These weren’t in my order. I still haven’t heard anything from Frank about whether I’m going to actually get them or not, but I’m starting to doubt that I will, mainly because his site now says he doesn’t have any. I don’t really fault Frank, because he has apparently had a lot going on family wise, but I was kind of counting on those boards so I could finish off the DMX testing on the boards.

Anyhow, since I am doubting I will get them I started looking into making my own. I played with Eagle most of the night last night and got a schematic drawn up and a board laid out. I didn’t think it came out too bad for my first time. I then went to BatchPCB which is run by the same guys that run SparkFun to get prices on making up some boards. BatchPCB basically lets you submit small, one-of, PCBs that are then batched with other people’s PCBs to make one large run. Makes it much more cost effective for small runs and prototyping. Anyhow, my boards in their current state would cost around $8 each plus shipping and setup fees so I’d have about $60 in 6 cabling boards.

I decided I could probably put $60 to better use elsewhere so I think I’m going to try and just come up with something using keystone jacks and some wire. I need to come up with something thin and rigid to mount the jacks to, but other than that it should work. Won’t be the prettiest, but should work. I’m still holding out hope that Frank will get me those boards, but if he doesn’t have them he doesn’t have them, nothing I can do about it.

Here’s some pics of my first Eagle designed PCB.


Saturday, April 25th, 2009

While watching the video that I posted last night (well this morning) I thought I saw a glitch or two and I started to get worried about the validity of running the DMX firmware on the Renards. This was further reinforced this afternoon while I was playing with the leaping arch sequencing again. It started getting really glitchy, so much so that I wouldn’t be comfortable putting on a show with it, and remember this is just in my basement with 50′ of cat5, not outside with 150′. I didn’t figure it was the DMX dongle, because from what I have read and seen with my own two eyes, RJ’s dongle is rock solid. That left the cabling and the computer. I made up a quick terminating resistor with a 120R resistor and a cat5 plug. The resistor goes between pins 4 and 5.

Note: these are the pins used by the Renard for communication not the pins used by the dongle for communication.

You might remember that I had to make up an adapter to make the pin out from the DMX dongle match the pin out on the Renards. That’s why the terminating resistor is on pins 4 & 5, not 1 & 2. I crimped the resistor into the plug and put a dab of hot glue in there to keep it from shorting itself out. I thought maybe the un-terminated line was causing the problems, so I gave it a go and it didn’t help any. I decided to finish getting the show computer updated and get .Net installed so I could run Vixen off there. I had been doing all my testing on my Laptop, but my laptop is also running all kinds of other goodies so I thought maybe it was all just slowing down vixen. Once I got Vixen running on the show computer, the glitches seemed to go away. I’ve tried several times this evening, and it all seems good, so hopefully that problem is behind me!

We’re getting there

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

I’ve made quite a bit of progress that last few nights. I did get the remaining 72 cords stripped. When I counted them I thought I got shorted 2 cords, but apparently I can’t add. That may have been the worst part of this project thus far… stripping those cords. I got 24 cords attached to an enclosure, but the wires haven’t been organized yet.

The .25″ spacers came in today (Mouser Part #561-K8.25), so tonight I got the boards semi-mounted in the heat sinks. I’ve still got all of the screws to put in the triacs, but I’m waiting until I have a chance to test the boards one last time in case I have to take it off the heat sink again. I fully tested one board tonight with DMX firmware. Here’s Phil’s notes on what needs modified to run the DMX firmware. The key thing for me was that the first PIC gets the desired start address for the board, and the remaining PICs get a start address of 1. Once again the DMX firmware hasn’t let me down, but I haven’t really done anything major with it yet, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed. As you can see from the pics, the nylon spacers aren’t all that different from the poly tubing ones I was going to make, except they are exactly .25″ and they are exactly straight. Considering they were only .06, I think it was money well spent so that I don’t have the get the length of the tubing just right, and worry about it getting cut off straight.

I’ve been trying to figure out where I’m going to mount the Ren2DMX adapter boards (assuming I actually get them), I’m leaning towards double stick tape on the door of the enclosure, but we’ll see if I get them, and what they look like if I do. Next on the list, get the other three boards tested, finish mounting them in the heat sinks, and get the wires in the remaining two enclosures. Then I’ll have to get pipe mounts attached and glued in before I can start wiring the boards to the plugs. Still plenty to do and I haven’t even begun to think about sequencing yet… How many days are left???


Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

I wired up a couple of cat5 jacks to convert the DMX wiring into the renard wiring. The pinouts are like this

Wire DMX Pin Renard Pin
White/Orange 1 5
Orange/White 2 4
White/Brown 7 7

I only programmed the first pics on the Renards just as a proof of concept. The last one in the chain had channel 1 as its start address, and the first one in the chain had channel 25 as its start address. I ran a test sequence using my dmx dongle and everything seemed to work OK. I’m pretty encouraged that I should be able to run the renards on DMX for my show this year. That will be pretty cool because the wiring should become a lot simpler, and that way everything will be running DMX. I also like that channel 1 is channel 1 is channel 1, it doesn’t matter where in the chain it lies. I definitely am going to need a DMX splitter because between my 30 pixels and the renards and whatever else I come up with, I’ll be way over the 32 device limit on a DMX line. RJ has talked about a coop for his DMX splitter, so I might order the parts for that in anticipation that he does it. I would love to try and etch my own, but I don’t know when I’ll get to it and it would probably end up costing me more in the long run.

Speaking of etching, I talked to April today about going to Light Up Ohio 2009 in Columbus in May. She has no desire to go listen to light geeks all day, but she says I can go if she can go shop while I’m there. Seems like a reasonable compromise. They are supposed to be having a talk on etching your own boards that I’m pretty excited about, so hopefully I can go!

A Small Detour

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

I had every intention of working on the remaining Ren24s tonight, but a pleasant surprised arrived in the mail today. Let’s rewind a bit. I may or may not have mentioned that I ordered two Grinches. Once was for me to control individual super bright LEDs, directly off the Grinch. The other was to control the lights at the store should I decide to do so. I am hoping to use the LEDs as DIY strobes, that I am planning to put in the hedges out front. The initial issue I was having was that the Grinch is run off the parallel port, and the maximum run on a parallel port is like 25′. So I couldn’t get the grinch out by the hedges, so the only alternative was to run 16 CAT5 cables out to the hedges from the Grinch that would be kept nearby the computer. I didn’t really like this idea either, seemed like a waste of CAT5 and would be unwieldy.

I started researching what my options were to extend the Grinch outside. There appeared to be only two: The RenT/RenC combo or a DMX converter. I thought hard about it and decided to go DMX because ultimately I would like everything to run DMX eventually. I initially found RJ’s DMX converter which was only on/off no dimming. This was perfect for the strobes because they would just be on/off. Turns out RJ had only made a couple of boards and had no plans to make any more. I then found RPMs Grinch Dimmer which I ended up building and it works great, but still seemed overkill for the LED strobe project and it would be perfect for at the store (I would need another DMX dongle, but luckily I ordered two PCBs, just need to get the parts if I go that route). Anyhow, while poking around at DLA, I found someone who had an extra board of RJs original design. He said he would give it to me for the cost of postage if I promised to “pay it forward”. Seemed like a good concept to me. He warned me though that he thought there was a mod that needed to be made to make the board work. I asked RJ and the others and no one seemed to remember the mod. I figured I would give it a go anyhow, so I told him to send the board.

That was a few weeks ago, and I hadn’t heard anything from him, so I figured he got tied up and forgot about it. I didn’t want to bug him because he was basically going to give it to me, and I don’t like to pester about free things. Today the board arrived in the mail. I looked it over and couldn’t see anything glaringly wrong with it, so tonight I populated it (I already had the parts from a previous Mouser order). The only thing I could find that was close to being mod like, was the BOM didn’t include fuse holders or a fuse on it. So I did what any man would do, I said “We don’t need no stinkin fuses”, and I soldered a wire across the fuse pads on the PCB. I hooked it up to my DMX dongle and the grinch with a test SSR, and it worked, first time. I think I’m getting better at this soldering thing!

So now I have the ability to control my strobes, I just need to figure out how I’m going to configure them and wire them. I’m leaning towards putting 4 LEDs in some sort of epoxy, and they would be controlled from 1 CAT5 cable, so I would have 16 strobes, each with 4 individually controlled LEDs within it. We’ll see how that pans out later.

My Dongle Isn’t Naked Anymore!

Friday, February 27th, 2009

I took some time out this morning to run out to Dad’s house and attempt to put holes in the enclosure for my DMX Dongle. For the most part I was successful, more so than my last attempt at putting holes in an enclosure, but that was like 5 years ago. The holes are slightly larger and not quite square, but it’ll work for me. I had every intention of putting pictures on tonight, but have not had much luck with any of the picasaweb plugins for WordPress. I was able to hand enter the tags for a pic, so I know that isn’t the problem, but I surely don’t want to be doing that for every pic I put on here, and I don’t want to put them on my server because I’m already utilizing 50% of my alotted storage space. I might end up switching to flickr if I can’t find a plugin that suites me.

While I was out there, I found a drill bit that was slightly larger than the holes in the bottom of the broadbandstore enclosures. I ran it through them and when I got home tonight tried my 3 wire cords. It was much easier inserting them with the holes slightly larger. I’m also thinking I’m going to use the 12×12 enclosures instead of the 9×9 ones for my Ren24’s. I hate to have something that big, but I think I will like the extra room they provide. Speaking of my Ren24’s hopefully my boards will arrive tomorrow!