View Full Version : Not sure which controller to get. Please help!
08-18-2009, 12:56 PM
I am looking for a light controller/dimmer alternative for a larger (but no budget) project I am working on.
Here is my objective
Dimming low watt string lights
Lowest possible per dimmer cost
Off the shelf best but kit would be OK (I think I could find someone working on the project to construct them)
Needs to be able to receive DMX some way
Running a sequence to sound track a bonus but normal use would be
Need to be ready by early Oct. (Halloween Show)
To clarify here is the big picture.
The project is a large outdoor party space that has a DMX system for the main stage for bands.
There is about 150 incidental lighting elements (string light and standard house bulbs) that would make about 90 dimming channels that are currently just plugged in without control.
The goal is to find a way to place these light under dimmer control so that the mood can be controlled
We would also like to be able to run a sequence to a sound track to create an effect.
This is a completely no budget, volunteer deal so our budget is very tight.
Thank you for any help you can give.
I did search around but I did not really feel like I was really under standing what is out there.
PS. Is there anyone from Michigan that might be willing to show me how these system work in person.
08-18-2009, 12:59 PM
Also my electrical is already grouped together so it would be easier if my data run where the long runs.
08-18-2009, 01:52 PM
With 90 channels, it looks to me like the fastest, lowest cost option is to get four Renard SS24's (total=96 channels) because they have all the basic electronics to do the things you want to do. They can also be rather easily adapted to DMX by reflashing the on-board PIC chips with the DMX firmware.
With no budget, you have a big challenge. Four SS24s will set you back about $300, which works out to about $3.33 per channel, not including the other electrical cables you'd need, etc. which can easily add another $100.
That's got to be the lowest cost solution you'd find -- unless someone else is paying the bill (which is always the best way to go if you can swing it! ;)).
Good luck -- sounds like quite an event. Let us know how it comes out!
08-18-2009, 02:07 PM
Where is the best place to get them?
Does anyone sell them assembled?
08-18-2009, 03:27 PM
i can't find any contact info for you. where are you in michigan? i'm just north of pontiac, and might could help out.
08-18-2009, 03:29 PM
Assembled would be considerably more. It takes about 4 hours to assemble each one, plus the time it takes to mount in a case, etc. The $3 per channel is before mounting in a proper enclosure and adding sockets or power dongles. All the extra mounting and hookup doodads add up quickly and the cost is often overlooked when quoting costs per channel.
This stuff is also not exactly UL listed. So if you are using in a commercial venue, your fire marshall will probably be less than pleased.
08-18-2009, 03:41 PM
BuzzKill noted a very important issue about lack of U/L certification on this stuff - your liability here would be huge if something did go wrong. You could use LOR controllers in DMX dimmer mode (I have two in my setup configured this way) - but of course there goes any kind of budget you might have had (for 96 channels you'd be over $2000...).
What about renting some gear for the event? I have no idea what that would cost but who knows...
08-18-2009, 04:20 PM
I am located down near Royal Oak and I would love to meet up and learn more about it. What system are you using?
We are not a commercial venue (private party) so the lack of UL is not an issue in that sense. I am looking to set up a safe system for sure.
The lights are in place and powered already and DMX is already being used on site. What additional cost would I be looking at? Is the a trusted place for kits if I can assemble them?
The LOR system are way out of my range for sure. I had thought about renting a system to test it out but I could not find any rental locations near me. The said I think that we would rather invest into the equipment if we can get near a couple of bucks a channel. In the future we would like to add some moving props that would interface with the whole system.
08-18-2009, 05:01 PM
I do have a curious question - what are you trying to control? Specifically - what type of lights? How much current is required per lights?
It sounds like you might need to go with something like DMX dimmer packs that can handle more current per channel (but I could be wrong)
08-18-2009, 05:22 PM
If time is an issue, remember it will take many hours to do the sync for each song in vixen. It is not like on some DJ DMX boards where you do a beat sync, record a quick sequence and just let it repeat. It could potentially take dozens of hours for a single song depending on the number of channels and complexity of your animations.
Good deal on the UL thing.
If you have existing DMX in place, then maybe you should be shopping ebay for the 4 channel dimmer pack sales.
Or... I would probably go with the REN24 or the new 16SS systems and load them with the DMX firmware.
That way you can run them from vixen if you want too. You can run them via DMX if you can figure it all out by then.
You may also want to think about combining the 90-ish lights into groups, instead of trying to dim each one individually so you can go with less hardware.
Since you have to connect each light to the controller directly, you will be shocked at how much you will spend on extension cords. Start shopping the sales now.
08-18-2009, 07:22 PM
I am actually hoping to us my DMX controller and run it all from the light board.
There is actually 50 lighting elements grouped into about 90 channels.
Is there anyone that is using ren24 or 16ss via dmx already?
I was hoping to replace the gang boxes where the lights plug into with control boxes and go from there.
I what looking for a lower cost alternative to dj dimmer pack due to the channel count.
String lights are e17 and e12 g50 globe string lights. about 25 7 watt bulbs
and some 40 watt bulbs that are predimmed to about 40%
08-18-2009, 08:19 PM
Where is the best place to get them?
Does anyone sell them assembled?
You need to decide what system you want before there is a best place to get them. There are several methods used. Renard based seems to be the most popular. But there is also Firegod which is gaining and Helix, which is pretty new but growing fast. The differnt boards are available from the differen people who created them.
And no, they are not available, (at least out in the open) assembled. This is a DIY forum. You can however from time to time find someone who has spares, or extra equipment for sale. Part of the fun of this hobbie is building the stuff and watching it work for the first time. I have, since last season sold all my hodge podge of equipment and built brand new Renards for next year. Several people got pretty good deals on some entry level equipment.
Keep in mind that while the learning curve here is fast, to have what you are talking about ready for Christmas, let alone Halloween is pretty ambitious.
Sounds like you maybe need to spend some time reading in the WIKI before you go much further.
08-19-2009, 11:52 AM
October is just around the corner. Time is not your friend for this project. So...
Gut check is to go with Renard with DMX firmware. The REN24 is tried and true with DMX. Check the Wiki for details. You will have to build a little DMX XLR to RJ45 dongle. No biggie. If you already have DMX cables laying around you can just modify one of those. Then you just daisy chain your REN24's with CAT5 cable.
The boards are available to order. The BOM for Mouser Electronics is complete. It will take about 2 hours to solder each board, if you know how to Solder. It will take longer if you don't. Place twice. Solder once. Double check part orientation before you solder things like IC's, transformers, LED's and Diodes. Don't do things like solder the transformer in backwards.
Don't forget the cost of enclosures. Most of us use the boxes from "The Broadband Store". They are pretty inexpensive, and give the project a nice finished look.
I have a pet peeve with using the cheap 6' appliance extension cords that are lopped off on the end to provide the power dongle. It is only a 2 prong plug and just about any extension cord for outdoors is a grounded 3 prong. So I purchased 3 prong female end cords. It is the right way to go, and keeps you from having to rip the ground prong out of all your extension cords, or using those 3 prong to 2 prong adapters.
You could also just build a small PDU breakout system with electrical boxes and regular outlets. You can split outlets by breaking the little tabs in the middle and then you would only need 12 outlets for all 24 channels.
Anyway... Building the controllers is only a small part of the whole thing. Housing it. Making the AC safe. Cabling and extension cords. Programming - are the big thing.
I'd get started today.
08-19-2009, 11:56 AM
Place twice. Solder once. Double check part orientation before you solder things like IC's, transformers, LED's and Diodes.
** AND ** the cheapie "fuse clips" (much to my shock and annoyance).
(removing those puppies is VERY difficult)
08-19-2009, 07:42 PM
i do have ren24s, extra pics, and a programmer if you want to try the dmx firmware.
the biggest problem is i'm from the south, so you only have like 16 days of what i call summer up here. i was in the middle of the list i hoped to get done this summer when my son ran his car as far as he could with no oil. replacing today's engines isn't as fun as the old days...
so anyway, it would be cool to come help you as i would be learning too, but i just can't get into another project. i don't know how portable your setup is, but if you can bring a small sample setup to my house, we could try it. i'm in oxford. pm me for phone and/or address.
i know zero dmx, and a couple of threads i glanced at today talk about possibly having to change a terminating resister on the ren24. so if you want to try it, see if you understand all you find on the forum on renard and dmx.
also don't hesitate to jump into the live chat feature of the site. the folks here are great, both in knowledge and helpfulness.
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