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Thread: SSRs dimming affordable with vixen?

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    Question SSRs dimming affordable with vixen?

    I am new to this hobby and wanted to ask for advice. I set up my first show this year using a basic arduino and vixen v3 setup. However the fact that I can't dim is jarring to me. It just comes off as a bit strobing. I wanted to know if I could use my ssr board with a different controller that has the ability to dim, and what types of controllers are out there that can dim? Is vixen 3 an adequate program for the job?

    Merry Christmas

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    Default Re: SSRs dimming affordable with vixen?

    Vixen 3 is a great solution for dimming once you get the correct hardware. If you are using SSRs like the Sainsmart brand, they typically do not support dimming because f the type of SSR that they use. If you are willing to solder your own boards there are solutions out there to build SSRs that support dimming (that's what I did).

    Also, the Renard line of AC controllers are designed to dim. I have never used the Renard branded boards so I can not testify how much configuration there is. But if You want to stick with Arduino there are solutions out there.

    When I built my own SSRs in 2016, it cost me about $13 for each 8 channel AC dimming board and about $12 for each 16 channel DC dimming board. I still use them.
    Kevin

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    Default Re: SSRs dimming affordable with vixen?

    Vixen is a full featured modern sequencer. It's a great choice for the job even with a very simple setup like yours. In this case, the software has nothing to do with the limitations you're seeing. That's all related to your hardware.

    I don't know much about the arduino based setup you put together. But I do know that just an arduino and some relays, you're not going to achieve dimming. If you're not aware of stuff like that, you're probably better off getting an actual controller rather than trying to develop your own. There's a bit more involved to make that happen. With proper zero crossing detection and the right Arduino code you can certainly achieve dimming. But that will involve choosing the correct SSRs, and adding circuitry and code to monitor the AC sine wave and sync the code to it. I'm not an expert on that side of things and can't offer a step by step. But I know there's examples you can find here on the forum that will get you going in the right direction.

    If you want to look at DIY based boards that would get you a lot closer to an AC dimming controller, look at the renard boards. Either the SS series or the Renard Plus series. If you'd rather buy something already assembled. the LOR controllers and a DMX setup might be a good choice.

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    Default Re: SSRs dimming affordable with vixen?

    Quote Originally Posted by jchuchla View Post
    Vixen is a full featured modern sequencer. It's a great choice for the job even with a very simple setup like yours. In this case, the software has nothing to do with the limitations you're seeing. That's all related to your hardware.

    I don't know much about the arduino based setup you put together. But I do know that just an arduino and some relays, you're not going to achieve dimming. If you're not aware of stuff like that, you're probably better off getting an actual controller rather than trying to develop your own. There's a bit more involved to make that happen. With proper zero crossing detection and the right Arduino code you can certainly achieve dimming. But that will involve choosing the correct SSRs, and adding circuitry and code to monitor the AC sine wave and sync the code to it. I'm not an expert on that side of things and can't offer a step by step. But I know there's examples you can find here on the forum that will get you going in the right direction.

    If you want to look at DIY based boards that would get you a lot closer to an AC dimming controller, look at the renard boards. Either the SS series or the Renard Plus series. If you'd rather buy something already assembled. the LOR controllers and a DMX setup might be a good choice.
    So arduinos are capable of dimming? I thought it was just on and off except for a few pins. I know that arduinos have pwm dimming on some pins. Would that dim with the correct type of relays?

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    Default Re: SSRs dimming affordable with vixen?

    An Arduino is just a development board based of the ATMega microcontroller chip. It can do a whole lot depending how you program it, and what hardware you attach to it. PWM is really nothing more than on and off at a specific rate. You don't need a hardware PWM pin to generate PWM output. The PWM pins just take some processing load off the MCU when you can actually make use of it.

    Dimming AC power is a pretty simple process, however it's a bit more complex than dimming DC because you need to reference the PWM timing to the AC sine wave on the power line. It's not just a matter of how wide the pulse is, but rather how wide the pulse is, and when it occurs. This is usually done with a zero crossing detection circuit attached to an input pin that acts as a timing trigger for the code in the arduino. I don't believe that most AC dimming application actually use the PWM pins on the ATMega. I don't think the hardware PWM on the PWM pins can make use of the external reference for timing. So instead, the code will bitbang the outputs to manually make the PWM with respect to the timing signal from the zero cross circuit.

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    Default Re: SSRs dimming affordable with vixen?

    Quote Originally Posted by WindowsDylan View Post
    I am new to this hobby and wanted to ask for advice. I set up my first show this year using a basic arduino and vixen v3 setup. However the fact that I can't dim is jarring to me. It just comes off as a bit strobing. I wanted to know if I could use my ssr board with a different controller that has the ability to dim, and what types of controllers are out there that can dim? Is vixen 3 an adequate program for the job?

    Merry Christmas
    I started off with no dimming as well. It was also a bit jarring I used sain smart SSR's and Arduino. I've since then used that on/off controller just for my mega tree after finding out about Renard. Great kit. Easy to Solder. 24 Channels for $130! And it dims!

    Vixen 3 in my opinion is the BEST for AC lighting. xLights was not my thing. It's more friendly when you use it for pixels.
    Crazy Light Addict.

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    Default Re: SSRs dimming affordable with vixen?

    Quote Originally Posted by WindowsDylan View Post
    So arduinos are capable of dimming? I thought it was just on and off except for a few pins. I know that arduinos have pwm dimming on some pins. Would that dim with the correct type of relays?
    Yes, Arduinos can dim. As Jon mentioned (and me too) there are hardware and software requirements to achieve dimming. The Renard line of controllers have a Zero Cross Detector built into the controller board.

    If you want to stick with an Arduino as a dimming controller, you will have to have a Zero Cross Detector AND the correct type of SSR's. I like Arduinos because I spent a lot of time figuring out how to use them and ended up designing my own Zero Cross Detector and SSR boards because I am a DIYer. My 32 channel AC/DC controller systems, including enclosures and power supplies, cost me about $100 or $3.25 per channel. There are other costs for cables and consumables but for the most part these are the costs to get you 32 channels of a dimming Arduino based AC/DC controller. Arduinos have proven to be able to perform but with limitations.
    Below is a breakdown of my system costs. In the past I had deployed 4 of these systems for a total of 128 channels. Nowadays I only use 2 of these systems.

    AC-DC Cost.jpg
    Kevin

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    Default Re: SSRs dimming affordable with vixen?

    Thank you all for the information. I think I'll plan on sticking with Arduino and try adding a Zero Cross Detector. Definitely doing more channels next year.

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    Default Re: SSRs dimming affordable with vixen?

    Quote Originally Posted by WindowsDylan View Post
    Thank you all for the information. I think I'll plan on sticking with Arduino and try adding a Zero Cross Detector. Definitely doing more channels next year.
    Don't forget that you need the CORRECT type of SSRs to go along with the Zero Cross Detector.
    Kevin

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    Default Re: SSRs dimming affordable with vixen?

    For the dimming SSR, you need what is called a non-zero cross SSR.

    If you want to get deep in writing code and working with your existing SSR, you could look at a different type of dimming. This would be easier to see with a picture but I am not good at those.

    In the USA, most AC power will be 60Hz or 120 zero crossing events. The SSRs you have turn on and off at zero cross. So most simple arduino code just codes high or low based on the input value and that holds that value until the next value is received. But you can actually turn on or off your SSR 120 times a second or 6 times per frame if using 20 fps. So, in theory you can "dim" in 6 increments over 50ms. This is theory on my part as I don't have the patience to try to code like this. But lets say the value is 127 or 128. That is you are looking for 50%. Write code that turns on for half a cycle, then turns off, then turns on, turns off, on, off. There! You have dimming at 50%. The back end is that if you have half LEDs for lights (which I suspect you are running), you will only get half the string to turn on. And it would appear to be 100% on.

    Frustrating! Isn't it?

    Anyway, when you dig into it, get the non-zero cross ssr, the zero cross detector, get the optimized dimming code and you will be able to use arduino to control your lights with dimming.

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