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This is a research blog for my MA in Visual Effects @ Ravensbourne, UK.

Controlling lights and digital communication

One of the advantages of Cinder is its flexibility and focus on more abstract projects, such as art installations. For my purposes I wanted to find a way to communicate with DMX devices.

DMX512 (or simply DMX) is a standard protocol for digital communication, commonly used to control stage lighting and theatrical effects, which basically means moving lights, colour changing lights, fog machines and so on. The main aspect of the DMX protocol is the ability to transmit data on multiple channels (or more precisely up to 512 channels) over a single DMX cable, allowing DMX enabled devices (such as dimmers and intelligent fixtures) to receive several control channels at once.

This is extremely interesting considering that I can write apps that can basically control electic objects around. That’s not essentially somethings new or disruptive, though, I’m focused on new ways to interact with objects for art and communication purposes; things that can make us think about our environment and how we interact with it.

For my research I initially considered writing an video player that could interact with real objetcs in a timeline based method. That would allow me and other people to create content that could potentially extend our perception of films and how we interact with films emotionally. Although I know this is a very very broad idea and there’re so much out there following the same concept, interacting with films is something that haven’t change much since it was established as art form. By creating a sort of player, I would enable other people to create more videos that could interact with real objetcs. This doesn’t necessarily is focused on any kind of business idea or model for making money, but I can think of some commercial possibilities maybe in fashion or some sort of digital out of home for advertising. The focus here though is more the conversation between expression forms.

The image below shows a basic scheme for a DMX system containing a console, dimmer, fixtures and automated lighting.

The protocol transmits information asynchronously in packages of values ranging from 0 to 255 (or 1 byte a time). In asynchronous data transmission (as opposed to synchronous data transmission), data is sent one byte at a time not requiring perfect synchronization throughout the system and devices, but their timing signals must be close (within about 5%). The method is relatively simple, and therefore inexpensive.


DMX 101: A DMX 512 Handbook, Elation Professional
DMX-512 Fundamentals, Lutron

- Posted by rrraul on 19/02/2013 | PG04 |