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Let's talk serious RGB in-home lighting control .

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Cooper

Joined: Mar 19 2006
Posts: 1770


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Post Sun Jul 05, 2009 8:20 pm

Ok, once again I'm at a serious loss, endless Googling gets me nowhere, and I appeal to the powers of Oznium for help . icon_biggrin.gif

A single room of with multiple RGB lighting fixtures through-out . The room would have 4-8 unique 'zones' or separate channels for lighting control, although each zone/channel may have multiple LED devices . Just an example, zones would be like ..

1. Entertainment Center (3 sources)
2. Wall sconces (4 sources)
3. Book cases (2 sources)
4. Couch (1 source)
5. Wall washers (2 sources)
... etc

Since this is an in-home display the controller doesn't need to be waterproof, and having eye-catching 'party' modes like strobes, music control, rapid color changing, etc isn't the top priority . But what I do need is the ability to set the hue, saturation, and brightness of each zone independently . Also I want to have a handful of preset 'themes' for the whole room where, at the touch of a button, all the zones will set to a saved selection for that theme . It would also be nice to have a very subtle, very smooth color blending where you could set the limits of which colors would be blended to/between .

And to be further demanding, I want the whole thing to be controlled via remote or at least some simple wired controller . In other words, I don't want a giant rack of controllers in the room, and I don't want to have to go into the coat closet to change the lighting settings .

I know the technology to do this exists, but everything I find seems to fall into one of three categories .
1. Automotive controllers that are inexpensive but severely option limited, and generally don't support more than a single "zone" .
2. Club/Concert DMX-style professional lighting controllers that undoubtedly have all the functionality I'm looking for but are crazy expensive and aren't really made for home installation . The hardware controllers are big rack-mounted or table top monstrosities made for clubs where you're not worried about disguising the controller .
3. Extremely high-end residential controllers (think mansions) where the functionality is again present, but the cost ranges from pretty darn pricey to OMG, and almost all of these controllers (some of which look amazing and are very subtle) are made for semi-permanent installation . In other words, wires are run in the walls, switches are plate-mounted on wall for user access, etc . Since I'm not a home owner installation of these systems (even if I could find one I could afford) is problematic because most apartments don't want you snaking wires through their walls or installing converters in the attic or anything like that . icon_lol.gif Plus anything I did install, I'd have to remove when I left the property .

So.. can anyone set me on the trail of some budget-minded residential interior controllers that would have this kind of functionality ? I'm willing to go to a full DMX-controlled rig but I have to learn about DMX since I know virtually nothing about it at present . Or can anyone point me in the direction of some helpful online resources for residential lighting ? A forum like this one maybe, but focused on architectural lighting ? All the forums/resources I've found are usually only visited by a handful of people or haven't been updated in years . A comprehensive resource for learning is seriously lacking . icon_cry.gif And its difficult to find a retailer that sells a variety of controller brands; most seem to focus on the products from one or two manufacturers . Heeelp ?
alkatmsu

Joined: Nov 08 2005
Posts: 1560
Location: Kentucky


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Post Sun Jul 05, 2009 9:38 pm

Watching with interest, this sort of thing is exactly what I'm going to want in my future rec room/theater.
coolbam

Joined: Nov 05 2008
Posts: 1996
Location: Dayton OH


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Post Sun Jul 05, 2009 10:25 pm

Also watching. I'd love to do something like this in my house also.
alienyoungjr

Joined: Apr 30 2004
Posts: 4654
Location: Texas


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Post Mon Jul 06, 2009 5:19 pm

You can get DMX control through a USB port. Thats the most inexpensive way to control DMX. But good luck on your search cause I haven't found anything cheap either.
Cooper

Joined: Mar 19 2006
Posts: 1770


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Post Mon Jul 06, 2009 7:06 pm

alienyoungjr wrote:
You can get DMX control through a USB port. Thats the most inexpensive way to control DMX. But good luck on your search cause I haven't found anything cheap either.


Good call, I've just seen that in the last couple days since posting . It seems you can also run DMX through ethernet which would allow you to make wireless connections with other ethernet-capable DMX devices, although this would undoubtedly be more expensive .

I'm still finding new interesting products, but its crazy sifting through all this information, especially when I know absolutely nothing about DMX . It seems most controllers are very expensive high-end residential, or club/concert oriented controllers that lack the subtlety of the in-home units .

As of this moment if I had to buy this is what I'd go with . Please check these out and feel free to comment if you're looking for something similar:

1. Main Control

Option 1: Enttec Open DMX USB - $60 or Enttec DMX USB Pro - $151 . The pro's are that you can apparently plug these right into your PC and use readily available software as a complete DMX control center . The cost (especially for the Open DMX model) is pretty low, and I need to do more research into the software but I think there are freeware applications available for both (although I'm not sure how powerful the freeware apps are .) I think both support DMX512 which gives you like 512 DMX 'channels' (I don't know jack about DMX) but I think with RGB LED sources each color channel will be a separate DMX function, so it would actually be limited to 128 unique RGB zones on one controller . Still not too shabby . As best I can tell this is only going to allow a PC application to communicate to DMX devices via the adapter; it will not allow you to directly control an LED strip or spot, for instance . You need an RGB LED driver on each lighting zone to have its own DMX address on the network that allows you to communicate with the light sources in that zone .
There appear to be drawbacks here too though . The main one being that you have to go to your PC to access your lighting options . So no wall switches, no wireless remotes, no easy access . Not exactly stylish and seamless integration . Unless maybe you could program a universal PC RF remote or one of those fancy all-in-one learning remotes to control the lighting application on the PC ? No idea if that would work at this point .

Option 2: I think this would be my go-to choice if I had an unlimited budget . Its obviously a well-thought-out well-engineered lighting control made for high end residential installations . The pro's here: Sleek classy look, all the options I want as far as saved pre-sets with smooth transitions between each saved preset that can be instantaneous or take as long as one hour . This is definitely a very sexy controller, I'm in love with this thing . Unfortunately there are drawbacks as well, price being the most obvious . The installation is made to be in-wall also which wouldn't work for rental properties/dorms/etc but there's no reason the main unit has to be in wall, especially if you have the wireless remote that can perform all the same functions . Mostly the problem is cost . Starting at $550 for a 2-zone controller and rapidly increasing in price as you add zones, the cost could get out of control very quickly . (Actually I think its out of control to start with) . Plus this is a system made for simple dimmers and incandescent lights, not for RGB LEDs . There is an for this model but I believe the cost for that unit is around $700 . Then you still need individual DMX LED drivers as with the USB option above . And (I'm not totally clear on this) it seems that the converter uses one whole lighting 'zone' on the main controller for each color channel of each DMX device . So you'd need to expand the main controller out to handle -alot- of zones, and possibly upgrade beyond the $550 3000 model, again making the price skyrocket . Still though, it has a kind of sexiness the USB option doesn't have . icon_sad.gif


2. DMX Drivers for RGB LEDs
These are the pieces that bridge the gap between the RGB LED light (which has no digital control of any kind) and the main DMX controller . (If I understand correctly..) One of these drivers is placed on what will be each lighting 'zone' in your set-up, allowing the DMX controller to recognize that zone and assign an individual device ID to it so it can send commands to individual zones .

Option 1: Eco Light DMX Driver for RGB LEDs - $14.99/ea First, this Ecolight LED website looks great and has some unique stuff, including a cool-looking RGB Spotlight Module which is a product Oznium sorely needs to start selling . (Hint !) icon_wink.gif They have a number of stand-alone (Non-DMX) RGB controllers as well, but nothing that has the multi-zone capability I'm looking for . So this looks like a simple module that would give each zone a DMX address, and act as a power source for the LEDs in that zone as well (up to 4A, and does not convert from 110v on its own, so a DC converter would still be required) . But it only adds $15 per lighting zone to the total installation cost, which seems to be much less expensive then any other option I've seen .

Option 2: eldoLED Controllers - $40-80/ea This site is really interesting, and their controllers are very unique . Check out the L-Dot Pico ! These are functionally similar to the Eco Light controllers above in that they support DMX control, but also a proprietary control system that eldo calls LedSync (apparently its similar to DMX but with 2-way communication ?) The wild thing about these controllers is their super-small footprint . The Pico was especially attractive to me because it looks like it could be fit inside a home-made RGB LED spot light that could be used in ordinary incandescent fixtures like reading lamps, table lamps, and in-ceiling lamps . Unfortunately the price is quite a bit higher then the EcoLight controllers, with a single Pico controller coming in at $44 and the more powerful alternatives being around $60-80 apiece . Although I think I'll use the EcoLight drivers for the majority of my lighting zones, I may look into getting a few of these eldo controllers where spots are particularly tight .


Ok that's all for now, my hands need a break . icon_biggrin.gif Thoughts ?
thesull

Joined: Jun 06 2008
Posts: 1494


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Post Mon Jul 06, 2009 7:21 pm

I your willing to make a panel on your wall... it is plausible... It has been about two years since I made a fully function board with controls....

You could possibly make a very simple one first then change it as you go....

If your willing to run the wires thru the wall i see this as an easy project....

Use maybe telephone wire cable and use a fish fiberoptic pol to tape thru the walls... would be kinda easy...

just a lot of wiring...

First run the wires to your zones... tap em off...

bring to a central area... you can origianlly use a basic controller and simply setup a switch for each zone and the switch will allow the changing of colors and the HOLD of the set color.

Slide switch to zone 1 cahnge to red then slide to zone 2 green etc...

Following me? I can explain further but honestly that seems the best way... for remote control application you would need to get a programmable remote and create your own basic program.... most the colors run 255/255/255 and you can find the basic shades of r/g/b to start with and do those first.......

Possibly and probably well under 1k
corvettecrazy

Joined: Dec 17 2003
Posts: 4357
Location: moved (twice)


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Post Mon Jul 06, 2009 8:05 pm

I have been looking to do the same thing on my own. (As I can get the higher end stuff from work but I like the hobby part of playing around)

In response to your:

Option 1: Completely possible to create switches through USB or parallel port that would allow you to control functions within the computer or a specific program.

Option 2: Having installed some of these higher end systems, Lutron, Vantage, and Crestron to name a few, you are going to pay big time for them but their features are awesome. They are definitely intended more for a whole house type application IMO.

Option 3: I don't really have an opinion on the other controllers, there are a ton out there to chose from.

What I would/planning to do:
I currently have 6+ RGB boards (with optics) on them that I am looking to control. I am also considering going about this from a more hobby approach. I have an Arduino Duemilanove but it doesn't have enough PWM inputs and outputs. Thus I think I am going to pick up a Arduino Mega for about 60 bucks (http://arduino.cc/en/Main/ArduinoBoardMega) which has 14 PWM output channels, and 40 other I/O pins. This would allow control of 4 different RGB fixtures (controlling each color channel individually) The rest of the pins would be sufficient space for switch inputs, allowing you to program full control over the lights.

Some of my thoughts for now...
Cooper

Joined: Mar 19 2006
Posts: 1770


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Post Mon Jul 06, 2009 9:03 pm

Woah, ok.. hang on, you guys lost me . icon_biggrin.gif I'm -super- green with this stuff . All I know is simple 12v automotive equipment . Corv when you say that your RGB boards have optics, what do you mean ? Also.. I read that whole page on the Arduino Mega and I don't really understand what its supposed to do any more than I did before I read it . icon_eek.gif The terms are all greek . Can you explain what that board is and how it would be hooked up ? It has USB, so does it plug into a PC and then there's software that you use to control it ? It looks less like a lighting controller and more like a super-multi-function device that can be used as a controller if you know what you're doing (which I clearly don't .) icon_lol.gif How is it controlled, and how many RGB sources can it control ?
corvettecrazy

Joined: Dec 17 2003
Posts: 4357
Location: moved (twice)


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Post Tue Jul 07, 2009 4:07 am

Cooper wrote:
Woah, ok.. hang on, you guys lost me . icon_biggrin.gif I'm -super- green with this stuff . All I know is simple 12v automotive equipment . Corv when you say that your RGB boards have optics, what do you mean ? Also.. I read that whole page on the Arduino Mega and I don't really understand what its supposed to do any more than I did before I read it . icon_eek.gif The terms are all greek . Can you explain what that board is and how it would be hooked up ? It has USB, so does it plug into a PC and then there's software that you use to control it ? It looks less like a lighting controller and more like a super-multi-function device that can be used as a controller if you know what you're doing (which I clearly don't .) icon_lol.gif How is it controlled, and how many RGB sources can it control ?


Optics
http://www.ledsupply.com/led-optics.php
Means nothing for what you are attempting to do.

The Arduino is a microcontroller. The uses for it are endless if you can program it(or know someone that can program it) Your best bet would be to google "arduino LED projects" and just browse some of the things other people have done already. Everything is open source so normally people also post their code. You are correct it is not lighting controller, but it can be used as one.
Cooper

Joined: Mar 19 2006
Posts: 1770


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Post Tue Jul 07, 2009 3:17 pm

So the Arduino just uses the USB connection to download its programming, and then it operates as a stand-alone controller, right ? Although I get the idea of controlling the lights with it, what are you planning to use for the controls with your installation ? Will their be a bank of knobs/switches, something like that ?

Also, what do you do for a living that you get to play with this stuff ? icon_biggrin.gif
corvettecrazy

Joined: Dec 17 2003
Posts: 4357
Location: moved (twice)


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Post Tue Jul 07, 2009 4:51 pm

Cooper wrote:
So the Arduino just uses the USB connection to download its programmingCorrect, although you can leave it connected, as you can power it via usb , and then it operates as a stand-alone controller, right ?Correct Although I get the idea of controlling the lights with it, what are you planning to use for the controls with your installation ? Will their be a bank of knobs/switches, something like that ? I would likely make a project box with a few momentary switches on/in it.

Also, what do you do for a living that you get to play with this stuff ?I used to work for a home automation company that did designing and installing. Currently work as an intern at Color Kinetics. But lighting type stuff has always been a hobby of mine.
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