Light Sequencing and Decoding DMX with an Arduino

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Akiba of Freaklabs and Tokyo Hackerspace wrote in with a three-part tutorial on using an Arduino to control complex lighting displays.

Now that we’re moving into the holiday season, we’re about to start seeing the hard core Christmas people setting up the elaborate light displays. The equipment to switch all the lighting channels and sequence everything is usually a bit costly but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re familiar with the Arduino environment and willing to put in a bit of elbow grease, blinging out your lawn is just a couple of mouse clicks away :)

I put this three part video tutorial together on how to use the Arduino platform to decode the DMX protocol. The DMX protocol is a standard protocol for stage lighting displays and it happens to be supported by a nice freeware light sequencer called Vixen. In the first part, I go over the DMX-512 protocol and the Arduino source code to decode it. In the second part, I show how to configure a lighting sequence with Vixen, some hardware implementations, and the whole system working together. And in the final part, I show how some simple changes to the code can enable you to control your lights wirelessly.

12 thoughts on “Light Sequencing and Decoding DMX with an Arduino

  1. Owen Courtney says:

    What would be even cooler is getting the Arduino to receive DMX signals. Then Theater lighting boards could be made to control more props onstage. Turning clock hands, radio dials… The possibilities are limitless.

  2. Michael says:

    Hey mate, love the work.
    I am currently working the the sound and lighting industry and I do LED installs a lot. And I was wondering if the arduino is capable of out outing 512 channel using this LED board? I it the arduino able to have all of these LED’s individually addressed?
    My intention is to break it out into a 512 channel relay/transistor circuit to control hundred of lights. (this sort of equipment would normally cost over $10000 and instead it could only be $100)

    Cheers mate.

  3. danny says:

    Series of RGB leds with 2811 drivers?? …. addressable per piece via a single IO line… already there and not expensive at all….. saves you a lot of transistors :) and yes.. I have already done this via my own DMX slave Shield + Arduino

  4. Ben.B says:

    is it possible to use vixen to control this DMX Master Shield, because RadioShack does some good DMX for Arduino kit. I think I could get a good set up if I could get the shield working with vixen.

    1. cheesemarathon says:

      Oops forgot the link. Here it is:

  5. Danny says:

    You can control dmx via your computer using an arduino as long as you can drive your dmx shield via other pins than the first uart… This is used to connect the arduino to your pc.

    And there are plenty dmx shields available:

    Or do a search on ebay

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My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal

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