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ProjectsIntelligent backup system for DMX controlled light effects

1 October 2011


Today DMX512 is widely used for control of stage lights and special effects devices. More recently, control is made easier by introducing computers. However, the use of computers is limited due to lacking reliability. If the computer crashes, the control will fail and lights will turn off.


A possible solution is to buy a backup system which can be placed between the computer and the light effects in order to deal with a computer failure. Such a backup system typically buffers the last N instructions and repeats them in case of a failure. This simple solution does not take into account the music that is currently playing. It can even be dangerous when for example a strobe is activated too long. Moreover, these backup systems are typically expensive.

Students Maarten, Jonas, Sam and Wouter from the engineering faculty of Ghent University, Reservoir Lab, have found a simple solution for this based on the use of microcontrollers. In contrast to existing backup systems, their system is able to take over control in case of a computer failure and dynamically generate effects based on the music. The system they designed consists of multiple (cheap) modules which are distributed over the entire DMX-network. Their detailed report can be downloaded on the website of Reservoir Lab.

A prototype system was build using multiple Dwengo boards, illustrating the capabilities of their system.