DecaBox MIDI to DMX Converter
Simple, straightforward bridging between MIDI and lighting control.
- Basic System Information
- Quick Start
- Step 1: Set the DecaBox to the Correct MIDI Channel
- Step 2: Set the DMX Equipment to a Known Start Address
- Step 3: Use MIDI Monitor Mode to Confirm Valid Data
- Step 4: Exit ‘MIDI Monitor’ and Drive the Lighting Equipment
- Example: An RGB Stage Light
- The Internal Dimming Engine
- Drive the DMX Engine Using MIDI Continuous Controller (CC) Messages
- DMX-512 for Musicians: a Quick Analogy
- Case Study - A Series of Generic LED PARs from Asia
Basic System Information
This firmware personality for the DecaBox receives MIDI note and CC information on a user-specified MIDI channel. This data is converted to DMX512 lighting data. In the standard firmware version, the first 128 DMX channels can be controlled in real time via MIDI.
- The system ships with an international switching power supply. System power requirements are 9-12v DC, center positive, 300 mA. The power supply connector has standard dimensions of 2.1mm x 5.5mm.
- MIDI data is received via the 5 pin ‘MIDI In’ jack. MIDI data is passed through (a mirror of the input) via MIDI out.
- DMX lighting data is generated on the Neutrik 5 pin XLR female jack. If necessary, a 5 pin to 3 pin adapter cable may used to connect various lighting fixtures.
The DecaBox USB port is used for firmware updates. It does not accept MIDI data.
Other firmware builds are available which allow access to an entire universe of DMX data via MIDI. Contact Engineering Solutions for caveats and more information.
Originally, the lighting guys wanted to keep their wiring separate from the audio crew, who were using XLR-3 microphone cable; thus the 5 pin lighting data standard. However, in nearly every current implementation of DMX control only pins 1, 2 and 3 are used. The 5 pin connectors cost about $2 more in quantity, so some manufacturers eschew them for less expensive 3 pin versions. Professional and touring gear still relies nearly exclusively on the 5 pin infrastructure. In either case, pin 1 is ground, pin 2 is ‘data complement’ or D- and pin 3 is ‘data true’ or D+. For even more gory detail, see the appendix.
How to Easily and Accurately Control DMX Lighting Gear From Your Existing MIDI Equipment
Kick that grumpy lighting guy to the curb while retaining complete creative control.
It’s a question we hear nearly every week. “We’re in a band. We use a sequencer for backing tracks and to send ‘click’ to the drummer. We’d like to control our lighting equipment from the sequencer as well. That way, the light show for each song will be exactly synchronized with our music, and no important cues will be missed. Can you help?”
Or perhaps, “We’re designing an art installation. Every time someone jumps on these larger-than-life piano keys we’ve built, we need a different stage light to flash in sync. Can you help?
Fortunately, the answer is a very definite ‘yes’ to all of these questions.
The DecaBox Protocol Bridge with MIDI to DMX firmware easily, quickly and accurately converts MIDI note and CC messages into DMX channel values. This makes it very, very easy to program a light show from within MIDI software and hardware, or even drive lights in real time from a keyboard or drum kit.
It’s been used all over the world, for many years now, by artists, musicians, lighting designers and other creative people. The next few pages describe how the system works, and show how to quickly begin using this hardware as part of your next production.
Follow these instructions to get up and running quickly. Each step is described in detail in the following pages:
- Set the DecaBox to the correct MIDI channel.
- Set the DMX equipment to a known start address. Note that the right LED on the DecaBox is illuminated, signifying that DMX data is being generated. Check your receiving equipment - it may also contain an LED indicator to confirm data being present.
- Use the ‘MIDI Monitor’ function on the DecaBox to confirm valid data is being received. The left LED on the DecaBox will flicker as MIDI data is received.
- Exit ‘MIDI Monitor’ and drive the lighting equipment directly, using any combination of Note On / Note Off / Midi Patch Change / MIDI Continuous Controller messages.
Note: connected DMX equipment will not respond in monitor mode. The DecaBox is only displaying incoming data. To resume MIDI to DMX conversion, use the left pushbutton to 'ESC' from monitoring mode.
Step 1: Set the DecaBox to the Correct MIDI Channel
In the MIDI world, there are 16 channels available. Between 1 and 16 channels can be transmitted via a single MIDI cable. During initial setup, it’s best to restrict the MIDI output of your equipment (be it a guitar pedal, a sequencer, a keyboard, or similar) to a single MIDI channel. This way, the wire is ‘quiet’ with the exception of MIDI data being used to control lighting equipment.
Press the center pushbutton which corresponds to ‘setup’ on the LCD screen.