Chromoflex RGB controller (Lite DMX Alternative)

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Chromoflex RGB controller (Lite DMX Alternative)

Postby Esteban » Mon Feb 04, 2008 10:03 pm

mhwlng's post was the 'druppel' (final drop) that I needed to get a project of my own together. As I have it up and running, time to share this with you:

What was I looking for:
- Wall washer type of mood light.
- Have it do color fades. (color transitions)
- Being able to define a couple of colors that I can set the light to.
- Control it via RS232.
- Integrate it with Homeseer to be able to pair it with events and that kind of stuff.

The LanBOX looks very nice but I'm sorry paying more than 300euros (with shipping included) for what I want to do with it ain't worth it. (for me) I don't intend to use it for anything else than controlling a couple of wall washer/LED strips. So I looked for an alternative controller. What I found was the Chromoflex RGB controller, which can be bought for...38,50 euros! A real bargain if you ask me. (Conrad has it even cheaper) There is also a version with an Infrared receiver this one is 47,50 euros, but you don't need it if you go the RS-232 route.

Here's what I used:
- RGB strip (same ones mhwlng got) (with a common anode, aka a common '+' pole (R,G,B,+)
http://www.ledtuning.nl/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=91&products_id=327
Image

- Chromoflex RGB controller 3x 2,5A 12V (not the 350 version but the STRIPE version)
http://www.ledtuning.nl/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=437
Image

- Power Supply 12V 5.5A 66W
http://www.ledtuning.nl/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=94&products_id=486
Image

- Some Cat5 cable
- 1x Serial-port connector (female one)
- 1x 10k-Ohm resistor

Total cost: A less than 150 euros. (including a 1m RGB LED strip)

The Chromoflex (CF from now on) has 8 programmable slots, where you can program a fixed color of your choice, or one of the included effects fading, bursts etc. For the effects you have one definable color palette which is shared by all effects. There is also one definable fade-effect for which you can define a separate color palette. You could in theory make your own effects aswell as they are just text files that you can alter but that would require some experimenting.

The CF can be controlled completely via the RS-232 port. You do this by sending commands in hex. It comes with a program to change some stuff on the fly. I used portmon to sniff the RS-232 communication...

You'll need to program your own interface for the thing if you want 'on the fly' controllable color changes, but it is possible. I myself didn't need this, as I just want to be able to change the light to a certain color I defined, depending on the mood I want, a certain event and sometimes start a fade effect.

So I needed a couple of command-line tools to use with Homeseer to control the sucker and be able to have a certain color display depending on events. I cooked up something really simple in VB 2008 (I'll post the code for those that want to have a look.) What I did was a really lazy approach: I build myself 8 .EXE's each one of them starts one of the 8 definable scenarios on the CF. I couldn't be bothered to make only 1 EXE and to feed it arguments for the scenario and COM-port to start on, so I hardcoded the COM-port to use.

Now that it's integrated with Homeseer I can change the light mood from my iFohn interface or have Homeseer do it automatically. I'm happy camper. [;)]

Some additional info:
- You can hang up to 30 Chromoflexes together and control them from one Chromoflex connected to the serial port.

- You can connect several CFs to the same power-supply, as long as it can bear the load.(Amps etc)

- You can connect several meters of LED strips to one CF.

Well that's it for now... As usual, a picture is a thousand words, so here is a small video:
http://lostjourneys.ustoopia.nl/rgbfohn.zip

Now then, the code, as you can see I have the CF on COM2:
====================================================================
Code: Select all
Module Module1
    Sub Main()
        ' Thanks to Vladimir_MS
        Dim buffer() As Byte = New Byte() {202, 0, 0, 0, 0, 3, 125, 21, 0, 200, 37, 25}

        Using com1 As IO.Ports.SerialPort = _
            My.Computer.Ports.OpenSerialPort("COM2")
            com1.Write(buffer, 0, buffer.Length)
            com1.Close()
        End Using
    End Sub   
End Module

====================================================================

Ciao,
Esteban
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Chromoflex RGB controller (Lite DMX Alternative)

Postby Snelvuur » Mon Feb 04, 2008 10:30 pm

Hope you dont mind, i created it as a youtube, since i still cant watch wmv files..
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGW6TUo1lAE[/youtube]

looks good all, nice work indeed. I stil need to play more with dmx, i did buy a led light.. but at some point i had the music on, and it started switching colors on the beat of the music. Thats when i noticed it had a microphone or some sort to do that, pretty funny actually..

// Erik (binkey.nl)
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Postby Esteban » Tue Feb 12, 2008 12:39 pm

I've been running the light for some time now and I must say I'm very pleased with it. I haven't built the whole thing into the frame it's going to be in yet, as I wanted to do some tests first. After a couple of hours of usage the Chromoflex is still running cool to the touch without becoming a heater, so it will be no problem building it into a frame.

@snelvuur: Thanks, no problem with Youtube, the funny thing is I specially made it into a wmv so you'd more likely be able to watch it ;) Never had any problems for watching stuff using VideoLAN player or mPlayer on Linux. Unless you mean streaming it, that no doubt could give some problems. Funny you didn't notice the mic on your light, it's one of those things where you'd be like...huh!? Am I imagining it or... [:o)]
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Postby Snelvuur » Tue Feb 12, 2008 1:32 pm

Allready had a person on youtube though it was fake. Told him otherwise though, and my video's dont play so nice, wrong codecs i think but too lazy to fix it. I use my xbox with xbmc anyways to watch movies.

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Postby Esteban » Tue Feb 12, 2008 8:36 pm

<blockquote id="quote"><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by snelvuur</i>
<br />Allready had a person on youtube though it was fake.
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></font id="quote"></blockquote id="quote">Haha, somebody thinking it's a fake is just too funny, I just took a look and it cracked me up [:D]. Good thing you posted the link to this thread. Must be the fact that I edited the 'Apple Ad Theme' music under it.

PS: XBMC is my mediaplayer of choice aswell for random TV-recordings, and with the price of the second hand XBOX1 that dropped to next to nothing it only got better.
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Postby Bwired » Tue Feb 12, 2008 9:02 pm

Looks great Esteban!
You got me and I'm thinking the same as you do on the price!
I'm ordering the set as well to experiment on.
Are you willing to share your little Dot.net program en Ipod settings
Regards & Thanks Pieter
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Postby Esteban » Wed Feb 13, 2008 11:31 pm

Hi Pieter, no problem

First, if you like to read, here is some lecture [:)]:

Main website:
http://www.xeroflex.com/

The chromoflex uses a protocol called USP3: (aanrader)
http://www.xeroflex.com/Usp3_com.pdf

Hardware Manual:
http://www.xeroflex.com/manual_en7.pdf

Software Manual:
http://www.xeroflex.com/software_en4.pdf

Here are some pointers help you get started:

- Download the software from the main website and run xd.exe (CF_Edit) after installing it.
- beforehand start PortMon or something similar to have a look at what kind of data xd.exe sends to the chromoflex via the serial-port. From there you can pretty clearly see what each button you press in the program does.

My code you can probably dream up in your sleep as it's just some code to send commands to the device via the serial port. (open port, send data, close port) I'll post the 8 exe's I made for myself and the project folder zipped tomorrow. The COM port is hardcoded to COM2. Each .exe triggers one of the 8 defined colors or effects I defined on the Chromoflex.

You can also set the color of the light 'manually' via de serial-port without using one of the 8 defined ones on the Chromoflex. To do this ON THE FLY you'll need to code something that calculates the CRC16 on the fly(the last two bytes of each line). What I did is just use CF_edit with Portmon running and playing with the color sliders until I get the color I want and then look-up the sent HEX command in Portmon so that I have the right CRC16.

A small example. Sending the following 2 commands as HEX to the Chromoflex will turn the light RED:

CA 00 00 00 00 02 7E 12 01 95 88 (<s>This sends a reset command)</s> This sends the initialize 'custom mode')

CA 00 00 00 00 05 7E 04 FF 00 00 64 7A E0 (This sets the color to Red:255,Green:0,Blue:0 which means the light will be pure red)

Now make a small app that will open the serial-port the Chromoflex is connected to. Then send the above two lines and close the port again. To send those lines I first convert them from hex to decimal. That should leave you with something like this:

202, 0, 0, 0, 0, 2, 126, 18, 1, 149, 136

202, 0, 0, 0, 0, 5, 126, 4, 255, 0, 0, 100, 122, 224 (the 3 values in bold are the Red, Green ,Blue values)

Using Visual Basic 2008 or something like that make a console application. Then in Module1.vb copy the following code:

Code: Select all
Module Module1
    Sub Main()
        Dim buffer() As Byte = New Byte() {202, 0, 0, 0, 0, 2, 126, 18, 1, 149, 136}
        Dim buffer2() As Byte = New Byte() {202, 0, 0, 0, 0, 5, 126, 4, 255, 0, 0, 100, 122, 224}


        Using com1 As IO.Ports.SerialPort = _
            My.Computer.Ports.OpenSerialPort("COM2")
            com1.Write(buffer, 0, buffer.Length)
            com1.Write(buffer2, 0, buffer2.Length)
            com1.Close()
        End Using
    End Sub   

End Module
Now build the .EXE and run it on the computer the Chromoflex is connected to and the light should turn RED ;)

Concerning the iPhone interface, I just made a new page in my iFohn interface (the one in the homeseer thread). What it does is the following:
When I press a button a .ASP file runs and a Homeseer Event is launched, which executes one of my 8 .EXE files depending on which button I pressed.

I hope this all makes sense, I'm doodmoe so I'm not sure everything I wrote is comprehensible. But if you have any other questions (or something just isn't clear enough) just ask or email me and I'll try to answer.

Buena noche,
Esteban

PS: Thx for adding the pics.
Last edited by Esteban on Thu Jan 09, 2014 2:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Bwired » Wed Feb 13, 2008 11:54 pm

Mucho Gracias Esteban
Are you born in Spain? I have a Spanish father in law, so my girly is..
I'm first gonna read the stuff, if I have questions then :-)
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Postby Esteban » Sat Feb 16, 2008 2:29 pm

Denada Pieter,

Here is a .zip with the project folder. There is a compiled .exe in \CFconsole\CFconsole\bin\Release\ as an example. This one starts scene 2 on the Chromoflex via COM2. I put another couple of pointers in the code that could maybe be useful to you.

Project folder:
domoticaforum.eu/uploaded/esteban/20082 ... onsole.zip

I discovered an error in my last post about the 'reset' command, clearly I was too tired [|)]. I've corrected it, it's not to reset that that command is used for, it's used to enter the 'custom color mode' to set your own color.

P.S. No, I myself wasn't born in Spain, but my girlfriend is spanish aswell [;)].
Last edited by Esteban on Thu Jan 09, 2014 3:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby sulli » Sat May 10, 2008 4:47 am

Hey, I am also trying to do this since reading your article some time ago! Thanks for the write up! So far so good!

My question is are you doing this wireless? Through your ipod/iphone?

And could this be done? I read where you mentioned IR? I was curious...?
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Postby Esteban » Sun May 25, 2008 10:26 pm

<blockquote id="quote"><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by sulli</i>
<br />Hey, I am also trying to do this since reading your article some time ago! Thanks for the write up! So far so good!
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></font id="quote"></blockquote id="quote">Thanks

<blockquote id="quote"><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote">My question is are you doing this wireless? Through your ipod/iphone?
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></font id="quote"></blockquote id="quote">Yes I control it wirelessly. The CF is connected to a server via a serial port. this server is connected to my local LAN. Via wifi I can access a webpage that controls homeseer, which in turn controls the chromoflex via the command-line tools I wrote for it. Should you wish the chromoflex can also be controlled via IR, but then you can only start the one of the 8 loaded programs that are loaded on the CF that's it.
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Postby dentdiz » Thu Aug 21, 2008 6:17 pm

Hello there

Really impressed with what you did there!

Have you thought about using your chromoflex for an ambilight effect also? Boblight is a software for custom controllers to change the colours of the leds to match whatever the pc is showing (like movies, games, anything), giving an ambilight effect. It is really stable and I think it could be modified to work with the chromoflex. Any ideas on where to start?

Here is the software if you what to take a look http://www.xs4all.nl/~loosen/elektronica/BobLight/

There is a software someone developed for ambilight effects on the chromoflex but it has some bugs. It is here http://www.my-digital-home.com .
It is useable but I think the Boblight would be more stable
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Postby agepab » Fri Aug 22, 2008 4:14 pm

Is this something you can do with the Chromoflex III wireless?
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Postby dentdiz » Fri Aug 22, 2008 7:24 pm

I am not sure,but I would have thought so
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Postby agepab » Fri Aug 22, 2008 8:32 pm

I think you have to use a USB monitor instead of the portmonitor that only monitor serial and parallel ports. I'll try to find a free USB monitor to see if I get out some data from CF3. I'll post the results. I'am not so familiar with VB, so I need someone to direct me how to call the USB port.
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