PropWatcher - Elaborate 16 trigger DMX Prop Controller [Archive] - HauntForum

PropWatcher - Elaborate 16 trigger DMX Prop Controller

08-06-2013, 08:51 AM
First off, let me say that I am in no way associated with Engineering Solutions Inc. I simply had them build what I think is the ultimate prop and Halloween lighting DMX controller on the market today, and am sharing news on this newly released product. If you think there is something better suited out there, then by all means use it.

I run an elaborate pneumatic haunted house in Canada, which is also a fundraiser for the Children's Wish Foundation, granting wishes for very sick kids. Because of the technical and fundraiser nature of the event, we get a lot of visitors, and therefore have grown the show quite a bit. In a nutshell, up until now, we had 2 DMX consoles controlling all of our pneumatic props manually. With 8 night vision IR cameras setup inside our dark tunnels, we would wait for the right moment to trigger the props manually. Last year, I asked one of our technical sponsors, who has been generous with his donations of pneumatic cylinders and air valves, if he could get me a bunch of industrial photoelectric sensors that worked well in the dark. My goal was to automate the entire show, and not have to rely on volunteers (or myself) to sit behind consoles all night.

With photoelectric sensors in hand, and a bunch of DMX AC power packs on the other end to power the air valves and props, I needed to find a DMX engineering company that could build and design from scratch the ultimate controller, to replace the human logic and reaction timing on the consoles. This is where John Chapman from Engineering Solutions comes into the picture. And I can assure you that you know him, or at least of his work. He is the mastermind behind part of the SuperBowl XLV halftime show, handling portable power and LED controllers for the dancer's costumes and the Black Eyed Peas LED jackets. So here is the challenge I gave to John.

I already knew about DMX software out there, I already used FreeStyler and an Entec DMX interface box for light shows at my son's school events. But I did not want to have to look for or build a complex trigger interface board, boot up a PC, and setup complex programming scenes for dozens of props. Yes, there are Halloween prop controllers out there, but most of them only handle 1-2 input triggers. I needed anywhere from 12-16 input triggers, as each photoelectric sensor would trigger 1 prop. I also needed this controller to handle some complex control scenarios, like pre-delay, post-delay timers, loop cycles and loop timers. In other words, once a trigger was received, allow me to intricately program a scene, to mimic a human slamming away on a DMX console to bring a prop to life with erratic movement.

The last thing I asked for was on-board programming with a screen. I did not want to have to fire up a PC and work with more software again. A simple user intuitive menu that allowed me to assign my DMX channels to a trigger input, and program all of my timers, with the click of a couple of buttons.

He built me what is now called the PropWatcher. You can read up more about it below. I am not at liberty to discuss pricing at this point, because, to be honest, he invested weeks of design, hardware engineering, software coding, assembly, testing, and silk screening. I believe John wants to get a feel of the market interest in this product before jumping into prices, but I will say this. The closest thing I could find to a multi trigger unit was using MIDI, only 8 channels, and cost around $400. A 1 channel prop controller with similar programming is probably around $150. So keep this in mind when evaluating this 16 channel unit. Again, I have no clue what John will be asking for this unit, please feel free to email him.
Also keep in mind that these are custom, hand built units, so if you think you want one for Halloween, don't wait until October to order one as you might not have it built in time.
YouTube video is also available on his page to show it in action !!
For those interested in some of the parameters you can program:
Trigger => DMX Channel (here y assign which DMX channel or channels will be associated to which input trigger)
Pre-Delay => Delay time (in 0.5s increments) from when the trigger is tripped to when the DMX channel comes on (can be set to 0)
On Time => How long the DMX channel stays on (in 0.5s increments)
Loop Time => Time between cycles (can be set to 0)
Cycle => Number of times DMX channel cycles thru entire scene
Post Delay => Amount of time trigger stays locked (when you want the prop to sit quiet while many people walk by)
All 16 triggers and scenes can run simultaneously without any hesitation or lagging.
Input trigger can be 5V-24V, so anything from a motion sensor, pressure mat, photoelectric sensor, button, etc....