kdiamond

Estimating the posibillities to make an advanced hardware controller.

14 posts in this topic

Hi. I just found this amazing site.

For a long time I'm thinking to develop a good hardware controller with the advanced features such as motorized faders with colored trays, LCS screens, meter bridge, gain reduction meters etc... It should also be Ethernet, along the optional midi. I'm electrician (soldering is well known to me). I did some basic parts of programing too, so a simple code should not give me problems.

Closest visual match of what I want would be lower part of Soundcraft digital console.

~lg-SoundcraftVi2.jpg

But before I dive into it and loose bunch of time I would ask experienced users here, how far from reality my wishes are, or if this is doable at all on individual level. I would probably handle to connect standard motorized faders, buttons and pots (using predefined DIY boards) to MIDI CC, but that would probably be all.

Apart from that I would need.

- LED level meters next to each volume fader.

- Ethernet connectivity

- LCD screen that transfers track names from the DAW.

- Hardware controller should have it's own logistics in a way that when I press a Dyn button all motorized faders become DYN Tresholds, or when I ress EQ all motorized faders become 31band EQ and so on.

Thank you for your time.

Br,

kd

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Totally possible, but what would you need that for? E.g. wanting "Ethernet connectivity" is a bit vague - what is it that is sitting on the other end of your Ethernet cable? Does it provide enough feedback, and do you know its protocols?

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Hi Ilmenator. Thank you for your reply.

Software I'm trying to connect it to is called SAC (software audio console). http://www.softwareaudioconsole.com/

It's the only Software for live PA mixing and it's great. I've done over 200 shows with it. It does support several midi hardware controllers, but only faders, pots and LCD. No level or gain reduction metering via midi. I guess midi bandwidth doesn't allow for 32 or 64 channels of level metering + gain reduction metering.

However. This software allows to connect up to 24 remote laptops with TCP/IP protocol. Having all the features remotely wired or wireless. Complete 24 mixers with all parameters and all meters. Hardware controller should connect as one remote laptop, having access to all parameters. That's why ethernet. The guy who makes SAC said he would give all controller ID's.

Thank you

Br,

Dali

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Hardware controller should connect as one remote laptop, having access to all parameters. That's why ethernet. The guy who makes SAC said he would give all controller ID's.

Sounds interesting and absolutely makes sense. Would they also share the complete Ethernet protocol with you?

However, this is a huge project, and way off the beaten path because of Ethernet. There is an ETH module that provides the hardware, and the new LPC17 core module will even have a connector on board. But that does not mean that you just plug in a cable and it works. You will most probably have to implement quite a lot of functionality (the protocol) yourself, this is definitely not a MIDIbox beginner's project.

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Yeah, those are all needed info to get the puzzle together. Also I might get it done up to 70%, but for the rest I might need someone experienced to jump aboard. Not for free of course. I would not like to stuck on some barrier I can not overcome personally. It's a huge project. I'm sure I can not make it on my own.

What about parts? Can I buy motorized faders with colored trays, LED Colored Buttons etc?

Thank you

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Yeah, those are all needed info to get the puzzle together. Also I might get it done up to 70%, but for the rest I might need someone experienced to jump aboard. Not for free of course. I would not like to stuck on some barrier I can not overcome personally. It's a huge project. I'm sure I can not make it on my own.

See, MIDIbox is a non-profit DIY project - actually, it's more like a community, and I can assure you that you will receive plenty of help from the more experienced guys here if you follow some simple rules which you are obviously doing already :thumbsup: : the most important one is probably that you have to be willing to invest some time into reading the information that can be found in the forum, on the WIKI, and in the many project descriptions and tutorials on uCApps.de. Once people realize that you are serious, and that they can expect something back from you (e.g. a nice project with some pictures and docu), you will find plenty of help here :flowers: !

The second rule, which is actually more of a recommendation, is that you start with a small project and try to implement parts of what you aim at ultimately. As MIDIbox is modular, you can always re-use the modules for the next project stage. You can find a nice introduction to the various modules (some of which are obsolete or near that) on uCApps.de. You will see that you will need modules like DIN for digital inputs (=buttons), DOUT for outputs (=LEDs), MF for motorfaders, etc.

What about parts? Can I buy motorized faders with colored trays, LED Colored Buttons etc?

Take a look at the old gallery for some inspiration of what other people have done - on that page you'll also find a link to the forum gallery. You will probably realize that very often the mechanical aspects of a project are the most difficult for many. It can be extremely expensive to create that professional look for a one-off project. But then again, you can find many clever ideas of how people made their boxes special and good looking.

I doubt that you will find motorized faders with coloured trays, but these you could build yourself. LED illuminated buttons are not a problem at all if you take some money in your hand. Mostly we end up using the cheap and simple ones for cost reasons...

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You will probably realize that very often the mechanical aspects of a project are the most difficult for many. It can be extremely expensive to create that professional look for a one-off project. But then again, you can find many clever ideas of how people made their boxes special and good looking.

Second that.

Understanding schematics, getting the pre-made module PCBs and soldering is one part, but getting it all together in the way you want is the hard, other part.

Because this is completely up to you. But keep it going, you may as well try some simpler or "breadboard" casing in the first place, also can prevent you from wasting a lot of money.

Also, I concur with the modular approach. Try to build up one channel strip with one LCD or similar at first, to really consolidate your concept.

Once its fully running and you are clear about where you're heading and how you can achieve that, you can easily expand the controller.

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Well, design is the last concern to me. It would be the 19" panel with holes for faders, buttons, and LCDs. I would just draw the panel in one software such as Google SketchIt or Autocad Inventor. I did that many times for some connector panels and power panels and it turned out totally pro.

Ethernet is the biggest question here. I know much about TCP/IP protocol from user perspective (I'm network admin, I have my own server and know some linux basics too), but nothing under the hood. That's what's preventing me to make a step. Like I buy ETH module and what now? Does it work like routers, with web UI, how do I configure it???

You will see that you will need modules like DIN for digital inputs (=buttons), DOUT for outputs (=LEDs), MF for motorfaders, etc.

Thank you, that's great help for beginner like me.

First, before bugging you here with RTFM question, I'll have to read module descriptions and all the documentation to get the puzzle together. I'll do some quick schematics and post it here for review.

Thank you very much. Your help is very encouraging!

By the way...

I was on Frankfurt Music fair about month ago. There was one manufacturer from China with huge collection of motorized faders, buttons, LCD's etc. Probably cheap as hell. I was stupid not to take their contact, because the idea of making a controller came on my way back as recalling the impressions from the fair. After it I could not locate them on internet. Damn. Anyone knows what company this could be?

I will ask the same on Parts forum.

Br,

Dali

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Hi there folks.

Here's the quick sketch of a front panel. Today I'll look at the modules to see which and how many do I have to wire together.

The controller has

17 Motorized Touch sensitive Faders

17 Push Pots with Rotary Led Meters.

1 Big LCD Screen, or 17 small ones

124 LED illuminated buttons (colors selectable in user GUI)

It should be a controller with it's own brain, mixer changing, programmable through WebUI. For the main brain part I was thinking to use a Router. Routers have their GUI, fast CPU's, 4 ports of LAN, wireless and linux embed. Seems like a great bundle of features for the task. Then the controller could be Wired or wireless out of the box. There is a whole community out there dedicated to programming/hacking Linux firmwares for many routers. I think I can find someone willing to contribute.

You can check debate at SAC forum.

http://www.sawstudiouser.com/forums/showthread.php?p=159106#post159106

Br,

Dali

post-9688-044218600 1304187180_thumb.jpg

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The controller has

17 Motorized Touch sensitive Faders

17 Push Pots with Rotary Led Meters.

17 is an unfortunate number, as MIDIbox modules support faders and buttons in multiples of 8.

It should be a controller with it's own brain, mixer changing, programmable through WebUI. For the main brain part I was thinking to use a Router. Routers have their GUI, fast CPU's, 4 ports of LAN, wireless and linux embed.

Sounds like it's not a MIDIbox anymore. The brain for a MIDIbox is always the core module, here it is most likely going to be the upcoming LPC17 core module - somewhat comparable to the STM32 but with Ethernet onboard. This is running MIOS, the OS, which serves all the modules attached to it. If you want to use a different "core", like a router, you might be able to use the modules still, but you would have to write drivers etc. for those yourself. And, where would you want to connect the modules to?

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Sounds like it's not a MIDIbox anymore. The brain for a MIDIbox is always the core module, here it is most likely going to be the upcoming LPC17 core module - somewhat comparable to the STM32 but with Ethernet onboard. This is running MIOS, the OS, which serves all the modules attached to it. If you want to use a different "core", like a router, you might be able to use the modules still, but you would have to write drivers etc. for those yourself. And, where would you want to connect the modules to?

I was thinking to patch the router before LPC17 (like a data mapper) to provide mixer switching and WebUI options. Kinda gateway mapper.

Br,

Dali

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Now I understand! If it was my system I wouldn't want another component in there. Two more cables, one more power supply...

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But in order to get my controller working I would need huge amount of modules, that would need to get connected together. If I understand correctly, for bidirectional mode I must use DIN and DOUT modules for each LED button. For 124 Illuminated buttons only, I need 4 DIN and 4 DOUT modules. And if buttons have RBG colors that's even more. One LPC17 can handle only 128 addresses if I'm not mistaken.

so for complete controller I would need something like:

2 x LPC17

6 x DIN

6 x DOUT

+ LCD modules

That's huge amount of modules where each should be mounted somewhere and connected with wires. It would take too much space. What about designing a big motherboard and put all modules on one board? That seems the only workable solution as module count is so big.

Thank you

Br,

Dali

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Maybe the use of "modules" is the best way to keep the device modular.

The DIN and DOUT board are quite small.

But I agree with you that a mixed DIN/DOUT combining features of DIN and DOUT on a single module would be a nice idea and could lead to a new contribution here.

A big motherboard would probably be expensive because of small quantity and big size !!!

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