As a tinkerer, DIY is a staple for me. I love learning new things, and if I can build something at least once, I think it’s one of the best ways to learn. I’ve had numerous times when portable DMX control would be handy for testing, small show control, or teaching; but Hog4PC and GrandMA2 on PC require expensive, proprietary adapters and rightfully so. The solution I found is not a replacement for your GrandMA, Hog, Jands, ETC, etc… See what I did there? That said, it was a fun learning process, and I now have a simple DMX adapter when the need arises.
The basic concept is to convert USB to RS-485, which is what DMX uses. The device then shows up like an Enttec Open DMX USB device. From there, multiple open source and freeware applications are available to interface with the device. I’ve successfully used QLC+ and JV Lighting with my Mac Air.
DISCLAIMER! You’re about to tinker with electronics. I’m not responsible if you accidentally cook your USB port or any lighting you plug this into. That said, this is a proven schematic that many have used.
Start with something like SparkFun’s FTDI Basic Breakout. This gives your modern computer a serial port. Next, pick up a Max485 chip (or order a sample for free!)… Don’t be scared; I mentioned this was DIY. This chip converts TTL Serial to RS485. Use a breadboard and the following schematic to wire it up.
That’s it! Install the FTDI drivers, and try it out! As noted on Enttec’s website, this device may drop frames, so it’s best used for testing or very small applications. Throw in a Korg NanoKONTROL2, and you have fader control! Use a NanoPAD2, and build simple presets for a small room. Drop it in an Altoids tin to complete your nerd status, and always be ready when you need DMX.