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Background

The story of DiscoHAT is about how a great product comes from a real need. In 2011 a few friends decided to start a theatre.

During the first year we invested some money in lights and had fun on the stage. In 2014 we found out that running the light controls is loud (the button presses were heard in the audience) and the system was hard to use. The lights were controlled separately from the sounds causing human errors during the play.

The solution was to look for a computer controlled light and sound system. After a search we decided to go for QLC+ as it was simple, powerful and FREE.

But we did a mistake. We ordered an USB-DMX cable for controlling the lights. It did not work. After a small research and contacting the QLC+ forums we found out that nobody had written a driver for just this USB-DMX cable. As I am an electronics professional I contacted the maintainer and asked if I could write the driver to QLC+. I got some help from Massimo Callegari (the maintainer of QLC+) and wrote a driver for my cable. So I am kind of a developer for QLC+ also :)

Digging into QLC+ revealed ways to control things remotely. This started the work on DiscoHAT to automate the lights and sound effects in our plays.

The obvious result was to buy a Raspberry Pi 2 (great value for money), install QLC+ on it and create some hardware to connect GPIO pins to switches. We also installed a WiFi USB dongle on the Raspberry Pi 2 to be able to override the connects from a tablet if something goes wrong during the show. The Raspberry Pi was easily turned into a WiFi web server that showed the standard QLC+ Virtual Console.

During the summer 2015 we ran our shows in different venues with a DiscoHAT prototype consisting of wires. The small unit worked as a dream.

Now I want to make DiscoHAT a bit more robust and reliable by adding proper ESD protection and isolations. The Raspberry Pi 2 happens to have an UART module in it. So the DiscoHAT will create a proper isolated DMX output instead of the non-isolated USB-DMX cable we used in the past.

The system is brilliant and I really love Massimos software. In order to share the good things we put up a small production run to share this design to any other theatres, bands or individuals interested in automated sound and light control.

Break a leg,

Karri


1st of November, 2015.

Developer

Karri Kaksonen

info@DiscoHAT.com