Effects Controller (EC)

Effects Controller (EC)

The Effects Controller is used in combination with Data Distribution boxes (DD16) and the optional MP3 player to control a large light show. Effects are generated by either built-in pre-programmed effects, or from an SD flash memory card. Effects can be generated by software running on a PC and then downloaded to an SD card, and plugged into the Effects Controller (EC).


The EC has a number of limits which must be observed. If you can not place all your strings or lights on a single DD16 due to these limits, you can spread them out over multiple DD16s. Each DD16 must have the same configuration of ports, Ts, strings and lights, though the last DD16 can have less.
4200 lights
3 or 4 DD16 cards (see Multiple EC section)
1000 maximum strings
800 maximum lights on a string
800 maximum lights on a DD16 output port
1600 maximum lights per DD16 card
100 maximum Smart-Ts per DD16 output port
16 maximum outputs per DD16
note: more than 100 lights per string will require power injection every 100 lights.

Multiple ECs

Multiple ECs can be chained together to control larger lighting displays. When doing this, only 3 DD16 ports are available. Port 4 and 5 on the EC are wired together internally. Port 4 can be used as a DD16 output, or for chaining multiple ECs. When chaining ECs, a cable is run from port 4 on one EC to port 5 on the next.

When ECs are chained together, the first EC on the chain is the Master and all other ECs are Slaves. The Slaves must be configured to be Slaves by going to the Menu Item SLAVE MODE and setting it to Enabled. When built-in effects are selected on the Master, the Slaves will also run the same effect. The effect will run on the Slaves subject to their particular settings for the effect (color, speed, etc). Also, when chaining ECs and using built-in effects only, the hardware configuraton of each EC can be different (different number of strings, lights, etc).

When ECs are chained together, but you plan on using the SD cards for effects, then each EC must have an identical hardware configuration (same number of lights, strings, etc). Your light show is split up between multiple SD cards and the Master EC controls the Slaves to output the show in synchronization.

Slave Mode (DMX)

When the EC is put in Slave mode, it reads DMX compatible commands from port 4 or 5. Normally one EC is the Master and the rest are Slaves. However, you can also set all your ECs to Slaves and control them with an external DMX controller. The external controller can play files from the SD cards, set intensity for fading in/out, and keep synchronization.

The DMX control command is as follows:

channel 1:   'F'     ascii F specifies command type (File play)
channel 2:    n      value of byte specifies file# from SD card (0-49)
channel 3:    n      value of byte specifies intensity level (0-255)
channel 4-7: nnnn    these 4 channels form a 32-bit frame number (MSB first).
When the F command is received, the selected frame of the selected file is sent to the lights at the given intensity level. To play an entire file, just send the F command at the desired frame rate, incrmenting the frame number until the end of file.


The EC requires 9-12vdc at around 0.5A (normally 12vdc) on its power input jack, via a supplied transformer.

The EC has 5 RJ45 ports on the top side. Standard CAT5 ethernet cables should be used with these ports (though they are not ethernet compatible). The first 3 ports are dedicated output ports for connecting to DD16 cards. The DD16s can be located up to 100ft away, more or less, depending on the quality of the cabling and other factors.

SD Cards

The EC has an SD card slot on the side, it can accept SD or SDHC cards. Cards must be formatted with FAT32 format before putting new files on them. Cards MUST be reformatted any time a file is replaced or deleted. The EC supports up to 50 files on the card and they will be played in the order in which they were written.

SD Card info

Info on how to convert AVI files for use on SD cards here.

Using the EC interface

The EC interface is an LCD display with a menu system, and a rotary knob that can be turned to adjust items and pushed in to select items. A tree-style menu system is used. The top menu is the MAIN Menu. You spin the knob to select a sub-menu, then press it in to go to that menu. Each sub-menu has a RETURN TO MAIN MENU item that will bring you back when selected.


The EC must first be configured for the lighting hardware you have connected to it. Power up the EC and spin the knob until you get to the SETUP menu. It will show you the current display size (STRINGSxLIGHTS). Push the knob in to select the SETUP menu. The first item is NUMBER OF DDs and is computed by the EC based on the other entries you make.

The next item is Outputs per DD. Push the knob in to move the cursor to the second line and spin the knob to select how many outputs will be used on each DD board. Push the knob in again to set this and return the cursor to the top line. Now spin the knob to the next Setup Item. Continue doing this until all the items below have been set. The EC enforces its internal limits, so you may find you have to adjust one setting before you can adjust another. For example, each DD has a limit of 1600 lights, if you set 400 lights per string then you can not enable more than 4 outputs per DD. If you can not adjust a number up as high as you want, you probably need to lower another item first.

Number of DDs     1-4     shows number of DD boards required
Outputs per DD    1-16    number of output ports on each DD that will be used
T's per Output    0-100   number of Smart-Ts that will be used on each DD output port
Total Strings     1-1000  total number of light strings the EC will control
Lights/String     1-800   number of lights on a string

Flip Strings      yes/no  reverses the ordering of strings
Flip Lights       yes/no  reverses the ordering of lights

Intensity         1-100%  sets intensity level for all effects to enable dimming display.
When you are done setting these items, return to the MAIN MENU. Spin the knob until you get to the item SAVE CHANGES. Push the knob in to save your configuration to permanent memory.

Built-In Effects

Built-In Effects are under the EFFECTS MENU. Select this menu and the name of the current playing effect will display on the top-line. Spin the knob to select other effects (they are in alphabetical order, with a Return to Main Menu item at the end). Once an effect is picked, you can push the knob in to Edit the effect. The EDIT MENU for an effect contains items such as SPEED, COLOR, PALETTE, TRAILS, etc. and you can try modifying each of these to see what they do.

Every effect also has an item called SHOW. This is a time setting for how long this effect should be displayed when part of THE SHOW (see next section). The lowest setting is NOT IN SHOW.

When you are done editing effects and want to save those changed permanently, be sure to use the SAVE CHANGES command from the MAIN MENU, otherwise those modifications will be lost when power is turned off.


When you select the SHOW mode from the MAIN MENU, the Effects Controller runs the built-in SHOW. THE SHOW includes all the built-in effects that have a SHOW TIME set for them. This way, you can pick which effects you want to be part of a show, how long each effect plays for, and edit each effect for things like speed and color. In SHOW MODE, you can pick SHUFFLE (for randomly selected effects to play), or ORDERED (to play them alphabetically).

SD Card Play

When you select the SD CARD menu item, if there are valid files on the SD CARD, the controller will start playing them in order, and do this continuously.

SD Card Flash Update

When new software is available for the Effects Controller, it is placed on an SD CARD and put into the controller. The SD CARD menu item will indicate there is an update available and ask if you want to install it.

On/Off Timer

The EC has a built-in clock and on/off timer. All the lights will turn Off at the OFF TIME and back On at the ON TIME. All times are in 24hour format. You must set the CURRENT TIME when power is applied, current time is not kept when power is off. Find these items under the TIME MENU.