There are many different ways to set up Astera products – but that means that a lot of time is wasted doing it in inefficient ways.
This post will show a relatively quick way of setting Astera tubes up for use with DMX control.
It’s partly written to be useful for everyone, and partly so I can direct people to it who are having issues ‘in the field’…
Click on each heading below for more detail. Guide is continually under construction as I learn more…
A few concepts to begin with
- The biggie to begin with. The Art7 box is effectively two very different devices squeezed into one box. One ‘side’ of an Art7 deals with the App and with ‘app side’ communication with the tubes. The other ‘side’ deals with CRMX and transmitting DMX to the tubes.
- Through this guide I will try to talk about ‘Pairing’ with the app side, and ‘Linking’ CRMX to reduce confusion.
- Whatever anyone tells you, the wireless control is not flawless – it is glitchy. That’s the same whether using Art7 transmitters or LumenRadio ones. The glitching increases with numbers of different streams – I try to avoid using more than 5 different transmitters in a room. It’s not terrible by any means (we use them wireless all the time), and by using the right mode it’ll avoid anyone noticing, but is something to be aware of.
Set Radio PIN
- If you have multiple sets of Astera lights on a show then it makes things a lot easier to separate them by type / area / whatever.
- Therefore before you start decide on a 4 digit Radio PIN for the lights you’re working on, and note it down somewhere (I use Trello https://trello.com for information on a show which then gets synced to the crew). I would very strongly suggest avoiding 0000 as that’s the default.
- Set the radio PIN in the ‘Hamburger’ menu of the App:
Connect app to an Art7
- Power Art7 up (on USB power input or on battery)
- Blue ‘App’ light will start blinking
- In the app on your phone go to the ‘Hamburger’ menu at top right (the three lines)
- Tap ‘Refresh Connection’
- Art7 should show up as ‘AsteraBox xxxxxx’ where xxxxxx corresponds to the number on the back of the Art7 – with ‘tap to pair’
- If all goes smoothly the phone should go into Bluetooth pairing where it asks for the bluetooth pairing PIN – this is on the sticker on the back of the Art7. Enter it and it will smoothly pair with the box, update its firmware if required, and be ready for use.
- What’s actually more likely on and Android phone is that it won’t connect straight away and will need a few tries at ‘Refresh Connection’ and ‘Tap to pair’ before it finally sticks. I’m not sure why – but keep trying and it’ll get there in the end.
- Often on an Apple product you’ll have to go into the Bluetooth settings, ‘forget’ the previous Art7 in order to get it to ‘see’ the new one.
- Also on an Apple product if it comes up with a box about not having permission to use Bluetooth, go into the Astera App settings in the main settings menu of your Apple device and turn on the Bluetooth permission.
- The firmware update takes for ever. It’s not something you’re doing wrong – it’s just slow.
- When you go back into the app after doing something else on the phone, it will take a few seconds to re-connect to the box. Give it a little while to get connected again before prodding buttons 🙂
Link lights to Art7 (and hence app)
- Next is getting the lights paired to the Art7 using Blue Flashy mode.
- In that same menu tap on ‘Pair with lights’
- The pop-up says that all the lights should be in blue flashy mode before starting to pair lights. That works, but a whole rig of lights all in blue flashy mode is quite unpleasant on the eyes. I have had equal success by tapping ‘OK’ on that screen and then putting the lights into Blue Flashy mode. It might take a few goes – because the Pair with Lights times out on the app after about 35 seconds – but it’s much easier on the eyes.
- So, have the lights powered up;
- Tap ‘OK’ on the pair with lights screen;
- Hold the power button on a light until it flashes in blue;
- It should link to the Art7 in less than a second. Occasionally it’ll take a bit longer, or will continue flashing until the next ‘OK’ push on the pair with lights screen.
- Continue doing that (holding power button down) on each light in turn until they’re all linked.
- With a bit of practice you’ll be able to do 4 tubes at once when they’re in their boxes…
- The alternative (official) method is to get them all flashing blue before tapping ‘OK’ (so flashy…)
- Theoretically you can also pair the lights by setting the PIN to match in the light’s settings. For some reason I’ve not had good success with this method with new lights – so I don’t tend to try it.
Reset lights & unpair CRMX
- In the Hamburger Menu expand the ‘Actions for All Lights’ drop-down
- Tap ‘Reset Lights / Unpair CRMX’
- Brings up the ‘Reset lights’ box and the lights will start flashing to white.
- Select ‘Yes’ to ‘Reset settings’ and ‘Unpair CRMX’.
- Press power button briefly – or ‘Power On’ button on remote control – for each light that you want to reset (all of them). This is where the IR remote control is really handy ‘cos you can do a whole box at once – hence why each of our Astera kits includes an IR remote control.
- Light will stop flashing to white and will (normally) come on in red
- Once they’re all done tap ‘Done’ to come back out of that mode.
Choose desired DMX mode
The trouble with modes on the Astera products is that there are too many of them. The best thing I’ve found is to work out how you want to control them, then build the mode in the app instead of going through 18 million pages of the manual.
We normally run them in RGB mode, but because of the slightly flakey wireless we have found that it is very well worth having a dimmer channel – not just RGB. If not then dimmer chases are done via RGB and there will be little flashes of colour on a black / white chase. This doesn’t happen if they’re in Wired DMX mode through the Powerbox. Sometimes that means sacrificing a Strobe channel to get 8 Titan tubes (or 4 Hyperions) on 1 stream of DMX.
Send mode and address to lights (leave input selection as ‘Auto’ so the remote control still works!)
- Go into ‘Actions for all lights’ again
- Tap ‘DMX Configuration’
- Choose your lamp type;
- Choose whether you want a strobe channel, and if so whether it’s one strobe channel per tube, or per cell;
- Set starting DMX address for the first lamp
- Set preferred mode in ‘DMX table’. We use Dim RGB quite a lot for light entertainment – your use might be very different 🙂
- Set ‘Input Select’. Unless you have a good reason not to, I would suggest leaving it as ‘Auto’ – otherwise you can’t use the IR Remote control to turn the tubes off.
- Set ‘DMX Failure’, ‘Dimmer Curve’ and ‘AC Failure’ if you wish.
- Set your first start address in the ‘DMX Address’ field (let’s say 001). There will be a ‘-‘ and ‘+’ box either side to increment to the next number.
- Tap ‘Send’ and those settings will be transmitted – the lights will start flashing.
- Press ‘Enter’ only on those lights which are going to be 001. There may well be more than one of them if you’re spreading lights over more than one stream. The light/s will flash and take the settings.
- Press ‘+’ to increment to the next DMX number. Wait a couple of seconds for the system to transmit the new number.
- Press ‘Enter’ on the lights which are going to be that number. Again they’ll flash and take the settings.
- Repeat those two steps until you’ve addressed and moded all the lights.
- This sounds complicated but is a lot simpler (and much quicker) than it seems – try it…
- Press ‘Done’ once you’ve finished.
Link with CRMX transmitter/s – SHORTEST BUTTON PRESS EVER!
- Often your lights will have to split across multiple streams of DMX and therefore transmitters. For instance, in the mode we normally run them, 8 Titan tubes will completely fill a DMX universe. Therefore if you have 24 tubes then they’ll be across 3 different transmitters.
- For this example let’s say we want lights 1-8 on Stream / transmitter A; 9-16 on transmitter B; 17-24 on transmitter C.
- Wake the DMX side of the Art7 boxes up by plugging the mini-jack (DMX connection) in – otherwise the DMX side of the box stays asleep. It is best if the box is receiving DMX – it shouldn’t matter, but in practice it makes the linking process much more reliable. Art7 box/es need/s to be reasonably close to the lights.
- Turn lights 9-16 off, leave 1-8 on.
- Link transmitter A by pressing the green linky button, but PRESS IT VERY VERY BRIEFLY! If you hold it down even for 1/4 of a second it will not link. Make it the briefest press you can do. Green link light will flash, lights will pair to that transmitter.
- Now turn 9-16 on and link with transmitter B. Again, very very brief press of the button. (You can leave 1-8 on because they are now linked with transmitter A)
- Finally turn 17-24 on and link with transmitter C.
- Sometimes lights won’t link to CRMX for some reason. If this happens try turning the light off (with the remote or the button) for 30 seconds then back on and try again. Bear in mind that you might need to turn the charger off (to make them turn fully off) if they’re on charge.
- If lights fail to link and you’ve tried turning them off and on again already then it’s probably because they’ve not Unlinked properly. If all else fails, going to ‘Unpair from CRMX’ in the menu of the light will work every time, then they’ll link properly.
Result happiness. Enjoy your battery-powered & wirelessly-controlled lighting. Things to watch out for:
It’s worth noting that you can have all your lights Astera paired with one Art7 to monitor their batteries etc, while also having them DMX paired with a selection of different transmitters.
This is (generally speaking) a good idea as otherwise you can end up with two different Art7 both ‘talking’ to lights on the same radio PIN and that will produce glitchy results.
Be aware that you will need to avoid having more than one Art7 powered up with the same radio PIN at the same time. If an Art7 has been connected to a phone then it seems to retain that Radio PIN while it’s powered – even if it’s no longer connected to the phone. That will mean it’ll still pair to lights automatically which can cause confusion. So make sure you switch the Art7 off once it’s finished with – even if you then switch it back on to use as a CRMX transmitter. That has left me very confused more than once – if lights are dropping offline from app control then check for this.
On a related note – if you’re working in a studio complex where there is another shoot going on close by, check with them whether they’re using Astera kit, and if they are then make sure you’re on different Radio PINs. This is another really good reason for not using the default Radio PIN 0000. The app control will leak between studios because it’s a relatively low frequency.