Resolve Connection Problems

Simple Steps to Reconnect

 

This document focusses on the 2.4GHz RC4Magic system.  Some details, particularly LED indicators like RFcon, will vary when using RC4Magic-900.

 

 

  1. Be sure the transmitter, usually a DMXio, is set for transmitter mode.Two indicator LEDs confirm this setting:

The Tx/Rx (Series 2) or COP (Series 3) indicator should be primarily on (illuminated) with a repeating blink off to indicate that the device is running:

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The RFcon indicator should be blinking 2 times per second (quite quickly):

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  1. Be sure that all other DMXio transceivers are set for receiver mode.Two indicator LEDs confirm this setting:

The Tx/Rx (Series 2) or COP (Series 3) indicator should be primarily off with a repeating blink on to indicate that the device is running:

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The RFcon indicator should be blinking 1 time per second (slowly):
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Dimmer devices (DMX2dim, DMX4dim, etc.) are always in receiver mode.

 

  1. Check the System ID label on each device you are using. Every RC4Magic device is factory programmed with 3 unique digital IDs.  Every customer and project has its own IDs, so devices from different systems will not interfere with each other.  ID codes are four characters long and include numbers and letters:The IDs for this device are 460A, 460B, and 460C.

    The IDs for this device are 3000, 3001, and 3002.
    These two devices will not connect if operated on ID0, ID1, or ID2, because they are programmed with different private ID codes.  They can be used together only on ID3, the Public ID, which is 999 on all RC4Magic Series 2 and Series 3 devices.

    If the System IDs on your devices do not match, you must use ID3, the Public ID.  Keeping this in mind, proceed to the next step.

 

  1. Select the same ID on all devices that will be used together. Most often, this will be ID0, the first private and unique ID.   For devices from different systems, you must use ID3, the Public ID.
On RC4Magic Series 3 devices, you can Restore Defaults to select ID0 and clear all other parameters in the device.  There is no Restore Defaults function in Series 2 devices.
See the next section of this guide for more information.
 

On all RC4Magic Series 2 and Series 3 devices, the system ID is selected by holding a button while applying power:

To select ID0 (the most common private ID):

  • With the power off, press and hold the button labeled ID0 (on DMXio) or DimA (on dimmer devices).
  • While holding the button, apply power.
  • When you see an LED blink pattern, release the button.

Holding the SetA button to select ID0.  Power must be applied while continuing to hold the button.

To select ID3, the Public ID (for devices from different systems):

  • With the power off, press and hold the button labeled ID3/Public (on DMXio) or DimD, or on devices with fewer than 4 dimmers, both DimA and DimB together.
  • While holding the button(s), apply power.
  • When you see an LED blink pattern, release the button.

The indicator blink pattern on power-up indicates the ID that has been selected.  On Series 2 and Series 3 devices, a single LED will blink several times for ID0.
On Series 2, three data LEDs will blink together for ID3/Public.  On Series 2 devices, a yellow and green LED will alternatively blink for ID3/Public.

  1. With the DMXio transmitter powered on in transmitter mode and set to the correct system ID, confirm that the transmitter RFcon indicator is blinking 2 time per second (quite quickly):
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  1. Power on one receiver device. It will scan to find the transmitter and connect to it.  This process can take up to 15 seconds but is usually much faster.  When the receiver connects to the transmitter, the RFcon indicator will begin blinking 1 time per second (slowly):
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When the RFcon is blinking, you have a working wireless system: you are connected.  Repeat all steps above for each receiver in your system, confirming that each one connects.

 

If you have followed all steps above and one or more receivers connects and works, then proper transmitter operation is confirmed, as well as proper operation of the working receiver.   If any other receiver does not connect after following all steps above, there may be a hardware problem in that receiver that requires repair.
If you have followed all steps above and none of your receivers will connect to your transmitter, there may be a transmitter hardware problem that requires repair.
All RC4Magic Series 2 and Series 3 devices are covered by the RC4Magic Lifetime Warranty (some exceptions apply).  Contact RC4 Wireless to arrange repair or replacement.

 

 

 

Restore Defaults (Series 3 Only)

This section applies only to RC4Magic Series 3 devices.  There are no Restore Defaults features in RC4Magic Series 2 devices. 

If you are unsure of the settings in an RC4 Series-3 device, or if it is not responding as expected, you can restore default settings.

Every customer and project is assigned unique and private RC4Magic system IDs.  Your ID0 is not the same as someone else’s ID0.  If you need to use devices from different system together, you must use ID3, the Public ID, which is the same for all RC4Magic devices ever built.  (The actual code for the Public ID is 999.)

 

Your RC4 system IDs are not the same as other people’s RC4 system IDs.
By default, different systems do not communicate with each other.  This is why RC4Magic systems are so reliable and dependable in any situation, anywhere in the world.

 

Dimmer Devices

Hold the recessed Func button while you press and release the SetA recessed button.  The DimA indicator will blink, and most settings will be cleared to defaults:

  • System ID: ID0, specific 4-digit code marked on serial-number label
  • DimA: DMX channel 1
  • DimB: DMX channel 2
  • DimC: DMX channel 3 (on 3- and 4-channel devices)
  • DimD: DMX channel 4(on 4-channel devices)
  • All dimmer curves: ISL Slow
  • PWM frequency for ISL curves: 615Hz (unless using custom firmware with a different default)
  • Direct DMX to Dimmer Patching (no HSL, no Flicker, etc.)
  • RC4 ColorMatch disabled, all offsets cleared

RC4Magic DMXio

Hold the recessed Func button while you press and release the ID3/Public button.  The device will restart.  The device may restart while the Func button is still pressed, which invokes CodeLoader mode for 5 seconds (green COP indicator solidly on).  After 5 seconds passes, the device will start normally with all parameters restored to default settings:

 

 

  • System ID: ID0, specific 4-digit code marked on serial-number label
  • Receiver Mode
  • Transmit Low Channel Limit: 1
  • Transmit High Channel Limit: 512
  • DMX termination disabled
  • RF power: Maximum
 

Restoring defaults is easiest with two bent paperclips, one for each button.

 

RC4Magic Wireless Technology Overview

RC4Magic is based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard, which dictates the physical layer and media access control for wireless personal area networks (PANs).  In the 2.4GHz band, RC4Magic uses Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS).  In the 900MHz band, RC4Magic-900 uses Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum.  This document focusses on the 2.4GHz Rc4Magic system.

 RF Channels

There are 16 802.15.4 channels across the 2.4GHz band.  They are not the same as WiFi 802.11 channels.  This graph shows how these two different standards overlap:

RC4Magic can transmit at the highest power levels allowed by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  To avoid harmonic interference with adjacent RF bands (below 2400MHz and above 2480MHz), the FCC does not allow high power devices to operate on channels 11, 24, 25, or 26.  Thus, RC4Magic does not provide access to these.

Transmitter Channel Selection

By default, RC4Magic transmitters are in RF Energy Scan Mode for RF channel selection.  When the transmitter powers up, it measures current RF energy for all channels, from 12 through 24.  It then selects the channel with the lowest energy levels.

From there, the RC4Magic transmitter begins transmitting DMX channel data that is encoded and packetized with the particular RC4Magic system ID that is assigned and selected for that transmitter.

Using RC4MagicPC software on the Advanced Settings tab, the range of channels available for RF Energy Scan can be limited.  Enabling a single channel over-rides scanning entirely and forces the transmitter to use that channel.

When an RF channel is selected and transmission is underway, the RC4Magic transmitter RFcon indicator blinks 2 time per second (quite quickly).

If the RFcon indicator remains solidly on, not blinking, transmission has not started, and receiver devices will not connect.   The device is probably not in transmit mode.

Receiver Channel Selection

By default, RC4Magic receivers are in Active Scan Mode for RF channel selection.  When the receiver powers up, it checks each RF channel for active transmissions that are encoded with the RC4Magic system ID that is assigned and selected for that receiver.  It will continue scanning all channels, over and over, until it finds a matching transmitter.   When a matching transmitter is found, the RFcon indicator on the receiver will blink 1 time second (slowly).

If the RFcon indicator on the receiver remains solidly on for several seconds at a time, not blinking, no signal has been found and the receiver device is not connected.   This could be because the RC4Magic System ID is not programmed or set correctly, or the device is out of range.  Every few seconds a series of rapid blinks indicates that the receiver is resetting – this does not indicate a connection.

Using RC4MagicPC software on the Advanced Settings tab, the range of channels available for Active Scan Mode can be limited.  Enabling a single channel over-rides scanning entirely and forces the receiver to use that channel.  This is not recommended, and not necessary; if the transmitter is set to a fixed channel, the receiver will find it, ensuring the system operates on that specific  channel.

The only advantage to selecting a fixed channel on both transmitter and receiver is to achieve the fastest possible connect time on power-up.  Disabling scanning on transmitters and receivers results in almost instantaneous connection on power-up.

Latency vs. Dropouts

When operating normally, RC4Magic receivers and dimmers accurately reproduce input data within one quarter of the DMX frame rate, which is typically a delay of less than 6ms.

The technical term for this delay is “latency.”  It is important to understand that all systems introduce some amount of latency.  Shorter is better, and less variation over time is better.  Many wired DMX processors delay data by one complete DMX frame.  At 44 frames per second, that is a 22.7ms latency.

When the latency period is long enough to see with the human eye, it is unacceptable for professional lighting control.  RC4Magic latency problems are very rare.  When it does occur, it is typically evident in all receivers simultaneously, indicating a transmitter hardware problem.  If one or more receiver/dimmers do not exhibit latency when other devices do, the problem is most likely not in the transmitter.

Drop outs may appear similar to latency but are not the same.  System-wide drop-outs can arise because of:

  • Transmitter-to-receiver distance(s) exceeding 250 feet (less if influenced by other factors below).

 

  • Transmitter is not optimally positioned. Line-of-sight is not required, but objects in the signal path do attenuate the signal and reduce range.  Where possible, mount the transmitter over the stage, in the wings close to the stage, in the proscenium, or on a close balcony with the top surface of the transmitter facing up or down (mounting flanges parallel with the ground).  Keep the RC4 transmitter away from transmitters for other systems and away from any other source of RFI/EMI.  Sometimes moving the transmitter just a few inches or feet will completely resolve problems.
  • Other 2.4GHz wireless devices operating in the vicinity, particularly FHSS (frequency hopping) systems, including other wireless dimming products, wireless headsets, wireless microphones, and wireless video monitoring.
  • A transmitter configured to use a low RF output level when a higher level is needed to overcome distance or band congestion.
  • A faulty antenna or antenna connector (if using a model with an external antenna).

 

  • A faulty transmitter with inadequate RF output. In this case, the transmitter should be replaced.  If possible, try swapping with a spare device.

 

  • If using a Series 3 transmitter device, a firmware update may be needed.

If drop outs occur only with receivers that are furthest away buried in props and set pieces, or inside metal enclosures, then the same issues described above still apply.

If drop outs occur only with some receivers but not others, and distance does not appear to be a factor, then:

  • The antenna (RF hotspot) in the receiver/dimmer may be obstructed in some way. Metal enclosures should be avoided when possible, though performance is often unaffected if large openings are present.  Avoid wire mesh or perforated metal, which often acts as very good RF shield.

 

  • Receiver devices may have inadequate RF sensitivity, in which case they should be repaired or replaced. This is rare, and very unlikely if the problem is evident with several devices in the same installation.
  • If using a Series 3 receiver device, a firmware update may be needed.

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