Methods for Controlling EL-Wire

Electroluminescent (EL) material delivers a very unique and recognizable look.  In simplest technical terms, it is capacitive in nature and converts AC power into light.  Increasing the AC voltage and the frequency both increase brightness — to a point.  Excessively high voltages will arc between the two conductors in the EL material, usually causing damage.  Excessively high frequencies will be snubbed or absorbed, rather than be converted to light.  Although different materials vary somewhat, a good place to start with EL material, like EL wire, is 250VAC at 1000Hz (1kHz).


For controlling ELwire with RC4 dimmers:
Method 1: The easiest way.  The same people who sell EL wire also sell inexpensive 12VDC drivers.  You can drive them with any RC4 dimmer of any age or series, no problem at all.  The drivers often make a lot of buzzing noise, and generally do not dim smoothly, but some are better than others for both noise and dimming response.  The best results are had when the driver size is well matched to the length and type of EL.  If you change the length, or run multiple strings in parallel, you’ll need to change the driver size as well.  Otherwise, the driver may overheat, run too dimly, become noisier, or all of these.  Most inexpensive EL drivers will fail if they are operated with no EL connected.  EL material itself often fails when it’s flexed a lot, as in a costume.  Have spare drivers and spare EL wire on hand.  With everything optimally matched — and with a bit of luck — this approach can be fairly quiet and will dim quite well.  But in many cases, it’s a compromise.

Method 2: Use any RC4 Series 3 dimmer in AC Wave mode (including RC4Magic, LumenDim, and W-DIM devices).  The RC4 AC Wave dimmer curve uses 2 dimmer channels together, out of phase.  They can drive a center-tapped transformer to step up the voltage to the high AC needed to light EL (+V on the center, and a dimmer output drives each end of the transformer coil alternately).  This method is a lot quieter than a cheap EL driver, and dims quite smoothly.  It is a bit inefficient, however, so it’s not great with long lengths of EL and you must be careful of too much heat in the transformer.  Running with no load causes no harm to anything.  If you want to go this route, let us know and we’ll help you find a suitable transformer.  This is only available with RC4 Series 3 dimmers.For RC4Magic systems (2.4GHz and 900MHz), the AC Wave mode is a dimmer curve that is selected using RC4MagicPC sofware or wired RDM.  For LumenDim and W-DIM devices, the AC Wave dimming curve must be selected using an RDM controller.  When using RDM with RC4 devices, the controller must be capable of E1.37 dimmer control PIDs (RDM parameter identifiers).

Method 3: the DMXfb (also referred to as the DMXmot) can provide higher efficiency AC output using an H-bridge driver.  It also connects through a step-up transformer, but does not require a center-tap.  This is the smoothest and quietest for EL — you can use it in silent scenes, or right beside microphones (as on a microphone or mic stand) without audible interference.Our recommendation: go with method 1 whenever possible.  This method is the least expensive, simplest to understand and set up, and yields results that, though not perfect, are not horrible.

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