Frequently Asked Questions
Find documents, articles and posts about RC4 Wireless devices.
General (3 Articles)
Why RC4 Does Not Bundle Dimmers With Batteries
We don’t bundle dimmers with batteries because loads and running times vary with every application. Choosing a “catch-all” battery would almost always be either larger than you’d like, or deliver less running time than you’d like, depending on what’s being done. An integrated device also might not fit in the space you have to work with; with separate batteries, dimmers, etc., you can more easily fit things into unusually shaped props and distribute weight and bulk as needed.
What Battery Should You Buy?
To help choose the best battery for your needs, send us a link to data about the loads you need to control, so can see what current it draws, what voltage it needs, and other pertinent details.
Important factors to consider are:
- The overall running time you need between battery charges (or replacement if you choose to use disposable batteries). If running times are short, and/or you can charge more frequently, you can use a smaller battery. But if the total time between charges adds up to quite a long time, then a larger battery is a better choice. We can still help you find the smallest option that suits your needs;
- Another factor, related to running time, is what brightness you will be using. If you run the prop at 50% of maximum, you will get more than double the running time from the battery. This is because battery efficiency is not linear. If you are mixing colors and not running a lot of full-mix white, this reduces the load substantially as well. Your lighting design impacts battery life considerably;
- The space you have available for everything to fit, and;
- Sometimes the most difficult things — your budget constraints and timeframe to get everything up and running.
If you can send dimensioned drawings of the props and costumes you are working on, this is very helpful. Rest assured all intellectual property is treated in confidence.
Contact us for more help using out online Support Ticket System.
NiMH vs. Li-ion
For batteries, the safest type is NiMH. They don’t have the instability and hazards of fire and explosion that Li-ion batteries have, (although a couple of shows have chosen to use Li-ion and no horrible accidents have been reported).
There are two types of NiMH :
The original off-patent formula, and
A patented formula that is controlled by an offshoot of Sanyo.
This Sanyo NiMH formula has been licensed to various other brands, so the key to recognizing it is that they have a long shelf-life for charge. This means you can buy them with a pre-existing charge which will last several months. They will also withstand many more charge cycles and maintain near original capacity for a much longer time than the off-brand versions mentioned above.
Purchasing and Extra Information
When ordering Sanyo branded products, it is recommended to ask for custom packs using Sanyo Eneloop cells. They are readily available using AA and AAA size cells for a wide range of voltages. One cell is 1.2V, so 10 cells in a pack gives you a 12V battery. This link is to an article written about batteries and current draw. Although not exhaustive, it is a good place to start. A trusted retailer is www.batteryspace.com
Batteries & Their Life Span!
Many batteries are probably ruined by sitting unused for 18 months … Hello! Pandemic!
If they’re lead-acid, just throw them out, don’t even bother trying to recover them.
If they’re NiMH, charge/drain cycle them 3 times. If life remains short, replace them. If LiIon and they take a very long time to charge, monitor for excess heat, and be prepared to dispose of them by taking them to a hazardous waste facility. LiIon are particularly hard to understand, because they can become unstable and dangerous when they are under charged.
One more important point: if the prop or costume will be in direct contact with a person, it’s best to use safer types of batteries.
If the demand for small size forces the use of Li-ion batteries, then the prop or costume should be designed so that an overheating or misbehaving battery can be quickly and easily removed without struggle and delay.
It’s better to use high-quality NiMH batteries whenever possible, which are more stable and far less prone to catastrophic failure.
We introduced “SX” and black label designs with firmware version 4.100. This included improved performance of crossfade mode, HSL color mode, and the flicker engine. Perhaps most significantly, it introduced 19-bit dimming (previous firmware versions provided 16-bit).
We are about to release the next big firmware update, which includes many improvements to RC4 Commander and its integration with the various device types. The current version and upcoming versions of Commander include extensive online help, which is the user manual in that case.
Where These Products Originate
All LED tape and panels brands hire a select few factories in China to build their products to specification. The differences between these brands include the thickness of materials used and the quality and type of LEDs.
Thicker copper and substrate material both lead to longevity of the product.
A more subjective point is cost- LEDs are usually not as bright, and are a little bit inconsistent in color. High cost brings higher CRI (color rendering index) and much higher consistency of brightness and color.
Among the highest quality of retailers is Litegear.com. Others include AdaFruit, Chauvet, Elation, ENTTEC, Environmental Lights, GLP, TMB, and several more.
For everything else, there is a huge selection at Amazon. The brands, names, and specifications are changing all the time, but the products are fairly consistent for any given price range.
Doing Optional Modifications
You can cut most tape on marked lines, and solder the power supply/control wires to the cut segments. It’s easy to make short strips to fit wherever you need them. Make sure to buy extra so that you can practice soldering! The solder pads are very small in some cases and it takes practice to hold.
Tip: Wrapping LED tape around a cylinder to make a 360-degree light source works well inside lamp shades and other places where regular lamps are normally used.
RC4 Wireless Purchase/Rent (6 Articles)
Addresses clerical questions concerned with things like purchasing, rental, shipping methods, etc...
Choosing an RF Band
If you’ll be using this technology only in the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand then it’s best to use a 900MHz system because it avoids most interference caused by the many wireless devices in our daily lives.
If you plan to tour elsewhere in the world, like Europe, Japan, and most other places, then you’ll need to use the 2.4GHz band.
RC4 LumenDim devices use genuine LumenRadio CRMX radio technology, ensuring compatibility with LumenRadio CRMX and Wireless Solution W-DMX transmitters, as well as a wide range of compatible products from numerous manufacturers. Learn more about LumenRadio.
Looking into your size and power handling needs; some things to consider when purchasing or renting
- Size of the objects you are lighting
- How many watts need to be controlled at a time
- How much control over color do you need (referred to as color mixing)?
The more channels within your devices available to control, the more specific your color mixing will be. Our smallest 2-Dim device may be used to control one color, while our 6-Dim devices may be used to control a wider range of colors and color mixes.
Also available is our patented RC4 Custom Pixel Profiles™ string controller. This device has the ability to control each tiny light source, allowing for many different motion effects. Our RC4 Custom Pixel Profiles™ let you reduce the number of DMX channels you need, without limiting your creativity in designing the looks you want.
If the object will only be used sparingly, small batteries may be used. But if they must be up and running for long periods, then more thought must go into finding the right battery for long, reliable operation. For more details on battery choice please see this useful information on batteries.
To ensure you get the most useful accessories, it’s always best to start with a Starter Kit and add devices as you need.
The best way to buy outside of the USA is through one of our trusted partners from around the world.
For those in Canada, the easiest outlet to work through is a customs broker. If you do not have a broker we suggest using FedEx but be aware, they will collect your local sales taxes. We cannot collect and remit sales tax in Canada. This is the same tax you would be charged if you purchased from a local store. If you are registered for PST and/or GST tax exemption, you will claim it back the next time you file.
There should not be customs charges — like duty, or tariffs.
*Everything we make is USMCA compliant and made in the USA.
Already own RC4Magic gear but the director wants “MORE LIGHTS!”, renting the additional gear needed for your short production is completely possible.
Our rates are very affordable and you can experiment with dates and device types with our online system to see how everything affects the rate.
Because of administrative costs, very short periods cost more per-day than longer periods, but overall maintains cost effectiveness in the long run.
Need assistance determining what you’ll need? No worries, open a tech support ticket and ask away!
Yes! We have a great trade-in option: any old device (Pre Series 3) is worth $100 towards a new Series 3 device. The performance improvements and additional features of Series 3 devices are well worth it.
Series 3 devices can also be updated in the field using our CodeLoader Cable.
Over the years we have added numerous features at no charge including the RC4 Flkr Effects Engine™, RC4 ColorMatch™ , and control for servo motor positioning. We are enhancing our Series 3 system even today, so new features are still always possible.
Development for our older series has been discontinued.
Technical Questions (21 Articles)
Questions concerning technical abilities and functionalities of RC4 wireless products
- RC4 manufacturers devices that work with both protocols, so we have a lot of hands-on experience with running both systems at once.
In general, it’s never recommended to waste bandwidth on two wireless systems that do the same thing independently.
That said, both systems have built-in methods for avoiding each other. LumenRadio provides Adaptive channel hopping, which happens live in real-time while the system is running. When it sees the RC4Magic signal, it attempts to avoid hopping through them.
Similarly but not in real-time, the RC4Magic system scans the band on power-up to avoid channels that are in heavy use.
By default, LumenRadio uses the entire 2.4GHz band by hopping around constantly, but with the adaptive feature noted above. This makes the RC4Magic scanning option less useful. Notably differently, RC4Magic uses just 1/15 of the band for a single DMX universe, and it stays in the same area of the band, after selecting what that will be on power-up.
LumenRadio provides configuration options for their transmitters, allowing you to block the use of specific channels. RC4Magic provides the option to manually select a fixed RF channel, so that it will always reliably be in the same place. Using a combination of these two — manually configuring both the Lumen and the RC4Magic systems to avoid each other — will provide the most ideal experience.
Sorry it’s not a shorter simpler answer. :)Another option would be to disable or not use the LumenRadio wireless, and connect RC4Magic receivers into the fixtures. Our little DMXmrx receiver is designed for this purpose. We rent them at a very reasonable cost. The same idea in the other direction: we make wireless dimmers that use LumenRadio, but they are not available for rent, only purchase.
Each channel can handle 6A on it’s own, but you can’t run all 4 channels at 6A because then the total would be 24A.
The power input terminals are the bottleneck, because all power for all channels flows through those two terminals. UL rates those terminals for 16A. The manufacturer rates them for 20A, and we’ve tested them at 20A with no problems.
This means you can run all 4 channels at 5A, a total of 20A.
Or you can run any combination of loads that doesn’t exceed 20A, as long as no single dimmer output is handling more than 6A.
If the total load on the 6-channel dimmer will exceed 20A, you’ll need to use the larger device, the LumenDim6. The LumenDim6 can handle a maximum total load of 45A. For all RC4 dimmers, the voltage range is 5V – 35V. The most common voltages used in the field are 12V and 24V.
If the total load in your application is 20A or less, I recommend the much smaller LumenDimM6. The “M” means Miniature, and it’s substantially smaller than the large unit. The screw terminals on the M6 are rated to a maximum of 20A, so the bottleneck is the power input, which is a single pair of terminals.
The large unit uses 45A Anderson Powerpole connectors for the power input, and 15A connectors for the outputs, so it’s capable of handling more than double the load of the smaller M6.
- this question is relevant when comparing the 4-channel device as well. Check out this video discussing the 4-channel.
- this question is relevant when comparing across the RC4Magic 2.4GHz, Magic 900MHz, LumenDim and W-Dim product lines.
As the post-Covid world comes out of lockdown, RC4 tech support is getting swamped with calls and support tickets from new users setting up RC4 Commander software for the first time. Welcome to our RC4 family — you’re going to love RC4 Commander!
NOTE: RC4 Commander is only for use with RC4Magic, RC4Magic-900, and RC5 EASS systems. It does NOT work with LumenDim and W-DIM devices.
RC4 Commander uses a wireless dongle and acts as the primary system transmitter while you are using it. While you’re using RC4 Commander, turn off your DMXio transmitter, which is your transmitter for running your show from your DMX console.
RC4 Commander accesses remote devices — like dimmers and pixel drivers — wirelessly, letting you change configuration settings live and in real-time. RC4 Commander includes a Virtual Transmitter window to test your settings and confirm everything is the way you want it. When you are done using RC4 Commander, shut it down and go back to using your DMXio transmitter with your lighting console.
Before we help you in person, please check out the latest videos we’ve made to help you get started with RC4 Commander:
Installing RC4 Commander:
RC4 Dongles for RC4 Commander:
The RC4 Commander Set-up Wizard:
If you do not have your RC4 System ID file for use with Commander, please open a support ticket to request it. You need an ID file with your private encrypted system IDs. Nobody else has your IDs, and your computer does not know what your IDs are until RC4 Commander loads your unique file.
For additional help after working through the videos above, the fastest response will be via our tech support ticket system, which is monitored by multiple people. Open a new ticket here:
- When a screw falls out of the terminal, this means that the top opening has been reamed by an oversize screwdriver.Normally, the screws are captive and cannot be lost, because a ring of material above the screw is smaller than the screw itself.We can provide you with screws, but they can easily be lost again. The correct solution is to replace the terminal strip. And after that, use a properly sized screwdriver. RC4 screwdrivers at provided at no charge whenever we ship something to you next.Terminal replacement is not covered under warranty, but we have flat fees for it: $70USD for 2-channel devices, $85 for 4- and 6-channel devices.Let us know if you’d like to arrange for this work to be done. Of course, there are additional costs for shipping.
It is possible to replace terminals yourself, and we can send you replacements if you want to try. You MUST be careful when removing the old ones. Do NOT force them out, heat the terminals enough that they all slip out easily with very little effort. Otherwise, you will likely remove the thin copper plating inside the holes, rendering the device unusable.
The easiest and simplest devices to use are the ones with internal antennas. They have a small chip on the circuit board that efficiently picks up the signal from your wireless DMX transmitter, with no tangling dangling antenna and signal wire. If the radio signal can effectively reach the chip antenna, we recommend you use the internal antenna version of the micro dimmer.
Sometimes you need to put a micro dimmer in a location that is not easily reached by a wireless signal. You shouldn’t try to use an internal antenna if it’s inside a metal (or otherwise conductive) enclosure. In some cases, an internal antenna can end up blocked by a performer’s body, or by other nearby electronics, particularly batteries which are dense. In those cases, we recommend the external antenna version.
A couple of real world examples come up frequently:
1. A dimmer inside a flashlight. If the flashlight is a metal tube, the RF signal may not get through to an internal antenna. It’s important to plan carefully for where an external antenna would be positioned and how.
2. A sword that lights up. The dimmer is often positioned in the handle, which is often made of a non-metallic material. An internal antenna will work well for shop testing, but might have limited range when a performer is tightly holding the handle, surrounding the dimmer and antenna with their hand. An external antenna is sometimes preferred but is not always needed.
When we provide an external antenna dimmer, we include this small adhesive antenna with it:
There are many other options on the market as well. Our favorite supplier for these things is Digikey — here’s a link to a search list.
*** NOTE: We have NOT tested every item in this list. Some items may NOT be suitable. Be sure to read the specifications and test carefully. It must be a 2.4GHz antenna with a u.fl connector. ***
Please let us know if the link is broken, we have no control over the Digikey server.
Unfortunately, the 2.4GHz band does not work in water because it is the same frequency that is used in microwave ovens. They both use the resonant frequency of water molecules; water absorbs the waves and gets a little bit warmer in the process.
A couple of our users have had some success, though limited, in water using this band.
Running thin antenna cables to a float on the surface of a body of water to get the antenna above the water can possibly work (even at 2.4GHz).
*Make sure you are in a country where it is legal operate on the 900MHz band
Custom Systems For This Purpose
If there is time and budget, a custom IR system could be made, but the cost would be quite high and it would take several months for new engineering using currently available components.
Another possibility, also requiring custom design, would be ULF — ultra-low frequency control. The number of channels would be very limited and responsiveness would be noticeably sluggish, but It could certainly work within the limitations of water.
The short answer is YES!
The longer answer involves using our free RC4 Commander software found at here.
Using this tool, you can select the DMX data source for each device in your system whether on RC4 Data (wireless), or DMX In (wired miniplug port). You’ll find this option at the lower left of the main screen for the device when it is selected in RC4 Commander.
When you select DMX In, the device will respond to wired DMX but also still responds to wireless configuration data. That is, messages from RC4 Commander still work, even when the device is being used as a wired DMX device.
This is often used with the DMXpix to adjust the RC4 Custom Pixel Profiles™ parameters while creating live Keyframe data on a console connected by wire.
You will need your private ID file. If you need the file for your system, please contact us.
Yes, it’s easy!
The dimmers operate on the negative leg of the circuit. You can connect the positive side to whatever supply voltage you like, individually for each load.
See the “RC4 crazy man” video for more information using a stack of cells in parallel with different voltage taps between them. You may also use separate batteries or power supplies, with the negative sides tied together with negative power input of the dimmer, making a common power ground.
If I am using another wireless system in another application, will the two wireless products interfere?
We always advise against running two different brands of 2.4GHz wireless DMX at the same time in the same RF band.
If you must run two separate systems, we recommend using 900MHz RC4 equipment, which is far away from anything in the congested 2.4GHz band. Alternatively, if you are just using a few units from another brand, substitute additional RC4Magic rental units for guaranteed peace-of-mind and functionality.
This is why Disney, Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group, and many others use RC4 exclusively for wireless DMX. Not to mention, our prices are comparable to those of our competitors!
Although very rare, there’s a possibility that the device can lose its preprogrammed system IDs.
The RC4 Private IDentity™ file (your ID file) is used with RC4 Commander software for device configuration. That program runs on both Windows and Mac and is super useful for day to day testing and setting things up for new shows.
Dongle device or Dongle mode
RC4 Commander software is able to restore your IDs when you connect to the device using the Public ID (999). Commander needs a dongle attached to your computer, using either a dedicated dongle device, or one of your other units in dongle mode.
Connecting your device
*Please contact us and we will send a compressed folder with the ID’s included if they are unknown
- Run RC4 Commander
- Power on the device and it will see that Commander is the master device. It will put itself in receive mode and appear in the Commander device list. Select it. When you do this, you’ll see a new icon appear at the top right, it resembles a lock inside a square. -Click that and it will open a box that reprograms the IDs that belong to you, via your ID file.
*Be sure you have loaded your custom RC4 ID file so your computer knows what your IDs are.
Wire gauge is directly related to the current being drawn through the wire. If need be, you can create a small jumper of smaller gauge and step up to a larger gauge as long as you do not draw too much current through the smaller wires.
There are a variety of tools to do this including a step up/step down butt connector and quick splice terminal blocks.
You should never operate more than one transmitter on the same system ID — this will cause data collision and confusion. Split your area into separate zones operating on separate system IDs.
The important part is that your chosen servo be PWM-controlled. If this feature is not applicable to your servo it will not work. Many of our users have controlled JR brand servos without a problem and MacGregor claims to have PWM compatible models as well. Please check the technical specifications/contact the manufacturer before buying.
Our newer RC4Magic Series 3 products are 100% compatible with your Series 2 system, offer many more features including smoother dimming and longer battery life.
When ordering through our online store be sure to select “add to an existing system” and enter your system IDs. We will program them to work with what you have.
We offer the same trade up for Series 1 which we ADVISE GREATLY, however Series 1 is NOT COMPATIBLE with the current series so you would need to replace all of your units. Most problems with Series 1 can no longer be repaired due to old components that are no longer available.
Yes, it works that way by default.
When any RC4Magic receiver/dimmer is receiving wireless DMX, the full DMX universe is output on the miniplug. Thus, all devices are a complete wireless DMX receiver, *plus* whatever dimmer features it may have.
If the device is not receiving wireless DMX, the miniplug automatically reverts to being an input, and any wired source of DMX data can be connected to it.
There is a parameter you can access with our configuration software, RC4 Commander, that allows you to force the dimmer to either respond to wireless or wired DMX. If you set it to use wired DMX, it will still respond to configuration data wirelessly, but the dimmers will respond to the wired DMX channel levels. This is particularly handy when configuring a DMXpix pixel driver, to find the optimal settings for RC4 Custom Pixel Profile parameters.
The most likely cause is that the transmitter and receive are not set to the same system IDs. Start by confirming that all devices are part of the same system, with the same ID codes marked on the labels for everything you’re using together. RC4 Private System IDentities are the key to our industry-leading data security.
Are you using other devices in the show that are working? If so, that would confirm that the transmitter itself is working.
Start by restoring defaults on the receiver that is not connecting. This will put it back to system ID0, the default, and set the DMX channels to 1, 2, 3, and 4. Here is the quick-start guide for the DMX4dim, see page 6:
And here’s a video of the process:
If you are not using other devices that are already working, or if none of your receivers are working, you should also restore the DMXio transmitter to factory defaults. Here is a video of that process:
RC4 Commander is NOT compatible with RC4 LumenDim or W-DIM systems. For configuration of LumenDim devices, use RDM (remote device management).
RC4 Commander supports RC4Magic S2 and S3, RC4Magic-900 and RC5 EASS systems.
You can read the IDs in any device by selecting the Public ID (ID3, 999) on the device and in RC4 Commander. Public always works, for all devices ever made.
And/or Try restoring factory defaults, which selects the default ID0.
The most common cause of restarts is batteries that are underrated for the load. Under this scenario, you get into a situation where a weak battery can start the low-power device electronics, but when the dimmer turns on the battery can’t keep up and the voltage is pulled down too low to run the electronics. At that point the dimmer is turned off, and then the electronics can turn back on from the weak battery. It becomes a cycle. As the battery gets weaker, the cycle gets shorter and shorter.
When a channel is stuck on immediately upon applying power, that means the power driver components have failed dead-short. There is protection circuitry in the dimmer, including temperature protection, but prolonged or repeated connection to loads much higher than they are rated for will cause this failure.
Another cause can be wiring that is dead-shorting somewhere. We see many cases where wires are stripped back far beyond where they enter the terminals, and then the bare copper ends up twisted around and shorted.
We can repair the devices, but we must also ensure that (a) the loads are within the limits of the devices, and (b) wiring is neat and tidy.
Intermittent restarts will occur at the same time a dead-short occurs. This is because the power supply itself is shorted out, so the entire thing is without power for some short period and then must restart when the power recovers.
Is there a way to configure a Series 3 device using the RC4 Codeloader Cable while it is wired to something?
Our configuration software only accesses devices via wireless, but you do have other options. (By the way, you can control a device using wired DMX from the miniplug while also configuring it wirelessly. This is particularly handy when experimenting with Custom Pixel Profile settings in our DMXpix pixel driver.)
The wired miniplug connection does work for RDM configuration. If you have a DMXter or a DMXcat, you can plug into the miniplug port to set dimmer channels, curves, PWM frequency, and RC4 Digital Persistence time. RDM does not give you access to advanced features for which there are no standard RDM codes (PIDs).
If you only need to set dimmer channels and curves, you can plug any DMX data source into the miniplug and use RC4 OneTouch. In that case, the dimmer is responding to wired DMX just as it does for wireless data. Bring up a single channel you want to assign, and tap the Set button for the dimmer you want to use with it. The level of the channel determines the dimmer curve. For LEDs, use a level of 30%. If you’re using incandescent or halogen, like an MR16, use 70%.
To adapt regular 5-pin XLR devices, like the DMXter, DMXcat, or any lighting controller, we have XLR->miniplug adaptors available, or you can make your own.
There is lots more information, including tutorial videos, Quick Start Guides, and adaptor pin-outs, located in our knowledge base.
RC4 Commander software does not work with LumenDim or W-DIM products, which do not use RC4Magic radios. Commander works only with RC4Magic, RC4Magic-900, and RC5 EASS, all of which are RC4 Wireless proprietary technologies.
Our RC4 LumenDim devices, based on genuine CRMX RF from LumenRadio in Sweden, are configurable using the built-in buttons, or RDM (Remote Device Management). If you are using a LumenRadio RDM-capable transmitter, then you can use their award-winning SuperNova software for wireless configuration. Super Nova is a free download from the Lumen Radio website.
At the time of this writing, LumenRadio has not released wireless RDM transmitter functionality to OEM developers. Thus, our LumenDimIO cannot be used with SuperNova, and neither can any other 3rd-party CRMX transmitters. Only LumenRadio branded transmitters will work for wireless RDM.
You can always connect an RDM controller to any RC4 Series 3 dimmer (anything made since 2014) by wire, using the RC4 miniplug port. With a simple low-cost adaptor (which is included with our starter kits), any DMX/RDM controller can be used this way. Very good, full featured RDM controllers include the DMXcat by City Theatrical, and the DMXter4-RDM by Goddard Designs.
Not all RDM controllers are alike. It is important that the controller you choose supports RDM Subdevices, and extended PID (RDM Parameter Identifiers) for dimmer control. There are quite a few simple RDM controllers that do not support these advanced features. Ask the manufacturer or your supplier to be sure. This is very important!
Not sure about the nomenclature of all our products and concepts? Please have a look at the glossary, it will make you feel better!