8 button programmable wall plate
I’ve been getting a few AV control system under my belt lately, and while I love completing projects on the QSC Q-Sys platform, sometimes it is a bit overkill. That’s why I recently turned to the Hall Research UI-IP8-DP for a simple Projector & HDMI Switcher control project.
On this project, I need to control two Panasonic projectors, and a Lindy 8 port HDMI Switch.
This product has eight programmable buttons, each with two backlights (red & blue). These buttons can each be programmed with macros, allowing you to send multiple TCP commands to multiple devices, switch the internal relay, and change the button backlight settings.
The UI-IP8-DP is powered via PoE (it also came supplied with a 5V plug pack if you don’t have PoE accessible). When I first connected it to a Ubiquiti Unifi Switch 8, it immediately got PoE power. It booted very quickly, and got the default Static IP 192.168.1.50.
Opening the web GUI on my laptop allowed me to login with the default username ‘admin’ and default password ‘admin’.
Immediately, I was presented with a simple interface to change the macro settings for each button.
Editing one of these buttons allows you to add any number of commands to the button.
In this screenshot, you an see I am changing internal button colours, changing a HDMI route and changing the HDMI audio.
To configure the commands themselves, you need to go to the ‘Command Settings’ screen. This screen allows you to create 99 individual command strings. These commands can be sent to your external devices.
It comes with in-built commands for the onboard light colours and inbuilt relay.
The custom commands can be given a simple name, and then the actual command data is what you send to the third-party devices.
In this screenshot you can see I am sending simple ASCII commands to the projectors, and sending HEX data to the HDMI switcher.
As with many of these sorts of devices, HEX commands can be sent in the format \xAA, where AA is the two character hex symbol. \x0d is the command to send a newline in HEX.
One downside of this product is the inability to receive commands back from devices. You can only send TCP commands, and any return data is ignored. This makes troubleshooting slightly harder, and also means you can’t update the button backlights based on the current state of a device.
In my setup, I just tracked the internal status of the projector power and HDMI selection. I don’t receive data back from any of the devices I am controlling. There isn’t even a way to see if commands are failing to be sent, TCP sockets failing, etc.
Interestingly, you can’t even send UDP commands.
These limitations aren’t entirely unexpected for a device of this class. Other products are similar.
To control the Lindy HDMI switch, I needed to send serial commands. Not a worry, I used a cheap and cheerful USR-TCP232-302, from USR IOT. This was simple enough, with the one complicating factor being the necessity to use a Null Modem serial cable. These sorts of simple TCP/Serial converters simply supply a TCP Server socket, which the UI-IP8-DP can easily send commands to.
There is a IP/Serial converter from Hall Research that can be used with this button panel, but it was just quicker and cheaper to source the USR converter.
The UI-IP8-DP has a in-built scheduler, which allows you to run once-off commands or recurring commands. These commands don’t have to be from the 8 buttons – you can setup an additional 8 virtual buttons to use with the scheduler.
One oversight here seems to be the lack of NTP for time synchronisation. The only option to set the time I could find was a manual setting via the web GUI. When I set the time in my office, unplugged it and took it to site, it lost the time and reset back to 2015 – so I wouldn’t trust it to keep time when power is lost. I’m not using the scheduler myself, so that’s not a real concern for me.
Overall, this is a solid product and well suited for this small AV control project. I can also see it being useful in small radio studios, where you need a few physical buttons to control various devices.
In Australia it can be purchased via NAS, and it can also be found on some online stores. Depending on who you talk to, it sells in the $600-800 range.
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