Control/Dimming Advice for Network Node Replacements

Joined
Jan 31, 2019
Location
Merced, CA
I'm looking to see if anyone can point me in the right direction to upgrade the lighting network in one of the high school theaters I manage. It uses almost exclusively conventional fixtures, so I'd like to install an ETC Element (or any Eos Family) board eventually to match the type of board every other theater in town has. The solution I'm looking for is to be able to run the current Strand board (ShowNet) while upgrading the network nodes, and then swap out the board for a newer one that outputs other protocols (like ACN). Anything equivalent is acceptable as well; I'm looking for a balance of long-term usability and cost.

A little background on the space:
The theater uses a lighting control network comprised of four SN104 network nodes and two Supervisor CD80 dimmer racks. The booth and FOH nodes have single Ethernet ports for connecting the board to the network. The two remaining backstage nodes have one Ethernet port and four five-pin DMX output connectors (unsure if these are different universes or same universe with multiple outputs). We also have three electric battens (single-purchase fly system), each with a single five-pin DMX output port. Currently there is a Strand 520i console that I believe has been there since the school was built in 2001. It is connected to the node in the booth.

Is it possible to just swap the two single-input nodes with something like a Pathport and be able to just take DMX out of any board to transmit as ShowNet?
I'm sure my understanding of network protocols is flawed, so please correct me if I am on the wrong track of how the nodes work. Are there any downsides or any other considerations to be made if this route is possible?

Is a protocol converter a workable solution (<any-protocol>/DMX to ShowNet)? will it potentially cause more problems down the line? I've read a good number of posts on this topic in particular and my take-away from them has been that a converter is more of a band-aid than a permanent solution. Could I, for example, output DMX on an ETC board into something like a Nexus, configure the converter to output ShowNet, then connect the converter to my existing node? If so, how might I get my hands on something like this?
Later thought: I recognized the Nexus I linked is 5-pin out and Ethernet in and I would need the opposite direction.

Hopefully that explains my situation and goals adequately enough for a response. I'm happy to elaborate on anything that isn't clear and will continue to inform myself of networking practices and concepts in the meantime.

Thank you!
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
I'm looking to see if anyone can point me in the right direction to upgrade the lighting network in one of the high school theaters I manage. It uses almost exclusively conventional fixtures, so I'd like to install an ETC Element (or any Eos Family) board eventually to match the type of board every other theater in town has. The solution I'm looking for is to be able to run the current Strand board (ShowNet) while upgrading the network nodes, and then swap out the board for a newer one that outputs other protocols (like ACN). Anything equivalent is acceptable as well; I'm looking for a balance of long-term usability and cost.

A little background on the space:
The theater uses a lighting control network comprised of four SN104 network nodes and two Supervisor CD80 dimmer racks. The booth and FOH nodes have single Ethernet ports for connecting the board to the network. The two remaining backstage nodes have one Ethernet port and four five-pin DMX output connectors (unsure if these are different universes or same universe with multiple outputs). We also have three electric battens (single-purchase fly system), each with a single five-pin DMX output port. Currently there is a Strand 520i console that I believe has been there since the school was built in 2001. It is connected to the node in the booth.

Is it possible to just swap the two single-input nodes with something like a Pathport and be able to just take DMX out of any board to transmit as ShowNet?
I'm sure my understanding of network protocols is flawed, so please correct me if I am on the wrong track of how the nodes work. Are there any downsides or any other considerations to be made if this route is possible?

Is a protocol converter a workable solution (<any-protocol>/DMX to ShowNet)? will it potentially cause more problems down the line? I've read a good number of posts on this topic in particular and my take-away from them has been that a converter is more of a band-aid than a permanent solution. Could I, for example, output DMX on an ETC board into something like a Nexus, configure the converter to output ShowNet, then connect the converter to my existing node? If so, how might I get my hands on something like this?
Later thought: I recognized the Nexus I linked is 5-pin out and Ethernet in and I would need the opposite direction.

Hopefully that explains my situation and goals adequately enough for a response. I'm happy to elaborate on anything that isn't clear and will continue to inform myself of networking practices and concepts in the meantime.

Thank you!
@Wizard of Flaws summoning @jfleenor , @Rob, @JohnHuntington and @Ron Foley for you.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

Dionysus

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 9, 2009
Location
London, Ontario, Canada
From the Strand Website:

Talk to whoever you typically deal with for installs and such and double check, but it sounds like you should be able to set your network up as sACN and just send sACN to your existing nodes from that.
I'm sure once @jfleenor and the others get back they should be able to confirm or deny this.

At the theatre I work in that had a strand console and nodes I know they replaced the nodes when they switched to ETC.
 

jfleenor

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 1, 2009
Location
California
I sent the thread to one of the smart people here, and this is what they have to say:

I can’t tell from the description if the light board is transmitting using the DMX ports(case 1), or the Ethernet port(case 2). In the world of DMX/Ethernet conversion there are products that convert DMX to Ethernet [DMX input nodes], and products that convert Ethernet to DMX [DMX output nodes].

CASE 1

If your console is talking DMX out to a DMX to Ethernet node, and that data is coming out of an Ethernet to DMX node into your dimmer rack, you should be ok to replace the console with any DMX transmitting console. In this case, the protocol happening inside the Ethernet devices may not matter. If your console must speak sACN on an Ethernet port, you could use an Ethernet to DMX node to add another converter between the light board, and that first DMX input. (the too many converters approach)


CASE 2

If your console needs to talk Ethernet out, and your dimmers need DMX in, you will need an Ethernet to DMX converter somewhere in the system. Modern consoles should probably be talking sACN on their Ethernet out (ETC Net3 uses sACN for ‘DMX’ data). If your console is talking ShowNet onto an Ethernet network, and your Ethernet to DMX nodes only listen to ShowNet, you have a problem if you want to transmit sACN out of your console and get it to your dimmers. DFD offers an Ethernet to Ethernet [E2E] protocol converter, that can change 4 universes from ShowNet to sACN, or sACN to ShowNet.


In a retrofit you will need to know what you’re planning on keeping. Typically people keep the dimmers. If you replace the Nodes with ones that support sACN (and probably some network equipment), and you replace the light board, but still want to run the ShowNet console, you could use the E2E to convert ShowNet to sACN. Or you could get an sACN console, and convert it to ShowNet using your existing network infrastructure.​
 

Rob

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 10, 2009
Location
On a river near Toronto
Is it possible to just swap the two single-input nodes with something like a Pathport and be able to just take DMX out of any board to transmit as ShowNet?
The answer is YES. Pathports can receive DMX512 and put ShowNet on the Ethernet. You do not need to buy the models with male XLR as any Pathport's ports may be configured to be either and Input port (DMX512 to Etherent) or an Output Port (Ethernet to DMX512). In fact, the output ports can listen to many sACN, Shownet and ArtNet sources simultaneously. You use Pathscape to configure the rules of who 'wins' on a slot-by-slot basis (not just 512 slots at a time).
 

Dionysus

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 9, 2009
Location
London, Ontario, Canada
From the Strand Website:



Talk to whoever you typically deal with for installs and such and double check, but it sounds like you should be able to set your network up as sACN and just send sACN to your existing nodes from that.
I'm sure once @jfleenor and the others get back they should be able to confirm or deny this.

At the theatre I work in that had a strand console and nodes I know they replaced the nodes when they switched to ETC.
So I've had a moment to dig in, you said you are using SN104s, a 520i and supervisors. I think you are going to need the dfd e2e to make this work, as after some digging around I can't see ANYTHING that says that the SN104s can do anything else other than Show Net. So lets look closer. Been A LONG TIME since I've had to deal with SN104s or the like. USED to have a 520 and a 300.

Out of the 520i are you directly running shownet to the nodes and supervisors? If so you will need to convert from DMX or sACN to ShowNet. What I had managed to look up on the Strand website is about their newer nodes.
As mentioned you can use pathports to take DMX and transmit show net, or something like the dfd e2e to take sACN to ShowNet.
 

JohnHuntington

Active Member
Joined
Nov 28, 2008
Location
Brooklyn, NY

icewolf08

CBMod
CB Mods
Joined
Jan 11, 2007
Location
Lititz, PA
While there are workarounds to piece a system together as you want to @Wizard of Flaws, it is usually far most cost effective to buy the system as a whole. If you want to go ETC, you will likely find that it is more cost effective to spec a console ad the required network nodes in a single package rather than buying a couple nodes now, then a console, then more nodes. Whatever dealer you work with can probably run the numbers for you, but that is generally the way it goes.
 
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Dan Fischer

Member
Joined
Nov 6, 2015
Location
Rochester, NY
We are doing that exact thing in our theatre. We have a Shownet system and used to have a Strand Pallet VL connected to it but we complained enough that they bought us a shiny new ETC Ion XE to replace it. We are using one node in the booth as an input node and using both universe outputs on the output nodes around the space to give us 1024. It was a little bit of work to get it going but has been working solid the last 2 years.