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Control/Dimming computer control

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by itie, Apr 3, 2009.

  1. itie

    itie Active Member

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    hay i was want to control the lights and sound from back stage for the next play we do at my school. we do a dinner theatre and the audience sits onstage to eat and watch the play. well i think its stupid to try and run tech 200 feet away with no mic or way to here them unless i set them up. running sound from back stage i can does easily but i was wonder what the best way to do lights is. we have a innovator 48/96 board. i was thinking something along the lines of running it off a computer this way we really wouldn't need to buy anything. me and my friend notice that it had a ethernet port in the back which gave us the idea that the board could be ran off a computer or networked some way. so really what i'm trying to ask is what would be the best way to run the light from back stage and if i can run it off a computer what would be some good software to use.

    thank you
    giovanni
     
  2. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    I believe, if memory serves, you have a Colortran console? The network jack on it is used for Colortran's networking protocol, so you probably cannot just talk to it with a computer.

    Probably the easiest solution is to buy or rent a long enough length of DMX cable to either run from the booth to the stage or from the dimmers to where you want to run the console, whichever is shorter.
     
  3. awhaley

    awhaley Member

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    According to the spec sheet the innovator indeed talks Colornet protocol over the ethernet, so getting a laptop to talk to it will be difficult.

    You might be able to run the dmx back to the booth via a sound snake. If your theatre has mic jacks on the stage walls or floor that connect to cables that pop out of the booth, you may be able to (probably via 3 pin to 5 pin xlr adapters) send the signal up one of these. Make certain that it's disconnected from sound equipment on both ends before connecting it to any lighting equipment. Audio cable is NOT designed to carry high speed data, so there's some chance that it won't work, or won't work reliably... but given the length of cable we're probably talking, that it's a school production and that there aren't that many devices on the line... I'd give it a try. After that, I'd try renting or buying a long dmx cable so you could put the lightboard backstage and then run the cable from the lightboard all the way back to the booth and plug it into the booth wall where the lightboard normally plugs in. Once you've got a dmx line.. .either through a sound snake or a dedicated dmx cable, you can run it all off a laptop if you want, assuming you've got a dmx interface for the computer... but you may be happier if you just drag the lightboard backstage, since you're already familiar with the controls and it's probably already patched and set up.

    All of that said... I've certainly had the lightboard operator a long ways away before... as long as the stage manager is back stage and can tell what's going on.. .the lightboard operator can really just do what they're told....

    Art
     
  4. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    I would stay away from running DMX down the audio snake. There are just too many issues there. I have done it, but still not the best idea. Go buy 300' of Cat5 cable and two 5 pin XLR connectors, all that should run you around 50 bucks. Odds are if you find your schools IT guy, they can spare you a hundred feet or two. Solder that up, and you should be set.
     
  5. NickJones

    NickJones Active Member

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    Hi Itie,
    There is a post here in regards to using the Colornet, in short, it can't be used to remotley control your desk, there is however a Remote Focus Remote but at that price, you would be better to get a lot of DMX and run it from the ControlBooth or (if closer & easier) the dimmer room, hope this helped,
    Nick
     
  6. itie

    itie Active Member

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    thank you guys thats all possible ideas i like the sound cord ones because we do have the ports but i dont im going to bank on doing it that way. would using cat5 cable be good for running the light board off of. because i have the cable. and if the school wont let me move the light board can any tell me a good computer program to run a light show off of. i would light to do cues but im perfectly fine running it off submaster.
     
  7. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    If you go the cat5 route, there is a correct way to wire the XLR-5 connectors on it. Someone also sells an RJ-45 to XLR-5 adapter so that you don't have to do any soldering. I am sure that there are links somewhere on CB, I just haven't searched them yet. There are also many threads about lighting software for computers. There are many routes to go, but may cost just as much (if not more) than cable and connectors to move the console.
     
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  8. awhaley

    awhaley Member

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    I certainly understand the challenge of convincing non-theatre people that it's okay to move the console around. It's an expensive piece of equipment they don't understand... and of course the risk of damage is higher (though still quite low as long as you're careful) if it gets carried around than if it just sits in the booth...

    To make sure you're clear, people are suggesting using cat-5 cable, but putting 5 pin XLR DMX-style connectors on both ends... either by soldering them on or using an RJ45 to 5pin XLR adapter. I think you probably understood this... but I just wanted to articulate it plainly in case you were thinking that because someone suggested cat-5, that you could plug it into the ethernet port on the console. (unless your dimmer system already uses the ethernet port to get from the console to the wall then back to the dimmers. In that case you DO want to use the RJ45 jacks and ethernet cable for what you're trying!)

    And I do think you said the right thing - it's worth TRYING the sound snake before buying or renting cable, but do it early and test it extensively before you count on it. But if you already have enough cat-5 cable laying around, I'd do it that way. Sound snakes are not designed to carry data long distances. They probably will work (I've done it more than once when circumstances required it), but they weren't designed for it. Cat-5 cable IS designed to carry data signals long distances and has been approved as an acceptable type of wire for DMX transmission. If you've got both ready to go, then do it the right way. If you're a poor high school program and you've got what you need to try it with the installed snake, but would have to buy stuff to do it with data cable... I'd say it's at least worth a try to see if what you have on hand will work.

    And a random note... though your dimmer rack is probably the only thing on the dmx chain, and is hopefully terminated internally... Terminators are ESPECIALLY important when running dmx down sound cables... because one of the primary reasons sound cables are inappropriate for dmx transmission is their potential for increased capacitance which can corrupt your data stream over relatively short runs of inappropriate cable, but which is partially counteracted by proper termination.

    Art Whaley
    Art Whaley Design
     
  9. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    Art

    Good advice and if nobody noticed, you're a new member and a welcome to CB, good to have more learned opinions.

    Steve Bailey
    Brooklyn College
     
  10. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    This may not be entirely accurate. It's been said on here that most audio multi-pair is in fact, computer-grade digital cable. Now if we're talking about multiple runs of 8451 in conduit, maybe not the best idea.
     
  11. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    The same question was asked about colornet by myself here.

    We looked into it further and we are 99.9% sure that there is no way that the console can be controlled via network... The network protocol controller will only let you view the display of the console... plus it is outrageously priced, if I remember correctly.
     
  12. NickJones

    NickJones Active Member

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    The only thing the Colornet is mean you can see the screen of the console from somewhere else in the venue, and a cheaper alternative to doing this and getting there Colornet-Video Node, would be just to stick a scan converter on the output of the console, run the VGA out of the scan converter into your normal monitor, and the RCA/SVid out (depending on what you bought) can be turned into XLR, and run back down to the stage, a lot cheaper, and simpler.

    As for the computer controlled software, you would still need the DMX-USB adapter in the controlbooth as thats where the DMX is. Although it would be possible to use VNC (Virtual Network Computer, basicly lets you see & controll the screen of another user on the network) to controll it you would still have to run Cat5/6 or Wi-Fi, so DMX-USB and software isn't ideal either, and the price it will cost you for the DMX-USB adapter alone, not including software, would be more expensive than a DMX lead, and I suspect the DMX to Cat5 would cost you waaaay more than just buying a long enough DMX.
    All the best
    Nick
     
  13. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    There is a software program that can be run remotely on a PDA, connecting to an Innovator through a WAP. If I remember correctly, it only allows channel and level selection however, so no cues. It acts as a decent RFU however.

    My memory is sketchy because, of course, mine has been non-functional for over a year, since the Powers That Be won't fix our network. On the upside, real consoles like an ION do allow laptop control, so maybe one of these days Leviton will catch up.
     
  14. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, my solution was to just skip the Innovator all together, and just use SmartSoft with a SmartFade controlled remotely by my laptop via a wireless network. Obviously not for shows, but that too makes a decent RFU.
     
  15. TDjohn

    TDjohn Member

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    Hi,

    This is sort of part of a topic I have going -- from the POV of other concerns.

    First, computer control. As others have stated - probably not with your board in-line. BUT, cheap DMX control is out there. There are USB>DMX boxes under $100, maybe even under $50 on ebay.

    Here is one example: (I don't know this product, but ask people here and someone should have tried it.)
    LIGHTFACTORY Starter Pack

    and another for $85.

    VELLEMAN USB DMX Interface Software Lighting PC Controller DJ

    My point is maybe you can cut the control corner - as it were.

    Now, I know you have "no money." Everybody is in the same boat. None the less, the Student Council often has funds just for students' use. Ask them for some. Also, people can sell flowers (or souvenirs or tours) at the show - the flowers often net more than $100 at our shows. I think you get my point.

    Another source is the computer club - or the gathering of the geeks (meant in a good way) at your school. Notice that there is a DLL provided for writing your own control software. Hmmmmm. I think anyone with a computer to play with might know how to raise $100. Someone might even consider this approach really fun.

    Aside: We needed a sound computer. We found the biggest geek on campus and challenged him to build it. He did the research, design, etc, and then we set out to get the parts. It wasn't as hard as it sounds, and it was totally "outside of budget." It is still in service 4 years later.

    DXM cable length and the quality of the cable do matter. 200 feet or shorter to one dimmer pack is not likely to cause a problem. Going over 300-400 feet with multiple devices has cause me some issues. Furthermore, I only run spec'd DMX cable.

    I have never tried the cat5 solution, but now I want to. That is much cheaper than 5 wire insulated cable I use.

    You may have seen this:
    "The DMX512 signal is transmitted via the industry standard interface EIA485, more familiarly known as RS485. RS485 is a balanced connection. The standard wiring is a twisted-pair, shielded, low-capacitance data cable designed for RS-485 -- never use standard microphone cable. Recommended cables are Belden 8227, Belden 9156, Belden 43906 (European DMX Cable Version)."
    site:About DMX-512 lighting protocol - Pangolin Laser Systems

    I can tell you I have spent a good part of a week (time fit into an already busy tech week schedule) looking for that offending piece of equipment that was issuing a blip in our DMX line. You really don't want your DMX fixtures resetting during a touching scene - or anytime during the show, really. The moral of this story is to give yourself plenty of time to "chase the demons."

    I hope this helps.

    John
     
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