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Controling Dimmers with Ethernet?

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by cupcakehitman, Mar 25, 2009.

  1. cupcakehitman

    cupcakehitman Member

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    Hey everyone

    The operations manager at the college I'm planning on transferring to told me that they don't use DMX to control their dimmers. So I'm assuming he means that they control them via ethernet. If I'm correct, my question to you all is what is the difference in addressing/controlling with ethernet as opposed to DMX? How does it work, etc.

    If I'm wrong, then what are they controlling with?

    Also, he said that if they do need to run DMX to a mover, or scroller they would "pull if off the network." I have no idea what that means, so if anyone can help with that as well, that would be great!

    Thanks!
     
  2. TimMiller

    TimMiller Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like they are running their dimmers off of eithernet. You can network some dimmer racks just like a computer and control them. I worked at a theater in which there was absolutely no DMX ran in the building. It was all off of the lighting network. They were using an expression III with emphasis, and several sensor racks. They had a closet full of nodes that converts the eithernet from the light network, to dmx, or you could convert dmx to eithernet. They had about 60 ports scattered throughout the theater, and all of the network switching was done by a rack full of cisco switches. It was a very impressive setup.

    Much better than the college i was looking at transfering to which still uses the status cue to control their lighting
     
  3. Jeroen

    Jeroen Member

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    Ethernet has advantages in large setups, it uses a star topology and therefor easily allows several controldesks and mediaservers to be in the same network together with your dimmers, without compromising stability. Such a setup also makes it easy to control your rig from different places (like on stage from a Remote Control Unit, even a wireless PDA) and have instant backup solutions.

    Ethernet is quickly becoming implemented, however dmx remains a very important protocol for all existing equipment. Therefor several dmx nodes (dmx to ethernet or viceversa) exist. You can even use dmx nodes in your trusses, so you can install ethernet wiring and connect all nodes together using ethernet and then from there go with dmx.

    Several ethernet protocols exist: Avab, ART-net, MA-net, ETCnet-2, Net3/ACN...

    An example of a rack node
    Lighting solutions for Theatre, Film & Television Studios and Architectural spaces : ETC

    And two port nodes
    MA Lighting: Network / MIDI Converter[parent_gruppe]=223&tx_lightpowerpdb_pi1[produkt_id]=2328&cHash=a5b24e8b3d
    Lighting solutions for Theatre, Film & Television Studios and Architectural spaces : ETC

    Mostly for ethernet in the touring/theatre world, Ethercon is used. The Ethercon connectors are more robust then the simple RJ45 connectors, the same goes for PowerCon or Speakon...
     
  4. KeeperoftheKeys

    KeeperoftheKeys Member

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    To the best of my knowledge it is not recommended to run CAT5/6 cables in a truss, as they don't handle abuse nearly as good as DMX cables....
     
  5. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    There are robust Cat5 cables available, every bit as rugged as Belden DMX cable and that's different then the stuff running thru conduits. You will see lot's more of this and Ethercons down the road as ACN gets going.

    Steve B.
     
  6. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Chances are the venue is running an ETC system and running ETCNet2 (or Net3 if they run Eos). (Could also be Strand with ShowNet, or MA lighting, or Hog, all have network protocols) ETC calls the network connection from console to dimmers EDMX. Using one of these network protocols is very efficient as you can send multiple universes worth of data down one network cable. To get real DMX out you connect a DMX Gateway Node somewhere on the network. Most of these nodes are configurable such that it can output any universe from any port on the node.

    Networking like this also provides bi-directional communication. In the next release of the gateway software for ETCNet3 they will fully support RDM so that the console can talk to devices and the devices will be able to talk back. Currently though, ETC dimmers can be configured and give feedback to the console.

    With the full implementation of protocols like RDM and ACN on the horizon, it is becoming much more common to network devices as opposed to running hardline DMX. Though ACN is probably a long way off, it is much better and more cost effective to lay the infrastructure now.
     
  7. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    Belden Mil Spec.
    They run it over with an M1 Abrams tank in the ads.
    [​IMG]
     
  8. cupcakehitman

    cupcakehitman Member

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    Wow, everyone thanks! This really clears everything up!

    icewolf, they use Strand boards and Strand CD80 SV dimmers.

    Now, would you plug a CAT-5 directly into a compatible dimmer (like the Strand CD80, for example?) Or go board>ethernet>node>dimmer?

    Thanks again!

    (ps - sorry, I'm really new to lighting. I've only been learning about it for about 2 months.)
     
  9. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    I am not sure if the CD80SV racks are capable of a direct ShowNet input, but it is possible. If they don't take ShowNet directly then they probably run ShowNet to an SN103 DMX node and then go DMX to the racks.
     
  10. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    Sorry for being new to lighting? That's a good thing. We need more new blood in the industry.

    I've been learning lighting for close to 20 years and this thread has been very educational and informative for me as I've never worked with an ethernet driven lighting system.

    So keep on asking those questions. You're not just helping yourself. You're also helping some of us long term inmates in the theatre asylum who've fallen behind the technology.:mrgreen:
     
  11. TimMiller

    TimMiller Well-Known Member

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    There is not a way to network directly to the CD-80, but with an eithernet node, you can put it on the network so i'm sure thats what they did.
     
  12. Jeroen

    Jeroen Member

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    That's the reason I mentioned Ethercon... indeed when using ethernet in touring applications or in trusses as a way of light data distribution, it's a very good practice to use Ethercon connectors and rugged ethernet cable other than simple UTP or FTP cable... And it's definitly Ethernet (and not Eithernet).
    It's also recommended to use quality switches (Cisco, eXtreme, proprietary hardware from MA or ETC,...) and other network equipment able to handle high data troughput. If you do not tie data and power together interferention problems are less common.
     
  13. Franklights

    Franklights Member

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    great info - thanks!
     
  14. JenniferWilson

    JenniferWilson Member

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    Just wanted to pop in to quickly mention Wybron's Ethernet-friendly Net IT node/gateway. It speaks DMX, RDM, ACN and ArtNet.

    OK, advertisement over, carry on :)
     
  15. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Being aware that there are ACN compliant devices available is one thing, but right now it seems to be mostly on the control end of things and on the very expensive end of things. It seems, at least to me, that we are at least a few years out from seeing full scale ACN deployments. Sure, Eos, Ion, Element, Light Palette, and Palette consoles speak E1.31, but there are very few devices that listen. It is going to take some time before you can plug your moving lights into a Cat5 cable and have them tell your console "Hey I am here!" People are still going to be running good old DMX from network nodes for a while.
     
  16. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    I would be shocked if the lighting world moves in any other direction other then Ethernet. Not only is it a tried and true format, it works at screaming speeds. Lets face it, on DMX we crawl at data rates way under a meg, while cat5e screams at 1ghz. It is the equivalent of over 2000 DMX universes in one wire. The best part is, if you are on the road and have a major switch or router failure, you can probably get up and running with a trip to your local Staples store!

    The problem up to now has been a lack of durable wiring components, but as you can see, this is changing. The only pitfall I can see is if manufactures start coming out with protocols that preclude the use of standard protocol Ethernet devices in an effort to sell proprietary systems.

    I do not however advocate mixing systems by integrating lighting and staging (motion control) with existing computer networks or the internet.
     
  17. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    One HUGE issue as yet not dealt with, as we someday change over to ACN and away from daisy chained DMX, is the requirement for star topology Ethernet distribution. How do you get separate Cat5 runs to a half dozen ML's on a truss and 12 Pars with scrollers and a PS, plus lot's of deck mounted LED fixtures, etc... with everything requiring some sort of home run to a switch OR a distribution point.

    I expect there will be a number of companies, LEX Products, Fleenor, Pathway, among others, starting to specialize in the manufacture of robust Ethernet/Ethercon type connectors, heavier cable, truss/pipe mounted boxes for 3Com Intelliswitches, etc... Or possibly a mix/match of daisy chained RDM on XLR 5pin connectors to a point where it converts to ACN.

    Big changes coming our way, as big as the switch to DMX was 20 years ago.

    Steve B.
     
  18. jmabray

    jmabray Active Member

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    Not necessarily true. Sensor+ 3.0 code was just released. If you are running a sensor rack and upgrade to this, you get ACN functionality at your dimmer rack. Any installation of a Sensor+ rack has some sort of rudimentary network installed with it. You ought to be able to plug in your ION into that rack and speak directly to it via ACN...

    Not only is it coming, but it is here. It may be coming slower than we like, but it is rapidly approaching....
     
  19. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    Easy. Each device can serve as it's own hub with one or two (or more) outputs. That gives you the best of both worlds. You can daisy-chain AND jump out to star for accessories.
     
  20. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    This is probably the case, as TimMiller said above. Sometimes it's board>node>ethernet>node>dimmer.
     

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