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Controlling an Ion from a laptop

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by rochem, Nov 27, 2008.

  1. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

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    A local school in my area just got a new Ion this year, which is a huge step up from the two-scene preset board they've been using. I spent a lot of time over there helping them to learn the board, and was asked something that I wasn't sure of. Their "booth" isn't much of a booth at all, it's actually just a door that swings open from a second story hallway that runs along the front wall of the theatre (so where a normal booth would be, except it's just an opening into a hallway). Because of this, there is a relatively small shelf where they put the board, and unfortunately the board is too large to allow the door to close. During tech week, they just boarded it up during the school day, but since it's a fire door they need to get the board out of storage and set it all up every time they need to use it, and put it all back away when they're finished.

    Is there a way to run the Ion console from a laptop instead of using the whole board? They also got ETCNet installed so they have data ports all over the theatre. Would they be able to plug a laptop into one of these ports and use the offline software to control the dimmers? It seems feasible, since to use the board you simply need to run the cable from the wall port to the board, so why wouldn't a laptop work as well? Obviously this is not a good idea for large shows, but for rehearsals of smaller things, such as band and chorus concert rehearsals, this would be a huge time saver.

    Wow that went on a lot longer than I thought it would. Ideas, anyone?
     
  2. willbb123

    willbb123 Active Member

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    Im pretty sure the answer is no. The Offline editor is well.. used to edit the show files off line away from the desk. I use the Expression offline editor alot at home when I want to make major changes and dont want to be sitting at the theater.
     
  3. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Have to wait for an answer from one of the ETC people to know for sure. However, with the new generation of Strand consoles the answer is yes. I can actually run cues wirelessly from my laptop in the parking lot. Since both systems are similar in a a lot of other ways I would be hopeful that it's possible. If not it's definitely something for them to think about for future software upgrades.
     
  4. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

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    That's where I got the idea. I had heard that the new Strand consoles would literally allow you to run a show from the local McDonalds or something, so I reasoned that ETC might not be too far behind.
     
  5. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Are you asking if it's possible to:
    a) use a laptop on the network in addition to the Ion?, (see this post) or
    b) use a laptop on the network instead of the Ion?, or
    c) do something else entirely?
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2008
  6. TheDonkey

    TheDonkey Active Member

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    He wants to use the laptop to control the Ion so he doesn't have to take it out from under some large, heavy locking area.

    So during rehearsals, instead of having to lift the whole board out and mvoe it the working space, he can just turn it on, connect with a laptop and control it liek that. Then lift it out for actual performances.
     
  7. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    The Ion isn't that much bigger then a laptop, so I'd skip the laptop as client process and just move the Ion around, with a secure storage after use.

    FWIW, Eos/Ion Off-Line can serve as a remote via a laptop and a client dongle. If you got one with the purchase. Without the dongle, no remote, but you can search the manual and ETC website for the particulars.

    SB
     
  8. sk8rsdad

    sk8rsdad Well-Known Member Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    If you have the client dongle, which you get by registering your shiny new console with ETC, then you can control the Ion from a laptop.

    We use a tablet PC as our RFU. With an X-Keys keypad and it's passable as a remote desk. Some of the virtual controls, virtual encoders in particular, are friendlier on the client console.

    There are some issues with ACN over wireless but it can be made to work. YMMV.
     
  9. jmabray

    jmabray Active Member

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    The definite answer is yes, the a laptop could log on to the ION, with client software and dongle installed, and control the rig.

    You can set the laptop up as the same user as the desk itself, or actually set them up as different users so that one may be doing something different from the other. If they have fader wings, they actually can plug the fader wing in to the laptop and have it control lighting levels as well as the actual laptop. However, the ION does have to be on and controlling the system for this to work - meaning you cant actually get Net2/3 or DMX levels out of the laptop by itself. It is only logging on to the desk. The desk is still doing the processing and controlling and storage of the show file, etc.

    You do need a Client Dongle plugged into the laptop to make this work though. At the current time, if you register your desk with ETC, they will send you one for free. They ask for this information only so that they can send you notifications when software updates are available for you desk and the like - they don't sell that information to anyone else - nor do they themselves spam you with anything. It's a 500 dollar value that they are giving away so that you are motivated to keep your desk's software current.

    Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks!
     
  10. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    Does the Ion support this wirelessly, or do you need a network connection?
     
  11. sk8rsdad

    sk8rsdad Well-Known Member Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    Ion does not have a wireless router integrated into their console, if that's what you're asking.

    Ion consoles can be connected to a wireless router, or any ethernet network that incorporates a wireless router. ETC still has some work to do to make their communication protocol more robust in the wireless world.

    My experience is that once our tablet PC has successfully synchronized the show, communication is reliable, but getting through the synchronization phase is hit-or-miss.
     
  12. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    From the post referenced above:
    Sorry, I just felt it needed to be repeated: Wireless (from any manufacturer) is NOT APPROPRIATE for a show critical situation.
     
  13. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

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    Wow thanks for all the replies! So let me see if I got this straight. Right now, to set up their Ion (with 2x20 fader wing and 2 monitors) they have to pull it out of storage, but the only thing they need to do to get it working is run an ethernet cable from the nearby ETCNet wall port. So, as soon as they register the Ion, ETC will send them the dongle for free, and then he would be able to run the ethernet cable from the wall into a laptop and, using the dongle, control all functions of the board. Am I right?

    Obviously this is only for rehearsals or very small shows, but with just one guy getting everything out of storage, by the time you lug all of it the considerable distance up to the booth, secure everything and plug it all in, there's about 20-25 minutes gone. Slightly less if there's another person, but it's still a long time. And there is no intention of doing this wirelessly, it would be plugged into the ethernet wall port.
     
  14. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    If I'm reading this right you need to have the Ion plugged into the network and turned on for the remote laptop to work. However where it's located at doesn't matter, so get a long ethernet cable and leave it stored in it's closet. With my Strand system you actually see a log in screen where you tell the laptop which IP address on the network to log into to access the main console. Sounds like he's talking about the same thing.


    Follow up question: With the Strand setup the magic USB dongle is always located inside the main console acting as the "key" to the system. If I open up the console and remove the dongle and plug it into another computer (either hardwired or wirelessly on the network) then that other computer becomes the "heart" of the lighting system. I can turn off the console and the other computer can run the whole system on it's own as long as it has the Dongle. Does ETC's system work like that or is the dongle there to allow access to log onto the Ion?
     
  15. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    It sounds to me like you're still missing a key component. Q: Where does the Ion's Ethernet cable plug in?*

    *A: To an (ETC-approved) Ethernet switch. The laptop with the client-dongle, must still log-on to the Ion which must be, somewhere, on the ETCnet3 network.

    ETC folks: Where's that illustrative/informative riser diagram when one needs it?

    Seems as though Strand and ETC have two different approaches. Strand's dongle is acting as a computer->StrandNet gateway. ETC's dongle is to prevent unauthorized use of the ETCnet. Not saying one is more valid than the other.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2008
  16. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    Well..... No, you cannot 'easily" control ALL functions from the laptop.

    Obviously, the laptop uses keyboard shortcuts and a mouse/trackpad to access console functions. It cannot access every console function nor is a laptop as ergonomic and easy to use as the actual console. and there's the rub. Is the user going to use the Laptop as Ion as a basic "Channel 1 thru 5 @ Full, Record Q 1, Time 5" memory console. Or will there be other requirements and or uses that the laptop is not going to do well or at all ?, like can you save to the HD from the laptop ?.

    As a practical matter and not caring about whether it will, or how to configure the laptop as a client, I would simply just setup and run the Ion instead of bothering with the laptop. Remember that an Ion is 18" x 18", so it's not a whole lot bigger then a laptop and gives you all the function of the console, instead of having to discover what functions the laptop won't do.

    This, mind you from a user of an Emphasis system that allows a laptop to function as a console remote, thus I have some experience with it, and echoing Derek's cautionary post - do not run a show this way !.

    Steve B.
     
  17. jmabray

    jmabray Active Member

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    A few notes here:

    1) YES, you absolutely have to have the ION plugged in and turned on and hooked up to the network. The Laptop does not directly control anything but the console. The console then controls the rig.

    2) Derek, Steve and others are right. This really isn't the best way to control the console. Can you get to the functions of the desk? Yes, but it's through keyboard shortcuts and mouse clicks - not at all the most effective user interface - especially when compared to the cosole itself. Whatever time you may save in setting up the laptop vs the desk, you would eventually lose over the course of programming the show.

    As for the ETC consoles having an internal dongle like the Strand desks - I am going to leave that one up to those who know more than I do about it.
     
  18. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    Just as a thought for the original post - has the school considered using a portable road case, and setting up a couple of tables in the auditorium? My booth has horrible acoustics and visual problems, so typically the only time it gets used is when we have a rental. I run my shows from a couple of tables to the side of the room. My program has a separate audio console (don't typically need much for just live theater) and lighting console in nice road cases. Pull them out of storage, set them on the table, and fire them up. You don't need the road case, I just like the added protection and convenience.
     
  19. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

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    It's not the size of the Ion that's the concern. The place where the board goes is big enough to hold it without a doubt. However, as I said before, it's located at the back of the auditorium, and the "booth" is really just a door that swings in from the hallway. While the board can fit, the door cannot be opened or closed while the monitors and board are set up. And since this mounting area is on a ledge, the monitors need to be screwed into the platform to ensure that they won't fall. Since the door must remain closed whenever it's not being used (it's a fire door), the monitors and board need to be removed from the space every time they finish using them for the day. During tech week, they just screwed a large piece of wood over the opening to prevent students from messing with it, but obviously wood does not work too well for a fire door, so that's not an option for other than tech week.

    In case I didn't mention, this is a local high school auditorium, and as such they are frequently rented out by outside groups to use the space, as well as band and chorus concerts and such. All of these groups have at least one rehearsal, and most will use one main lighting look and rarely, if ever, vary from that throughout the show. So for example, say the band has a concert in the theatre tomorrow and their rehearsal is tonight. It really isn't a good use of time for the lighting person to spend 30 minutes setting up the board, only to activate one cue and then sit there for the rest of the night. In this case, it would seem much easier to just plug in a laptop and do this. Since there's no programming going on or anything and no cue changes even, it could definitely be done.

    Obviously during a performance, or in rehearsals for a more involved show, the board would be used. The main question was to cut down on setup time during these rehearsals. On average, I'd say they have at least one of these type of rehearsals per week (lots of groups use this theatre). If you could cut a whole hour of work off of those (30 min to set up, 30 to tear down) then I would definitely think that that would be worth it. But for shows and such, the actual board would obviously be used.

    Having said all that, I didn't realize the board would still need to be plugged in. That's slightly more annoying. Since it's a high school auditorium, it needs to be kept in a safe place free from any people who might pass through, which unfortunately is a good distance away in a closet. However, the road case idea might be worth looking into.

    Thanks for all the replies, I'll pass along the information.
     
  20. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    :shock: Hold on Rochem... the schools policy is "We only block the fire exit when people are INSIDE the theater!?!?" In the tradition of the Iriquois theater do they lock people in the balcony to prevent them from sneaking into the better seats too? :naughty:

    You know that's not only a terrible violation of fire regulations it's the kind of thing that gets lots of people killed in emergencies. Has this procedure been approved by the local Fire Marshal? First of all, I would hate to see a bunch of people get killed in a fire. Secondly, I would hate to see the fire marshal show up for an inspection shortly before a show and shut the place down. Or what if any fire fighter in town comes to any show, sees the emergency exit blocked and reports it. If I came to a show at that theater I would think, "If this place blocks a fire exit during shows, what other dangerous things are they doing that I can't see? I want my money back, I'm getting out of here immediately, and I'm calling the fire Marshal in the morning."

    You should talk with the people at the school about a safe solution to this situation immediately. Pull out a few seats in the back of the theater. Build a nice sturdy cabinet bolted to the floor with a top that flips open and run lights from there. Maybe put it up on a platform to isolate it a bit. Or you could set up the console backstage and set up a camera in the house and let the technician work with a monitor. Unless the Fire Marshall has seen and approved what they are doing (which I seriously doubt) the current situation is NOT acceptable and should be stopped immediately. It only takes one little tiny spark...
     

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