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DMX Control form a laptop?

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by LX-88, Oct 16, 2005.

  1. LX-88

    LX-88 Active Member

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    I have an Apple laptop that I want to use as a lighting board. I want to run shows from the laptop with cues programmed just like I would on a standard board.

    Is this my only option for an Apple computer to DMX interface?
    http://www.lanbox.com/

    Have you tried it? Did you like it? Are there any other alternatives except buying a dedicated light board?
     
  2. hollinj

    hollinj Member

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    Look at Rosco's Horizon I dont know if it supports Macs, but we use it on a dell laptop. Its not great, but it works....
     
  3. Danny

    Danny Member

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  4. SketchyCroftPpl

    SketchyCroftPpl Active Member

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    Take a look back in the posts there are a few topics about this which you should look at. I believe you would also need a USB dongle which is for going from USB --> DMX. Its not as much as a new light board but its prob around $1000 bucks ... or at least it was when I was reading stuff about this a good while ago. Other than that you still need to buy the software with all the licences and everything which may be another few hundred. Consider also the fact that its a really cool thing to do, but if people get out of practice of using the board what will they do when you graduate? And then you're the only one who can control the show and do everything for it which I find its also better and you get better ideas and material if you have a few people able to build it and run it.

    ~Nick
     
  5. moojoe

    moojoe Active Member

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  6. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    There's a lot of PC DMX control, but I believe you have the only one for Apple. As for the PC control systems, they way it's typically done is to sell you the dongle and give you the software free. Most of them, Martin, High End, Elation, Sunlite, Axis, have a link somewhere to download the software, but again, it can only be used on PC. One Martin user I believe has figured out a way to use it on his Apple with Windows, but it took him awhile.
     
  7. tbeck

    tbeck Member

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    you can get an app that will run windows inside mac os... its roughly 500 bucks though... then you will need smoe sort of usb > dmx interface, such as hogIIpc from high end... software is free but the widget (usb>dmx interface) is roughly $1800.. its pricey, i know ive looked into it... but i would recommend a traditional board or a pc.. mac might be too expencive unless you have a large gudget... then i would just spring for a ETC board then


    there are pros and cons of everything

    High end recommends you get their whole system to take advatage of all the features. and in the long run if you dont have intelligent lighting then go for a traditional lighting console

    thats just my two cents though (i know i was rambling)

    if you need any mopre info email me [email protected]
     
  8. jfitzpat

    jfitzpat Member

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    Unfortunately, it is usually not quite as simple as just running one of the Windows emulators. The Windows Driver Model and USB stack is not really emulated.

    Early this year I wrote a a driver and hook to get our system running under an emulator. With the Mac offerings so slim it was tempting to release but we finally decided not to. Bottom line, running under an emulator was a little quirky and it broke our 'rule of 4'. Basically, we've been trying to stick with two basic principles with all our products. They have to be rock solid and they either have to offer 4 times the capacity or be 1/4 the price. Sort of a variation on the old 'twice the features at half the price' philosophy.

    The emulator broke both these. It wasn't seriously unstable, but it was possible to crash it. And, once you add $500-$600 for emulation software even our entry level dongle (1 DMX In, 1 DMX Out, SMPTE in, SMPTE out), at $300 street price, starts pushing into the Light Jockey and Hog PC 1 DMX out pricing. When you factor in needing a more powerful Mac computer because you are emulating another processor and OS and the gap vanishes. Sure, we think we have more powerful software, but what vendor doesn't? Price is tangible and stability and reliability are testable.

    The 'whole system' recommendation from Flying Pig is very understandable. Remember that Hog PC isn't really a software product designed from the ground up to control lighting from a PC. It is an emulation of a popular console. Pictures of knobs, buttons, and faders, is great for emulation. It let's users already familiar with the 'real' item get right to work. But it does not always make for the most efficient user interface. Can you program a Hog PC system without a wing? Of course, but it is dramatically more efficient to plug in a controller with the actual knobs and switches being emulated.

    These systems can serve an important purpose. For example, I think that MaxxyzPC, when it is released, will be a big value addition to the Maxxyz console. Leveraging Maxxyz popularity into applications that cannot handle the Maxxyz capitol investment. But I also think that application specific products, as well as emulations (or 'knobless' consoles) are important as well. That is why I hope that Martin moves forward with a Light Jockey 3 (I've seen public comments from at least one Martin person that the decision is still up in the air).

    Some LJ fans would be surprised to hear that (I definately rub some of them the wrong way). But I really mean it. Having a big player continue to push something other than an emulation helps grow the market and makes niches for smaller players like us to exploit.

    Back on the original question, it is possible to run a decent show solely from a laptop computer. We've even tried to push this further with a new screen in our latest version. But, there are still many times when tactile controls are a huge asset. We approached this by supporting MIDI and always including a DMX-in on our dongles. Or thinking was that this gives the user a lot of options and it also provides mortals with rational backup. If I'm on a major tour, I can carry an extra Hog, GrandMA, or whatever. If I'm on the sort of budget that the majority of shows operate, this isn't an option. $5-10K in spare 'wings' or even $700-800 for a spare 'fingers' is a capitol investment I really can't afford unless I absolutely have to. By trying to get the most out of existing tactile surfaces we hoped that we had put emergency salvation a Guitar Center away.

    One unexpected side effect of this approach is that it allows a laptop to be used as a cost effective 'lighting system upgrade'. We've actually seen this quite a bit. A theatre wants to start dabling in intelligent fixtures and they don't want to invest in a massive upgrade. Buy us and point and click your looks for your rented intelligent fixtures. Then use the DMX-in to drive us from your existing console. Since we decouple time from cues/scenes and automatically handle in-betweening (basically, go between any two scenes at any speed and get a nice transition) you can almost treat whole intelligent fixture looks like dimmer channels on your existing console.

    Personally, it does not matter to me if a user keeps running this way or eventually migrates everything to us and then uses the existing console only as a tactile surface or an emergency backup. I'm just glad they are getting good use out of the system. In fact, I think we will see some features pop up in other systems that make them friendlier to this sort of hybrid usage in the future.

    -jjf
    Innovate Show Controls
     
  9. SketchyCroftPpl

    SketchyCroftPpl Active Member

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    Hello

    A not totally related question but what exactly is SMPTE? Our board has functions to save that and load that but we wern't actually sure at all what it did so we didn't touch it at all.

    Thanks, Nick
     
  10. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    I believe that it is one of the audio control protocols. Vaguely related to MIDI, it can be used with SMPTE sound boards to fire cues on the light board without even touching it. I've never really done this, but when I was visiting bucknell, that was how the tech director said that it worked.
     
  11. SketchyCroftPpl

    SketchyCroftPpl Active Member

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    wow ... interesting ... I'll deff have to look into that for a way to do things durring concerts or something. I dunno how great of a help it would be, but if you could get it to work it would be so cool.

    ~Nick
     
  12. jfitzpat

    jfitzpat Member

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    SMPTE is a standards body (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers), but in this case I meant 'SMPTE Timecode'. More specifically, 'longitudinal SMPTE timecode'.

    It is 80 bits of data (a 'frame'), encoded at a certain rate (typically 24, 25, 29.97, and 30 frames per second) as an audio signal. Some of the bits encode a running clock: HH:MM:SS:FF (hours, minutes, seconds, and frames), some are used for sync and type, and the remainder (32) are 'user data' UU:UU:UU:UU. These can be whatever you want and are often used to encode reel or take number, etc. type information.

    You can record SMPTE to a tape or CD, though many digital decks and a lot of broadcast type video equipment can generate the SMPTE audio track automatically.

    SMPTE timecode predates MIDI, though subsequent to the MIDI 1.0 standard some extra MIDI messages were adopted which are typically referred to as 'MIDI Timecode' or MTC. MTC is basically a way of encoding the same running 'clock' onto a MIDI stream. It actually can do this in two ways. One is a 'system exclusive message', which basically transmits the entire the time. The other is 'real time messages'. There are 4 MTC messages sent for every SMPTE frame, but it takes 8 messages to carry an entire time. So HH:MM is sent over one frame and SS:FF is sent in the next (and you know that the FF portion is now behind, so you increment and wrap accordingly).

    What a lighting system does with SMPTE timecode depends on the system. The simplest form of implementation is basically 'trigger'. Sort of the equivelent of 'check the incoming time and if it matches, press this button...' A more advanced form is referred to as 'locking'. Basically, not only pushing the button at the right time, but syncronizing your system's internal timing mechanism to the time rate of the SMPTE source.

    We do this and it is why we include a SMPTE in/out on all dongles instead of just having users buy a SMPTE->MIDI adapter and reading MTC in the software. Imagine that you want to fade in some scanners doing a back and forth march over 3 seconds at 00:01:31:14. At that time on the SMPTE source, we not only start the fade, if the SMPTE source is a little fast or slow, both the fade time and the movement generation will be proportioned to match. A lot of our early adopters were doing laser/pyro type applications for theme park type shows and not locking shows. We experimented with locking to MTC adapters, but there is too much jitter in the 1/4 frame messages. You really see it on something like laser beams or when morphing between movement generator shapes (ex. fading between a cue where you have lights moving in an arc to a cue where they are moving faster in a circule or a spiral).

    Since we decided to do our own bit locked reader, we had an opportunity to implement some other nice features. For example, you can switch timecode types (24, 25, 29.97, 30) without having to reprogram the show (this comes up more than you might think). And we master (generate) timecode when the system is running on its own internal clock so you can lock other equipment to it.

    -jjf
     
  13. vguard420

    vguard420 Member

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    STMPE is a time code protocol which used to sync up light boards, sound boards, media servers and alot of other things to real time events or music. it usefull for architectural ligh shows that require a bunch of diffrent systems to work together with little human control. if by chance your working with a hog III you can play a cd through the board and have it genarate time code that can be used to take cues at exact points in the song
     
  14. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    I'm not as experienced at doing theater as most around here, but I have been using pc control for lighting since roughly 1992 (yes, it has been around that long in the Martin 2032). Seems to me, the control interface doesn't really matter in theater, since the cue list is already mapped out before opening. So with a pc based solution, all you'd do (at least, this is the way I'd do it) is make each different look, load it into separate cues, load those into a cuelist, and sit there and hit "go" all night. Of course, maybe my lack of understanding is why I do all concert and corporate work.

    As for the programming/design phase, I prefer a pc based solution for the most part. The only thing I don't care for is adjusting dimmer levels. LJ has no facility for programming via a fader board unless one is using a dmx-in. Fingers does not have a programming mode, it's playback only.

    BTW, LJ3 may or may not be released, but the word is that the dongle is the same one that drives MAXXYZ pc.
     
  15. SketchyCroftPpl

    SketchyCroftPpl Active Member

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    That is very sweet. However we are using an Omega II board, and while its not that bad I've never used anything like that before and as far as I know there isn't anything for inputs. I'll have to check in the manual and see what we can do with that.

    ~Nick
     
  16. jfitzpat

    jfitzpat Member

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    Vguard420, we do the same thing. You can sync to a CD or a MP3 Playlist, as well as an external SMPTE source.

    Len, that is exactly how many theatrical productions are run. Though, personally, I'd like to see a bit more 'old school' from designers and operators.

    I've only done two plays with our system, training a teenage operator both times (ah, the joys of being a parent...) In both cases I used a small two scene board for tactile input. Part of my goal was to teach and doing the crossfades manually forces the student to observe. Done well, I think it also makes for better lighting since the fades match the pace of the performance instead of running at a fixed rate. And, again, done well I think that it can make for better lighting.

    I also always included some very complex cues for the operator, basically a fade in our a fade out that was done on one scene of the board, but using 6 or 7 sliders. We can pre-program overlapping fades but, again, having the student feel and observe the stage appearing from, say upstage to downstage, with a subtle color shift as each element materializes helps reinforce the lesson that transitions are as much a part of lighting design as the static scenes.

    On a different note, Martin folks have indicated to me that Light Jockey support for the new DMX dongle is on the way as well.

    -jjf
     
  17. MSwan

    MSwan Member

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    I realize that this a bit of an old post however I feel compelled to reply as I have just seen it and a Mac user. There is currently no viable option for controlling a real show from a Mac. There is still hope however. There is a USB DMX device that was designed on the Mac it is an open source design so you only have to pay for parts it is at http://www.usbdmx.com/usb_dmx_interface.html. As far as software for it Ben Suffolk who designed the device has a 2 scene preset program and I have written a 12 channel program that has a cuelist I have not put ti up on my site as of yet but it will appear at: http://homepage.mac.com/michaelswan/swanlightingsystems/index.html. I plan on expanding the software in the future to be a viable option to running a show much like Martin Light Jockey and Hog PC. Of course computer based lighting programs can only be used for some shows, as they always have the extra overhead of the operating system to deal with.
     
  18. jfitzpat

    jfitzpat Member

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    I'm currious what you are basing that on. We've certainly run professional shows out to about 16 universes without problem, as well as torture tested absurd cases (ex. 32 overlapping fades, morphing shapes between seperate movement generattors on thousands of fixtures). And, we are certainly not alone. All the biggest name consoles are now desktop OS based.

    I used a Mac for a Pink Floyd tour back in '87, and considering going Mac based for the X1. Bottom line, 10 2 did not pass the early torture tests. 10 4 has some important threading and memory fixes and I am quite certain I could develop another pro level product on it.

    It just seems odd to profess that a pro lighting show cannot run on a desktop OS, when DMX is relatively undemanding. Remember, far more demanding applications, like digital sound and video, have been running from MACs and PCs on major tours for years.

    -jjf
    Innovate Show Controls

    P.S. We run under VirtualPC now - still for less than a Maxxyz, Hog PC, or Light Jockey solution. That is one of the reasons that a native MAC version has not been an especially high priority.
     
  19. Inaki2

    Inaki2 Active Member

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    Yeah I've heard great things of the X1, never had a chance too play with it.

    I also know the Jands Vista has a Mac version
     
  20. maartenengels

    maartenengels Member

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    (Sorry to respond to such an old thread, but maybe people now looking for Mac Os software controller are reading this.)

    If anybody is still looking for Mac Os based DMX software, then please have look at Cuelux: Next generation lighting control -Home. It works on Windows as well.

    Maarten
     

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