DMX splitting

Massey28694

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Jan 19, 2019
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Ashe County, NC, USA
Hey all, hope everyone is feeling good! Have my Element 2 on order and now need to run some infrastructure. Will be putting new led and other fixtures on universe 2, so plan to run a new dmx from the tech booth over to the catwalk above the auditorium. Dmx will go to an optical splitter with numerous outputs, and from there dmx will be run over to the side then down and back over to the proscenium. Another splitter here will send the dmx to the other side of the stage and to rigging above the stage. Will likely also be incorporating a few ETC colorsource relays. I am thinking Enttec splitters, but suggestions are welcome. Also having an electrician bringing in service to a couple locations currently without regular power outlets. Any thoughts on this plan? I have a limited budget and am trying to accomplish this upgrade by doing as much of the work as possible that we can ourselves. Your thoughts and advice (and potential pitfalls) on my plan is really appreciated!

Related question, any pros or cons on trying to use mostly 5-pin or 3-pin dmx?

Thanks in advance!
 

dbaxter

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Mar 10, 2007
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Rochester, NY
I think you'll find your 3-5 pin decision driven by the LED fixtures you get in. The more expensive brands, like ETC, just use 5 pin, some Chauvet instruments have both or either 3 and 5, and almost all ADJ units are 3 pin. You can find high quality cable of either variety, so, for me, that doesn't enter into the decision.
 

BillConnerFASTC

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Clayton NY 13624
Opening the wireless debate, if using CS relays, you couldn't distribute DMX more economically and in less time than their wireless relay.

I don't know your longer range plans but one universe is a limitation. My standard for school theatres us four. I'd sure look at a small network and several nodes and see what it's cost was compared to splitters and DMX.

(The wireless CS gets you a second universe by adding a transmitter, but there are console output limits, which is why I like network.)
 

BillConnerFASTC

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Malabaristo

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Wisconsin
I don't know if you could come directly from console to one 4 port node and immediately have 4 DMX on any universe. I'd have to ask. I always design with a network switch
Yes, with the caveat that most consoles don't supply POE on their network ports, so the node would have to have it's own power supply. A network with two devices connected by a single cable is totally valid--switches are only required when you have >2 devices. In the old days, this would have required a crossover cable, but it's pretty safe to assume you don't anymore.
 

RickR

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Set up a small wired network - switch and taps - connect Element vis ETCNet port. Attach nodes - typically with 1, 2, and 4 DMX ports.

I don't know if you could come directly from console to one 4 port node and immediately have 4 DMX on any universe. I'd have to ask. I always design with a network switch

Which model Element?
With quality switches in the $100 range why worry about not having one?

https://store.ui.com/collections/routing-switching/products/edgerouter-x-sfp
 

SteveB

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Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
Not seeing nodes/gateways in the OP’s budget, as much as I like them. Thus maybe no need for a switch either.

Enttec switches are like $133 ea. So with a bunch of DMX cable (3 pin DATA ) it can work, but fixture dependent.

@ the OP. You can probably get by with the DMX distro scheme as envisioned, FOR NOW, but you might well be at the practical limit of what you will want to deal with in terms of DMX cabling and distro. Networking and the ability to distribute DMX via portable gateways (once know as nodes) is the easiest method to wrangle what will likely be an ever expanding system of LED and movers in the future. I opened a new space last Sept., received 28 ETC Net3 Gateways with the project. I was like “Jeez, I will NEVER use all that !”. Then we got a grant for LED and I was using 15-17 on a show and am still overwhelmed and may need more.

Bottom line is you need to expect that that your needs in the future are beyond what you can envision now. When somebody says “install a lot of Cat6”, they mean install a lot and double it.
 

BillConnerFASTC

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Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
Not seeing nodes/gateways in the OP’s budget, as much as I like them. Thus maybe no need for a switch either.
Buying an Element 2, having and electrician run new power circuits, and acquiring a bunch of new LED fixtures, and can't afford a few nodes and a POE switch? I'm struggling with that Steve. Just buy one 4 port node and switch, put node near proscenium line to run DMX both ways, keep the second DMX output on console available, get to use some of the 12 universe capability of the Element for a simpler life, and don't throw anything away when you expand. Maybe 2 or 3 two port nodes is better, but still the difference between the DMX splitter and wiring and the net is likely less than 1 good LED fixture; and less than difference between the 2K and 6K Element I think. Plus you can add an access point and have console remote apps easily.

BTW does that Entech splitter (I think that's what is being referred to by "Entech switch" ) support RDM? I rely on RDM to set up systems for first use a lot. Maybe you don't need RDM day to day.
 
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Massey28694

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Jan 19, 2019
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Ashe County, NC, USA
@BillConnerFASTC @SteveB Hey guys and everyone. Really appreciate all the comments. This is a huge learning experience for me and our senior lighting designer has just as little experience with all this new technology.

Bill, the Enttec splitter I am using only supports dmx, I'm pretty sure. They do have a dmx/rdm unit availalble.

I hear your comments loud and clear and agree with you in just about every respect. But the main handicap we have is budget. We are in a not very affluent county in the mountains and our revenue is based on a very limited amount of hotel taxes that must support the facility operations. We have been given 40 grand and told to update our lighting system. That's not going to go far, but we are able to perform most items requiring labor ourselves, saving on tech labor and travel costs (I didn't mention we are about 2 hours away from the nearest stage lighting dealer!). Our theater is small and we currently have maybe 40 to 50 instruments to work with. We plan to get our new board in place, build a sufficient infrasture to allow us to properly control our stock, then acquire a small inventory of our most desired NEW (or gently used) LED and moving instruments and slowly phase out others with replacements down the road. Cables and more cables, I know, but many instruments allow for daisy chaining of dmx and power, so I am hoping it won't be all that bad.

I absolutely like the network ideas, as it opens up the capabilities of what the Element can do. But as much as I would love to have some of these toys, I just cannot afford it. That said, I am a planner and yesterday pulled a new dmx from the tech booth and included a pull string in the pull, so when that time comes that we want to get that network up and run ethernet out to the stage, it'll be a piece of cake! So I am at least thinking long term! And spending the $$ on an electrician is just something we had to do. I can pull wire with the best of them, but I don't like fooling around with electricity too much, as I know some of this stuff will do more than just bite me!

So far, so good. We have purchased a few items to play with the dmx control a bit and we are quickly learning by doing. We may not be Broadway, but I think we're going to end up with a pretty nice system. Again, thank you all for your thoughts! ControlBooth is my lighting college!!! ;)
 

SteveB

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Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
Buying an Element 2, having and electrician run new power circuits, and acquiring a bunch of new LED fixtures, and can't afford a few nodes and a POE switch? I'm struggling with that Steve. Just buy one 4 port node and switch, put node near proscenium line to run DMX both ways, keep the second DMX output on console available, get to use some of the 12 universe capability of the Element for a simpler life, and don't throw anything away when you expand. Maybe 2 or 3 two port nodes is better, but still the difference between the DMX splitter and wiring and the net is likely less than 1 good LED fixture; and less than difference between the 2K and 6K Element I think. Plus you can add an access point and have console remote apps easily.

BTW does that Entech splitter (I think that's what is being referred to by "Entech switch" ) support RDM? I rely on RDM to set up systems for first use a lot. Maybe you don't need RDM day to day.
Struggling as well. But the electrician is a given either way so not a factor. I’d be spending money on whatever you can get done from the electrician as priority (power) as labor is always the huge expense. Cat6 is easy down the road as in-house and he can always buy nodes one-by-one as per future budget. Same with the Element upgrade with add’l universes, as long as the desk is still supported. 4 or 8 port Pathways actually might be the most cost effective but there are a bunch of other nodes that can listen to sACN.
 

gafftaper

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For long Dmx runs you can save money by using good quality Cat5/6 cable and DMX to RJ45 adapters. Or better yet buy 5 pin XLR and a box of Cat5/6 and make your own cables. They will be more reliable and about the same price as doing it the wrong way by using audio cable.
 

TimMc

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Feb 15, 2017
With quality switches in the $100 range why worry about not having one?

https://store.ui.com/collections/routing-switching/products/edgerouter-x-sfp
That's a router (in the traditional IT sense, not the consumer-name all in one product used in your home) and it runs with power from a PoE injector or from the first down stream switch with PoE.

A router is needed ONLY when sending traffic between 2 *different* networks (like your home network and the internet).

SWITCH. With PoE.
 

gafftaper

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I know that budget is an issue, but I encourage you to not cut corners on the backbone of your system the optosplitter and/or DMX nodes (depending on which strategy you use). If the lights randomly stop working in the middle of a show you will wish you had purchased professional grade gear to distribute the data. Enttec will probably work fine for a while. But there are limits to the word "Probably" and you have no idea when those limits will hit you.

Doug Fleenor Designs (@jfleenor) and Pathway Connectivity (@Rob ) are both companies that produce top quality professional grade equipment you can rely on for MANY years. It's the kind of gear you can install and forget that it's there because it just always works. They cost a lot more than Enttec, but it's because it's significantly higher quality gear. Located somewhere in the middle in terms of quality and prices you will find the Optosplitters, from Chauvet Professional (@Ford ). I haven't had any personal experience with the Chauvet Professional Optosplitters but I have a lot of respect for other products in the Chauvet Pro line and I expect their splitters would be the same. Although I haven't used them, I would definitely trust Chauvet a lot more than Enttec in terms of reliability over time and customer service if you have a problem. Fleenor and Pathway are both shiny new Lexus options, Chauvet is at least a nice new Toyota Camry that'll get you to work reliably, Enttec is more of a used car your Uncle had in his garage... "It'll get you there"... but will it get me back?

Note Fleenor, Pathway, and Chauvet are all advertisers here on CB... and all three of the people I linked to are friends. Start a private conversation with any of them here and they will be happy to answer questions about their products.
 
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jfleenor

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Dec 1, 2009
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California
We have a lot of splitting options! Our 124 splitter has 4 outputs, and is DMX/RDM compatible. MSRP is $433, and all of our products come with a 5 year warranty. Additionally, if you're looking at having long runs of cable where you're worried about the validity of the signal, you can plonk a DMXDECELERATOR in the middle of the run. (MSRP $210) It receives, re-times, and re-broadcasts the signal, and boosts the signal for your longer cable runs. It's also a handy thing to have just in case some of the fixtures your building chooses down the line (with budget constraints) don't play nice with DMX timing requirements.
 

gafftaper

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Now you see why nodes and network isn't that much more expensive when compared to compatable reliability with all DMX. And two or more universes - network wins on cost.
Yes, long term, the few extra bucks on a network and nodes is money well spent. Even if you only buy one node now for a few devices, in the future you can pop on more nodes and instantly have access to more universes. Or buy two nodes now and put them on the same network and down the road you can just flip one of them over to a different universe and double your capacity!