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Ethernet DMX/PC lighting

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by ishboo, Jul 20, 2008.

  1. ishboo

    ishboo Active Member

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    I know this has been discussed before, I've gone back through probably over 15 posts pertaining to software/hardware to run on a PC alongside or instead of a light board. The problem I noticed is that all the information is really spread out so it is hard to get to the point answers so I was thinking maybe we should have a thread or wiki page devoted to software as a reference for people looking for that information. I guess the jumping off point would be: What software have you used/are using, the link, and what you think about it? Then maybe we can compile the information into a nice list.
     
  2. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    It may be premature! Crazy as it sounds, but the lighting software of today reminds me of the first level of object oriented programming that we saw in the early 90s. It may seem strange, but what is holding it back is simple lack of demand. Look at modern graphic programs like Photoshop. The depth of features blows away anything we have in this business. The difference is that the program is marketed to millions of users, so millions of dollars can be spent on development. A high end lighting program would only be marketed to "hundreds" of customers. It is much the same with a lot of the business software out there. There is one other holdback: We all know PCs crash. The thought of that type of lockup in the middle of a show is enough to send ice water down your spine! We can live with the fact that all controllers have some dedicated operating system doing it's thing in there, but the sight of the Windows logo on boot-up is like seeing the headlight of an oncoming train when we are stuck on the tracks! (MAC is not off the hook either!)

    The whole thing reminds me of my years in the electronic service industry. Every other business had adopted computers, but not the electronic service industry! Shops were still pushing around 6 part NARDA forms even when I retired in 2002! When I developed ESM (Electronic Service Management), I had a hard time convincing servicers to adopt an electronic format for claims processing! "We don't want no computers around here, we know how they work", was a line I heard many times. (yes, I would point out the double negative.)

    Back on topic, yes, Ethernet is the new standard or will be soon. It will be interesting to see the adoption rate, but I suspect I will still be seeing DMX 15 years from now!
    (Another quote comes to mind: "In 10 years, you won't even be able to find a VHS tape!" - Sony rep, 1982)
     
  3. porkchop

    porkchop Well-Known Member

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    I think it's funny the argument that people don't want to go computer based because computers crash. Every board I've used since I graduated high school ran a windows based operating system, in the Maxxyz you can even boot directly into XP. Computers act according to how they're treated. If you have a computer that you go all over the internet downloading cookies and files and junk and install all kinds of programs on yes they will fail at some point. But that many different people's code mixed together will do that. Sure there are "standards" but with the variety of things that can be done on a computer and the variety of people trying to accomplish those tasks you're going to have things that cross up and cause a problem.

    For many installs the light board could be described as a very specialized computer that communicates with no or very few other computers and does exactly what it's there for and nothing more. If you had a computer tower running lighting software only and not subjected to the internet or random other software you could have a very stable operating "console" and it would be much easier to do upgrades and maintenance on the system since it would be composed of fairly standard parts. And really think of the comparison of people that know how to work on a computer tower compared to the amount of people that know how to work on a lighting console.

    I would like to see this as the future of lighting (and sound and projection and pyro and F/X, etc....) but I don't this is because of a lack of understanding of technology and what it can and can't do. If you need any help understanding just how clueless some people can be about computers just google "help desk" and I'm sure a few good stories will come up. This new tech age might help understanding a bit, but for lack of a better word I think fear of technology will keep consoles in the main stream for the foreseeable future.
     
  4. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    I would love to try Hog 3 PC but it doesn't work for Windows Vista yet. :cry:
     
  5. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    All that, and (here goes the Crazy Analog Guy talking again) we're used to the user interface of a console. I know when I'm driving a lightboard, I'm either pushing handles or pressing dedicated keys. The user interface is very customized to the application. If you're running a program on your laptop, you're stuck in a graphical interface that expects you to control it using chiefly the mouse.

    The keypad on a console is usually well-thought-out. Speed, convenience, that sort of thing.

    I couldn't use a graphical-only lighting program, one that makes you use the mouse. To me, it's counterintuitive. Dedicated keypads in a semi-conventional layout and/or physical handles make sense to me, because that's how I think.

    Trying to control lights from your computer I think is kind of like trying to mix live sound from your computer. It can be done, and there's probably software out there to do it, but it seems like the user interface would slow you down more than it's worth.
     
  6. ishboo

    ishboo Active Member

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    I agree with porkchop, the ability of the computer reflects the user and care. We have a dedicated desktop for sound that lasted all season and were going to use it next season and it hasn't had any problems. Our lehigh lightboard has crashed more. It is hard to give up the console controls but with something like XKeys you could develop your own console exactly how you see fit at a 20th the cost of a new board. As mentioned earlier there just isn't any AMAZING free software out there :-(
     
  7. RedmonwantsEOS

    RedmonwantsEOS Member

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    What Lehigh board do you have?
     
  8. ishboo

    ishboo Active Member

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    Lehigh Rendition 48/96 (Purchased November-December 2007)

    Edit: It crahsed 6 times during tech of our musical and has a tendancy to freeze up when you try to patch multiple dimmers at the same time into one channel.
     
  9. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    What about modular interfaces, connected to a PC through USB or some other interface? When you think about it, lightboards generally use the same sets of components - a bunch of faders, maybe a trackball, a solid numberpad, and then some specials. PC based lighting gives us the option to keep say, a modular set of faders, and run it with increasingly improved technology. I could use a set of faders and a cheap program as a two scene, or take the same faders and connect them to a more complicated setup for moving lights.

    In that way you maintain the tactile feel of the board and the speed of multiple contact points, but possible create a much more affordable and upgradeable system.

    As touch screens drop in price and increase in quality there's another possibility for software. A decent sized touch screen could function with an unlimited number of simulated consoles.

    My laptop, running Vista of all things, crashes less often than my Innovator.
     
  10. thommyboy

    thommyboy Active Member

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    Best bet (I have toyed with this some) is rather than waiting right now on HES/Barco to release a version of Hog3PC for vista use Parallels or Windows Virtual PC. You can have essentially a 2nd PC running inside your current PC.

    There is less latency than you would think. So far I am a fan, though I am still waiting and waiting and waiting for a Vista compatible H3PC to hit the web.
     
  11. ishboo

    ishboo Active Member

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    I noticed as someone mentioned earlier that there are just about no quality lighpc programs. I would love to have something that functioned like an express, even just a patch and cues would be nice maybe ethernet DMX so I tried writing my own software to do this today, unfortunately I haven't done c++ in over a year so I didn't get very far :-(
     
  12. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    I suspect you mis-understood, or the poster was mistaken. Horizon was the first of console-emulation programs for the PC, and while it has come a long way since it's introduction in the early 1990s, it continues to have its fans and cynics. Most of the solutions available, from Hog3PC, grandMAonPC, Chamsys MagicQ, and others are focused on Moving Lights and Media Servers.

    The success of the Express(ion) consoles can be partially attributed to their channel faders and submasters. If you just want DMX512, softpatch, and Cue recording/playback, a used Vision or MicroVisionFX can be purchased for less than a PC with DMX dongle (in most cases).
     
  13. RedmonwantsEOS

    RedmonwantsEOS Member

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    Really? Hmm... We have the MillenniumXP 48/96. Havn't had it crash any.
    The thing that will mess it up is when people who dont know what they are doing just turn it off with the switch without a proper shutdown.
     
  14. RedmonwantsEOS

    RedmonwantsEOS Member

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    Marequee PC is another PC based system as well. You can add faders and button panels as add-ons.

    Entertainment Technology
     
  15. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    And how do I do that???
     
  16. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    I've used LightJockey nearly since its inception. In all the shows I've done it's never crashed once. I keep others away from it, so I know it doesn't visit virus sites, etc. Even tho it has a wireless modem and I can access networks when they are available, I turn the modem off during the show.

    The issue I don't like about pc based solutions is the lack of fader inputs. That can be overcome via playback wings, but not all pc software has that.

    But I will say that pc based are no better or worse than anything else.

    1. Find the right tool for the job and;

    2. As the old saying goes, it's ain't the hammer it's the carpenter.
     
  17. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Question for the Strand fans out there. Marquee was originally the hardware compliment to Horizon. With Robert Bell and the Horizon team now working for Strand, where does this leave the ET Marquee, as both companies are owned by Genlyte, and ultimately, Philips?
     
  18. ishboo

    ishboo Active Member

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    There could be major differences between the two's software. We've updated our software twice and it hasn't fixed any of our problems. We keep it well maintained (Always shut it down properly) We've found 3 or 4 bugs in the software and reported it to Lehigh they said they're never seen it before but were able to replicate them and will work them into the next release. In all my dealings with them they aren't...the greatest company. I would kill for an Express over our board.
     
  19. RedmonwantsEOS

    RedmonwantsEOS Member

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    Very interesting...
    Yeah, I know what you mean by "not the greatest"
     
  20. Darthrob13

    Darthrob13 Active Member

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    Just a correction.....Rob Bell and the Horizon boys don't work for Strand.

    They are developing code for the LightPalette and Palette consoles based on the Horizon system. It has been modified....heavily in the last 18 months. There have been enormous leaps in the feature set available.

    But to be sure...they are not working for Strand.
     

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