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lighting DMX computer???

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by LDash, Oct 30, 2008.

  1. LDash

    LDash Member

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    hello guys.
    i was wondering if any one new of any good specs. (HDD,motherboard,what sort of case,what processor(CPU)for a high quality reliable lighting computer?
    i am wanting to run it on windows xp pro for sure(because most of the lighting software is not compatible with vista.)

    thanks in advance
     
  2. elite1trek

    elite1trek Active Member

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    I have to start out by saying that reliable and Windows aren't the best combination, but its also not impossible.

    I guess I have to start by saying that my Mac has only crashed on me twice in 8 years. Does you software support Mac OSX?

    As for a reliable PC, I will get back to you in about 30 minutes. Does your machine need to be able to run any cad programs, WYSIWYG, or any graphic intensive program, or is it strictly a lighting console?

    I assume (no jokes) that you intend to build it, not purchase it retail. Is that correct?
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2008
  3. elite1trek

    elite1trek Active Member

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    I did a bit of research. Turn's out I actually have a machine that would be perfect for this already built, so I pulled this right from the list on Newegg.

    The only things that I changed was the hard drive. If you want something reliable then you probably don't want any moving parts, so I pulled up a solid state hard drive, such as this. I know that it seems really expensive for 32gb of storage, but they are highly reliable. You can also format a 32gb drive as FAT, which is another compatibility thing.

    Here is a little case that comes with a PSU (power supply). Its def. on the cheap.

    This is a quick little processor, I use this model all the time actually. Its perfect for making sure your cues don't lag, without overdoing it.

    This is another neat little board that I have used once. The memory is pretty fast, compared to what an ETC Ion uses. It has an Ethernet card built in, as well as your standard PS2 keyboard and mouse ports. It has plenty of USB ports for your XKeys or fader wings. It has a VGA monitor port, as well as a slot for a graphics card, if you want dual monitor support. It also has a DB9 serial port for anything legacy that you want to hook up.

    I would suggest that you put in at least 1gb of ram, if not 2. Four is overkill for this purpose.

    I would also keep an extra power supply on hand, especially if you are going to be running the machine 24/7/365 (or 366 this year, right?).

    This machine is for a basic lighting console, not CAD or other uses. If that is what you are looking for, I would make other suggestions.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 30, 2014
  4. dannyn

    dannyn Member

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    Hello,
    I do not know if you have your heart set on running some software like Martin Light Jockey, or similar, but I would avoid the computer route.
    I would go with a console.
    I made this mistake, blew $1000 on just software, and now I am back where I started.

    If you are set on a computer, let me ask a few questions:
    -What is your budget?
    -Will this only be used for lighting?
    -Do you for sure want a desktop?
    There is a starting point, I can spec out a complete computer for you, with those questions.
    I would only use XP Pro as your OS.
     
  5. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    As long as you meet the minimum specs for the software you intend to run (which shouldn't be hard with any new machine) then you are all set. The key is that you CANNOT install anything other than the lighting controller software on the machine and it should NEVER be connected to the internet. This is the only way to create a stable environment for running show critical software. If you need to update software you should always download the updates on a different machine and then bring them over to the dedicated machine.
     
  6. elite1trek

    elite1trek Active Member

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    I assumed that a computer was chosen for budget reasons.
    If you can afford a console then you definitely need to go for that. An Ion runs for about $5500, probably less now. You can get Strand stuff for even less.
     
  7. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    When building a computer for lighting, you really need to consider quality and reliability over speed. Cueing software takes little to no real power. I would look at a manufacture that is known for long uptimes, and dell usually fits that bill. I would suggest not doing the build your own route on this one just incase you come up with a bad driver. If you do decide to build though, don't skimp on quality. Quality beats speed any day. In other words, BUY a good power supply *PC Power and Cooling*, buy a realible processor, that type of thing.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 30, 2014
  8. LDash

    LDash Member

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    thanks for all the advice:grin::grin:
    yes i am intending it to run programs such as martin light jocky and WYSIWYG or of the kind. i havent decided what program to run yet.

    i am also wanting to run phantom frog offline editor and ETC express offline editor

    i dont have any set budget at the moment i am just woundering.

    i would also like to build it into a rackmount case, would anyone have any problems with a rackmount case?

    thanks again:grin:
     
  9. Sony

    Sony Active Member

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    If you really want to custom build a PC then definitely go for Reliability and Robustness in your selecting of parts.

    For Motherboards I highly recommend Tyan, they make major servers for large companies. I run a Tyan board in my desktop and it's NEVER crashed in the past 4 years and I run Windows XP-64bit.

    An Intel processor would also be a good choice, Xeon if possible, if not then any of the Core 2 Processors are fine.

    PCP&C Was already mentioned and I highly recommend them, they have been very consistant in manufactering highly reliable PSU's for computers. Fortron is another reliable brand which I use in my Desktop.

    If you do get a Tyan motherboard then try to get RAM that is Registered and has ECC, this will help your Reliability and adds Error Checking.

    If you can afford all this then you will have a ROCK solid PC to work on.
     
  10. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    Quality gear is important, but how many of us are running lighting consoles with regular hard drives instead of solid state drives? I'd venture to say that both of my Windows Vista computers are far more stable than my current light console, and I trust the hardware more.

    Are you looking to build your own, or just wondering what specs are good for a computer? Building your own computer is not overly difficult, but if you've never done it you're headed for some new headaches and a lot of learning, especially if all you want is a computer for your booth. Newegg is a good resource with their customer reviews and forums, but if you're not a computer person you may want to just buy a brand name, like a Dell. If you go that route, my advice is to purchase a new computer, and format it clean of whatever software it came with. Reinstall Windows and only the software you need. I don't think Internet access is a major concern, as long as you're smart about what you're doing on the Internet on your booth PC. Reboot before every show to make sure you're running a clean system.

    I've built several PCs now, and even top of the line parts with great reviews can give you pains, especially when coming through the mail from Newegg. You're also going to have to troubleshoot every problem yourself, where with a Dell computer you can at least throw the problems back on them.

    You should also figure out exactly what software you want to run. WYSIWYG is resource intensive, and requires a decent graphics setup. You might want to start by looking at the WYSIWYG website and checking out the recommended specs.
     
  11. LDash

    LDash Member

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    thanks again yes i am building my own (i have built several overs too)
    i am going to gradually build it up as i am not in any rush for it but it would be nice and also useful to have as i am looking for a career in lighting design etc.
    and what about graphics cards to run quad monitors(4 tfts pluged into the same pc) so i can have multiple programs runing eg. word with lighting cues on another WYSIWYG and another zero88 phantom frog. and how much these cards cost.
    thanks again
     
  12. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    I really surprised at some of the "don't use a pc" answers. No one bothered to ask what kind of shows the OP would be running with this system, which would certainly impact whether one would want a console or a pc or a simple 6 channel fader board.

    I know you're intent on building a pc, and assuming you have some skill at doing so, you'll certainly get a better product for the money than off the shelf. However, I would also suggest you consider a notebook. I've used the same notebook for nearly 7 years doing shows, with an external touchscreen, a fader board (Martin Fingers), dmx in (24 faders), AND running dj software at the same time. And never had a crash.

    As for Mac/PC, the available lighting software is heavily slanted towards pc. IIRC LightJockey has been tried by people running Windows on a Mac, but I don't know their success rate. Something you should probably check out on the LightJockey forum if you were leaning that way. The only software I can remember that runs on Mac is Lanbox. There may be others now. But as far as I know, all the others require a Windows platform.

    As has been said, lighting software isn't very resource intensive, except for WYSIWIG or Vision or any other visualizer. If you want one of them, you'll need to invest a huge portion of the budget into upgrading the video portion, especially with Vision. Get the best video card and memory out there.
     
  13. SerraAva

    SerraAva Active Member

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    I agree with Sony that you should look into server parts if you want rock solid stability. Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron processors, get some name brand RAM like Corsair, and look into the server line of hard drives from Seagate or Western Digital, cost a little more then desktop counter parts but worth the extra couple of bucks. Also look into Raid for data security.

    As for the OS, I would recommend XP x64. I run it in all my machines except laptops and one tower. The problem with XP x64 is that many of the lighting dongles won't have drivers for it. Stability wise, it is the best though. Based off of Windows Server 2003. Check to see if what you want to run on it has the drivers for whatever dongles they need to run before getting XP x64.
     
  14. TimMiller

    TimMiller Well-Known Member

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    I am running a P4 2.4Ghz, with 1TB of HDD space spanned across 3 hard drives. 2 gig's of ram that is hyper threading, with an Intel motherboard. I have ran Wyg, and video editing software on it, on top of Hog III/II, and phantomfrogx with no problem. I have a lot of different lighting programs for different types of venues and consoles. It is very stable, and much faster than my gf's hp laptop running vista with a intel dual core, and 2 gigs of ram, especially when it gets into rendering. Every time i have ran a real processor heavy program on vista it has crashed. I crashed the hdd in her laptop, and crashed her dads new Dell laptop. All i was trying to do was render a hour long video. My computer did it with no problems. Also mine is in a 4U rackmount case, which really does a great job on keeping things cool. A lot of the tower cases trap too much heat in, but the bigger cases have more room for air flow, and typically larger fans.

    Another thing to keep in mind is noise. You dont want to be running a show server that sounds like an airplane about to take off. When it comes to processor cooling i buy the fan sold by the processor manufacturer for the particular processor. Intel knows what it takes to keep their processor cool. A lot of the "performance" processor fans are extremely loud. The case that i bought over at www.outpost.com has two good sized bb fans in the rear of the case. It has room to put another fan in the front, but it doesnt seem to have any issues cooling, so i dont think i need it. On top of that i lose 3 5.25 front accessible drive bays. Also do not forget a floppy drive!!!
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2008
  15. renegadeblack

    renegadeblack Active Member

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    I'd probably recommend a keyboard like this:

    Mini Touchpad Keyboard
     
  16. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    That's pretty cool! Looks like someone just chopped the screen off a laptop... But it doesn't have a number pad! That would be annoying, especially if one would have to type in a lot of channel numbers. Of course, you could just get a keypad like this (3M Optical Mouse w/ Integrated Keypad)...
     
  17. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    There is a rule in the production world, once computer/one device does one thing, and only one thing. That being, one computer for lighting, one for sound, one for automation, etc. I think you are getting a bit large for all this stuff. If I was not running emphasis on one of my consoles, I would keep WYG and the LX software on separate machines. WYG eats up a TON of power, especially in live mode. Thats my biggest complaint about emphasis, if the "server" goes down, it takes the console with it.

    Do your paperwork on one machine, put your cues on another, and use another for WYG (or the same machine as the paperwork). Anything "show necessary" must be by itself. There is no point in risking one program crashing and taking everything else with it.
     
  18. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    What kind of lighting design are you looking into? Theatre? Clubs? Concerts? I on;y ask because I wonder what becoming a designer has to do with having/building a controller. Now, consider that I look at things from a theatre perspective, but most of the LDs that I know couldn't care less about controllers as long as their show ends up the way they want it to look. In fact, most have computers with less power than my laptop, and some are still drafting by hand. I can see why one might want to have some PreViz software like WYG, but I don't think that it will make you a better designer.

    As for multiple monitors with multiple programs running on one machine, I agree with [user]Footer[/user]. This is a big no-no. If you are going to build a machine that is going to be a controller, it should be only a controller. I don't know if you have to go so far as to have a machine that only runs WYG and a machine for everything else, I bet the everything else and WYG could live together. However the controller needs to be separate.

    One of the other things is, with all that you want to put into this computer, you will probably get very close to spending enough money to just buy a real lighting console. That being the case, you could just buy one that is capable of running PreViz software and call it a day. There is no substitute for the real thing.
     
  19. TimMiller

    TimMiller Well-Known Member

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    Ah, multiple programs running all at the same time, reminds me of a church i did an install at, and they speced, Hog III PC (with wings) controlling the lights, power point running the screens, and a Audio processing program that allows you to control the amps via the network, all from one computer. Talk about a problem waiting to happen. If the computer was shut down the lights would shut down, in which the projectors would shut down due to no signal, and the amps were set to shut down if the "server" was logged off the network. I told them if the computer were to die, they were screwed, so after some ugly problems they decided on using two computers, and disabling the amps to shut down except on command.
     
  20. Hughesie

    Hughesie Well-Known Member

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    My key peice of advice, a lot of people are getting into water cooling their pc's. Which is fine if it sits on a desk but if it travels around your going to have to empty the liquid everytime you move and all it takes is one time for you to forget and come back to a very wet roadcase with a short circuiting power supply :(.
     

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