Lighting: Network vs DMX Over Copper

Fountain Of Euph

Active Member
Hi all,

I've been "off com" for a while, so let me know if there is another thread for this already.

One of the spaces I help out in is starting to look at some lighting replacements. First priority is the wash lights over the thrust/apron-they are recessed par 36's (IE House lights) with some sort of theatrical LED, something along the line of D60's, Colorsource Pars, Or ColorOne 100x's. There is no DMX running to their position (but we do have power), and I was wondering what the thoughts on putting in a network vs getting a opto-splitter. We currently only have 50 dimmers (Sensor Rack) on our DMX A, so their is plenty of available addresses.

What I see as pros for each:

Network:
Future Proof-ish
Might save on cable costs.
Would force us to upgrade our console

DMX with a opto-splitter:
Much simpler
Cheaper(just a spliter in the dimmer room vs switches, cable, and nodes) ?
Would allow us to use our current board (ETC Express 24/48) even though we need to upgrade.
Overkill, as the lights are relatively inaccessible, and putting a node up their would be kinda a waste to run five lights.

What are everyones thoughts on this? Also while your here, what do you think of inexpensive opto-splitters like the this or this?
 

danTt

Well-Known Member
To start with the basics, I'd definitely run cat5e/cat6 as the signal cable anywhere you are trying to get signal. You can run DMX or ethernet-based protocols over cat5e without issue, and in the future would just need to worry about changing connectors.

From there I think it comes down to budget. If you are looking to swap to LEDs, upgrading your console to something that more readily supports non intensity parameters/color mixing is going to be very beneficial and should definitely be part of your investment. Once you've upgraded to a newer console, it will almost certainly support sACN/Artnet. It likely also will have some sort of iDevice/computer/tablet interface that will benefit from having networking infrastructure.

At this point as well, a quality artnet/sacn node is not that much more expensive per port than a quality opto splitter, but it does add some configuration complexity. You also have to debate whether you want distributed nodes, or all of your nodes/optos in a rack somewhere with DMX feeding out. There are benefits to each.

As far as inexpensive optos go... Data distribution is going to become a key part of your infrastructure that you'll want to install and not think about for at least 10-15 years. I wouldn't try to save money here with lower quality gear. Those optos are fine for rental companies/events where you are constantly setting up/tearing down/carrying spares/etc, but in an install situation i'd feel better with pathway, etc, or doug fleenor.

Another thing to consider is if any of these par36 "house lights" are currently part of any emergency lighting setup/configuration, and if so, what you'll need to do to maintain adequate egress light if you transition these to LEDs.
 

microstar

Well-Known Member
I agree with the idea of buying great quality (Pathway, Fleenor, or ETC) for a permanent install. Most often they are never turned off.
Used to be a fan of the original Elation Branch 4 (see below) but had two go down in separate installs due to bad capacitors after a couple of years. Also had one of two Enttec D-Split's bite the dust after two or three years. Contrast that with a Fleenor that kept working for almost 15 before having a problem.
elation_branch4.jpg
 

jfleenor

Well-Known Member

Derickls

Active Member
Firstly, I will say that even if you do go to a network system you will not need to upgrade your console. You would just use a gateway/node to get the DMX output onto your lighting network.

How many locations will ultimately require DMX in the future and what is the current DMX setup? I think this will help to determine if you should go network based or not. In my opinion if you are only looking to add DMX to the house lights a network may not be the most cost effective solution. If you are looking over time to add a lot of LED fixtures it may be a good idea to go network based or prepare to do so.

Many systems with express consoles used universe 1 for the dimmer racks and split universe 2 to the hanging positions. If this is your case then most likely there is an equipment rack, or a wall box that has opto splitters somewhere. A centralized DMX distribution system like this makes for a pretty easy conversion to a network based system the opto spliters would just be replaced with gateways/nodes, and the network infrastructure added.

If you think you will be going network in the future I would also suggest that you use a gateway/Node to split your DMX between the Houselights and the dimmer rack. Most manufactures gateways/nodes can work without a network. This means that you would not have to buy two pieces of equipment.
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Just as an option, if you wanted the second universe of the console at a port over forestage, it would be hard to beat a wireless transmitter and receiver. Ican find ETCs for well under $1000 for the pair; I think you could find as good less expensive since you may not need the relay. Virtually no wiring costs and quick. May not be as reliable as wired but should be reliable enough. Nothing quicker or easier.
 

DavidJones

Well-Known Member
Just as an option, if you wanted the second universe of the console at a port over forestage, it would be hard to beat a wireless transmitter and receiver. Ican find ETCs for well under $1000 for the pair; I think you could find as good less expensive since you may not need the relay. Virtually no wiring costs and quick. May not be as reliable as wired but should be reliable enough. Nothing quicker or easier.

In my opinion, wireless should never be where you can easily use hardlines. I do use wireless often on events where wireless saves on labor costs, setup time and eliminates cables running across doorways becoming a tripping hazard, etc but in a theater install I would never recommend wireless as a primary "snake."

As far as a Catagory 5e/6a vs 5 pin DMX, I would 100% run cat cable. You can break it out into 2-4 five pin lines if needed without nodes and network protocols, and then it is ready and in place for the future.

Chauvet just released the Net-X II node, It can act as an 8- output ArtNET/sACN node, 8 INPUT node, 2- completely separate opto splits using the 5-pin inputs on the back, or any combination of those features at the same time. I also offer to merge and RDM over the network. The User interface is pretty good as well, I used some demos of them for a large 20+ universe rig and they worked flawlessly. And only $650.

The benefit of going with this is that you can get adapters to use cat5 lines as 5-pin lines very inexpensively, and use the Net-X II as 2 opto-splits for the time being. When you eventually upgrade to a newer desk, your network infrastructure is already in place when you grow into needing 4 of 6 or 8 universes over sACN.

Here is a link to that node. https://www.chauvetprofessional.com/products/net-x-ii/
 

Van

CBMod
CB Mods
Premium Member

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