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lighting on a computer

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by nez, Mar 31, 2006.

  1. nez

    nez Member

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    hey i was wonderin i have a laptop and is there away to make and run cues off of it if so wat do i need to get and wat do the computer specs have to be for the things to work
     
  2. Radman

    Radman Well-Known Member

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    Do a search, this is a fairly popular topic here. :)
     
  3. hogMA

    hogMA Member

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    To run a show from a laptop, you usually need to have a dedicated laptop beacuse other programs can interfere and cause problems mid show. The new Hog III PC software is available for free from http://www.flyingpig.com but in order to actually run a show from it you must by the widget which converts DMX to USB and plugs into your computer
     
  4. jfitzpat

    jfitzpat Member

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    It's not a bad idea to dedicate a laptop, since adware, etc. can bring a system to a crawl. However, rather or not it is an absolute necessity probably depends largely on what hardware and software you use. For example, I've cue'ed up and run quite a few shows on my every-day laptop (email, web surfing, office apps, and, of course, development tools).

    Similiarly, I personally know a fair number of users who take the same laptop they run us on back to the hotel at night for checking email, hitting the web etc. and they don't seem to have any trouble running a big show on it the next day.

    Granted, desktop OS's are not RTOS's, but DMX is not exactly a demanding real time activity. How sensitive something is to other applications depends a lot of arch. and implementation. Consider the first Windows iPod player version. Based on that one could argue that Windows can not run an MP3 player well because it will stutter when apps are switched, the explorer bar animates, and so on. But we know from WMP and WinAmp (as well as the more recent iPod versions) that this simply is not true. It actually takes quite an effort to get WinAmp to stutter on a relatively new machine, and that can easily be more data in 'reasonable time' than many DMX universes - and it still does not saturate most modern machines.

    In fact, I've run an 9 universe show from my laptop (an older 1G Sony) and used Windows Media Player and a playlist for the audio track for most the rehearsals. Toggling back and forth, using Word for show notes, checking email via the Venue's wireless net, and even some coding and compiling on something new, all without missing a beat. Of course, for showtime I left lighting control front and center, but crashing or slowing down never occured to me as a legitimate worry during rehearsals. So, if you can't afford a turnkey machine (or in my case, only do shows occassionally), my advice would be:

    1. Keep your machine clean from spyware, adware, and viruses
    2. Stay away from crappy device drivers (probably second only to insidious BHOs for making a Windows system unstable)
    3. And, of course, use a well written, good quality, control product... ;)

    -jjf
     
  5. hogMA

    hogMA Member

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    I agree with all of that, it think it is necessary to run a dedicated laptop if you are regularly running shows from it as it reduces the risk of it crashing dramatically because all you have to worry about is Bill Gates and the software you are running. If your running a show every now and then it is not essential because then its a waste of money
     
  6. nez

    nez Member

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    now were do i get the widget which converts DMX to USB and plugs into my computer
     
  7. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    It depends on what program you're gonna use. Each program has a widget that it works with.
     
  8. eamon

    eamon Member

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    hi

    one or two choices spring to mind

    there is lanbox
    www.lanbox.com
    This is mac orientated program ustilising a usb-dmx convertor. They do accommodate the PC user too. But the main program is mac original

    www.freestyler(dmx?).com
    not sure if that is the proper site but google will tell. not used it but have read good reports

    http://www.enttec.com/
    This another site. Have heard good reports but nothing personal



    Theses should be enough for you to get working with it.

    eamon
     
  9. jfitzpat

    jfitzpat Member

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    Pick the software first. The better packages all use their own adapters. Partly as a 'key' of sorts, but largely because the low end adapters are really, really, crappy. If a search here does not turn up a lot of options to look at, you could check some other forums.

    For example, www.blue-room.org.uk keeps a FAQ that now includes a bunch of PC based products. www.ukslc.org does reviews. The subject comes up a lot on prosoundweb's forums, and so on.

    The reason I say pick software first is two fold. First, there is an every growing number of packages that are, believe it or not, even crappier than the low end dongles. If something is hard to install, hard to use, and crashes without a dongle, there is no reason to expect a seperate computer, dongle, or whatever to make things better. Second, even among the handful of products that I would trust to run a show, there are differences in approach. Some packages are easier for some users to understand, some features are better suited for certain types of shows, and etc.

    Lanbox is probably a good example of this. It is quite a different approach from most higher end consoles. Like Jands Vista, users tend to either really like it or downright hate it. I work for a vendor (not LanBox or Jands), so my opinion is biased - but I do know that I'm not the only person who thinks that much (most?) of the free stuff is worth less than you pay for it (unless you like grief, chronic showtime failure, and frustration).

    -jjf
     
  10. nez

    nez Member

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  11. Pie4Weebl

    Pie4Weebl Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    well the version of the software in that listing is limited to 36 channels so thats pretty much useless unless you plan on running it for a blackbox or just running two movers off of it...
     
  12. nez

    nez Member

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    well 36 channels would give me 36 individual lights or say 74 lights double up so that is probly all i will need at the moment
     
  13. soundman1024

    soundman1024 Active Member

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    Do you intend to buy for now or later?

    If you are buying for the future and cost isn't that much of an issue I would choose the widget for the HogIIIPC with hesitation. In addition to offering 512 channels on the widget one can add more widgets. Though you may not see the need for 100 channels now there may be potential for several in the future. Moving lights eat up channels faster than you would imagine.
     
  14. jfitzpat

    jfitzpat Member

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    FWIW, it is not just a matter of 'how many' but also 'how well'. The Enttec Open DMX dongle is a pretty poor design. For example, adapters like ours or a Hog Widget handle low level DMX framing and refresh directly - the Enttec Open DMX dongle not only does not handle this, it doesn't even put the operations in a device driver, but instead leaves it up to the application.

    This has three immediate consequences, first it seriously limits overall system capacity. Second, it pretty much assures that some non conforming packets get sent. Many developers new to DMX who experiment with the Enttec stuff wrongly conclude that DMX is touchy with respect to speed, this is false - most small consoles send packets dramatically faster than the Enttec dongle with much greater reliably. The core problem is things like, no way to properly generate 'MAB', etc. Finally, it means that the interface is a lot more sluggish than a good console, or even a really cheap board.

    Granted, sluggish performance and interoperability problems may not really matter in a very simple setup involving dimmers. But is it something to consider - especially if you have plans for moving fixtures or media control. Really, it is not as if you are saving all that much money. Around $100 for a 36 channel solution with sluggish, non conforming output vs. say, $300 for our entry level adapter (full 512 channels, no fixture limits, support for tactile input, etc.) or $300 for a low end board. I'm actually not a big fan of many of the low end boards, especially with movers, but if you are already willing to settle for a very small channel capacity, it seems well worth considering.

    A solution like ours is a great choice if you are managing intelligent fixtures on a budget. A board has the advantage of hands-on access to a small rig. A 36 channel PC solution seems like the worst of both worlds. You lose tactile immediacy but gain no benefits from intelligent fixture management (since you lack the channels to use them). LightFactory has a path for tactile input, but I think it is based on the Enttec 'wings', which would elliminate any price benefit.

    I have to second Soundman1024's warning about channels. We get used a lot for media server control. Granted, you might not be looking at a Catalyst, but plenty of folks run packages like Arkaos' VJ DMX on a computer. It is pretty nifty, and a natural fit for good 'intelligent fixture' DMX control - but it eats up 42 channels per layer (8 layers).

    -jjf
     
  15. AVGuyAndy

    AVGuyAndy Active Member

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    I like your advertising methods.
     
  16. jfitzpat

    jfitzpat Member

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    I'm sorry you feel that way. I do always make it clear that I'm biased and I always try to back things up with verifiable facts.

    Do I have strong opinions? Yes. But I've been at this a long time. If you go back to Lighting Dimensions' first issue of 1988 you can see that I sent my first consumer PC based controller out on a major tour around '87. Before that, I'd already had 3 years as the system programmer for a company doing turnkey computer control for tours and major installs all over the world (before that I was a working LD for a number of years).

    Since that ancient history, I've been fortunate enough to get to work in a number of interesting areas as they first emerged (example, I was at the first MIDI Manufacturers Association meeting) but have always kept some connections to lighting and entertainment control.

    So, right or wrong, my opinions about engineering and lighting are pretty deeply rooted. Still, I don't like blind deference to authority myself and think that experience, in of itself, is over rated (it is absolutely possible to do a thing badly year after year, look at my dad and golf). So in threads like this one,I spend some time trying to layout what I believe is the technical foundation of my position.

    The original poster was actually surprised that I would share technical information because of potential 'competition'. But I really do not see it that way. On other forums I've done everything from debug interrupt code on an Atmel AVR processor for a DMX hobbiest to help a developer at a 'name' manufacturer understand the math behind split dipless fading.

    Bottom line, I benefited from a lot of help and mentoring early in both my lighting and engineering careers. So I have some obligation to give back. Pride and ego also play a part. By my count I've been present at the 'personal computer' revolution for five industries. The only one not to rapidly adopt has been stage lighting. The way I see it, the last thing the industry needs is non comforming DMX sources in the field.

    I'm not saying 'buy us', but I am saying at least step up and pay the $40 more to the Enttec 'pro' dongle. It is still not up to snuff with interfaces from a lot of other companies, but at least it doesn't put out bad packets. But you don't have to take my word for it. At least one Light Factory guy makes an appearance on some other forums. His assessment, "no one" has gotten the "Open DMX" interface from Enttec to be "100%", either in compliance or reliability.

    -jjf
     
  17. nez

    nez Member

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    o believe me i know we have 3 of them at my school aud ahahah
     
  18. nez

    nez Member

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    ok see the thing is im only doin this right now to earn some money and further my self with lights i will not be getting any moving fixtures because the are to costly right now and i only have one full year before i move to colleage so it is not a big deal as well as i only have so much that i can spend for this as well as still being able to buy the lights so i will keep my eye out for better stuff but until it is lower price i will have to go with lower grade stuff
     
  19. lightguy2k6

    lightguy2k6 Member

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    our high school has a dedicated lighting desktop PC and we use Horizon. It works with no problem at all. It runs at about $2/channel. So 512 channels costs $1024 for the basic system.
     
  20. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    If you're just doing this for a little part-time deal, just get a cheap AMDJ board. It'll run you a little more, but you won't have to run your laptop around and you won't have to worry about the software not cooperating. Go to some place like www.bulbamerica.com and get a cheap DMX board and some Parcans...mebbe PAR46's. You can put eight of them on a 2.4kw standard circuit if you have the right bulbs. By 2.4kw standard circuit I mean a wall plug. But each wall plug you use has to be on a seperate circuit, or else you will overload the breakers.
     

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