Control/Dimming Obscure com issue with ET Intelligent Raceway

FTKD

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Sioux Falls, SD
Greetings! I am having a very peculiar challenge and am wondering if anyone has experienced similar things. While trying to interface an ETC Ion with Entertainment Technology Intelligent Raceway, I was unsuccessful getting the console to output to these dimmers directly. I first tried using a Pathway DMX Merger as a buffer between the console and the dimmer both directly via DMX and through network sACN protocol to no avail. To verify that the cable the venue left me was good, I used my Swisson XMT-120 and found the cable to be fine, but while using the Swisson, I was also unable to activate the ET dimmers. The resolution came through using an ETC 4 port gateway, the dimmers fired right up. In my troubleshooting process, I adjusted the DMX transmission for all of the devices I attempted to interface with the dimmers and always verified that I was actually outputting signal before moving out to the next transmission speed or new device. I thought it might be a grounding issue as the ETC 4 port gateway is run on a 12V wall wart plug thus breaking the physical ground link between the dimmers and the console. However, I tried lifting the ground on the console and the Pathway DMX Merger, furthermore, the Swisson is a battery operated device so that reduces the likelihood that it's a grounding issue.
 

Rob

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On page 15 of the XMT-120 manual it will give you a limited number of statistics on the dmx flavour.
  • Refresh rate
  • Break Length
  • Mark after Break
  • # slots
It might be interesting to get the some stats from the 5-pin off the Ion vs the gateway. You may need more detail than the above list (i.e., Inter-Byte timing). The DMXter has such analysis stats.
Does the ET Headend report it receives DMX (DMX active LED) even though it doesn't control dimmer?
 

DavidNorth

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You've tried some good things here and certainly know a little bit about DMX issues. Clearly it is not a grounding issue, as you have pointed out. Certainly it could be timing. In the shell of the Ion you can select from 4 different flavors of DMX and you might want to give those a try. The timing out of the gateway is also selectable on a port basis, if needed.

Yes, as Robert states, a DMX tester might not tell you all the necessary timing parameters needed, such as inter-byte and inter-packet idle, which is very important to some receiving devices [although all receiving devices should be able to receive the full breadth of legal DMX timing]. Changing the DMX speed should solve this.

David
 
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FTKD

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Sioux Falls, SD
Thanks for the feedback gents, I am hoping to get a little time back in the space to try digging up some of Robert's suggestions. I am simply the guy who rents out and delivered the console and I know the designer is having a pretty rough time with the installed dimmer packs failing. At any rate, David, the first thing I tried was adjusting the DMX settings in the backshell of the console, as my initial thought was the Ion was effectively moving too fast for the ET dimmers. If/when I get a moment to dig in to the deeper settings and diagnostics I will certainly update back.
 

DavidNorth

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Well, I'm completely surprised that the Ion couldn't run the dimmers as the shell settings are quite wide in order to deal with such issues. FYI, the 4 port GW has different timing parameters on ports 1 and 2 versus 3 and 4. So if you have any issues there, make sure you move to the correct pair of ports.

This is the first time I have heard of issues running IPS strips so perhaps there is more to the DMX system than we know about? Is there an architectural controller? Wall stations? Something else tied in to DMX?

Let us know,

David
 

FTKD

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Sioux Falls, SD
I too have been baffled by this situation, honestly the gateway was plug n play after setting it to output universe 1 across all the outputs through GCE. Collecting data beyond what I already have might get to be a bit challenging as this isn't my system and the venue isn't super welcoming. I can tell you that no architectural system touches these dimmers all of the "house lights" are fluorescent tubes driven on a completely separate system. I had heard rumors that they used to have a wireless receiver tucked in to the raceway but that it was tied to the RJ45 jack on the raceway rather than the DMX. I am hoping to get over there tomorrow and see if I can at least see what sort of packet information I am getting at the end of the raceway and potentially even eliminate individual raceways to see if that is where my trouble is coming from.

In fairness to the Ion, I did encounter this same situation a year ago with an Element though I had even less time then to go through and trouble shoot as it was my show and programming time was tight. I figured this time around was a slam dunk, with the DMX Merger serving as my gateway rather than the ETC 4 port. My big question is if I can utilize an ETC single port without hiccup? The 4 port I am using is a borrowed piece and this show being a 4 week run is more favor credits than I have to cash, safe bet is buying a 4 port but spending that kind of cash on a $200 rental is a tough pill to swallow.
 

DavidNorth

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Great question. It depends on what the actual issue is in regards to DMX timing, if it is timing related, so I will try to get more info to you on the one port. Here's is all the timing on the balance of ETC devices, in case you or someone needs it for reference:

http://www.etcconnect.com/Support/Articles/DMX-Speed.aspx

Sorry about the IPS thing...old habits die hard and I default to calling them that as I've worked with them since new.

More info when I can get it.

David
 

FTKD

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Sioux Falls, SD
Great read you posted David. Unfortunately, I think my sleuthing trail has hit a dead end. I was only able to gather info from the gateway and where the DMX home run ties in to the first raceway and its "processor". These values were identical with a refresh rate of 43 hz, a break length of 188 to 200 and a mark after break of 14. It seems that the raceways are connected together using some sort of proprietary 6 pin cable and what's more curious is the DMX thru connector on the processor is not passing signal out. I am now inclined to think that the rumor about a wireless DMX receiver to be true and that this voodoo is more about installer than manufacturer. In any case, I'm not in a position to tear open a raceway that doesn't belong to me and isn't technically broken. The venue personnel maintain it to be an issue on my end as their strand blue golf ball console seems to have no challenge talking to this rig. Oh well, thanks for all the help on this guys, if anybody has anything noteworthy based on my limited finding, I'd love to hear it.

Cheers!
 

theatrewireless

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I am now inclined to think that the rumor about a wireless DMX receiver to be true and that this voodoo is more about installer than manufacturer. In any case, I'm not in a position to tear open a raceway that doesn't belong to me and isn't technically broken.
This is a very interesting problem!

The two most likely wireless cards in a device like this would be Wireless Solution W-DMX or LumenRadio CRMX. In both cases, you would see an RF antenna somewhere. At the very least, there must also be one button for pairing the card with a transmitter. It would normally be marked Link, Pair, or Function. Any other type of RF requires significantly more of a user interface. If you don't see any of this, there is probably no RF receiver involved.

If an RF card is present, enabled, and outputting DMX, that means it's paired to a transmitter somewhere; if the transmitter is not working, most RF cards go offline and will not interfere with a wired connection. Perhaps you could find where a transmitter might be?

If the RF receiver were active, then there would be line contention with your wired DMX source. It is possible (but unlikely) that one DMX data output might be significantly lower impedance (able to deliver more power) than another, and might be able to successfully "talk over" the other. Other less powerful sources wouldn't win that battle and garbled/mixed data would result in nothing working. This is a somewhat far-fetched idea, but worth considering.

Jim
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FTKD

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Nov 6, 2012
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Sioux Falls, SD
I found a City Theatrical transmitter over in the lighting storage area of this facility. The power supply for it has gone missing but I have been told that this was the device originally installed. It seems the receiver is buried in the box with the processor or right inside the raceway near it. Unfortunately, I think I have to mark this issue "closed but still puzzled" as I am the only person that seems to want to continue digging for a solution. Thanks again fellas, it's always fun to be the one to stump the group, if only a better resolution had come of it.