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PC based light board and small dimmers

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by ship, Feb 12, 2008.

  1. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Friend of mine has a band and is looking to start doing lights for it after like 15 years without.

    Been a while since I have been on that side of the fence or did much reading into such things so now I'm asking.

    He is looking at a cheap PC based computer program light board that he can use on a lap top. Don't know what brand but its cheap.

    Says it is USB to DMX in adaptor that I cannot see. Done ethernet to DMX adaptors but not the other.

    Anyway, anyone use or have such things as the PC based laptop light board program? Any use, can you use it as per a normal light board such as beyond bump buttons, cues etc, go into patching etc? We are not talking Hog PC here, something on the market for really cheap.

    How would one go about making a USB to DMX adaptor of would one best buy such a thing? I know Ethernet to DMX adaptors used in some Color Blast power supplies simply use the first three pins of the ethernet in parallel but am not aware of pins for USB.



    Next he is choosing between Chauvet or American DJ for four channel small dimmers. Which is better if either and any further notes beyond getting what you pay for (keep in mind liable in playing nice for personal experience). More in general or base and not official noting of this brand sux type overall stuff.

    by the way, gee thanks for the advice in stuff I no longer stay much in touched with the market on. Been a few years since the last time I heard about the PC light board, than as with now I already noted to him the advantages of if such a PC had various patch and hook up screens as a proper light board would be of advantage (possibly not given an economy version), but on the other hand a cheap light board while it would not have as much options and features might be easier to control during the show as a major advantage. This the overall advice. It's not as if you can use a tablet, template and stylist pen to control the lights off a PC, or can you off a cheap lighting program that no doubt than wouldn't speak Auto Cadd DXF the tablet might want to.

    Reminds me of a computer and tablet way back when.... (off subject....) a friend would be using my mouse, I would grab the pointer on the tablet and take over control, loved that feature.
     
  2. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    Something like this?
    ENTTEC DMX USB Pro
     
  3. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Could be, he was not very specific in what he bought, though a $60.00 adaptor was mentioned so perhaps it is different in program and adaptor as seperate things.

    More in general and as further thought about the concept.


    Recently I was at a local bridal expo... (eek! kill me now,) and got to meet the local DJ's plying for a sale - some with lighting effects "to impress..." None the less it would seem in general that while 25,000 songs or so on their PC to choose from, I'm sure that if I had one in mind by way of prior choosing what was played during the reception, it could be 25,001 without a problem. Most DJ's it would seem are well into the computer control which for them in finding the enter button and or setting up and mixing what they hear while looking at the keyboard is not a problem. I however take myself back to college when I had to do a sound / dance light show and it was necessary to in being not so good at it and having to do such a thing on the fly, do so in live mode also having to look at the stage.

    My main wonder in even having taken typing class and not having to look at the key board is if someone could given a PC based lap top light board easily control the lights for the show. This as opposed to some more normal sense of light board that has cues, faders, bumps and other stuff organized in a sensible layout? General practice would be necessary for anyone doing the lighting but overall what system would be easier on the amature scale?
     
  4. soundman

    soundman Well-Known Member

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    I have the open usb adapter and Chamsys magic Q installed on my laptop. It is made by some of the hog guys and I like it for checking in scrollers or testing a moving head with out setting up the full console.

    The software is a bit clunky to use with out any other hardware but a 2nd monitor is really help. The wing add ons are surprisingly inexpensive too. I think the quote I got was around $1400 for the PC wing but that was a few years ago.

    For just dimmers for trash and flash it should be no problem to set up a few cuelists, this is our ballad look, this is on 80s rock stack, this is the tip the bar tender narration look, you get the picture. If someone on stage would be running it I would look into getting some outboard gear to fire the cues. If someone at FOH can hit space bar this would be the cheapest way to go. If you poke around the open usb site there are people out there making software to do just what you want with out all the bells and whistles that the moving light desk bring.
    http://www.chamsys.co.uk/default.asp?p=start.asp
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2008
  5. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Well I would say it depends most on the software. A few years ago I was hired to do lighting for a grand opening party for a new dance studio. The guy was a rich doctor who purchased an old warehouse and remodeled it for his wife to teach dance in. They had NSI dimmers and a desktop PC based Horizon software system. I was on a fairly tight budget so I rented all conventional lights and sat down to learn the software. I read the manual, asked a few questions around and quickly figured out how it worked. That particular software had all kinds of virtual submasters and buttons. I programed about a dozen different chase and color combination sequences into the virtual buttons. You could even program the buttons to be on off or momentary. It was all very slick and quite easy to set up. I had a great time during the performances clicking my way through the show.

    So in the end with no training and a few days of playing around I put together a pretty cool looking show. Once I figured out how to program some of the tricks the system is capable of it was very easy to actually control in performance, just click and drag sliders, click bumps, press spacebar for "go". Now I believe Horizon is in the $500-$1000 range so I'm sure your friend doesn't have it. So I don't know how user friendly the cheap software is. I know that there's a free Mac program that some of the guys have written about in the past here that they really like. Never used it. Horizon also has optional wing USB submaster wing panel which would be really nice.

    One other thing, you made a comment about how a real console has things in a sensible layout... well with some of the PC programs you can actually rearrange the whole screen how you want so you can put those virtual bumps anywhere you want on the screen. It's kind of cool. I believe we have a member from the Caribbean who is so hooked on the flexibility of his PC system he was talking trash about his theater's ETC Express.

    P.S. My condolences on attending the Bridal show... it's been 16 years but I still get the shakes thinking about how horrible that day was.
     
  6. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    Ship,

    Same answer with a lot of computer based stuff: a lot depends on the software as to how much flexibility it has. The rest depends on the person running it and how much they care to invest. If they're buying cheap, chances are they bought the Entec box. I don't know that one at all so I can't say how flexible it is. But you'd be surprised how flexible pc based control is, in general. It can save a lot, do a lot, and really, the limits are more based on the imagination and experience of the operator than anything else. I use it all the time (Martin LightJockey) and it's one of those things where you can just keep tweaking forever, to make it work the way you want it. However, the most difficult part IMO of running pc based is the lack of traditional tactile inputs (faders and bump buttons). With some software you can add programming and/or playback wings. But they can be pricey. Or non-existent depending on the software. Tell them if they want to be really good, they need an ongoing investment of time to make it worthwhile.

    As for dimmer brands, I haven't tried a lot of the dj market products, but I think Elation does fairly well as a brand. And ebay seems to have a lot of stuff all the time, you just have to be on the lookout constantly in order to find things you need.

    However, if I were to be starting to add a lighting system, I'd probably look to some smaller, cheaper desk like a 16 or 24 channel Elation, etc., and get 4 - 8 of those Solaris led par cans. At $110 each plus shipping how can you go wrong?
     

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