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Running lights from a PC?

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by jkowtko, Nov 17, 2007.

  1. jkowtko

    jkowtko Active Member

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    I'm a sound guy but am asking this on behalf of our theater (and my desire to save on desk space in the booth).

    We have an Express 96 board which takes up a lot of space, and I'm wondering if there are PC-based DMX controllers that could be used in place of the board.

    Our lighting guy said he knows of one but it's not very good. Are there any good programs and interface cards that would suitably replace the Express 96?

    If so, then are there also 8 or 16 channel fader units that can be connected to the PC to give manual fader control?

    (In the sound world all this stuff is available -- just don't know about lighting).

    Thanks. John
     
  2. Hughesie

    Hughesie Well-Known Member

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    depends on how many channels you want, and what type of lighting you are running

    chavert showxpress is a nice one for moving lights with a small wysiwig app attached to it, but others who are lighting people will recommend something from the jands range, is it the IPC, or wholehog i think it's the wholehog. anyway i am a sound person too, but it gives you something to look at
     
  3. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    I would recommend a search on CB because I think this topic has been discussed many times. There are many options out there for you.
     
  4. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    Gahh...
    H.E.S. Hog 3PC
     
  5. DHSLXOP

    DHSLXOP Active Member

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    Chamsys makes a great program called MagicQ...Although it can run moving lights, its designed to work really well with conventional fixtures. I'm using it right now for a production of Oklahoma and it is working great.(knock on wood!!) Its a free download and then you have to buy the adapter from Enttec which you use to connect to your DMX. In my opinion MagicQ is a great value especially when you're only paying $60 for the adapter to go with it!
     
  6. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Yes, smaller footprints are available. Whether they're workable for you is another matter. Programming lights using a dedicated "control surface" is ALWAYS going to be faster than using a keyboard and mouse. The Hog3PC, with all of it's little wings: programming, playback, and fader, is a good, though not inexpensive, solution. Since you're currently using an Express, I would recommend looking into ETC's new console, the Ion, also discussed at length here, and finally "launched" at LDI this week.
     
  7. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    And on top of that pcs are typically unstable.

    Though I found out at LDI you can get a MA node for $1900!

    ((hater of boards on pcs))
     
  8. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    I don't know where that comes from, but in my experience it's just not true. I've run LightJockey on a notebook for over 6 years and it's never crashed, using every OS from Win 98 through ME (which was crap) to XP. I haven't jumped to vista yet, but that's mostly because I don't see the need to spend the money on it. And I've installed it in numerous venues and they never have issues with crashing. I use the same machine to net surf while at shows, used it to play games WHILE LJ was running, used it to run audio software, used it to sync audio files with light cues, and tons of other stuff. And never has it given me problems.

    The big flaw with pc lighting control is that unless you have some fader hardware, or you have a lot of presets for chases, looks, etc., it's more difficult to run conventionals.
     
  9. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    You've been lucky.

    Every console on a computer (very different from computer console) I've worked with has crashed. 7 times out of ten because its been loaded up with a bunch of extra crap and hooked up to the internet.
     
  10. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    Ding ding ding!!

    Dedicated terminal only, hook it up to the internet only to update the software.
    Lock all software changing permissions and physically disable the network card if needed.(hide it in the closet)
     
  11. thirdoctive

    thirdoctive Member

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    I say we save some space in the booth by reducing the size of the sound board first. I need all my faders.
     
  12. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Or, put sound where it belongs: in the same space as the audience, and leave the LIGHT BOOTH for the Light Board Operator and the Production Stage Manager, and maybe Spot Ops if they don't have a booth of their own.
     
  13. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    Amen to that brother!!
     
  14. jkowtko

    jkowtko Active Member

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    That would be ideal for me ... however our theater is so small (175 seats) we can't afford to give up even a few seats. The booth is located just behind the last row of seats anyway, so it's in the traditional sound board position.

    There is another location for SM and LBO, but I would prefer to be in the same room if possible so we can communicate without me needing to wear clearcom. Our booth is wide enough that we can squeeze in SBO, LBO, SM and Spot if needed, so at this point I'm working on optimizing use of desk space so we can put binders and other materials on the desk.

    I may eventually move to the Yamaha 01v96 digital board which is pretty compact (17" wide), so was looking for an equivalent savings in footprint for the light board.
     
  15. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    In that case, consider this, provided you don't need more than two universes.
     
    jkowtko likes this.
  16. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    Which is not a failure of the lighting software. And given my experience, and the experience of other LJ users, some of whom I know personally, and all the installs I've done where the computer has never crashed, I'd say it wasn't luck. I'd say it was making sure that the hardware was robust enough to handle the load, which in a lot of cases is minimal. But where a lot of installers fail is taking a used pc and just intalling new without properly cleaning the machine. Just like building a house without prepping the foundation, it's doomed to failure. But again, that is not a function of the lighting software.
     
  17. Daveslights

    Daveslights Member

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    I've been running lighting software (Bluelite X1) on my laptop for over a year on the road. Has never crashed or slowed down. This is also my personal computer used for everything from games to the internet etc. I surf the web during set breaks and after doors open.

    I definitely recommend using a chill mat so the computer doesn't get hot.

    For the record, I've ended up taking up more space (and more set up time) than a console. But it's worth the savings.
     
  18. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Funny....we have Hog2onpc on a machine that's spec'd for it and it alone...never connects to the interwebs and it crashes constantly.

    Same thing goes for Emphasis...
     
  19. SerraAva

    SerraAva Active Member

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    The Hog PC that I use often is a rack mounted sever PC in a road case, with the rack mount dongles, splitters, and drawers for the wings and touch screens. The only thing on this sever is windows and Hog PC. The server is also bare bones, just a video card, ram, hard drive, processor, and USB ports. There isn't even a CD drive. All updates are transferred onto it via USB flash drives.

    Despite these measures, it still sometimes crashes, particularly when it remains on for a few hours, or sits not doing anything for an hour or so. As I stated in another thread, windows based console OSes crash. You might be lucky and not have it happen to you, but I have heard more about Windows consoles crashing then DOS. Linux consoles (Ma) also crash, just not as much.

    I am not bashing Windows either. I have a PC with a 1.8 GHz Pentium 4 in it that has been running for 5 years straight now. The only reason it has ever been turned off is when the power went out. This PC has also never crashed on me. I use to play games on it, and now it’s my info server and internet computer for my house.
     
  20. OnTheRock

    OnTheRock Member

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    I used to believe that, but I'm not sure anymore. I've run Lightfactory in three shows now. The first one with an Express 72 tied to it for 72 inputs. The second one I ran with no external hardware control. The third one I ran with an Enttec 10 slider playback unit. I did use the sliders somewhat during show prep, and then used the playback unit for it's Cue GO and BACK buttons only. The sliders were taped to the zero position.

    The secret to success in using laptop software, particularily in LightFactory, is to use their layout screen. I did a drag and drop of my lighting channels on to the layout. I arranged the channels based upon what part of the stage they lit. The washes were arranged with the ambers higher and the blues lower. The various specials and colors were arranged similarily.

    During design, when it came time to set lights, it was a simple matter of doing a drag to select FOHL or FOHR amber wash or blue wash, using the mouse scroll wheel to set the level and move on to the next group selections. It is also possible to arrange separate groups of lights in separate windows. Instant, named, access to lights or groups is available, and then easily changed with the move the mouse scroll wheel.

    When I first started at the theatre, I was first introduced to a Strand surface and then an ETC Express surface, with their various submasters and such. I found that I was just as efficient, or even better, when I moved to a software only method. If the laptop software didn't have that layout mode, which is where the I saved a bunch of time, I probably would have stuck with a traditional control surface. A screen capture in my blog, which is linked in my signature, is a simple example of my first show showing the spatial assignments of lighting fixtures with the software.
     

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