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Wireless DMX

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by Jon Majors, Jun 13, 2018.

  1. Jon Majors

    Jon Majors Member

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    I was referred to utilize wireless Dmx for a high school auditorium for all LEDs on our 3 electrics. The company that referred wireless dmx is a reputable rigging, install, retailer of all things theatrical. Would any of you recommend a wireless dmx system as a permanent install method in a theatre? I understand it would save money by not running dmx everywhere. Any thoughts or recommendations would be very helpful!
     
  2. porkchop

    porkchop Well-Known Member

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    Off the top of my head it doesn't seem like a completely wireless system would be the cheaper option, but if after a more thorough comb through the numbers they turned out to be pretty close in cost I would think it would be an asset to have wireless. The flexibility to be able to put fixtures anywhere power can be run is an obvious appeal and being able to control practicals wirelessly is a really nice trick to have in the bag. Also of all of the times where a show has required me to leave a trap for the less than fully informed flyman DMX cables where often the main cause. In a high school setting avoiding that would be even better.

    I imagine Jim from RC4 (@theatrewireless) will have some thoughts, but I'm currently in the process of specifying one of their 900MHz systems for a permanent install to get the DMX out of the crowded 2.4GHz spectrum. Not an option for all countries, but it looks like you're in Indiana so you should be fine. Just a thought if you want to go that direction.
     
  3. theatrewireless

    theatrewireless Jim @RC4Wireless #RC4DoesThat

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    Everything Brett (@porkchop) said is right on the money. Wireless DMX has been around a long time -- it's mature, functional, reliable technology. Cost is probably the deciding factor.

    Of course, I think our RC4 Wireless stuff is the best, but... well... I designed it, so I'm biased. :)

    Wireless is a great solution when it's not practical to break through walls to pull cable. Keep in mind, though, that DMX can be run over CAT5 directly, or over an Ethernet network as sACN or Artnet, so pulling cable might not be the nightmare it first appears to be. CAT5 cable is a low-cost commodity product, and there might even be unused runs of it in the walls already.

    When wireless is the right choice, and it probably is if a reputable installer is telling you so, then look at what we do at RC4. We'd love to be part of your project. Our RC4Magic and RC4Magic-900 gear is covered by the RC4Magic Lifetime Warranty, and that's pretty great if kids are touching any of it.

    Jim
    RC4
    www.theatrewireless.com
     
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  4. Jon Majors

    Jon Majors Member

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    Jim,

    Thanks for your input. Do you have dealers around the Indianapolis area where I could setup a demo?
     
  5. AxlD1234

    AxlD1234 Active Member

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  6. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Is this for a long term permanent installation or short term, one or two productions?

    Is wireless as reliable and trouble free as wired? Probably the consensus is no, it is not. Is wireless sufficiently reliable and trouble free? Probably in a large number of venues but not everyone.
     
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  7. Harrison Hohnholt

    Harrison Hohnholt Active Member

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    Something also to think about is turning off these LED's when not in use. Are you controlling them with relay packs in your dimmer racks? Are you just plugging them into hot power? Did the installer mention relay's?

    ETC has wireless relays that can solve two problems at once, turning off your LED's completely when not in use and getting them DMX.

    I would recommend asking the installer if they carry ETC and if you can demo them in the space and make sure there isn't anything crazy going on with signals in the high school.

    The demoing can be said for all wireless products you might be looking at for this project.
     
  8. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    I was very pro wireless and did a whole major renovation using the ETC Colorsource wireless relays. Pretty inexpensive since you just run a relatively small number of constant circuits and everything else plugs in. A major reputable dealer did the install - all ETC gear - and the wireless never all worked two days in a row. "dirty spectrum" was the reason given. A small school in a very small town (one dinner/ice cream stand for 15 miles was it for eats after the single 7/11) in a cornfield.

    I just don't know how much to trust a single transmitter/receiver pair demo for one day. Just saying. I have another similar project to be opened this summer and we'll see how that goes, but I already have the back-up planned for wired relays. (Which is what was done at the first one -about $5000 of portable DMX wiring, labor, and exchanging wireless for wired relays.)
     
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  9. Jon Majors

    Jon Majors Member

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    This would be for a permanent installation.
     
  10. JChenault

    JChenault Well-Known Member

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    Jim. I want to thank you for not blindly touting wireless in all situations. Far too many manufacturers are more interested in selling their gear instead of listening to the customer and helping them find the best solution.

    Tlad to see you guys don’t do that.
     
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  11. TimMc

    TimMc Well-Known Member

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    Hi Jon-

    From my perspective of managing a sound/lighting production and rental shop, NOTHING THAT IS WIRELESS will perform as well or as consistently as a wired connection - whether that's microphones or lighting doesn't matter. In audio we say that it takes a $2000 wireless mic system to replace a $25 mic cable.

    In a permanent installation I find zero advantage to using wireless DMX for routine locations like LX battens or coves and wireless introduces additional types of potential failures. It you can get AC power to a batten or cove there is no reason you can't get a DMX line to it, too.

    Jim @theatrewireless has a good product and he gets major kudos for not pimping his own gear - I think it's best used for fixtures that cannot be reached with conventional wired DMX or for fixtures that are moved about during a show. This is where wireless DMX earns its keep and folks like Jim become heroes. :)

    I'll leave it to the consultants and manufacturers to give advice on details and particulars but in general "copper is your friend."
     
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  12. theatrewireless

    theatrewireless Jim @RC4Wireless #RC4DoesThat

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    Well... sometimes I pimp my own gear when I honestly think it’s the right solution. :)

    We have put some gear in high school (and other) situations where gear is moved around a lot. If you sometimes you’re in the aud, but other times you’re in the gym, or even doing something outside, wireless delivers the data to where common power outlets are usually already present.

    I’ve seen a fair number of broken cables in my day, and I honestly believe modern wireless DMX has achieved reliability levels comparable to cable in most situations. For touring shows, you can’t damage the wireless link by running across it with a forklift. Add that set-up and tear-down is considerably faster, the kids in school are probably not coiling up their cables properly, and tripping hazards are a real concern.

    Our RC4Magic-900 system operates in the 900MHz band, far away from wifi, bluetooth, and everything else in that part of the spectrum. With range of 700 feet, it’s rock solid for the distances needed in most installations.
     
  13. theatrewireless

    theatrewireless Jim @RC4Wireless #RC4DoesThat

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    Not all wireless is created equal. Please please please consider giving some of the alternatives a try. When one car can barely climb a hill, that doesn’t mean all cars are useless on hills. RC4 is in every Katy Perry tour worldwide for a reason.

    And the prices are pretty much the same as what you’ve been using :)
     
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  14. cbrandt

    cbrandt Well-Known Member

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    As much as I'm a dyed in the wool "copper over air gap" kind of guy, I've seen myself proven wrong several times in the past few years. I've done a couple installations where the client insisted on wireless to get their dmx around the space, and honestly, I've done more troubleshooting on their wired systems, than the wireless. I'm still reluctant as hell to recommend it as a first tier solution, but I think a lot of that is having my heels in the mud.

    That being said, just as @theatrewireless said, vet your wireless system very very carefully. There are a multitude of systems out there, and they are not all of the same quality.
     
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  15. Grayson Lights Chicago

    Grayson Lights Chicago Member

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    Jon, I would recommend you give Indy Stage a call and ask them about ETC ColorSource Relays. These devices can give you reliable wireless control in addition to providing a relay for an air-gap off to extend the life of your LED fixtures. Very reasonably prices as well.
     
  16. josh88

    josh88 Remarkably Tired. Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    I have to agree with the pro wireless group. Its not the answer for everything, but we've got a decent amount in our shop and at this point even the cheaper stuff we have is pretty reliable. We've got wireless in every package touring around with our biggest corporate client so we don't have to run data around ballrooms and thats 60 or more events in a year in 60 different hotels/convention centers, etc and have had an issue once that we fixed in a couple of minutes. We used wireless for a graduation in our convention center that had 20,000 people show up.

    Look at it this way, at least with wireless you cant have someone pin your snake or data line ;)
    but seriously wireless has caught up, you just have to be smart about it and know its not right for every scenario.
     
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  17. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Wish you could tell me why this approach was so unreliable in Iowa public school to the point we removed wireless and replaced with wired. This year.
     
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  18. RickR

    RickR Well-Known Member

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    Similarly, a freind told me he regularly replaces wireless on the 2nd day of many broadway shows local stops. Dimmer beach to balcony rail, not much in the way and about 100'!

    They opt to tour with it and go months if not years so it must work most of the time. It tests out fine during load in but fails during the run. My only guess is the audience phone count.

    Yes Jim, usually 2.4ghz gear.
     
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  19. TimMc

    TimMc Well-Known Member

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    Read carefully my earlier reply. For stuff that moves to different places in pseudo-random fashion, or to places where running a DMX line is "impossible" (and yes, client objections can make that so...) then wireless is appropriate.

    But for a permanent installation to LX battens, coves and balcony rail there is zero, zip, nada reason to rely on wireless. Pull CATegory cable, pull DMX; be a sport and pull some coax while you're at it. It's never cheaper to do it later...

    While the underlying RF technology is mature, the circumstances under which we expect our specialized devices to operate in the midst of the general public are changing. With a 2.4gHz system (audio or DMX or whatever) that shares spectrum with TCP/IP wireless networks you take your chances and the results will only get worse until 2.4 fails completely.

    To be fair to the manufacturers of 2.4gHz band devices, they are tying to make the best and most robust products they can within the limitations of market price points and FCC regulations. That they work as well as they do is a testimony to the hard engineering work that has been done. The 900mHz band has its own limitations but in most spaces those are not at the significance level as 2.4 systems.
     
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  20. josh88

    josh88 Remarkably Tired. Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    I don't need to read carefully. I fully agree that if you can run a hardline to something in a permanent install, you should. It makes life easier but just like the switch to LED, when people 10 years ago were saying stay away, the dimming curves are bad and theres no good option.... we've reached the turning point where we can say, "well if you're going for portable or options where wired isn't ideal", There ARE finally solid, robust, reliable wireless options. That many manufacturers and rental houses can back up.
     
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