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Author Topic: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?  (Read 10073 times)

Jonathan Goodall

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Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« on: December 16, 2012, 03:37:28 am »

Ok, so I have looked back through quite a few pages and can not really find anything that  quite fits my situation.
This question is asked more from a theatre point of view than for band use (although I do provide for some singer/songwriter, folky group type events).
I have been providing sound for events for quite some time, especially in schools and I have been asked a few times recently if I have any lighting available (which I don't), this has got me thinking about this as an option for next year.
I am not talking about dozens of lights but enough to provide a bit of color on standard local school stages (approx 8-10m across and 4-5m deep, 2.5m high) which have nothing but plain incandescent lights (either on or off, not even any dimming) and no rigging points.

LED seems a logical way to go as only two local schools have 3Ph in their halls and adding some lighting would add value to what I do for them currently.
I was thinking something along the lines of 6-8 slim-par style fittings with stands and a couple of colorstrip type devices for adding a bit of color to the stage and some wash for the back.

The main brand of gear available here is Chauvet but I can also get a brand called DesignLED at good prices (I have come across very little about them compared to Chauvet but they come across as being a good brand?). Also I don't have a local dealer which I can audition gear from (have to travel 300Km over an alpine pass to do that and they keep next to nothing in stock anyway) so most purchases would be based on recommendations.

The first question would be, does this sound like "enough" to start with? are there any glaring holes that I have missed? (if it worked out I could add more later to improve things but almost anything has to be better than the current setups they have).

The second question is about control.  For this amount of stuff would one of the Chauvet desks (Obey 40 or 70) be suitable for making up scenes for small plays/shows or would software be better? (I take it that the chauvet desks save a programmed show on power down?)  I want something reasonably straight forward and quick to work if possible and in general I don't think I would need any super flashy light shows (although a moving head light could have it's uses sometimes).
Hope this has provided enough info, please ask if have left too much out.

Cheers

Jonathan
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Paul G. OBrien

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2012, 12:33:37 pm »

LED technology is just beginning to become useful believe it or not with the release of better tri and quad led fixtures like the 4-bar Tri and the SlimPar Tri and Quad fixtures. These all-in-1 LED elements are FAR superior to the older par fixtures that use hundreds of small 1/4w single color LEDs in terms of color saturation and output, IMO the older fixtures are really only good for effects they just don't produce any useful amount of light output for wash applications.
As for a controller you can produce simple shows on one of the Obey desks but you really need something with a USB or flash drive interface to store your shows because in my experience there's no guarantee you won't lose all or part of your work if you rely on the desks internal memory. The cheapest desk I know of with a USB interface is the ADJ Operator 192, but you can have a far superior laptop based system for less with an Enttec USB Pro interface and Freestyler software. This package gives you tons of future expansion potential with more sophisticated lighting fixtures but also gives you much greater show design potential now with the option to setup auto or manual cues for certain points in a song or show or to make scene changes music driven for example.
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Josh Daws

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2012, 07:07:04 pm »

i have worked alongside a bunch of schools looking to upgrade their lighting systems (i am a lighting designer). im going to be right upfront with you DO NOT waste your money on a chauvet obey controller or the ADJ equivalent. they don't have much flexibility for FUTURE upgrade uses...a waste of $200(give or take $$)...

SlimPars are over priced. but if i were to suggest go with the chauvet SLIMPAR Pro TRI. they will be punchy and have really good color mixing capabilities. my HUGE this is stay away from anything that has 10mm LED. these won't perform the way you need it to.

regular PAR fixtures and profiles still have their place as front lighting, and i wouldn't suggest using LED from front wash lighting at all. however you still can its just that because the white is soo cold, people look sick and pale.

as far as control is concerned, what you need to purchase is a INDUSTRY STANDARD brand. im not talking ADJ, or Chauvet, or other DJ lighitng company. im talking the products that are used and respected amongst production houses and tour companies. the reason i say this is that the products are MORE RELIABLE, and in the long term, upgrading and support are cheaper. if you are looking for a physical controller, look at MARTIN. the M-Series products are amazing. great prices too. BUT if you want a laptop solution the best thing i can suggest for price is a Enttec DMX USB pro for about $180ish, and download for free the MARTIN MPC Software. intuitive and gives you 512 DMX channels, and really simple to use. now if you want more channels then just buy the Martin MPC software package.

the number 1 thing i stress that is most important to spend your money on is infrastructure, because to upgrade later is going to COST you more in the long run, and you will only be frustrated by being told you have to replace you console and other things of the like.

you also should invest into getting a DMX splitter.

i hope this was a help...feel free to contact me should you have any questions.
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Jonathan Goodall

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2012, 07:12:59 pm »

Some good info thanks Josh and Paul :)

(just had a quick look. Not sure what you pay for them but Slimpar pro tri's are $649 here he he he)
« Last Edit: December 16, 2012, 07:22:39 pm by Jonathan Goodall »
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duane massey

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2012, 11:40:03 pm »

I agree with Josh about the cheaper controllers, but the Elation Showdesigner series is very, very useful and cost-effective. I would also somewhat disagree that you cannot successfully use the more economical lines for your purposes, especially if your budget is limited or the market in your area will not justify the expense of top-line products. I'm not a big Chauvet fan when it comes to mechanical fixtures, but their other fixtures are decent. Try to stick with the tri- or quad-type fixtures, as they look better for theatrical purposes, and balance your choices with your budget. If coverage is more important than brightness, look for fixtures with a wider beam angle, or buy more fixtures at a lower wattage/lower$$. If you aren't certain what to buy, take your best shot at one fixture and play with it. Better to actually see it with your own eyes than trust a dealer or one of us.
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Duane Massey
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Josh Daws

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2012, 12:08:38 am »

I agree with Josh about the cheaper controllers, but the Elation Showdesigner series is very, very useful and cost-effective. I would also somewhat disagree that you cannot successfully use the more economical lines for your purposes, especially if your budget is limited or the market in your area will not justify the expense of top-line products. I'm not a big Chauvet fan when it comes to mechanical fixtures, but their other fixtures are decent. Try to stick with the tri- or quad-type fixtures, as they look better for theatrical purposes, and balance your choices with your budget. If coverage is more important than brightness, look for fixtures with a wider beam angle, or buy more fixtures at a lower wattage/lower$$. If you aren't certain what to buy, take your best shot at one fixture and play with it. Better to actually see it with your own eyes than trust a dealer or one of us.

i agree about the chauvet stage designer 50 console. these are great, but if you are going LED and want control over 6-8 led wash fixtures PLUS some LED bars, if you do your channel math, you are probably going to be well over the 48ch mark...HOWEVER being DMX and control you can set a bunch of fixtures together on the same channels to save channels.

also agree about chauvet moving head fixtures...im not sure if im allowed to say this or not (sorry chauvet) but i am currently at a 50% failure rate on a particular moving head fixture (not mentioning specifics). however i have found their pars and scanners pretty reliable at this point. for schools moving heads are cool but i think a little bit unnecessary. scanners for the most part will do the same job that most schools will use them for. but if you like the practicality of being able to point and shoot a beam of light somewhere then sure...

$500 for 2 universes (1024 DMX channels) plus the FREE download of the Martin MPC software, will be money way better spent, then spending $200-$300 approx on a 48ch controller or a 192ch controller, or whatever. plus you can control ANY fixture appropriately, efficiently, and effectively.

yeah the slim par pros are pretty expensive...lol i didn't think that they were quite that much. if you can get the MICROH brand, purchase the RIO TRI PAR, and you won't be dissapointed. the throw distance is approx 30ft with decent intensity. i have washed a stage multiple times at a size of 24ftW x 16ftL, lit on tripod stand, and out front. works fantastic. these are about $400 a piece though...
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Kyle Malenfant

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2012, 09:53:44 am »


as far as control is concerned, what you need to purchase is a INDUSTRY STANDARD brand. im not talking ADJ, or Chauvet, or other DJ lighitng company.

Great advise, however I've had great success with Elation's CompuShow...have used it from mobile DJ events all the way up to a DJ Tiesto show and everything in between.
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duane massey

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2012, 06:00:24 pm »

Elation Showdesigner 1; $ 749 MAP, 512 channels, 99 pages w 16 scenes per page, 16 fixture buttons w/ ability to "multi" fixtures for independent control over more than 16 fixtures; each scene can contain multiple chases as well as static looks; for live use you can access all fixture functions in realtime; Chase speeds are programmable independently; 16 pages of 16 individual programmable chases; can be backed up to a PC. There is nothing on the market that compares in this price range.
The learning curve would be a challenge for a novice, as it a generic DMX controller, but you can create very quickly with a little bit of practice.
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Duane Massey
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Josh Daws

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2012, 09:18:14 pm »

Elation Showdesigner 1; $ 749 MAP, 512 channels, 99 pages w 16 scenes per page, 16 fixture buttons w/ ability to "multi" fixtures for independent control over more than 16 fixtures; each scene can contain multiple chases as well as static looks; for live use you can access all fixture functions in realtime; Chase speeds are programmable independently; 16 pages of 16 individual programmable chases; can be backed up to a PC. There is nothing on the market that compares in this price range.
The learning curve would be a challenge for a novice, as it a generic DMX controller, but you can create very quickly with a little bit of practice.

ummm the martin universal DMX dongle and free software...??? 1024 dmx channels and unlimited scenes cue stacks, and control, and live control OR setup on a cuelists...and you set and control what you like.

if you want jump up to their control surfaces, sure its $6000, but the software is free for laptop! :)
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Steve Alves

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2012, 09:50:39 pm »

How about Martin Lightjockey? With the USB/DMX Dongle it is around $1100 street price.
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Steven Alves
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Brett Gilbert

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2012, 10:49:26 pm »

If you're looking for something inexpensive for occasional use consider Luminair by Synthe-fx (http://synthe-fx.com/products/luminairipad)

My main lighting console is a Hog, but for small bar gigs and so forth I like Luminair.  Also, you might consider keeping an eye out on eBay for Hog DMX Widgets. I paid $500 for a Hog Widget and I bring my laptop as an emergency back up in case my big console goes down.

I also give a +1 for the Chauvet LED's.  I bought the TRI-64's because there is no color halo's from individual RGB pixels.  I will say a 2800-3200k color temperature is a little difficult to obtain, but for what I do it's not a huge deal.

Two negatives on the low-end Chauvet LED's, one they don't like timing issues on the DMX signal, I had to buy a Doug Fleenor DMX timing regenerator due to occasional 'flickering' due to rate refresh issues, it completely solved the issue.  2nd, at very low intensity levels the LED intensity changes can be a bit 'steppy'.  The fixtures don't follow a typical square law dimming curve, they're very linear.
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Brett Gilbert

Jonathan Goodall

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2012, 11:29:58 pm »

Thanks for all the replies so far :)
I will admit that I have only a very basic understanding of DMX control at this point in time so some of the info has just gone straight over my head (I just need to grow taller maybe ;) )  I think to start with this would be a "small" side project to see how it went, so although I would love to have top notch gear (I know, buy once, cry once. This is how I generally work in the audio side of things), I don't see that it would ever really be a large part of what I do or recoup quickly the investment cost (I guess that puts me in the mid to lower priced fixtures market to begin with).

Like the look of the Ipad App thanks Brett.

Cheers
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duane massey

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2012, 02:23:52 am »

The Martin dongle is $499, plus the cost of the computer. Having operated and programmed on both systems I would choose the Showdesigner 1, hands down. I dislike running lights without a control surface, and I can program much quicker on the SD 1 than the Martin software. I still stand by my statement that there is nothing in the hardware controller market that comes close at that price point.
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Duane Massey
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Jonathan Goodall

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2012, 02:33:23 am »

There does not seem to be an Elation dealer in New Zealand :(
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duane massey

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2012, 02:45:18 am »

Yep, that could be a problem, Jonathan. If you can buy thru eBay you can find them. If your only option are cheap controllers or a PC-based system, go for the PC-system. You can add a midi control surface to make playback more effective (something like this: http://www.musiciansfriend.com/keyboards-midi/novation-launchpad-controller--limited-edition-white). You are wise to start off with a smaller investment to see if there is a market for this. The fact that you may not have much competition gives you more leeway to start on a lower level than someone here in the US. Good luck!
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Duane Massey
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Jonathan Goodall

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #15 on: December 18, 2012, 03:04:03 am »

Cheers Duane. The local theatre does have a large stash of standard lighting but it is just not practical in many of the venues I work in.

:)
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Nicolas Poisson

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #16 on: December 18, 2012, 03:39:57 am »


I work in a tiny venue and went to LED last summer, mainly because of the heat the former PARs were creating on stage (artists were melting).

I use ADJ flatPAR QA5 for the back. These are good entry level PARs:
- Optical mix of colors
- Additional amber LED
I use four of them oriented toward a velvet backdrop (which reflects a good quantity of light, even though it is black), and 4 more as droplights. I put a Lee 228 filter to have the backdrop coverage more even. Considering the light output of the device, I think there should be no less than one / meter. They reach 2.5m height with no problem.

I would not use cheap LED for the front: the quality of the white is too low (this is a question of Color Rendering Index). I kept traditional bulbs for that.

For light control I have a basic "two preparation" 2x12 desk for the front and a PC with MagicDMX for the LEDs. MagicDMX is a free version of Chamsys's software and it cannot be beaten in term of price: you only have to pay the transport fee ($16) to get the USB-DMX interface. So for that price you get pro software plus a DMX interface. There are a few limitations, of course:
- You cannot run the software continuously for more than 5 hours. After that you need to quit the software, unplug and re-plug the interface, and re-launch. This is not a big deal as this takes only a few seconds. There is a more expensive interface (magic DMX "full", $100) that does not have this limitation.
- You cannot use third party control surface (strongest limitation IMO), and Chamsys's control surface are rather expensive ($1000 and more).
- You cannot sync light with audio
- Plus a few other ones.

I bought a second hand Asus all-in-one PC with touch screen off eBay to run the software.

I do not think such a system without control surface would be acceptable in a real pro environment with moving heads etc. The touch screen helps but it is not adequate for virtual faders (I am still more precise with the mouse). But if you are the light operator, this is enough to create a constant set of lights for each song.
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Jonathan Goodall

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #17 on: December 18, 2012, 04:27:32 am »

I see that after 5 hours it resets itself, can you save and reload what you have done?
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Nicolas Poisson

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #18 on: December 18, 2012, 05:31:25 am »

Yes.
Indeed each time you launch the application, it lets you choose between several options. The default one is to reload the last configuration (even if it was not explicitely saved by the user before quiting). The whole reset + un/re-plug can take less than 10 seconds, depending on ease of access to the USB port.
The free version of the software also work with standard third party DMX interfaces (such as the well-known Enttec), in which case the time limitation is not applicable. Only third party control surfaces (faders, encoders, etc) are ingored. I mean you cannot use a BCF 2000 for example. The "Magic DMX full" does not have much interest, since a basic Enttec Open DMX does the same for half the price. You can try the software with the MagicDMX for almost no $$$. If you like it, getting an Enttec to escape the time limitation is a good idea. The Enttec will work with other software, the MagicDMX will not.

Other than that, save to file is possible (no inhibition as can be found on so many demos). So you can save many config an reload them if you work several times in the same place.

When I start the computer, there are some color flashes when the interface is initialized and starts communicating with the flatPars. However, this does not happen after when unplugging/re-plugging the interface. This is good to know: if you have forgotten to reset the interface and discover you only have 15 min left while the show is going on, you can reset it between two songs without undesired flashy effects. All connected device will remain off. This is more problematic if the front lights are also managed by the interface, however.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2012, 05:56:35 am by Nicolas Poisson »
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DanGlass

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #19 on: December 18, 2012, 06:29:01 am »

+1 on the Chamsys PC software control.  The software does exactly what their full size consoles do.  If you invest roughly $150.00US in an Enttec dongle you do not need to restart the software every 5 hours.  So for the cost of software (free) and the Enttec dongle ($150) you get a pro grade lighting controller.  I always prefer an actual console with faders but if i am doing a smaller show without alot of cues or if I physically dont have the space I will use the PC without any issues.
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Josh Daws

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #20 on: December 18, 2012, 08:56:42 am »

+1 on the Chamsys PC software control.  The software does exactly what their full size consoles do.  If you invest roughly $150.00US in an Enttec dongle you do not need to restart the software every 5 hours.  So for the cost of software (free) and the Enttec dongle ($150) you get a pro grade lighting controller.  I always prefer an actual console with faders but if i am doing a smaller show without alot of cues or if I physically dont have the space I will use the PC without any issues.

i have used this software and swore by it...its great (if you know what you are doing, if not good luck lol) then i came across the M-PC by martin and found it WAY LESS cumbersome to get around, and much easier to execute. but i will standby both software pieces, i like them both. and you can use the ENTTEC DMX USB PRO with both software pieces. it really depends on your lighting control style. busking vs cue

« Last Edit: December 18, 2012, 09:03:48 am by Josh Daws »
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Jonathan Goodall

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #21 on: December 29, 2012, 11:21:38 pm »

Well, I have ordered the MagicDMX USB kit and have downloaded the MagicQ software, quickstart guide and manual.  Had a quick read and play around with the software (can't do much until the Magic DMX and a cheap, shop soiled LED Par show up) and my head is spinning lol.  Even the quick start guide does not seem to be written for a complete beginner, BIG learning curve coming up ha ha :)
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Josh Daws

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #22 on: December 29, 2012, 11:59:19 pm »

Well, I have ordered the MagicDMX USB kit and have downloaded the MagicQ software, quickstart guide and manual.  Had a quick read and play around with the software (can't do much until the Magic DMX and a cheap, shop soiled LED Par show up) and my head is spinning lol.  Even the quick start guide does not seem to be written for a complete beginner, BIG learning curve coming up ha ha :)

well in reality the magicQ software is not for beginners...it was a huge learning curve for me to get familiar with how it works and functions and trying to find all the options....thats why i suggested that you purchase the enttec DMX USB PRO, then download for free the MARTIN M-PC software. much more user friendly IMO! however you MAY still be able to use the magic DMX with it, but i don't think that Martin will support it. but the dongle i mentioned will!

but im glad you made a purchase. if you have any questions about the MagicQ software feel free to PM me
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Jonathan Goodall

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Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #23 on: April 09, 2014, 05:07:49 am »

Okay, so waking an old thread here but after a 15 month pause I have pulled the trigger on a very small beginners rig.  4 x Chauvet  Slimpar Quad 6 fixtures and a Stage Designer 50 desk (plus DMX cables, clamps etc).
Sitting here tonight I am getting my head around programming the desk but have noticed that fading in and out of scenes the "stepping" (almost a flickering) is really obvious.  The fade is set to instant, speed is on show mode. Anything else i should be checking for?
Cheers
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ProSoundWeb Community

Re: Things to consider in general + software or desk for DMX?
« Reply #23 on: April 09, 2014, 05:07:49 am »


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