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Topic: Show Control
Message: Posted by: Tony S (Sep 27, 2004 09:02PM)
I have seen numerous posts here about controling sound and music during your show. Some have strayed a bit into overall show control. I'd like to get into this topic a bit more.

What systems are available to control sound, lights, special effects, etc? For example, lets say I am doing a routine that requires music to begin playing 30 seconds into the routine, then offstage a fan and a fog machine need to turn on 15 seconds later - the fog machine for a duration of 5 seconds and the fan for a duration of 15 seconds..... you get the idea. When you map out a routine there can be many different things that need to happen.

I know there are different software packages available that can be loaded onto a laptop to control a show. I'm not familiar with the different hardware that is necessary to accept signals from the laptop to control the various devices. Lights, fog machines, bubble machines, etc are available that use a DMX protocol for their control. How do show control packages interface to the different DMX devices? Are there other protocols besides DMX that should be considered?

Any info would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
Message: Posted by: Kevin Ridgeway (Sep 27, 2004 09:28PM)
DMX is the most used "language" in lighting. The other often used is call Multiplex.
Stay with DMX it is the best out there.
It works by having all the different fixtures (dimmers, intelligent lights, fog machines, fans, etc) having a specific address. Each universe of DMX is 512 channels. Each fixture uses anywhere from 1 channel to upwards of 20 channels. Therefor you need to have enough universes to have enough channels. For most anyone here 1 universe of 512 channels will be plenty.

If you use a device that does not have DMX built in there are two options. If it is Multiplex, then you need a multi-DMX convertor. If it is say a non DMX fan, then you need a DMX controlled relay. this relay will act upon the DMX signal and turn on and off the fan. If it is a light then most likely you will be using a dimmer.

Now on to programming...
You can create scenes, cues, etc. For example a scene may be the lights coming on, fan coming on latter with fog, fog turning off or maybe even just lower output, and the fan still running.
With show control type of controllers, they will also play the music, video, etc.

The hardware needed in a software based controller is a USB to DMX box. It is all you need other than the cables and a DMX terminator at the last fixture.

That is a lot to digest at once. SO I'll leave it here and answer any other questions you may have.

Hope that helps.

Message: Posted by: Tony S (Sep 28, 2004 06:00AM)
Thank you for your help. Yes, you've given me a lot to digest, but that's exactly what I was hoping for. I'll spend a little time doing research on the info you've given me and let you know if I have additional questions. Thanks again.

Message: Posted by: Majiloon (Sep 28, 2004 12:20PM)

What software do you use- or what software do think is the best that would have the least problems, user friendly?

Kelly Duro
Message: Posted by: Kevin Ridgeway (Sep 28, 2004 02:16PM)
We use Elation's Compu Ware Pro. It is fairly easy to program. In fact with the 3D Visualizer, I can program the entire show (intelligent light, conventionals, fog, haze, special effetcs) right in my living room. It allows me to create the stage and view it from any angle. I even have illusions placed on the stage along with people. Then when I get to a theatre it is easy to make and monor adjustmenst due to say trim height, stage dimension, house dimensions, etc. One piece is where kristen reappears in the audience. Nw each house is different in size and layout. It literally takes about one minute to refocus and change X & Y axis on the Intellabeams to make sure they hit her out in the audience.

There are sevreal other software based systems out there. Matin has the Light Jockey and High End has the Hog PC.

Hope that's helps.

Kelly PM when you get a chance.

Message: Posted by: CamelotFX (Sep 28, 2004 02:38PM)
Of course, you're putting some poor tech out of a job as well as putting your act at the mercy of the clock. When the timing goes wrong, or the audience applauds a little too long, or that darned prop jams, the last thing you want is automatic control. We techs work cheap and we pay attention to your cues. Hire one of us to run your control board... please? :smiletear:
Message: Posted by: Majiloon (Sep 28, 2004 02:55PM)
I agree, that techs are important, but they are coloring my sound live to avoid feed-back- and generally there to baby sit the sound levels occasionally.

Unfortunately- technoogy is sometimes used to close the gap between needing a tech and using what is availalbe to get the job done easier and cheaper.

In 25 years I have seen a dramitc decline in techs who know- to now- techs who think they know. It is absolutely refreshing to find a tech who knows!

With all the technolgy changes happening so fast in the last 8 years- it is hard to find someone who knows that is still in the business...

Or am I looking in the wrong places?
Kelly Duro
Message: Posted by: CamelotFX (Sep 28, 2004 03:13PM)
"Once you have found him
Never let him go."
- Richard Rodgers

Amateur magicians (the pros are supposedly all working on stage :)) make great techs. Besides, they stay awake during your act. Otherwise, look for experience with magic. You don't need the sound guy for Brittney Spears. (Hmmmm... we don't need Brittney Spears either.)
Message: Posted by: Jeff Haas (Sep 28, 2004 08:37PM)
The sound guy for Britney just puts on her CD and presses "Play."
Message: Posted by: paulajayne (Sep 28, 2004 09:49PM)


For free PC based DMX software, but you will need to buy the interface from them
Message: Posted by: CamelotFX (Sep 29, 2004 10:12AM)
Do you have and use the Daslight, Paula?
Message: Posted by: p1pster (Sep 29, 2004 10:26AM)
Couldn't agree more with some of the above posts. As a working techy and have been for 10 years its annoying to be replaced by automation and also dangerous to do so eg timing goes out etc. The techies are needed to ensure smooth running and operation.
So if in scotland and need a technician, LD or SD give us a shout. Also I came across a company once who were controlling pyros with DMX, and as a note NEVER EVER control pyros or scenery automation with DMX, as it can kill!!

Sorry don't know what its like in the US but I don't find it hard to find a techy who knows!!
Message: Posted by: Tony S (Oct 2, 2004 08:59AM)
Thank you for your input. I think I've got this figured out:

1. Get the software, load it on the laptop and work on the programming.

2. Connect the laptop to the USB to DMX box.

3. Connect the USB to DMX box to the input on the first DMX fixture. The output on the first fixture connects to the input on the second, etc...

4. Connect a DMX terminator to the output port on the last fixture in the series.

5. Use a DMX relay to control non DMX devices.

6. Each fixture in the series will have its own unique address (or addresses if there are multiple functions to control). I assume this is set with dip switches on each device - or something similar. These addresses are used in the programming.

7. Music and sound effects can be loaded onto the laptop and controlled via the software as well. This will require the use of a professional audio card to connect with the sound system being used.

8. Work my a** off to get familiar with the software, hardware, timing etc...

Please let me know if this sounds about right, or if there is anything I am missing. Thanks to everyone for their help.
Message: Posted by: Kevin Ridgeway (Oct 2, 2004 10:32AM)
Tony...I'll touch on each by number.

1. Yes

2. Correct

3. Yes, the DMX box is three pin, your fixtures may be either 3 or 5 pin. If any fixtures are different you will need a 3-5 pin convertor or a 5-3 pin convertor. Don't forget to check which end needs to be male or female.

4. Correct, again last fixture may be 3 or 5 pin.

5. Yes, make sure they are items that turn on and off only. If they need to dim or fade, they need to be on dimmers.

6. Almost...Each unit will have only one address set. An example is our Intellabeams. They use 7 channels of dmx. You only set the first address(channel). The next 6 belong to it and you need to take that into account back at the computer...one intellabeam every seven channels. Most fixtures have dip switches, some have keypads and do it digitally.

7. Yes, get a high end sound card. We use a desktop instead of a laptop. It gives us more options for video and sound cards. As well as go heavy duty on the ram. An external sound card is best, but not necessary. Get the correct cables and adaptors to connect to your sound system or anyone else's.

8. Yep...sit and work day in and day out on it. Program at home as well as with the whole rig set up.

Keep you sound system off of the same circuits as any of your light rig.

Hope that all makes sense.


We still have a full time production manager. They run the light board. We don't create the show as one whole scene. Our person still has to "bump" each scene as well as they have final control over the finished "look". So hopefully we have still gainfully kept someone in work.

Message: Posted by: MagicByRy (Oct 2, 2004 10:48AM)

What type of DMX Dimmers and DMX Relays do you use/suggest? Also, I know several people that do not use terminators, what could result in not using on?

Thanks for you help,
Message: Posted by: Kevin Ridgeway (Oct 2, 2004 12:05PM)
Most of our fixtures are intelliegnt, thus they have the dimming built in. However for dimmers we use Lightronics. They are not the best, but do the job. I would recommend Lightronics, NSI or ETC. We do not use any relays.

Regarding DMX terminators...the DMX termination is the most prevelant cause of DMX problems. A terminator is a resistance at the end of the DMX line. This resistance prevents the fast DMX signal from "bouncing" back down the line and causing flicker and other problems. Some people do not use them, but it is best if you do.

Message: Posted by: Tony S (Oct 2, 2004 03:20PM)
Thanks for your help and advice. I truly appreciate the fact that you took the time to help. I think everything makes sense now. It's time to go work on the budget!!!