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Touring some lights and repatching to venue systems


paulears

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I always get a bit wary now when I read some of the touring show riders where they carry some of their own lights, but need to access the venue systems. One recently detailed how they had one DMX universe to go to the house dimmers, and needed a single tie-line to get their DMX to the stage, for their LEDs and movers. The trouble is their ETC had two DMX universes - yet we are running 3 from our control to all our kit dispersed around the stage and FOH. SO the best I could do was give him 72 channels of our dimmers, mainly with PARs and front of house stuff on it. The movers are on a different universe, as are the new LED movers that now do wash duties on the audience side truss and LX1. There's no way to remove this generic rig and reinstate the old wash system, when the arrival to show time period is so short. Even if he'd had more universes, his ETC wouldn't have had the fixture personalities for the kit we have - just not common enough, and with so much nice LED kit available now, this will get worse.

 

Is there a touring solution where patching in can actually work nowadays. In the end, it was far simpler to use two desks. It's infuriating when he sees the bar of backlight PARs in green which he wants to use for the 'Wicked' section not being connect to his universe, because they're on a pile of rack mount dimmers connected to a different universe! It would be possible to reduce the quantity of our universes, by loads of extra cable but that's hardly practical, and our more modern kit consumes channels crazily.

 

As more and more venues of all sizes re-equip with LED, the old "here's my DMX cable" procedure just doesn't work anymore.

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When touring or production, I would expect a venues dimmers to be on one universe. Is just this a possibility in your venue?

 

When in-house, I would expect the touring staff to carry critical kit, in this case something like a Net3 node with 4 DMX outs that is configurable to output whatever you need.

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It would be possible to reduce the quantity of our universes, by loads of extra cable but that's hardly practical

 

Really? Surely, if there are 3 universes coming out the back of your desk, the addition of a DMX Buffer wherever the desk is would allow you to quickly plug one of those universes into the other.

 

In my place I have recently allocated one universe as solely for visiting productions. It's a completely empty universe for whatever they want. My house fixtures are on universes 1-6. (And I can't condense that any further just because of the fixture count). I think this is a good system and something venues should consider doing if they can. But it does rely on the visiting production touring a console with 6 local DMX outs AND ArtNet connectivity.

 

Where existing infrastructure does not support a 'visiting' universe line to plug into, there is the option of Wireless DMX. I'm not saying the venue should pay. But perhaps tours wanting a universe of their own - anywhere in the room - should consider touring a transmitter and receiver. Some of the wireless DMX systems out there are very cost effective and generally very stable.

 

The example given in Paul's OP is IMO a case of bad practice as much as anything. Normally advancing a show will reveal a tech spec for the venue and obviously if the tech spec says 3 universes, and you need to add another for your touring kit, then it is quite obvious that a desk with 2 DMX outs is not going to cut it. This demonstrates the importance of both (A) distributing and reading tech specs properly; and (B) touring equipment that is suited to the needs of the tour and the venues you are visiting.

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Does your in-house LX desk allow you to control subs via the DMX in, or Midi in if your desk has got one? Pretty certain I've seen this feature on some desks. Then you could build your washes using your LEDs spread over however many universes you need and all the incoming show would need to provide is one DMX or MIDI feed from their desk to yours.
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Does your in-house LX desk allow you to control subs via the DMX in...

Would be my suggestion, if the more obvious, easy solutions aren't possible. I've done this before when going in to venues with huge numbers of house light channels for instance. Leave them all patched on the house desk, with proportions etc and just control 1 or more subs with the DMX in. Only needs a few slots and can be the same uni as other touring kit.

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whenever I used to tour into venues and I was expecting to use some of the house lx I would send a rough rig plan of how I'd like the house rig to be in a "something close to this would be nice, but dont go ripping your rig apart" kind of way.

 

9 times out of 10 the rig would end up being pretty dam close, so either I got lucky a lot of the time, or I was asking for a reasonable rig, that happened to be similar to the house rigs default setup (minus a re gel on generic kit)

 

Personally id be expecting house kit to use 2 universes, one for generics, and one for any in house movers etc.

 

how big is your venue?

 

new gear eats channels quickly, but price per universe is falling too, with artnet etc.

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If, for example, you have a pile of LED battens, each with 24 individual cells, that need to be individually addressable, that's a 288 channel chunk. If you have another other largish chunks, then a single DMX universe is clearly impractical. We have 3 DMX splitters at various places to take advantage of the channels that are unused. Top Cats example is exactly what I mean - if the visiting company gave you a DMX cable and said this is our DMX feed for your lights, which one of the 6 DMX universes would do the trick. I chose the one that could do most of what they wanted. It couldn't do green, yellow or gold because those dimmer numbers are more recent, and on a different universe. Their rider simply asked for control of house dimmers - which they got. It's just the house dimmers not doing that much of the total lighting available. If this is the norm now, then clearly visiting production won't be able to assume that they actually can patch into a house system any longer. Worse still, many people are creating their own personality files because the speed new kit comes out is quicker than the libraries can keep up - and if you look now, a complete file of every piece of kit known is now thousands of devices long.

 

What I meant by reduce the number of universes would be by changing things to fit small gaps, so for example, as I just did, you hang three movers on an empty bar. I dropped down a cable from the flybar with DMX 3 hardly used and handy splitter quite local. I could have used a further away splitter in DMX1 and used 14 of the 16 left in a block, and run another cable from yet another DMX splitter on universe 2 that had 30 spare channels in a block. That's a lot more work and rather pointless for 99% of the shows as it's our control. Trying to squeeze everything in to a fewer umber of universes just for these rare occasions is a bot constrictive.

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To be honest though Paul, in many theatres (if not most) it is the standard to have all dimmers on the same universe.

 

This, probably, is on the grounds that in most theatres the dimmers are all in the same place, connected to a big chunky power feed into that room, and sometimes it's own air con too because it can get so hot in there. So it's easiest just to run a single DMX into that room, and probably a rackmount buffer or several to distribute data to each dimmer.

 

Therefore most touring productions will probably demand "control of house dimmers" on the assumption that the house dimmers will be on a single universe and they therefore need to allocate one universe from their console to patch and operate dimmers into.

 

I think as I alluded to, this is why a decent tech spec is invaluable. The more info you can provide, the less chance of hidden surprises coming round to bite the production in the metaphorical, and the less work you as a house tech end up having to do on the day.

 

My spec doesn't go as far as to list the addresses within the universe (although you can get this from the WYG on request), but it does make clear that we occupy 6 universes and that if your visiting console doesn't have that many universes you simply cannot control all of our fixtures. It's not been a problem yet, everyone so far has opted to use our house console.

 

But I do think that you having your dimmers across 3 universes is an exception to the rule and you should make sure it's clearly stated in your spec.

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Paul, have you got a MagicQ system? I only ask because I'm fairly certain that you can use the DMX in to control the playbacks. If you did that you could build the looks that the incoming show wanted on your desk using as many of your universes as you want. All the incoming show would need to give you would be one small part of one universe to control your desk, and therefore your lighting rig. At least that's what I think is possible. I haven't done this myself, so if any MagicQ gurus could offer any tips that would be great.
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That's a good suggestion for the future - although I'm not quite certain without checking how to get DMX into my Maxi Wing, which has 4 outs. I'm sure somewhere it's possible to swap them to inputs? Worth a go.

 

Top-Cat, the snag I have is that the house dimmers are 72 channels of ancient strands, actually running on a D54 link to the dimmer room. The closest DMX to the location is on universe 2, hence why the 5 6 way packs are on that one. Even if I could get universe 1 to that location, there aren't enough spare slots as things have been added and added. I could strip the entire system out, replay it and distribute the universes properly, but the time to do this and the re=patching would be a freebie, and I don't really fancy the time required to do it if it's for free. The venue certainly would not consider paying for what they see as non-essential work.

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As already mentioned, if I go into a venue, I'd expect all their house dimmers to be on one, easily accessible universe, then maybe house LEDs on universe two, if there was no space on one. If the touring show only has 2 universes out of their desk, then obviously there is a problem. Most, if not all desks that you'd have on a tour of such a size, probably have the facility to expand via Art-Net or another such protocol. So, adding an Art-Net box for the one show is a cheap and easy way to access the extra universes, or if the dimmers are nice, new and shiny, you may well be able to feed them directly with one of said protocols coming out of the desk on Ethernet, although in most venues, I doubt that's possible.

 

Using DMX IN on the house desk (if it has it) is definitely an option. I use it on my desk to add more faders without paying for an expensive wing, or just for one offs in venues like we are discussing. Once it's setup, it's really easy and useful. You may even be able to set up, a few dozen of these faders pre-configured on a page out of the way so they are ready to bang looks into when an outside company arrive. I think MagicQ has a limit on the amount of DMX INs you can have, but I can't remember the number. And I think, with the configurability of their desks, a simple DMX sex changer will allow you to do DMX IN on one of the DMX OUT ports of the wing, but that's pure speculation, which I'm sure will be confirmed right or wrong by one of the Chamsys folks.

 

Unfortunately, any solution will only ever be specific to one venue, I'm sure the touring LD will find a different little problem at the next place! :-)

 

Thanks.

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Most tours these days would only use the toured movers/LEDs for the production, they would only use the ln house generic rig.(especially if time was limited and not to incurre extra costs) So yes the 2 universes would had been sufficient if they didn't use your other in house equipment. This is not standard procedure on most tours... If the in house generic rig is on a seperate universe to the house lights, then these would have to controlled separately on the Inhouse desk or better by the stage manager side of stage.
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From doing a spot of research, looks like with the wing you can do DMX control of the first ten playbacks. You can use the Enttec DMX Pro for DMX in, as for the wing to do DMX in - not too sure - not much on the website - but do you have any free output sockets anyway?

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks.

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To david - one spare DMX output. I shall look to see how the setup works.

To Electrotec - sadly, I suspect we work in different areas, as the same requirement is in a show booked in in a couple of weeks time, and since I've been doing this particular venue since 1994, it's a lot more common that you might think. In most cases, they tour the clever and special kit they cannot rely on getting, but colour washes, profile specials to pick up certain features and things like star cloths are typical. requests for gobo washes and extra sidelight are also fairly common. It's actually got a little worse since money forces downsizing - so the 7.5t goes down to a Sprinter, so things get cut - it's how it is.

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