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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Digital Cinema Forum   » automation question about DMX dimmers.

   
Author Topic: automation question about DMX dimmers.
James Waite
Film Handler

Posts: 52
From: London ON Canada
Registered: Nov 2007


 - posted 07-02-2014 01:45 PM      Profile for James Waite   Author's Homepage   Email James Waite   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
When we put in Digital last year we weren't able to automate the theatre lights because the junior automation we put in wasn't compatible with the DMX system the dimmers use, whatever that is.

It sucks because we still have to manually control the lights and in my theatre that means going past the audience to get to the booth near the end of the movies.

Does anyone know of a way of getting a junior and DMX to communicate? I'm not very familiar with how automation works.

Thank you in advance for any replies.

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Pete Naples
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1543
From: Dunfermline, Scotland
Registered: Feb 2001


 - posted 07-02-2014 03:07 PM      Profile for Pete Naples   Email Pete Naples   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
You don't mention what server you're using?

It can be done, easily or not so easily, server brand makes all the difference.

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Carsten Kurz
Film God

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From: Cologne, NRW, Germany
Registered: Aug 2009


 - posted 07-02-2014 03:33 PM      Profile for Carsten Kurz   Email Carsten Kurz   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
What do you currently use to control the Dimmers?

- Carsten

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Dave Macaulay
Film God

Posts: 2080
From: Toronto, Canada
Registered: Apr 2001


 - posted 07-03-2014 12:04 AM      Profile for Dave Macaulay   Email Dave Macaulay   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Yes, what is actually controlling the fixtures - the question is where is the DMX data being generated?
DMX is an addressable control protocol. Each DMX512 data signal ("universe") can control 512 dimmers each with 256 dimming steps from 0 to 100%. The control data signal is daisy chained through lighting fixtures in a simple system, repeaters and splitters are needed for larger installations. Each fixture has a way to set its channel or channels used, the controller continuously sends out address and level data. Most fixtures shut down on DMX signal loss.
Nowadays, all modern stage lighting worldwide uses DMX. A big stage show or concert lighting system will have many separate DMX512 universes and thousands of control channels available. Architectural lighting is now usually DMX: the advantage is that control is separated from power, so the extensive power wiring to connect the fixtures to a central dimmer bank is eliminated. Dimming LED lights is difficult with power dimmers, with DMX LED fixtures the dimming control is perfect and adding colour effects is trivial.
A channel can control just about anything, they aren't only used for dimming. The popular "robo light" fixtures each use many channels for dimming, aiming, focus, colour, iris, gobos, etc. Stage effects like fog or moving scenery are DMX controlled.
There is no way for a server or a Jnior to control DMX fixtures directly. There are interface units controlled by a PC that generate DMX and DMX preset boxes that "play back" prerecorded DMX signals on command... but a DMX universe only has one controller spitting out the continuous data stream of all 512 channels, and your system already has a controller somewhere. It's possible to use DMX combiners to have multiple controllers on a universe but that gets very complicated very quickly: you have to program the combiner with the rules for what controller is in charge of which channel when.
You likely have Lutron "Grafik Eye" lighting with a DMX output module. If so, you just need a Lutron control module that accepts dry relay closures to activate your lighting scenes, it basically acts like a Grafik Eye control pad. The module is not cheap but it's the way to go with Lutron. Call the people who installed or maintain the lighting system.
If you have something other than Lutron, you will need to get the maker to tell you (or sell you) what you need.

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James Waite
Film Handler

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From: London ON Canada
Registered: Nov 2007


 - posted 07-04-2014 02:46 AM      Profile for James Waite   Author's Homepage   Email James Waite   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
We have a doremi server. There's a control panel attached to the actual dimmers, two big black boxes. we are still manually controlling the lights with the panel.

The dimmers were installed when the room was built in 1994.

I'm a bit confused by why the server and DMX can't talk if DMX is so prevalent in theatrical world. I can't be the first person with this issue.

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Carsten Kurz
Film God

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From: Cologne, NRW, Germany
Registered: Aug 2009


 - posted 07-04-2014 05:48 AM      Profile for Carsten Kurz   Email Carsten Kurz   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
DMX is prevalent in the theatre world, not in the cinema world.

If you have a wall box with switches, it should be no problem to interface the JNIOR to this wall box. You can then send GPO cues from the server simply duplicating the manual buttons. You may find/get documentation for this wall box, or find an experiences electrician/installer to open it and have a look at the wiring.

- Carsten

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Steve Guttag
We forgot the crackers Gromit!!!

Posts: 12083
From: Annapolis, MD
Registered: Dec 1999


 - posted 07-04-2014 07:12 AM      Profile for Steve Guttag   Email Steve Guttag   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Note, with the Lutron systems there are also RS232/Ethernet modules too...We've had to control them both ways (including the contact closure module that Dave described above).

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Dave Macaulay
Film God

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From: Toronto, Canada
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 - posted 07-04-2014 12:10 PM      Profile for Dave Macaulay   Email Dave Macaulay   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
If the server or Jnior could generate DMX then they would be the DMX controller - the only controller - for the lighting involved. That's not really practical, maybe for a preshow lighting extravaganza with lights on the speakers... but houselights will have auditorium controls that shouldn't require the server to be on.
There are interface boxes available that would do it, it's not wanted enough to make having it in the server worthwhile. You could ask Integ to provide a DMX application for the Jnior, they might be interested.

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Carsten Kurz
Film God

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From: Cologne, NRW, Germany
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 - posted 07-04-2014 06:31 PM      Profile for Carsten Kurz   Email Carsten Kurz   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
There are RS232-> DMX converters which could be cascaded to a JNIOR.
However, lights down or lights up needs a lot of raw data to be transmitted through such a simple control mechanism, as the dimmers may not have any intelligence to do ramping in themselves. Also, DMX is not easy to create properly from a generic RS232 hardware interface like the JNIOR has it.

It's better to have a smart controller in between - which the Dimmer control panel in some way needs to have already if it converts simple button actions to a lights up/down sequence. Attaching to the these buttons or their control interface is easier and cheaper. And if done right, Server/Jnior and wall buttons can control the lights in parallel.

- Carsten

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James Waite
Film Handler

Posts: 52
From: London ON Canada
Registered: Nov 2007


 - posted 07-16-2014 08:28 PM      Profile for James Waite   Author's Homepage   Email James Waite   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I'm a bit confused. I'm part of the Productions dept of the student's council at Western University, one of the largest in Canada. I run the movie theatre , the rest do mostly concerts and theatre events. According to them DMX is pretty much standard in the non-movie theatrical world for controlling lights, curtains etc. They don't understand why the movie automation wasn't designed to work with DMX. I know there's a lot of houses out there that switch between movies and live performance, what do they do?

This just doesn't seem like it should be this difficult. Is it just the movie guys being isolationist or proprietory? Or is it just bad design like Doremi's scheduler working on calendar weeks instead of playweeks?

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Harold Hallikainen
Jedi Master Film Handler

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From: Denver, CO, USA
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 - posted 07-16-2014 08:36 PM      Profile for Harold Hallikainen   Author's Homepage   Email Harold Hallikainen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
In another life, I designed DMX dimmers and controllers. You might want to check with http://www.dfd.com .

Harold

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Dave Macaulay
Film God

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From: Toronto, Canada
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 - posted 07-17-2014 12:43 AM      Profile for Dave Macaulay   Email Dave Macaulay   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
James - yes, DMX is standard in just about every live venue everywhere. I haven't seen a venue with house lights purely DMX, since that would mean the lighting board would need to be on to have the house lights on (most fixtures will blackout on DMX signal loss). They use something like the Grafik Eye system with wall box manual controls. It can be triggered via DMX so the lighting board is able to do houselight control.
There is maybe one live venue with D-cinema out of every thousand D-cinema installations. The automation systems are understandably made with the other 999 in mind.
Normal cinema practice is to use dimmers with dry relay closure control for off, dim, and bright houselight presets. This is economical and effective, doing what's needed without frivolous "whistles and bells".
Many larger multiplexes use site dimmer systems (usually Grafik Eye) so they can centrally control the lighting - that lets them turn all the lights off at the end of the day without marching through the complex. In Grafik Eye sites a module is installed at each screen with relay contact inputs to select the off/dim/bright "scenes".
I haven't come across any "normal" cinema that uses DMX lighting for house lights. Many multiplexes do have various DMX systems for fancy lighting effects with moving fixtures etc - usually non-functional now since nobody budgeted for maintaining them.
There's some way to interface the Doremi server to your lighting system, I don't know exactly what that is. You need to talk to the lighting system people about that and explain that you can give them RS232, TCP/IP, or dry relay closures to control the lighting. You can use a relay/RS232/TCP/IP to DMX interface but, as far as I know, without doing some fancy footwork you can only have one controller in a DMX universe - and something somewhere is already controlling your lights.

Note that the Doremi scheduling week is configurable, you can have it start on any day you like. I agree it would be better if the factory default week started on Friday.

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System Notices
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 - posted 07-13-2017 08:40 PM      Profile for System Notices         Edit/Delete Post 

It has been 1092 days since the last post.


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Bruce Cloutier
Film Handler

Posts: 35
From: Jeannette, PA, USA
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 - posted 07-13-2017 08:40 PM      Profile for Bruce Cloutier   Author's Homepage   Email Bruce Cloutier   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
James Waite wrote:
"Does anyone know of a way of getting a junior and DMX to communicate? I'm not very familiar with how automation works."

I know that this is an old thread. I was searching for product references (because I have no life) and noted this comment about DMX. So it has taken us (INTEG) a couple of years to get interested in DMX. You know, it takes a few customers inquiring about it and sounding serious. I just want to note that the Model 410 JNIOR (with not yet released but available upon request v1.6.2 JANOS) is in fact able to directly control a DMX universe.

The 410 is capable of RS-485 and this version of JANOS allows a simple application program to generate the necessary Mark-After-Break prefix and run at 250 Kbaud. Your browser can even open an easily customized web page from the JNIOR that contains faders. There is a simple 3-wire adapter for the AUX DB9 connector. The only thing to be aware of is that this AUX port DMX512 connection is not isolated. If you have a 410 you can play with this for no cost. I can provide the details and how to make the adapter (or start a new thread). Just ask or call Rick and beg. This interface runs nicely and achieves very close to 44 updates per second for the full 512 channels.

By the way, we were exhibiting at InfoComm 2017 where we demonstrated the JNIOR with all of its cinema capabilities. But we also showed the JNIOR manipulating a couple of DMX fixtures over the network using ArtNet and a third-party adapter. More or less we were just looking into the AV market which includes stage and lighting equipment to see if there is business there for us. It looks fun.

We will be at InfoComm 2018 in Las Vegas demonstrating (hopefully) models of JNIOR with actual DMX512 standard ports. We'll also be at CinemaCon a couple of months before that with some DMX I am sure.

Kevin and I are experimenting with various lighting panels simulated using dynamic HTML. If you want to join in the fun send me an email. It would be great to have someone involved who has interest in actually using it. Eventually it will be standard stuff for us (and all free for the price of the JNIOR).

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Carsten Kurz
Film God

Posts: 3680
From: Cologne, NRW, Germany
Registered: Aug 2009


 - posted 07-14-2017 05:01 AM      Profile for Carsten Kurz   Email Carsten Kurz   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Wow!

- Carsten

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