It seems that every problem I have as a lighting engineer at QVC, a 24/7 TV environment, can be resolved through ethernet and networking. But organizations are still in the fundamental stages of defining a platform standard. What does that mean? Is now the time, or should I wait?
DMX lives forever: I realized I could still establish a networking platform to transfer data from one location to another. Most if not all companies are running some type of ethernet system to transfer data from one location to another. I decided to use one of our isolated studios as a test ground. I had dimmers and automated lights and yokes to control, and two multiple control locations.
Many manufacturers are offering some kind of networking possibilities for their lighting controllers as ESTA establishes the ACN protocol as the future bi-directional standard for lighting equipment. But for now, most manufacturers are using proprietary solutions (and we users are back to the days of pre-DMX incompatibility). After researching all the possibilities I can draw the following conclusions:
- DMX can serve as an interface between different ethernet solutions for now;
- Any software-based system with an ethernet solution should be possible to upgrade to a standard protocol once it has been designed and accepted;
- Ethernet networks are standardized and documented (it's the transmission of DMX and other light-related data we're waiting for);
- Programs like SandNet (an interface between different lighting software) have appeared to fill the void of non-standard ethernet since it works as a link between different proprietary solutions as long as the manufacturer is prepared to release its protocol (and what would it gain from not doing so?).
I contacted Michael Keppler at Transtechnik in New York. I was looking for automated yokes and ended up finding a company willing to take on our control needs. Its VLC/Safari lighting system can be installed locally in each studio, and connected in a multiple network. This would allow viewing or controlling any studio from any of the workstations in the network. It is being used in TV studios (and advanced "intelligent" museum systems) in Europe, since it offers redundancy in security as well as great flexibility.
Transtechnik manufactures the Avab brand of lighting controls. We looked at Avab's VLC/Safari software run from the new Jaguar console (above), and added a workstation with the 3D graphical environment of the Transtechnik ShowDesigner along with SandNet. One strength of the VLC/Safari lighting system is that it can operate in many levels of networks. The Jaguar console is networked with a workstation in the studio floor that has a keyboard, mouse, and a fader panel (Lynx) with 24 masters and crossfaders. Anything stored in the main console can automatically be operated from there as well, as if it were one system.
The result is that the functions of the lighting console and the 3D graphical environment will appear to be one system to the user. The graphical environment is an extra screen to the lighting console, the same mouse and keyboard are used, and you can select lights from the console or the graphical environment plus position and record moving lights to the console from the graphical environment. This is our initial step into this new ethernet environment and we welcome the possibilities. Check www.avab.se and transtechnik.com for more information, as we await the promised standards.
Laservision Macro-Media of Sydney, Australia, was recently awarded first place for Best Outdoor Show from its industry peers in the International Laser Display Association (ILDA) for its latest permanent attraction at South Korea's Everland theme park. The winning project, Tan Gun Shin Wa, orchestrates 70mm film and laser animation projected onto a 50m-wide (165') aquascreen to tell a traditional Korean creation myth; it is currently the largest laser-based show in the world.
Just one person is required to operate the performance, courtesy of the completely automated show control system. Says Laservision CEO Paul McCloskey, "We are delighted to receive this ILDA award from what is undoubtedly the world's most educated and critical audience."
Laservision also recently added a new show, Spirits of Sentosa, to Sentosa Island in Singapore. The mythic performance is the world's first major permanent themed attraction to use the company's Sinoidal-Series digital show control technology, which is highlighted by CD-style touchscreen controls to simplify use.
Laservision appeared at the Sydney Olympic Games. The company is seeking international distribution partners for its Sinoidal-Series technology; find out more at www.laservision.com.au.