ETC (Electronic Theatre Controls, Inc.) has posted free source code for the upcoming DMX-over-ACN standard (also referred to as "streaming ACN") to its website. The lighting manufacturer has done this to help the industry gain experience with this upcoming protocol and offer meaningful user input to the ESTA standardization process. A link to this C++ source code may be found at www.etcconnect.com/product.downloads.asp?ID=20339
ETC is also offering optional source code that adds features to streaming ACN and provides a flexibility and power similar to ETCNet2™ protocol.
ETC has long supported the development of ESTA standards for lighting control, such as the new ACN suite of protocols (Architecture for Controls Networks, E1.17). With ACN now an ANSI standard (as of October 2006), ETC is involved in the addition of a new protocol for the ACN suite. The new protocol, commonly called "streaming ACN," details DMX-style control over TCP/IP networks. It provides a fast and efficient mechanism to transport the well-understood DMX protocol over Ethernet in an open, industry-standard way. Streaming ACN is now in public review and is referred to by the ESTA Controls Protocol group officially as BSR E1.31 - 200x, Entertainment Technology -- DSP -- DMX512-A Streaming Protocol
ETC’s network products development manager Dan Antonuk, who is also chairman of the ACN Task Group, describes the new protocol: "Essentially, streaming ACN offers manufacturers interoperability over ACN for the least amount of effort. It uses a model of control identical to that of the popular DMX and is targeted at working in even the most ‘lightweight’ of devices-those with the lowest processing power-such as, say, moving lights, scrollers, dimmers, fog machines and stage automation."
"ETC views streaming ACN-with its well understood control model and ease of implementation-as a stepping stone to the enhanced capabilities of ACN," adds Antonuk. "It is also the most likely place that widespread manufacturer interoperability will be achieved in the near future, allowing everyone onto the playing field."
"We’ve written a dissector for the free Ethernet sniffer Wireshark, which allows users to ‘sniff’ ACN and see it translated on screen," continues Antonuk. "It shows you your data and decodes it in an easy-to-read format, which we think will allow manufacturers to quickly validate their implementations and thus will move the industry forward sooner." Users can download the free Wireshark sniffer at www.wireshark.org/download.html.
The ESTA Control Protocols Working Group is also busy working on rules and messages for using streaming ACN to carry RDM over Ethernet networks. This rule set, known as BSR E1.33, should complete the model of remote configuration and status monitoring for very lightweight devices, all the way from the end of the serial DMX wire back through the most advanced networks to lighting consoles.
As BSR E1.31 - 200x progresses through the public review process, ETC plans to publish revisions to the free source code on their Web site. Says Antonuk, "ETC is offering this help because we think ACN is good for everybody. Manufacturer interoperability is in the best interests of customers, the best functioning of lighting systems, and of manufacturers all around.".