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Alex Sprenger

Portable WMDX Setup

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I am currently in the process of designing a portable wireless DMX setup (all battery powered) for myself and was wondering how other people work with WDMX, as it nowadays is mentioned very often, but people rarely get into the nuts and bolts of it. As many film lighting people, I have no DMX experience whatsoever, so bare with me. My work consists of mostly very small shoots, I am often alone and would just like to spend more time beside the monitor and / or cameraman instead of running around turning knobs on skypanels.


My general setup would consist of ADJ WiFly EXR battery DMX transceivers and a few handdimmers with DMX capability, in case I needed to use tungsten. All signals would go to another transceiver hooked up to a small 12 channel DMX board (battery powered as well), built into a small peli case. I have picked these transceivers for their internal battery, build quality and price. Should this system run well enough, I might upgrade to a Lumenradio system, but as this is a bit of an experiment for me and I dont want to spend thousands of dollars for a hand full of transceivers, I will start with a smaller, cheaper setup.


I dont have a specific question, I was just wondering whether someone uses a similar setup or has any experience using one. Any tips or heads up for potential problems along the way would be highly appreciated.

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There's a big difference between wireless control and wireless dmx.

 

A couple cautions - grab a spectrum analyzer and test whatever transceivers you're planning on using. ADJ / almost all of the chinese WDMX systems use insanely dirty transmitters that will blow-out any 2.4ghz gear you have. That may not be a problem - or it may be. A lot of current wireless follow focus use 2.4, some coms, some audio gear (even if the frequencies are TV-band, the telemetry may be 2.4). Basically just know exactly what frequencies you're stepping on before you start causing issues. Wireless Dmx is generally done to eliminate cable runs. However, aside from the GOOD (city theatrical, lumen) systems, it's generally adding a point of failure to a relatively bulletproof system. If you can run the dmx cables, do it. Inevitably, when you can least afford a hickup it'll happen. You bump a light level and the wireless focus jumps. oops.

 

If your goal is to run some lights from your pocket there are so so so many ways to do that while playing nice with all the other rf in the space. Essentially every lighting board company has a remote app, there's luminair (decent for low channel counts), etc.. But when you start digging into skypanels, 12ch ain't gonna be enough. Martin, Hog, MA, Chamsys - all real lighting systems that have wireless apps to run them. Luminair uses the app as the lighting system, BUT the complexity of your "node" (the device that converts ethernet to dmx) is just as much as any other system and ultimately laminar isn't very powerful or fast to use. Personally I use chamsys, LOVE it and find it incredibly flexible. If you can find a cheap touchscreen windows tablet, wifi router and node - you're in business.

 

For nodes - the chauvet netx is the best value there is and has a lot of features you don't need yet but will quickly grow into. That setup (win laptop, wifi, node) can run 8x universes of lighting - 4096 channels - or split into a lot of other configurations. Chauvet used to be a joke in lighting, cheap crap. That was as recently as 3yr ago, but a lot has changed and they're a real mfg now, their upper line is really good stuff.

 

Regardless of the control system you'll use, I'd recommend buying a good node and wifi router, then you can play with every manufacturer's software and decide which works for you. I don't personally use any wireless dmx, I always run/have the cables run. You have to run power to them anyways, not a big deal to run signal as well. Plus - skypanels, nodes, any artnet device (dmx over cat5) can use cheap cat5 cable in long runs. Networked lighting is insanely powerful.

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Im a bit late here, but thank you very much Jason. I took your advice to heart and a few months ago build a ENTTEC ODE (Single DMX universe node) into a peli case together with a router and have been experimenting with it ever since. I was (and still am) a complete noob when it comes to programmable lighting, but it has opened up a new world for me. I am currently using it only hardwired and it has absolutely transformed my on set workflow. Now I find myself bringing that case with me basically every time I shoot, with the rare exception of an all HMI / outside shoot with just modified available light. I am currently learning MagicQ and it is indeed very powerful, but currently I am still using a very simple DMX app on my android tablet, as I most of the time just use it to set levels.

As a lot of film lighting people have zero experience with DMX (me included), it took me a long time to wrap my head around many concepts, as it seems all the online information concerning DMX is either very entry level oriented or insane live touring stage lighting with 20 moving heads, tons of floods and generally a lot of lamps which I will probably never end up using.

I am concerned with other things - how can I make a practical flicker? How do I program a convincing TV gag on an LED that doesnt have an effect build into it? How do I create a good gun shot effect? These things are covered nowhere and I am currently thinking about doing a YouTube tutorial about how to start DMX for film lighting and the basic concepts. Granted, everyone who has any real experience with the subject matter would laugh at that simple a task (check out Matt Ardine´s portfolio if you want to see crazy programmed lighting), but I think a lot of people would profit from that. I am wondering if there would be a real interest of the community to delve into that topic.

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I’m a total Newbie as well and want to put together a portable system in a pelican case and have some questions.  I just completed ETC’s four day intensive Eos family board operating workshop and now need to get some board time, so I was thinking of getting Nomad for my 2013 Macbook Pro with Retina display to practice with. To simulate the experience of working on a real console I was thinking of also getting a couple of Dell 16x9 Touchscreens and the lxkey for Eos keyboard (http://www.lxkey.co.uk/#features); and so that I can test the operability of the Magic Sheets I build. I was also planning on getting the ETC Gadget to output dmx to fixtures.  Do you think this covers all the bases for a system to practice on or am I missing something?

What more do I need in my Pelican case for a complete mobile package. Attached are some pictures I found online of such a system and I am trying to figure out what all the ports on the side of the pelican case are for.

 

B75BAB3E-84E0-4CC9-BECB-C1D8EEA3EFBD.jpeg

3A3A0201-D143-4254-8124-290973AAE347.jpeg

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So my current setup is pretty basic and is geared towards rather simple cuelist programming, all of which I do in an app called "Art-Net Controller". The way most of my friends seem to do it is via Lumiair, which I chose not to do because I use Android products. For me, if you build a super small setup into a peli case, it makes the most sense to keep that small footprint and stick with a tablet. Of course that limits you in terms of functionality, but for most situations its more than enough. You put that case down somewhere in the corner of the set, have a few CRMX receivers on your lights and off you go, standing next to the camera with the tablet, having more time to tweak the light with the DP.

In terms of outlets on that peli case... I mean the front right is just a Cintenna TX (so a 5 pin DMX port that likely goes into some kind of node under the board) and to the right is a USB port to power that Cintenna. Behind that seems to be another DMX port, so maybe it has two outlets, one for the Cintenna and one for hardwired DMX? The other side seems more complicated to me, the back looks to be the power in and I just cant tell what the other 2 ports are. I have just 2 ports on my case (the blurry picture for reference), a powercon True 1 power in (I love this connector, its the same they use on the Skypanel PSUs) and a 5 pin DMX. Usually I use a short 3m (9 feet) DMX cable and have the wireless transmitter a bit elevated on a stand with a mobile phone powerbank for power. For reference also the inside of my case. At the top we have a power outlet strip with a single on off switch that starts everything once you hook up the power cable to the case. Plugged into that we also have a USB multi outlet adapter with a small reading light (always useful if you want to replug something in the dark, often less disturbing than a headlamp). To the bottom right we have the router (I glued it onto a bit of wood to elevate it so the antennas arent sitting to low in the case) which provides the WiFI for out Art-net. Below the router is a Enttec ODE Mk2 that provides us with 1 DMX512 universe, which is directly wired to the DMX out port build into the case and hooked up to the router. This way, when I roll onto set, I only open the case, take the power cable out and plug it in, flip the antennas of the router up and switch the power on. Then I only have to wait about 40 seconds and I can send a DMX signal over my app to every fixture that is hooked up to the DMX out.

Having a bit of a bigger setup like you are planning is of course great when you want to do something more complex than changing the colors on a couple of Skypanels, say when Asteras enter the mix. For a bit more complicated programming tasks, the app doesnt cut it anymore. In those cases, I bring my laptop with dot2 on it with me and rent a MA onPC command wing to go with it. I am kind of biased on this one, as MA lighting distribution is based in my hometown haha. Anyway, I would suggest you start getting into a program which would enable you to apply the skills you learn in there on a greater scale. Of course I dont know what programs lighting designers use where you life, but where I life, its mostly grandMA and a bit of MagicQ. It just seems sensable to build your skills in the same software that is used by the guys who do this kind of stuff day and night, you know?

I had never heard of Nomad before you brought that up, though I must admit that keyboard they sell to go along with the software looks nice. It doesnt provide tactile feedback like a fader though, which would be my main reason to expand into a hardware controller. Especially if you have a bit of screen real estate (as you tend to do with an extra monitor), the keyboard does fairly little in terms of improving the functionality aside from making it nicer to use for you, I am not mistaken. All that aside, your plan looks solid, it should do all that you are trying to do, albeit with the same 1 universe restriction I have with my setup. This usually is not a problem unless you have to deal with Asteras in the 16 pixel setting. As I said though, the way you are trying to build it is more a "sit down and tinker with your lights and learn something" setup then a "take this on set to make money" setup, but I think you are very aware of that. 

WhatsApp Image 2019-10-17 at 22.48.43.jpeg

WhatsApp Image 2019-10-17 at 22.48.44.jpeg

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