Meet the NEXUS Affinity AQ5x5 RGBW LED Pixel Mapping Display!

Nexus-affinity

Yeah, it’s a NEXUS!

Meet the Nexus Affinity AQ5x5 – a 25-cell RGBW LED pixel mapping display that is completely compatible with the warm white LED pixel mapping panel, the Nexus Affinity AW7x7:

Nexus Affinity is ready!  Are you ready to expand your design horizons?  Check out the Nexus Series at CHAUVET Professional!

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Tech Talk: Keep Your Movers Moving

Mike Graham comfortable in the spotlight.

Mike Graham comfortable in the spotlight.

Written by Mike Graham, product manager for CHAUVET® Professional.

Broken lights are a nightmare. Moving lights are more so because they are complex machines that seem to never break down in an easily accessible location. Unless you have a magic wand in your toolbox, you will encounter broken moving heads somewhere in your lighting life.

An ounce of prevention:

Firstly, in order to try to keep lights from breaking, preventative maintenance is a great place to start.  Developing a regular schedule of checking under the covers will help you head off problems before they come up. I typically suggest a quarterly inspection for normal usage, if you are on a tour or in a club situation, then a monthly inspection may be a better plan. A few things to check for are the following:

Check belts. Are all of the belts tight enough and do they look worn at all? Belts should look almost like new all of the time. They should not show any signs of ripping or fraying. To make sure that they are tight enough, you should be able to twist them 90 degrees with a little force, but not much more than that. If the belt won’t turn at all, it is too tight, if it just spins to 180 degrees, it is too loose. This is a good rule to go by.

q-wash-436ZCheck fans. Are the fans clean? If not, you can use an air hose, but make sure that you are not allowing the fans to free spin with the air hose. While it sounds cool, you are causing major damage to the fan and to the driver PCB that the fan is attached to. Free spinning fans causes electrical feedback to the PCB and will damage the brushes inside the fan itself.

Clean optics. Is there any gunk buildup on your colors, prisms, lenses, or gobos? Cleaning your optics is important because you lose a ton of light when your effects are dirty. I strongly suggest using a lint free micro fabric cloth to clean off all of these components. Also, do not spray anything onto the colors or gobos. Spray the cloth. This will help to prevent spots on your optics, and also prevent overspray into the rest of the fixture.

Check connections. Are all of the wire harnesses properly connected? Make sure that everything is plugged in tight and that the cables are not crimped in anything.

Clean the base. Is there any dust build up in the base? This is especially common in night clubs. Fans suck in everything from hair, to smoke, to confetti. This tends to build up on top of the power supply and main PCB. Make sure that you clean all of this garbage out of the base. This will extend the life of your power supply and main PCB greatly. Remember that these items are really expensive to replace out of warranty.

Taking the above steps will really help in extending the life of your investment.

boxes-load-inLoad in check out:

So, it’s 6 a.m. and your coffee has not kicked in yet, but nonetheless, you are at load in. This is when you have your last chance to check your lights before you put them someplace where a problem is going to be harder to deal with. When you take the fixture out of the case, look at it. Make sure that none of the covers look out of place. Make sure that they are also on tight. Give the fixture a little shake and listen for any kind of lose items rattling around inside the fixture. Now hang it on the truss. Plug it in and run it. This is also a good time to make sure that your pan and tilt locks are off. Even if you do not have data run to the light yet, you can check the functionality of the fixture itself. Typically, if the fixture homes properly with no error codes, it is good to go, but I like to take it one step further and make sure that the lamp turns on (if it is a discharge light) and that the shutter blades open. If it is an LED fixture, run the virtual dimmer and shutter to full to make the LED come on. In both situations, you should see a bright white light and no gobos, colors, or prisms in the field. As only as you only see a bright white light, you should be in good shape. If you can add data, this is even better so that you can make sure that you can control everything. I also like to keep checking everything as the rig is going up. A ton of things can happen to your lights during their trip up to trim. Keep an eye on your gear as it moves.

Q-Spot 560-LEFTAnd then, the inevitable happens:

So, something broke. Now what? Typically there are symptoms of problems. For example, let’s say that you have no control from the console to the fixture, but the fixture works fine in test or stand alone mode. It could be a bad cable or a loose connection. It could also be that the fixture is in the wrong personality, the address is wrong. On the controller side, it could be a few things there as well. Did you just update firmware in your console?  In that case, the personality could be wrong in the console. The patch could be messed up, Are you using Art-Net? There could be a problem in a router or your Art-Net to DMX box could be behaving badly. I like to check the micro issues before I check the macro issues.  The above is the order that I would check this kind of problem. Each one is quick in of itself, but depending on your crew, could take a few minutes to check. When you find out what the problem was, write it down. Keep a log of every issue you have. Eventually, you will have a database of problem solving. When I worked on ships, I kept a log of the problems that I had in each showroom. This way, when I moved on to my next ship, the incoming lighting person would have something to start with. An entry might look something like this:

rig-moving-heads“Aug. 16, 2001 — fixture X needed lamp replacement. When the fixture was opened, not only was the lamp bad, but the base of the lamp had shattered inside of the holder. I removed the base of the lamp and found that the porcelain in the socket was cracked as well. I replaced the lamp socket. As a tip, make sure that the brand of lamp does not change. The bi-pin base of the lamp can change slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer.”

Keeping notes like this can be tedious, but can and will save you time in the future. It also helps greatly when you are on the phone to technical support. The person you call for technical support genuinely wants to help you with your problem. They are going to ask you questions such as:

• Where are you located?
• Do you have a phone number and e-mail address to reach you?
• Are you on a show right now?
• Is the fixture still in the rig?
• What kind of controller are you using?
• What kind of power are you using?
• How many fixtures do you have power-linked together?
• How many fixtures do you have data linked together?
• Are you using an opto splitter?
• Are you using Art-Net?

Knowing the answers to the above will be really helpful. Especially if you are either on a show at that moment, or are away from your lights that you are calling about.

ldi-setupSafety first:

If you are having any kind of mechanical problem with a light, you need to unplug it from the rest of your rig immediately. Not only power, but data as well. A bad fixture can cause you data problems up or down the line. If for some odd reason there is a bad enough problem, it is possible to get a voltage spike in the data cable that can cause your opto splitter to fry, and if you don’t have an opto splitter in line, then your console is in danger. (This is why I ALWAYS have each universe of DMX isolated with an opto splitter between the console and the first fixture) If you do have a light that is down and it is 30 feet in the air, leave it there until it is safe to actually get to it. Don’t just go climbing up the truss to replace it. Keep a rope in your road box that is long enough to pull a fixture up and drop it down. I keep a pulley in my case for this as well. If something seems like a bad idea before you do it, most likely it is.

 

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Tech Talk: How Many Languages Do You Speak?

Mike Graham, comfortable in the spotlight.

Written by Mike Graham, product manager for CHAUVET® Professional

As a protocol droid, C3P0 is fluent in over 6 million forms of communication. As a lighting industry professional, I feel like we need to be competitive with that number. I’m not saying that we need to be able to speak and understand so many languages, but we should know how to speak to our ever-expanding range of gear.

The beginning of DMX

So, let’s back up a bit. DMX was standardized in 1986. That is to say that USITT required all of the lighting and controller manufacturers to speak the same language of control. All was good in the world (for the most part) as all lighting controllers spoke with all dimmers and lights. This still remains true, as DMX is still the standard. And as a whole, I think that we all speak DMX relatively well. However, it has gotten a lot more complex for the lighting industry professional to just speak DMX, and on just one type of controller.

Disclaimer: If you are lucky enough to be on a sit-down gig and only have to use the (insert console of choice here) to operate the same rig every night, then you can stop reading now. However, if you are planning on doing anything different in your career, then keep reading.

Accessible software

At this past LDI, I saw something that I never thought I would see. I saw not one, but at least three of the major controller manufacturers release a widget that would allow any user to download some software to their computer for less than $100.00, and to be able to use a full universe of DMX for their extremely professional PC version of the full-size controller. This tells me that the controller manufacturers are coming off the hilltops and trying to win over the masses of users. This also tells me that as one of the mass, I had better learn all of these platforms and speak the programming language well enough so that when I show up to a job, I can easily work any one of these platforms.

Pixel-mapping Nexus™ 4x4 works with DMX, Art-Net and Kling-Net protocols.

Along with the controllers becoming a little more cost conscious, I have also seen a rise in fixtures that will work directly with Art-Net. Art-Net is essentially the TCP/IP version of DMX. This protocol allows the control platform to output on a total number of DMX universes only limited by the processing power of the controller itself rather than the amount of DMX outputs that are present on the back of the board itself. CHAUVET® Professional is releasing its first fixture that will allow direct input of Art-Net: Nexus™ 4×4. By allowing direct input of Art-Net, building large matrixes of color-changing array fixtures like the Nexus™ 4×4 becomes much easier. This is because not only do you assign the DMX address to a fixture, but you also assign the universe number. This means that Fixture A can be Universe #3, DMX address #38, and Fixture B right next to it can be Universe #15, DMX address #54, and the CAT5 cable can go directly from Fixture A to Fixture B. There is more to it than that, but again, it is another language that we need to be able to speak.

ÉPIX™ Series of pixel-mapping fixtures speaks Kling-Net.

Past DMX, we have video languages. At Chauvet we have two distinct languages for video: LINSN and Kling-Net. LINSN is a language that is used to communicate between (in our case), the MVP™ Media System, the MVP™ Driver, and the video panels themselves. We use this language as it is designed to transmit huge amounts of information over a CAT5 cable to the video panels themselves. In video control, this is the first part of the communication to make sure that the panels are properly configured. Next is configuring the media server to play back your video content how and when you want it to play. There are a few options for this; do you want to use time code? Then SMPTE or MIDI is the key, if you want to have direct control from your lighting desk, that is an option as well as you can always use Art-Net and in some cases, straight DMX for that purpose. Again, that is a minimum of understanding at least four different languages right there.

Our second video-based language at Chauvet is Kling-Net. Kling-Net allows matrix configuration of specific Kling-Net enabled devices, such as the ÉPIX™ Series and the Nexus™ 4×4 with ArKaos MediaMaster™ and MediaMaster™ Express software. Kling-Net is another TCP/IP based software that unlike Art-Net, which uses a static IP address, uses a router to assign an IP address to each fixture. Once the fixtures are addressed and configured in the Kling-Net mapper, you can switch the output back to MediaMaster™ and have content playing back in no time. Again, a few more languages to speak.

As I have been saying all along over the past several years of Tech Talk, education outside of your comfort zone is really important. I have brought up eight different protocols and languages here, and I didn’t even touch on RDM or ACN, but this barely scratches the surface. The point is that it is critical, now more than ever to be reading, downloading, and playing with different kinds of controllers and protocols every chance you get. The lighting world is no longer just lights and hasn’t been for a long time. And I can guarantee you that it is just going to get more and more complex.

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Bold Nexus™ 4×4 Spotted on “The Voice”

Arrays of Nexus™ 4×4 fixtures from CHAUVET® Professional took center stage on “The Voice,” accompanying contestant Cody Belew. Capable of delivering at once the sizzle of a pixel mapping display and a robust light output,  Nexus™ 4×4 has 16 20-watt RGB COB LEDs and is controllable via Art-Net, Kling-Net and DMX protocols. Watch it in action:

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Tech Talk: Video in the World of Lighting – Part 2

Written by Mike Graham, product manager for CHAUVET® Professional

Mike Graham looking pensive in front of MVP™ panels.

When we left our heroes, they were sitting at the front of a theatre trying to decide — to pixel map or not to pixel map? Ideally, you want to do both, but let’s hope that this decision was made weeks ago during pre-production. The Wall took three years to produce. Most of us don’t have three years to produce a show. If I went to the management of CHAUVET® and said I would need three years to produce LDI, they would laugh me out of the room. We need the ability to quickly and effectively get our content out to the stage. This is where LED Studio, Art-Net, Kling-Net, and a whole lot of Ethernet with Neutrik® NE8 connectors come into play. By combining these software platforms, we can easily control a whole stage of products that use various protocols to speak the same language. With the CHAUVET® MVP™ Media System outfitted with ArKaos MediaMaster Express™, you can manage your pixel mapping of DMX fixtures and all of your video products all in one source. Combine this with a lighting controller that can send and receive Art-Net communication protocol, and now you can completely control everything under one network roof. I am not going to go into how to hook up the system in this tech talk. The interconnection of the system depends a little on what you want to accomplish and a lot the scale of how big you want to go. Again, I recommend checking out the ArKaos manual and the manual of the controller that you are going to be using to trigger your show. The simple fact is that, yes, you can make your show pop with what you have available in front of you. The reason that you want so much control is to ultimately make it easier to program your show. Here are a few tips on ways to do some pre-production setup that will save you a ton of time onsite.

1. Know what you’re “looking” for. Unlike normal show programming, when you are planning out video, you want to have all of your “looks” in the can. In the “video” tab, “looks” stands for video clips. You want to show up with your clips ready and filed. This means that you will really need to know what you intend to do on this show. I highly recommend a blog that some guy wrote called “Zen in the Art of Entertainment Lighting.” It’s a three part series and applies to this conversation.

2.  Accessibility is the key. When you file your video clips, make sure that they are done in such a way that you can quickly access them when you need to. In ArKaos MediaMaster Express™, you can set up your folders for specific songs. You also have 64 visual presets per page with 64 pages at your fingertips. You can easily set your clips on each page and have each individual page can be a song or scene of its own. You can also have up to eight layers of video running at the same time. Since you can also tell the video preset where on your playback surface you want your video to show up, having these eight layers really handy. Since ArKaos MediaMaster Express™ was designed for the lighting professional, it is stunningly easy for us to use.

3. Keep your eye on the plot. While you are getting all of this set up, have a sketch of the show plot that you are working with. Honestly, it can be napkin CAD, or the finest of visualizers, but have that sketch handy while you are working on setting all of this up. That sketch needs to include all of the elements that you want to send video content to.

4. Finalize your fixture layout and DMX address scheme. When you are setting up your pixel mapping, this is absolutely critical that the DMX addressing is correct and done before you start working on this.

5.  Save early and save often. Goes without saying, but just sayin’.

6.  Keep your products in mind when you are choosing clips. Keep in mind that low resolution and high contrast clips will look much better than high resolution and low contrast clips on higher pixel pitch. Big looks with simple content.

Whether you are planning on busking, pre-programming and operating live, or using time code, you should now be just about ready to load in.  What to expect on show site?

… That is for another day.

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