20 March 2013

The LOR ShowDirector and DMX

NOTE:  This article was updated on 08-Sept-2015.

A number of our customers currently have heavy investments in LOR controllers, hardware and software and they want to be able to re-use as much of this hardware as possible.  We've talked about using LOR controllers mixed with DMX controllers here on this blog post but this blog post is more specific to one group of products that LOR sells - the ShowTime directors.  The ShowTime director has been around for years and it was introduced during a period of time when people didn't want to dedicate an expensive ($500+) PC to do the task of running their display for the season.  It was much cheaper than a PC at the time, running about $150 or less (it now sells for $130) and it solved a very real problem. 

How a ShowTime director works is you sequence your shows in LOR S3/S4, then saved those completed sequences, along with the audio file, onto an SD memory card and put the card into the "director".  Then you just plugged your LOR (as opposed to DMX) network cable into the unit and it would start your shows at the scheduled time.

Fast forward to 2015 - PC's are insanely cheap - you can pickup NEW PC's for under $300 and used PCs can be found just about anywhere for next to nothing (CraigsList, eBay, the Computer Guy at work, Goodwill, friends, etc.)  So now one of the major reasons for purchasing a "dedicated" PC for your show is pretty much gone and given that even the cheapest PC is more than fast enough, the issue of having a "powerful PC" is no longer the case.

There are now two major issues with a ShowDirector - DMX and the rise of E1.31 as a common pixel protocol:

  • DMX (RS485 Based)
    Another issue has now appeared that puts yet another nail in the coffin of the ShowDirector - DMX.  Given that generic and DIY DMX controllers are generally half or even less the price of given LOR controllers, experienced LOR customers are moving more and more toward the standards based DMX protocol.  The problem?  The ShowDirectors don't work with any DMX...mostly.  So, you can't use E.131 (DMX over Ethernet) or standard DMX dongles with the ShowDirector units.  So, this means you can only output the LOR protocol and not DMX and this locks you into LOR only controllers.  There is also another issue - the standard ShowTime mini can only output to one network (about 700-800 LOR channels) and the G3-MP3 director at $270 can output to only two LOR networks.  So, if you start loading up your display with large amounts of pixels, you are still limited.
  • E1.31 (Ethernet Based)
    Nearly all new pixel based items are based on E1.31 and thus Ethernet.  As such, this requires a completely different system of control. Since E1.31 uses Ethernet which is completely different from RS485 based LOR or DMX protocols, it isn't possible to run this new protocol from the Director.
This said, there are some reasons why you would want to use a ShowDirector - if you are running a commercial show and don't have a good/secure location for a PC (mall, outdoor locations), if you don't have the ability to run wires to the network from where the PC is located, need the ability to have external triggers (this is also possible on PCs) or if you run a 100% LOR controller network.  We should also mention that it is possible to use a ShowDirector with another LOR item - the iDMX1000 - so you come out of the ShowDirector with LOR protocol and into the iDMX1000 which coverts it over to DMX.  We do not recommend, except in very rare cases, the use of an iDMX1000 protocol converter as it is nearly always cheaper, much easier and more flexible to use other solutions.

So, to conclude, if you are using LOR and DMX devices (E1.31 or RS-485 based) on your network, just buy that cheap PC, put on a copy of LOR S3/S4 (it's licenced for this) and run your show from that PC.  It will not only often be cheaper but you'll have the ability to easily tweak your show schedule (flip it on for people who came late, turn it on for testing before the regular show starts), easily tweak your sequences that have issues, perform testing (xLights and others), run audio enhancers (such as Breakaway) and if you want to switch to other sequencing applications (LightShow Pro, Vixen, HLS, etc) you only need install the software.

David
HolidayCoro.com

1 comment:

  1. You forgot to mention that the ShowDirector can't run a sequence if it has more than one track. So if your show uses loops for different sets of lights, you must run the show with a PC.

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