Lighting Control Integration

Lighting Control Integration

With more and more shows being booked into venues and with the current economic climate and the push for less and less staff on said shows it is more important than ever to build a lighting control system that can be integrated with a building control system. No longer can the lighting console be a satellite system solely for the use of those in the black shirts. As venues diversify their events, for example from straight theatre to corporate events or large scale functions, it is often left to the front of house staff or functions staff to operate the lighting, and this means that a simple, integrated system is vital.

I can hear you all out there cursing me for proposing this blasphemy and creating unnecessary cost and another blasted system for all those in black shirts to design and maintain. However, heed those words as integration is not as hard as it seems. By utilising your existing lighting console plus a few neat little units from Aurora you can create a fully integrated lighting system with little cost or effort.

The system I will be using for comparison will be based on an ETC ION console for lighting control, but could be adapted for any lighting console, be it any part of the ETC EoS range or the Jands Vista range. The control protocol we will be using to integrate the systems is UDP control strings, for those of you out there that don't know UDP think of it as Serial over Ethernet. The beauty of serial/UDP as we all know is the simplicity of both programming and message transfer, and in this system it will be no different.



To design and program a small integrated lighting control system to allow for control from both the lighting control console and satellite button panels. The system must allow for the programming of complex theatre shows but must also have the ability to be simplified down to a single button press to turn the lights in the venue on and off.



Lighting Control Integration System 

ETC Ion Control Console                                  Aurora WACI PAD 6C                             Network Switch (To tie the system together)



The simplicity of this system is what sets it apart from many other integrated control systems, also its ability to retrofit into any existing lighting control system with minimal effort is extremely appealing, to venues that just want to extend their existing system. There is no external processing unit, which always adds extra cost and maintenance, and there is a minimal amount of programming required for the Aurora panels. The system consists of just two components, the Ion Console and the WACI Pad 6C which are linked over an Ethernet network.

So how does the system go to together?
First things first, the ION is the brain of the system, it takes the UDP commands from the Aurora system and fades the lights to the desired state. The complete list of UDP/Serial commands can be found here.

As you can see the list of commands is extensive, so it allows for a fairly extensive interactions from the external button panels.

The external controller in the system is the Aurora WACI Pad 6C. The WACI Pad range of products from Aurora are a very powerful series of external button panels, that can be used on their own like in this system or in conjunction with Aurora processing units. The WACI pads contain their own internal processor and hold their own configuration information so are perfect for a system such as this one where no external processing is desired.

The WACI pad 6C has 6 OLED buttons on the face panel which allows for the buttons to display colours and pictorial feedback once pressed or once activated remotely. In this example we are not utilising the WACI pads OLED's to anywhere near their potential. Have a look here and see what the WACI Pad is capable of.

The WACI pad has the ability to interface over 1 LAN port or via a SERIAL RS 232 port. In order to interface with the ION we use the LAN port because of the ability to send UDP strings without any extra boxes attached to the ION. Plus we can place the WACI Pad in an external location like the Entry or Exit to a venue, and use standard CAT5 or CAT6 cable to connect back to the ION.

The WACI pad also contains its own on board Web Server so configuration can be achieved by directly connecting to the unit via a web browser without the need for any external software.

As you can see from the schematic below is a simple as plugging the system together via CAT5 or CAT6 cabling through a Network Switch. As with any IP system the next step is to ensure that all parts of the system are on the same IP address range and you will be ready to start programming. 

Lighting Schematic

How do I turn the lights up and down?
For this system you can assume with have two states programmed into the console in Cuelist 2. Cue 1 fades the entire house lighting up to the desired level and Cue 2 fades the same lights out again, all of the fades happen over 5 seconds.

So first we need to assume that we have set the ION console to the right settings in order to receive serial commands, you can find these settings here.

Next we need to decide the button states for the WACI pad and program these in. For this example we want two states. When Cue 1 isn't active the WACI Pad will show a green button and the word "ON", this shows the user that once this button is pressed the WACI pad will fire off the command to the ION to play Cue 1, we now associate the correct serial command with this button action.

Serial Command: CUE 2 1#

The next button state will be the same button in a red colour displaying the word OFF, this will show the user that the next button press will turn the lights off, i.e. play Cue 2. The associated Serial Command will be: CUE 1#

(Click for detailed instructions to program the WACI PAD)

This may be a very simple example of an integrated control system but using this same method you can start to expand the system to fire off different controls in the lighting control console or integrate more and more button panels or integrated processing. The message to take away is that building an integrated control system doesn't have to be complicated or hard to maintain. By using a new and inventive control product like Aurora you can dramatically simplify the process.

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