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Re: Control Channels

Posted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 4:51 pm
by BrianEvans
Not sure if it is "better" so to speak.

But the channels "expire" at a predetermined date.

Re: Control Channels

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 6:18 am
by AndiDavis
As Rob points out, the problem with renting dongles was that they were fairly small pieces of hardware - very easy to lose in the craziness of a get-out at the end of a show's run. That's why they used to go missing!

Possibly there are better sofware-based solutions to this problem now - temporary channel upgrade codes with a built-in time expiry for example? This would make it much easier for suppliers to issue upgrades by phone/e-mail/fax and would save them having to manage the retrieval of dongles (the code's expiry date would be set prior to it being issued).

Re: Control Channels

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 1:36 pm
by jamesholt
AndiDavis wrote:Possibly there are better sofware-based solutions to this problem now - temporary channel upgrade codes with a built-in time expiry for example? This would make it much easier for suppliers to issue upgrades by phone/e-mail/fax and would save them having to manage the retrieval of dongles (the code's expiry date would be set prior to it being issued).
Another option could be to licence additional channels to a show file instead of the physical desk. Think of this scenario:
  • a theatre company plots a show at their resident venue with their own Classic/Preset/Sub Palette which is licensed for 100 channels
  • as per slightco's post, they have a few movers or some more dimmers so they purchase a channel upgrade
  • after the show closes they're sending it on a regional tour but can't take the resident console with them
  • they decide to hire a Basic Palette since they only need control of the single playback and some subs, plus its insurance/replacement cost is less
  • the Basic Palette doesn't come with enough channels installed, however, the show file is licensed to use the additional channels so it's not a problem
Similarly if the op is using their laptop for backup (outputting over Art-Net/ShowNet/etc) the laptop would be licensed to use the additional channels from the show file.

Whilst I don't think there's anything wrong with time-expiring channel upgrades per se, it starts to get a bit costly if you throw a backup laptop or touring console into the works. Since we're saying that semantically a channel upgrade is required for a particular show - not a physical console - it makes sense to me to put this functionality into the show file instead of locking it to one desk.

I'm not sure if this would fit in too well with Strand's long-standing "your desk is locked to x channels" licensing philosophy though, but it seems pointless to me that they're (you're?) demonstrating how a laptop or smaller console could be used as part of an integrated control system but then turning around and asking for more dosh to actually use it, or (to paraphrase RobertBell) choking its number of channels (yes, I know you could pull the license stick from the main desk and put it in a second desk, but then once the main desk is revived how do you hand control back to it without breaking the DMX stream? or in the touring scenario how would they use the resident desk for another show when the license stick is on tour?)

I don't think anybody here would want to independently run the same show file on multiple desks simultaneously on one stage (e.g. console on Q3, laptop on Q7, both outputting DMX/Ethernet... bwa?) - but to me that's what console-locked channel licensing implies. Basically what I'm saying is for one show I don't need to be generating multiple DMX streams from the same file, but, if I've paid to use more channels for this show then I'd like to be able to use them on whatever Palette desk/PC I may require.

(as to how to enforce that a show file is only used for one show, now that's another kettle of fish...!)
RobertBell wrote:You can patch 32,000 DMX outputs to Fixture 1 if you want and it only uses 1.
[snip]
One parcan and one Cyberlight are 2 fixtures, but 21 channels.
Question: so what is being licensed? Not the number of DMX outputs as JohnGrimshaw stated because you contradicted that; not the number of fixtures because if so the Cyberlight would only take up one license slot; not the number of levels the software has to compute because if a fixture definition has an "unused channel" (e.g. Robe CS575AT #9) it still registers on the license count... the cynic in me says it's a conspiracy tax on scrollers and intelligent lights ;)

But seriously though, in this day and age where people are talking about how many universes of DMX they're using (not addresses!) with the ability to stream a ridiculous amount of DMX data over Ethernet, and nice fast computers at our disposal, is there really a need to be a bit draconian over licensing? Surely it doesn't matter whether a fixture takes up 1 or 30 DMX addresses - I would've thought the licensing scheme revolves around the ability to drive more "lights" from the software (whether they be conventional or intelligent) rather than narky technical limitations.
JohnGrimshaw wrote:Incidentally, they reckon that the "silver" Palette range should only be upgrade to a maximum of around 1500 DMX outputs...
Hmm... I've seen that somewhere before...
http://www.strandarchive.co.uk/control/c_memory/lightpalette90/lp90.html wrote:Light PaletteĀ® 90 controls up to 1536 channels, 1536 dimmers
It's nice to see that we've progressed a lot in 20-odd years :shock:


(hmm... as a first post that comes across a bit angsty... I'm not an angry person... really...! :))

Re: Control Channels

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 6:44 pm
by AlanMartello
James: Welcome. Good post, very thought provoking. A few comments.
jamesholt wrote:(as to how to enforce that a show file is only used for one show, now that's another kettle of fish...!)
You've correctly identified the problem -- what constitutes "a show"? The patch? Not if it's touring. The fixtures? Not if it's in a fixed installation.
jamesholt wrote:But seriously though, in this day and age where people are talking about how many universes of DMX they're using (not addresses!) with the ability to stream a ridiculous amount of DMX data over Ethernet, and nice fast computers at our disposal, is there really a need to be a bit draconian over licensing? Surely it doesn't matter whether a fixture takes up 1 or 30 DMX addresses - I would've thought the licensing scheme revolves around the ability to drive more "lights" from the software (whether they be conventional or intelligent) rather than narky technical limitations.
I couldn't agree more. Unfortunately most consoles control a surprisingly small number of lights, need very few features (on most days) and are owned by people with small budgets. They are unwilling or unable to pay much for their console, but they want those same features that the large desks have. Unless hardware and software development of lighting consoles is going to be a charity business, you need to find some way to re-coup the initial investment and on-going R&D costs while delivering a feature rich product to both the small and large user.

Oh... and how do you count "lights" ? Is an LED wall or light curtain 1 light or many?

Re: Control Channels

Posted: Sat Feb 09, 2008 12:42 pm
by jamesholt
AlanMartello wrote:James: Welcome. Good post, very thought provoking. A few comments.
jamesholt wrote:(as to how to enforce that a show file is only used for one show, now that's another kettle of fish...!)
You've correctly identified the problem -- what constitutes "a show"? The patch? Not if it's touring. The fixtures? Not if it's in a fixed installation.
Indeed. You could try a combination of the two - license a user-supplied show file for additional channels but then make it expire in however long they need it for... it's not a real solution though, just limits the exposure you'd be getting from people copying licensed files and reusing them. Trying to implement a tracking hash/checksum solution would probably get too messy when you've got users transferring the show file between desks/PCs and regularly modifying it.
AlanMartello wrote:
jamesholt wrote:But seriously though, in this day and age where people are talking about how many universes of DMX they're using (not addresses!) with the ability to stream a ridiculous amount of DMX data over Ethernet, and nice fast computers at our disposal, is there really a need to be a bit draconian over licensing? Surely it doesn't matter whether a fixture takes up 1 or 30 DMX addresses - I would've thought the licensing scheme revolves around the ability to drive more "lights" from the software (whether they be conventional or intelligent) rather than narky technical limitations.
I couldn't agree more. Unfortunately most consoles control a surprisingly small number of lights, need very few features (on most days) and are owned by people with small budgets. They are unwilling or unable to pay much for their console, but they want those same features that the large desks have. Unless hardware and software development of lighting consoles is going to be a charity business, you need to find some way to re-coup the initial investment and on-going R&D costs while delivering a feature rich product to both the small and large user.
I understand about ongoing costs - once you've sold a product you have to somehow find money to invest in upgrading the software - and I'm guessing to some extent the larger users probably pay for the software development more so than the smaller ones in terms of profit margin. But what you're saying is that out-of-the-box, 100 dimmers == ~4 moving heads which to me is rather absurd (cue salesman: "this desk will control 100+ lights or 4 lights, which would you prefer?").

I've been caught out by the StrandOS attribute licensing on a 300 when trying to add a couple more movers to a show (some intensity slots free but no attributes so suddenly I was looking at a full patch) - with the older consoles I can understand having to put a price on CPU time but not the Palettes. There's a touch of irony in all of this: if you have to substitute one fixture for another in a particular situation UAC will take care of that by making the differences in DMX values transparent to the user... but... if the fixture you've substituted with takes up more DMX addresses than the original you might find yourself unable to use some fixtures because you've gone over your license. UAC's gone out the window and we're back to worrying about channel counts... :?
AlanMartello wrote:Oh... and how do you count "lights"a ? Is an LED wall or light curtain 1 light or many?
I use "lights" in quotes as a concept, guess you could say it represents any fixture detached from its control requirements (a par can and a Mac 2k, whilst doing very different things, are both fundamentally "lights"). If the LED wall/curtain is being controlled as a block (i.e. all pixels same colour at once) then conceptually I'd probably call it one "light" just as you'd call a mover containing a myriad of parameters one "light". Likewise if you split up a light curtain into individual vertical lines each of those lines could be considered a separate "light". If you're streaming video to it though then it's getting a bit grey and you could probably argue that video requires more complex software to process so please buy a separate license for that, ta 8-)


I'm still curious as to what's actually being licensed though. How do Strand/HCI define a "channel"?

Re: Control Channels

Posted: Sat Feb 09, 2008 4:04 pm
by JohnGrimshaw
If it were me, this is what I would do:

Write a piece of software that is sent out to distributors of Strand hardware. In this software, the distributor logs into the software, and via the the internet is authenticated as a real user of the distribution software. They plug any USB Key into that computer, and can authorise that key to be a SUPPLEMENTAL CHANNEL KEY, with so many channels and expiry date. That distributor is immediately charged with that amount (they are logged in, so HCI knows who they are).

Other functions of the proposed software:
- quoting distributors for permanent upgrades, and permanent upgrades (the software could detect console keys separately from non-console keys, and allow permanent upgrades)
- "No Cost" Supplemental Channel Key (when a console is sold from distributor stock, but the channel key needs to be upgraded temporarily for the sale. Key swapped out when real one arrives)
- Tracking Backup Key (a cheaper console key, with optional expiry date. Interrogates the showfile of the connected console and matches that key for channels - logged into tracked copy of showfile. Console can reboot and run that showfile (only) from the tracking menu).

Your touring show would have a supplemental key touring with the show, and a fixed expiry date. Just like hiring equipment for any show, you can extend the expiry date. Likewise, you can tour a Tracking Backup key - which in of itself does not have any channels, but like a chameleon, takes on the "personality" of the tracked console. There would have to be limitations like it needs to "see" the tracked console before anything happens, and it locks into one showfile at a time.

Once written, HCI and Strand do nothing but support/development, and let the authorised sales people sell and activate. This is similar to the model used by ESP Vision. They send out "unregistered" dongles to resellers (cheap, very little customs interest), and then sell the software by an activation tool. I sell ESP Vision, they just send me invoices at the end of the month for my activity.

Re: Control Channels

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2008 12:44 am
by jamesholt
JohnGrimshaw wrote:If it were me, this is what I would do: [snip]
Sounds like a pretty good plan to me!

Assuming Strand/HCI buy USB keys in bulk you could include the small cost of the key with the rental charge - once it's expired after a show the op can take home a nice new Strand-branded USB key (and there wouldn't be the issue of getting rental keys back to the distributor). Just tell customs they're "advertising material" with a net value of $0 8-)


Another (slightly off-topic) question for the dev guys: if I remove a licence key from a desk/PC while the software is running will it turn cranky and lock up until it's re-inserted? I haven't been game to try it yet, but the possibility raises some thoughts...

Re: Control Channels

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2008 10:42 am
by RobertBell
jamesholt wrote:Another (slightly off-topic) question for the dev guys: if I remove a licence key from a desk/PC while the software is running will it turn cranky and lock up until it's re-inserted?
\

Fades will just stop running and you will not be able to select fixtures. You may even need to re-start the s/w after re-inserting the key.