You Can Enjoy RDM (Without Flashing Lights)

You know how many learn basic computer troubleshooting by being asked if they’ve already turned the computer off and turned it back on again?  I learned that RDM existed by having many people ask me if I had turned it off during tech support calls.  Remote Device Management (RDM) has so much promise, but often gets a bad rep by bad implementation.  I’m hoping to offer some good RDM experience here.

I am by NO means an RDM expert, but I love sharing solutions to problems when they are shared with me.  I received a tip while attending a great class offered at the ESTA training during NAMM (highly recommend attending) taught by Milton Davis titled Troubleshooting Your DMX 512 and RDM Control Network.  Mr. Davis is not only knowledgeable, charming and easy to understand, he is also one of the people who wrote the DMX and RDM standards.  So I was on the edge of my seat with nerdish delight when this class started. 

One of the reasons RDM goes sideways so often is that every element in your system must be RDM compliant.  Your console and your lights are obvious, but also your splitters, wireless DMX transceivers, gateways must also be compliant.  By far the most common symptom of RDM problems comes in the form of non RDM lights flashing once a minute.  If you don’t want to turn off RDM- what is the solution?  Addressing.

Because of how the string of RDM is passed in a DMX system, it can be misread by non-compliant devices as a DMX message, which results in the flashes that send us running to our consoles. The way to bypass this very specific issue is to address non-compliant fixtures to start their addressing at 257 and above.  This means that the non-compliant device doesn’t mistake the RDM inquiry for fixture values.  Easy and practical.

While we are discussing RDM, my personal experience using RDM from consoles has been spotty at best and had me giving up using it entirely.  Fortunately, two friends in the business made me aware of the DMXcat product by City Theatrical.  Full disclosure- City Theatrical doesn’t know I exist, so they definitely have not paid me anything to plug their product.  It’s just that good of a product.  You plug it into the cable or RDM-compliant splitter on your system, it quickly scans all RDM compliant fixtures and shows you all of them on your phone or toher mobile device.  From here, you can easily flash them, readdress them, change profiles and settings.  It’s made a huge difference to me as an itinerant lighting designer.  I can show up on site, realize fixtures on a trapped electric are set wrong, and update nearly any setting I wish quickly without disturbing the rest of load in.  And since the device uses your phone for its screen, the battery lasts a long time.  As a long time user of the Swisson DMX tester products, whose batteries always died inside of an hour of use, it’s really nice to be able to use such a device for a month running before recharging the built in battery.

That’s it for this week.  What are your favorite life-and-light-saving tips or products?  Comment below.

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