Networking in Lighting – What Do You Need?

Networking can seem really complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. In this video, David shares how to get started in networking with your lighting and how to NOT get overwhelmed!

As we move into the future of lighting you are going to find that you will have to use networking more and more. Understanding the basics will help you as you step forward in the lighting world. You will likely find that when it comes to stage lighting networking is not terribly complicated.

Why Network?

The “why” when it comes to networking is pretty simple. There are two main reasons why networking is used in lighting. Reason number one is to get wireless control over your devices. Laptops, phones, tablets are heavily used by the majority of people these days and when it comes to lighting you want to be able to put these devices to good use by being able to adjust your lighting with them.

The second main reason for using networking is in the case where you want to send DMX data over a network. When you have to send multiple universes of DMX it is greatly beneficial to make use of networking. If you are using pixel products or just a lot of universes of DMX then running a single network cable or sending it wirelessly will make life a lot easier and more organized.

The “What”

Many people these days have a device in their home that connects to the internet through their provider. This is often known as the “router”. Truth be told, this handy little device has multiple functions and responsibilities. The main function is that it connects networks together.

It can be said that its most important task is to take the IP addresses that are on the smaller network and recognize the same IP addresses on the larger network allowing them to communicate with one another.

The typical home router has a switch on it as well. An unmanaged switch repeats and multiplies network signal in two directions, sends and receives. If you get to the point where you are using managed switches, there can be extra capabilities available to you but if you don’t need all the extra it’s best to stick with unmanaged switches. More often than not, a simple switch will be all you need in a lighting network.

Access Point

The function of an access point is to allow wireless computers, lighting consoles, phones, tablets, etc. to connect to the network.

Network Cables

Network cables are important because they are what connects things together. Sometimes when you are troubleshooting, they are all that is wrong because they are quite cheap and can break. They are the physical layer of computer networking.

Wireless Adapters

Wireless adapters work with the access points to allow your device to be used wirelessly. It may be built into your device, or it may be an external USB.

Definitions

Every device has an IP address. An IP address is a unique number that you get for each item on the network. This number can be changed, and its purpose is to allow your devices to communicate.

Routers and sometimes managed switches have something that’s called DHCP. You have likely seen this in your computer settings where you can turn it on and off. When DHCP is on both in the router and the connecting device they will “talk” together and create their own IP address. This is generally beneficial, but the con can be when you have an application or something that’s unicasting, and it needs to know the IP address of the other device. If this is constantly changing it could be a reason to turn off DHCP.

The IP address is the unique identifier, and it goes hand in hand with a subnet mask. A subnet mask is made up of four sets of numbers. The simplest subnet masks are either 0 or 255. The thing to pay attention to with these is that depending on the numbers, it will tell you how much of the IP address needs to match for the two devices to communicate with each other. The numbers also need to match each other.

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