The Networking Revolution

Neil Vann

Author: Neil Vann

Published 27th January 2020

The Networking Revolution

We all seek greater flexibility in everything we do. Whether it is another app for your phone, checking for a faster route on your sat-nav, or a changeable hotel booking, the more options we have, the better! Flexibility is fantastic. It offers us choices that we may never want or need, but at least we know that they are there on the off-chance that we do.

The philosophy makes its way into our work world too. Each development in Camera technology gives us another advantage in terms of flexibility – whether it is coping with a lower light level, shooting in a higher resolution or embracing a digital work-flow – and everything else (including us) has to keep up with this technological progression….

Our perception is that being more flexible makes us more productive, as we can adapt to change quicker and are less likely to be the one holding up the production process.

There is a catch though. Just like the goal of a racing team is making a car go faster, it is as important to make sure that the brakes and steering keep up – it isn’t all about power…it’s also about control.

Remember the days when controlling the lighting involved one fader for one light, up was brighter and down was darker – simple! Today the equivalent is much more flexible – there are options for intensity, colour temperature, green shift, colour control, effects – and before long each fixture needs 20 or more channels of control.

If you are working on a large feature, or a live sporting event, there can easily be over 1,000 lighting fixtures, so the process of moving large amounts of data over long distances becomes a technological and logistical challenge.

This is where networking comes into play. However, unless you are a network specialist, it can be a real challenge to move big volumes of data around in an elegant, simple and reliable way.

There are a huge range of choices in terms of networking equipment on the market, with everything from domestic routers to enterprise-grade managed switches. Each offers something specific to the user for whom it is designed, with the more advanced the offering, the greater the level of flexibility.

In all these cases, configuration is the key. When your new broadband provider sends a new router, it has already been pre-configured. When your office has an expensive new IT system, it has a very expensive IT specialist to configure it.

Unfortunately, the production world doesn’t work like this. We don’t configure things once and then leave them. Instead we need the flexibility to change setups constantly without needing the IT specialist.

In recent years, several companies have started developing products which are designed specifically to meet the technical needs and expertise of the production industry.

One of these is Luminex - a fast-growing Belgian company who specialise in making the infrastructure that makes everything else work, by providing network tools designed for a production professional rather than an IT expert. This simple goal is fiendishly complicated to achieve, and yet their growing list of fans suggests that they have achieved it remarkably well.

Panalux should need no introduction, acting as lighting supplier to some of the last decade’s largest feature productions.

Jim Algar, Head of Technical Support EMEA for Panalux, comments: “Ultimately, for our clients, it comes down to flexibility. We strive to provide a top-tier, bespoke service to every single one of our clients, no matter how large or small the job is, or what their needs may be.”

For networking, Panalux have been using Luminex GigaCore switches to manage the lighting data for the vast range of environments in which they work.

Jim continues: “We stock Luminex GigaCores as they are user-friendly out of the box and can handle anything thrown at them. While they continue to prove popular with our clients because of their flexibility, we will keep stocking them because we know they are a dependable unit that we can trust implicitly not to let our clients down.”

For PKE Lighting, specialists in supplying lighting for primetime TV dramas, the confidence to connect lighting or video anywhere within their working environment allows them the flexibility to cope with any production demand, both quickly and with the minimum disruption.

Matt Evans at PKE comments: “We had used other network switches before and they were always problematic, so we decided to invest heavily in the Luminex GigaCores. I must say they are absolutely rock solid. I genuinely can’t fault them for their reliability and their design as well.”

In another world, large-scale sporting events have become true spectaculars merging the

sports world with entertainment. An opening ceremony, or a world championship event, offers a fluid, and challenging, environment in which to work that demands a significant level of flexibility.

B360 are regularly found working at this type of event, usually a long way from home and needing to make sure they are covered for any eventuality. Using their own Luminex infrastructure gives them the confidence to be able to take on these challenges, and know that they will always be able to deliver.

Barry Denison, founder of B360, comments: “We have used our Luminex GigaCores for a wide range of broadcasts, whether we are working in Europe or the Middle East. Our goal is to exceed all expectations, and we strive to provide the best quality equipment and results to our clients.

“Our quest for flexibility can only increase as we face ever larger demands in ever more compressed timeframes. Being able to move ever increasing volumes of data around accurately, reliably, and easily gives us options – and options are the key to flexibility.

“So the benefit to us in using a network isn’t really about anything technical, it is all about being able to cope with the time-old phrase “change of plan… “ or its cousin, “can we just try….”

Simon Roose, Business Development Director at Pinewood MBS Lighting - one of the world’s leading lighting suppliers - sums it up nicely, commenting: “At Pinewood MBS Lighting we are immensely proud to support some of the industry's finest crews. As such, we are committed to excellence in all aspects of the products and service we provide. We know we can rely on Luminex to consistently deliver the scope and flexibility to help our clients realise their creative vision.”

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