Setting the stage for innovation

Editorial Type: Software Focus Date: 05-2019 Views: 1,446 Tags: CAD, BIM, Vectorworks, MA Lighting, Robe Lighting, GDTF PDF Version:
GDTF and MVR has been developed by Vectorworks, Inc., MA Lighting and Robe lighting in conjunction with input from other manufacturers within the entertainment industry, to provide a common file format, and device control definition that allows users to share data and CAD files more effectively. GDTF and MVR was developed with the purpose of creating a unified definition for the exchange of data for the operation of intelligent luminaries

Vectorworks is, you might say, one of the leaders in the entertainment industry. Not a performer, but one of the main players when it comes to design for staging concerts, plays, TV/film, and other corporate and live events. The company's involvement in the industry took another step recently - at the Prolight + Sound convention in Frankfurt, Germany - with the announcement of the release of the 1.0 version of GDTF.

General Device Type Format (GDTF) is an open format that was created by Vectorworks, MA Lighting and Robe lighting, to change the way entertainment lighting designers and programmers communicate design and intelligent control data to put together and operate the awesome stage designs that are now de riguer in the industry. Most recently, My Virtual Rig (MVR) was introduced in March, and it creates a two-way connection between planning, previsualisation and console systems. To better understand GDTF and MVR, let's think of Microsoft Word: MVR would be the Word document and GDTF would be comparable to having a custom font in the document.

Not yet overpopulated, the leading players - those who build the stages, those who add lights and other special effects - had to develop their own solutions to lay out and plan the stage settings. With GDTF, luminaire manufacturers, for instance, now have an open and universal data exchange format to tell consoles and previsualisation software how the lights will respond.

Manufacturers of fixtures used in stage design - such as moving lights, and in the future media servers, lasers, pyrotechnics, water effects and so on - need them to be controlled, visualised, or both to produce the best effects. Previously, manufacturers created a PDF manual for stage designers who put together controllers, visualisers, drafting software and more. Designers had to manually convert the data to work with their system, but often lacked some of the manufacturers info and became embroiled in complex processes, trying to get the data from the manufacturer. Meanwhile, manufacturers were updating their products and pushing out revisions and changes to their customers in updated PDFs.

A GDTF file contains a required minimum set of information along with additional optional data the manufacturers choose to put in it. For example, if a fixture manufacturer puts a 2D symbol in the GDTF, then drafting software can use this symbol. If the information is provided as data accompanying a 3D model, then besides its physical geometry being held in the GDTF, the extra information allows visualisers to use CAD software to represent the fixture more realistically. Adding true colour space details in the fixture allows users, similarly, to control and match the colour output with other fixtures in the rig.

This doesn't just imply better control of DMX parameters or Digital Multiplexing Data Parameters. All lighting products used in the industry have their physical dimensions, and can output specific ranges of colours, and include other built-in effects and more. Makers of all of these products could benefit by using a standardised container file where they could input all information about control and visual definitions and be accessible to the drafting software, enabling it to utilise their products.

The solution, of course, is GDTF - a common file format that is open and accessible to everyone. GTDF 1.0 and the MVR file format are implemented within Vectorworks 2019 and MVR is implemented in Vision 2019.

The GDTF enhancements make it easier to use DMX because the different components like filters are easier to identify. grandMA3 are a widely used range of lighting consoles that are a radical rethink of what was previously thought unachievable from a lighting control platform, and which are also able to use the MVR file format via a converter created by MA Lighting.

GTDF facilitates a system architecture which incorporates fixture, feature and effects handling at its core, using groundbreaking concepts developed by top industry visionaries, and presented within a refined user interface. All of this is designed to make practical tasks like fixture profile creation more intuitive, with side benefits that improve both the speed of design development through the integration of all components. It also allows stage designers to experiment with different settings and scenarios without losing access to component data and, as a bonus, GDTF provides full access to grandMA3's state-of-the-art capabilities. USING GDTF FILES
Manufacturers who would like to create GDTF files for their fixtures can do so by accessing the fixture builder and a private beta of grandMA3 onPC xPort Node and grandMA3 on PC software. This allows them to import GDTF and MVR files for testing their build processes. The created data files are working files.

As part of the GDTF development, the MVR format was developed as a data exchange file format to share data between a lighting console, a visualiser, a CAD program, or similar tools, such as channel numbers, DMX addresses, model geometry, xyz position information and xyz rotation information. MVR is how we will one day see a bi-directional sync between Vectorworks and grandMA3, or grandMA3 and Lightwright, or many other industry tools. Currently, only Vectorworks and MA Lighting support MVR files.

MA Lighting Technology's Managing Director, Gerhard Krude, said of the development "We've covered a lot of ground quickly since the GDTF was announced at last year's Prolight + Sound. We've also made substantial progress with implementing GDTF and MVR and are excited to share that we have working versions of GDTF 1.0 and MVR implemented with our grandMA3 console line. Moreover we have decided to also develop and provide a converter to take advantage of the GDTF database also for our renowned and commonly used grandMA2 series."

His views were corroborated by Josef Valchar, CEO of Robe lighting. "As a moving lights manufacturer, the intense collaborative development of the General Device Type Format in the past year has been crucial for achieving the goal of having a unified, technically sound, comprehensive specification for lighting fixtures, as well as sharing all of the intricate details of our devices with our customers, planners, designers and operators. The fixture builder has been yet another important milestone in the whole process, and it provides an accessible way of creating the GDTF files.

"Besides the fresh 1.0 version, the news about MA Lighting planning to provide a converter from GDTF to grandMA2 series is the most exciting news I've heard since we started developing GDTF itself."

The benefit to the developers is that they are slightly more prepared for it in than other companies in this market. As GDTF continues to be developed, the format will be updated as technology evolves and more manufacturers adopt the format, while retaining its compatibility with the potential to be a powerful answer to a frustrating problem.

GDTF is a major development that will change how everyone works in the industry. To date, it has been positively received with other manufacturers besides MA Lighting, Robe and Vectorworks supportive of the idea. These currently include: ADB Stagelight; AtlaBase; Avolites; Ayrton; Carallon; ChamSys; Claypaky; DTS; ETC; GLP; High End Systems; Golden Sea; Green Hippo; JB Lighting; Martin by Harman; Minuit Une; portman; Robert Juliat; SGM; zactrack and Zero 88 are on board with the file format as noted on the GDTF website.

For designers, programmers and technicians, streamlining the process would be greatly appreciated, giving them more time to create bigger and better designs.