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Automated Fixtures, Foggers, and Dimmers

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by Synchronize, Jan 11, 2009.

  1. Synchronize

    Synchronize Active Member

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    So, I'm just your average highschool tech with some automated lighting experiance. We have a pretty basic system, ellipsoidals and fresnels going back to dimmers. Nothing special. But I want to start to expand. I'm looking at getting myself a Chauvet Ultimate HZ Fog Machine which is a DMX controlled unit. It runs on 2 DMX channels. So how do I do that? I know I would patch two channels in the matrix to the port its in, but if I plugged it in it would be going through a dimmer. I realy dont know how that would work. And its the same with automated lights. I want to rent a few moving heads and a board to control them for a fasion show I'm designing but I dont know how to set that up.

    I guess I should go into a little more detail on my system. I have stage pin connectors up on the light racks above the stage. They run back to the booth and I'm guessing into the dimmer rack. Really all I know about automated lighting is a little hands on experiance with a Wholehog II board I got on a cruise where they let me observe in the booth and let me mess around with the board and lights for about an hour (which was one of the coolest experiances of my life).

    So really I'm pretty lost here. And help or advice is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks
     
  2. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    What kind of console do you have?
     
  3. Synchronize

    Synchronize Active Member

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    Its a Leigh Millennium Millennium Lighting Control Console

    I think it has the capablility to work with moving lights because that roller is maked "tilt/pan" though the only thing I ever use it for is setting levels for the conventional lights.

    EDIT: That link is to their newest version with better software. Mine is running the Windows 95 edition. Slight difference.
     
  4. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    This comes up almost daily here.:cry:
    http://www.controlbooth.com/forums/lighting/2867-hooking-follow-spot-into-dimmer.html
    http://www.controlbooth.com/forums/special-f-x/9547-dimming-motors-5.html
    http://www.controlbooth.com/forums/lighting/3283-dmx-no-dimmer.html
    http://www.controlbooth.com/forums/lighting/7770-power-distribution.html

    The short/easy answer is NEVER PLUG ANYTHING EXCEPT AN INCANDESCENT LAMP INTO A DIMMER! (With only minor exceptions...), if a device comes with an Edison/parallel-blade u-ground/NEMA 5-15 plug on it,
    [​IMG]
    use an (appropriately-rated) extension cord to plug it into a wall outlet.

    As for control, most installed dimmer racks don't have a DMX output, so one either needs to use an additional universe if the console has one, or a DMX-splitter to achieve an outlet for the DMX fixtures. The fixture is then addressed so as not to conflict with the dimmers, and the DMX addresses are mapped to Control Channels (softpatch) on the console.

    They're properly called connector strips, or raceways.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2009
  5. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    A few things. You are on the right track. Do a lot of research and talk to professionals before you jump in. This stuff can get expensive.

    As far as movers and hazers. First off be sure you know the difference between a fogger and a hazer (do some research). Keep in mind foggers and hazers do not like to be dimmed (just like anything else with a motor). So, you need to put them on a non-dimmable switch. Just on and off. There are several ways to do this. You can switch a dimmer (either soft or hard) to non-dim mode. You can put an effects switch between the dimmer and hazer. You can also plug it directly into the wall. Keep in mind that a dimmer even run at full power clips the sin wave (if you don't know what that means, look it up), and it will wear out the hazer over time, although I have seen hazers run for years even on a soft patched non dim circuit. It is better to plug directly into a 20A non dimmed wall outlet.

    Then you take your DMX run and either run it from your dimmers, or split it at the console and run a DMX line to the hazer. Patch it into your console and channel 1 usually controls the fog and channel 2 usually controls a fan on two channel units.

    But do your homework and know what you are looking for and how it will interact with your system.

    As far as movers, slow down a little. The moving lights that most kids can afford (DJ scanners) are not meant for theater use (do some research and you can find out why). You will need at least $1500 a unit for useful theater moving lights. Now if you are doing concerts, parties, etc then there are some good DJ scanners out there. Keep in mind they will need to be maintained and their lamps are expensive. Keep in mind that it will take you at least three to four times a long to program a show than it normally would (maybe more) with moving lights.

    Know your angles and throw distances. Know your console. Does it have enough control? Enough DMX output?

    Do your research and talk to a professional before you buy. Don't regret your purchase later.

    Mike
     
  6. Synchronize

    Synchronize Active Member

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    It does have a second matrix, but I wouldnt even know where to begin with that.

    I've made stage pin to edison adapters and have plugged DJ lighting in through the dimmrers and ran them through that board. I just set the cues to have 0 fade time so there was instant power just as if you plugged it into the wall. Was that a bad idea?

    I'm not looking to purchase unless I can find some decent used lights for about 500 a piece (which I have seen on ebay before). I'm considering renting them for a single show, for which I would not be paying the bill.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2009
  7. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    If you can avoid it. YES. That is a very bad idea and not a long term solution. Also, you never ever want to two-fer a moving light.

    By the way it is a "universe" of DMX and not a matrix. In addition they are moving lights, not robotic, DJ, or intelligent.

    Just a little terminology for ya.

    Mike

    PS If you don't know how to run DMX out of a controller, you probably shouldn't be buying/messing with hazers, moving lights, etc.
     
  8. Synchronize

    Synchronize Active Member

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    My bad on the matrix. I swear I read DMX matrix some where. I would never two-fer a moving light. I think thats common sence.... especially considering you can daisy chain a lot of the modles out there. And I never said robotic, DJ, or intelligent, although they are accepted by the vast majortiy of people I have talked to. I said automated, which is acceptable terminology, considering it even appears in book titles.

    The reason I want to mess with this stuff now is because this is what I want to do for a living. I want to go to college and Major in Tech Theatre. The reason I ask my questions is because I dont know and I want to learn.
     
  9. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    This is absolutely not true. You cannot set a dimmer to "Switched" mode or put a switch inline after the dimmer or set it to a 100% non-dim on your console and call it good for devices like MLs, atmospheric machines, strobes, scroller PSUs, etc. An SCR/SSR dimmer set at full or in "Switched" mode does not send out a clean AC waveform. The SCR/SSR still switches and "chops" the wave. This can be harmful to electronic devices. You must use true non-dim power for these devices which means either using relay or constant circuit modules in your dimmer racks or running a non-dim circuit to your device that doesn't come from your dimmer rack.

    Yes, I see that this was mentioned, however, it seemed like a less important afterthought. Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should.

    Keep in mind that the OP was looking at renting. I do agree, you have to spend a lot of money to purchase fixtures that are useful for theatre, this does not include maintenance. I also really want to know where you are sourcing fixtures from for $1500, because I have yet to see a fixture that I would put in a theatre for less that $4K new.

    We have many threads on how to set up your console and data distribution on CB. There should be a setting in your console to enable the second output, and tell it what DMX addresses to "broadcast". I find that it is easier to have the second output just be universe 2, which is addresses 513-1024. So, take your two channel hazer, you might put that on universe 2 with a starting address of 1, so it would be addresses 1 and 2. Then in patch on your console you would patch 513 and 514 to the channels you want. This is because the actual data output of a universe of DMX is addresses 1-512, the console just converts the fact that universe 2 is what we think of 513-1024. Clear as mud?

    Yes, this is a bad idea, as I stated above. You need real non-dims.


    Unless the power requirements of the ML prevent it from being 2fered then there is no real reason not to do it. Though Derek may come by and say "well then how can you do a hard reset on only one of them?" Take an ETC Revolution, it requires 900W per fixture, so there is no reason I can't put 2 on one 20A circuit.

    See above on 2fering. Daisy chaining is different in that it refers to data and not power. You can daisy chain up to 32 devices (theoretically) on one uninterrupted/unamplified DMX line. I have yet to hit that device maximum, so I have no idea if it is true. As far as I know there are no devices that allow daisy chaining of power.

    This is a perfectly good reason, and you should grab at any opportunity you have to start learning this stuff. If you have the budget to do it, dive in! We are here to help, so keep asking questions!
     
  10. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Hey Alex. The reason I say not to two-fer a moving light is often people will use the wattage of the lamp as a power draw, and overload a circuit because of the additional power draw from moving lights. As a rule I never two-fer moving lights (per HES and every ME I have ever worked with).

    Please note in a later post I identified that setting a dimmer to non-dim is not long term solution because of the wave form cut. But it can work in the short term, in fact with Hazers I have seen it work for years with no ill effects (again your mileage may vary, this is not recommended, but is possible). But I would never do it with a moving light.

    Mike

    PS I have my suppliers. You can get good movers for easily under $4k. In fact you can get them for under $2k. I sell them all the time.
     
  11. Synchronize

    Synchronize Active Member

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    Alright, so let me go even more basic... Hazors and automated lights obviously some source of power. Where does this come from if not the dimmers?
     
  12. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    Usually this power will come from a properly rated outlet that isn't connected to a dimmer. That's why newer raceways have special outlets on them that are clean power (i.e. not connected to a dimmer period). If you do some searching around on your stage you might be able to find properly rated outlets that will work with your equipment. Use the electrical information and talk to your maintenance dept. or district electrician if you need help determining if an outlet is properly rated. For some moving lights you need special equipment, as they draw something other than the 120 volt American Standard. That's about the extent of my knowledge, I'm sure someone else will be in momentarily.
     
  13. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Yes, you want a 20A outlet not connected to a dimmer. The building electrician SHOULD be able to tell you where they are. BUT I would not count on them if they are like the District people I worked with. I would take a meter (ONLY if you are qualified) to the outlet and make sure it is clean power. Keep in mind as well that sometimes more than one outlet is connected to one breaker. At the FAA I worked at all four of the plugs on our bask wall were connected to one single 20A breaker.

    There are not a lot of units anymore, but some older ones use 208V power and you would need a transformer. Or if you have a company switch you can always get a distro. But as usual before plugging anything in, make sure you know the electrical set up that you are plugging into.

    Mike
     
  14. Synchronize

    Synchronize Active Member

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    And then once they are connected to a clean power souce how would I incorporate them into the second universe? Do I have to run a 5-pin DMX cable all the way from the booth to the stage?
     
  15. thommyboy

    thommyboy Active Member

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    Is there any chance your school was able to attend the Illinois High School Theatre Festival this last weekend? This is a FANTASTIC event for a young theatre student. Actually the largest gathering of High School Theatre students and staff in the country. If not tip off your teacher to the event. I noticed you are not far from Grayslake, Antioch, and Jonsburg; all of which have been attending the festival for years. There are workshops, productions, technical interviews and acting auditions for over 50 schools and a LARGE number of exhibitors in attendance. Next year the event will be at Illinois State (which you have listed as a school you are looking into). </hijack>
     
    Esoteric and (deleted member) like this.
  16. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Yes, unless you have DMX outlets in the booth and on stage. Or you are in the unique situation of the school I TDed at and have the dimmer room in the wings of the stage (in which case you could split the first universe there and put them on the first universe).

    Mike
     
  17. midgetgreen11

    midgetgreen11 Active Member

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    Sorry to hijack here. What exactly does this entail of? The International Thespian Festival hosts 2,500-3,000 students, teachers, professors, industry professionals, etc. each year.

    The Texas Theatre Conference, also run through EdTA hosts an even larger quantity of attendees, in a week long festival.
     
  18. thommyboy

    thommyboy Active Member

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    We are at nearly 5,000 not counting the presenters and workshop leaders.
     
  19. renegadeblack

    renegadeblack Active Member

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    Sorry for the hijack... again.

    I have my dimmer rack opposite the wall stage right. What exactly would this entail? Is it something difficult? Something I could maybe even manage myself?
     
  20. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    It depends. Some racks (in fact most) have the DMX hardwired into the rack. In that case it involves adding a DMX plug in the wall, reterminating the DMX and then running a 5 pin cable to a splitter, plugging in two more cables one getting the end cut off and terminated in the rack and the other going out to the movers.

    If you are lucky enough to have a rack that actually takes a DMX cable for its input (or if you have portable racks set up as your dimming system), then it is a lot easier as it is just unplugging and plugging cables.

    The first should only be done by people who have done it before. The second anyone can do.

    Hope this helps.

    Mike
     

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