Compact fluorescent house lights

gafftaper

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Well I got a first look at the dimable compact fluorescent house lights. THE SUCK!!! They had been on most of the day on high while some work was being done. I walked in and turned them down to 10%. Most of them turned off. A few stayed on. A few turned off then turned back on. Slow fades up or down result in random on and off thresholds for just about every light. If you do a 20 second house to full, you will have some turning on at 5% and other stay off until 30%. Then on the way down there's always a final "blink" before they shut off. I don't know who thought we should have them but they suck. Avoid them at all costs. I'm assuming that because of the fancy ballasts I can't just put normal incandescents in the cans and I'm stuck with them. :wall:

If they are my only option I'll be looking for recommendation for house light instruments. I was thinking about maybe some S4 PARS with extra wide flood lenses and a nice soft diffusion Gel.
 

gafftapegreenia

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Just another tick on the board when it comes to marks against CFL's being the "answer we've been waiting for".

For house lights, 16" Scoops with double ended lamps are a long time favorite, but the PAR's might be classier. I'm guessing there's no hope for getting regular incandescent's put in?
 

derekleffew

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Any one who didn't see this coming, raise your hand. No, one? Bueller?

Probably just as well. Now you can have the pleasure of designing HouseLights placements for every show as well as stage lights. How fortunate for you! And since it's a black box, how flexible would the existing system be in any case? I highly recommend the Runt, from L&E, as an economical, colorable, floodlight. Those 192 dimmers seem to be getting fewer each day, and you've yet to do a show. Maybe you can use all those fancy-***** Seachangers and I-cues and Right Arms and colorizers as HouseLight fixtures.
 

gafftaper

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There's little to no chance of getting it replaced at this point. The project is done. I have contacted several of the people in charge asking what the specification standards were. I'm hoping someone will say this product doesn't meet the standard and then it's possible we can demand a houselight that does meet the standard.

The cool thing is that they are set up in like 8 zones so you can choose just the right house lights for the seating configuration... but you can do that with Scoops too. Yeah Gaff-brother I was raised on those big scoops in college for house lights, I had forgotten about them. They always had a nice soft flood feel.

I'll let you know what else I learn.
 

gafftaper

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Also I just want to point out that I did not choose nor was I ever asked by the Architect if I wanted compact fluorescent lamps for house lights. They just appeared one day. They make AWESOME work lights.
 

jmabray

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Just a tip -

all flourescents, before dimming, should be burned in for at least 100 hours. If no one did that, you might be able to clear up some of those problems that you are seeing. Turn on the lights, and leave them on for the 100 hours....


You also might want to check and make sure the dimmers are programmed to be dimming flourescent lights. With two wire dimming ballasts, there are settings that I have to do on a Sensor rack depending upon the load that I am dimming. I think you were getting a C21 rack and I don't know about how to go about doing that in that rack, but I will look around and see what I can find...

You are never going to get rid of the 'blink' at the end. It's the nature of the beast.

When you find out what the specifications are, look and try to find out what type of dimming ballast you have. There are three different kinds, A two wire, three wire, and four wire. They all are different and some take different dimmer modules than others....
 

jmabray

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From the C21 Manual:

Configuration items associated with the dimmer module can be set from the
processor module front panel.
The output response profile can be set to Linear, Square, S-Curve, Fluo-
Electric (for electronic fluorescent ballasts), Fluo-Magnetic (for magnetic
fluorescent ballasts), and Non-Dim. The two fluorescent settings let you set
the top end voltage and the bottom end cutoff voltage. The Non-Dim setting
lets you set the turn-on threshold for the non-dim. Five additional user
programmable profiles are available through the Set Rack Configuration menu
or from the optional status reporting software.

Dimmer response (per dimmer): fast (30ms), normal (100ms) or slow (300ms).
This determines a dimmer’s rate of response to a change in control level. Slow
is usually set for large tungsten loads to reduce filament inrush, medium or
fast for small loads.

Dimmer control assignment (per dimmer) to the “combined” levels of Outlook
preset, SWC preset, DMX A, DMX B, Network or to a fixed level (0% - 99% or
“Full”). The way in which the various input levels combine is also determined
on a per dimmer basis by setting the dimmer DMX mode.

A special smoothing algorithm is applied to small level changes to maintain
smooth fades with long fade times.

That first section is what I would pay attention to. Make sure the dimmers on that load are set properly. Also make sure that the voltage on the low and upper ends are set properly. This will help greatly with what you are seeing, as I suspect that they are not set right.
 

gafftaper

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Thanks guys. Yes it is C-21 dimmers.

I've got a computer sitting next to the console that is just for configuring dimmer settings and running WYG. (I'm sure we paid way too much for it but no one asked if I wanted it). I'll take a look tomorrow to make sure they are set up properly.

I'm not sure that the lamps themselves have been on for 100 hours. So I'll leave them on over night for a few days to make sure they are really burned in.

Shortly before he left the Strand guy asked the electrician what type of ballasts were in there. The electrician didn't know. The Strand guy left. Perhaps there is a problem with the type of ballast and dimmer.

I discovered today that if you set the dimmer at 4% all the circuits except two are off. The two that are on do a fabulous chase routine. On a slow fade up I reached 34% when the last light turned on. A fast fade seems to work much more consistent than a slow fade.
 
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icewolf08

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I wonder if you would have any luck with sine wave dimmers? I think with C-21 racks you can get sine wave modules that fit the racks.
 

jmabray

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I wonder if you would have any luck with sine wave dimmers? I think with C-21 racks you can get sine wave modules that fit the racks.

They can, (the racks that is) but I don't know that it will make any difference. I think it really depends upon the type of ballasts that you are using.

Try and get a hold of the electrical contractor, and ask him for his complete submittal package. If the dimming was installed in division 16 (as opposed to division 11) they should have all of the dimming and fixture information in there. They have to "submit" this info to the architect and engineers before the stuff is installed - it proves that they are meeting the specifications.

Now getting the arch or EE to actually hold their spec is an entirely different story....
 

Charc

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Even with properly configured dimmers, I can guarantee you they will suck more than *removed*. Actually, I mean, I assume our dimmers are properly assigned, but truth be told I have no idea. The current system is bad, real bad, they did tons wrong. But to stick specifically with the dimming abilities of 8' fluro tubes. 5% is about our hard on/off point, where the lights click. They dim, a little. I mean when going from 100-10 you can notice it, but it doesn't really change the amount of light by a dramatic amount, just makes them look less bad when turning off, kapeesh? The real issue is that similarly they don't all turn on/off at the same time. They do it at the same time, but not same moment, ya know what I mean? Maybe two seconds from the first one turning off to the last one turning off?

I recircuited the PAR-56 houselights, and plan to re-patch some things. What poor poor poor poor planning.
 

gafftaper

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I didn't get a chance to mess with this today. But first thing tomorrow I'm going up there to try to take a light apart and figure out what type of ballast it is. I also am going to find out what type of dimmer I have and what mode they are set to.

I spoke briefly to the general contractor about it today and demonstrated the fabulous 4% chase sequence. He gave me a nice smile and said, "That's not a problem it's a FEATURE!"

I'm planning to leave them on until Monday to make sure they are burned in.
 

cutlunch

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By their nature Fluorescent lights will never dim completely.
Once you have the dimmers set for the right curve work at the level at which the lights are still on in unison even 25% is fine. So when using them you just dim them to this level then it's a snap fade to 0%.

People aren't going to mind. They will mind more if the lights are dimmed so low they start flickering.

There are a lot of places where the lights are faded down to a certain level then snap off. People have put up with this for years, they won't mind. Once you have the dimmers set right trying to get down to that last % point is probably a waste of time.
 

jmabray

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You will never get them to dim down past 5% or so. The Ballasts will tell you that up front because they are called a 5% ballast or a 3% ballast or whatever.

It is the nature of the beast. But you can clean up what you have now, with some of the things we have talked about.

Let us know what you find out and I will do all that I can to help you with what I know.
 

gafftaper

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Well some research and phone calls to Strand today uncovered: I have the standard C21 dimmer modules that only work properly with Mark 10 ballasts. I'm told by Strand that if they aren't Mark 10 ballasts the system will act just like my system is acting. So at this point it sounds like the wrong ballast was used. I tried to go take a can apart today but I can't get to them from the catwalks and my scaffold hasn't arrived yet. So no way to reach them. I've done enough trouble shooting on my own, it's time for the contractor's electricians to come fix it.

I also am leaving the system on all weekend to make sure it isn't a burn in problem.
 

SteveB

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it's time for the contractor's electricians to come fix it.
I also am leaving the system on all weekend to make sure it isn't a burn in problem.
Don't get your hopes up too much, they'll only fix something that isn't done to specification. If the architect screwed up even worse then seems to date (they were idiots for spec'ing dimmable fourescents for a THEATER, for christs sake !), then the spec's aren't going to be specific enought to get the system to do what we all expect house lights in a theater to do. Which obviously is something the architect has zero experience with.

I vividly recall a set of conversations with Steve Short at Litetrol, about the huge importance of grounding in flourescent circuits, especially for so-called dimmable systems. Litetrol got a lot of work from Lutron, going in (after the fact) and trouble shooting badly installed equipment. I'm actually surprised you're using Compact lamps, whose dimming qualities are far worse then tubular.

In any case, the best you may get is an even "fade" down to 10%, then a snap off.

Steve B.
 

gafftaper

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Don't get your hopes up too much, they'll only fix something that isn't done to specification. If the architect screwed up even worse then seems to date (they were idiots for spec'ing dimmable fourescents for a THEATER, for christs sake !), then the spec's aren't going to be specific enought to get the system to do what we all expect house lights in a theater to do. Which obviously is something the architect has zero experience with.
I vividly recall a set of conversations with Steve Short at Litetrol, about the huge importance of grounding in flourescent circuits, especially for so-called dimmable systems. Litetrol got a lot of work from Lutron, going in (after the fact) and trouble shooting badly installed equipment. I'm actually surprised you're using Compact lamps, whose dimming qualities are far worse then tubular.
In any case, the best you may get is an even "fade" down to 10%, then a snap off.
Steve B.
I spoke with the theater consultant and he is apparently the one who chose the flouros... :shock: I'm getting less impressed with him all the time. He said he did specifically call for Mark 10 ballasts. But you know how that goes. I'm not holding my breath and I'm starting to look around for a good price on scoops for house lights. I've got the nicest work lights you've ever seen. ;)
 

gafftapegreenia

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Well at $480 a piece they'd better be!

Derek, have you been a little L&E happy lately? I've noticed you talking about them more recently.