Control/Dimming Convert standard house dimmer to ETC Paradigm or equivalent?


Hello there.

I am wondering if it is possible to convert switches to a system like paradigm or an equivalent house light system.

Whoever built this theater definitely did not consult anybody related to theater at all. No tech booth, tiny wing space, no way to cross to the other wing, and also a poorly design house light system. I guess they decided that a standard reeidential dimmer switch would be sufficient. Needless to say, they were wrong.

The sliders on the dimmer are very loose and impossible to dim smoothly. They are so wide that you have to strain your hands to reach them. The dimmers dont turn the lights all the way off, it goes 100 to 20 and then you have to press the button to turn it off.

But I digress, the point is that I'd rather we have a system that was made for dimming house lights. Is this difficult to achieve?

I've seen similar issues in many churches. But generally mucking around with building electrical stuff is not simple and can be dangerous.

The problems come it the two main ways the systems differ. 'Wallbox' dimmers are typically seperate from the circuit breakers and manually controlled, to say nothing of being crammed into tiny boxes. Theatrical dimmers are typically centralized, with strong remote control features. So start by investigating how much power is needed and where it comes from, as well as low voltage wiring possibilities around the space. (Booth(s), power location, house doors, backstage) Radio control can be practical but often comes with long term unforeseen headaches.

With some clear understanding of both issue categories you can start too answer your question. Also look into resources issues like time and money but especially in depth planning help. CB can only go so far, electricians rarely know theatrical stuff, dealers vary widely in knowledge and experience (and integrity), and local theater techs vary similarly. A consultant would be great, but might be too expensive for such a small project.

Do some digging, post some photos and hopefully we can help more.
Someone does build a DMX wallbox dimmer. I've forgotten who, as it sticks out from the wall, is low wattage and seemed like an experiment. They may have improved! I think I first saw it here.
Baseline consideration: in most US jurisdictions, you cannot do electrical work yourself unless

1) You are licensed, or

2) The property is residential, and you own it.

So plan to pay an electrician, and likely for permits as well.

This is a recording.
The dimmers dont turn the lights all the way off, it goes 100 to 20 and then you have to press the button to turn it off.
Given we're talking about "residential wall dimmer" this sounds and awful lot like the house lights were replaced with LEDs at some point. And some combination of the dimmer and light is not getting along, there's going to be *some* level of leakage through the triac until you use the switch to actually kill the circuit.

Anything of this scale is going to involve an integrator and several licensed electricians. The equipment alone is likely more than your venue is going to want to spend if they deemed a panel of hardware store dimmers as an acceptable method of controlling house lights.

These days, there *are* actually DMX controlled house lights you can buy, which while still not cheap are likely the cheapest option compared to buying a dimmer rack. though keep in mind this level of substantial work would likely require you to have a certified tie in for fire alarm egress purposes.

Subject to your local code, AHJ, so on and so forth.
OP is listed as a high school student in Vermont.
Yes, do not worry. I will not be making any electrical changes myself anytime soon. I was just asking if it was possible as our theater department recently got a grant to improve the technical aspects of our theater.

Thanks for your help!
Another consideration: house lights come under life safety as well as electrical codes, along with emergency egress lighting. Mentioned because any changes made will likely need to be code-compliant.

edit ps: I mention this because in many locales the house lights must be on a "panic" switch and operationally integrated with the fire alarm system, both of which must override the manual operation of the houselights. As this IS a life safety issue I strongly suggest that a consultant be engaged before committing to any work.
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