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Dimmers?

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by pcaginalp, Dec 12, 2006.

  1. pcaginalp

    pcaginalp Member

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    So my theater is looking at a major reworking in the next few years. We originally had 36 60s era strand dimmers. They were going to add another 36 but ran out of money when they built the theater. Now we are looking at a major upgrade and thinking about replacing all the dimmers with new ones (and possibly even adding the second set). I have never had to look into buying dimmers before, so i don't know what to look for/what questions to ask. What is good? What do I want to look for? What should I avoid?

    Thanks,
    PC
     
  2. Foxinabox10

    Foxinabox10 Active Member

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    What board are you using?
     
  3. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Your console really should not matter when deciding dimmers, as long as the dimmers will accept whatever the console outputs (DMX512 hopefully on both ends). It really comes down to what kind of install do you want. Do you want a permant rack hardwired to the building, do you want 64 dimmers and have 130 circuits that you can hard patch to? Of the dimmers that are on the market currently, the CD80 and the C21 from Strand are both great dimmers. The sensors from ETC are also great, and if you want to do dimmer doubling (multiplexing) its really the only way to go (its not as wonderful as it looks). What it really comes down to is, how much power do you have, how much power do you want (1.2k or 2.4k), what kind of install you want, and how much mula you have to spend.
     
  4. cutlunch

    cutlunch Active Member

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    For this I would get a number of outside suppliers to do a survey and quote. This is because if you are doing this it should be done right. It is easy to miss details.

    Here are some of the things that need to be considered:

    1) Power supply - you obviously want to get as many dimmers for your theatre as possibly 100 approx is probably a good round number. But you need to know how many the theatre power supply can handle. It may have been designed for 72 dimmers but have modifications being made to the theatre adding new rooms / buildings. So is the same power supply loading still available. It is nothing worse then having dimmers and knowing you can't use them to full level without blowing the circuit breakers. Will the new dimmers need wiring in or did the old old ones have power points they were plugged into.

    2) Physical size and location - Can you fit the dimmers into the same amount of space as the old ones or do you need to modify the building. What is ventilation like? Will it be adequate to handle the new dimmers.

    3) Patch panel wiring - What condition is your current patching system in? Does it have the capability to take more dimmers? Is it still legal? If the dimmers are being hardwired to the patch you may find that the regulations have changed since the 60's. Do you need to add more waylines to the lighting bar to take advantage of the extra dimmers.

    As you can see there is a lot of things to be considered that is even before you decider on the dimmer model.

    I would probably go around local theatres to see what dimmers they are using. Ask them how reliable their dimmers are. If any of them have upgraded in the last few years ask who did it. Learn from what they did. Would they do everything the same or would they make changes.

    On the dimmers themselves the sinewave ones are probably preferred but they probably cost more per chanel. People like strand make dimmer racks where you have the older style dimmers but if you want sinewave then you just replace a couple of modules. This way you don't have completely rip out
    a dimmer pack and start over. Although the Sine Wave dimmer may be preferred the older style packs for a lot of jobs are still as good. Although the interference they generate will be higher then that of the sine wave dimmers. But in a well designed system that shouldn't be a problem and would be at least as good as your current system.

    Sorry for the long post but since you are doing a complete revamp I wanted to highlight all the things that need to be taken into consideration.
    Hope this helps.

    Added a PS
    PS

    I would also look at your whole lighting bar layout in conjunction with this. Your currentlsystem might be fine or really stink so now would be the time to get that redesigned as well to save problems/ money in the future.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2006
    pcaginalp likes this.
  5. SHARYNF

    SHARYNF Well-Known Member

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    I am not sure I agree with the comment re the console is not important

    From my experience, if you have an old console and you upgrade the dimmers do your self a favor and get a new console trying to convert old analog or amx consoles over to DMX is a very frustrating and unreliable experience

    Today most of the systems are dimmer per circuit and there is not that much need for patching.

    Sharyn
     
  6. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Most dimmers still accept AMX without a problem, and as long as your not running 0-10v or some NSI protocol you will be fine. I am going to assume that they have a DMX console, and if they do not it is time to upgrade, but thats another thread all together. And yes, most spaces IDEALY are dimmer per circuit anymore, but I have worked in plenty of new theatres that still have a hard patch because they did not have the money to fill 130 or so dimmers, but did pull the wire for that many dimmers. I personally prefer the hard patch to the repatch dimmer option (which is a total nightmare).
     
  7. SHARYNF

    SHARYNF Well-Known Member

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    I certainly could be wrong, but when I read Strand dimmers from the 60's (probably not THAT OLD) the likely hood of having a dmx console would be low. AFAIK for instance the ETC Sensor racks these days have dropped AMX support.

    Sharyn
     
  8. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    The CEM+ has dropped AMX, though the Strand C21's will still take it. I have a a feeling though that if they do not have a DMX console, the console is not worth keeping anyway, so in reality it is a frivolous argument to buy dimmers based on a console that is not DMX (or artnet, shownet, ACN).
     
  9. pcaginalp

    pcaginalp Member

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    Our board is a fairly new ETC Express 48-92.

    The theater was originally planned for double the amount of dimmers than it has now. They ran out of money when adding the original dimmers. There is room for more racks, and they say we have lots more power for the building, but we did add a music center to the building a few years back. I am not sure if it is powered off of our grid or separate.

    The dimmers were hard mounted to a wall, and I haven't found a place where we can control their patch, so I think they are just wired in. We do patches on our lighting board anyway.

    Our waylines to the two electrics and two of four housebars are fine. We have two more house bars that aren't currently lined which we want to line, and that will take up the majority of the new dimmers we think.

    What kind of regulations are there on dimmer patching? Where would I find what those are?

    Thanks,
    PC
     
  10. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    All regulations regarding theatre are in the NEC, and I can not remember the chapter/section (chime in here someone). As far as having a hard patch (if you do what the call a "road show patch") they require breakers between the pigtail and the runs.
     
  11. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    Where are you ?.
    I'm suspecting the UK and would recommend moving the questions to the Blue Room www.blue-room.org/uk, a pretty much UK oriented forum, as they are more knowledgeable about UK and Euro issues.
    It sounds like you need totally new dimmer system and your going to get a dimmer-per-circuit system, for however many dimmers you can afford. You *might* be able to hookup the new dimmers to the existing 36 circuits, if the powers-that-be are of the opinion that the existing wiring is in good enough condition to keep in use. That saves money. Having an Existing Express is a good thing as it's a good, serviceable console. If budget allows, maybe upgrade to Emphasis for the additional channel capacity as well as many additional features.
    Not sure of the UK, but here in the states, the National Electrical Code (which is not mandated for local jurisdictions to follow !, though most do) allows you to install a ETC Sensor 96x2400kw dimmer rack on 10 amps ! - I.E., the way the code is written is you do not have a "Connected Load" power requirement, but instead can use a "Demand Load" to factor in power feeds.
    The reason for this is that having a theater with 600 x 2.4kw dimmers @ 120v - 3 phase would need a feed of 4,000 amps per phase, if Connected Load were used (600 dimmers @20 amps ea. across a 3 phase feed system). The Theater/Entertainment folks on the US Nat'l Code Committee realized this was generally impractical, as very few facilities loaded every dimmer to near max. Usually it was many fewer circuits actually in use with single unit loads @ 575 watts or so. Thus the code became more practical and essentially tells you to plan for demand load.
    So you need to check on what your local codes require, as well as is there supplemental power available, of sufficient quantities to feed the dimmers planned.
    SB
     
  12. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    He is in Connecticut, in the USA.
     
  13. disc2slick

    disc2slick Active Member

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    If you are not going to be going above 96 dimmers you really don't need to go beyond the express line of consoles. unless you will be programming a lot of ML's/Scrollers/FX from the one console. I'd say look at the inventory you are likely to use, if you may be using a bunch of MLs that burn 20 channels each get a board with a higher channel capacity, but otherwise the mone can eb ebtter soent elsewhere.

    -Dan
     
  14. silvrwolf

    silvrwolf Member

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    Ok, you said you have older strand dimmers ? If so it sounds like you may possibly have an older CD-80 rack if so these are upgradeable to dmx by changing the processor. A down side to these racks are that you cant get the dimmer modules new anymore, you can get them factory refurbished or rebuilt. See if you can get a model of your dimmers posted and we will try to help you more.
     
  15. highschooltech

    highschooltech Active Member

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    Which system do you plan on using NSI based or DMX based because that kinda is important
     
  16. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    The console he has can support 192 channels and up to 1024 dimmers.
     
  17. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    The original post mentioned 60's era dimmers, but without more info., who knows.

    There are 2 common types of 60's to 70's era Strand dimmers - the series 300 - which are usually yellow/green, about 6"x8"x15" long (approx. - they're big)), then there are the 600 series which are approx. 3"x6"x8-10" long and are always black. Then you get the CD80 series, which are the first Strand dimmers designed for a dimmer-per-circuit setup. These are 80's vintage.

    The CD-80's are *possibly* worth upgrading, but if he has 36 missing dimmers where there are slots empty, probably not. Same for 600's and forget about the 300's.

    FWIW, the Express is DMX only, not NSI and will pretty much work with any new dimmers.

    SB
     
  18. silvrwolf

    silvrwolf Member

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    This is a very good point. If any of you know, trying to get a small or large quantity of cd-80 dimmers these days is pretty hard unless you you turn to ebay or a refurb place. I must have over looked the part where he said he has 36 holes in his dimmer line up, because I woould have just said replace the whole system with a new strand or etc system. Thanks for pointing out an overlooked detail to me SteveB
     

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