ETC Light Desk Failure

Toul

Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2004
Location
NC USA
We're using an ETC Express 250 lighting console that we purchased in 1998 with a bunch of Sensors and a complete electrical overhaul as part of a $1 million renovation. Just this past year, though, our console has been failing in creative ways. Occasionally it will just freeze for no clear reason. The only way to fix it is to turn it on and off again, which discards the current channel levels. Just recently this happened during a show, with an audience in the room. JT (our Master of Everything) was running lights at the time, and he tried a creative fix. It didn't work, and in the end, the stage went completely black without warning in the middle of a ballet. Needless to say, this could prove difficult if it continues to happen.

Also: the board is equipped with a pair of those gooseneck lites to illuminate the control surface. There's a small dimmer knob for these lights on the back of the console. However, recently, any adjustment in this knob causes a console reset.

Fortunately, we have until October before we need a light board again, so JT's called ETC and is hoping to repair or replace the board before we need it again. Unfortunately, ETC only carries a two-year warranty on its products, meaning that our only recourse might be to purchase a new board. If the cost to fix it proves prohibitive, I suppose we always have our old two-fader manual preset board up in storage, but it would be a huge step backwards from the ETC technology.

Has anyone else ever heard of an ETC desk malfunctioning in this way? I love ETC products, but if a lighting console fails catastrophically after six years, then it might prove expedient to investigate other control options.
 

SteveB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
The console can be fixed. The Express is about as reliable a console you can get these days, but sometimes they fail. My 48/96 recently failed, after 8 years of so of constant use.

It sounds like a problem in the "brick" which is the back panel where everything plugs in. Could be an internal 12 volt buss problem, maybe originating with the external power supply., which might explain the LittleLite dimmer problem.

It's certainly repairable and cost effective to do so. It should be good as new after. Contact ETC.

You might also want to configure your Sensor electronics to "Hold" the last valid DMX look, by the way. In the event the console dumps DMX (cable un-plugged, etc..) the look will stay on-stage until a new valid signal is received. 5 minutes is usually enough time. This is configred in the rack electronics modules.

Steve B.
 

Mayhem

Senior Team Emeritus
Premium Member
Joined
Jan 21, 2004
Location
Australia
This may sound silly - but have you replaced the internal back up battery?
 

ricc0luke

Active Member
Joined
Feb 23, 2004
Location
Central Illinois
Toul:

In order to avoid the stage going black in the middle of a show should it happen again, you should set your dimmers to "Status Quo", or at least that is what Strand calls it. I am sure that ETC has something just the same, only maybe with a differerent name.

When set, when the dimmers loose a signal from the board, (ex.- someone hits the power switch, the DMX cable gets knocked loose, or if the board fails) the dimmers will stay on at their current levels for 30 min. This is also a very useful feature so you can leave some lights on when you leave so you can see your way out.

It is normally really simple to set the dimmers, it is something like a little switch. Check you manual and you can probably find it.
 

Toul

Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2004
Location
NC USA
SteveB said:
You might also want to configure your Sensor electronics to "Hold" the last valid DMX look, by the way. In the event the console dumps DMX (cable un-plugged, etc..) the look will stay on-stage until a new valid signal is received. 5 minutes is usually enough time. This is configred in the rack electronics modules.
That's already been done, but as soon as the console boots again, it sends a DMX signal out that makes everything dark. If there were some way to keep the board from sending out a DMX signal until we could load the proper cue, then this would be a good fix. Would it work to simply unplug the DMX lead from the back of the console? In my mind, this would be adequate, and then we could plug it back in once we had the cue loaded. The only other way to make lights come on as soon as the board is booted is to use submasters, but it's a rare thing when a current cue can be described using only submasters. It would, however, keep the stage from going completely dark, which could be a major safety hazard in practice.

It's promising news, though, that the problem is solvable. Now that you mention it, the power cable has never (at least in my memory) seated firmly into its socket at the back of the console. I don't think that it's coming unplugged, though, because the console stays on (all LEDs stay lit) but freezes. But I'm sure that ETC knows what to do. Thanks.
 

SteveB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
The "un-plug the DMX cable" route does work, as the dimmer racks won't know the difference once the console has dumped DMX. Takes a bit more time though... You could label the correct DMX cable to make it easy to find in a hurry, as a different cable then Universe 2 and RFU.

The older Express consoles had issues with the power supply plug failing/cracking at the console connection. Mine too doesn't feel like it seats well, but I tend to leave it alone. Others have shut off the console while adjusting the LitttleLites though. ETC has since changed the console power connector. Too late for the likes of us though as it's not a repairable issue.

Get the console serviced just the same. Including replacing the power supply just in case.

SB
 

Toul

Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2004
Location
NC USA
Definitely. Budget's been tight recently. It seems like everything in our theatre is breaking at once. I tested the DMX unplugging technique today, and it works just fine. So now we have a working plan to keep the stage from going black, but that board still needs to be serviced as soon as possible.
 

zac850

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2003
Location
New York
the UPS would only work if the problem is because of the current coming in to power the board. A UPS has a battery and a surge protector, so the board still has power if the power goes out, and has surge protection. If there is a problem with a the wiring in the board, this wouldn't help.