How to Set an ETC Unison/Paradigm

Stevens R. Miller

Well-Known Member
Hey all, I've got yet another school system to cope with. This one has an ETC Element controlling its stage lights, and also a Unison (or is it Paradigm?) system to control its house lights. The latter are set with a small touch-screen, that looks like the picture below.

The "House @ 50%" and similar buttons do what one would expect. The "House Custom" button sets the "Thrust" slider to 100%, and the other four sliders to 0%. We need to change that so "House Custom" sets the "Pit" slider to 100% and the other four sliders to 0%.

I've scoured ETC's Web site and found the usual plethora of data sheets, installation guides, brochures, and so on, but no actual book on how to program the custom setting. (My best guess is that the whole display is a custom job by the company that installed it, which means there is no "book" on this particular configuration, further pushing me in the direction of agreeing with those who say that "fully customizable" is code for "totally undocumented").

Can anyone help me change the custom setting?

Thanks!
IMG_1671.JPG
 

MNicolai

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
There may be a backdoor. Maybe a press-and-hold for 5 seconds kind of thing to activate a preset recording mode kind of thing, but the easiest way to find out how to modify that is to call up the integrator. It's probably a similar interface to ones they've used in a dozen other rooms and will be able to tell you pretty quickly what the trick is or if that preset is hard-coded into the system and needs a new config loaded to make any changes to it.

Failing that, Paradigm controls are set up using the ControlDesigner and LightDesigner software, which ETC only provides to service techs and owners who have trained on and purchased the software. If you want to have adjustments made you'll have to contact either the installer or ETC Tech Support. If you call ETC, dig around a little first and see if near the Paradigm processor or the console is a document with the ETC job number on it. It's not critical that you have this but it speeds things up a little.
 

Stevens R. Miller

Well-Known Member
Thanks, Mike. Alas, I kind of thought that would be the right answer. See, the system was installed by a company called "AGC." They do a lot of the installations in our county's public schools. The problem is that they leave no documentation on how they configure these things and, when I call them to ask questions, they say they won't answer them unless the school sends them a "work order," which must be accompanied by (at a minimum) a payment of several hundred dollars. I'm sure you can predict how likely it is that a school will do that at my request.

This is so depressing, because it means the school has bought a system that can do pretty much everything, but, because only AGC knows how it works (and won't tell us without getting paid to answer every single question), we can't make it do much of anything. We have a world-class, state-of-the-art, theatrical lighting system that can be configured in any way we want, but we can't change a thing because ETC's business model relies on intermediary installers who hold the necessary information hostage for ransom.

I will try the press-and-hold trick. That certainly came to mind when I first confronted this thing yesterday. But, having watched a lot of other people screw things up by guessing and poking buttons at random, I have a strong aversion to working that way. (So, if doing it breaks anything, can I blame you :) ?)
 

danTt

Well-Known Member
I suppose the first thing I'd do in this situation is give ETC Tech services a call. They probably would like to hear about unhelpful dealers, as the dealers do represent ETC, and ETC is known for their service. While they may not be able to do anything, they do have documentation of all ETC installs, and could look up and see if there was a way for you to reconfigure presets.

Following that, I'd probably look to develop a relationship with a new dealer. A company that will not answer questions about services they provide without a large payment in advance does not sound like a company I'd want to do business with.
 

MNicolai

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
Call ETC. They can open your file and decipher it for you.

It should have been in the project specifications that the contractor provide basic walk-through guide and a full set of drawings/cut sheets/manuals, but a lot of schools are playing it pretty fast and loose out there. I've seen more than a couple districts that had one school go up that wasn't a disaster and used that spec cookie cutter for the next several schools rather than hiring a consultant to protect their interests. That, or the consultant was the same guy who was selling them the equipment and didn't put any time to putting a proper bid spec together.
 

Stevens R. Miller

Well-Known Member
I suppose the first thing I'd do in this situation is give ETC Tech services a call. They probably would like to hear about unhelpful dealers, as the dealers do represent ETC, and ETC is known for their service. While they may not be able to do anything, they do have documentation of all ETC installs, and could look up and see if there was a way for you to reconfigure presets.

Following that, I'd probably look to develop a relationship with a new dealer. A company that will not answer questions about services they provide without a large payment in advance does not sound like a company I'd want to do business with.
I'm in touch with ETC by e-mail. The do have good support and tend to answer quickly. They asked me for the serial number and I have learned always to take pix for those, so I was able to send it to them.

Not meaning to bad-mouth anyone, but my opinion of this installer is that they give the idea of limiting training to "professionals" a bad name. More often than not, it has been evident to me that their technicians: A) do not know how to operate the equipment their employers installed (typically because the installation is not done by the same person who, in those rare cases where we have the money to pay, comes out to deal with it); and B) hide the fact that they don't know.

I'm a reasonably bright guy with a substantial amount of tech in my life experience. I can learn to work this stuff and I'm humble enough to admit it when I don't know how. So when the tech shows up and also doesn't know how, I try my best to say that, hey, if you've got the book on this thing, maybe we can dig into it together and figure it out. But that's usually not what happens. What usually happens is that the tech pokes the same buttons I've already poked, makes a phone call I am not part of, and then says, "I'll have to escalate this." At that point, my director tends to infer that it is really me causing the problem and says something like, "Let's just go with what we have."

Anyway, ETC is trying their best, and deserves props for that.
 

Stevens R. Miller

Well-Known Member
It should have been in the project specifications that the contractor provide basic walk-through guide and a full set of drawings/cut sheets/manuals, but a lot of schools are playing it pretty fast and loose out there. I've seen more than a couple districts that had one school go up that wasn't a disaster and used that spec cookie cutter for the next several schools rather than hiring a consultant to protect their interests. That, or the consultant was the same guy who was selling them the equipment and didn't put any time to putting a proper bid spec together.

Well, I wasn't there when they built this school, so I can't say for sure. But my opinion is that it does feel like someone is playing the age-old game of making themselves the high-priest(ess) of technology, and holding back on simple info a lot of us could be trusted with.

I do get personally frustrated by this, because my father (who was an engineer) trained me to obtain and organize operations manuals for everything. For example, I always buy the Chilton's (or equivalent) manual for every car I own. I have all of my owner's manuals for my ham radio gear, test equipment, computers, and cameras in a single filing cabinet. Whenever I figure out how to do something that wasn't documented, I write a "HowTo" paper and keep it on our family server (I could probably publish several volumes of things like, "HowTo Change Google Drive's Local Folder," and "HowTo Convert MTS Video to AVI" by now). But the more common practice appears to be to push buttons at random and see if that does anything useful (and to run away and hide when it breaks things).

BTW, it was Chilton that first published Frank Herbert's novel, "Dune." Fun fact, as my son would say.
 

MNicolai

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
It's a choice of business model. You can bid projects higher and maintain enough profit margin that it doesn't burn a hole in your pocket fielding calls from users and making minor changes without charging an arm and a leg. Or you can bid low and the only way to keep your profit margin intact is to charge for each and every form of service you offer. Either way you have to pay rent and salaries at the end of the month.

If you choose a path of integrity, you'll lose some work to the guys who are always low bid. Sometimes a contractor plays the low road long enough that they get a bad reputation and lose some work but usually not. Memories are short and the people who influence bid awards often have no communication from the people who use the systems. Even if they do, the allure of spending $10k or $20k more for the bidder you actually want is usually superseded by the idea it'll cost you less to fix their work afterward if you absolutely need to.

I'm not saying it's right, but this is how competition works. Just like if you're bidding a job and you see errors in the bid documents, you can bid it the *right* way for a fully functional system and risk being high bid and losing the job, or you can bid it as-shown and make your margin on change orders. Somewhere in the middle is a grey area where you bid it *right* and disclaim the heck out of your bid to explain why it's higher, but that's a mixed bag. The allure of saving $15k on projects that are often over budget to begin is simply too high.

Integrity comes at a price, and it's a price some business owners have become cynical toward so they play the change order and service order game.
 

Stevens R. Miller

Well-Known Member
As Mike and Dan said, each install is unique, but ETC can help if they know which one you've got. Here's what they suggested for me (in case something similar might be helpful to others):

1. Set your house light levels to what you want the preset to look like
2. Find the Paradigm Architectural Control Processor
3. Press the check mark in the middle of the scroll wheel to enter the menu
4. Select Arch Control
5. Select Presets
6. Select the Theatre space
7. Select House Custom
8. Select Record

Now, Step 2 might be fatal. I spent about twenty minutes looking for the dimmer rack last night, and couldn't find it. Unless ETC knows where that is, I may be stuck with the setting I've got.
 

MNicolai

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
You're not looking for the dimmer rack itself but wherever that is, the P-ACP rack is likely in close proximity. Could be an obvious ETC Unison-style rack or a standard wall-mount equipment rack. Probably in a locked electrical room. If in doubt, follow the conduits. They should lead you in the general direction.
 

JJBerman

Active Member
Also if the installer followed the installation notes, ETC would have a copy of the as built drawings. I know we put a note for those drawings to be sent to us for all projects. Unless it was taken out by someone other than us.
 

Stevens R. Miller

Well-Known Member
AGC has put the ACP and dimmer rack near each other in every other installation of theirs I've seen, so I'm hoping that finding one will mean finding the other. I tried to follow the conduits last night and got lost. My partner and I will try to get into the theater a bit earlier today. Tracing the conduits might be more successful without the entire cast of "42nd Street" isn't dancing on the same stage where almost the entire crew is also assembling the set.

Must be nice to work in the same theater for more than three weeks in a row...
 

SteveB

Well-Known Member
The Paradigm processor is likely in a Mid-Atlantic electronics rack, possibly a half sized unit mounted on a wall - booth ?, sometimes black.

You may as well, need to find a key for the door, just heads up.
 

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RickR

Well-Known Member
There is a somewhat easier method than sorting through the APC menus, especially for a tech savvy fellow. Connect a laptop to the network port on APC face. (Or any other port in the system!!) Open a browser and enter the IP address displayed on the APC screen. 10.101.10.101 is the default. Details are all in the manual that can be found on the ever helpful ETC website or in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AvFy2yaK3c From there you can edit levels and record presets and even change the calendar.

There is a book, the Paradigm manual. (Available on the website.) It's important to know that the touchscreen is just a small part of the system as it is only an interface. Sure the text and button layout is custom, but the basics are built into the APC. Most systems don't go beyond preset buttons and channel faders, no matter how much more is possible.

I can pass on the official line of why they limit access to those with training. In short it's pretty easy to screw up a system with Light Designer (it was far worse for 'legacy' Unison systems) and the software is still rather cumbersome, though I'm sure it's improved since I last dealt with it. Tech support costs would skyrocket if everyone had access. The web page and the system menus let you do quite a bit, but still protects the core functionality.
 

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