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Control/Dimming Hypothetical Dimmer Upgrade

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by waynehoskins, Nov 28, 2008.

  1. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    I had a moment of realization the other day, and it occurred to me that I ought to upgrade the dimmers at the church sometime in the near future.

    We have two first-generation Genesis 12-packs, 12x2.4k. Pre-Comstar. They talk 0-10 and TMux, which means they only talk 0-10, which is fine; I've got an old Lep analog board in there.

    I'm looking for 24 channels of 2.4k or even 1.2k .. and cheap. I'm leaning to old CD80 racks (I have a Response AMX-DMX converter already, so an AMX rack ought to be fine). Actually, I'm really liking a CD80 half-rack that's only half-loaded.

    My basic criteria are modular (don't have to do major surgery on the chassis to replace a dead power cube) and modern control protocol.

    Any ideas on where a good place to look would be? Ebay was swimming in CD80 modules this summer, but now there's nothing. I'd really prefer to find some local place that's upgrading that might make a sweet deal on an old CD80 or MD288 or some such .. half-rack or even quarter-rack.

    I read an older thread mentioning NSI's DS series of rack-mount modular dimmers. Are they worth even considering? I have a love-hate relationship with NSI that basically boils down to I don't trust them enough to install them.

    And chances are we don't even have the money right now to do it, so it'd be a while off probably, unless there's a stupid-good deal now. Realistically, looking at 5K. That's not a lot, but I think it could get something better than the two Genesis packs. And since I'm running 0-10 control already, I suppose there's no reason a first-gen CD80 wouldn't do, when you get down to it. And nobody in their right mind wants pre-SV CD80, so they should be paying me to get rid of it for them! :)

    So .. where would I look? The online places didn't have a whole lot that jumped out and screamed "I'm the one!" .. mostly they had L86 and other touring racks.

    Or, alternatively, does anybody have a couple of spare Comstar cards for Genesis? And who could convince me that maintaining a Genesis rack is really a piece of cake and there's no need to worry about getting to the power cubes?
     
  2. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I assume you are watching what comes and goes on Gear source and Solaris Network. You might contact both of them directly to see if they have any suggestions.
     
  3. jmabray

    jmabray Active Member

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    Is there a reason you are looking at Strand over other manufacturers?

    You might also look for some used Touring Sensor packs - they come in 12 module (24 dimmer) varieties and are plentiful out there.

    New 12 module portable stagepin racks list for 8,275.00 - so finding the for 5 grand shouldn't be too difficult - you might even be able to find a new one for not much more than the 5 grand.....

    You could also go for 2 portable 12 dimmer x 10 amp smartpacks. With terminal strip connections they list for 2300 each. They aren't as modular as the other, but they can be field repaired pretty easily.

    Also - one other note - you say you have a response AMX-DMX convertor - That makes it sound like it goes from AMX to DMX only. Make sure that it will output AMX if that's what you need it to do - that might be a DMX - AMX convertor.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2008
  4. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Electrical contractors in your area who do institutional remodel work? Often their instructions, when installing a new system, are "remove and dispose of existing dimmer equipment..." For most, that means salvage yard.:( The problem of transporting, storing, and customizing installation racks usually makes them unsuitable for the used market. Your favorite local theatrical dealer should have knowledge of new systems being retrofitted.

    Note however that if you upgrade from the "portable" equipment you have now to an "installed" system, you are exposing yourself to more stringent criteria. I think I'd look for portable packs/touring racks, of CD80, D192/ENR, L86, and of course, Sensor. Regardless of how easy it is to service others, or how rarely SSRs fail, nothing is more convenient than swapping out a module.

    Old systems seem to magically migrate toward Lite-Trol, call Steve Short and beg him to share his secrets as to where he finds the goodies.
     
  5. TimMiller

    TimMiller Well-Known Member

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    I have a pre CD80sv touring rack and i love it. Thing is bullet proof, and if a dimmer or ramp card fails you just pull them out and swap them. Mine does take DMX and AMX it does not have an analog in.

    What i would do with your rack if it was me, and a card were to fail beyond any repair and a replacement could not be found is go with a johnson systems retrofit such as a UDC-24. Johnson Systems Inc.
    It will run about 2500. You basically pull out the brains of your existing rack (ramp cards, interface cards, power supplies etc.) and wire this module directly up to the ssr's in the rack. This will take having a person install it with knowlege of dimmers and how to wire them up properly, but it is not a hard task. Our local theatrical dealer installs these quite frequently because it gives new life to an old rack for a very small percentage of the price of a new one. There may even be a person at your church who knows how to install something like this.
     
  6. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    Absolutely. That's my chief reason. All the SSRs are originals from 1986, and they're non-standard Crydoms. They bolt onto two internal heatsinks (6 bricks, 6 channels per heatsink). I've got two (of 24) that were bad when I inherited the packs, and I never got around to replacing because of the trouble it is to get in there. Major surgery, especially in an installation-like environment. That, and I think there are but two people in Dallas who know how to work on these things (not that they're hard, but just different), and I'm one of them. :)

    I looked at Solaris and Gearsource, a pass through Soundbroker, and the obligatory round through Ebay. Actually, Ebay did have a great deal (probably still there; it was yesterday) on an empty rack in Canada, but I'm sure the freight to Dallas would be killer on that thing.

    I considered one of the Johnson firing cards, but that still doesn't address the non-modular problem.
     
  7. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    Oh, that's a piece of cake. The doing isn't the hard part; the hard part is finding the new rack.

    (By the way, the project the fist half of the week was schematicing out that TMux card to see how it worked, potentially as a guide to making an AMX card with the aid of Steve Terry's article from yesteryear on the timings. After tracing it out, it looked like it might be able to do AMX with the flip of a set of mode switches, but to no avail unfortunately.)

    Oh, somebody asked about the Response converter .. it works both ways (one at a time, but it will do either conversion), so no problem there.
     
  8. jmabray

    jmabray Active Member

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    I may know someone that can work on them as well here in the Dallas area. Let me know if you're interested....
     
  9. TimMiller

    TimMiller Well-Known Member

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    I looked at those racks, they are 100% not cost effective. The individual dimmer modules will run about 100 bucks each. Electronics for these racks (at least in uncomplete condition) is impossible to find, and a johnson systems retro for a CD-80 rack will run about 7500 bucks. I bought another CD-80sv rack for 1000 bucks a while back. It had 24 dimmer modules in it, i just filled up the other 24 for about 800 bucks off of e-bay. Now i cannot find another dimmer processor module or a power supply module, so i am now looking at getting a johnson retro. So 1000-800-7500=9300bucks to get this rack up and running. I picked up my other CD-80 touring rack with the individual ramp cards for 1000 bucks. All it needed was some very minor maintance work.
     
  10. dramatech

    dramatech Well-Known Member

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    If you have racks of any kind that have SSRs with the chokes and breakers, you can upgrade them for much less than the Johnson systems. There is guy in the Phoenix area that builds circuit boards that will drive SSRs direct from DMX or Analog. His four channel cards do both Analog and DMX, the eight channel only do DMX. I have built over a 100 channels of dimmers using his circuit boards and old teatronic modules. I have also built quite a few dimmers with his cards and triacs. The four channel boards are in the $60 range and the eight channel boards are just slightly more. He also has boards for upgrading consoles from analog to DMX, and PWM boards as well as DMX relays and servo drivers. All of the boards are screw terminal. He Will work with you on the phone for some minor customizing at no additional price. His web address is some wierd thing that I don't worry about because I have it in my favorites. Google "Northlight electronics for DMX products". If you have trouble getting it, email me direct at [email protected]
     
  11. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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