light boards and things

i have been doin lights at my chruch for a few years and now im looking to upgrade our system. right now we have a leprecon 624 console and 2 electrol 125 dx dimmers. we have 24 or 25 lights in total all located in front of the stage. i want to get another board and more dimmers. i want to have some lights located above the stage, i was thinking about getting portable dimmers, possibly electrol anaconda, so that i can have lights in the ceiling or move them down to the stage or other places in the auditorium. i was looking at the etc express 24/48 console but price is always an issue so i was thinking about the nsi 7532. does anybody have any thoughts about any of this stuff?
Id give you a hand, but I dont know any of the equipment your talking about haha... none of it exists out here...

But, just out of curiosity was looking at the leprecon website, their gear looks pretty dodgey (no offense if you like it) but is their stuff popular in the states? they look pretty cheapish so im presuming alot of low budget organisations would have one??
the leprecon light board is the only board ive ever used so i really dont have any preferences, but i also got the feeling that they arent really that great. have you ever used nsi, etc or electrol products, we have the electrol dx dimmers, and from what i gathered from surfing the web they are pretty good packs. we need to get a larger console so i was looking around and was told to look at the etc 24/48 express

that console costs around $4000 US and that is a little expensive for my budget, and to tell you the truth i dont know that i would ever use all the features on it , i can never see us getting into intelligent lights. i see that this console has a monitor output on it, but what does is display, i saw something about cue lists. what is that
i also saw the nsi 7532 console, which looks more like something that we might buy because of budget. this looks like it has at least all the features that the leprecon 624 had on it, if not more

any thoughts on these consoles

PS im not really stupid, im only 20 and i have been in lighting for 6 or so years but i have just used what was already installed and now i want to take it up a notch or 2 , so i dont know all the terminology or all the things that upper end consoles can do. any advice or help is welcome
Cue lists would be of limited value in a church. They are used intensively in theater and touring concert work, where you're basically doing the same "show" every night for several weeks.

Most modern boards have storage for several "scenes" - preset lighting patterns that you can call up at the touch of a button. A cue list is simply a sequence of these stored scenes in the order they'll be used. Monitor consoles often have a way where you can type in a name for the cue list - in concert work this is often the same as a song name - and descriptions of each scene or its use - again in concert use this could be the parts of the song: verse, chorus, bridge, etc. Then as the song progresses, you simply step through the cue list, rather than having to remember, for each song, which scene is next.

I'm somewhat familiar with both Electrol and NSI, but mainly from an engineering standpoint. I'm not certain about the feature sets of the particular equipment you've mentioned, but having disassembled and analyzed some of their gear, I can attest to it being fairly well-built, conservatively-designed stuff that should be pretty reliable.

Well the Express is a pretty basic console..and the NSI is about the same in simplicity. If you are used to a 624 Leprechaun (a simple console as well), you should do fine with either console. From personal experience I find the ETC stuff to be of better build and quality than NSI...Most of the ETC equipment will last you longer under constant use and retain its value longer then NSI will. Plus I believe ETC still has a 5 year warranty and I believe NSI is 3 years. A few features that differ between the two consoles--the NSI has chase effects and so forth built in--mostly for DJ and club use. The Express is a straight forward console--what you program it to do within its limits is what it can do. Also--the NSI will run Microplex and DMX--while the ETC is DMX only..which is only helpful if you buy NSI packs with Microplex. DMX is the way to go tho...otherwise you stick yourself with lesser propritary systems that don't interface well except with other like-language stuff. So DMX is your best choice.

As for your dimmers and your need to be flexible overstage--your situation sounds like you would do well with Scrimmer Sticks..a type of dimmer bar that is portable and uses DMX. This is provided you are planning on having your set up flexible. Your budget does not account for the ability to install raceways and fixed something portable like scrimmer sticks or other treepack style dimmers would be your better choice. However with either--you need to run independant ciruits to each dimmer pack or stick. So make sure you have enough AC power and distributed circuits to fill your needs. Scrimmer Sticks are made by EDI...

and click on the Scrimmer Stick This allows you to be flexible in your dimmer distribution until you can afford to upgrade to a full dimming system.

my 2 cents...
Leprecon has a good name for itself on the respect level about one step above NSI and parallel to that of ETC in value by at lest my book. I use their small light boards and tree mount dimmer packs alot and aside from normal broken parts common to all with use, there is very rarely a problem with them. The brand might have looked cheap upon viewing the website but I have never seen a problem with the equipment and they have been around much longer than most other companies including ETC.

After that, these days there is lots of quality dimmer and control equipment out there. Price in the dimmers and light boards does not necessiarially mean it's not going to fulfill your purpose given what's described. Your purpose is more light duty than touring or theater and more along the architectural line than concert work I expect given some concert use but not as much as a club. I would recommend renting or seeing if you can have samples of what you are interested in sent out to you so you can try what is offered in your budget range before you make a final deciscion. Especially with the light boards.

One final thought however is that you should not cross out a perspective use of moving lights, scrollers etc. when selecting your light board. Granted it might not be in the plans yet and should not be a major factor but having the ability to control a few channels would be a good thing should the situation come up. Also if you get the NSI gear, make sure it's DMX protocol and not any other language.
Six packs are about normal. NSI sells some 8-packs, otherwise there is two and four pack dimmers on the market. All depends upon what you want with how many control channels you need verses what the load on them is.

A six pack dimmer with two 20 amp circuits feeding it has a maximum of 800 watts per channel. That's decent for up to a 750w lamp but not ideal for a 1Kw load, much less two 575w fixtures. Think you can pull higher on that per dimmer as long as you are not overloading other circuits on the same leg of power but I would have to look at one before I said that for sure.

If you need more load per control channel, get something that's four channel with two legs of twenty amp power if such a thing is available. I think most four packs are single power source for it so instead of being 1.2Kw per channel, you would more likely be 600w per channel. That sounds more like the maximum wattage I remember on most shoe box dimmers.

Leprecon could probably custom build you some dimmer packs otherwise that are able to take a larger load but it would require an other than two circuits of Edison power source. Could be a three phase pack depending upon the electronics with three Edison type power cords, or something on a thirty amp plug with two phases. Again it depends upon the electronics of the pack.

If you need more power, it might be cheaper to buy more dimmers than to have something custom made anyway. You can set them to the same DMX channel to act as if the same dimmer pack so that's easy enough. Might even be able to split the channel assignment to have half the pack on one control channel buddied up with another pack, and the other side of the pack indipendant.

Another question is what you are powering up? If stuff like 1Kw PAR 64 fixtures, than perhaps replacing the lamps with high output 800w lamps might be a better solution. Sometimes the same re-lamping can be done with other equipment with only a slight difference in output. With adding more lights, you won't need as much intensity anyway in most cases.
How immediate is your need?

I've been doing some contract work for James Lighting, upgrading their microplex-only product line to DMX-512. My next project (we're working out the details - exactly what features it will have, etc.) is going to be their first DMX-512 dimmer pack. It's to be a four-channel pack at a true 1.2 KW per channel, equipped with two 20A power cords. The drawback is that it probably won't be in production until late spring.

I've been dealing directly with the president of the company. I'm going to try to convince him to offer special pricing (perhaps dealer cost?) to ControlBooth members - no guarantee that he'll go for it, but it's worth a try.

i wanted to buy at least 1 portable pack before the end of the year before my budget is zeroed out. i will still be looking for packs next year. my question was that if a pack says that it has 2.4KW per channel and it is a 6 channel pack then you should have 14.4KW total power right? Then it says that load capacity pack total is 3.6KW or 4.8KW W/ 20A cord end.
Does this mean that i can only be drawing 4.8KW from the pack at one time?
Does it mean that i cant have a 2400W load on each channel and have all the channels up full at the same time?
It's a game marketers play, called "specsmanship" - They trumpet "2.4KW per channel" - an impressive spec. The fine print says "but you can only use two of the six channels" and probably tells you which two.

Basically the guts - the SCRs, filters and internal wiring - are good for 14400 watts. But they build it with two standard NEMA 20 Amp power cords, meant to plug into standard wall outlets. More "fine print" - if you download the owner's manual - is that the two cords have to be plugged into different outlets, not just the top and bottom of one, have to be the only things plugged into those outlets, and the outlets have to be on different breakers. Then you can draw 20 amps at 120 volts = 2400 watts, or a total of 4800 watts. Typically, even-numbered channels are connected to one power cord and odd channels to the other, and the manual tells you that if you're using it with 2400 Watt loads, it should be one of each. In some cases you'll find only channels 1 and 2 have 2400 Watt ratings and dual SCR circuitry, the rest are 1200 or less and use triacs.

Even if a maufacturer could provide a single power cord for 14400 watts, it would require a dedicated 60 Amp, 240 Volt outlet - not exactly standard equipment in most church sanctuaries. You might find one in the kitchen, for an electric range, but long 60 Amp, 240 Volt extension cords are pretty rare, too.

That's why truly high-power dimming equipment is meant to be permanently installed and wired to dedicated breakers in the distribution panel.

Portable packs are aimed toward operations such as mine, where on Friday evening I'm at a skate park in Rockford, on Saturday it's the Elk Grove Teen Center and on Sunday afternoon I'm in a church basement in Downer's Grove. I don't have dedicated wiring and need equipment that will run off the most commonly-available power - the standard 20 Amp, 120 Volt wall-outlet, with all the limitations that implies.

are current packs are 3 phase but i wanted a pack or two that i could use anywhere in the sanctuary, in the ceiling for some stuff on along the back walls or wherever, without haveing to run long cables from the dimmers to the fixtures, this way i just run a long dmx instead of 4 or 6 12 or 10 gage cables
Hmm this is all sooo strange.....

Ive never heard of dimmer racks u can put on rafters in the roof. I know at work we have a walkway around the stage above the procenium height, which has quite a number of dimmers scattered around.

But ALL our dimmer racks are 3-phase, i personally would prefer my racks to be running off 3-phase but meh =)
I wish I could run my dimmers on 3-phase - but many of the venues I work don't have three-phase wiring at all. At the few that have three-phase, it isn't brought anywhere near the stage (if there is a stage)... I'd have to bring my own distro and wire it into the mains. I'd have no problem with that, but there are usually time constraints - typically I've got an hour and a half to load-in, set up both lights and sound, and sound-check before they open the doors. Small, portable dimmer packs that plug into a standard single-phase wall-outlet, as opposed to large dimmer racks that require 3-phase, are much more suitable to my particular operation.

I used to do sound, and occasionally lights, for a living - back when most of the sound gear had tubes and the light dimmers were autotransformers. I bummed out on the business end of the music business back in the seventies and found "honest work" as an electronics technician. The company I worked for let me advance, on the basis of merit, to a "Senior Electronics Engineer" position (I don't have a degree). I got back into sound as a hobby, doing sound reinforcement for local-band shows, in 1993. I added lights in 1994.

The shows I do are usually organized by the bands themselves in rented space - the basement of a church in Downer's Grove, the Elmhurst VFW hall, the Knights of Columbus hall in Arlington Heights, the PIT skate/BMX park in Rockford, the Elk Grove Park District Teen Center, etc. The shows are typically 5 bands for 5 bucks, all local high-school kids. Load-in is at 5 PM, doors open at 6:30 and the first band goes on at 7:00.

Of the venues I named, only the VFW has any kind of stage, and it's barely large enough for a 3-piece band. There are two 20A, 120 volt circuits to the stage - enough for the band's instruments and little else. I have to run extension cords to the kitchen for the rest. It's hard to avoid ground loops, so all my audio gear is transformer coupled. My vocal mics are wireless to avoid electrocuting a musician when he touches his guitar and the mic at the same time. And the lighting gear has to be relatively low-power and pretty efficient... and single-phase.

"Portable packs are aimed toward operations such as mine, where on Friday evening I'm at a skate park in Rockford, on Saturday it's the Elk Grove Teen Center and on Sunday afternoon I'm in a church basement in Downer's Grove. I don't have dedicated wiring and need equipment that will run off the most commonly-available power - the standard 20 Amp, 120 Volt wall-outlet, with all the limitations that implies."

VFW hall in Elmhurst!!!

Man, this is spooky, that's right up the street from my parent's house!!!

Same circles, never met. It is a small theater world.

On the dimmer question, it would be I expect easier to run the data line and some small power cables to the dimmers short of hoisting up some large dimmer rack plus it's feeder cable and data cable, or running multi-cable or individual circuits to the loft. DMX's info on channels one and two would be what I expect about them than agree upon the distro. Can do, but you can only take so much power off a 2400w outlet or two. And you definately need to find some circuit breakers at differing power outlets for them.

You if in a static location are best off by starting a light/wall socket plot for your place as it refers to where everything is plugged into the service center so that you can pre-plot out how to power up your stuff. Does not mean you have any more power than you did before to the building, but hopefully you won't plug into a wall socket that's also on the same circuit with the overhead lighting or sound.

At least the stock dimmer pack comes with a NEMA 15 amp plug that will enable it to go into 15 amp sockets no matter what they are breakered much less more importantly wired for. Otherwise you would need to search for a twenty amp outlet - them ones with a "T" shaped neutral to plug the dimmer into.

One other concern about running maximum power is that if it's origional power to the building, be concerned. Before about 1980, all wall outlets no matter how they were breakered most likely has 14ga wire feeding it. That stuff is rated for 15 to a maximum of 18 amps. This means that should you power up and max out your dimmer, even if you find empty breakers, the wiring in the wall might not be substantial enough to power it up.

Stuff to study and think about.
The school I'm at right now has the NSI 7524.

It's a piece of crap. Mind you, I'm used to an Express 48/96. Ignoring the control surface differences, the way that the memory system is structured is asinine.

You don't have 'cues' and 'cue stacks/lists', you have 'submasters' and 'stacks'. To program a show, you would have to create all of your looks as seperate submasters (8 pages of 24) then stack those submasters in a stack of no more than 255 steps. You can control *symmetric* fade time, hold and wait times.

Compare this to the Express software's clear distinction between a submaster and a cue and its logical method of recording cues (allowing for cue 10.5 for example). You can have cue loops, cues with different up and down times, with multiple parts, with your standard hold and wait times.

And the Express supports a CRT monitor, instead of the NSI's little two-line LCD display.

Yes, the Express will cost you more. But it will serve you better.

(Frankly, I'm just filled with bitter, bitter hatred for people who spent open-ended grant money on a cheap NSI desk several years ago....)

DMXtools said:
Most modern boards have storage for several "scenes" - preset lighting patterns that you can call up at the touch of a button. A cue list is simply a sequence of these stored scenes in the order they'll be used. Monitor consoles often have a way where you can type in a name for the cue list

Express units do not have a keyboard input - you can take your showfile to Expression Off-Line and enter labels if you want.

In a church situation, a simple cue list will let you move between each look required easily and repeatably. You can save your cue list on a disk (or two! Backup is good) and load it in whenever you need to.

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