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made my own lighting board from scratch

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by JP12687, Mar 15, 2005.

  1. JP12687

    JP12687 Active Member

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    So we were entered in a drama festival(the connecticut drama association festival) and they gave us VERY limited lighting so we asked, and got permission to use a lighting board backstage as long as we were able to set it all up in 5min..and not violate fire code.

    So thursday we had our tech for a sat. show...and they tell us we cannot use a computer lighting board...or "computerized dimmers" ala DMX/AMX/MPX or any other kind of dimmers.

    So the scramble was on, i made a late night trip to Home Depot bought wood, a little computer fan, alot of wires(Green, Black, and White spools) terminal stripcs, crimps, Dimmers(wall switch dimmers..like the sliding ones you find in houses) and edison connections.

    So the next morning...545am call at school. We built a box to hold the "board" and the electrical components. We attachec the dimming switches and the edison plugs. We wire the switches to the plugs...then run the power to the relays.

    We ran an edison plug in as power and connected it to the main relay...which also split to power the computer fan to keep it cool.

    I'll try to get some pictures of it soon. It was the best 10 hours of my life...we had so much fun making it...

    Its def. something i would recomend to any1 in the lighting/electrician end of theatre...its good to work on something like this.
     
  2. propmonkey

    propmonkey Well-Known Member

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    ive been thinking of making one in my spare time as soon as i get some money to spend.
     
  3. moojoe

    moojoe Active Member

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    there has to be something quite dangerous by running however many lights off of one edison outlet. how many lights did you have in it?
     
  4. rapscaLLion

    rapscaLLion Active Member

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    LOL, nice! I wanna see pics :)

    Seriously though... WHY??? Why did you not have a lighting board, and why did they not allow computerized control?

    Sounds like fun though!
     
  5. JP12687

    JP12687 Active Member

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    yea money...it cost about $475 for 8 channels, actually check that...$400 because we over bought stuff not knowing exacly what we would need since this was a heat of the moment thing
     
  6. JP12687

    JP12687 Active Member

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    i was running 3" frenels..inkies...not much juice at all...well under the 20amp the circuit was pulling...and under the gague wire we were using as our extension cord into the wall
     
  7. moojoe

    moojoe Active Member

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    ah, ok, i thought you were using like...full size eplipsoidals and 6in fresnels or something
     
  8. DJErik07

    DJErik07 Active Member

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    A few words of caution:
    Residential dimmers are not equipted to handle the load of theater lights. If you feel the dimmer after a few minutes of operation you will find it very hot. If you are running multiple dimmers it still we be very hot even with the fan.

    The cord you are feeding the "board" with should be the right gauge wire also. A large gauge wire, such as an extension cord will not work properly.
     
  9. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    Well.... (my comments that follow are in answer to your description of what you've fabricated).

    You best hope they don't have a fire or building inspection, cause the cute little dimming system is most likely in violation of any number of electrical codes, among them, enclosure type (wood ?), numbers and sizes of wires in the enclosure, etc...

    As much fun as you had making it work and to repeat others, it's most likely not a code compliant device and one that (as an instructer) I would not have allowed you to plug in and utilize.

    Best to disassemble at this point, and posibly use the components elsewhere, maybe after reading a couple of good books on safe electrical practices and techniques.

    SB
     
  10. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    Ditto. I want to know why the ban.
     
  11. JP12687

    JP12687 Active Member

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    ban? or do you mean fan? the fan was used to keep it cool inside(think computer, fans used to keep the electrical stuff cool)
     
  12. rapscaLLion

    rapscaLLion Active Member

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    No, he means ban. Why where you not allowed to use proper equipment?

    And ya... that definately would not be something I would consider safe :S.... but then theatre is inherently not safe.
     
  13. JP12687

    JP12687 Active Member

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    the festival made a ruling against using a laptop with MP3s on it for sound, and they felt it was unfair to allow us to use a "computer controlled board"

    But the fact that we built a board from scratch...they felt they couldnt not say no to it.

    I know it wasnt the safest thing ever...but we made it as safe as possible...and i agree theatre is inherently not safe...but we try to make it as safe as possible
     
  14. Peter

    Peter Well-Known Member

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    Why in the world would they ban computers?!? why dont they ban polyester fabrics or something like that for all the costumes? :) lol
     
  15. ccfan213

    ccfan213 Active Member

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    how could they ban computer controlled lighting equipment, all modern lighting boards are computerized... they runa DIGITAL signal! it seems like they are asking to have their theatre burned down.
     
  16. moojoe

    moojoe Active Member

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    how exactly do you make something like that safe...i mean, its a lot of electricity, going through residential supplies, in a wooden enclosure
     
  17. JP12687

    JP12687 Active Member

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    no no, they allowed THEIR lighting board. however they only offered from light(amber) and our show required multiple colors. and they decided we were not allowed to use computers to augment what they gave us.
     
  18. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    I think there is some question here as to what form of control is permissible for use at this event it would seem - no offense, but very small time in not knowing what they are doing by way of staff producing it given the description of what you were allowed to build in fitting within the fire code which is the foundation of the NEC, but finding home made light boards acceptabe which by code, a wall mounted household dimmer is expressly forbidden to be used as a remote lighting control device. Much less wee problems about remote control switches in being remote but carrying live current in a un-listed product on stage. They thus about voided in approving of your system, any insurance protection the theater had and left themselves up to a lawsuit should something go wrong. The only waver your project board might have had is in if well done, it fitting within the "professionaly done" clause of which on detail would no doubt be in dispute or hard to do well at the last minute and with wood. A household dimmer can and is used professionally at times and given a waver but those conditions are when professionally manufactured and more wavers for their use unless really well built are often given out in a way that just because it's there does not mean it is well done.

    Wood box if flame proofed and I mean flame retardant and not just all exposed or cut surfaces painted, in being treated might be possible as a assembly housing, but the wall switch dimmers are an easy no go by the fire marshall in being code compliant in a home made controller.

    I'm thinking that this competition board is more thinking some form of two scene preset light board which is perfectly reasonable to want as opposed to a computer control system others won't have. These two or more scene preset boards, possibly with memory supplement it sounds like complies with the intent here as opposed to lap top or computer board. Perhaps renting one for your future shows will be much easier. Question might be if it needs to be DJ grade Dove board type of dimmers where the dimmers and control are in the same location, or if in using a two scene preset that sends off a signal no matter what language of data it's sending out, if remote dimmers even shoe box dimmers in reading that signal can be used.

    There might be some leaniancy here with dimmers given it's controlled by a two scene preset board.

    Future figuring out what is acceptable in a prior production way might be needed for future events there. In the case of a home made light board, it worked, you learned a lot from it no doubt and it was for the most part well thought out and safe. On the other hand, I would not allow it to be used and agree that it should be taken apart now.

    What was up with the house lighting control equipment beyond "amber" and Inkies that a gel swap could not have changed?

    I think there might have been more a problem with computer control than data signal or remote dimmers used. Five minutes can be reasonable depending upon the scale of the show also.
     
  19. JP12687

    JP12687 Active Member

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    Due to festival stipulations yuo cannot change any of the host school lighting.

    The festival was supposed to be held at a lot bigger school with much more lighting...it got changed llast minute..and all thi school could do was amber front light.

    The show we did was metemorphesis. It required parts of the set to be different colors at different times...and required a "wave effect' for water.

    Agreed it was not the best thing ever, but it was the best we could do. And agreed we shuold not use it in the future..but it was a good experiment at the time..and did what we needed it to do
     
  20. soundman1024

    soundman1024 Active Member

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    Personally I call it brilliance to some extent. I think most of us would agree on some level, and we would all agree that it is not the proper way to do it by any menas. At the same time I am inspired by the fact that you would go to that extent to rebell against the system if it can be called rebelling. So did you get romex or did you just use wires? Also did you have wires coming out of the box or did you have wall outlets on the box? Anyway at any rate I am impressed by your efforts for the record. The end justifies the means, in this case the means was probably justified by the end.
     

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