Merely sending data illuminates three dimmers. Why?

Stevens R. Miller

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Apr 11, 2016
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Loudoun County, Virginia, USA
I was in my local middle school today, to help them learn to use their new Scene Setter lighting console to replace their crumbling Innovator. When I connected the Scene Setter and turned it on, it woke up in "black out," as it is supposed to. However, I noticed that two instruments and some of the house fluorescent lights all immediately came on.

After experimenting with this for a while, here's what I learned: Whenever the lighting console is turned on, Dimmer 5 goes on at 100%, Dimmer 1 goes on at about 25%, and some (but not all) of the house fluorescents go on. This is true even if the lighting console is in Blackout mode. After the console is turned off, three minutes later, Dimmer 5, Dimmer 1, and the house fluorescents that came on all turn off. I tested this several times with the old Innovator console, and the new Scene Setter, and was able to repeat this behavior consistently.

What could make this happen? In addition to the dimmers themselves. the system includes a Paradigm architectrual control processor (picture attached). Any ideas or suggestions?

IMG_1196.JPG
 

Amiers

Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
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Is it a Brand new SS. cause it sounds like a faulty board.
 

Mac Hosehead

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Yes, if it is happening with both consoles then it doesn't sound like they are the problem. You have a nice picture of a Paradigm processor but none of the dimmer rack? If you suspect that the Paradigm is the issue then you can try resetting the processor. There is a little button behind the small round hole at the bottom right. Activating it will cause the processor to reboot for a minute or so and come back with System OK. This procedure has cleared up some Paradigm strangeness I have seen in the past.
 
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soundlight

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I was in a situation much like this and it turned out to be the Colortran processors were bad. Original vendor had to come out and swap them (they had sent a spare processor off to get refurbished when the install was done). I don't know what was wrong with the processor, but I do know swapping the processor out fixed it.

Also, that dimmer rack must be cleaned. The modules pop right out for cleaning. Need to turn off power to the rack before doing this though.

Lastly, beware the scene setter, if it's the American DJ one the faders may not last a year. If you have any ability to influence future purchasing make sure they purchase something that's at least robust like an ETC Smartfade or at least an NSI/Leviton MC7500 series.
 

Stevens R. Miller

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Loudoun County, Virginia, USA
I was in a situation much like this and it turned out to be the Colortran processors were bad. Original vendor had to come out and swap them (they had sent a spare processor off to get refurbished when the install was done). I don't know what was wrong with the processor, but I do know swapping the processor out fixed it.
Oh, goodness, I hope that isn't necessary. The contractor will only come if the school system HQ asks them. And getting that to happen is hard. Any thoughts on how I might diagnose it?

Also, that dimmer rack must be cleaned.
It has been. Those pictures are from my first visit to this school, some months ago. I raised some heck about how dirty all the electrical cabinets were. Someone took care of it between then and now.

Lastly, beware the scene setter, if it's the American DJ one the faders may not last a year. If you have any ability to influence future purchasing make sure they purchase something that's at least robust like an ETC Smartfade or at least an NSI/Leviton MC7500 series.
Heh. I am discovering that theater gear is like ham radio equipment: for every choice there is, each has its boosters and its critics. A CBer here lent me a Scene Setter (which I will be off to return in about an hour) that he has been using successfully for a long time. It's in great shape. Upon my recommendation, the school bought one. It's easy for middle school students to understand and use, and it is inexpensive. In fact, the school bought two of them, just to have a spare that can also be used for in-classroom teaching. They are so cheap, particularly on the used market, that buying replacements is more cost-effective than spending several times as much on a higher end product.

I did recommend the Smartfade as well, mostly because it has a great, freely downloadable simulator editor, which I thought the kids could use to learn how to operate it. Upon consideration, the school decided it was just too complicated, while the Scene Setter is about as simple as they come. It's one real drawback is that you can't do a dipless crossfade between two scenes that use all 48 channels, but that's not a deal-breaker. The kids will just program scenes into the submasters, fade the next scene up and the last scene down. Or fade the last scene down and the next scene up. Not a true crossfade, but it will get the job done and (most important of all) they can understand how to do it. The school's US$4,000+ Innovator 48/96 has gone mostly unused in the fourteen years this school has been here. I say "mostly" because no one here know how to program it. What the kids have done for shows is memorize presets, then slap the faders into position as fast as they can between scenes. That kind of treatment is why they need a new one. The faders have become scratchy and unreliable. Some are missing their thumbpads, others are bent. It's sad, because the Innovator is a good, powerful console. But, with no one on staff to take responsibility for it, it has been worse than a waste of the taxpayers' money (worse because not only does it go unused, its complexity has stopped the kids from doing simple lighting work that a simpler board would have had them doing).

But, back to the Paradigm: any thoughts on how I can test it? The manual says some cryptic things about holding last scenes for a time period. I am wondering if that's involved...
 

MNicolai

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For Paradigm, there's probably a web GUI you can get into to look at what data the processor is sending out.

I haven't been inside a Paradigm ACP in a few years but I recall there were different options for if you detect DMX is being driven into it. I have seen systems where weird things happen if the console is turned off or unplugged because the architectural processor takes over more control. Some programmers make a preset that turns off some/all of the channels within the architectural processor and gives sole control to the console when it's connected. If that preset got overwritten somehow, when the console is connected this may be where you're seeing issues and this preset may need to get re-recorded back to partial/full blackout.

Possible there's some rhyme or reason for what's happening that you can't know about it unless you see the Paradigm file. I would call the installer or ETC and ask them to look at the file and confirm there's no preset that activates only when DMX is present that could've been overwritten that would produce the kinds of weird levels you're seeing. If in doubt, they should be able to give you their record copy of your file and you could push that to your processor. If there was a preset problem causing your issues, this should send it back to the config when your installer commissioned the system.

I would start by logging into the PACP web GUI. If any of those tabs show individual channel output levels, see what happens when your console is connected versus when it isn't. If Paradigm indicates those channels you're seeing are turning on, it's probably a Paradigm issue. If Paradigm gives zero indication of those channels being turned on, I would look at the Colortran. The Log tab in the web GUI should indicate if any presets are being activated when a console is connected or disconnected.
 

Mac Hosehead

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The pictures are nice and tells me that the Paradigm sits between the console and the dimmer rack. So I would expect the observed behavior to be coming from Paradigm. A 3-minute timeout is typical of ETC.

This problem is odd enough that I would try the reset first. There is a "Clear Arch Output" command in the "Arch Control" menu on the face panel. This would clear anything coming from the architectural side and still pass DMX according to the patch set up in the Paradigm configuration.

You only need a standard Ethernet cable between the processor and the computer. I tried this and the levels I saw on the webpage only came from the architectural side and did not show levels from the DMX input.
 

Chris15

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Would you happen to know if that RJ-45 network plug on the Paradigm's front panel needs a crossover cable, or can I connect directly from my computer to it with a regular CAT-5?
With modern computers, crossover cables are rarely required, in part because Gigabit NICs have come to dominate - GbE uses all 4 pairs, without a fixed transmit / receive pairing, so a crossover is moot (but most NICs have the smarts to work with transposed pairs, so will work just fine with a crossover). Auto MDI-X came to the party earlier, seemingly forming the basis for some of the GbE stuff - but itself enabled 10/100 interfaces to negotiate which end was "transmit" and which "receive" at connection time, so we could say bye bye to the days of the "uplink" port on switches, either dedicated or with the mechanical switch.
 

Stevens R. Miller

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Loudoun County, Virginia, USA
With modern computers, crossover cables are rarely required, in part because Gigabit NICs have come to dominate - GbE uses all 4 pairs, without a fixed transmit / receive pairing, so a crossover is moot (but most NICs have the smarts to work with transposed pairs, so will work just fine with a crossover).
Quite, but one of the odd joys of working with this school's hardware is the nostalgic feeling I get from using what is almost all obsolete tech. I actually don't know the vintage of the Paradigm, but the Innovator 48/96 that (I assume) they bought at the same time has a 3.5" diskette drive in it. When I taught the kids how to use it last spring, none of them had ever seen a diskette before.

In my last career, I did computer forensics, so I have almost every kind of connector, cable, adapter, and/or gender-bender anyone has, or could have, needed in the last three decades. Working with this stuff is a little bit like doing all of that again.
 

RickR

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Do you still have the old board around? Swapping consoles will confirm or eliminate that as an issue.

One of the cool features of Paradigm is it's extensive options for how to handle the gain and loss of DMX. Paradigm is relatively new - first units in 2007 or so and still top of line today. As it's ETC you get their great support.

There is also and event log one can read from the panel screen or from the web-gui. Look for the DMX acquisition and any priority or preset changes that immediately follow. If there aren't any then you probably have other issues. I have had nightmare from Colortran I-series racks!
 

Stevens R. Miller

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Apr 11, 2016
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Loudoun County, Virginia, USA
Do you still have the old board around? Swapping consoles will confirm or eliminate that as an issue.
Well, like I said:
Well, like I said:
Stevens R. Miller said:
I tested this several times with the old Innovator console, and the new Scene Setter, and was able to repeat this behavior consistently.
One of the cool features of Paradigm is it's extensive options for how to handle the gain and loss of DMX. Paradigm is relatively new - first units in 2007 or so and still top of line today. As it's ETC you get their great support.

There is also and event log one can read from the panel screen or from the web-gui. Look for the DMX acquisition and any priority or preset changes that immediately follow. If there aren't any then you probably have other issues. I have had nightmare from Colortran I-series racks!
That's a great line of inquiry, which I will pursue if I get the chance. ETC support has been giving me similar guidance. Their reputation for customer service is justified.
 

RickR

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Spokane, WA the great "Inland Northwest"
Oops, missed the console comment.

Buried in the Paradigm "about" menu should be the name of the tech that did the actual programming and system check. Naturally the factory has this as well, but are not often inclined to give it out. If you can talk to the tech directly they will likely recall enough to give you some further tips. If s/he is at a local dealer then working directly can save enormous time and frustration. Troubleshooting over the phone has it's limitation!
 

MauShira

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São paulo, Brazil
Heh. I am discovering that theater gear is like ham radio equipment: for every choice there is, each has its boosters and its critics. A CBer here lent me a Scene Setter (which I will be off to return in about an hour) that he has been using successfully for a long time. It's in great shape. Upon my recommendation, the school bought one. It's easy for middle school students to understand and use, and it is inexpensive. In fact, the school bought two of them, just to have a spare that can also be used for in-classroom teaching. They are so cheap, particularly on the used market, that buying replacements is more cost-effective than spending several times as much on a higher end product.
So, this is the console the school you volunteer for got! I followed closely two previous threads in wich you have asked about a new console that the kids could operate , (I did not post on these two previous threads because I wasn't an active user of this forum at that time) and at the end of reading this threads I got very curious about what console the venue eventually got. So, with all due respect I ask a favor, please post in these two previous threads what consoles the theather where you volunteer got, so all the people who helped you (or just lke me, followed the thread) can see the result.
 

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