Need advise for upgrades to high school


I was hoping that you guys might be able to help me out. My high school was built about 30 years ago, and the lighting equipment is just as old. Our dimmer packs (5 portable CD-80 dimmer packs) are OK, except that they use the AMX protocol. Our AMX lighting board is in bad shape, (literally held together with duck tape) and, just recently, it has started forgetting the patching, and I have to slam my books on it to turn it on. We will also, hopefully, be having a new school built in 2 years. So, I'm looking for, either a quick and cheap ($400 or less) fix, or a more permanent solution that can come with us to the new school. I have a DMX lighting board that I can borrow until a new school is built, but I need a AMX to DMX converter. I looked into getting the dimmer packs upgraded to DMX, but at the moment we have very little money, and the pack manufacturer (Strand Century) want $6500 to upgrade all 5.
Any ideas you guys may have (or donations :wink: ) would be greatly appreciated. Or if you happen to know how to repair a Mantrix 2s (our lighting board).
Johnson Systems make a converter brain for most old CD 80 packs that just plug right in to take them from AMX to are some links to help you out. The first is a dealer I know who can sell you the product and offer you advice & service--and depending on where you are they could also offer you a service Parlights may be able to help you out with your old mantrix for parts...not sure but it can't hurt to call and ask.

This second link is direct to Johnson Systems for more detailed info...

Finally--keep an eye open for a Controlbooth member named "DMXtools" on here--he has some neat AMX to DMX converter stuff too that may fit your need and he will probably be giving you a reply.

Hope that helps...
Thanks for the website, I had never heard of that company, I'll give them a call later today.
I did send DMXtools a message asking about a translator, however, he said that it would be a few months before he had a prototype built, and I don't think that our lighting setup will last that long.
Thanks again,
DMX to analog converters are fairly easy to build. They might not be advertised much but lots of companies can either whip one up for you or send you to other places. Leprecon for instance I'm sure would have that pricing easy to price out. Our own company did our own and infrequently whips some out for customers. That said, the above link would be good to look into. If they have it marketed than it's no doubt at a good price having been refined and built in bulk. The most pricy thing will be that you for all intensive purposes need one converter per dimmer pack, or at least one converter of a large enough size to control all. That as opposed to a DMX to MIDI converter that can be one small one for all.

First step for me would be to get your current light board and dimmers in for a maintinence call. Once a year for all that stuff. Take the board in and have a service call for the dimmers. Yea you can vacuum them out with some care and training but what you don't notice or know about yet will be the things that paying for it makes it worth it.

If you have to slap the board to get it to turn on than it's probably something simple to fix. That's a quick thing and will be necessary to keep the dimmers also. As for loosing memory etc, could be complex or could be simple. In either case at least someone could figure out the exact cause.

By the way, keep the dimmers. Very good and rugged, they will last another 20 years with proper care given to them. It will be much easier once the converter is there, but there should be no reason not to move them to the new space and add perhaps some newer dimmers to the mix, or sell them if cared for to help fund the new stuff. The CD-80 is a very good product and one that's easy to sell. We just finished selling off the rest of them that were taken out of our local PBS station in addition to having sold off the last of our own in the last year or two. Good equipment, safe equipment to invest in.
My ears were burning... did someone mention my name? Oh, hi Wolf!

Actually, I don't have the DMX-512 to AMX-192 converter you need... yet. It's designed but not yet prototyped. I expect to have it out in June. Before then, though, I'll be looking for a "beta-test" site. Would you like to volunteer?

Well, I called the company that wolf suggested and talked to them about the dimmer upgrades. They were very nice and gave me an good price on the upgrade, a couple of thousand dollars less than what strand wanted, but still more then my school could afforded at the moment. They also mentioned the fact that they have some replacement parts in stock of our Mantrix 2s. So, I went to school on Friday (we had it off for a teacher institute day) to take a closer look at the light board. I took it apart, and removed all of the dust and crumbs that had fallen in there, and I noticed that there was a piece of very old duck tape holding the fuse in. I'm assuming that the fuse would fall out partly, and hitting the board hard would pop it back into place. So, I put it back in according to the direction in the instruction manual, and it seems to work better now. :roll:

I also looked over the dimmers, and they seem to be fine, but VERY dusty. I don't know who was in charge of this place before me, but I know that those dimmers haven't been cleaned in a long, long time. :evil:

DMXtools -
I would love to help beta-test your converter. We will be doing our big spring play (we only do about 2 plays a year, and a musical) in early May, so it would be great if we could possibly be using your system for that event.

If any you have any light or sound equipment that you are getting rid of, we would be very grateful if you would donate them to us (tax deductible :wink: ). I can come down to the Chicago area the pick them up. We have 15 lights total, PA equipment from the 70’s, and no mixer.

Thanks for all your help and suggestions!

nickpl said:
If any you have any light or sound equipment that you are getting rid of, we would be very grateful if you would donate them to us (tax deductible :wink: ).

I can offer the same feature. Anyone who wants to donate any tech thing to my school, were nonprophit, its tax deductible....

I'm in the New York area, 20 miles north of the city, so Nick, i'll take the free stuff from the NY area, and you can take the free stuff from Chicago, and we'll see who gets more stuff :lol: :lol: :lol:

I agree!!! *nudge nudge* come on everyone, which area is more generous. The area that gives us more free stuff wins!!!!

(if there competing, we get free stuff!!!!)

zac850 said:
nickpl said:
If any you have any light or sound equipment that you are getting rid of, we would be very grateful if you would donate them to us (tax deductible :wink: ).

I can offer the same feature. Anyone who wants to donate any tech thing to my school, were nonprophit, its tax deductible....

I'm in the New York area, 20 miles north of the city, so Nick, i'll take the free stuff from the NY area, and you can take the free stuff from Chicago, and we'll see who gets more stuff :lol: :lol: :lol:


Maybe i'll put in a good word with my boss. I work with an audio system installation company, and they are constantly giving away old equipment away to poor churches and other charity events...
I have 2 black drapes in the range of 20x24' in my truck looking for a home. They have had a hard touring life with some rips & stuff so they would not be about right for main stage hanging use - at least without some major repairs that would be visible, but could be cut up into smaller sizes or for other than hang purposes. I threw out the other one that had for the most part lost it's nap.
They were supposted to go to a local theater but beyond saying they wanted them, they never followed thru with pickup.

On a non-theater note, I have a Bang and Olufsen B-2400 tuner that's vintage 1979 but still works as designed. It's looking for a home also - probably someone's bedroom or dorm. Real expensive gear even back than.

After that, sorry but I'm not giving up my toys but I'll keep my eyes open. My 8x9 fixtures will make a really cool illuminated table once I add some clear plexiglass into the gel frame slots. Now I just need to find some 35 watt mogul bi-pin (aka. high wattage) lamps for them - hee hee.

In theory, I have a stack of Altman Q-Light like mini wash lights from Mole that are waiting for an excuse to get rid of them. (More than 5 less than 20.) They would need re-wiring in a big way and because I would than be liable for them you would have to wait until I did that, but if someone local is interested I might push them up on the repair list. At least half of them even have the barn doors still.
Thanks for the offer, I'll talk our director tomorrow and see if we have a use for the drapes. Our next play will most likely be The Crucible, so I'm sure we'll find a good use for them :wink:.
I don't know quite as much about the kinds of lights as I should. What is a mini wash?
Thank you!
Unfortunately Altman's website seems to be down at the moment or I would provide you with a link. In a day or two go to the website and look into wash lights, than the Q-Light. The mole ones are larger and possibly are designed for a longer lamp.

Looks kind of like one of them Home Depot type yellow work lights except it's a lot more shallow of a reflector and no glass. It also has a barn door setup in front of it. The beam is probably like 120 degrees wide by say 40 degrees for close up work and when used with a frosted lamp, its beam edge will be a little more soft than the work light. The Mole fixtures would at least be rated for 1,000w but for stage use I would look into 300w or at most 500w lamps for them. You can even go down to 150w or less. Such units would be good for places like in the upstage area of a doorway on stage so you can light someone from close proximity. Really any place thats hard to provide light to under normal circumstances from normal hanging positions. Their beam would be much larger than that of a Inkie.
Plugs, lamps and clamps are usually minor details not provided. In this case, none would have clamps or lamps but for plugs what ever you want. I have lots of older used plugs in stock that can't be used with current stock if you are not too picky. Im not going to throw away three bucks on a brand new Bates stage pin plug when at the moment we are going thru at least a hundred a week and every one of that type counts, but if stage pin is what you are using, I'll put a Union or other style on it. Same with Edison, L5-15P or other plug types. As below with found gear, I acquire all kinds of plugs that are not my stock style - especially yellow ones. Such a plug in just about any type would be available. I'm constantly getting green stage pin plugs of an older style on cable. No idea of who such stuff belongs to but you would think they would note a large amount of their gear not coming back from shows. I don't use green old style plugs so I usually give them away. Heck, if I'm giving a service call to the fixtures, send me your school's graphics in about a 1/2"x3" size and I'll even apply it to the cord under shrink tubing. I do that kind of thing all the time for clients I build stuff for, we even stock pre-printed Willow Creek Community Church heat shrink by the hundreds for them. Speaking of other projects I need to get done this week, I still have a huge amount of cable to be working on for their last purchase.

Contact me off line around the end of the week and we will see if I had time to have a look at four by than. I had some larger projects going on for the last month or so and did not have time to keep up with repair cable. Consiquentially I have a large desk full of it to work on plus a few fixtures and other things.

Wash lights are for what it sounds like. It's a not very much focused wash of light. A cyc light or scoop would be similar instruments as with them work lights in purpose and what they do.

Oh' one more thing available I run across a lot of that I have no use for. (Stepping back onto my normal "you need to mark your gear" soapbox.)

Microphone cable. Mic cable I get in large amounts of in lengths up to 100'. Anyone needing it should give me a call and I'll start you a pile or keep my eye out. Also XLR plugs. I normally save them up for Scott and his kids at "hstech", but I normally get more than he needs on used plugs when at the same time I'm also sending him at least a hundred at a time XLR plugs without the shells to teach soldering with. (I buy about three hundred XLR plugs a year just to replace broken or crushed ones already on cable. In other words, I use the metal shell and throw out or give away to Scott the other parts.) Switchcraft, non-solder type Neutric, cannon etc. I don't normally use their plugs so I just throw them into a box. Same frequently with odd types of Edison and Stage pin plugs. When I get a drawer full, I give them away.

If the gear does not have a name and phone number on it and it's thrown into our read boxs during a strike, there is not much I can do about sending it back unless we know what show it was on - than it has a chance at best only. If it has a name and phone number, we send it back in the hopes there is a common courtesy on such gear. Not the case in all instances. An entire road box full of drape that once we tracked down who had it, we got it back with our very visible tags with phone numbers already taken off them. (What did you think we would not miss a few grand worth of drapes?) You can bet they are black listed from gear exchange.

That figuring out un-marked gear is given it has not been a week or two since the show, or it was not a traveling show where finding people that remember is much harder. Most crew chiefs get home and only spend as many days in the shop as necessary to prep their next show. We are on a normal week talking about at a bare minimum of 10 shows coming back a week if not day so it's hard to keep track of who's un-marked gear came off which show. It's also given the crew chief or any of the crew is in town if I know the show the gear is from, than that person remembers who did what in the show as to who's gear it might be. Than they were not dicks to the lighting people because frequently I won't get a name that way also. Not worth a lot of effort on my part if the owners did not put the effort into making it easy to get back to them.

Etc. other problems with sending it back. I usually hang onto it for a week or two, than pitch it or make it ours. I have something like 1,000' of 12/3 SJOOW in something like 200' lengths with edison plugs on it under a table waiting for someone to claim it. Does not happen a lot that the gear is well marked so I throw out a lot of cordage and gear - especially mic. cable if it can't be properly marked and become ours. If it's not 12 AWG wire, than it's either trash or in our misc. non-stock cable bin. I don't put into stock other cable no matter how good of shape it's in or it might get overloaded. Lots of 14/3 and 16/3 goes into the trash if it does not have molded ends. Not worth the effort in inspecting or trusting someone else's wiring skills.

Just had some XLR cable Friday with white painted plugs and a yellow tape ring on the cord. Nice, easy to identify your gear as yours, but not easy for anyone else to do so when it appears a hundred miles away on my table. Don't know what show it came off of, much less when it was put there, I just know it's not ours and won't be dependable for lighting data - wrong type of shield wire.

I get all kinds of gear, it's like the local stage hands - Wolf, just find the nearest box to throw stuff marked with a differing company or not at times. Two weeks ago there was two Clear Com headsets and belt packs that showed up with no markings on them or word of what show they came off of. They were just found in the com gear cabinet. Could probably call Clear Com and ask for a check according to the searial number on the packs but that's given who ever it "belonged to" bought it directly from them. The lot number for the serial number was only about a year old too. Since nobody on the show called around to other companies looking for their missing gear, much less marked it as theirs so they might get it back, it could not have been that important to them.

Our shop's "old man of the theater" drives around on a roadie scooter that came back from a tour. The thing had some easily corrected electrical problems, and nobody on the tour remembered where it came from or wanted it. Nobody called asking for their scooter and it's now his.

In other words, you never know what I'll either discontinue from stock like the 16 Egg strobe lights I have sitting in a box in my storage tower waiting to get rid of, to found gear that can't be made stock. Give me names and addresses of what you are looking for and I'll keep my eyes out and contact you as I see it.

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