The above Ad will no longer appear after you Sign Up for Free!

Control/Dimming Older System (1969)

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by Dawn, Apr 16, 2018.

  1. Dawn

    Dawn Member

    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Winnipeg
    New
    Hello,

    I am trying to set up my old school theatre, which was turned into extra classroom space when our numbers were higher. Now that we no longer need the extra classroom space, I am attempting to turn it back into a theatre.

    The school was build in 1969 and I imagine that the system was installed then. It is an old Ariel Davis system - 8 sliders.

    The lights work and I have been able to find some replacement floodlights for the 2 that were burnt out. The lights are installed on tracks - there are 8 of them. The problem is that the sliders that control the tracks are in the control room next to the stage, not at the back of the theatre. There are outlets around the stage however. There are 3 that look like mic cable would go in them and 3 that look like they'd be for coaxial cables. I am not sure what to run to a board or dimmer box. I have attached pictures.

    I also know that shows were performed here about 15 years ago, but no one remembers how the lighting was set up.

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Thank-you,
    Dawn
     

    Attached Files:

  2. jonliles

    jonliles Active Member Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    679
    Likes Received:
    92
    Location:
    Marietta, Georgia, United States
    this looks like a job for @RonHebbard
     
    Dawn and RonHebbard like this.
  3. Mac Hosehead

    Mac Hosehead Active Member

    Messages:
    173
    Likes Received:
    46
    Location:
    Shark Tank
    I have only seen an Ariel Davis dimmer panel similar to this at a church auditorium. It was replaced long ago. I don't believe it can be operated from a remote. It was common to install a panel like this somewhere in the wings.
     
    Dawn and RonHebbard like this.
  4. microstar

    microstar Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    208
    Occupation:
    Lighting/Sound/Video installation/repair
    Location:
    Lawton, OK
    The Ariel Davis autotransformer board is not remote-controllable, only able to be operated manually via the sliders. The XLR's are probably for microphone input to a sound system (even though male and not female) and the coax jacks for TV/video. All par for the course in the 1960's.
     
    Dawn and RonHebbard like this.
  5. Dawn

    Dawn Member

    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Winnipeg

    Darn - that was not the answer I was hoping for.

    Is there any way to keep the existing track lights and put in a new transformer box (like a dimmer pack or something) that can be controlled from a board? I could have an electrician take it apart, if it would be worth it.

    We don't have the money for new lighting, and with a drop ceiling, there is not really much to mount to.
     
  6. sk8rsdad

    sk8rsdad Well-Known Member Premium Member Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    2,202
    Likes Received:
    693
    Location:
    Ottawa
    Those sliders look more like a patch panel than a dimmer control. If so, the controller/console is probably stored somewhere else if it's still around.
     
    Dawn, RonHebbard and Van like this.
  7. Mac Hosehead

    Mac Hosehead Active Member

    Messages:
    173
    Likes Received:
    46
    Location:
    Shark Tank
    They are autotransformers. They certainly could be replaced by a modern wall-mounted dimmer panel. It would not be cheap nor quick.
     
    Dawn and RonHebbard like this.
  8. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,876
    Likes Received:
    1,050
    Location:
    North Wales PA
    Bingo!
    Yes, they actually are autortransformers! I have seen a couple of these. The most interesting thing is they are NOT toroidal transformers. It is a flat bar with windings around it. The magnetic path is completed by a frame piece that goes around the rear. There is no hope of remote controlling it, but when replaced, don't throw it out! I am sure there are collectors out there that would like this piece of history!!
     
    Dawn, Jay Ashworth and RonHebbard like this.
  9. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Messages:
    2,056
    Likes Received:
    808
    Location:
    Burlington, Ontario, Canada
    @Dawn I'm blind and recovering from a non-operable mini-stroke but definitely of the era. Let's ease into this with several queries and I'll suggest a contact much closer to your locale who MAY have at least cursory familiarity with your installation. Forgive my questions but I can no longer perceive details. Your Ariel Davis photo, do your yellow knobs need to be pulled out to release them before they can be slid vertically prior to being latched securely at a new elevation? If so, you're looking at an Ariel Davis line voltage circuit selection cross-patch panel designed to transfer various loads and / or receptacles between your various dimmers. If they slide smoothly and freely vertically without any steps or detents to latch into (which is highly unlikely) then they COULD be positioning the wipers of 120 volt autotransformer dimmers but this would be highly unlikely. @ShaunJohnson operates Johnson Systems (NOT to be confused with Johnson Controls which is an HVAC company) in Calgary. Shaun installed many, many, Ariel Davis installations in western Canada and is certainly western Canada's stocking expert to this day although Shaun progressed to designing, manufacturing and installing far better and more modern systems decades ago. Being blind now, I type EXTREMELY slow. I would have been your first reply when I began typing an hour ago but I note many posters have posted while I've been plodding away. I've read most of the intervening posts and agree with essentially all of them including their comments regarding the male XLR-3, co-ax connectors, inability to remote the original dimmers (if they're actually still on the premises) and costs involved to retrofit / upgrade. In short, you're seeking either a gifted restorer of antiques with a passion for donating her / his skills and time or its time to seek grants and emphasize the "greeness" along with improved safety and performance when seeking your grant(s). It's ALWAYS possible to meticulously apply band-aids upon layers of band-aids but I suspect it's past time to bite the bullet on the remnants of your Ariel Davis system. As for your use of your supporting overhead tracks, that's a question for a tame structual PEng who'd most likely need to see the installation first hand prior to venturing her / his professional stamped and sealed opinion. @jonliles Mac Hosehead">@Mac Hosehead @microstar @sk8rsdad Have you any further comments to add?
    EDITED to correct two typos, I typed "beeb" when I meant "been".
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
    Dawn and jonliles like this.
  10. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Messages:
    4,145
    Likes Received:
    1,278
    Occupation:
    Theatre Consultant
    Location:
    Oak Park, IL (708)983-5792
    Can you read a amperage on the breakers? I would be concerned that North America has kind of standardized on 20 amp and these could be 25 or larger - as was more common in that era. It simply will make replacement more expensive or limiting.

    Thought frankly, if replacing, you should look at moving to LED, in which case the dimmers are needed. Replacing dimmers makes sense when you have a lot of installed circuits and a decent inventory of incandescent lights - and it seems you have neither.
     
    Dawn likes this.
  11. Mac Hosehead

    Mac Hosehead Active Member

    Messages:
    173
    Likes Received:
    46
    Location:
    Shark Tank
    Dawn likes this.
  12. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Messages:
    2,056
    Likes Received:
    808
    Location:
    Burlington, Ontario, Canada
    @JD Can you just imagine retrofitting computer positioned AC servo linear actuators with linkages to position your antique Ariel Davis non-toroidal linear autotransformer dimmers? Next thing, the smart phone crowd would want an 'ap' to operate it and someone would be writing custom code for the Raspberry Pi or another of today's trendy chunks of electronics to operate it and @JohnHuntington would need to write another chapter for his highly respected book(s).
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard.
     
    Dawn and JohnHuntington like this.
  13. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,876
    Likes Received:
    1,050
    Location:
    North Wales PA
    Not sure little servos would do it, more like car window lift motors!! ;)
    Back in my sound days, I think around 1973, I did a gig at the Roxy in Northampton PA, and the "lighting company" came in with two "portable" versions of the above dimmers. they were mounted in blue metal cases at an angle with the sliders on top and the breakers on the front of the units. Basically the slanted top contained just the black portion of what is seen above. They weighed a ton, and it took some significant heft to move the sliders. The cases appeared to be factory, complete with nameplate/logo. The girl running these wore leather gloves and ran the show primarily via the breakers on the front. The band was Thin Lizzy, and despite the primitive system, the show looked pretty good for the time, aided by the smoke from the opening pyro. (Got to give her credit!) In any case, the dimmers were so unusual that they grabbed my attention and careful inspection. (She probably thought I was hitting on her, but tragically, it was just the dimmers that had my attention.) Oh well, way too much information, sorry!

    EDIT: Well darn! Ain't google a wonder! The things were huge and the pic makes the sliders look smaller, but they were not!
    a-d.jpg
    And another one, right here on CB!
    [​IMG]
    Still kind of remember them being blue. Maybe my mind went gray!
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
    Dawn and RonHebbard like this.
  14. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Messages:
    2,056
    Likes Received:
    808
    Location:
    Burlington, Ontario, Canada
    @JD AC servos aren't necessarily little and little is a relative term. Around about 1994 or 95, three Reliance Electric 4120 drives were raising and lowering the the rake angle of an approximately 40' by 60' deck by accurately changing and precisely positioning the elevation of the upstage elevation of a rake on stage in a downtown Toronto musical. The stage was built in three sections width-wise and securely hinged at the down stage end of each of the three approximately 20' by 40' sections. Each 4120 servo spun a vertically oriented screw jack. Less than five years later, a Reliance 6300 AC servo drive was accelerating, precisely positioning and safely decelerating an approximately 40' diameter revolve on stage at Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario's Shaw Festival's main stage. Please don't be confusing industrial strength AC servo drives with smaller drives suitable only for the rapid and precise re-positioning of tool posts on turret lathes.
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard.
     
    Dawn likes this.
  15. RickR

    RickR Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,073
    Likes Received:
    231
    Occupation:
    Consultant
    Location:
    Spokane, WA the great "Inland Northwest"
    @Dawn, Bill mentioned replacing things and I'd like to expand on that. You have been gifted with practical AND obsolete equipment that leaves you with 2 clear options.

    LED retrofit lamps should dim very well with these dimmers. They use a method that doesn't bother electronics much at all and is completely different than all modern dimmers, which for you is a blessing. If all you want to do is to light up the stage then incandescents or LED replacements should do just fine. However, nerdy imaginings aside, electronic remote control will not happen. A kid on a head set (those 3pin jacks? a phone with ear buds?) will be far cheaper and more effective than anything else. $100-$500 and you're up and running.

    In order to have remote (booth) control and in the process bring your system into the 21st century you'll need to spend some money. (Is $10,000 remotely possible? $5K?) I would recommend replacing that museum piece with some basic circuit breakers (stepping down to 20A would not be a big deal) but it might not even be necessary. Then bring in some LED stage lighting fixtures and wireless DMX control. One of the most respected manufacturers of stage lights has a system that is ideally suited to your case. http://www.etcconnect.com/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=10737487497
    That's not to say that other manufacturers can't do this or do it for less money. I'd advise some (4-8?) Par type fixtures and the minimum control board. Do that and you will be far beyond what the original system did on it's best day. It can also expand to many times that size and even move to another space if needed.
     
    Dawn and RonHebbard like this.
  16. microstar

    microstar Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    208
    Occupation:
    Lighting/Sound/Video installation/repair
    Location:
    Lawton, OK
    If it turns out there are only the equivalent of six 20A dimmers/circuits, and there are at present only 8 fixtures, then a replacement dimmer unit will only be in the $1800 to $2500 range and the console likely $1000 or less (2 scene preset). Could be way less than that if the OP is allowed to buy used equipment. Electrician extra. Going LED with an ETC Colorsource Relay for power control, a console, and DMX cabling could be a very enticing reasonable cost retrofit with cooler running, less electrical draw, and a lot more flexibility.
     
    Dawn and RonHebbard like this.
  17. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

    Messages:
    6,069
    Likes Received:
    364
    Location:
    Illinois
    Not sure if it helps, but a friend of mine just went thru "Hell" in upgrading a old Hub house light system, so as to convert to ETC - believe it's called the Element' system. All house lights and entire Lane Tech school in Chicago was basically upgraded LED or is further getting upgraded later this summer by way of a special secret commercial event held there. We even contacted Ken (retired from Hub) in helping get it done - thanks to his knowledge of how such at least Hub systems work saved the day in converting old to new. The ETC trained sales/tech support staff were in constant contact and I believe even came out to help. Kudo's to their staff and support. I would recommend (shool authorized for quote) ETC rep. by way of your local trained and certified installer/sales person as to get in for a quote on next generation control.

    Derek,... will have loved to get out to Lane Tech - you ever get there in hearing about how great it was back in the day?
    I have their 50's color spinner wheel - Clyde Foster worked there and loved what he did there. Really busy at the time but hopefully I'll see it soon. Another company is doing the dimmer retrofit this summer, but perhaps soon none the less.
     
    Dawn likes this.
  18. Jay Ashworth

    Jay Ashworth Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,725
    Likes Received:
    265
    Location:
    St Pete FL USA
    And, to expand on the point I didn't see anyone really delve into yet: replace them.

    It's going to cost you money, but trying to keep the old ones is going to cost you both money *and* agony, both spread out over time.

    And, as they note, if you can just go all LED, then you can just lay in non-Dim circuits to the appropriate places, and let the luminaires do all the dimming, and you won't need to "replace" the old dimmers.

    The fixtures will cost a bit more, but it's probably made up for in not having to buy dimmer packs at all.
     
    Dawn and RonHebbard like this.
  19. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,876
    Likes Received:
    1,050
    Location:
    North Wales PA
    In fact, you could just leave them there parked at 100%. Unlike solid state, autotransformers do not introduce any distortion to the waveform so in effect, you already have your non-dim circuits installed!
     
  20. Jay Ashworth

    Jay Ashworth Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,725
    Likes Received:
    265
    Location:
    St Pete FL USA
    Oh dear, said God; I hadn't thought of that.
     
    RonHebbard likes this.

Share This Page