Replacing those old house lights...

Our small theater has a dozen standard fixtures for house lights using 60W incandescent bulbs (which we can no longer get in California)-dimming through an ETC board via a DMX controller.
We're looking to replace with LEDs-ideally something that screws into a regular A19 socket, but we can change the fixtures. Something with a good curve and that will dim down at least to 10%. We can replace the controller if needed. Anyone have any recommendations? Thanks!
 

microstar

Well-Known Member
Can't quite figure out what you mean by "an ETC board via a DMX controller". Do you have both a control console and an architectural wall station that are controlling a dimmer rack?
In any case, how smoothly an LED retrofit lamp dims is the result of the interaction of any particular lamp with the particular dimmer it is used with. Essentially you will need to pick a lamp with the brightness, color temperature, and light distribution you desire and make sure the label says the lamp is "dimmable". You will need to determine how many fixtures are on ONE dimmer and put the same LED lamp in each of those fixtures. Then slowly dim that circuit to and from black and observe the smoothness of dimming.
The number of LED lamps will affect the dimming action and leaving an incandescent lamp in the circuit will void the experiment
because it will smooth the dimming action. If you have an ETC dimmer rack, ETC has an LED compatibility list that you can consult that matches lamps with different ETC dimmer models.
There are also tricks like adjusting the dimmer curve that can sometimes help.
Once you find an acceptable lamp, buy some spares because a few years later the manufacturer will discontinue them!
Good luck.
 

SteveB

Well-Known Member
Look thru the ETC website for a list of recommended LED lamps they've tested. Some are much better than others. Its really easy to get a lamp that doesnt dim, snaps on, flickers, etc.,.,,
 

jtweigandt

Well-Known Member
Just completed this journey myself. GE ultrabright floods 250 watt were pretty well behaved on my dimmers (not etc) but did have a "pop" at bottom end that I fixed with the dimming curve to avoid that last 5%. Edison strings bought online were well behaved with either a 4 watt incandescent load in line, or on a circuit with another brand of LED. TCP (technical consumer products) 100 watt equivalents were nice, behaved well with no pop, but behaved differently in 2 different circuits with identical dimmers. Well behaved with 1 GE bulb in the loop (LED) GE 60 watt equiv in my balcony were well behaved but had a "pop" at the top end... so once again dimming curve to the rescue. Bottom line skip a lot of the others.. test a GE, test TCP be prepared to put in either another brand or a small incandescent load in the loop to "tame" them. GE ultrabright Floods were really good everywhere except for the aforementioned pop at the bottom, easily fixed. All in all very satisfying when done. You will have to play with your space, circuit lengths and dimmers because same bulb may behave differently in each. Everything I tested was much better than 3 or 4 years ago where I couldn't get any low end at all. I bought dedicated dimmers from Digital Lighting systems and installed a bypass switch for day to day use. (we have conventional switches "upstream" in the space for when folks are just working in the space)
 
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jtweigandt

Well-Known Member
Oh.. also when testing.. if you put stuff on a submaster for testing, it will be more steppy than programmed into a cue on our ion board. I'm guessing the physical slider readout has less discrete states than the feed from a cue. like 100, 80, 60.. instead of 100, 95,90,85... That's just what my eye observed with multiple brands, multiple tests... and even with certain theatrical fixtures.
 

microstar

Well-Known Member
We went through the same process. Can we swap our incandescent lamps for LED that will behave?

No.

After spending a lot of time and cash trying dimmable LED fixtures, we gave up and fitted ETC arc system.

You won't get a proper dimming system on existing dimmers made for incandescent lamps. It doesn't really work. Look at proper alternatives.
Of course an ETC Arc system works beautifully, it is state of the art. But I'll wager the small theatre with a dozen fixtures in the original post can't come close to affording the Arc system or proper alternatives like the Altman Chalice or The Light Source HL.
Most folks have to make do with something that works acceptably to their eyes at a price they can afford, which was the original question.
 

jtweigandt

Well-Known Member
We went through the same process. Can we swap our incandescent lamps for LED that will behave?

No.
Well I don't even have to agree to disagree... because I just did it. In the end dimming curve is beautiful. New Digital Lighting Systems dmx dimmers x3 (they fit in a square standard wall mount box) Roughly 600 seat space. 12 primary "down" fixtures over the main house used 250 Watt equiv GE floods, 14 x 100 watt equiv TCP bulbs in our side Aisle industrial/farm style fixtures. 10 x60 watt equiv GE in our balcony recessed cans. 3 strings of Edison "festival" lights to please the eye from the beams of the old barn. (only 30 watts for the edisons) TOTAL COST (my free labor) $1300. You can't even buy one ETC fixture for that.

Last night I was at the Peoria Civic Center theater which has a lot of bright bare decorative bulbs on the side walls. I think they tried and failed.. My dimming curve for the house put theirs to shame. So it takes a little testing, a little perserverence, and maybe a series of those neat 200 buck 500 watt Dimmers from Digital lighting, but it can indeed be done, and look pretty fabulous at the end.
 

almorton

Well-Known Member
I'm glad to hear someone has been successful. We couldn't find anything that dimmed properly at the bottom end, where it's most noticed.

I think our refit came in a touch over 10k for dimmer controlller, 28 fixtures, outstations and commissioning, but we now have completely smooth dimming with the added advantage of each houselight can be individually controlled, and they're brighter than the screw in PARs they replaced. Great for the cleaners :)
 

JonCarter

Well-Known Member
Nothing against the manufacturers of lighting equipment but I'm glad to hear someone solved a problem without just throwing cubic money at it. Good on ya, jweigandt! Man after my own heart!
 

Gage

Member
Keep in mind it doesn't have to be an incandescent bulb. Any purely resistive load that will draw over ~25watt works well in my experience. I keep some "dummy load s" (large resistors in grounded metal project boxes) around when I'm using dimmers to control LED stuff.
 

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