Spot Overhaul


Well-Known Member
I was wondering what routine maintenance needs to be done for a follow-spot.

My school owns 1, and we usually rent 1, but I was talking to the director saying that I think we should buy a second one (instead of rent) and she said that with the maintenance involved the prices usually end up about the same. I said I wasn't sure, but I might be able to do the over-haul myself, and I would ask about what needs to be done, so, what needs to be done, and could I do it myself, and how often does it need to be done? I know our spot was fixed up last year, is it yearly, or what?

Hi Zac,

There may be some specific issues related to the Spot that you are using and I am sure that if you tell us the make and model there will be someone out there with experience in your particular spot. Like most things, each manufacturer/model will have their own little secrets but in general, a good once over every now and then will keep the unit in good order and also reduce the need for repair. Remember, it is best to find a potential problem before it becomes serious enough to damage the unit. I think that you already know this, hence your post.

I would suggest the following steps, which you should be able to do yourself. Just make sure that you unplug the unit first.

First thing I would do is open the case, remove the lamp (use a clean cloth and do not touch the glass). Next I would clean out all the dust and any other crap that is in there. Dust is a big enemy as not only does it act as an insulator and therefore increase heat stress but when it becomes moist (smoke fluid, humidity) is becomes conductive and can cause shorts. A stiff bristled pain brush will come in handy and if you have a compressor, just be careful not to let the fans free spin. The blast of compressed air will spin them faster than they were designed to spin and can damage the bearings/bushes. However, pay careful attention to the blades and ensure they are clean.

Next I would check the wiring, paying careful attention to joints, insulation and termination points and look out for signs of degradation. Flex the wires and see if they have become hard or if the insulation is brittle or cracks. Check the lamp base as well. If you notice any damage, then the affected item needs to be replaced. Ship has posted some good information on wiring plugs etc, which will cover the principles related here. The bottom line however is that you will need to have this work done by a qualified person, as safety is paramount. Especially as it is school equipment. However, by you pulling the unit apart and highlighting the problem, you may save some money.

Other things to do are clean the optics and the lamp reflector. I use isopropyl alcohol and also give the lamp a good wash down with it as well. Grease, grime and smoke juice residue will reduce lamp life and can also cause hot spots on the reflector.

Check the mechanical parts as well (levers, shutter arms etc) and clean and relubricate as needed. I am not sure what lubricants you should be using; as I am sure the US is different to here. However, I hope that someone will be able to provide you with this information. I also inspect the case, chassis etc for any damage as well.

This is a general outline of the process that I use when servicing any equipment (including sound, FX etc) and if there is a circuit board involved I will usually give it a good wash with circuit board cleaner, check for dry joints and relacquer if required. Just remember to allow the cleaner to dry before doing any soldering, as it is flammable.

It is a case of looking for any mechanical and physical faults that could/will cause breakdown and as with anything, keeping it clean. Try checking the manufacturers website, as they may have some documentation on servicing your particular spot, or a general one for their products. Another thing to do is ask a service department to tell you what it is you should be doing. You will be surprised how many will take the time to explain things to you over the phone.

Good luck Zac and I hope that others will post their thoughts and comments and fill in the gaps, as I have probably left something out.

Yep, I concour exactually with your method in general. Spots are for all extensive purposes just large zoom Lekos, it's not that difficult to maintain them and very lucurative for the company doing so. To do it yourself take your time and look at everything, just make sure before you adjust any one part of it, you mark where it was before you adjusted it or you can very easily throw off it's focus.

Grease I use is White Lithium on the rails or Teflon oil, than graphite or Teflon if I'm willing to deal with some smoke on the iris from the Teflon vehicle burning off and coating the lens. The iris itself gets extra attention because it will frequently burn up fastest. You can sand it down with some chrocus cloth should it be white or black with oxidation, after making sure the denatured alcohol and a lint free whipe does not take it away, but at that point if you are sanding, you might be best off replacing it. Plus to clean the crud off it properly you have to take apart the iris which is a pain to put back together. If it's crusty and warped, replace it.

Next look at the choppers, they sometimes will fall out of alignment or warp. Can be an easy adjustment with some tinkering but otherwise it's something also to replace even if it otherwise looks fine.

Next quandry for me is set screws. Black oxide as a coating on alloy steel is good up until the point it gets moist, than it frequently will rust and sieze into the screw hole. Extreme heat will also rust them solid in place sometimes even worse than zinc screws will sieze. Can't oil them or they will come loose, can't thread locker them or it's going to make it worse. Do a observation without removal of the set screws and all parts for signs of corrosion and perhaps do a test of some appropriate set screws to see if they have siezed into the hole. If you don't have to adjust the screw I would note but leave it, if not and it strippes the head you do have a problem that is hard to solve.

Free operation of all parts without snags and hang ups, locking and releasing of the color frames, or does it show wear and need Dremmel tool adjustment to make it lock or become replaced. Wiring a must to check as with bench focus. Bench focus the sucker especially at it's most used range to get back the sharpness of beam and edge. Adjust accordingly but not before you use a metal scriber tool to engrave what settings were on the fixture before you touched it.

Check all screws for tightness especially those that move. Plus check for rust all around. Note. Dust Bunnies = rust. Scrape than paint anything rusted or it's coming back after the scum is removed. Look for missing screws and parts that are able to wiggle, nothing should wiggle this would mean a missing or loose screw usually. Oil or grease the squeeks and look for wear on parts.

But after all of this, do not be afraid to send the spot to the factory or a very qualified service station for anything that does not seem right. All it takes on some spots is to drop it once and the reflector is out of round or it's lens train goes out of focus. All manufacturers of follow spots except those built off shore will do a factory inspection of the spot for a reasonable price. Their name is on the line. If you notice anything you cannot reasonably fix send it to the factory unless you have a major lighting company in your area and I mean one of the top ten in the industry. Optics and hard stuff on spots is easy to fake but hard to get done right. The manufactureres will do it right and want their equipment back to service. Their name is on the line.

I can fake my way thru a Altman 1000 but when it comes to the Lycian M2 or 1290, even though I am #2 in the shop for their repair, even I admit I'm hack with them. I send them to the manufacturer if it's something I cant solve also.

Read the manual if possible before hand and contact the manufacturer and explain your story. As with them maintaining their fixtures the support staff on a big ticket item like a follow spot will unlike light board manufacturers be very helpful to you. Both in stuff to check and in telling you how if not sending you data sheets and manuals. They want both you to buy your next one from them and as a customer for you to like their service and support. Call the spot manufacturer and talk to someone in person before you start. It will be well worth it. Than yes go for it, it's at very least a good training exercise to learn from, but only if you are going to do your honest best at it. This is not a right of passage, if you are after a stepping stone as a tech person avoid teching what you are not ready for. Instead this is a learning experience you will learn more from only if you give full attention to as long as you are ready for the major tech part of it.

Have fun and take your time, but don't brag at it, it's a duty and trust thing but not something that should be generally known to others or they might be tempted to tinker with the expensive Leko, than really screw it up.

Look at it's beam now. It either needs to look the same or better. If it's worse, tinker away to improve but accept responsibility and you must now ensure the thing gets fixed if you can't figure it out. Follow spots while not overly difficult in general are a mature responsibility to tech and not something to be trusted on just anyone. It won't hurt your career if you can't define the set screw of the zoom rod is a 8-32 on a X type spot. Just a question of the person all have strengths. Feel honored you are trusted with the spot but of course don't get a tech god head or you are in for a fall. But Follow spot, if you have the go, go for it, good stepping stone.
With rusted/corroded parts I always coat them with a zinc based spay paint which is sold here under the names "Galv-it", "Zinc-it"or "Cold Galv" essentially this prevents further rusting but as it is silver, I tend to give it a quick once over with a high temp flat black. I have had no problems (on a 1.2K fixture) but just wondering if anyone else has any thoughts or comments.

With the set screws - would you advocate the use of anti-lock if used in conjunction with a spring washer? Have not tried this in this particular application but just curious.

how is the spring washer going to make a set screw hold any better? Set screws don't have heads on them. I tend to either replace the screws if just normally funked with rust, or go stainless steel if high temperature not that it's always better. I also use high temperature thread locker often, but it's dependant on the application and given a new screw. Don't save corroded ones.

As for the paint, I have dirty enough fingers, but will keep your coatings in mind for future playtesting.
Ooops! my mistake! I wasn't thinking of the hex (grub) screws (these are what you are referring to - right?).

Have had good results with zinc paint, especially on smoke machines.

The spot is from Times Square Lighting, Model # QF 1000. I'm going to do a google search on them, and see what I come up with.[/img]
I just ran a google search, and got to the website for the company. They didn't have any maintenance sheet, so I emailed them (including that we were thinking about buying another spot from them, which we are). So I will see what they send me...
Follow spot. Looks exactly like a Altman #1000Q follow spot which the maintenance instructions for are also not on line.

The Satellite, Voyager, Orbiter, and Explorer all otherwise though HMI provide excellent general instructions on mainlining your spot with what to and not to do. Another option if Times Square are not so forthcoming in a manual for you, just call Altman and ask for a #1000Q manual. Looks a lot the same. Altman #1000Q below if it posts

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