Traditional Church House Lights to DMX?

roooozoooo

New Member
Hey everyone!

I am in need of some help. I just became a Pastor of a church and have been updating the church visually. We are a pretty small assembly. Our sanctuary seats about 200 people, though our membership is closer to 100.

I am adding Stage Lights to run through LightKey, and am excited about that.

My problem area though is my house lights. We have about 19 recessed lighting that are halogen bulbs and controlled through 2 light switches that you flip on as you enter the sanctuary.

What I would like to do is switch those house light bulbs to LED and then find a way to make them DMX compatible so that I can control them with LightKey and include them with my stage light scenes. I am just looking to be able to dim them, they wouldn’t be RBG.

I was told of an idea where I take the electrical wire that is ran to my light switches, pull them up and drop them in my media booth, tie them to an Edison adaptor and then plug them into a Chaveut DMX Dimmer pack.

From my searching the forum, this doesn’t seem recommended — could you help me and confirm if this is a bad idea or if it would in fact work fine for me?

I gather there is a “permanent” and more “proper” way to do this: hardwired. Can someone walk me through that? What is needed and what does that process look like?

Is there a cost effective and easy solution to take 19 traditionally-wired church recessed LED and split/convert that to DMX. What do I need to purchase and how would that work? I would like to be able to articulate what I need done to an electrician in a way that makes sense.

Sorry if these are all NOOB questions. I’m a tech person, but not an electrician by stretch of the imagination.

Thank you all for the help!
 

Calc

Well-Known Member
Welcome to the Booth! Try not to be overwhelmed by my barrage of questions:

LED conversions can go a couple ways. Do you want to rearrange the existing zones, or be able to individually address fixtures? You'll probably want smarter fixtures, but can save money with relays and existing AC wiring. If the zones are staying the same and you don't need that, you could probably spend money on a couple channels of dimming and get cheaper retrofit lamps.

Are your stage lights all LED, or is there existing dimming somewhere in the building? It may be possible to piggyback off that system. Either way, you could look in to tying both systems together- it may make things easier for you.

How does the janitor turn on the lights to clean without firing up LightKey? You're going to want a switch/button somewhere. DFD and Pathway both make wall panels that will record and pass DMX from your board and put it on buttons.

Is there separate emergency lighting in the space, or does this system need to cover that need as well?

I'd avoid the Chauvet pack for this- I don't think they're meant for permanent install of building lighting, and probably not rated for that type of continuous use. You'll also likely have a nightmare of a time trying to find LED lamps that will play nice with the dimming output from them.

Others will chime in here too, but you're probably looking for something more like an ETC Foundry system?
 

SteveB

Well-Known Member
LED screw in replacement lamps generally suck at dimming on line voltage (120) dimming systems. You've got to be very picky at what lamps you buy for best results, else you get flicker and dropout. The poor results will make you question spending the money on dimmers and an electrician. ETC has documentation as to the lamps they've tested that have better then average dimming.

Then you will need to purchase a wall mount small dimmer pack, have an electrician run dedicated power to it, and re-route to load wiring for the house light fixtures to be hard wired to the dimmer pack. Then the dimmer pack needs control wiring run for DMX control.

I would be seeking the services of a professional lighting company at that point to price up a package to accomplish all this,
 

jtweigandt

Well-Known Member
After consulting with various people here, I tried some bulbs from TCP (technical consumer products) They dim as well as any LED I have tried, and they have various color temps, and even have a nice
250 watt equivalent flood Also found a nice dmx controlled dimmer that doesn't cost an arm and a leg that will cut in to an existing setup with switches.. defaults to ON when dmx is gone supposedly.
I am going to order one for testing and then probably 5 more if it works as advertised.


The name on the URL is not technically correct, but it takes you the right page with the dmx controlled wall mounted 120V 500 watt dimmer.
About 200 bucks a pop..

I have a problem with most of the architectural solutions because of cost, and when someone just walks into the building.. I need an intuitive old fashioned switch.. How many times have I been in a hotel banquet room or a lecture hall and nobody can figure out how to just turn on or off a bank of lights because they have a nifty architectural panel with all the options that nobody knows how to run, or how it is currently programmed.
 
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StradivariusBone

Custom Title
Fight Leukemia
How accessible are the houselights? Is there crawlspace above them or are they just cans mounted into the drywall? There's a few options for LED houselights that have DMX control, but they would require the ability to run data cables to them as well as a big enough opening to hang them.

Here's an example of one by Chauvet- https://www.chauvetprofessional.com/products/ovation-h-55fc/

There are several others, but I tend to agree with avoiding drop-in LED lamps as running them off traditional dimmers will result in poor dimming curves on the low end, or possibly just poor dimming altogether if the dimmer itself can't handle the low-wattage that LEDs run.
 

jtweigandt

Well-Known Member
My comments were directed toward "small assembly" and coming from the community theater end, that's why I gave a low end option.. I guess it comes down to how perfect the
dimming curve has to be vs stocking the food pantry.. Though no matter what.. color temperature color temperature color temperature.. our rather large church put in some of the first consumer LED's a few years ago in some select spaces (alcove behind alter for instance.

Yuk... stark bluish white with lousy color rendering.. almost couldn't sit there for a whole hour.. at least not with my eyes open... that's right reverend.. I"m in meditative prayer..praying for a more hospitable environment.
 

RickR

Well-Known Member
There are 3 parts to this project. All of them involve technical 'potholes' that have tripped many before you.

1. LED conversion; being a completely different way of making light means everything else is different. (Do you do video?)
2. Control changes; adding locations, and moving to computerized systems generally means starting from scratch. New wires, holes in walls, etc.
3. Installing diming; is a complication multiplier. Dimmers are electronic devices and so much be matched with other electronics.

Some simple solutions to consider (all have serious drawbacks) :
  • Dimmer bypass switches for janitors. Beware of accidental use!
  • Bank switching. Many groups of fixtures that are independently controlled to step the room's brightness.
  • Utility lights. Some fixtures that aren't intended for services, but to just get around.
  • Hiring a lighting professional. Let someone else figure it out. If you get the right person its actually cheaper!
 

almorton

Well-Known Member
There's a few options for LED houselights that have DMX control, but they would require the ability to run data cables to them as well as a big enough opening to hang them.
If you can't run data, the ETC arc system has a wireless mesh option, which we used. No data cables, just power and a transmitter/controller.

Not a cheap option, but it works really well, looks remarkably like incandescent, and has a smooth dimming curve.
 

roooozoooo

New Member
After consulting with various people here, I tried some bulbs from TCP (technical consumer products) They dim as well as any LED I have tried, and they have various color temps, and even have a nice
250 watt equivalent flood Also found a nice dmx controlled dimmer that doesn't cost an arm and a leg that will cut in to an existing setup with switches.. defaults to ON when dmx is gone supposedly.
I am going to order one for testing and then probably 5 more if it works as advertised.


The name on the URL is not technically correct, but it takes you the right page with the dmx controlled wall mounted 120V 500 watt dimmer.
About 200 bucks a pop..

I have a problem with most of the architectural solutions because of cost, and when someone just walks into the building.. I need an intuitive old fashioned switch.. How many times have I been in a hotel banquet room or a lecture hall and nobody can figure out how to just turn on or off a bank of lights because they have a nifty architectural panel with all the options that nobody knows how to run, or how it is currently programmed.
Thank you everyone so much for jumping in and sharing!!! I am learning so much from so many of you!!

I really like this box from Digital Lighting that was shared above (PD104-DMX): allowing us to have DMX and a traditional switch when needed.

I’m looking to do just 2 zones: 1 to independently control the dimming of the altar area, and 1 zone that includes all of the rest of our house lights.

So, from my understanding, 2 of these boxes will accomplish this? 1 for each zone? I spoke with them on the phone today and they said that I would wire electric in and DMX RJ45 out, does that sound right?

The house lights will be kept dim the majority of the time during service.

Does this sound right regarding install steps?

1) Mount the boxes in our Mechanical Room.
2) Wire constant power & electric wire for the zones
3) Run a RJ45 cable to a RJ45-to-5-pin DMX cable adaptor
4) Plug the 5-pin cable into a DMX Splitter where I would also have my DMX stage lights plugged in. (maybe an Entec Dsplit 5pin splitter isolator)
5) Finally, from the splitter to a Entec DMX to USB and then into Lightkey

I’m sorry if I am TOTALLY off, but does this sound right?
 
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roooozoooo

New Member
Thank you everyone so much for jumping in and sharing!!! I am learning so much from so many of you!
I really like this box from Digital Lighting that was shared above (PD104-DMX): allowing us to have DMX and a traditional switch when needed.

I’m looking to do just 2 zones: 1 to independently control the dimming of the altar area, and 1 zone that includes all of the rest of our house lights.

So, from my understanding, 2 of these boxes will accomplish this? 1 for each zone? I spoke with them on the phone today and they said that I would wire electric in and DMX RJ45 out, does that sound right?

The house lights will be kept dim the majority of the time during service.

Does this sound right regarding install steps?

1) Mount the boxes in our Mechanical Room.
2) Wire constant power & electric wire for the zones
3) Run a RJ45 cable to a RJ45-to-5-pin DMX cable adaptor
4) Plug the 5-pin cable into a DMX Splitter where I would also have my DMX stage lights plugged in. (maybe an Entec Dsplit 5pin splitter isolator)
5) Finally, from the splitter to a Entec DMX to USB and then into Lightkey

I’m sorry if I am TOTALLY off, but does this sound right?
Whatcha guys think? Do I have the right idea here in regards to the installation on this?
 

StradivariusBone

Custom Title
Fight Leukemia
o, from my understanding, 2 of these boxes will accomplish this? 1 for each zone?
I'm not familiar with that dimmer unit, but it does say it maxes out at 10A of output. The number of fixtures and lamp size per zone will dictate how many you need. I'm assuming you have some kind of floodlight, maybe a PAR 38? With 10A you only would be able to run 12 100W lamps per unit. That would also max that box out and possibly blow a fuse it if you ran it at 100% for an extended amount of time.

If you're dropping in the LED lamp replacements, the load is decreased and you can run a lot more fixtures, but you might end up with weird flickering or ghosting from the LED lamps if that dimmer box can't handle the really small load the LED lights put on it. In that case you'd need to plug in a dummy load of some kind. Maybe leave one lamp in the ceiling as incandescent or plug one in backstage in the electrical room. ADJ also makes a little dummy plug thing that would probably work.
 

jtweigandt

Well-Known Member
Great news. I got my 500 watt dmx controlled dimmer that fits in a standard electrical box from Digital Lighting systems
Installed temporarily and had 2 60 watt incandescent and 2 of the TCP bulbs.. one 100 watt equivalent 3000 kelvin the other was the 250 watt equivalent flood
Hooked to the ion board. Great dimming curve.. the incandescents actually dropped out before the LED's ...

Good smooth dimming down to about 15% on the standard bulb Good smooth dimming down to about 10% on the Flood. WOW.
Have to give up the red glow so to speak, but really good width of full to dim.

On a sub master can see some "stepping" Will put in a cue later because I have seen some of my stage LED's be steppy on a manual sub and smoother when
executed as a cue.

So I am going to install this for my balcony lights for sure, (it's 20 year old manual dimmer fried and the replacement was $300 so we waited for my experiment)

I am also going to check a few "consumer grade" bulbs I have laying around because these TCP's behaved much better on the new dimmer than on the old mechanical.. so I might get by even cheaper on bulbs.

Bottom line.. the PD104 dmx 1x 4 amp dimmer is just what the doctor ordered. We will still have our conventional wall switches as we always have, and have board control for show dimming.

Also as advertised the dimmer holds it's state when dmx is lost. I will have to play some more with the breaker to see if that's true in an unexpected power loss power up event. If that's the case, it would still be simple to add a "bypass" switch for day to day occupancy use.

Anyway, thought I should update you all since I finally had some down time to experiment
 

jtweigandt

Well-Known Member
OK dimmer holds it's state on dmx drop as long as energized. Once you shut off the breaker or lose power, It is off until dmx instructed again.

But I think I can get by that by installing a 3way switch next to it.. hot incoming... a or b outgoing... a goes to the "downhill" to the lights bypassing the dimmer for day to day use B goes to the uphill power side of the dimmer then on to the downhill for the lights for show conditions. Might be slight risk of inductive spike on the neutral side of the dimmer. So I guess tomorrow I see how tolerant this little puppy is. It did well with dimmable bulbs of various wattages from sylvania, feit, and TCP. The TCP were objectively better on the dimming curve width, but probably not enough to justify 2x the price.

TCP 250 equiv flood is great, but neck was too short for my fixtures.. sigh.. Feit 150 probably has enough punch to replace the 200 watt clear bulb, since it is more directed less loss overall.

Lets hope tomorrow is just testing.. not destructive testing.. but so far so good.
 
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Malabaristo

Well-Known Member
Great news. I got my 500 watt dmx controlled dimmer that fits in a standard electrical box from Digital Lighting systems
Installed temporarily and had 2 60 watt incandescent and 2 of the TCP bulbs.. one 100 watt equivalent 3000 kelvin the other was the 250 watt equivalent flood
Hooked to the ion board. Great dimming curve.. the incandescents actually dropped out before the LED's ...

It's important to note that this is not a valid test. By combining different lamp types on the same circuit, you will get different results (potentially wildly different) from how things would behave with a full circuit of the same LED product. There are some complicated physics and electronic reasons why that's the case, but the short version is that success in that form does not give any indication of future success.
 

jtweigandt

Well-Known Member
Well GE and sylvania conventional bulbs have improved greatly, but have an annoying "pop" not audible but go black and full for a split second at the top of the dimming curve. TCP bulbs didn't do that...
but I have a winner in the GE 250 super bright WW floods.. absolutely smooth on the old mechanical and the new dmx dimmer. Did a temp install of the dmx but will need the electrician to run a true neutral and better box mounting.

The TCP flood 250 was very nice too but about 37 vs 22 bucks.. GE has 5 year warranty.. So I did some of the high wire work this weekend. Mostly pole and basket, but had a couple fixtures that the conduit had come unscrewed, so I had to put on
Robert Plant and climb the stairway to heaven.
 

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jtweigandt

Well-Known Member
It's important to note that this is not a valid test. By combining different lamp types on the same circuit, you will get different results (potentially wildly different) from how things would behave with a full circuit of the same LED product. There are some complicated physics and electronic reasons why that's the case, but the short version is that success in that form does not give any indication of future success.
Well since then, since my balcony is most accessable, I tested sylvania, GE, and TCP with and without incandescent loads, and alone and with each other.. Behavior of all is consistant. The a19 from ge and sylvania are better than 2 years ago, The TCP are absolutely stable. GE and Sylvania have a "pop" as they reach full power.. go dark for a few milliseconds then full bright, both on the mechanical and dmx dimmer, and with and without incandescent loads, and with and without each other. GE 250 WW flood absolutely stable and well behaved under same multiple test conditions. as was the TCP flood. GE was cheaper, so 12 of them went in this weekend. 14 of the TCP will go in the sides, and 10 of the GE up in the balcony we rarely use except for show volunteers viewing the show. So for A19 with no bad habits.. TCP clear winner. For a 250 flood.. GE wins on price TCP is very good as well.
 

TimMc

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Well GE and sylvania conventional bulbs have improved greatly, but have an annoying "pop" not audible but go black and full for a split second at the top of the dimming curve. TCP bulbs didn't do that...
but I have a winner in the GE 250 super bright WW floods.. absolutely smooth on the old mechanical and the new dmx dimmer. Did a temp install of the dmx but will need the electrician to run a true neutral and better box mounting.

The TCP flood 250 was very nice too but about 37 vs 22 bucks.. GE has 5 year warranty.. So I did some of the high wire work this weekend. Mostly pole and basket, but had a couple fixtures that the conduit had come unscrewed, so I had to put on
Robert Plant and climb the stairway to heaven.

Ladders make me queasy... and that says something because I've built/serviced radio and communications towers in my younger days.
 

FMEng

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
Ladders make me queasy... and that says something because I've built/serviced radio and communications towers in my younger days.
Ditto. I climbed a 420 foot tower comfortably, but I absolutely hate extension ladders. The job that JT did is a prime candidate for scaffolding.
 

jtweigandt

Well-Known Member
Ditto. I climbed a 420 foot tower comfortably, but I absolutely hate extension ladders. The job that JT did is a prime candidate for scaffolding.
had it been all 12 lights yep.. I got 10 with the pole/basket, but knowing I had discovered/uncovered 2 fixtures dangling from their wires called for more extreme measures, and slow, steady, and a good solid beam above made it doable.
Also brought in my own ladder so I knew it's history of loading, lack of abuse, and that the mechanics all worked. "I was stranded in the combat zone, I walked through Bedford Sty alone, even rode my motorcycle in the rain"
 

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