Control/Dimming Troubleshooting advice: ETC L86 Control through DMX and Hog4PC/USB widget

Rick Hinton

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2020
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
I am helping a non profit with their stage lighting, and the last time I did anything with lighting was as a rigger in the Panama City Civic Center in 1995 or 1996, so it's been a while and I'm rusty. Been reading for a while on this forum to refresh my memory, and I'm coming up blank in the searches; mostly because "ETC" "L86" and "DMX" are all search terms that are "too short or too common".

We are running a ETC L86 rack in a theater that we have acquired, and I have tons of questions about the rig. My first dive into it was this past week, where I took time off work to drive the 10 hours to get to the theater (I really like this non profit!). I found that the rack is fully populated, stage lights on DMX1, and a separate controller ties house and work lights to DMX2; house is fine, but no work lights. Found that the console was sold/pitched by the previous owner and therefore no stage light controls. In fact, most of the lighting had been removed and was piled in a nearby room. I was using Hog4PC and a borrowed single universe HOG USB DMX Widget to try to connect to the rack with no luck. Found that the DMX1 light was flashing, and I knew that meant there was a problem with the DMX1 network. After two days of tracking and troubleshooting I found that a very large mouse, rat, or other animal low on copper in their bloodstream had chewed mostly through one control cable that went to the EM264's, in a very inconvenient place mind you, and had killed connectivity to DMX1. After I repaired that, DMX1 recognized that there was a DMX network, but I still had no control over any of the stage lighting. I ran out of time to troubleshoot further.

It was a very long weekend.. Of the tons of questions I have, the most important ones that I need answered before I go back:
  • Can a L86 rack be controlled by Hog4PC with and USB DMX controller? I'm thinking yes, but I just need a sanity check here.
  • Should we scrap the whole bit and start from scratch?
  • What other options do we have?
If anyone reading this has L86 experience and can offer some pointers, I'm all ears. Thank you for your time and wisdom.

Rick
 

Amiers

Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
Joined
May 28, 2009
Location
Phoenix, Az
How did you patch the dimmer to Hog. If it’s getting DMX then you should be able to patch in 1024 desk channels and then just roll through each channel to see what’s working.
 
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Rick Hinton

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2020
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
The output of the Hog Widget is 5 Pin DMX, so the signal path was: Hog4PC -> HOG USB DMX Widget -> 5 Pin DMX house wiring -> L86. I patched 512 channels in Hog4PC, then chose several random outputs that were on the stage trusses that had been connected to working PAR lights. Should I have patched in more?

Another thing of note is that there is an optosplitter there. Originally I think this path was Console -> Optosplitter -> then output 1 to rack and output 2 to the catwalk for DMX. I'll probably mimic this setup.
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
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Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
The output of the Hog Widget is 5 Pin DMX, so the signal path was: Hog4PC -> HOG USB DMX Widget -> 5 Pin DMX house wiring -> L86. I patched 512 channels in Hog4PC, then chose several random outputs that were on the stage trusses that had been connected to working PAR lights. Should I have patched in more?

Another thing of note is that there is an opto splitter there. Originally I think this path was Console -> Optosplitter -> then output 1 to rack and output 2 to the catwalk for DMX. I'll probably mimic this setup.
@Rick Hinton and @Amiers Try all channels at 50%; If you're winning, narrow it down (channels 1-250 or 251 - 512 @50% and keep narrowing) If you're losing, bark up another tree.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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Rick Hinton

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Jun 2, 2020
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
@Amiers and @RonHebbard, thank you so much for your assistance and information thus far. I'm 10 hours away from the facility, but I'm feeding the info to another person who has access to the facility so that he can take pictures and send them to me. I've had a grand total of about 28 hours in the facility, and that was over two days. Got all the audio traced, patched and working properly the first day and a half, then turned to the lights. FYI, this is the former Yellow Ribbon Theater in Branson. I'd love to know who their former Tech Director was!

Referencing the L86 Rack photo:
I have no idea what the top row of circuit breakers is for....yet. They are labeled (somewhat), but I have yet to trace them.
I have six total EM264s. Top row is set at address 1. Bottom row is set at address 2. Next time I'm there I'll do the diagnostics to each light. Why are these on different addresses? I'd like to understand that a little better than what the manual briefly explains.
Fan filters are horrible and need changed. The are falling apart. No part number, but I'm assuming that I can pretty much put whatever in there that doesn't restrict the 120CFM airflow of the fans.
Two fan motors in the bottom unit need replaced, bad bearings. Only part number I have is from ETC's website: B109. Found some on Full Compass for ~$500ish. I am assuming that just the motor can be replaced, but have no other information.


IMG_3495.jpeg


D20:
This controls house lighting and work lights. Only two faders in this system, one in Sound booth, and one back stage. No other connections are inside, and this is directly connected to the rack on DMX2. I ran through the settings and discovered there are lights are assigned to the work channel, but none of them come on, possibly because there is no fader/controller wired into that circuit (judging by the information in the manual).

IMG_3496.jpeg
IMG_3497.jpeg
 

Amiers

Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
Joined
May 28, 2009
Location
Phoenix, Az
That D20 sticker is for a completely different rack. Look to the Sensor 12 or 24 for information on that. I don’t see an sensor rack fitting in that analog address case.

Open it up and see what’s in there and take pictures as well.

close ups of the L86 Control modules would be helpful as well as the breakers up to see what they say.

behind the rack and to the right in your picture you have some bare wires address that as well.
 

Rick Hinton

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2020
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
That makes sense on the D20 sticker, it didn't fit with anything that was installed.

I neglected to get a picture of the inside of the Analog Address box, but was inside of it last week. There are connections to the first two rows of blocks, one connects to the fader in the booth, the other is back stage. Only other connections is to DMX2 to the rack. My contact is nervous around high voltage, but he got it!

61282225954__E794D222-2503-4BAA-9B4C-75CB85C23105.jpeg


Breaker panel is below.

Screen Shot 2020-06-02 at 14.21.58.png


Re: the bare wires, those are not energized and run to the catwalk. Same thing is up there. I do plan on addressing that soon.
 

Amiers

Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
Joined
May 28, 2009
Location
Phoenix, Az
Breaker panel runs the Scene Shop?? SS for short 🤷🏻‍♀️

looking at the control module the DMX 2 is in the ON position. I would get an opto and hook both up as reading the manual a bit there are 2 inputs of dmx so in theory you might think you have the right one but in fact don’t.

the analog way is outta my scope someone else can talk to that. It looks like a dumb down version of an RFU
 

Rick Hinton

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2020
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
The DMX output of the analog is connected directly to the rack DMX2. That's house lighting and work lights.

DMX1 is what I'm concentrating on now. Thanks for all your input! Once I'm back in town, I'll run the test on the dimmers and channels.

Thanks!!
 

Mac Hosehead

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Joined
Sep 10, 2014
Location
Shark Tank
Looking at the picture of the EM264, it looks like the module has had some custom programming at the factory. The sticker below the address assignment tells what it should be set to and what rack the module should be installed in. The picture shows both DMX ports receiving input and the fact that work lights are operational would appear to me that at least one rack is functional, probably both.

I start to look at any other reasons why output from the console might not result in output from the rack. You mentioned an opto-splitter. Typically signal going to the dimmers will be wired as a "thru" and bypass the splitter outputs.

The station wiring inside the AAS looks modified from an original installation. I believe ETC will have installation documents on this dimmer system. ETC Technical Support should be able to tell you how the system was originally wired and programed. They can also help with troubleshooting when you are onsite.

You can ask ETC about replacement fans for this rack. I have changed fans in these racks before. It's doable but not fun. I remember scraped knuckles and some swearing at the time.
 

derekleffew

Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
Premium Member
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Las Vegas, NV, USA
... FYI, this is the former Yellow Ribbon Theater in Branson. I'd love to know who their former Tech Director was!
ISTR a Spanish-looking guy with a mustache named Tony Orlando? It's always darkest before the dawn.

But seriously folks, there's an excellent chance ETC has the original drawings for this installation. Don't hesistate to call Tech Services at 1-800-688-4116 should you need anything.
 

Rick Hinton

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2020
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
@Mac Hosehead and @derekleffew, I received some CAD drawings of the facility today, I'll be scouring those for details as well as contacting ETC Tech Services. Thank you both for your invaluable input.

If you are interested in the non-profit and what we are doing, please check out https://www.freedomencounter.com. For the past three years we have been doing a show during Veterans Day weekend in Branson, and they are hopeful to be able to do it in this theater this year, if we have everything ready by then. My plate is little. The pile is big. I'm trying to find a bigger fork... :cool:

Thank you once again for all the replies!
 

DrewE

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Joined
Mar 18, 2019
Location
Vermont
I wish I had useful insight into your problems, but alas...anything I could say probably has been said already, and by people who actually had a better idea what they were talking about. About all I can suggest is that there may well be fans available that are not precisely the originals from ETC but would work just as well and cost a lot less than a few hundred each; searching around on DigiKey or Mouser, for example, might yield something perfectly suitable and around maybe $20ish. (That's assuming they're of a standard, off-the-shelf form factor, and not some custom designed unique part.)

If you are interested in the non-profit and what we are doing, please check out https://www.freedomencounter.com. For the past three years we have been doing a show during Veterans Day weekend in Branson, and they are hopeful to be able to do it in this theater this year, if we have everything ready by then. My plate is little. The pile is big. I'm trying to find a bigger fork... :cool:
At a first reading, I though the non-profit was called "Free Document Counter" or something like that and I was a little bit confused as to what that had to do with a Veteran's Day stage show, and/or how we could possibly help you in forking through the plate of spaghetti, or PowerPoint presentations, or whatever it was. It made a lot more sense when I managed to parse out "Freedom Encounter"!
 

Rick Hinton

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2020
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
At a first reading, I though the non-profit was called "Free Document Counter" or something like that and I was a little bit confused as to what that had to do with a Veteran's Day stage show, and/or how we could possibly help you in forking through the plate of spaghetti, or PowerPoint presentations, or whatever it was. It made a lot more sense when I managed to parse out "Freedom Encounter"!
Yeah, we have heard a bunch of different ones, another funny one was "Freedo Men Counter", we got a kick out of that. I'll have to add yours to the list too!
 

John Palmer

Active Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2014
Location
Cerritos, CA
My $.02 for what it is worth.
The constant breaker panels are just hardwired distributed circuits. I think they were used for Studio Spots (SS) and Intellibeams (IB). They probably show up on raceways with a "C" or "CC" noted.
The control electronics were custom configured. So, the top three EM264s are set to be rack #1. I assume house & work lights. The lower three EM264s are set to be rack #2.
Hog4PC has a lot of places to patch. I don't mean to offend you, but I know that I have had issues patching Hogs in the past. The widget needs to be setup in Hog4. The dimmers added to the fixture schedule, and then patch the desk channels to the widget's universe. The widget could be sending a valid DMX signal without sending DMX data. The widget setup guide is here. https://www.highend.com/pub/support/controllers/documents/HTML/en/sect-dmx_widgets.htm
Hopefully, Tech Services will come through with some info to help you out.
Good luck,
John
 

Rick Hinton

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2020
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
@John Palmer, breakers for the Studio Spots make PERFECT sense! The Intellibeams were on a separate panel and were labeled as such.

No offense taken on the Hog. Like I said in the original post, I'm a little lot rusty and last time I was on a console nearly 25 years ago.

Here's what I did on the Hog 4, I was very pressed for time, this all happened at 1AM :)
I added the widget as being connected to the first DP8000 (I think that's where it was, somewhere in the settings it was listed in a dropdown box.)
I added 512 fixtures but, as generic PAR lights because I couldn't find ETC or L86 in the list . (Note: If have now discovered that the search appears to be case sensitive.)
I did not patch any desk channels. I think you spelled out my exact case: DMX signal is good, but no data being passed.

I cannot thank you gentlemen enough for your assistance in helping me figure this all out!