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

Rick Hinton

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2020
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
Update: I just returned from a trip to the theater this week. I found some interesting things....

I hooked up the Hog4Pc on DMX1 directly to the rack, added desk channels, ran all at full, then at 0, and was able to manipulate the lights, then started narrowing down from there. I was successful at controlling the circuits that had a light attached to them. We grabbed a small pin spot for a test ight and started checking all the plugs on the bars, 1st electrical, 2nd, 3rd, etc. Even though all 512 DMX channels were at full, some plugs were energized and some were not. Plotted all the plugs in Excel, First electrical had no working plugs. Second electrical had the most working plugs (#47-#70), most of which were also controlled from the AAS through DMX2. Third electrical had two working, #71-#94). Fourth electrical had none. Fifth electrical had five (#95-#118). Sixth had none. Seventh electrical had two (#119-#142). Several others were wired from the boxes in the back for the cyc lights on the floor, as well as some from the catwalk above on looooooong cables, two of which were on 100% and not controllable from Hog4PC. We then hooked up cans to all the working plugs, then went to the patch panel. Dimmers 1-71 are wired straight through. From there we'll have to trace them to be certain where they go, but it's a spaghetti factory in the patch panel. I'm not exactly sure why all the plugs on 2nd electrical weren't hot. Dimmers were at 100%, and they were patched. Will have to trace some more when I go back in September.

Another anomaly I found was that the DMX channels did not line up 1 to 1 with the circuit numbers. i.e. DMX address 1 was bit dimmer #1, but controlled four lights (#195-#198) on the side of stage by the side fills, but address 52 *was* dimmer 52. I found that some stage lights were tied together (which I would expect), but some were even tied in to a house light fixture. I have no idea how, they are on completely different circuits/dimmers. Is there something I am missing? Is there legacy programmed groupings that I will have to clear from the L86?

The Analog Address System had been set to control all dimmers using DMX2. We will be going through and removing all the stage dimmers, so that it only controls the house lights. There are no work lights or panic lights assigned and no faders attached to these. Channel one has only two faders for house lights, one at the Sound booth and one back stage. That part seems pretty simple and easy to fix, but the DMX has me scratching my head....

Thanks for looking at this and trying to help me out! Rick
 

JChenault

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2009
Location
seattle, wa USA
A possible explanation for your non working circuits could be that some of your dimmers are dead. You might try swapping them in the rack ( after turning off circuit breakers ) and see if the behavior changes
 

Amiers

Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
Joined
May 28, 2009
Location
Phoenix, Az
Sounds like Dead dimmers and A cross patch of fixtures. Most likely someone not knowing what they were doing. You got a fun project on your hands. Tear it all apart and put it back together piece by piece is truly the only way you will get it back to a functional working setup.
 

Rick Hinton

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2020
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
I am in the theater for this weekend, and have been able to figure out several things, aisle lighting for one. There are soft patches that I can’t find anywhere, but I need to remove them. Is there any way to do this without an ETC console? For example I have a light on stage that is tied in a DMX group with a house light. I need to uncouple those so that I can use the stage light independently.

I will be here until Monday around noon, so any help would be greatly appreciated! Phone support is also welcome, if you happen to have some spare time by then, PM me and I’ll give you my phone number.
 

Amiers

Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
Joined
May 28, 2009
Location
Phoenix, Az
Are they programmed into your panel. Which would require turning what you want on and recording the preset on the panel. Some panels can do this some can’t. However jacking in your system into everything should override the preset panel and allow you to control whatever you want. So it sounds more like a hard patch than a soft patch. Because your system should take precedence. You should take the weekend and disconnect everything and remap to your desired console setup.
 

Crisp image

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 18, 2017
Location
Eastern Victoria Australia
Please forgive me for potentially not knowing. Every venue I have worked in (small venues) has a patch panel where the outlets in the LX bars come back to. From there a flylead is then plugged into a dimmer output. So dimmer output 1 could be attached to LX3 outlet #5 or LX1 outlet #10 or whatever works for the rig. Then the address of the dimmer is patched in the console to make that dimmer work.
Is there cases where dimmer racks are wired straight from the output of the dimmer to an outlet on a LX bar?
If you have a patch panel then I would check each circuit between the LX bar outlet and the patch panel and confirm they work. Eliminate that from the equation and then work out the configuration of the dimmers and the control of such and check the output of each dimmer. It would be easier to do this part if you can connect the console directly to the dimmer rack and then check the output without having to get someone in the booth to bring up ch XX while you check.

These comments are based on my limited knowledge of your systems so should be treated as such.
Regards

Geoff
 

Rick Hinton

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2020
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
@Crisp image , that was basically the plan of attack that I had regardng the patch panel. There are no dimmers wired direct, all pass through the patch panel. The console that used to be here is long gone, but was able to connect the Hog4PC direct to the rack, then test each dimmer channel at the panel. A lot of them are not labeled, or are mislabled, but I was able to identify the circuits on the fixture end and where they map to a dimmer breaker. That much is good and operable.

@Amiers, In my specific case as for all of the DMX channles that have the issue I mentioned, when I traced I didn't find a hard patch, or a tie in on down the line. I don't think a hard patch is the cause of my issue for these. For example, the house light on breaker 89, along with the fixture on the breaker 93, and also the fixture on breaker 32, are all coming on when DMX channel 21 is at 100%. I can kill each breaker individually, and the others stay on, which to me indicates some sort of soft patch or a custom group maybe? That's what I'm trying to figure out, is how that single and specific DMX channel can control the three dimmers simultaneously.

I have no other controller or console to connect to the rack other than the Hog4PC and Widget, and I don't know how to find or dissolve these defined DMX groups. This is where I need the help. Otherwise, as Amiers said, I'll be repatching the entire system from scratch, and that is not desireable, and losing an operable dimmer in the process. I'll be here sporadically and unpredictably over the next few months because I live out of state. My next move is to call ETC Support on Monday and see if they can provide any insight.

I am so thankful for the help everyone on this thread has provided!
 

Amiers

Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
Joined
May 28, 2009
Location
Phoenix, Az
Etc Support is 24/7 call them anytime and have as much information about your building as possible.

If you are for sure that you don’t have a preset panel around to control your dimmers outside of a console then it is hard patched somewhere. Weither it’s at the “patch bay” or merried somewhere else in a box somewhere or other where the 3 things come together.

Good Luck with your project and as always update as you go. We love to continue to banter, help, and speculate to the finish.
 
  • Like
Reactions: RonHebbard

Rick Hinton

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2020
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
Thank you, I wasn’t aware ETC Support was 24/7!

I don’t have a preset panel or an original console (only the Hog4PC). I do have an Analog Address System that supposedly only controls the house lights through DMX2. In my experience in this system, the “dimmer” assignment is actually referring to a DMX channel, I.e. “Dimmer” #21 in the AAS is controlling three physical dimmers; three house lights on one circuit and the two circuits on stage. I didn’t see any patching capabilities on the AAS, other that assigning the “dimmers” to any of the 8 control channels it has, or work lights, or panic lights. Work lights and panic lights are not assigned on any of the 512 “dimmers”. Only control channel 1 is configured in that system and is wired to the two faders used for house light control.

If I use the Hog4PC on DMX1, I can control all dimmers, including the house lights, and setting DMX channel 21 at full lights up the same three dimmers and connected circuits (same outcome as the AAS above).

It’s confusing, and it’s late, so I may not be explaining it properly.... ;-).

I’ll call ETC tomorrow, I gotta head to bed and get some sleep!
 

Rick Hinton

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2020
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
I called ETC, and they said that it wasn’t possible for the L86 to even do what I have described and passed me over to High End since I was using a Hog4PC. The High end tech was just as confused. They both suggested that there was another control device somewhere in the theater intercepting it translating the DMX signal. I went back and disconnected the AAS so that the only thing controlling would be DMX1 (me). Then went and disconnected even that.

As I sat there and watched both DMX LEDs on the 264 cards blink, I made the curios observation that the breakers that were controlling this mystery patch were on the same row, in the same chassis, and even on the same breaker position (top left). I then asked myself what else is in common? This used to be an installation rack, but was controlled by an ETC console. For Installations I’ve always read in the manuals that you set the address on the 264s. The three 264s on the top & bottom chassis were previously set to 001 & 002 (respectively) when we bought the place, so I assumed that this was correct. It was at that point that the answer hit me.

Each of the three 264’s in each chassis were doing exactly what I told them to, turn on dimmer 21. In this case, since all three 264’s were addressed in the exact same manner, they all powered up the same dimmer, as if there were only two 264’s in the rack: each column if dimmers exhibiting duplicitous behaviors! I readdressed each 264 to a separate address and all was well in the world. Well, at least in the world I just spent three days trying to figure out! Everything was lining up as I observed in the hard patch panel at it all finally made sense!

Thank you to everyone that has helped me resolve this issue! Hallelujah, we have LIGHTS!
 

Amiers

Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
Joined
May 28, 2009
Location
Phoenix, Az
Pictures of the final patch next time you are in front of it. For future readers and good documentation.

ALSO CONGRATS!!!!

Side note in June I mentioned your racks might not be patched properly and later it sounded like thinks were soft or hard patched. together. I am truly surprised that ETC didn’t suggest patching and walk you through how to patch the L86 dimmers.
 

Crisp image

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 18, 2017
Location
Eastern Victoria Australia
Woo Hoo!!!! Well done. It is always nice when you have the ahha moment and then it just works.

Regards
Geoff
 
  • Like
Reactions: RonHebbard