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Author Topic: DMX control over already installed house lights  (Read 1182 times)

Justin Waters

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DMX control over already installed house lights
« on: January 30, 2020, 07:14:41 pm »

I'm trying to come up with a plan to get better control over the house lights in my church.  The building was built in the 60's and there is no attic space to re-run any wire.  Is there anything out there to where I can just swap out the switch and have that controlled via DMX, or another protocol where it can just be located in our sound booth?
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Jeff Lelko

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Re: DMX control over already installed house lights
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2020, 08:06:27 pm »

Hi Justin, yes, this can certainly be done from a technical perspective.  That said, there are other considerations that need to be made before jumping in that pertain to convenience and life safety (code compliance). 

From the convenience aspect, youíre going to have more people than just your AV techs needing to control the lights.  As such, youíre going to need a way for the average person to turn the lights on and off from a wall switch/panel without having to use your light board.  Many solutions exist to tackle this, but itíll complicate things from what you might be envisioning.

From the code compliance standpoint, you have two general areas of concern - the first being the way the circuits are going to be wired/controlled and ensuring their compliance with the NEC and additional local considerations.  The second is that if thereís a fire or other need to evacuate the building (loss of power, etc.), the system needs to default to a state thatís considered acceptable by NFPA codes and your local AHJ.  There are ways to interface the buildingís fire alarm system with the lights and sound, but the need to do so and what other options exist will be determined by your AHJ.

Iím not an installation expert and my knowledge stops here - these are just topics that I know need to be addressed.  Sadly this isnít as simple as cutting out the light switch and plugging in a dimmer or relay (despite the fact itíd probably work from a technical perspective).  I suggest reaching out to a local installation contractor who is familiar with the code compliance issues mentioned above.  Good luck!   
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Justin Waters

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Re: DMX control over already installed house lights
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2020, 08:23:16 pm »

Hi Justin, yes, this can certainly be done from a technical perspective.  That said, there are other considerations that need to be made before jumping in that pertain to convenience and life safety (code compliance). 

From the convenience aspect, youíre going to have more people than just your AV techs needing to control the lights.  As such, youíre going to need a way for the average person to turn the lights on and off from a wall switch/panel without having to use your light board.  Many solutions exist to tackle this, but itíll complicate things from what you might be envisioning.

From the code compliance standpoint, you have two general areas of concern - the first being the way the circuits are going to be wired/controlled and ensuring their compliance with the NEC and additional local considerations.  The second is that if thereís a fire or other need to evacuate the building (loss of power, etc.), the system needs to default to a state thatís considered acceptable by NFPA codes and your local AHJ.  There are ways to interface the buildingís fire alarm system with the lights and sound, but the need to do so and what other options exist will be determined by your AHJ.

Iím not an installation expert and my knowledge stops here - these are just topics that I know need to be addressed.  Sadly this isnít as simple as cutting out the light switch and plugging in a dimmer or relay (despite the fact itíd probably work from a technical perspective).  I suggest reaching out to a local installation contractor who is familiar with the code compliance issues mentioned above.  Good luck!   

Well, there is not fire system or anything else that would be integrated.  You are correct that it would need to be able to be controlled other than just a light board.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2020, 09:37:14 pm by Mac Kerr »
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Mark Olsen

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Re: DMX control over already installed house lights
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2020, 11:05:07 pm »

Justin,

The product you're after is called a DMX dimmer.

As the other folks here have said there are some things that you need to think about to keep all the regulators happy in your area. I found a good intro to dimmers on the following website.

https://www.ccisolutions.com/StoreFront/category/stage-lighting-101-dimmers

I know these guys do a lot of installs around the US, I'm not affliated in anyway, but I liked their page.

Mark
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Scott Hofmann

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Re: DMX control over already installed house lights
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2020, 12:00:21 am »

The ETC Foundry DMX-controlled Relay might fit the bill. It could be wired in parallel with the existing wall switch so the lights could be either turned on or off at the switch or via the relay from your DMX console. This was recently done at a local theatre to control the work lights and works great.
https://www.fullcompass.com/prod/542410-etc-ufr2-dual-zone-dmx-relay
I would download the manual and show it to your electrician and let him make the judgment on its acceptability for the application. It is designed for permanent installation.
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Erik Jerde

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Re: DMX control over already installed house lights
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2020, 12:47:09 am »

I'm trying to come up with a plan to get better control over the house lights in my church.  The building was built in the 60's and there is no attic space to re-run any wire.  Is there anything out there to where I can just swap out the switch and have that controlled via DMX, or another protocol where it can just be located in our sound booth?

The problem you run into is that itís unlikely youíre going to have the lights you want in one group on their own separate circuit.  This precludes putting a dimmer conveniently next to the electrical panel and just doing a simple re-wire.  The relay solution posted above is good if you just want on/off and you can get control wiring to it.

The big problem youíre going to find is where you locate equipment.  The relay posted above wonít fit in a standard switch jbox.  Plus it needs control.  Dimmers probably need to be out of sight plus they need control.  Your best bet will probably be if the building was built with conduit and you can get dedicated lines back to your summer location using the existing conduit.

Talk with an experienced electrician.  They donít have to know about dmx lighting, just show them the specs on the prospective dimmer system and talk through with them how it could be hooked up to your existing lights while meeting your requirements and following applicable law.
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Brian Jojade

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Re: DMX control over already installed house lights
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2020, 08:03:42 pm »

You also need to know what that switch you're looking to replace actually is doing.  Often times, the switch isn't directly connected to the lights, but might be switching a contactor somewhere else.

If you're not a licensed electrician, do not start opening wall plates and fiddling with stuff.  If you do and ANYTHING goes wrong, you're now on the hook.  It's not worth killing anyone over.
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Caleb Dueck

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Re: DMX control over already installed house lights
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2020, 02:55:00 pm »

I'm trying to come up with a plan to get better control over the house lights in my church.  The building was built in the 60's and there is no attic space to re-run any wire.  Is there anything out there to where I can just swap out the switch and have that controlled via DMX, or another protocol where it can just be located in our sound booth?

2 things.
First, are you looking for on/off control or dimming? 
Second, as has been mentioned, you need two layers of control, techs and general public.

The first is fairly easy.  If on/off only, DMX controlled relays, installed by an electrician.  If dimming, then DMX controlled dimmer with multiple dimming styles (IE forward phase, reverse phase, IGBT, pure sine wave, etc).  With LED bulbs, going cheap typically comes back to bite you.

For the second - find an AVL company that specializes in larger house of worship or theatrical venues.  The big picture goals and details of the system and how they are used need to be identified before meaningful recommendations can be given. 
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Steven Cohen

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Re: DMX control over already installed house lights
« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2020, 11:27:26 am »

To add another perspective to what others have stated, you could replace your current house lights with stand alone, LED house lights that have built in DMX. One just needs a duplex outlet near the light and run DMX cable to the light. The advantages are that the church will save power, air conditioning costs, re-lamping costs, and the lights are plug and play.

Another may be available from Leviton as they seem to be into architectural lighting controls now.

As stated by others, any option chosen will need to be assessed by an electrician.

How large is the space? How many house lights exist now? 

I'm trying to come up with a plan to get better control over the house lights in my church.  The building was built in the 60's and there is no attic space to re-run any wire.  Is there anything out there to where I can just swap out the switch and have that controlled via DMX, or another protocol where it can just be located in our sound booth?
« Last Edit: April 01, 2020, 11:34:01 am by Steven Cohen »
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PapaPastie

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Re: DMX control over already installed house lights
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2020, 05:45:43 pm »

I'm trying to come up with a plan to get better control over the house lights in my church.  The building was built in the 60's and there is no attic space to re-run any wire.  Is there anything out there to where I can just swap out the switch and have that controlled via DMX, or another protocol where it can just be located in our sound booth?

Hi, this is old but wanted to comment as I searched and found it maybe someone else will too. I am really sure all the advice I am about to give is not pro to code but things i may or may not have done.  Cause there is a venue with a ton of money and there are small-time entrepreneurs with NO other option than to be super careful and cut corners.  This is for the Mom and pop shops.  Please no judgment but feel free to tell everyone the dangers.  For house lights on DMX.  With an install like us a house show we do 5 days a week, local small dinner theater, we have had three locations over ten years and what we have done.  When we build out places we have taken them over from another place like restaurant and converted them.  We dont have a construction crew we just have us so most of the stuff is there electic etc.

I have climbed up into a drop ceiling and found all the recessed lighting, with the electric off, I turned off the fuses of course, and put a plug on the end of the wire.  I like to use dimmable led lamps now so the voltage is super low.  Then I stick a dimmer in  the ceiling and plug in the lights.  In the old days Id run the dmx cable, now i do wireless.  So also when we are putting in our own lighting in the last place we made the lampwire socket fixture type.  A lamp wire, with a socket, and then for us 8 dollar crystal plastic chandelier.  We hung it over the booths, and i alternated every other one and put on two channels so i could create a chance.  Same on the bar.  Then on the bar we put led strip on a controller, and of coure it was easy to turn that into dmx. 

Ok, completely surprised the inspector and was a workaround but I created on our new balcony cabinet lights.  Not sure the proper name but its a string of light bulbs, i think of them as Chucky cheese lights.  This was for the front of the balcony, i built on the the ground and installed.  So it was made ussine 12vocal led decoders like you get on amazon for rgb strip only i used each channel for a 12volt bulb that looks like a real light bulb, and you can use a normal socket but save money getting plastic sockets, about 1 dollar each.  So then I get DMX decoders with 12-42 channels.  So the 12 channel is supose to contol 4 rgb strips.  They create no heat and the entire thing is indavidualy controlable.  Ok, over kill right.  Its covid we are closed we are buidling.   So the bar has 22 of these bulbs but seperate in just 4 channels. 

So then we created these huge crazy expensive-looking chandeliers using old 15 dollar light fitures and K9 krystals.   So i hung them on a 200lb host painted black so we could change the bulbs, and it will be wired to a dimmer in the celling.  Ii have a feelinug this will not solve your problem so I will keep going.

I got a friend's church to just string lights and plug those into a dimmer. And you can see a pattern which is, you find the electric and put it in a stage dimmer. 

So to do that, you can find the actually wire, cut it, cap it, put a plug on it.  Or go to the power switch, and it gets tricky, but do the same which is run some wires out and plug it in.  Now we have like 12 switches and I dont feel comfortable doing it.  So just adding other lights.

Ok, now as a drinking place it is hard to get people out.  So, I got these super ugly led stadium lights, put them all over the ceiling.  They create a terrible white light but you could use whatever you want.  So this is the super simple way.  They sell wireless remotes with 4 electic plugs.  You plug them in the wall, and the remote turns them on and off.  So in this case, for our lights, as yours could be string lights, or you could (find the lights, cut the wires, get a metal box create a plugin, and on the wire create a power plug and put this between it) well anyway i am in an extreme hurry but in short.  With these remotes they are plugged into a socket and anything can plug intor them and you push the button and it is on or off.  I use these on all my speaker, dimmer packs, cleaning/get the fuck out you dont have to go home but you cant stay here lights.  ETC.

Ok, so your at someone else's place.  When we toured, i designed my light system with extra flook lights, etc so i could kind of control the lights, and of course using DMX.

Now say you are in a large church.  You are just going to have to have them install something like others have said, as they will have the money and it will need to be to code.  For those situations like, 30 foot ceiling and 77 large lights that light up the place, it has to be installed.  The other stuff is more for owner mom n pops and workarounds, or your friend owns the place. 

Disclaimer consults everyone you are supposed to if you have never worked with electric simple stuff can be easy but can bite you in the ass.   
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Mac Kerr

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« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2020, 07:10:41 pm »

Hi, this is old but wanted to comment

Please go to your profile and change the "Name" field to your real first and last name as required by the posting rules displayed in the header at the top of the section, and in the Site Rules and Suggestions in the Forum Announcements section, and on the registration page when you registered.

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