ProSoundWeb Community

Sound Reinforcement - Forums for Live Sound Professionals - Your Displayed Name Must Be Your Real Full Name To Post In The Live Sound Forums => SR Forum Archives => Lighting FUD Forum Archive => Topic started by: JQuack on June 01, 2004, 06:31:49 pm

Title: Need advice on lighting equipment
Post by: JQuack on June 01, 2004, 06:31:49 pm
I am looking for some help on the subject of stage lighting. My youth pastor and I (head soundman and all around stage technician) recently purchased close to 60 track lights at the close a shoe store. These lights are very simple in design (Standard Floodlights on a wired track is the best way I can describe it) and we are planning on hanging them for our stage in our youth church.

We are looking for some equipment for light dimming and switching. Nothing too fancy because money's limited. We plan on putting in alternating color bulbs and would just like to find the proper equipment to be able to control all these lights at one board.

As far as terms in lighting, I'm completely clueless. I've looked at some things online, but these devices tell me very little of what is required before I purchase anything.

If you are willing to help, and need more info. Please respond in this forum or email me at
Title: Re: Need advice on lighting equipment
Post by: Mike Greene on June 03, 2004, 02:58:39 pm
I think you might have a little prediciment if you plan to control these lights individually. Track lighting (in the majority of cases anyway) works by powering the track itself, the lights then pickup power from the track. If this is the case with your lights, then they will function in banks based on the track arrangment. Controling the tracks themselves is a fairly simple task of just wiring them to some dimmers and getting yourself an inexpensive DMX console. I don't believe there is a way to power them individually without doing away with the track alltogether and wiring the lights directly. If this is what you plan to do, check the voltage as most track lighting (in the US anyway) runs on 12, 24 or 48 volts which comes from a transformer. Dimmer packs are going to give you line voltage in most cases.

Hope that helps a little.
Title: Re: Need advice on lighting equipment
Post by: JQuack on June 03, 2004, 05:40:45 pm
Well, we're exploring our options and seeing what's gonna be the easiest. We were at least hoping to have each color on a channel. (The colors will alternate on the track, so all the reds could be on one "channel" [I guess that's what you call it] the blues on another, etc etc. However we set it up.

But, if the track powers all the lights directly and not individually, that's a different case then.

Maybe you can answer me a few questions

What's DMX and how do I make sure the track lights can connect to it?

If I'm looking for simple dimming and switching (non automated or automated) what should I begin to look at?

Any help is appreciated.
Title: Re: Need advice on lighting equipment
Post by: Tim McCulloch on June 03, 2004, 10:49:14 pm
Basically you can't do quite what you're proposing.... Since each track powers *all* the lights physically attached to it you can only control *all* the lights on that track.  You could do a very 1980's 'Van Halen' look; banks (or stips in this case) of individual color...

Now to your DMX question.  DMX is short for DMX512, which is a data communications protocol used by lighting controllers ("dimmer boards") to talk to the dimmers themselves.  Think "midi" for lights.  The lights themselves (except for the fancy moving things) don't give a darn about DMX (or AMX, or analogue, or LMX, or....).  Except for those moving lights, lights themselves don't directly receive DMX data.

I'd suggest you investigate some truss-mounted dimmers like Lightronics or Leprecon.  If you are going to use these in a reasonably permanent way, you'll have electrical code issues to deal with (you can't just string extension cords to power the dimmers, for example) and you may want to check into "architectural" dimming designed for permanent installation.  Lightronics can be your friend here, too.

And now a bit of unsolicited advice/commentary:  in most any installation of lighting, the lights themselves are the least expensive part of the package (until you get into the moving lights/scrollers, etc.).  The big money is spent on making it legal (those pesky life safety codes, electrical and fire) and aesthetically pleasing at the same time.  Mundane things like conduit, wire, circuit breakers and panels.  BTW, your pastor's track lights are probably NOT UL APPROVED for stage lighting, and if they were to cause an electrical fire your church's insurance company could deny the claim based on mis-application of the lighting fixture.  This would, as they say, suck.

I know that churchs seem to be continually strapped for cash (esp the ones on TV Wink ) but you need for the fundamental parts of this to be done right, both the electricity and the actual attachment of the lights to the structure of the building.

I'm not trying to scare you or anything, but when you start hanging objects over people, or running electricity hither and yon, you are doing things that can kill or maim people if done incorrectly.  And I think most higher powers disapprove of such things.


Tim Mc

Title: Re: Need advice on lighting equipment
Post by: Nick S. on June 04, 2004, 05:46:43 pm
Tim McCulloch wrote on Fri, 04 June 2004 03:49

Now to your DMX question.  DMX is short for DMX512, which is a data communications protocol used by lighting controllers ("dimmer boards") to talk to the dimmers themselves.

Picky I know, but DMX is short for Digital Multiplexing. DMX512 refers to the fact that each DMX cable can control 512 channels.

Echoeing what the previous poster said, I really can't emphasise safety. Stage lights should be secured to the ceiling / track / truss / scaffold etc. by two means, one being a backup (normally a "safety chain" or bond). If lights fall without safety chains, again your insurance company will probably refuse to pay (I have one nightmare about derigging a light in a high school theatre - the G-Clamp was completely covered in gaffa tape. When I took the take off I noticed the G-clamp wasn't actually bolted to the light, and some high school student had "cleverly" thought they'd just tape it together. If it wasn't for the safety chain there'd have been a big hole in the floor below Smile ).

About the track - a simple explanation would be as follows:

Imagine a lightbulb in a room. From this lightbulb, a piece of wire runs to the mains, and then to a switch. The wire then runs from the switch back to the lightbulb. Your track is basically the wire, except you can add more than one light to it. There's still only one switch, if you can see what I mean.

Hope you manage to achieve what you're looking for Smile
Title: Re: Need advice on lighting equipment
Post by: JQuack on June 05, 2004, 01:20:18 am
Thanks for all your advice and your "what if"'s as well. Believe me, we are truly attempting to do this by code and perfectly safe too. We have an electrician coming in with assistants and whatnot to do the wiring, we just need to figure out what we NEED first.

I plan to bring up all these things that you have told me to my youth pastor the next time I see him.

I appreciate it very much Smile

Title: Re: Need advice on lighting equipment
Post by: Brian Desmond on June 05, 2004, 09:32:19 pm
Keep in mind that your average electrician isn't going to know squat about theatrical lighting. He/she will know how to mount and wire a tracklight, they're pretty standard. Things like dimmer packs, DMX signals, etc are goign to be weel above the electrician's knowledge.

Whereever you happen to be, there's probably a theatrical supply house or lighting company around. Call them up, and if not anything else, I'm sure they'll give you some advice for free.
Title: Re: Need advice on lighting equipment
Post by: Erik Jerde on June 07, 2004, 12:49:06 pm
Good to hear you have an electrician coming in.  To achieve what you want inexpensively here's what you'll need to do.

First, keeping in mind the principal that all the lights on the track are powered the same, if you want seperate control of seperate colors you will thus need seperate tracks.  You can have the tracks hung as close together parallel with eachother as code allows, and then aim the lights to hit the same spot.  Figure out how you want your lights arranged first, and how you want them grouped for control.

Next, forgo the thought of theatrical lighting, a lighting desk, etc.  This is due to the fact that you are using architectural lighting, not theatrical lighting, your electricians won't have a clue about theatrical, and cost.  Instead of using a lighting desk, just use wall mounted dimmer switches like in a house.  Get the ones that are single gang sized and have a nice big "fader" on them.  Each track or set of tracks that you want to control together should be wired to one of these dimmer switches.

Finially, if you really want to go with theatrical style lighting on the cheap, then find a small theater or club that is replacing an analog system with conventional lights and buy that off of them.  Lots of places still have those and are getting into newer gear to control moving head lights.  You might not be able to get fixtures, but a place moving from analog to dmx will be ditching dimmer packs and a control desk.