LTL FTP and all that jazz.
So a little preamble. I work in the theatre industry in a certain North American Union that handles film, theatre, and corporate AV, I am also the Head of Lighting in a smaller theatre.
On time at my theatre we hosted a european show based on auchwitz. And by based on I mean set in auchwitz at the height of everything terrible that ever happened there. There was no dialouge and everything was depressing, nice people working on that show but there was no joy in that play.
Being from europe they walk in with a bunch of lights built into their set. Thats fine practicals are pretty common and I have some 50 odd circuts on deck for just this kind of occasion. They have a small european dimmer pack too, excellent one circut for their dimmer pack a little dmx for control and a transformer to make everything play nice. Wires were built into the set and it all powers on, bangin. We pat ourselves on the back and leave at the end of the day with beers on all of our minds as any good tech would.
Everything did not play nice the next day… we attempt setting some levels and cues, my inventory is all working as intended but the lights built into the set are strobing like mad. It is like looking at some madmans vision of what a nightclub would be if he had only every heard of one half whispered through the walls of his padded cell. This is bad and the trouble shooting begins. First we scroll 0-100 percent on the dimmer, rarely but sometimes dimmers dont like certain levels and will just go nuts on you usually only with cheap/poorly made dimmers. 0-30 nothin 30-45 strobe like mad, 50-78 nothin 79-100 its all good. (I test at 80) He swears it isnt his dimmer pack. Next we swap circuts on deck. Ha ha if it were only that easy. We try not one but two different transformers at their request, nope the hunks of iron and copper are working as intended. Next thing in line is his dimmer which he swears up and down works and he used it at this theatre before, we power cycle it anyways. Nope not the dimmer pack. Ok we change dmx addresses, maybe my console doesnt like those addresses. Not that either, we are running out of options.
Now as all good techs know users always lie or at least dont realise they are lying. A little lighting tidbit for the uninitiated, dimmers will transform a voltage sine wave into a square wave and vary the output voltage. For anyone familiar with power you may have seen this coming. I have stepped up from 120v to 220v to run their gear but most european countries work on 50 hz not 60hz. While their dimmer didnt fry themselves on a different hertz they couldnt modulate the power correctly to create dimming.
Lets just trade bulbs then I say, easy swap and we just use my dimmers on deck, I have three times as many as you will need. Hums and haws are heard from their lighting tech. But what if we try straight from the dimmers, it is half of voltage but we dont need full brightness maybe we can cheat and change some programming. Suffice to say half voltage did not work. And there was a mission to home depot and bulbs were bought and then there was light.
Lowtech answer is best tech answer… most of the time.
If you guys like this I will try to come up with some more stories from the theatre.
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