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I'm a complete newbie. I am working on convincing our church to enter the 21st century and update our lighting system. We currently have 8 par 38 on stands that we set up for different productions and one of the guys has set up a system of dimmer switches to control it. Very hokey as well I think dangerous. I am hoping to permanently mount the lights, add some more, use one of your lower end DMX controllers to run things.
Our church has some weird design flaws, including the house light switches are in a different room from our sanctuary. I was hoping to put some of the house lights under dmx control so our sound and light guys can control them during our productions as well as services.
My difficulties of making these changes are my church is in a remote location in Canada so I need to purchase on-line so I don't get to talk to someone in person; we have a couple of electricians in the church but they know nothing of this stuff so I have no one to talk to; we are a small congregation so I have to keep the cost to a minimum and members who think what we got already is more than enough.

So my questions
Are there dimmer packs that can be wired into the house system? If not what would be needed to be done? I am hoping to connect in our non-florescent fixtures.

I saw comments about wireless dimmer packs, but have not seen them on the websites where I would purchase the equipment. What is the difference in price? What is their range? We have a number of wireless mikes, would there be interference problems?

I would like to install the DMX controller beside our sound board, is there interference concerns? I read that I don't want to use audio cable but DMX cables. Do they come in longer lengths?

What would you recommend as a minimum DMX controller to used to maximize bang for the least bucks?

Sorry for the long message but to get this through our Annual General meeting I am going to need every possible answer
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Just a bit of advice:

At nearly any venue I've been in, assuming I am allowed to touch the house lights(and I prefer to have a house guy do that), it has ranged from flipping breakers off, banks of simple wall switches and/or dimmers or some sort of multi-panel/multi-location lghting control. At no time did the sound or light people touch house lights at least during a show. We had a house guy on clear com told to bring lights up/down.

So, my suggestion to you is that if you want the sound/light people to have control over houes lights, you have 2 options(and further options from there). If you can install a bank of wall switches or dimmers near where they are, that's a big help and might be the best option. If you want people to be hands off, put the switches in a little wall mounted cabinet. It's amazing what a wooden door can do to prevent curious hands from gaining access. The multiple panel systems with computer control are nice, but can be expensive and budget might be better used somewhere else.

Since you're in a fixed location, you've got a lot of options to consider. It does come down to budget. As far as control, do you want hardware or software? I recommend software because you can get way more for your money going that route, especially compared with limitations in low-cost hardware controllers or the big price tags of really good hardware controllers.

Start thinking of everything. Do you want this portable or removable? Fixed? Options? Mounting? How about running DMX cabling through the walls and having convenient access points at good locations? What work can you do on your own? What do you need to outsource?

A word of caution is that this can get expensive fast. If budget is a concern, then try to think in stages. Buy wisely and intelligently so you don't waste money. Think expansion and growth as well.
Thanks for responding to my post.
I am still in the initial planning stages. I am the chair of a committee that is looking at revamping our stage set up and lighting is just one aspect of that. Currently I am gathering information to present to the committee so we can decide where to go. Deciding on a budget will be part of that first meeting. Most on the committee want to improve our stage system but they are the easy ones to convince to spend the money it is the the membership that will be the tough ones to convince. We are a small church about 200 members.
One of the reasons I am looking at having the house lights controlled by the sound and light guys is that when we assign someone to run the house lights the person usually wanders off and can't be found. Way back a room was built to hold the sound man and all the house light switches are in that room. Problem was no one talked to the people who did sound and the room had to be abandoned. Moving those lights switches is not a possibility.
What ever system we go with will be fixed. Any portable systems we have tend to walk, parts go missing and get broken too often. We have a conduit system to run cables through. but not up where the lights would go. Cabling is awkward but not impossible . I want to mount the lights on bars that can be lowered to work on instead of using a lift to access them.
As for doing the work, our members built the church and any work we do is done by our members. We have electricians who are members, our town is so small I am not aware of anyone in town who would have any experience with this
I was looking at the lower end hardware systems. I didn't know there are software options so I guess I get to learn even more Smiler
Keeping the cost down is really important, I know if it gets too expensive it won't pass. I have thought about doing it in stages but I am concerned we will never get past the first stage. I was looking at these systems because expansion seems to be relatively easy.
To get an idea of where we came from three years ago we had spotlight bulbs screwed into 50 cent light bulb sockets screwed to a piece of plywood. Our lighting guy had mounted a bunch of dimmer switches on a sheet of plywood to control the lights. We had extension cords going everywhere.
If you're looking to mount lights in a manner where they can be raised and lowered(regardless of the reason, which by the way, yours is a good one), you're looking at motors and motor control. I've never seen the big lighting company I work with get that portion going, but it looks relatively easy. But, then again, what you don't see doesn't mean it isn't hard. Either way, I think you need to do at LEAST 2 motors per element to be raised/lowered. 2 motors ensures STRAIGHT lines. Yes, there may be some swing/sway, but that should resolve itself fairly quickly. You can save money by buying motors rated at slightly above(or way above) what you're planning to hang. I would strongly recommend trussing. You can do one massive truss in front and another in back(nothing wrong with that), or do you do smaller trusses left/right or left/right/center. There's a zillion ways to do things, and what's right or wrong goes with what is right for your purposes.

But, you're going to need to run power up those flown location. LOTS of power(well, maybe not, thanks to LED stuff). Need DMX cabling, or at least a single lead for going up into each flown element. Whatever goes DOWN also has to go UP and you'll want that to be as neat as possible or you'll at a minimum have a big ugly bundle to deal with.

Regardless, unless it's FIXED and permanent, you're going to have motors involved for lifting up and down. Ladders are relatively inexpensive, but not as safe as a lift. Lifts can get quite costly and you still should use safety gear.

Another idea is a catwalk system. You can use it for cable control as well as maintenance.

You're also going to need rigging points, or at least mounting points. You're going to need to bring someone in for that unless you know the load rating on the locations you intend to hang from.

I recommend against bars. Yes, they can work, but if you can find some triangle trussing or have some made from 1.5" aluminum tubing(might be good option), you're good. Trussing is expensive, but worth it. If you think square is too beefy or large, triangle is often a good alternative.

You've got the advantage of having in-house talent to do what needs to be done. That will be a tremendous money savings. MASSIVE!

I like your attitude. You DO want to do it right and this ghetto-mindset crap has got to go.
I do agree that cabling is relatively awkward but not impossible.

I'd say if you can start to use that room again you build for your sound and lighting people, get back to it! Just remove any windows, they need to hear. Don't make a room if you can avoid it, but rather an access controllable area, say, with waste high walls. Enough to say "Hey, if you don't need to be here, then please stay out".
This one is just in regards to software vs. hardware control:

I'm not an expert on the better lighting consoles. They can get quite costly, and it all really depends on what you need to accomplish with it.

I know that computer software for me has been a wonderful way to go. starting with a low-end controller, the ADJ/Elation DMX Operator, while light on the bank account, is perhaps too lite in features you might want. For then a small jump in price(if we compare what I paid for the DMX Operator), I could have gotten ADJ's MyDMX product, but it wasn't available in 2002. Things change.

Now, after 4-5 years with MyDMX, and let me just state that I really love the MyDMX product, I need something MORE. I'm pushing MyDMX past what it was ever meant to be used for in regards to certain shows I'm involved with. Moving to a much MUCH MUCH higher cost sofware package(well, hardware/software, the hardware is just an interface). Still, if I compare the cost of what it would run me to do this via a good lighting desk, well, it's just not economically feasible for me to go the hardware solution.

What's better? Who knows. Dedicated hardware is generally considered to be better, period. Doesn't matter, a dedicated bit of gear with a dedicated hardware platform is always the best way to go. Doesn't matter if it's data comm gear/networking, lighting or audio, dedicated hardware tends to give the best performance.

In this case, dedicated hardware may be a massive learning curve and not easily transferable to a new person without a lot of time and effort. I find with MyDMX, I can tell some DJ(not a slam on DJ's) with no experience wiht lighting software, and have them running pre-made scenes on MyDMX after a 30-second briefing. It's "Be in the USER tab, hit the scene button you like". It's honestly all there is to it.

Now that I'm learning CompuShow, I know I have SUPPORT behind me, but I'm choosing to use as little of it as possible right now to help me learn the software better. Once properly set up, you can probably get someone comfortable with the software in a couple of hours.

I'm a soung guy. I do lights because I have to. I don't have the desire to learn a lighting desk, at least not at this point in time. I work with computers 100+ hours a week, it's what I feel comfortable with. Many other people feel comfortable around computers. It's a natural concept for me. Throw me in front of an analog audio desk and I'm all over it. Digital desks, not so much for now, at least not until I can afford one and will then learn that one inside out.

So, I can only speak about lighting from my own experiences. What I will say is that if you stick with the Elation products, you have a one-vendor solution that can handle pretty much all your needs under one roof with ther various product lines and offerings.
Hi Impedious,

I hear and understand your situation. your still working on improvements in your facility.

For your budget committee i would propose using the Moth theory. All churches want to get more people in the doors.
Just as a light bulb attracts moths, so does a well lit church. the better lit up it is, the more people that will be attracted to it. If it is poorly lit then moths are not attracted to it.

Given the fact you have in house electricians will save you guys tons of $$. that is great, because that work is usually more expensive than the gear itself.

Anyhow my 1st question would be how much power your house lights consume. from what I hear about your church it may not be more than 40 amps but I could be wrong.

Considering your house lights are 40 amps.
I would recommend the Elation RMD620 dimmer. this is an installation rack mount type dimmer. its not a dimmer pack.
You can put this dimmer in the room where your house switches and audio stuff is.
You want to stay away from PACKS because you will continue to be rinky dink and the packs can disapear.. and they are not safe for a permanent installation.
The RMD620 installs into the house electrical so it should be easy for your electricians to move the house lighting to this dimmer.
Its a 6 channel dimmer.. 20 amps per channel. so you can use 2 channels for house lighting and 4 channels for the Stage Lighting
Retail price for RMD620 is $999.95

For control the best controller for you will be a Stage Setter 24. its an inexpensive pro dimmer console. Retail $239.95
You run a 100' DMX cable from the console to the Dimmer and you now have control of the 6 ch dimmer.

Now your electricians just need to figure out how to get power to the Par 38's from the dimmer. However for approximately $1239.90 you have all you need and it will be to code and professional.

Regarding purchasing I would advise not to go with on line. I would suggest you contact our canadian distributors and see if they can help you get the gear locally or from them. When you buy from Canadian distributors the products become ETLc approved with again is an Electrical code needed in Canada.

here is there contact info they will be glad to help you.

341 McNicoll Ave Unit 1
525 Morgan , Baie dUrfé Qc.
Montreal H9X-3T6
Telephone: 514-457-9663
Fax: 514 457-0575

Best regards,
Last edited by Jingles8302

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