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Question about DMX Dimmer Packs and Lighting Controllers

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  • Question about DMX Dimmer Packs and Lighting Controllers

    There's no traffic in the lighting forum, so I'm going to hope that is because you all have the lighting setup you want and don't need to ask questions as opposed to no one knowing anything about lighting!

    At my last church, I had to study quickly and learn how to program and run the NSI 16-channel Lighting Controller they had purchased a few years earlier. There was much that I never learned to do, but I could program scenes and configure chases for special events. I understood the hardware part well enough to get the lights set up; DIP switches on the DMX Dimmer Packs set the "channel" for the pack and by duplicating the DIP switches on multiple packs made them behave identically in case you needed more lights to behave exactly the same way at the same time.

    Today I am in a church that has no stage or theatrical lighting. I would like to make some recommendations, but I know that the NSI system I used is "old school" and there are probably software based systems that are much simpler and probably less expensive, and you can probably even control them from iPads now as well.

    If I wanted to make some recommendations for a starter system that could be expanded later, what are some good ones to investigate? Understand, at this point the pastor sees no real need and he is very conservative in "sanctuary appearance" discussions, so the idea of lots of lights hanging beneath the drop ceiling we have is not palatable to him, and he's not interested in colors at this point either.

    Part of this inquiry is personal in nature as I may be interested buying a small control system and then offering to use it for special events until he sees a benefit.



  • #2
    I think a more practical place to start would be: what do you want to accomplish? There are a lot of great system platforms out there now but they also sound like many would be overkill for your situation. If all you are doing is white light and no intelligent, a old traditional system isn't wrong. If you put in a solid infrastructure you can grow.

    Jands has a lot of scalable equipment if you want a place to start researching.
    Travis Paulding,
    Production & Technology Director, St. Simons Community Church


    • #3
      We added DMX lighting in our sanctuary rebuild last year. We had the same issues of people not understanding what it would do for us, but it has enabled us to set moods and bring an extra feeling that the sanctuary is a santctuary during our services.

      We have a total of 8 PAR-64 LED cans. Two are on the floor as backwash (not on the DMX) and the other six are on the ceiling. They are pretty unobtrusive. The biggest challenge was getting people used to having stage lighting in their faces, as before we just had general fluorescent lighting. (yuk) The cans were about $89 each IIRC, and the controller was around $120. It's a very simple 1-channel controller. (All the lights are controlled together. We'll probably upgrade at some point.) It does have a lot of effects, chases, fades, sound control, etc....

      Here's a pic of the stage with some of the lighting.


      • #4
        Interesting timing - we're actually using that same NSI console right now and are also upgrading. Our worship space is a warehouse, so we've always had some theatrical lighting, but until this year it was just 4 Source Four pars on a dimmer. In January we added 8 LED Par 64s (probably the same ones Mikeymo has) for color wash (all ganged together so we'd still fit on the 8 channels that the NSI gives us - we use it in the split mode so that we can save some presets). I've attached a couple of shots of our space as it currently stands:


        We view the color wash kind of as "digital stained glass" - a way to add some color and beautify a very stark, industrail space. At this point, we are getting ready to go all LED - replace the Source Fours & their dimmer with 6 White LED Par 64s, and also add a couple of smaller LED spots to highlight our cross and ASL interpreter (currently we're using two Par 38s for that purpose). As part of that project, we're also looking at a new controller so that we can gain individual control over each fixture (56 channels total). At this point, we're leaning toward a product called the Mini-D - it's a bit of a homebrew project, but I've been emailing with the manufacturer and it sounds like it will work well in our application. We actually purchased a Chauvet Obey 40, but found that it can't crossfade smoothly between scenes, which means it's headed back.

        As others have mentioned, it sounds like you need to figure out what you really want to do before you start buying stuff. If your pastor doesn't want visible lights, and doesn't want color, then it sounds like you've got some convincing to do before you start planning a system ;-)
        Eric Frisch