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Thread: Chasing gremlins...

  1. #1
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    Default Chasing gremlins...

    Sorry if this is the wrong forum, but not sure where to post...

    I inherited our Church's light show this year.
    • Renard 64
    • 16 SSRs - Most appear to be SSRez but some are different
    • Approximately 150 strings of M5 LED, mostly the Walmart Holiday Time brand ranging from brand new to 3-4 years old.
    • 7 CREE LED spotlights


    I added a Pi 3 B+ and loaded Falcon Player to run the show. All sequenced with Vixen 3 Release 3.6u2. Still a pretty simple set up I believe.

    Overall the show looks great, but I have flickering on channels with multiple (more than 2) strings, and flashes across channels when a slow ramp up or down is used in the sequence. At this point I'm basically shooting in the dark. No idea how to troubleshoot the issues other than trial and error. Hoping the experienced members here can offer some guidance.

    On the hardware side, I've searched the forums and found threads about "snubbers" and surge protectors in this type of setup. Those threads are all more than 5 years old though... Maybe they apply here since I have no idea how old my equipment is. I'm thinking of putting Glade Plugins ("snubbers") on the multi-string elements and adding the surge protector today to see if that helps.

    On the Software side, I was thinking of taking all the ramping effects out of the sequences and just using set level at various levels to achieve a similar effect. That would be a ton of work and lessen the effects, but I did that on a couple of effects and it cleared up the cross channel flashing in that part of the sequence. I tried adjusting the dimming curve filter to limit the output to the range I know the lights react to and saw no change.

    If you have any insight on how to troubleshoot or what to try next in a trial and error approach it would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Chasing gremlins...

    Download and install the latest Vixen DEV build and re-export the fseq(s), I was having flickering issues too and that may address yours, before we get deep into anything else.

    Sent from my ASUS_A009 using Tapatalk
    Last edited by Ruppro; 12-13-2019 at 02:42 PM.
    Matt

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Chasing gremlins...

    The reason the snubber posts are old is that most headaches for that technology have been tamed. In your case you need to be looking at grounds and cable quality. When using LEDs, some additional loads are a good idea. The older triacs did not handle the low current drawn by the LEDs. You might think this does not matter for a channel that is supposed to be off, but a super light load on a triac can cause current to leak through the trigger and cause it to fire.

    Next: The SSRs use a PWM signal to control dimming. That means you want a good quality CAT 5/6 cable running from the Ren64 to the SSRs. These cables and connectors can go bad over time. Can you identify certain channels that have a problem and others that dont? Swap cables. If the problem goes away or moves with the cable then you need to replace the cable.

    Noise getting into a cable can cause SSRs to trigger unexpectedly. Add a loop (8" Diameter) near the SSR.

    Some SSRs are sensitive to noise on the cable. Swap them. If the problem moves with the SSR then you might want to: Clean the PCB, replace the Opto coupler or replace the triac with updated versions.

    There are more things to do but this should get you started.

    I would not replace fades and ramps with set levels. This is not going to solve your real issue and as equipment degrades, your problems will return.


    2020 Full sized show reworked for the new location. Only adding (famous last words) 13 RBLs that I finally got converted to using pixels
    2019 - Just moved into a new home (yet another change of plans). Will be dim but not dark. Too much to do at the new place to leave time for a show. Dim show (3000 pixels) had regular visits most nights.
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyX...ttrsZNARkUce0Q

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Chasing gremlins...

    Thans! Just loaded 3.6u4 (build #937) and the latest Dev build #939. Have exports from both I'll try tonight.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Chasing gremlins...

    Thanks! I'll take a look at the cables and add the loops. No idea how old they are either. I could easily see where that could cause these problems. Then I'll start isolating the problem channels and looking at the SSRs driving them.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Chasing gremlins...

    It is most likely the Triacs on the SSRs being used with LED strings are causing the issue. The resistor style snubbers will work and take care of most of the issue, but to eliminate it, they need changed. I did some research on it a while back and found that two triacs that work great.
    Check out my video on it see if this is what you are experiencing.....
    http://doityourselfchristmas.com/for...SS-controllers
    James Family Christmas - 1600 channels of SS Renard channels
    Website - http://jamesfamilychristmas.com/ <<broken
    Facebook - James Family Christmas


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Chasing gremlins...

    You did not mention whether you have changed the Ren64 software to run in PWM mode. If you dont, then max brightness will flicker badly because the triacs fail to latch when the Ren sends out the single on pulse. The snubber helps with this as well but using PWM is a better solution than a snubber. You can tell if this is the issue by adding an incandescent bulb / string to a channel that is having the issue. When the incan and the LEDs are together and the output is clean then it is highly likely you are NOT running in PWM mode. You would need to reflash the PICS on the REN64 to fix this issue.


    2020 Full sized show reworked for the new location. Only adding (famous last words) 13 RBLs that I finally got converted to using pixels
    2019 - Just moved into a new home (yet another change of plans). Will be dim but not dark. Too much to do at the new place to leave time for a show. Dim show (3000 pixels) had regular visits most nights.
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyX...ttrsZNARkUce0Q

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Chasing gremlins...

    Update - I went through a lot of the troubleshooting steps suggested and couldn't get any change in the problem. I focused on one issue today, channel 5 (Relay 2 channel 1) at mid-range intensity triggers channels 18 and 19 (Relay 5 channels 2 and 3). I tried different Cat5, swapped Relay 2 with a spare, added load to channel 5 strings (Really don't think that's it...), replaced channel 5 strings and power cords. Same response every time. I also remapped the affected channels in Vixen to no effect. Tried running a test from the laptop using Vixen, same response.

    I believe I have a work around for this season by remapping the channel 5/6 elements in my show and just not using channels 5/6. I'm sure I have other issues but that was the biggest one. Still no idea the cause but after all those attempts, I'm suspecting something in the controller related to those channels since the channels triggered on are on different relays. Any other ideas?

    I'm still not sure if the Renard is running in PWM mode. I'll verify that and all the components when I take the show down. Order a bunch of new Triacs among other things and prepare for next year. The goal now is to make the show work for the rest of the season.

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