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Thread: Oh no - flicker on all channels

  1. #1
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    Default Oh no - flicker on all channels

    I have been creating my sequences and watching the results on 16 channels of lights for some time with no problem. When I set up the real display I noticed a very distinctive flicker. I think it is probably 60 cycle. When I first apply power, some LEDs on the field module come on solid with no flicker, then go out. When I do a channel test, I see the flicker on the light strings as well as the leds on the field module. It is occuring on all field modules, all channels, and at all intensities. I tried unplugging the lights and the field module leds still flicker (SSRs still plugged in).
    I am seeing it now on the test configuration. I plugged into different outlets, made sure the serial cable is not running along/over power cables, etc.
    Any ideas??
    It is too late in the game for a problem like this.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Oh no - flicker on all channels

    Sometimes it helps just to talk about it! While writing the post and listing the different things that I had tried and changed, I realized that when I connected for the real display I had to put a longer cable between the PC interface and the field module. I replaced that cable and the problem went away.
    Whew!! That one had me stumped.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Oh no - flicker on all channels

    Quote Originally Posted by leroylee13 View Post
    I have been creating my sequences and watching the results on 16 channels of lights for some time with no problem. When I set up the real display I noticed a very distinctive flicker. I think it is probably 60 cycle. When I first apply power, some LEDs on the field module come on solid with no flicker, then go out. When I do a channel test, I see the flicker on the light strings as well as the leds on the field module. It is occuring on all field modules, all channels, and at all intensities. I tried unplugging the lights and the field module leds still flicker (SSRs still plugged in).
    I am seeing it now on the test configuration. I plugged into different outlets, made sure the serial cable is not running along/over power cables, etc.
    Any ideas??
    It is too late in the game for a problem like this.
    Never too late to troubleshoot.

    The initial power-up on/off you see is normal. It's the field module finding it's address. As I recall, it all happens in the 1st 10 seconds of power-up.
    You mention 16 channels. Are they always the same 16??

    I had some flicker last year, and did a couple things to help correct it.
    I went with the hard-coded PIC chips. You can find the code here.
    Still had a bit of flicker, so after talking to FireGod, we decided to go with a 6v voltage regulator on the computer module. He suggested this one.
    Check all your solder joints, and make sure all the CAT5 connections are clean and sturdy. Sounds like you're on top of the cable routing stuff.

    Mine do still flicker a bit while ramping up/down, but are rock solid once their illumination level is reached.

    Don't worry, we'll get it all fixed up.
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Oh no - flicker on all channels

    Leroylee,
    Normally this is a cable issue. If you continue to have problems PLEASE send me a PM or email because I travel a great deal and I might miss your post.

    I'll do what I can but again, I travel a great deal and sometimes it is not so easy to fix things on the road.

    I have not had any problems with PC Interface to field module cable length issues in my personal display. I have runs over 150 feet and it SHOULD work with runs up to 4000 feet but that may be pushing things a bit. With very long distances I am sure the cable should be industrial shielded cable.


    Thanks for the help Bill.


    Good Luck,
    David (FireGod)

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Oh no - flicker on all channels

    Just to add something:

    I do make my own cables, but when things go wrong, I ALWAAYS revert to a known good 10BaseT cable (ethernet cable). I always do my best to make a good cable but hey...........we are all prone to mistakes and I make my fair share of mistakes!!!!!!!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Oh no - flicker on all channels

    I read somewhere that intermittent flickers like this could be the result of spurious electric current running on the OUTSIDE of the cable -- just enough to cause a trigger to happen. It was solved by a balun on the cable just before the SSR. I have no idea if this is a helpful tip or not, but it could be worth a try...

    http://digwdf.com/store/
    The DIGWDF Store is closed for all sales. Thanks to everyone who supported us through the years!
    User guides, documentation and other files are still free and available for downloading.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Oh no - flicker on all channels

    Quote Originally Posted by leroylee13 View Post
    When I do a channel test, I see the flicker on the light strings as well as the leds on the field module. It is occurring on all field modules, all channels, and at all intensities. I tried unplugging the lights and the field module leds still flicker (SSRs still plugged in).
    It sounds like my FG has the same symptoms. I have tried the fixes you have mentioned with no success. My pulses seem random but that is only using my eyes, no test equipment.

    I searched for a short on the PC interface but have now way of knowing what I should be looking for around the chip sockets.

    I have tried a different wall wart (12V AC) with no help but someone on the boards mentioned that helped their problem.

    Did you populate your boards with the co-op parts buy earlier this year? (grasping for a common detail/clue)

    I think my solution (sad as it is) is to use no dimming as @ 100% the lights don't pulse even though the leds on the FM still do a bit, and continue to trouble shoot after the season.

    Consider trying a different power source and let us know.

    Greg
    Last edited by Greg in Canby; 11-30-2009 at 03:07 PM. Reason: Additional thought

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Oh no - flicker on all channels

    PROBLEM RESOLVED - thanks for all the help!
    My flicker problem turned out to be a bad cat-5 cable between field module and PC interface module. I confirmed this when i put the suspected bad cable between field module and SSRs one of the leds on the field module failed to light. Thanks for everyone's help!

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Oh no - flicker on all channels

    Quote Originally Posted by leroylee13 View Post
    PROBLEM RESOLVED - thanks for all the help!
    My flicker problem turned out to be a bad cat-5 cable between field module and PC interface module. I confirmed this when i put the suspected bad cable between field module and SSRs one of the leds on the field module failed to light. Thanks for everyone's help!
    Brings to mind a thought that many of us encounter problems and immediately assume it's a software problem, or a sequencing problem, or a bad PIC or triac...

    It's a good idea to develop a logical order of checkpoints for your operation. For example...

    1. Is it plugged into power, and is the power ON.
    2. Is the cable plugged into the controller and SSR/field module?
    3. Is the channel "on" in Vixen?
    4. Is Vixen using the actual plug-in for the show (or just a preview mode?)
    5. Is the controller getting the signal from Vixen (individual channel LEDs on the controller)
    6. Is the cable between the controller and SSR/field module okay (continuity test on each channel wire)

    If you have a battery-powered SSR tester you can certainly test it in place in the field. If it lights, then the problem lies elsewhere.

    If you use a typical Cat5 tester (for network wiring) be sure to disconnect BOTH ends before you plug the tester into either end of the cat5 so you don't accidentally whack something in the hurry to fix it.

    Important: Don't panic. Take your time. Develop a methodical approach that covers all bases. Remember the order of things:
    * Everthing requires electricity. Be sure the right things are plugged into the right power sources and the sources are working.
    * Power first goes to the computer
    * Software creates the signal pulses
    * Signal pulses go from the computer to the controller
    * Signal pulses go from the controller to the SSR/field module
    * Signal pulses are translated into on/off at the SSR/field module.

    And of course, remember that light strings have their own protection fuses, shunts/connectivity issues as well. Sometimes isolating the string from everything else and plugging it directly into the right electrical power tells you all you need to know, e.g. "does it even work?"

    http://digwdf.com/store/
    The DIGWDF Store is closed for all sales. Thanks to everyone who supported us through the years!
    User guides, documentation and other files are still free and available for downloading.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Oh no - flicker on all channels

    Firegod helped me with this issue in 2 ways:
    1) Suggested I up to a 6 volt regulator
    2) Check the network cable

    After upping the regulator, it worked (for the most part). But only after fiddling with the network cable (and ultimately replacing it) did the lights 50 feet away work to perfection (now if only the dogs on the other side of the fence would stop chewing up the strings of mini lights)

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