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Tips on Maintaining Technical Production Equipment

Tips on Maintaining Technical Production Equipment

Some recommendations on which pieces of equipment needs to have regular maintenance performed.

A series of articles on gear upkeep appeared previously on worshipfacilities.com. The three articles are full of great information which is why we’re giving them another pass.

We’ve compiled the articles into one, in order to bring you a complete guide for routine maintenance of your AVL equipment. These tips should help ensure your gear will run at its optimum.

With the start of the new year, when many people make a point of doing things in their homes like changing smoke detector batteries, it's also a great time to make sure you are maintaining your technical production equipment.

Here's a little reminder sheet on which pieces of equipment needs to have regular maintenance performed. However, while I'll give some recommendations, you should always go by the manufacturers specifications on maintenance frequency equipment maintenance needs will vary based on make, model, and usage.

Amplifiers:
The amplifiers for your sound system get very warm, and often have fans to circulate air through the case. The vents usually have filters to keep dust out of the system, and these will get dirty and prevent adequate airflow. Vacuum the vents and air filters on your amplifiers at least a couple times per year and inspect every three months to see if more frequent cleaning is needed. While you're at it, do a general cleaning of the rack they are mounted in to keep dust and dirt far away from the air intakes.

Consoles:

Your audio, lighting and video system control surfaces should be kept clean, and preferably covered when not in use and powered down. This will keep the knobs and faders operating smoothly and noise-free much longer.

Dimmers:
Likewise, dimming systems get hot and have ventilation fans and filters. Keep these clean as well, just as you would for your amplifiers.
Moving lights:

Moving lights, especially those with the traditional arc-source lamps, have heavy ventilation requirements. The vents for these lights should be cleaned regularly, and the fans used to circulate air around the components inspected to make sure are all in working order. Immediately replace any that have failed. Us denatured alcohol to carefully clean the optics if they are dirty.

Projectors:
These also generate a lot of heat and have heavy ventilation requirements. Keeping the projector vents clean is critical to the lifespan of your projector. And while you are cleaning the vents, examine the lens to see if it could use a good dusting or cleaning, which can be performed with denatured alcohol.

Any other equipment with ventilation fans should also have their vents cleaned regularly.

You've invested a lot of money in your gear spending the time to maintain them properly will make that investment last a lot longer and give you better performance.

Lighting

In my last article I talked about maintaining your audio system. While lighting systems may seem like something that shouldn't need much attention, there are several things you should be doing on a regular basis to keep your lighting system working effectively.

1.) For a basic theatrical system:
Dimmers should be kept clean, and any ventilation vents and filters should be vacuumed or blown free of dust on a regular basis. At the church where I worked, we tried to clean the filters of our ETC Sensor dimmer rack, as well as remove each dimmer module and vacuum them off, once a quarter. Dimmer packs can come in a lot of shapes and sizes, but all benefit from being kept clean to keep air circulation at its best. Accumulated dirt can cause poor cooling, and heat is a destroyer of electronics.

2.) Next, keep your lighting console covered when not in use.
Dust doesn't help much when getting into the faders and rotary controls, so a dust cover is a good idea.

3.) When a lamp burns out in a fixture:
("lamp" is the proper term; the "bulb" is technically the glass attached to the base and surrounds the filaments) Inspect both the socket into which the lamp is inserted as well as the old lamp's pins for signs of corrosion or arcing. Sockets tend to loosen up over time, and this can cause arcing and carbon build-up, which will lead to early lamp or fixture failure. At the first signs of arcing, replace the socket of the fixture. Sometimes you can buy just the contacts and wires of the socket assembly and replace them, making for a more cost-effective repair. These are inexpensive, so it's good to have some on hand.

Intelligent Lighting

If you own moving lights (aka intelligent fixtures), this requires a whole new level of diligence in maintenance. Moving lights have lots of moving parts, and if they have arc-source lamps (as opposed to an LED light source), they generate a lot of heat. Eric Loader, sales director for Elation Professional, commented to me that an arc-source moving light is basically a robot with an oven in the center. And while cooler, even LED fixtures generate heat internally.

Moving lights should receive quarterly maintenance.
Cleaning the fans and making sure all are operating is critical to keeping other components from suffering heat damage, and clean the optics with denatured alcohol. Inspection of the lamp and making sure you change out the lamp before it reaches its rated hours is also important. If a lamp runs beyond its rated life span, you run the risk of the lamp exploding, not merely burning out. If it explodes, other components of the fixture can be seriously damaged.

If you don't have someone on staff or a volunteer who both is comfortable with performing all that's required for maintaining moving lights and has the time in their schedule to maintain them regularly, consider arranging a maintenance contract with a local lighting contractor to ensure maintenance is performed regularly, properly, and safely.

Next time, we'll talk about video system maintenance.

Video

In my last article I talked about maintaining your lighting system. Today, we're going to get into maintaining your video projection system.

The main component of a typical video projection system that needs maintenance is the video projector.

Before you start, however, make sure the projector is completely cool. Some projector lamps are delicate and can break if the projector if moved while hot.

Most of today's video projectors use lamps that generate a lot of heat. Therefore, keeping the projector air filters clean, as well as the projector housing itself to keep dust away from the air intakes, is important. Filters should be cleaned regularlyprobably every three to six months depending on how much you use it. Your projector manual should give a recommendation.

While you are at it, also clean the projector lens with denatured alcohol. Apply the alcohol to a cloth first, and then use the cloth to clean the lens. Denatured alcohol evaporates completely and doesn't leave a residue, unlike many glass cleaners, so this is one of the better cleaner options. It's also less harsh than ammonia solutions.

Be sure to replace your projection lamp as soon as its rated hours have been used up. Delaying may cause the lamp to explode (not merely burn out), and this could damage key components in the projector requiring a far more expensive repair than merely the cost of replacing the lamp on time.

If you have a video switcher that sits on a table-top, keep it covered when not in use to keep dust out of the controls.

For projection screens, it's probably best if you simply dust them with something like a feather duster. If you get dirt on the screen, consult the user's manual for the screen to see what the manufacturer recommends. There are a variety of materials used in making screens, and some have special coatings applied. Cleaning with the wrong type of solution, or even rubbing the screen surface, can damage it. Therefore, following the manufacturer's recommendations is important.

As you've read in these last few articles, regular maintenance is important in protecting the value of your technology investment. Many maintenance items are best done quarterly. This may be a good opportunity to have an "all hands on deck" maintenance party for your tech team. Many hands make for quick work, and this is an opportunity for the team to come together as a group and build relationships (which is difficult to do on a busy Sunday morning).

Make it a pizza party as a thank you for their service and for taking some extra time to come help maintain the equipment they use each week.

 

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