Power supplies
At a small indoor event it is normally safe to assume that at least one 13amp domestic socket will be available for connecting your infrastructure. If you will need more than 13amps then more specific plans need to agreed with the venue - in all cases it is advisable to inform the venue management of your requirements.

At larger indoor events and many outdoor events some sort of remote power feed is needed, typically a generator. Make sure the supply is stable and noise free as far as possible using a power conditioner where electronic circuits are to be connected. Festival grade generators have all this built-in. If using three phase power then make sure your power distribution plans balance the phases as far as possible.

We try to use different feeds for sound and lighting circuits even if they come from the same in-building source.


Power connectors
We use the following connection standards for plugs and sockets:
  • Main supplies from the generator or main incoming power source (wall distro) generally use 16amp blue 'commando' connectors. Blue is significant as it indicates 230v
  • Indoor portable equipment use 13amp domestic mains connectors. If there is any risk of it getting wet then IEC or 16amp are preferred as these are shiethed. A plastic bag is a last resort !!!
  • Fixtures (such as lights) use 10amp IEC 'kettle' connectors.
  • Low voltage connectors vary wildly with few standards. We try to standardise on USB type A for 5v and mini three pin (locking) XLR for 12v power outlets. Power inputs and extenders tended to be 2.5mm 'barrel' connectors for all low voltage connections, although micro-USB is becoming increasingly popular with manufacturers. Where practical we try to group low voltage power supplies together in an enclosure and connect that to the mains supply. It is neater and eliminates the need for thin trailing wires. We also try to use high quality, high capacity supplies with distribution rather than (often very cheaply made) individual plug-in transformers which are both bulky and tend to be prone to early failure.
As a general rule we try to minimise the number of fuses in any one circuit. IEC and 16amp connectors are not fused. Trips at source are better than trying to locate and rectify a fuse problem somewhere else, especially in the air.


Control signal connectors
Lighting fixtures are usually controlled via 'dimmed' power, switched power, or DMX lighting signals. Taking each in turn:
  • 'Dimmed' power does not reduce the voltage as would have been the case years ago. Instead it chops up the available voltage (pulses it very quickly or 'shaves' it) so that the effect is to reduce the amount of available electrical power that can be used. Different techniques are used for low voltage LED fixtures and mains powered, but the principle is the same. The method used is mentioned because this can cause noise emission from unscreened cables and should be kept well away from audio cabling.
    • We tend to use IEC 10amp connectors for dimmed mains voltage although 15amp round pin are not uncommon.
    • We try to use 5pin mini XLR connectors for low voltage LED (typically strip lighting) - RGBW and +ve return.
  • Most of our switched power uses IEC 10amp connectors, with the switching being 10amp relays either DMX or radio controlled.
  • We also use DMX controlled relays where no voltage is applied to the contacts at the point of switching, An example would be to control the release of smoke. In these cases we use 7pin mini XLR custom wired to suit the situation.
  • We use 3pin XLR for daisy chaining DMX control circuits. The exceptions are 5pin on the controller output, where we use a converter. Distribution is often via a wireless link.
  • It is likely that we will use ArtNET Cat5 cable base DMX in the future because of its ability to facilitate two way transmission and use standard network infrastructure. There may be a requirement to get feedback from fixtures or other controllers in the future but as yet none of our fixtures can do that.


Safety
Electrical safety: Venues will almost certainly require that all electrical equipment, including trailing leads, are PAT tested and certificates are available for inspection. Regardless of what the venue wants the tests are a good idea anyway. It is also good practice to label all connectors and keep a record of what is connected where. This is particularly important when dealing with three phase power where the different phases must be clearly marked using the current colour standards. As a general rule we do not mix phases in the same environment (on stage = one phase, above stage could be different)

Trip hazards: We try to minimise trailing leads and where they are unavoidable leave plenty of coiled slack. We use mats or specialist trunking to make cross-stage or entrance runs safe. Where practical we also sheath or tape cables together if they follow the same route to make them easier to manage. All that said, wireless connections are much safer and artist friendly.

The legs of tripod stands also offer a significant trip hazard so we try to cover them with a table, chair, or something similar, or use a hazard marker from foot to pole to highlight their location.

Overhead hazards: We always use safety cables when mounting overhead fixtures. And anything at or below head height is clearly marked with hi-viz tape.


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