My Own Space: Nearing Completion

At least I think so...

It's been nearly a month since I last blogged at all, and a little over a month since the last blog about the studio build.

A lot has happened in that time (as it well should have). In no specific order, there's been a cyc built:

Cyc In progress, layer one.

Cyc In progress, layer one.

The cyc got a coat of super-sticky-primer, only to discover that the hardboard was too flexible, and needed to be double sheeted so as not to crack at the mudded seams... suck. Re-paneled the cyc, over the primer. Now I need to prime it again (argh.).

I've taught myself how to do electrical with assistance from my brother in law. I only shocked myself once.

Wires. They carry electrons. Yay.

Wires. They carry electrons. Yay.

I painted a ceiling. With a roller and a brush. Uh... that derailed the timeline... A LOT. I put in 5 new circuits in the electrical panel, and now have four dedicated 20A circuits for studio lights, plus one for LED overhead lights. Installed a couple of track lights with PAR-30 LED's in them.

Hooray LED lights.

Hooray LED lights.

Then there was a little bit of a hiccup... back in my college days, I worked for a custom home electronic outfit here in Birmingham. We did SUPER high end jobs. Six-figure home theaters, one customer had over a half million in electronics in his house, just from us. Crazy stuff. 

During that time, I got really enamored with lighting control. As a photographer, it was kinda my bag anyway, and the idea that as a homeowner, you could pre-program lighting to match ambient levels outdoors throughout the day, or accent architectural features, etc., really intrigued me.

Anyway, fast forward to now, and there's no way I can afford fully automated lighting control for the studio. (Hah, I can dream though). However... there's a way to do it with standalone products on the relative cheap. It's even cheaper to do when you have a buddy who is still in the industry and has some dimmers that are pull-outs from a customer upgrade. So, I bought some used dimmers, and had remote control (line of sight, like a TV) 4 scene lighting control for 3 loads.

(OK, technical break. For those of you who aren't familiar, a "scene" is simply a collection of various dimming levels per fixture, stored as a preset. Scene one might be all three fixtures at 50%. Scene two might be all at 25%. Scene three might be fixtures 1 and 2 at 50% and fixture 3 at 25%, etc. I had three fixtures to work with, and four scenes. AND a remote control. WOOHOOO!!)

Anyway, I have a newer / slightly different version of one of these dimmers upstairs in our bedroom, so that I can turn the lights off from bed. I wired it up no problem. (Seriously folks, if you've never heard of a Lutron Maestro... it's awesome. Watch TV at night, click a button, lights off. No getting out of bed. Best $35 you'll ever spend.)

Basement studio, different story. Installed 2 of 3 dimmers. Turned on breaker. Breaker faulted and tripped. Ok, time to troubleshoot... Pulled the mechanical disconnect on both dimmers, turned breaker back on. Hey, no fault. Ok, time to isolate which dimmer circuit is causing the problem. Reconnected the mechanical switch on the first *POP*. 

Uh oh... The magic smoke is coming out... That's not good.

Breaker tripped, all was well, no fires, I still have both eyes and all my digits. However, once you let the magic smoke out... the electronics genie is out of the bottle, never to return to work another day. Down to two dimmers. Crap. I can't turn everything on from the door with a remote now... ok, easy enough, I just need a three way switch and switches by the door now. Ok, that's easy and cheap... Off to home depot for another double gang box, some wires, and two cheap three way light switches.

I tried to get them working for two days. TWO DAYS.

Y'all, I have a college degree. I loved physics in high school. I even really understood all the right hand rule electro magnetism stuff that most folks hated. Circuits were fun to me, it was like figuring out a map.


Enter my brother in law, the electrician. Turns out I was a wire short, which was causing some confusion. You actually need three insulated conductors PLUS a ground for a three way switch. Whoops...

Anyway, it's all good now, I still have a couple of nice remote control dimmers for the seating area, so that'll be cool. The track lights over the shooting area are on three way dimmers, so they'll be "pre set" when turned on, kinda faking the remote control thing.

Last things I need to do are prime the cyc again, mud, and paint. Finish trimming out the ceiling and duct work with a paint brush. Paint the walls over the rough cut lumber wainscoting, install one more track light, and then build the light fixture for the seating area. The end is in sight!

Lastly, a few more shots for those who haven't been following along on instagram. If you want to, you can follow me at @keithrophoto or #keithrostudio.