When equipment goes bad out in the field, it's extremely helpful if the owner/end user can keep track of the nature of the problem. This is especially true when the problem is intermittent or occurs when the technician is not present. ETC Service Technicians are exceptionally skillful, often working ‘miracles,’ but yet they are only human...any additional information you can provide will help the technicians get your system up and running.
Keep a Log
Put everything in writing. It helps to have a notepad specifically for this purpose that all equipment users know about. Keep it in a convenient place, such as by the console or dimmer racks. If the problem began before you started keeping notes, try to recall as much about the problem as you can.
Be specific. Note which circuits, equipment, or parts of your show are affected. Describe the symptoms specifically so that the technician can recognize them without seeing the equipment. Does the problem happen exactly the same way every time? Can you reproduce it? One of the most valuable services you can provide is to reproduce the symptoms you are seeing. If you can make the equipment fail while the electrician is on site (or tell him or her how to reproduce it back at the shop) the troubleshooting process can be shortened.
Do the symptoms occur at the same point in a certain show, or do they happen during a particular sequence of keypresses or lighting events? Do they happen every time?
What lighting system equipment is on and what is off? Was anything, including equipment not related to the lighting system, turned on or off at the exact moment the problem occurred? Are you getting any error messages or lights on any equipment? Which equipment is it and under what circumstances does this happen?
Have there been any electrical storms or lightning strikes? Have any computers or other equipment in your building been affected by such events recently? What about static electricity? Do you get static shocks from equipment in the area? Is the air abnormally humid for some reason?
Make sure your technician knows if the equipment has had problems in the past, or has recently undergone a repair or upgrade – it may shed some light on the equipment's current behavior. Has the equipment been sent out on the road a lot? Has it been dropped? Have any liquids spilled on it, even years ago? It's also important to note whether the equipment has been subjected to harsh working conditions: high heat, subfreezing temperatures, inadequate air flow, high levels of dust or sand, and so forth.
Was there construction work, welding, electrical work, etc. in the building or on the same block at the time the symptoms occurred? Sometimes large electrical disturbances can affect your system if you are sharing an electric supply with others in the building or other buildings on the block. Is this during a period of peak electrical usage, such as the summer when air conditioning is used? Less voltage supplied by the electric company can result in lights appearing not to be at full. Loss of one phase of your three-phase power will result in a partial loss of lighting.
Do recurring symptoms happen at certain times of the day or days of the week? Do they happen when the air conditioning cuts in? Was it obvious when the symptoms began or did they show up gradually over time, making them difficult to spot? Are the symptoms continuous? If intermittent, about how often do they happen? Ten times an hour? Ten times a week? Only once or twice? Did the system ever work correctly, or has this problem been happening since day one?
Have other equipment users or bystanders noticed the symptoms and could provide additional information? This may help nail down the symptoms. For example, if you are looking for a flickering light problem, you could ask actors rehearsing on stage to point at the light if they see it happening.
Try to provide some estimate of how sure you are of each piece of information. If some of the problems were only seen by a person unfamiliar with the equipment, the technician will want to know that. Our technicians are used to juggling concrete facts and maybes to come up with solutions that fit all the information.
Eliminate the Middleman
Does the problem happen for everyone or only one person? It is very important that the technician get firsthand accounts of the problems. Arrange for the technician to talk to each person directly. If someone who can describe the problem is not available to speak with the technician during business hours, appointments may be made after hours.
Remember Your Notification Number
If you contact Technical Support (800-688-4116) with a problem, your issues will be logged in our system with a unique notification number. Refer to this number anytime you contact ETC so that all of the steps of the process can be kept together. This will allow anyone who helps you to have the full history of your sites issues. Even after the problem is solved it is a good idea to keep a record of these notifications so there is a reference point if you ever have similar issues in the future.