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DIY light bulb on a dimmer - how to?


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#1 Mei Lewis

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Posted 23 April 2010 - 03:39 PM

Hope someone can help me with this.
I was at a theatre show a few weeks ago and one section was lit by a couple of the performers who held lightbulbs on the end of electrical cable and swung them around slowly in circles. The bulbs were clear and the filaments so dim I could look straight at them without hurting my eyes much and see the glowing red wire.

Here's a photo I took of one of them in use:
Posted Image

(The bulb is blown out because of the limited dynamic range of my camera, not because it was very bright, in fact it was very dim.)


I thought they must be special bulbs, but I talked to one of the performers and he said they were just ordinary clear household bulbs on a dimmer. He hadn't made the setup himself though so I couldn't ask him exactly how it was done.

Does anyone know how I can make such a thing? Can I just buy the right sort of bulbs, a bulb holder, a dimmer and some cable from a DIY store? I'm in the UK with 240V mains and I think this option might be a bit dangerous.
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#2 Jay Oxley

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Posted 24 April 2010 - 01:36 PM

Mei,

I can speak to the director I work with as he has rigged up something like this before which we used. When I get home tomorrow I'll grab a screenshot of what we used it for.

We wanted a candlelight look but only had a 600 watt hardlight so he rigged up something over a day with a few bits and pieces and it worked very well.

Jay
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#3 Hal Smith

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Posted 24 April 2010 - 07:58 PM

If you want to swing the bulbs around like the stage play, either get the bulbs that are used in mechanic's drop cord lights (they're called "Rough Service" bulbs) or the bulbs used in traffic signals and on towers 116 watt clear bulbs. Both have hardened, heavy duty glass.
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#4 Mei Lewis

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 09:12 AM

That's great, thanks Jay.

Hal, thanks for the tip. I don't think the production I saw used toughened bulbs, they broke one during the show!
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#5 Matthew Stocks

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 02:59 PM

I built a dimmer out of stuff from the hardware store. They were low on some stuff so I bought a dimmer switch that typically goes in a wall, an outlet plug, again the kind you install in your house, an appliance replacement cord, which is like a pre stripped extension cord. Wired it together and bam, a dimmer. Of course I should have built an enclosure for it, I shocked myself a few times. So if you DIY make sure to get an enclosure for it all.

For the bulb cords, they make cords like that, but you can DIY with an extension cord and a lightbulb adapter thing. Of course, if your going to be swinging it around, that's a bad idea.
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#6 Freya Black

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 04:07 PM

Does anyone know how I can make such a thing? Can I just buy the right sort of bulbs, a bulb holder, a dimmer and some cable from a DIY store? I'm in the UK with 240V mains and I think this option might be a bit dangerous.


You'll be glad to hear that 110v is also potentially deadly, so no need to feel bad, in fact you can drive more lights off that 240v!

As the other poster suggests you need to have some kind of enclosure too.

The good news is this can also be created easily.

Pop into wilkinsons and you should not only find a dimmer but the cable and socket too! Best of all there are the aluminium boxes that are mounted into the wall and the dimmer would normally screw into. They are about 20p or something! :)

My recommendation is that you get a cheap plastic dimmer. Those brass ones have more of a surface to conduct if things go bad.

I'm not sure if they will be compatible but there are plastic boxes for SURFACE mounting 13amp mains sockets. The single ones look about the same size as the light switch aluminium boxes. See if you can mount one of the dimmers onto one of these. I think you should be able to screw the dimmer into one of these instead of a 13amp mains socket. That should mean no metal surfaces. This will be loads better than the aluminium wall recess things I mentioned earlier.

Check and double check your wiring.

Most important. Replace the 13amp fuse in the mains plug with a 3amp one.

Wow swinging around lightbulbs! I wonder if they were standard bayonet fitting! Scary! :)
Bet it looked great tho!

love

Freya
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Aerial Filmworks

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Wooden Camera

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CineTape

Metropolis Post

Opal

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Glidecam

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Willys Widgets

rebotnix Technologies