Author Archives: zekibeejr

About zekibeejr

I am an audio engineer / sound man by trade ... something I truly love to do. Writing, it turns out,is something I enjoy, the subject matter, will follow my muse. These days I have been very interested in a project involving solar panels, batteries and my job of making things louder ... I am hoping that you will find the blog both interesting and informative ... And that it might occasionally put a smile on your face. Please post comments and ask questions ... I will reply as time and circumstance allow ... For I too am hoping to learn something here! Thank you for visiting and good luck with your day!

Something to smile about.

I am incredibly near sighted … And have been so, as far as I know, all of my life.
Oddly … This was not discovered until I was in the second grade!

The human body is very resourceful and will try to adjust to make up for any challenges it encounters. In my case, with my vision being somewhat less than perfect, my hearing seems to have jumped into overdrive. The amazing thing to me is that this adjustment was not noticed until I was seven. Life was just normal!

Getting eyeglasses was huge. Wearing glasses sucked! Tickled the nose … Hurt the ears, but, oh the sights! … Trees had leaves! Facial expressions were a new phenomenon to me and television suddenly got a lot more interesting … At least until the novelty wore off!

It has taken several decades to realize that not everyone heard the world the same way I did. When 20/20 vision was handed to me as a little kid I did not immediately stop using the hearing skills I had developed. 

What skills you might ask?

Well … Have you ever been to the beach on a hot summer day?

 
It is a wonderful way to get away from the heat, and if it were not for all the other people trying to do the same thing, finding a place to set up the family blanket and beach supplies would be pretty easy.

Imagine yourself there … The sound of the waves crashing along the shore and the gulls overhead. Go down to the water and close your eyes … Now, add the noise of all those people. Not being able to see more than a couple of feet in front of you is going to make getting back to that blanket a bit more of a challenge.

My solution to the problem, that I did not know existed, was to just run up and down the beach yelling “mom!”. When I heard her I would know where she was … Blanket, cooler and sun tan lotion … and I would go … Normal!

Aside from being a very nearsighted and loud kid, it seems that I was incredibly skinny. All knees and elbows as it were, and if I have understood my mom correctly, with my ribs sticking out!

When she heard me she did not immediately yell back. She was afraid people would know who was responsible for starving this poor child, When I ran by she would answer loud enough for me to hear her, but not much more.

Echo locating? 

Hmmm … Apparently I was more than just “blind as a bat” … And perhaps things were not quite so normal after all.

Fortunately I wound up falling into a profession where my “ears” would be an asset. For the last thirty plus years I have been working in the entertainment industry as an audio engineer … A sound guy … And being able to pick sounds out in a crowd has been incredibly handy!

I love sounds … All sounds … Even that “teeth on the chalkboard” screech of a sound … I still cringe … But I do love it!

It has been a lot of fun learning how sound behaves, finding ways, tools and tricks for making things louder, occasionally a lot louder! More often then not, most people are not aware of what things coming off the stage I have made louder. 

To me the ultimate goal is making it louder without it sounding louder …creating the illusion that there is no amplification at all. Surprisingly, it turns out that it can still be loud without the audience minding that it is loud.

The right microphone used in a certain way with a high fidelity sound system can leave the audience wondering if there is a sound system there at all.

Now close your eyes again … This time the noise and mayhem of the beach is replaced by something you might not expect … You are at a concert and an artist is on stage … And you hear them, not the sound system.

If you are like me … You may find yourself smiling.

An Argument for Analog?

An Argument for Analog … 

Why Not! 

Technology has been screaming along in the audio world … Taking full advantage of materials and manufacturing techniques undreamed of when I first started turning knobs … Producing amazing microphones and lighter and lighter loudspeaker systems … And heading in directions I could not have imagined. 

The amount of control available these days is mind boggling! I have tried a few of the digital mixing boards and been impressed with the sound quality and some (but not all) of the bells and whistles available to the modern sound engineer … The clarity is amazing … Leaving me sometimes wondering what is missing!

Neat stuff … But I have decided to not make that Great Leap Forward …. I will continue to do what I have been doing all these years … Listening … And then turning knobs … 
Sometimes lots of knobs!

The amount of brain power I seem to use in listening seems to take full advantage of what the old brain is capable of these days … I am beginning to suspect it does a lot more than I had been aware of. The variables involved in the physics of a musical performance can be approaching the infinite … With different types of sounds coming from different places at different times … And then bouncing around the room to complicate things even more … Talk about mind boggling!

I am currently working on the Boston production of the Urban Nutcracker with a rather straight ahead control system.

The mixing board is a small format analog desk where I am using fifteen input channels to run the show. 

The mixer is “driving” a monaural speaker system and two monitor zones. To do that I have access to 482 knobs and switches on the mixer … And perhaps another 300 or so on the outboard processing rack.

In today’s world it is a bit of a luxury having direct access to all of their functions any time I would like to change something and I find not having to spend time looking for / getting to a particular function invaluable.

There seems to be a perfect time and place for a digital mixing console … I do not get to work on those types of events.

My world seems full of the less than perfect … A lot of unknowns with the occasional surprise being thrown at me during a performance … Analog rules in those situations.

The time spent getting to a particular control page on a digital mixing console to react to the changes happening on stage can be excruciating … And there can be a lot of changes happening on stage!

Being able to efficiently change different things with each hand quickly and fluidly would be a futuristic luxury in the digital world … I have had the tools to do just that for the last 35 years or so … And I am having a hard time finding reasons to give them up.

That said … I do love being able to take an I-Pad out on stage during sound check to fine tune monitor mixes … But sound checks are not always possible … And time … Well … In my world there is never enough! 

Someday there may be a hybrid technology … But until then … If I am going to need to do something quickly … 
                       ANALOG PLEASE!!!

The Truck!

Ah yes … The truck.

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First outing with the new array.

A 1995 Mitsubishi Fuso FH100, and I, the original owner,

What a machine!

The FH100 was a left over model the local dealer “found” sitting on a dock in Florida waiting for something to do … And did I have something for it to do!

I had had the pleasure of working with John Minnehan and his company “the Ultimate Video show” bringing a high tech video night club to lots of college campuses that were … Let’s just say … Off the beaten path!

Lots of miles … Lots of heavy gear … And lots of hours listening to some of the hottest dance music the 90’s had to offer … I am still in recovery!

But the truck was amazing at it. With a GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) of over 17,000 pounds and weighing in at under 9,000 pounds empty the amount of gear it could handle was beyond belief … It surprised a lot of weigh station officials over the years … The sad look that would cross the faces of the DOT guys as they opened the door and read the GVW tag was always priceless!

But I digress …

The truck seems to have been built for my solar project. With it’s small size and super heavy duty frame, brakes, suspension and cargo restraining system moving a bunch of batteries around with the truck was going to be the easy part.

I wanted to find a better way to solar recharge the batteries between shows, and with business picking up I started looking up. With 120 square feet of flat roof on the truck, adding solar panels to the “attic” seemed like a good idea. If I could find a way to permanently mount an array on the truck I was going to save a lot of time and trouble moving batteries around.

I wanted to have the panels “rail mounted” flat above the box of the truck … With the rail system designed to protect the panels and any low hanging tree branches from each other!

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The rail mounting system

I was curious as to how well the panels would work laying flat … (Instead of being angled at the sun) … But was pretty certain after 2013’s experiment that I would be able to recharge the batteries … I was just not sure how much the process would speed up, or how much power I would get … Never mind what, if anything was going to happen on those short winter days with the sun low on the horizon.

Time would tell.

While the truck was being worked on I went through and rebuilt the charging station I had made for the project back in 2013, tidying things up a bit, adding a web monitor and a wireless router to connect the rig to my I-phone and maybe someday even the world!image

I think I’ll need to rent a teenager to get that far … Any leads on finding one would be greatly appreciated!

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The new array! Four Sun Tech 235 watt panels.

I got the truck back from the shop with the four solar panels installed on July 3, 2015 and spent the next two days adding the electronics and cabling … Personally drilling two holes in the truck roof for the “glands” that the cables were going to run through seemed really wrong … But the glands, and the silicone sealant that were used have kept everything nice and dry.

The next day I got up before sunrise and made it down to the truck as the sun was clearing the trees on the horizon and found I had already harvested .194 kWh of power … Before the sun had even hit the panels!

 

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Rise and shine … Time to get to work!

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“Old Guy” taking a “screen shot”, 7/6/2015

The readings I took from the web monitor at the end of the day showed that the charger went into “float” stage around noon … With a total harvest for the day of 1.41 kWh of power … I was not really sure what that meant … But I was impressed!

As I sit here on a Sunday morning in late January, with six months of learning “under my belt” I am still impressed!

As for the short days of winter … Yesterday, a sunny January 30, 2016 the Sirus Solar DS-201 web monitor showed I had put 143.7 amp hours of power back into my 12 volt battery bank … 1.72 kWh of power … Not bad for four 235 watt solar panels laying flat on a winter day in New England … Not bad at all!

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Screen shot from 1/30/2016

One of those days.

It looked like it was going to be one of those days.

The morning walk around the block seemed to hint of it. A little mist rising from the stones … And more noise than one would expect from the neighborhood.

To chance it?

Why not! A quick step over the curb and the deed was done.

Where to? I never can tell anymore. Things change so quickly it makes my head spin! But a walk to the east is always nice as the sun does its morning yawn … Greeting yet another day … As if today was just another day!

Crossing Amsterdam and seeing the church again brought back memories … It had been so long since I had been inside … Perhaps a detour should be made … Though when you’re not sure where you are heading … Is it really a detour?

In the October sun the stone seemed both warm and cold … The place had that quality about it. Always at odds with itself it would seem … Perhaps that’s why I liked it!

Up the steps and thru the side door … Not wanting to be seen … Almost!

I never felt comfortable with the front entrance … Leaving through the great doors … No problem … But entering?

Never!

Some things are just not done.they

The stone of the place has a way of isolating things, yet somehow keeping them connected … Through the stone. The sun and the warmth in summer never seemed to be able to get in … Though it tried as the colors from the stained glass chased each other across the walls and floor. The city too seemed kept out … It was always easy to forget it was waiting on the other side of those walls. But sounds snuck in and meandered about the place … A siren coming or going … Or it’s echo …it was hard to tell … Barely noticed and then gone. 
Like so many other things!

Perhaps it was … just one of those days.

You only get 365 you see … One of each. To be spent as you wish … But only once … And then … Well … No one knows.

I still have most of mine … So today did not feel like squandering … But I did not want to waste it.

Around the cathedral a few more times … chasing echoes I suppose … and then back to the sun and what was left of life.

Copyright Greg Hanawalt 10/21/2014

Watch me build a new battery / inverter box!

I thought it would be fun to have you tag along as I put together my fourth battery / inverter system.

My current battery rigs work incredibly well … But are too heavy to get in and out of my truck with two people.

I’m hoping that a smaller, modular approach will work. The idea of having a box of batteries that could be used by itself for smaller events … But could also be plugged into a larger system for larger events is very intriguing.

I had an old amp rack sitting around that I decided to try out as a battery system. It was a well made case that I had the good luck of not being able to sell on e-bay … And with this year’s Dance for World Community adding another stage to power I decided to give it a try.

The case turned out to be an almost perfect fit for four group 31 AGM batteries … A total of about 5 kWh of power if I’m doing the math correctly … I only plan on using about half of that in an attempt to keep the batteries working in top shape for as long as possible.

The case was made of 1/2″ luan plywood with some sort of plastic laminate covering, all held together with very heavy duty aluminum extrusion … It was built like a tank!

My biggest question … Would the case be able to handle all that weight?

The case did make it a lot easier to wire up the batteries and inverter. The removeable front and rear covers were now going to be the top and bottom, with the main body of the rack becoming the walls of the battery pack.

Four Group 31 AGM batteries installed on back cover of amp rack

Four Group 31 AGM batteries installed on back cover of amp rack

The former rear cover had a nice set of casters mounted on a Baltic birch caster plate … And with the addition of a 3/4″ birch “sub floor”, a layer of KYDEX and another 3/4″ “collar” around the batteries it looked like a good place to start.

The next step was to figure out how best to wire the batteries to the inverter.

A circuit breaker and fuse are added to keep things safe and a metering system is added to keep an eye on how the batteries are doing.

Wiring layout for the new battery / inverter box

Wiring layout for the new battery / inverter box

Here I have the two panels I will be using with the buss bars, fuse holder, shunt and circuit breaker mounted on them. Adhesive backed shrink tubing will be added over the crimped on lugs for safety … and to help protect the wire from corrosion.

I am using 00 marine grade wire for the interconnecting all the parts and I will be using #2 marine grade wire to connect the 12 volt batteries to the bus bars.

It is very important to use the right size wire when working with low voltage DC. The general rule of thumb is to use the largest, shortest wire you can … Otherwise the resistance in the wire will rob you of too much power.

I am already thinking of swapping out the #2 cable for #1 … We’ll see!

Eventually I will be adding a 350 amp ANDERSON SB connector to the pack (to connect multiple packs together) and have included an “extra” set of buss bars to make it easier to do when the time comes.

The AGM batteries I am using are supposed to be safe to mount in any position … And I suspect someday someone will tip this case on end to get it off of it’s wheels. I’m curious to see how the spacers hold up under that!

I've added spacers between the batteries to hopefully keep everything in place should someone ever tries to test the

I’ve added spacers between the batteries to hopefully keep everything in place should someone ever tries to test the “mount in any position” feature of the AGM batteries!

A top “deck” will be mounted on the two power panels for the inverter, battery meter and the ANDERSON SB connectors.

A little paint and it’s time for the “final” assembly.

Wiring of the

Wiring of the “positive” side off the battery bank

I like the modular approach of this system a lot … Making changes as I learn will be a lot easier … In theory!

Having this kind of access to all of the connectors was wonderful … You should have seen (heard?) me trying to wire my previous rigs!

Almost done ... Just need to add the cover and a fan!

Almost done … Just need to add the cover and a fan!

Shrink tubing added … Circuit breaker and fuses installed … Notice the “trap door” for getting at them … as well as the 175 amp ANDERSON SB connector for plugging into my chargers.

With the cover closed up and the fan on the system has been working wonderfully.  The next step will be to add the 350 amp  connector and assemble a larger inverter / power distribution system.

A great project for this winter … Will keep you posted!

Ready to go to work! Trimetric 2035 battery meter on the top left ...

Ready to go to work! Trimetric 2035 battery meter on the top left, “Kill-A-Watt meter to it’s right and 1,100 watt sine wave inverter and the connector for plugging into my  60 amp solar charge controller below.

No time to lose.

Solar powered 9 volt batteryThe project had been working out nicely … But what to do with it?

The technical side of the project was going to be a pretty simple evolution … Make the systems more efficient, easier to move around / recharge and capable of handling larger / longer events.

Getting a small array of solar panels permanently mounted on my truck was added to my “to do list” … But the truck was going to need some work before attempting that project … Two weeks after the end of the 2013 Elma Lewis concert series the injector pump on my 1995 Mitsubishi FH decided it had had enough … An expensive “operation” for an eighteen year old patient approaching the 300,000 mile mark! … More stuff to figure out!

Letting people know about the project was going to be a little more interesting.

Facebook, Twitter and Blogs are all new enough that my laptop’s spell check questions their existence! … And I’m a lot older than my laptop!

Help was going to be needed!

Clara Rhee … One of the tech’s I hire to help out with some of my events has a degree in comparative media studies from MIT …and she was willing to try to explain a bit about web sites, Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, You Tube … by then my head was spinning. This was something I was not going to be able to adapt to in a day or two!

So a plan was put together for getting a web site and perhaps a You Tube video (or three) to start to letting the rest of the world know about the project.

Lots to learn and no time to lose. I was not going to get any younger … And things showed no signs of slowing down so that I could catch up!

Help came, as it sometimes does, rather unexpectedly.

I broke my collar bone trying to … Well, it’s a long story … Let’s just say that I have never been accused of being graceful!

I’ve had more than my share of broken bones … The collar bone bringing my total up to 14 … my least favorite to date, by a large margin … Without even having a cast to sign!

There is not much you can do when you break your collar bone. In the early stages of recovery even sneezing is to be avoided if at all possible!

So … With my right arm tied up for the next four to six weeks I started this blog and began catching up with all sorts of things “technical” …. Something that I had been putting off … For way too long … There really was no time to lose!