These Ads will no longer appear once you have logged into ControlBooth.

  1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Box Booms, Rail, and Apron Scrollers, Oh My!

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by jmac, Jun 22, 2011.

  1. jmac

    jmac Member

    Messages:
    157
    Likes Received:
    6
    I will soon be starting work on a musical show in a new (for me) venue that has alot more lighting positions than I am used to, so I would like a little primer on how to best use what they have. Most of the fixtures appear to be Altman lekos or similar.

    For FOH positions I have previously typically had only one pipe straight across, used mainly for basic area lighting. Now I will have a fairly high cove with 16-18 fixtures covering the DS and MS acting areas, plus a few specials. The balcony rail has maybe 8-10 fixtures.

    The two box booms each have 12 fixtures, providing two color washes.

    Then the apron truss has 5 fresnels (I think) with Wybron CXI scrollers, in addition to US area lights, specials, etc.

    I'm sure some things will become obvious to me once I get in there and start playing around, but I am hoping to get a little advice before hand, on how these different positions/systems are typically best used in relation to each other, and what relative color types/saturations are used for each.

    Also, would you use the cove, rail and/or apron truss for breakup washes, or is that better done from on stage high sides, etc..??

    Thanks for any advice you can offer!
  2. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,228
    Likes Received:
    187
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Inevitably, you're going to get every type of response here, as choosing positions is so subjective and varies based on the designer and the show. That said, however, I'll put in my two cents.

    Personally, I hate straight-in (or slightly angled) frontlight. I hang it and I use it, but I usually use it only to fill in shadows or when I really need that extra frontlight pop. Generally, I will gel my straight-in fronts in a lighter, possibly neutral color (R51, etc.), then use the box booms to push a hint more saturation into the frontlight. I find that keying with a slightly more saturated color from the box booms, then filling with a lighter color from the straight-ins, provides good facial visibility and color depth while not flattening the image. While many designers use box booms for areas to great success, as a general rule, I find that box booms are best suited to full-stage washes of color. In most theatres, two fixtures can adequately cover the whole stage in a wash of color, and they're usually channeled together because of the inherent difficulty in segregating areas. Honestly, with 12 fixtures in each box boom, you can easily get three, four, or even 6 different systems with them. If you know in advance you'll need to do a lot of specific areas, either plot your box boom units VERY carefully, or hang more units in your cove.

    For front breakups, I like to use both the balcony rail and the box booms. I like to hang a straight-in temp breakup from the balcony rail, which I use when I don't really want to see the frontlight. The low angle keeps it separated from the rest of your frontlight. When I have the instrumentation, I also love hanging a low-angle box boom temp wash as well. I hang two units as low in the box boom as possible and focus them across the stage. Fills the same purpose as the balcony rail temp wash, but it's much more organic and dimensional. I also almost exclusively use the balcony rail for set washes and similar. For a large show with a large vertical static set, I will probably hang both a warm and a cool temp wash focused on that scenery, and perhaps a scroller wash as well. In terms of lighting the talent, however, I mostly use the balcony rail to add shadow fill. For musicals, I like to hang a couple deep color washes (L120, R43, R21) from the balcony rail to fill in shadows. The deep blues work particularly well in night scenes to act as shadow fills, and the ambers work well in candlelit musical numbers where the ensemble is sitting around while a lead performs. I've had lengthy debates with designers about whether using these deep "shadow fill" colors is effective for trying to perfectly simulate natural light, but it really doesn't matter - I like the way it looks on musicals (never actually done it for a play, now that I think about it) and it works for me.
  3. jmac

    jmac Member

    Messages:
    157
    Likes Received:
    6
    Thanks, Rochem, for the thoughtful/helpful response. I'll throw in a little more info. now though I will know more tonite after seeing the space again this evening.

    The front cove has two fixtures per 6 areas ( 3 DS & 3 MS), so probably each more at 45-deg, not straight in. Each pair is on same dimmer.

    The box booms are set up with one fixture per color for each of those same 3 DS and 3 MS areas.

    Couple more questions- how does the apron truss scroller wash compare to the box boom washes; do they compete against each other? I'm guessing the scroller wash just blankets the whole stage, where as the BB's are more subtle..?

    Also, how do box boom sides compare to the high sides which are on the first two on stage electrics?

    Thanks again.
  4. jglodeklights

    jglodeklights Active Member

    Messages:
    678
    Likes Received:
    130
    Location:
    Norristown, Pennsylvania
    Box Booms provide more definition than standard front light systems, while still, assuming they are placed well in the space, preventing the occurrence of the shadow line down the center of a person's face that often occurs with high sides. Also, they are likely to have a flatter angle than the high sides, so they do not provide as much definition. As such, they are useful, especially in conjunction with front and side lights, to pop details out of set and costume pieces, and provide a well lit human figure. When used with cool from one side and warm from another or a different angle, they give increased definition and interest to the human figure. When used with more saturated colors and appropriate front washes or follow spots and side light color, they can be used to tone the set and costumes. In this case the front light or follow spot will be used to control visibility of the face. Lots of different ways to use them, many more than I listed here. It will all depend on the show.
  5. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,228
    Likes Received:
    187
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Where are the apron truss scroller units focused/what are they doing? I originally assumed they were toplight scrollers, but now that I think about it that doesn't make a lot of sense. So are they just a high-angle front wash then?

    I'm really not sure what you mean with words like "compare" and "compete". Every light you turn on in a cue should be turned on for a specific reason, not "because the cove lights were on and therefore I need to add the box booms as well" or something like that. For your Apron scrollers, I'd be inclined to use them to light the scenery - I always love having a single-color textured template wash on the scenery, then changing the front wash while keeping the same template as the show moves along. Besides that, I'd probably use them in the same way I talked about using my balcony rail saturated fronts - you could use them to reinforce one another, or try to contrast them - just make sure you keep in mind what colors (and mixes of color frames!) are in your scrollers as you design, unless you want to make new scrolls. As for how they all relate to eachother, this is basically what lighting design is all about - figuring out where to add and remove light, and how the light is getting to the stage. That said, I'll give you an example of how I might start writing a cue. Keep in mind that every designer is different, and this is by no means the right way to do it.

    Personally, I very much dislike frontlight, so I never start with that. In your example, my first move would probably be to bring the high sides up. These are good for sculpting out the actors. I have two different philosophies on high sides - on some shows, I color them and use them to help paint the stage and the actors, but on other shows, I leave them in N/C and just use them to add a hint of warm highlight on the shoulders and around the head. It depends on what else I have for sidelight, the inventory, the show, and lots of other things. I'd also add toplight/backlight/angled backs/side templates/specials at this point. For most cues, my lighting is mostly done at this point - I have sides for basic visibility where I need it, I've established the area and size of the world, perhaps I've established the area "outside the world" (dim blues or a temp wash around the acting area), and all that good stuff. Now I'll go to my box booms to add a little front fill, as much as I need to make the faces as visible as they need to be for this particular moment of the show (this is assuming I have no follow spots). I like to only add one side, or add one side significantly lower than the other, for even more dimensionality. An easy, go-to trick is to add box boom front from SL, then add your head-highs (or low sides/cross-shots) from SR - or reverse it - so that you have a clearly defined key and fill without being overly symmetrical. If I'm lighting a very small acting area and I need good isolation on stage, or if I still need more facial visibility, I'll then go to my straight-in fronts (even with the two fixtures at 45's to eachother on the same channel like you've described, I still consider these "straight-in fronts"). When using straight-in fronts, I have a tendency to add lots of specials for various scenes rather than just using "Area B" or whatever for a scene. I'll throw up the front areas for a full-stage scene or something bright, but anything isolated or having more dramatic lighting usually gets a new fixture.

    That may help, or it may not at all, but hopefully it gave you a little something. Make sure you put up photos in the photo thread when the show goes up!
  6. gcpsoundlight

    gcpsoundlight Active Member

    Messages:
    313
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, Aus
    personally, I hate scrollers, especially the wybron stuff. On a show i'm working on at the moment, out of the 10 we hired (From PRG no less), only 4 still work. it is really frustrating, and if your dmx is even slightly funky, they don't like it.

    Just my 2c
  7. jglodeklights

    jglodeklights Active Member

    Messages:
    678
    Likes Received:
    130
    Location:
    Norristown, Pennsylvania
    I, personally, love scrollers. Correctly implemented in a plot and cued up well, they can provide a variety of color that would otherwise be lacking or impossible. Just be sure to know what colors are in them.

    Currently, I have 31 of them in the air, 5 spares, 1 dead and 1 I removed from the air to inspect tension on the scroll. These are also Wybron ColorRam II's rented from PRG. Considering that I am, literally, working in a barn by the sea without heating or cooling or any air conditioning, the fact that only 2 have given me problems is surprising. When I do have an issue with one, I view it as no different than having lost a lamp on a fixture. I park it out if need be, and replace it with a spare before the next show.

    If you do have issues with rented units, then you should be contacting PRG for replacements. If your DMX is "funky," there are other issues at hand that should probably be taken care of. As the backbone of most lighting systems, DMX should not be put on the back burner when issues arise. Especially since it can often be something as simple as termination. Again, theater in a barn, with all the power and data cable run at load in. We made sure each of our three PSU's, our dimmer racks and our hazer were terminated, and that we didn't over run head-feet maximums for the data. No problems whatsoever in the data chain.
  8. shiben

    shiben Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,129
    Likes Received:
    223
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Yeah DMX being slightly funky is called DMX not working where I am from. If you are down to four your doing something wrong.

Share This Page