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Design Issues and Solutions Lighting for a tour?

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by jamesmiller, Feb 12, 2009.

  1. jamesmiller

    jamesmiller Member

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    My name is James Miller, and I work for Hyd Productions. We are planning an upcoming tour, and they have placed me in charge of the technical plans for the tour.

    We will be traveling mainly to typical “Road-House” theaters that are setup for touring Broadway shows, etc. I have worked in theater for a long time, but I have never had to deal with the technicalities of a tour before. I was hoping that someone here could fill me in some questions that I have about lighting?

    Anyway, I really need to know how to handle the lighting for the shows. The show has not yet been picked, but it will be rather large, with a somewhat complicated lighting plot. As such, I need to know how to handle the setup of lighting in venue.

    Do we just create a brand new lighting plot for each theater? Do we use one master plot for ALL theaters? Do most shows tap into the dimmers and wiring already located in the theater, or do most shows bring there own dimmers and wiring?

    At our theater, we have SP plug-in bars for the lighting 6 fixtures at every 24” spacing on the electric batons, is this how most road show theaters are setup as well? On this one, I’m curious on how to wire our fixtures into the house wiring and dimmer sets… (ex: how long the plug cord needs to be to run from the fixture to the Tye in point).

    Thanks for any help you can offer, and I look forward to being a productive member of this forum!

    Thanks Very Much,
    James Miller
  2. BillESC

    BillESC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I'll assume you're not planning on carrying your own lighting.

    You're best bet is to advance the venues and obtain their hanging light plot. Using the venues plot re-circuit and color as required for your production. This should be done for each venue.

    You can request that fixtures be moved as required for special purposes but for the most part the less demanding you are the better the day will be.
  3. jamesmiller

    jamesmiller Member

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    We do have the required fixtures for the production, so I was thinking of just hanging our fixtures, and tying them into the house dimmers... That way we don't have to rely on every theater to have the same kind of lighting to pull off a consistant look.

    Although, if its a more standard practice you use house lighting, thats an option as well.

    Thanks Very Much!
    James Miller
  4. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    First, read this. Why Didn't I Think of That?

    Agreed. There are 3 ways you can go on this one, and varations of each.

    1. Carry everything yourself. This being, power, dimmers, lights, color, everything. Usually you still have to use the Houses FOH, so make that simple (3 color wash in 10 areas). This will allow you to get exactly what you want, including hanging positions over stage.

    2. Send out a plot with the rider. Depending on the show and how much the venue wants you there it is possible to send ahead a full plot. You will need to have a plot that is pretty basic as far as hanging positions goes. You might walk into a space with 6 electrics and a space with 2, you never really know. Get the theatres you are visiting technical packets and shoot for the best space, and then adapt to the rest.

    3. Use what the house has in the air. This method is by far the easiests. Most venues have 2 systems from the front, side, top, and back with a 3 colored cyc. Most have a few specials hanging on the 1st elec and 3rd elec. Not all do. Some might just have Front and back white light. If you advance the show correctly, you should be able to at least get a feeling of what each venue has.

    I would try to send a plot along, however, don't always expect that it will get hung correctly. Also, remember you are going to be limited on focus time, so hanging 150 lekos that all need strange shutter cuts might not be the best idea. You need to also consider color, try to have the venue supply it but carry some in the truck anyway. If you are carrying movers, you need to have everything for them including power distro etc.

    I would avoid carrying your own lights and running on the house dimmers. I think that might just kill you time wise. Not every place is circuited the same, its going to be a bear to get everything hung, circuited, and patched in 1 day for an evening show. Most touring road shows bolt all their fixtures to unistrut and pre wire and color them. The unistrut clamps onto the pipe and one soco connects to it. 6 lights hung and circuited in 2 minutes.

    I would bring your own console if at all possible. Inhibitive faders are going to become your new best freind. Have fun, its going to be a trip.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2009
  5. jamesmiller

    jamesmiller Member

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    Thanks for the information everybody! We intend to have the lighting controlled by a compter DMX controller, which we will carry. This is due to the complecated lighting in the show, and that fog machines, strobes, etc will also run off of DMX.

    So pretty much, its either use our own lighting that is pre-wired and attached so that it can be hung very quickly, or just use the house instruments. It's not really a big deal to us, because all the venues I have seen technical information for have plenty in the way of lighting.

    I like the idea of having all the fixtures pre-circuited and bolted though, and I'll be looking into the feasability of this. Only problem is, we will only have 2, 53' trucks to carry EVERYTHING. Also, due to the complex nature of the show, we proably will not be arriving day of the show. More than likely the day before.

    Obviously, the less technical way to do it is to just pack everything in, pre-wired and our dimmers, to patch into the road power connections. That's about the only way to get a constant lighting plot from theater to theater.

    Anyway thank you again!
    James Miller
  6. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    This seems to be an economic question, I.E. is the tour promoter expecting to pay to truck the lighting gear around ?, or are the venues expected to provide it ?. Who's paying for the time to hang your gear and IS there time ?, or is it faster and cheaper to use house stuff.

    If you carry lighting, I would bring dimmers and control - the whole schebang. If a space has the fixtures you need, in the quantitiy you need, chances are they have dimmers and control.

    If you bring it all (which most Broadway type tours do) you should expect the house to provide, a minimum of XXX amps per phase of power (usually 400), plus a pre-rigged FOH sufficient to handle the event requirements, some method of connecting your control system to FOH dimmers (usually via a DMX send or an in-house FOH circuit termination box), plus follow spots, plus power for audio, etc, etc...

    In this case, I would be researching the venues house plots to ascertain the minimum FOH you will find and tell the designer to design with that limitation in mind, including number of follow spots.

    If you expect the venue to provide lighting, then expand the research to include house systems, including unit types and quantities, number of circuits, locations, control, etc... with the idea that you limit the tour plot you expect folks to hang to something reasonable.

    Note that getting the designer to limit the system to what the typical house can provide, is a long dead art, in my experience and I have yet to meet the tour LS that actually researches the spaces, despite the fact that most all spaces have either the spec's on-line, or at least have contact info. online. Well, not true, as I had a LD/SM last Sunday that was very proficient at her planning.


    Or do it like the Kennedy Center Children' Theater does it. Hire a designer to design for a month's worth of events at Kennedy Center, then provide an adapted plot into a generic touring version for the assorted houses to hang. Leave it up to the tour lighting supervisor (who usually was not involved with the month's run at Kennedy) to discover that the plot needs to be adapted to something smaller (sometimes MUCH smaller) in about half the houses, all while on the road, attempting to stay ahead of the deluge of e-mails, cranking out adapted plots for houses like mine that have it written in to the contract that YOUR agent signed, that you will use the Rep Plot as existing in the theater or pay for the change and back. I've done 5 KCCT events in as many years and the crew is ALWAYS un-happy (with tour management) and never returns with a tour.

    Side Note that we have a 5 truck tour of Annie coming in May. They have a requirement for a 60ft, grid as MINIMUM. Their agent signed the contract for our venue, where the grid is 42ft., without any attempt at contacting any of the tour tech personnel (who might not have been hired at the time) to find out if our space is too small. As Annie has a LOT of scene changes, usually many done with drops, one wonders how this is going to work. WE signed the contract with the OLD rider that is NOT the same one we just got in the mail, that now says 60ft. grid, PLUS 2x400 amp, 3 phase services. We have 2. but the second is 100ft away in the other theater. Sigh. Tough titties on the 60ft grid though.

    Steve Bailey
    Brooklyn College
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2009
  7. bdkdesigns

    bdkdesigns Member

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    Sounds like you have a much larger scale than what we have, but here is an example of the rider for the current national tour that we have out on the road. Montana Rep
  8. jamesmiller

    jamesmiller Member

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    Annie tours with 5 trucks? Wow. From the show I seen (the national tour) a while back, it sure didnt look like they had 5 trucks worth of stuff. Although that huge-a** staircase had to take up 1 truck all by itself...

    Based on my experiance, for a show of this size and requirement, I have put into the technical rider a minimum fly space of 1.5 x the height of the proscenium. So if the proscenium is 20', the high trim for the batons must be at least 50'. So I guess even we are approaching 60'.... heh. We will have a fairly complecated fly plot as well.

    Also, based on what information I got from the production company, this is a self-booked tour. AKA: all expenses paid by the company, including theater rental and labor. I don't know if this has changed or not, but thats the last I heard. As such, the theater has no expense on the show.

    They have several shows selected, but I don't want to make that information public yet without the companies permission, since they have not made the show public yet themselves.
  9. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    This tour's at our venue 4/19. Third time for MT and always a well organized tour. Fits our space as well.

    Omaha Children's Theater is another good tour, well organized

    Maybe check out MT and OCT's websites to view their tech info.

    Steve B.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2009
  10. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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  11. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    The easy answer is to use the house rep plot, or to bring EVERYTHING (dimmers, lights, control) with you. In between solutions have always spelled trouble for me.

    Other than that, everything that has been said that needs to be said.

    Mike
  12. jamesmiller

    jamesmiller Member

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    We currently own 12 x 2 channel Sabine Wireless 2.4GHz systems, a 36 channel mixing board and processors. This is all the sound equipment that we have, and we intent to tie into the house cluster and amplifiers.

    As lighting goes, Since we own a rather large inventory of lights, it seems a waste to not use them. I'm looking into setting it up as Footer said above, with a pre-rigged and pre-wired truss to be mounted to each batten. Biggest problem is that we don't have any dimmers, and they tend to be very expensive.

    I don't know, this is information I'll have to take in and think it over for a while.
  13. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Bring your own stuff unless you can deal with completely shuffle around your lineset schedule based on where the house has electrics. Unless you can be extremely flexible with what goes in the air, bring your own stuff.
  14. TimMiller

    TimMiller Well-Known Member

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    When we regeared our tour for this year, we made it a complete package. There was always too much drama using house systems and some union places want to charge you per dimmer (20 bucks a dimmer a day adds up real quick). So we started carrying dimmers rigging everything. All of the movers and conventional are all prerigged in truss, so its just bolt together truss, drop movers down, plug in soco and dmx, and fly out. Quick and easy. Now not all venues understand the whole we need 400A at least. Had one place tie into a 200A disconnect and they were not happy when the 200A fuse went boom. So be sure to check and make sure there is adaquate power before accidently blowing up a fuse midshow.
  15. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    So rent a dimmer rack. You can probably get a decent 48 channel for about $300 a week if you're going to rent it for a number of weeks.

    As for your lights, I've seen them come in to venues 3 different ways:

    1. Permanently attached and pre-wired to unistrut, with Rosco US : Hardware : Sure Clamps to attach to the linesets. Then each section is transported on meatracks. All one does is hang the assembly on the pipe and then connect power via socapex/multipin.

    2. Lights in cases, hung on either the pipe or truss. Wiring done individually. I usually see this more with moving lights than with conventionals.

    3. Some type of pre-rig, such as swing wing or HUD truss. Upstaging is the only place you can rent HUD from, if I recall.

    If you have both movers and conventionals, you can also find a dimmer/distro rack, or order one, which will take a little time to build, but probably will be worth it. There's a lot of mfg who make them, and if you get a well thought out unit it will last for years and make your touring life a lot better. I seem to remember seeing an article that one company made one with user replaceable modules, so you could custom design the rack for the application, switching out dimmer modules, and distro packs at well (not while live, but still).
  16. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    The absolutely most important element of a 10ft Unistrut/Kindorf with 6 units rig - multicable rig, is having the rolling cart - called a meat rack, to hang the lamp bars on, and to get them on and off the truck and into the theater. Yo 'gotta have a way to move the bars.

    Steve B.
  17. houseoutgo

    houseoutgo New Member

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    just coming off the national tour of Girls Night The Musical, i would advise you to carry everything. I just carried movers, scrollers,fog and my console. Conventionals were supplied by the presenter. i went to a house in the north east that told me they couldnt hang our plot, which was supposed to be prehung when we got there, because they only had 50 feet of extension cable in the house. I wish i carried my own conventionals and dimmers.
  18. MSLD

    MSLD Member

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    If you do decide to create a master lighting plot for every theatre, make sure you have a small version of the plot to accomedate (i cant spell) smaller theatres, but i agree that your better off just advancing everything and make the day easier
  19. McCready00

    McCready00 Member

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    wanna go on a tour ?

    Work hard.

    Learn the new technologies.

    You need a good understanding of the basic stuff ( how dmx works, how electricity works... ).

    Make sure you know which way the female connectors go.

    Give you resume to the touring companies.

    You don't know what to read when you ****, read manuals.

    Even if you work in their shop for a while, you will learn alot out there.

    Go to bed at 2am and wake up at 7-8am for a while. Get ready for it !

    Good Luck



    Here you go.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 14, 2009
  20. Pie4Weebl

    Pie4Weebl Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Did you read any of the thread? Even just a little? No? Ok then.


    I would suggest carrying everything possible, and just have an efficient design to cut down the gear you need. Get Soco and a dimmer rack, if you are using truss make sure to get a motor package as well so you are fully contained. If you have your tour only using source 4 pars and moving spot fixtures you can make your load in relatively painless.

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