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Purchage advice : conventional LED fixtures

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by ArthevalPe, Jan 31, 2012.

  1. ArthevalPe

    ArthevalPe New Member

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    Purchase advice : conventional LED fixtures

    Hello,

    I am currently an intern in a cultural institution in the DC area, and I am doing the research work for the purchase of new lights for our auditorium. I am working with the in-house technician who runs the lights.

    Our goal is to decide wether or not we need to purchase some lights, how many, what kind of fixtures. Our assumption right now is that owning the lights necessary to some shows would free us as far as programming is concerned, as we would not have to take renting costs into account.

    Our venue is used on a very regular basis (at least several times a month) for conferences and concerts (mainly classical, baroque and jazz). It is used on a more intense basis (10 shows/week) for a few weeks each year for shows related to specific themes, and on a less regular basis (about 5 times a year) for theatre plays.

    Currently, we own 12 Elation Opti Tri PARs LED.
    10 of them are on two rows of 5 PARs to light the stage. 2 of them are used as houselights (they light the ceiling).
    We also own 8 ETC Source 4 that are located in the ceiling and used as frontlights. However, whenever the 8 fixtures aren't all needed, the technician usually directs 2 S4 towards the walls to use them as houselights to compensate for the lack of punch of the 2 PARs.

    We are pretty happy with that right now, however, our issues are :
    -Using Source 4 as houselights is a waste. Adding 2 PARs would probably be useful.
    -5 PARs in a row don't really illuminate the entire stage. We would probably need to add 2 PARs at the end of each row.
    -We are worried that our current setup is by far not good enough for most theatre plays (most lighting plots that we receive usually ask for way more fixtures).
    -We encountered some issues with classical musicians who really don't like having powerful front lights pointed at their eyes (which means that they become hard to light properly as we only have PARs right above them), and who complained about their notes being too dark (even when lit by the PARs).
    -Very recently, we resorted to lighting a musician's notes with several PARs pointed at him, but one of the managers of the institution complained about the fact that too much light was going towards the audience (the PARs being obviously impossible to focus and not fitted for barn doors)

    Moving lights are out of the question (we have no use for them except maybe a few times a year top, so renting them is perfect), but I was wondering if any of you had advices about what kind of lights we should buy.
    We are mainly looking for LED fixtures, as we are requested to be "green", and as we are very interested by the lower costs in maintenance. However, our annual budget is under a lot of pressure, so we are trying to only spend money on stuff that would really help.

    What we have currently in mind is the purchase of :
    -2 Elation Opti Tri PARs as houselights to free up our S4
    -2 Elation Opti Tri PARs to complete the two rows above the stage
    -4 Arri L7-T Fresnels above the stage in order to have sidelights or backlights that we could focus and cut, and that could be used to light classical musicians and their notes.

    What do you think ?
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2012
  2. shiben

    shiben Well-Known Member

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    I think you could install a very nice system for the entire cost of those Arri Fresnels (I found some for about 2,500 bucks a pop, so your looking at dropping 10k on 4 fresnels.). Get yourself some not-Arri fresnels for toplight (take a look at ETC, Altman, Selecon). Go ahead and get like 10 or 14 of them. Even at 400 bucks a pop that will cost half as much and put out crap-tons more light. Throw in some 575W lamps to save energy. Those will cover the stage better, and will be much brighter for musicians. For house lights, you will probably want something brighter than your Elation Opti Tei PARs. Get 6 PAR56s and 300W lamps. Install on the walls evenly spaced pointed at the ceiling. Utilize all of your LEDs at the back of the stage, and use those for color washes, or hang them next to your fresnels, and use them as color tops. Buy perhaps 4 more S4s, and put them on the ceiling at a 45º angle to the stage, from Center,Center. Use these to light the orchestra, so they are not as in their face. Buy yourself some barndoors. Dont bother getting more LEDs. I would guess that you would still have a few grand left over, with which to do some other things. If your serious about beign "green", then spend all the coin your working with now (again, budget of over 10 grand; closer to 11 or 12) on Selador LEDs or some other flavor of true theater LED, use your current LEDs for houselights, as in all of them. It has to be too dark in your theater right now in the first place if you have 2 tri-PARs as your houselights. In my opinion, even though those Arris look like super nice units, they are a waste of money for what you are attempting to accomplish, in every area except the "green" thing. The thing is, for your budget, you could be installing a system that any designer could work with and will serve you well for a very long time, or put in something that you will want to upgrade soon as you will want more than 4 lights that you can focus. Use the monetary savings to offset your energy costs.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2012
  3. ArthevalPe

    ArthevalPe New Member

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    If we are going to go with tungsten, do you think the best we can do right now is to buy 10 Fresnels ? Is that it ? Do you think we should look at other kinds of fixtures ?

    The in-house technician didn't really want to drop the ability to do some crazy stuff with color with the house lights. I first thought about replacing them with some conventional PARs (which would be really cheaper), but even though the cost was way lower, he wasn't happy with the idea. He really wants to have the ability to do color washes in the house.

    The Elations are brand new and we are currently very happy with them, so I don't really see the point of buying Seladors to replace them. I mean, Seladors are still PARs, right ? It's not like they're gonna provide a nice controllable light, is it ?

    I wish I could do that, but the layout of the auditorium doesn't allow it. There is nothing on the ceiling at a 45° angle from the center. We have some emplacements lower on the walls at a 25 or 30° angle (we have the houselights PARs right there), but if we were to put S4 lights there, it would be even worse for the musicians.

    Plus, there is one thing I forgot to mention. We currently don't have any dimmers to speak of. We had some crappy Microplex Dimmers that were used with some cheap DJ Pars for some time (but just for the simple stuff. For shows requiring real lighting, they used to just rent lights), but before that, they were stuck with an old patch-panel that ended up burning a few years ago. One of the reasons the in-house technician wants to work with LEDs is to avoid having to buy dimmers. Do you still think it is still smarter to buy conventional lights if we have to buy some dimmers with them ?
  4. shiben

    shiben Well-Known Member

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    Well. As a first step, yes. The last show I designed had 19 fresnels, and about 25 Source 4s (ERS units) over the stage, along with 8 S4 PAR EAs fitted with tophats. All S4s had tophats as well, and the Fresnels all had barndoors except for 1, which had a tophat, so you can indeed get a lot more instruments for over the stage. But to start, if I was walking into your space to design, I would at the least want to see fresnels over the stage so I could make a nice, even toplight wash and separate it into some nice areas. Its just a start and you can add on whenever you need more stuff. But I would still start with enough fresnels to evenly wash your stage. Preferably at a 5' cut.

    Thats a good point, and honestly one I didnt consider. I generally like the look of incandecent light in the house myself, and have always figured if you wanted to you could gel them for color. However, if you like the abilities you get out of the LEDs, stick with them.

    Not more controllable, but you will get a much more acceptable white out of them, not some odd blue tint, which is why I would use them over an RGB fixture any day. With your current rig, I would move all of them to a backlight sort of position or a sidelighting position, so that you can use them for saturated colors, which they are really good for. However, I dont know how they will punch thru proper theater fresnels. They might be fine, someone with more experience would have to answer.

    I was figuring add a position (have a rigger put a pipe on the wall with some circuits next to it), but if you cant do that, obviously its something you need to deal with. Try adding some diffusion and dimming the front light to make it less intense to the performers?

    Oh you need and want dimmers, I can tell you that for sure. I think distributed dimming is going to be your friend here, choose dimmers that line up with how much power you have at each location, and then figure out how many channels you can use. Its adding to the cost, BUT your performers and LDs will thank you, especially for theater shows. If you have the money, I would go so far as to find out how much it would cost to install a 24 channel dimmer rack. Probably tons and tons, but its worth looking into. That would give you enough dimming to do dimmer per instrument on 14 over stage and 10 Front of house units, which would easily cover over stage tops and your Source 4s. Then you could use LEDs for everything else, and use them for your saturated colors, effects, and whatnot, but have the control over your tungsten lights.

    How many do they usually have? Is it a reasonable number for your space, and can you possibly power all of them without bringing in a generator? If you have power and money, consider beefing up your inventory. Obviously this would be if you can afford it and it makes more sense to own rather then rent, but it seems like you would probably use them often.
  5. ArthevalPe

    ArthevalPe New Member

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    We manage to get an acceptable white. It doesn't really fit in with the amber white of the tungsten S4s, but we never turn the blue channel all the way up when we make a white with the Opti Tris, and they give us something like a 5600k daylight white.

    It's not possible to add a position given the shape of the auditorium and the architecture of the entire place (it's a false ceiling. The existing emplacements are hidden in it). We obviously dim the front lights when the performers don't like the intensity. But it doesn't really look good.

    We asked for a quote for that, and it was priced between 10 & 20 grand. That's one of the reasons the technician really preferred to go with leds. It's also easier for us to get 10 or 12 grand in expanses for a few lights approved, than 20 that include a $10,000 thing that our bosses see as useless. (As far as technical stuff are concerned, our bosses are REALLY thick). We already have a pair of cheap 4 channels dimmers to operate the S4s.

    There were two other reasons we were really interested in the LEDs :
    -Whenever we have Baroque or Classical concerts, we have to turn off the air conditioning of the entire place (which isn't really audible in the first place) to get a perfect silence as some instruments don't produce a lot of sound. If we turn on even 8 1K Fresnels over the stage, it's obviously not an option anymore. So I am afraid that we wouldn't be able to use our tungsten Fresnels precisely in some of the cases where we want to use tem.
    -Our fixtures are not very high above the stage (again, it's not a big stage). So apparently, even with the AC on, back in the day when they had decent fixtures, the stage used to become really hot. That's something we are obviously trying to avoid. (Especially when we have some expansive ancient musical instruments on stage that can quickly get out of tune or worse because of that)

    They usually have something like 20+ lights, most of them being Fresnels and PCs (almost all our theatre plays come from Europe). But some light plots (and some shows) clearly need to be reworked for our stage, because it sometimes provides a third of the depth that other theatres provide.
    As far as power go, if we buy dimmers we should be okay. Back in the day, when they were using the patchpannel, the auditorium used to have something like 50+ fixtures.
  6. shiben

    shiben Well-Known Member

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    So it sounds like distributed dimming is a good choice for you, you can pick up some 4-8 channel packs and use those, and make the justification that the lights you are putting them near need them, rather than a huge expensive rack.

    The fresnels will actually be significantly cooler than 1ks, you can lamp them as low as 375 watts (and as high as 750W, I would choose 575 personally, but whichever. As for the heat issue, I personally would think at some point you need to make a call, heat or AC, keep the instruments in tune or have it perfectly quiet... Its a tradeoff that most spaces need to at some point make, and I dont personally think that spending 10k on 4 LEDs will help you. Those Arri fresnels are very nice, and if I was going to get them, I would probably cough up the funds to get 10-14 of them, do it right the first time. I would want the hanging color changing ones, as those are probably going to be the most versatile...

    If the plots you have coming in usually have about 20 or so instruments, I would have about that many... just as a matter of convenience.
  7. ArthevalPe

    ArthevalPe New Member

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    When we contacted our supplier, they checked with Arri, and apparently, only the L7-C (the color changing ones) are available right now. So if we were to buy these fresnels we would probably buy the color changing ones anyway, now.

    I wish we could cough up the funds to get 12 of them, but that's 30 grand... Well, actually we could (our annual budget is about 2.5 million), but I don't think that anybody is going to make that call, because of the sheer size of the purchase (for something they're not interested in). That's why we were planning to only buy 4 of them, in order to be able to have it go under the radar. The plan was to buy 4 now, then 4 later on, then 4 later on, then other fixtures, etc...
  8. PeteEngel

    PeteEngel Member

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    don't worry about dimmers. Check out the Robert Juliat Aledin led profiles and fresnels. Single white output in either 3500k or 5600k. Available now. And the European shows will know the gear as well. There was a good led showcase at George Mason last week by Barbizon with a lot of gear.
  9. shiben

    shiben Well-Known Member

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    Yes. With a solution even MORE expensive than Arris, I think we have a winner? The reason I suggest NOT going to LEDs at this time is it costs too dang much. RJ Profile: $2950. Arri Fresnel with color and a hanging bracket: $2500. ETC S4 Fresnel: $299. The OP could purchase 10 S4 Fresnels for the price of one RJ fixture. The OP can buy 4x 4 channel ETC Smart Packs for the price of 1 RJ profile. When the entire project could be satisfied with conventional units for the cost of 4 LED profiles, why not bother with dimming? This is, IMO, the problem with LEDs at this time: the cost is too high and the products not good enough to justify said price that it makes no sense to build an all-LED system now unless you are willing to pay 10x what you would normally pay on a per-fixture basis, and your only savings is dimming. Which is not so terribly expensive as to justify the cost of LEDs. The original system I offered of 14 S4 Fresnels and dimming for those could all by itself be had for under $8,000, probably more after dealers get involved. I could buy 3 Profiles from RJ for that, or 3 and change Arri Fresnels. Which is a better choice? I think that by price, conventionals are by far and away the way to go in terms of price, the quality of the light is a known and people are comfortable using them. Seems outrageous to spend 10x on a system when you dont have to. Talk about waste of money.
  10. mstaylor

    mstaylor Well-Known Member

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    To support Shiben:
    The problem with current LEDs are too expensive and when you add your next four, they will be a different technology. The LED market is constantly evolving and the current greatest are discontinued when the next generation comes out. If you aren't going to spring for an entire system, a tremendous outlay, then go conventional, use shoebox dimmers or smartbars for dimming.
  11. shiben

    shiben Well-Known Member

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    And you can get an ETC shoebox for 650 bucks (probably less thru a local dealer). Thats a really solid dimmer at a really good price, IMO.
  12. PeteEngel

    PeteEngel Member

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    LED fixtures are where the manufacturers are going. You can buy them now, or buy tungsten and dimmers and then buy LED later. (possibly much later) Yes LED's are more expensive on the initial outlay, but depending upon usage they can pay for themselves through power savings in both electricity for the fixtures, for HVAC, standard maintenence, etc. I attended a green technology seminar at LDI that did a LED replacement of a small TV studio and (admittedly the studio uses power more than the theatre) they would pay for their fixtures in 1.5 years.
    check out:
    www.sustainablepractice.org/programs/ldi/

    this is where the green programs from LDI are kept. I was at the greener products seminar so I would check out that PDF first but I'm sure all of the articles will help people out.

    Yes, LED technology moves along at a fast clip, and what you may purchase today will probably not be what you can purchase tomorrow. No one would buy a computer knowing that in 3 months there will be something faster/better/more available. Chosing to go LED means doing ALOT of research, and regardless of which manufacturer one may chose in the end, it is worthwhile to do that research. and to keep doing the research. Just because you've seen 1 LED 3 years ago doesn't mean todays or tomorrows LED is the same thing. Theater isn't always about the cheapest, but it should always be about being smart.
  13. shiben

    shiben Well-Known Member

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    I dont buy that at all. I just cant imagine that you could save 27,000 bucks on 14 Fresnels in 1.5 years. Now, maybe in a studio where you are replacing 2k Fresnels on for 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, and have dozens of them, but its not even realistic in a theater scenario. To me, an all LED theater would be absolutely brilliant. But to do it right, using those Arri Fresnels and RJ PCs, you are looking at 65,000 bucks to do an upgrade. Plus dealing with 22 LED fixtures, you will probably need a console capable of handling them, so figure a round 75k for the entire project. For that, I could have at least 48 dimmers in a rack, and 80 fixtures of my choice, and Im probably still looking at having enough to buy some MLs. The price of LEDs needs to half before its even worth considering replacing all units in a theater (not a studio, remember. AC costs are 2-3 hours a night for 3-5 nights a week, not 10-16 hours a day, 7 days a week) with LEDs. Those RJ PCs look super nice, but too darn expensive.
  14. mstaylor

    mstaylor Well-Known Member

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    I'm not totally disagreeing that LEDs are greener and can save power costs over time. The problem is the OP doesn't have enough money to totally change out his theatre. He plans to buy four lights at a time, then buy four more at a later date. The problem is doing it that way he will not be able to get the same thing. Four LEDs over ten tungsten is not a big power savings but a huge difference in initial outlay. Until his powers to be realize that the investment in lighting is a priority he needs to stick with conventionals. He can buy a S4 this year and the same exact S4 will be available in years to come.
  15. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Solid advice from [user]mstaylor[/user].

    The number of fixtures it has taken us to get comfy with using more LED's than tungsten fixtures is 42. We have 14 Vivid-R's on the cyc, 4 Vivid-R's that float around, and 24 Desire 60's for stage washes. "Comfy" meaning we can stop hanging down wash fresnels except as no-color, and even then the D60's do a pretty good white.

    If we only had four D60's, I don't know how we'd put them to use -- it's not enough lights to do a front, down, or side wash -- could maybe use them for backlight as a cop-out. The minimum we could put to good use would be 12 or 15. Twelve if we use two at each pipe end for the first three electrics, or fifteen if we use five on each of the first three electrics for down wash fixtures.

    Other big thing you have to consider when moving to LED's is control. It's not so bad when you only have a handful of fixtures, but when you have 42 like we do, it likely means you have to replace your lighting console with one that's more LED-friendly.
  16. shiben

    shiben Well-Known Member

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    And thus more expensive.
  17. shiben

    shiben Well-Known Member

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    And if the lamp color doesnt match? Spend 200 bucks and replace a couple lamps. Your LED units start drifting apart? Spend ten times that on a new one which wont match anyhow.

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