Adding LEDs/DMX to our theatre

CameronLD

Member
Hello all!

I am a lighting designer entering my final year of high school and looking to really improve upon our electrics crew. We have several limitations to major improvements, including a relatively small inventory of fixtures, and (perhaps most limiting) only about 70 dimmers to run our lights off of. This summer I had the opportunity to design at another high school in my area with a youth theatre company, where I had approximately 160 dimmers and a huge supply of fixtures to work with. After toiling with the equipment at my school for years, I was finally able to make a huge leap forward and design a show I could really be proud of, with the help of a fantastic theatre and equipment. That being said, I must now return to my school and work with a comparatively poor state of affairs.

However, I believe I may have found a way to combat my limitations at my school, at least partly. I would like to get this led par package: http://www.cheapdjgear.us/American_DJ_Mega_Tripar_Profile_Up_Lighting_System_p/upsys-14.htm through our Patrons of The Arts parent donor group. I think they would be willing to finance it, but I need to make sure it is what I need. I would use these lights as specials, with conventional fixtures making up our repertory plot and supplementing for specials where necessary.

But I have 2 questions:

1) Do LED pars like these need a "brain" at the end of a loop to control them? I have one already for a few color scrollers that I got last year, but don't know if you need a specific brain, or no brain at all, to run these. Would I need to get a dmx signal repeater (since I will have to string the dmx cable through the house as there are no dmx outlets backstage) to run this to the booth, which would be approximately 200 feet in dmx cable away from the stage (going around the walls).

2) One thing that I really like about these is that their power can be daisy chained. I just need to confirm the following: I would run all of these lights off of a single edison outlet backstage, but would be able to control the intensity of the fixtures from our lighting console if everything was wired properly, yes?

Thank you so much for your help!
Cameron
 

Bubby4j

Active Member
As far as your fixture selection - I'm going to let others chime in. All I'll say is those are DJ quality. There are lots of other options; DJ wise and non-DJ.

1) Each fixture only needs power and to be hooked into the DMX chain. Whatever is sending the DMX will provide control over the lights. This is another thing to think about, will your current lighting console handle this? Each fixture will consume at minimum 3 channels each (assuming you don't overlap them).

2) Up to 33 of this specific fixture may be daisy chained. 33 fixtures would consume roughly 528W. That's easily within a single circuit's capabilities, so long as there's not so much else on the circuit as to bring it to the limit. You would still be able to control each fixture individually, DMX is what tells the fixture how bright.
 

AsherSB

Active Member
Those are DJ Quality, I would try to find it in your budget to go for pro grade fixtures. It's like pars versus S4s, If you can't afford anything more I would encourage waiting until you can. For the time being consider renting if or borrowing from another school in your district.
 

Les

Well-Known Member
No, you do not need a "brain" for these. You're referring to the PSU for your color scrollers, which provides isolated DMX I/O as well as supplying 24v (usually) to the scrollers by way of a 4-pin XLR cable. Most LED pars/strips/bricks are self-contained* and only need DMX and 120v (pulled from a wall outlet, not a dimmer).

You should be fine with getting your signal out of the scroller PSU's DMX Out without using any repeaters. It doesn't sound like your device load is very high, and a single DMX run can span almost 2,000ft. Dimming and all that is internal to the fixture and controlled through DMX from the console.

*Some ChromaQ LEDs do indeed need a separate PSU, but otherwise, most mainstream fixtures do not, including the ones you linked to.
 

soundlight

Well-Known Member
I'm going to add another voice to say that these will be too dim. I've used fixtures with that output level and they just won't cut it. You want something with minimum 12 multi-chip LEDs, at least quad-color (RGBA or RGBW). What are your trim heights, throw distances, and other fixtures you're using (and what are they lamped with)?
 

Catwalker

Member
I am going to chime in here, supporting the people who recommend not buying fixtures that are too dim. I feel your pain at being a low-budget operation, but every time you turn on inadequate LEDs, you will feel the sting of wasted money, which is, for me, worse than being limited by not having LEDs.

Not so sure about the fixtures themselves, just warning about throwing money at inadequate fixtures.
 

Dionysus

Well-Known Member
+1 For suggesting you not go with the LEDs you linked. They really are not going to do what you would want them to do, and accomplish little to your lighting design needs.

Really from my perspective your highschool seems rather well off with "70 dimmers" (72?). I came from a highschool that had 32 channels of shoebox dimming (later upgraded to 64).... But still shoebox dimmers, and not particularly good ones. Powering 4 dimmers from a 15A circuit really is not as useful as you may want. Comparitivly most of the other highschools in the area having far less than that even. Either with 12 or 24 channels of dimming (at least with a higher per channel capacity).
Low Budget is the name of the game in most highschool theatre programs around here. Very few highschools having what I would personally call "adequate facilities".

Personally as a lighting designer I feel working within venue and budget constraints is a part of the job. Low budget does not have to lower your art. The trick is trying to make the most out of what you have.
I've done work in one venue with a quite large stage and seating for 350 with 36 dimmers. Shows looked good.
 

Colin

Well-Known Member
I agree with what everyone else has said, and would add that if you have funding for only about the $1700 it would take to get those DJ fixtures then you can make a whole lot of improvements to your conventional inventory with that amount, and have a much greater impact than those rather wimpy LEDs.

Unless your stage is really huge, your dimmer count is not the bottleneck in your capabilities.

Take a look at your cable stock to make sure you have enough two-fers to gang washes together and not eat up one dimmer for each fixture when you don't need the individual control.

Make sure the fixtures you have are of useful beam angles for the space, and if they aren't then fix that first. You might even find someone to trade with, which costs you nothing. Just need more fixtures? $1700 gets you nine S4 PARs, which is enough for a full top system on most high school stages I see (one which will absolutely annihilate those DJ lights in terms of output), or it gets you five S4 ellipsoidals which equals a front system or some specials. Those are high quality, high impact fixtures for your situation that will work really well for a really long time.

What lamps are you running? If they're old 750W EHGs in Altman fixtures for instance then buying a couple boxes of newer lamp technology like GLA for your most important systems can drastically improve what you're getting from your existing fixtures for just a few hundred dollars. Plus you can go down to 575W which lets you fit more fixtures on your scarce dimmers using those two-fers you got earlier.

Does anyone know how to clean and bench focus a fixture, and has it been done lately?

How about accessories? Drop-in irises are kind of pricey but can be useful when you lack narrow beam widths for specials.

If you tell us more about your inventory, dimming and control, we can help you figure out some good alternatives, which could have immediate impact while your school perhaps pursues grant funding to do LEDs the right way, which will cost way more.
 

CameronLD

Member
Thank you for all the responses, I really appreciate the input.

I've worked in the space for 3 years, and designed in it for 3 shows, so when i say that it is inadequate for what I would like to be able do, I mean that. I fully recognize how important it's limitations have been on my development as a designer, and am really thankful that I got my start here partially for that reason. I recognize the importance of designing with complications instead of around them, and with an exceedingly limited budget. I've been doing that, but I'm eager to take the knowledge and experience that I garnered working with limitations and expand upon them. It is a very limited space, please accept that from the person who has worked in it (and the LDs I have explained the space to in great depth that have agreed with my assessment).

Each dimmer can take approximately 2400w (which I believe is basically standard, yeah?)

I'm unsure of how more conventional fixtures would help. I always use all 70 dimmers with fixtures to spare (even with many twofered and threefered). I don't think that twoferring my warm or cool repertory lights would help, as I need that precision of my lighting areas for my designs. Similarly, I don't think that I can do much more twoferring of specials than I already do, as I often need control over the individual lights and their intensities.

We could improve our stock of conventional fixtures to allow us to move away from mostly using old fresnels (I believe them to be Altman, but we have no documentation on them) and Coolbeam SL ellipsoidals to include pars and more source fours, but I don't believe that would really improve our main issues. We have mostly 19 and 26 degree SLs, which is annoying to have the most of in such a large space, but we make it work. While I don't love them and they can be somewhat dim, SLs work well enough for our front lighting and some specials, and the fresnels work fine too. I'd like to add some pars soon, but from designing in the space, I do not feel that is a top priority. We also have 12 Altman EconoCyc lights that we use to light a white back wall. However, I am already contemplating ceasing to use that pseudo-cyc I'm favor of having more back lighting capabilities.

We use 750w HPLs, 575w (or possibly 550w) GLAs, 575w (or possibly 550W) BTLs, and 1000w FHMs.

My lighting console is an ETC Express 48x96, which works well (save for a broken disc drive which scares me with our inability to save shows). I've used it a lot and am quite proficient with it. Furthermore, our school will be renovated sometime relatively soon (as in 5-10 years), and it has been decided that we will wait until the theatre is renovated to get a new board.

We have a pretty comprehensive amount of Rosco gels, an alright number of gobos, and some accessories (such as barndoors, gobo rotators, and irises). I'm pretty happy with our assortment of those things, and they are the kind of items that we can and do improve on with individual show budgets.

Cleaning/bench focusing hasn't been done at my school as long as I have been here (neither has designing until I took over, honestly), but I'm making sure that we do that as soon as we can next year.

Does anyone have recommendations for stage lighting LED pars that are not as expensive as ETC'S?

I can also include a plot of mine if anyone would like to critique the way I use dimmers and my inventory, or to understand the space more clearly. Just let me know!

Sincerely,
Cameron
 

techieman33

Well-Known Member
I think that if you clean the fixtures you'll be happier with their output. You could also switch from GLA to GLC lamps, still 575 watts, but they have a higher light output. The trade off is that they have a shorter lifespan. The only way I see LEDs working in that budget is to buy generic Chinese fixtures. And I can't recommend that at all, especially in a high school. There are just way to many problems with going down that route.
 

CameronLD

Member
I'm pretty happy with the output of the lights I have, actually. But I'm sure they could use a cleaning and bench focusing regardless.

I'm not stuck within that budget, sound got 30 thousand dollars for a new board, mics, monitors, etc. A few years ago, so the money is here. We're in a quite wealthy area, but when I looked into Color Source Pars it was going to be like 4,500 dollars for 8 of them with some cabling, and that just seems like a ton of money for very few fixtures. Looking for more volume for that amount of money.
 

regaskz

Member
I have been a big fan of the Chauvet COLORado line. Usedlighitng.com has the COLORado 1-Quad tour for $350 each. I have used these as top light for dance among a field of S4 ERS and Fresnels fairly successfully. https://www.usedlighting.com/17797/chauvet-colorado-1-quad-tour

That being said, I spend some time in a small theater where the ADJ LED pars do the trick, given the throw is roughly 12-20', depending on placement.

I will also advocate for looking for used fixtures from a reputable company. Your profile says that you are MD, there are a number of reputable companies in the area (Barbizon, 4Wall, etc.) that I think you should reach out to. Have them prepare bids for you. You may receive a better deal that way. Best of luck!
 

Dionysus

Well-Known Member
Does anyone have recommendations for stage lighting LED pars that are not as expensive as ETC'S?

I can also include a plot of mine if anyone would like to critique the way I use dimmers and my inventory, or to understand the space more clearly. Just let me know!

Why not attach a PDF or JPEG with your drawings or such? It would allow us to make much better specific suggestions to you that may indeed help.

Personally you mentioning having cyclights, one of the first things Id change to LED if anything is cyc lights (if you are trying to free up dimmers, and they are eating up a number of dimmers). It may be difficult to get awesome cyclighting with LED on your budget, but if you are already looking into dumping your cyclights in favor for stage lighting than that would take care it rather nicely (and "keep everyone happy").
 

Kelite

Well-Known Member
Premium Member

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cbrandt

Well-Known Member
If you're looking for inexpensive lights, take a look at Blizzard. They produce a lot of very low cost, relatively high quality LEDs. I've personally had my hands on the Hotboxes and Rokboxes, but some others around here have used the puck versions quite extensively.
 

Bubby4j

Active Member
If you're looking at Blizzard I would suggest the LB-Par, it has the highest Lux/$ ratio of their cheaper pars and can be found for well under $200 each. The next best would be the Rokbox RGBW, which is brighter but more expensive at just under $300ish. All assuming they don't lie on their measurements and the fields of light are fairly consistent without a huge hot spot in the middle.
 

RickR

Well-Known Member
@Dionysus is right in targeting the cyc. Unless you do abandon it, converting to LED there is the biggest bang for buck. I find cycs great for all those music concerts.

Another idea is to go for a pair of cheap movers. I recently put 2 Chauvet R1 fixtures in a HS. They aren't wonderful, but can add a lot to a purely conventional rig.
 

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