Advice for Purchasing Moving Lights

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by ademhayyu1, Oct 15, 2018.

  1. ademhayyu1

    ademhayyu1 Member

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    (Apologies, moderators, if this is the wrong section to ask this question.)

    Hello,

    I am the Senior Lighting Director for my high school and I am in charge of designing the technical and artistic aspects of the school's fall play and spring musical. As well as other productions and events.

    I tend to make my questions unnecessarily lengthy so I'll try to make this one short. If we were to purchase moving lights for the school's theater, would one be enough? If that was a bit vague, allow me to put it into perspective. We are doing 4 productions this year, Steel Magnolias in the Winter, In the Heights in the summer and Ghostbusters between those two along with another small production I can't remember right now.

    My director told me that we should start off with purchasing one moving light and then in the coming years, purchase some more. I didn't agree with her because I couldn't see the point of having just one moving light for shows (maybe just as a special I guess). So what do y'all think? Should we just purchase one for now? Or wait to purchase multiple? Your advice is gratefully appreciated and I wish you all a good day.

    P.S.-To add a bit more context, we have an ETC Element 40 and our financial status is pretty low right now but we are looking at requesting a grant.
     
  2. Amy Worrall

    Amy Worrall Member

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    I can't see what you would do with one. However it depends what you're hoping to use the movers for, and what other lights you have available.

    If budget is low, I'd suggest not getting any movers, and making sure your rig is up to scratch with wash lights and a few specials. You can always hire movers for a show that requires them.
     
  3. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    I agree with Amy W. Plus if you buy one a year the chances of them matching is very slight. Whats available today is unlikely tobe available fonext several years.
     
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  4. Jeph H

    Jeph H Member

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    I would also suggest taking a look at The Gafftaper Method before making your decision. You don't always need movers to run a good show...
     
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  5. DELO72

    DELO72 Well-Known Member

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    I agree with the others. One moving light doesn't do much for you-- unless you buy a Wash and use it as a high Backlight or top light to paint the stage with color washes. Using a single unit for "specials" makes for a VERY lazy designer because the hanging position is fixed, meaning that while you can spin it into position to hit a target, the angle (which is a very important part of each light) is happenstance and frequently wrong for the desired effect.

    When making your decision on Moving lights, first consider how you plan to use them in the future. You don't want to buy a beam or a wash if you think you may have the need to use it as a profile or framing unit down the road.

    Always try to choose the quietest ones possible, as fan noise can be a big problem in smaller theatres. Also pick a brand with great service/support and a reputation for quality. You'll have to do a little research to find out which brands those are, and what people's experiences are. Getting it back up and running quickly is key if there is ever a service issue.
     
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  6. macsound

    macsound Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely agree with what everyone says here. Moving lights sound like the blackmagic we all want, then realize they're sometimes more of a pain to get what you want out of them.

    Here's another way of looking at it.
    If you get a theatrical moving light such as a VL1000 and are able to successfully demonstrate the quality it provides to a production, this may help strengthen your case on purchasing more.
    But
    If you get a concert moving light like a Sharpy or DJ fixture like a Rush MH5 and are unable to create quality improvements to the production, you may HURT your future ability to recommend purchases or rentals.

    Also, the upside of starting small, using something like the Gafftaper method and implementing slow moving clouds into an otherwise static stage using a film effects or the like, you might show your colleagues how creative you are and they will be willing to push for grants or portions of grants so you can work your magic.
     
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  7. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    I would echo what others have said. Minimum 6-8 units would be useful for...something. If you're really dipping your toes into the water, I would start by doing a couple rentals from local production houses to learn what you'll get decent use out of, what you won't -- also will let you figure out who you have in your neighborhood for servicing fixtures. Just going out and buying 1 or 2 fixture is waste of money and won't give you enough to work with when it comes time to paint light on stage.

    I wouldn't get into ML's though if your base lighting package is still dimmers and tungsten fixtures. You'd get more bang for the buck purchasing decent LED ellipoidals or PAR's and associated DMX cabling/infrastructure/etc than getting into movers. Easier for a high school to maintain over the life of the fixtures as well -- if you haven't made this upgrade already, it's definitely what you should start moving toward because it's the dominant trend these days and one way or another your school will eventually be spending money on it.

    Also consider that moving lights on an Element are clunky. You don't have dedicated encoders for spinning on pan/tilt/zoom/focus. Programming will already be a little harder for everyone using the room because of the learning curve in a high school environment, but without physical encoder wheels it gets extra stupid extra fast.

    Resist the urge to get movers for the sake of having movers. If your high school just gets them as eye candy, those visuals get old pretty quickly. Most of the features of ML's will be lost on traditional theater shows and high school band/orchestra/choir concerts. I've seen a number of K12 and higher ed facilities buy into them without any long term plan for teaching students and faculty to use them effectively. Next thing you know they end up shoved in a closet with the gears seizing up from lack of use, or one part breaks and you don't have the money or know-how to fix them so they all fall into disrepair.

    Honestly, it's easier to justify the cost of ML's if you have a business case for using and maintaining them. If your venue is in constant use by different groups and you need to hang/focus/program lights quickly for clients renting the venue from the school, that's a much easier case to make for fast turnarounds between events than it is if your venue is dark 200 days of the year and your primary use of the fixtures is just to hang fewer lights in the air.

    My experience with school administrators is also that they do not realize the cost magnitudes on these items. When they're telling you "yeah let's get a fixture and then add some later", they may be thinking these are $500/ea. They have no idea you're looking at more like $5-10k/ea. Discovering that usually shuts down the conversation instantly. It also puts into perspective that if you need to start converting your tungsten fixtures to LED, you can do 4-6 PAR's or 2-4 spots for the cost of a single decent mover.
     
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  8. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    So I wrote "the gafftaper method" for schools in situations just like yours. What happens when your $7,000 moving light that you got a grant for needs a $150 lamp, or a $1500 repair, or who is going to do regular maintenance on it to keep it running properly 2, 3, 5, 10 years down the line? If your budget is not stable enough to handle those kinds of ongoing expenses, you do not need to be buying a moving light. Why? Because in 2, 3, 5, 10 years down the line it'll be sitting in a closet because it's broken and no one knows how or has the budget to repair it. This happens OVER AND OVER in high schools.

    I wrote the method several years ago and I really need to update it a bit but the core idea is the same. Do you have a full proper wash? Do you have any DMX accessories? What do you use the theater for on a daily and weekly basis? I have a very nice budget where I work, Although I have been able to pick up a few used movers along the way, I have focused all my spending on the question "What can I buy that will have a maximum benefit for EVERY user of the space?" Right now, I;m drooling at the idea of getting a set of High End Sola Frame Theaters, They are SO COOL. But they are also $10,000 each. In order to get any sort of use from them you really need at least four. So, about $40,000 would get me 4 Sola frame theaters. Awesome they'll be great, I would have a lot of fun with them. But, consider what I did over the last few years instead with about $40,000. I got a set of Chauvet Ovation Batten LED cyc lights for about $15,000, I spent about $10,000 expanding my wireless mics collection from 8 packs to 16, and I still had enough money left over to install 20 ETC ColorSource PARS as LED down light, and some no name brand Chinese LED's as side light. Which use of $40,000 is more useful to EVERY event in the space? Band concerts, choir concerts, every play and musical, guest lecturers, talent shows... Every user loves the amazing bath of color I can throw on the cyc and the stage... and there are no maintenance and repair issues compared to a mover.

    In the end unless you have a someone on staff who can do the repairs and maintenance, it's always better for a high school, small HOW, small community theater to rent what you need for a show and spend your money first on other DMX devices like LED's, gobo rotators, iCues, etc... Once you have ALL of those things, I give you permission to spend your money on movers.
     
  9. sk8rsdad

    sk8rsdad Well-Known Member Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    @gafftaper the DMX accessories phase is probably outdated. By the time you add an iCue, iris, gobo rotator, and/or scroller along with power supplies and cables to a fixture it would be cheaper and arguably better to buy a mid-range LED ML that does all of that in a single fixture. LED color changing instruments should be well ahead of DMX accessories these days.
     
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  10. macsound

    macsound Well-Known Member

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    The difference is, you probably don't need all the effects in a single fixture.
    Even in reasonably large regional theatres that I've worked in, they have a stellar house plot, so effects are added when needed. And typically the hang location of a certain effect light isn't right next to all the rest of your regular hang.
    Like for example, in Peter Pan, we needed a light to make the "shadow". It was a single 19deg S4 in the pit with an iCue. It was on for about 12 seconds.
    We also needed stars for when the set flew away and the kids were flying. We used 4 S4s with image multiplexers hung on the onstage electrics. On for less than 1 minute.

    Although moving lights provide tons of flexibility, you have to get the ones with the feature sets you need and not stifle your creativity to put a light somewhere unique, just because you have a moving light that might "make it work"
     
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  11. sk8rsdad

    sk8rsdad Well-Known Member Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    I guess things cost less where you are. In my neck of the woods, an iCue costs $1,033 CAD without a power supply ($190 each) or 4-pin DMX cable. A new Martin Rush MH5 costs $1,824 adds fixed and rotating gobos, prism, 2 color wheels, and a prism. If all I want is a moving spot then there are options out there for under $300 new. DMX accessories just aren't worth the price of admission these days.
     
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  12. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    It depends on what you are buying which is another aspect of this. I would much rather invest my money in an i-cue than a random made in China from Ebay moving spot.

    The basic point of the theory is you often don't need a full mover. You need one or two elements of it... most often movement or rotation. The Sola Frame Theater is the dream fixture for any school. But for the cost of one of them I can equip like 6 source fours with I cues and rotators.

    And in schools with low budgets and no one who knows how to set it up, program it, repair it, etc... components are easier and more useful to the whole program.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2018
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  13. macsound

    macsound Well-Known Member

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    Something I also appreciate is the baseline brightness that comes from a concise equipment list.
    If you have all Source Fours as front light and all ParNels (or whatever) as down wash, there's a consistent brightness your production team comes to expect.
    When you start upgrading to LED's, the same applies as you use all like fixtures.
    Adding moving lights will always skew the perception of what is possible, either brighter (with arc fixtures) or dimmer (with cheapish LED fixtures)
     
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  14. JohnD

    JohnD Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    One more thing to consider, is your venue ready for them? Data runs in place, and switched non-dim circuits in place where you need them.
     
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  15. LightParts

    LightParts Member

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    I agree with much of what's been said here. Especially about the console being appropriate to operate automated lights.

    However, schools are for education. Anyone in a high school or university theatre program that ends up in the business will benefit immensely from some understanding of automated lights. It's a shame educational theatres are still being specified and built without automated lights, but maybe the High End/ETC deal will finally change that in a significant way. Anyhow, a pair of smaller name brand automated lights (with warranty, no less) can be purchased for $4000. All the manufacturers have a b stock list. We publish them here (shameless plug): https://www.lightparts.com/b_stock?Session_ID=4d383f74167897cc8e5ef07acdac2fe6

    If they're LED, no lamp maintenance. And reliability of nearly all name brand lights has improved so much over the years. I know, we fix them all. Most of what we see is older stuff that is either worn out or got blown up, dropped, wet, etc. Pilot error, in other words, not poor quality or manufacturing. We're a warranty repair center for High End, Martin, Elation, ETC and others, and we really don't see that many warranty repairs. Yes, there is stuff that will come up, but you have to change lamp sockets on S4's from time to time too. Not a bad thing to know a bit about.

    Robert Mokry
    LightParts Inc.
    www.lightparts.com
    LDI 2018 booth #3016
     
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  16. LesWilson

    LesWilson Active Member

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    All the links in that article to other CB posts are broken. Also, the Youtube link.

    Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 7.28.54 AM.jpg

    Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 7.36.09 AM.jpg
     
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  17. JohnD

    JohnD Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Well darn, this was discussed HERE. @dvsDave fixed what he could and the blog posts are no longer available.
     
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  18. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Good points. I have begun over past several years to include movers in the basic inventory for a new school. However, if it comes to serious budget cutting - value engineering which one famous architect describes as that phase of design where you engineer out everything you value - movers usually go first - along with motorized rigging for shell and then electrics. With conventional tungsten units - one mover was a dozen or so units. At least with LED, its probably only 3 to 6. (A typical high school for my work gets maybe 120 LED units and 2 follow spots, and then 4 to 6 movers.)
     
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  19. StradivariusBone

    StradivariusBone Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    I can chime in from the perspective of a HS PAC that has recently purchased a pair of movers. I have a class of 20-30 techs that I work with and train to operate the building and we function as a baby roadhouse for our community. We do three mainstages and a number of other concerts and events throughout the year. I place a great deal of emphasis on training my kids and giving them experience. Over the past few years I've upgraded out downlight wash with LED and spent a lot of time and energy (and some money) adding in networking infrastructure to this circa 1995 building. DMX now exists pretty much wherever I need it. We have non-dim power where we need it. I have a long term plan and we have a decent revenue source (rentals) for doing repairs and upgrades that is pretty stable.

    That all said, the first thing I told my kids when we started training this year was that every single thing those movers can do I can replicate with a leko and some accessories. It just takes more time to set it up.

    It is a definite luxury item in the grand scheme of theatre lighting. My biggest motivator in purchasing them was training. I wanted to give my kids a toy to learn on and give them better experience for the future. I am positive it will be a fun tool to use for our shows and will be a nice effect when needed, but in using them I really just see them as a Swiss army knife of a light. My biggest pet peeve with schools and money and technology is that too often the pressure to make a purchase overrides the time needed to research and think out a purchase decision. I started thinking about buying movers maybe 3 or 4 years ago. If I bought them then, I wouldn't have any of the infrastructure I would need to use them effectively or experiment with various configurations in the plot. The lights I ended up selecting didn't even exist 3 years ago.

    That all said, there's nothing wrong with a HS buying moving lights, but what has been said about thinking through the long-term support of the lighting plot is an important part of the process. In OP's situation I think rental is the best choice. You'll get more lights and you'll spend less while getting the same experience. You'll also see where the weaknesses in your setup exist and have a better idea of where to put money in the future.
     
  20. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    The link listed several posts above works. Gafftaper Method

    You must have found some links to the old Wiki in your search. There is no Youtube video about it. Not sure what that was supposed to be.

    By the way for those playing along at home, I didn't sit down to write "The method". What happened is I kept preaching the idea that schools without a real technician on staff and low budget community theaters and houses of worship shouldn't spend a lot of money on a device that they are unlikely to be able to maintain. I've worked in too many places where it took months of begging to get $100 to buy some GLA lamps to just get the basic wash functional again (and yes I mean GLA's because those places couldn't afford to replace their 30 year old 360Q's). I once was in a situation where I got a grant to upgrade all my 360Q's to the super reflector and buy dozens of lamps so I could simply get my full wash of 30 year old zip strips, fresnels, and 360Q's working again. But in all these situations, everyone wants to buy one moving light to make the next show cool. No thought into who would operate it, maintain it, pay for repairs, programing time, can the light board handle it, who would teach the students to program it... None of that. So you quickly end up with a very expensive mover sitting in the corner that doesn't work and you can't afford to fix it, or no one knows how to use it. What was really needed at the time of purchase was enough fixtures for a proper rep plot, a few iCues, maybe a rotator (or rent the rotator!), a modern light board, etc. Yes all schools should have movers to teach modern lighting techniques and programming. But when your school has no tech staff and kids are just figuring it out on their own so no one even knows how to program a set of cues on the ETC Express (Been there, done that, taught them how to do more than just program subs), moving lights are not the answer. Focus on all the basics first. Then when you have all of those items, along with someone to operate and teach the skills needed, you can think about the movers. Somewhere along the way, someone around here started calling this way of thinking, "The Gafftaper Method" and it got turned into a wiki article.
     

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