Are cheap LED RGB bars worth buying for use in a small theatre?


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I work as a drama teacher in a high school and my department has recently allocated $2000AUD (around $1300USD) to purchase some LED bar lighting to augment the existing halogen pars and fresnels. Knowing little about digital lighting I did some ebay research only to find the prices of LED bars varying from around $100USD each up to many times that. My intention is to use them as a cyc wash and possibly as a kind of footlight as well. Our stage is around 10m wide by 9m deep. Would I be wasting our money buying a dozen or so cheap LED bars (6 downstage, six upstage) and a small DMX controller or should I bark up a different tree. Any thoughts?


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Demo one. Very hard for us to know if they dim well enough, have good enough color, and are bright enough for you. Dont count on ever replacing one with another that is the same, and don't count on ever getting repairs. I suspect a majority here would vote for wrong tree but if it works for you for a couple of years, so be it.


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Rather than searching ebay or alibaba, have you checked out any of the Australian stage lighting companies? They might import some of the cheaper fixtures but have the added advantage of meeting Australian safety standards. They might also be able to provide demo fixtures.


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$1300 would buy you one useful cyc fixture that would last a while..... an Altman SpectraCyc 100.... depending on height of your cyc.
Having a second controller for LED fixtures would not be the best solution.
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We got a batch of 40 inch long , 3 color units from American DJ that we use for special cyc-like applications. Attached is a shot from Wedding Singer . There are 5 units in use there. As was mentioned, you'll want to get your total order at the same time to ensure color consistency. Think of them as replaceable, not repairable and expect a little low end 'snap' to dimming. That said, we've used them in several shows to good effect and freely design them in where needed.

You mention needing a DMX controller for them. They will need usually around 7 channels to set the colors, intensity, strobe, etc. As a cyc where several will be used together, they can all have the same address and respond together. You could daisy-chain the DMX line running to your existing dimmer tower. (Maybe a 3 to 5 pin adapter, too). You don't say anything about your dimmer configuration, so just speculating. If you do need a separate controller, don't rule out one of the several PC based software packages that would let you use simply a laptop to control them.


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What lighting board are you using now? i myself would not use a second board to run any fixture on this small of scale.
I picked up a pair of ADJ 10-light bars recently for the band. They have decent dimming, if a little choppy at times. They are super bright and have good color mixing, even have a UV element. I've used them as footlighting, side fill, stage wash and for a host of other things. I think the pair cost me about $250 USD, I'm considering buying another set because of their versatility.


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I've used Chauvet ColorStrips in smaller regional theatre. A bit problematic? Yes. They tend to drop their address when powered off and require trips up the ladder pre-show. Perfect dimming? No. But, do they make my show better within the budget available? By a long shot.

I say go for it, UNLESS your current lighting console is not DMX. You don't want to have to have a separate controller; you'll never get the cues to line up.


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You don't want to have to have a separate controller; you'll never get the cues to line up.
Unless you perhaps want to recreate the olden days of piano boards and auto-transformer six-pack boards with multiple operators!;)
I am using some cheap LED bars from China. I chose the Eyourlife ones as the have integrated RGB LEDs as opposed to many which use separate 10mm LEDs. This gives good color mixing. Without any amber or white I am not sure they would be good for a theatre. I purchased 21 pieces and keep one as a spare. I will just sacrifice units for spares if I get failures but so far no need for that. LED technology is advancing so fast that I will be happy if I get say 3 years from them. Compared to Elation and Chauvet bars I would say that they are about the same brightness but better color mixing. With only 8 bit on each color, I don't get a lot of control at lower brightness. No flicker on camera. Build is quite lightweight. Power in and out makes them easy to hook up. Mounting brackets are designed for screws so you would need to drill them out if you wanted to use clamps. I am using under DMX so can't comment on built in programs. At $334 for 4 on eBay or $99 each on Amazon it's hard to complain. If you are looking for the best quality then get your credit card out and avoid these but if you just want lots of fixtures that work fairly well at a low price then take a look.

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You should also reach out to @kiwitechgirl and @Chris15 who are also Australia based.

I can't really help I'm afraid - work in orchestral management these days! My only advice would be to talk to Chameleon Lighting who do all our external (non-Opera House) stuff and they're great. Can probably advise you or rent you some LED bars so you can decide if it's going to work for you.


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In a lot of Victoria based Theatres we're all going for the Chauvet Ovation 640c units as budget cyc light units.
One of them will eat the budget you have allocated but will definitely do the job!

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