Automated Fixtures Automated Lights Rent or Own?

Automated Lighting?

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Personally I can see several cons to owning automated lighting and would never, ever recommend purchasing them unless you are planning on renting them out to others and have extensive knowledge of their workings. For most theaters that would only use them a few times a year for a few shows would spend almost their entire value in maintenance alone. If you have never seen the inside of a Cyber Light or a Studio Spot I would recommend checking it out at all costs. They are basically a conglomeration of small gears and moving parts. The other factor is changing technology, they have new software, boards and fixtures coming out on a monthly basis so owning them makes you almost guaranteed to not be able to keep up. Anyway, that’s what I have to say about that, I was wondering if anyone had any other input.
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intelligent lights

intelligent lights can be an extremly useful tool (plus they're fun to play with) they can allow you light multiple areas with 1 fixture and do many different effects. maintence from my experience is pretty cheap if you take care of them basicly its a new lamp every now and then and maby a replacement in a gel but the gels they use in intelligents last awhile. as for the technology changing all intelligent lights use dmx-512 the industry standard. and thats probally not gonna change for a long time. all light boards put out dmx512 unless otherwise stated the only boards that put out any other signal besides dmx is the nsi boards. so you should never have a problem with compatibility. the only con to intelligents is the fact that they are channel guzzelers. 1 moving head fixture can take up to 32 channels of control most moving heads it about 8 - 16 channels.
I was not at all saying that you shouldn’t use them or have them, I think automated lights are awesome. My feeling is just that unless you are going to be using them constantly, the cost of a theater owning them isn’t useful. And I wasn’t suggesting that they would be incompatible, but new fixtures do come out all the time, and it is in the best interest of the theater to have the most current technology. When you rent them you don’t have to worry about keeping up and buying new fixtures, you can just rent the newer ones. The other nice thing about renting automates is that most places you rent them from will come and hang the fixtures for you, do the hookups etc. This saves a lot of time when you are trying to get a set on stage.
Programming Help

Intelligent fixtures no doubt that they have incredible features that can open up very different ways of lighting a scene, but they also are very expensive (maintaining them can add measurably to your bottom line depending on usage, of course)

While it is in the best interests of the theater to have the latest and greatest equipment... most non-professional theaters (which make up a huge percentage of the industry) aren't thinking that way. They want a dependable fixture that's easy to maintain, flexible enough for their needs, and sturdy enough for their usage.

Anybody have great success with a particular moving fixture and has used it for 2 years or more without much maintainance?
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Studio Spots and Colors are awsome, I have used them several times. They require about one lamp a show for the most part, which can be very expencive but if you have the cash its worth it. The only down side to them is that the entire head moves. I prefer mirror lights like a cyber light, they are much quicker to move when you need them to. In the past we also have had problems with spots and colors not moving fast enough to clear things moving in or out on fly systems, so they require a bit of timeing so they dont get distroyed. Another advantage to renting is that if you do hit them and bang one up with somthing its not yours to worry about replacing and fixing. RENT RENT RENT thats what I have to say.
If you have ever seen a Cirque Du Soleil show, they use Studio spots and colors extencivly and guess what, they rent them. :D
Resurrecting this poll from 2003, as
1) I'm still trying to prove my point about renting vs. owning, and
2) I find it amazing the amount of mis-information that went on back then.
I didn't realize this was started 5 years ago, but I voted rent.

I only use moving lights about 10 times a year. Costs $65 per unit per day. So I spend about $650 per year per fixture. Even an Elation DesignSpot 250 costs about $2200 to purchase, so it would take nearly 4 years to get my money back on them. The LED par cans I own paid for themselves after 6 uses (3 month). Plus, there's storage space, maintenance, etc.
I have a pair of VL1000 TS and love them. They are powerful (flexible) enough to use in a LARGE variety of ways and they have nearly a 1:5 Zoom. We purchased these two about 4 to 5 years ago and have gone through 3 4 lamps and am having to have them serviced do to an error for the first time (gobo indexing motor)
Anything beyond the two that we use for multiple specials in any given show, and the occasional flash and trash I rent. Though our board is incapable of controlling more than one additional fixture. (strand 300 | 100 attribute)
Moving lights aren't something that will make your money back over night. I rent out my PS575s about 15-20 times a year. So each one is bringing in about $1600 a year for me. That's roughly an extra $6500 a year in my pocket. However, and this is key, I have clients that use them, and a groups that I rent them to.

It took two years before they turned a profit. As stated, the biggest up keep is the lamps. At $160 a lamp, and replacing once or twice a year, you are talking $640 in lamps a year at least. As for other maintenance, I clean them after every show, check gears, color wheels, and gobo wheels. No major issues so far. I am actually now looking at selling them and picking up some DS575s instead. With the DS575s, I can charge a more, but upkeep should be about the same.

Also, if you look at the time table, I turn them around when the warranty is up. So if I can't make my money back in 2 years or less, I don't buy the moving head. This way, any major defect is covered, and between the money I made, plus the money for selling them, I have money to get new ones.

So buy or rent, depends on: a) what you plan on doing with them as well as b) how much you can actually use them coupled with c) how much you can make a year off of them and d) if you plan on cleaning and inspecting them after every show or at least once a month while in use. My magic formula of buying and turning around doesn't work if you don't have time, money up front, and clients. All of these factors are important, so weigh them heavily.
I do own mine, but I am in the rental/provider business. I would put forth a caution to purchasing them. It's like a car, a descending asset. New and better is always coming out. As an LD also, I enjoy spending time playing with them. With an extensive background in electronic service, I am not too worried about service issues, although very little paper is published, especially from our friends in China.
They don't make movers like they used to! Anyone remember VL2cs? :p

Naw, in all seriousness movers are very hard to maintain. Parts are expensive, lamps are expensive and if they go wrong, they go wrong badly! (not just changing gels, or lamps as suggested back in ol' 2003! :))

I've seen a lot of schools (probably at high school level stateside) that have got themselves cheap movers. They are not used well, being jerkilly programmed, overused, badly positioned, noisy and badly integrated. In theatre, I often find movers are incompatible visually with other instruments (exceptions being tungsten fixtures like the VL1k, TW1, S4 revolution etc). For example, I can't stand having a beutiful blue lee wash being spoiled by 2 splodges of Mac stock dicroric. It happens all the time in school theatre over here - and looks tacky! I also don't always want the movers spinning round just because they're there.

There is an argument for movers doing the job of several fixtures (as shown on big budget productions). But if a mover costs £200, and a profile costs £20 - you've got to ask yourself is it more cost effective (and a better use of time and resources) to just hire the profiles? I also wouldn't consider letting my tech crews anywhere near movers until they could prove to me they could do a conventional focus perfectly! You can't run before you can walk after all :)

I have no problems with movers if they're done well. I also have no problems with them on things like rock concerts. However it is hard to do movers well (especially in school theatre), and what happens when the people who have learnt movers leave?
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I own about 100 or so moving lights and I am a full time repair tech. I strongly recomend renting them if you are only going to use them about 10 or so times a year. I cannot tell you how many times i have seen moving lights quit working just because they have sat too long. The motors freeze up typically, and the gears dont mesh correctly. Usually a few motors seaze up, and motors run about 30 bucks a piece. Recently at a school, a studio beam lamp power supply went out, it was 500 bucks to get the power supply repaired on top of 130 for a new ignitor, the power supply took out the ignitor. I just had a lamp power supply go out in one of my studio beams, and the shop called and said it was unrepairable, so highend kindly offered to sell me a new power supply for 1400 bucks. For 1400 bucks i can almost buy a used studio beam. Another example, is a club dropped off a martin MX-1 (250watt moving mirror) that kept blowing the fuse. Turns out the transformer had gone bad on the primary side. Transformer runs you around 200 bucks, and hopefully it did not take out the logic board, which is somewhat common when a transformer does go bad. Logic boards for moving lights run around 200-600 and up depending on the manufactuer. The logic board "set" for my clay paky stage zooms, its a set of three logic boards that control the light, run about 6000 for the set. The EPROM chip runs about 500, and they do go bad, along with the fans which run you about 150 a piece. The latest bill was repairing 8 x-spots with varing amounts of problems (wiring harness, old yoke design problems, power supply problems) ran about 5000 bucks. Last repair done on a studio spot was 1300, for a new lamp power supply. Lamps run around 100-200, lamp for our xenon moving head runs about 1000. (for those of you who are interested in the highend systems DL series, expect to pay about 1000 a lamp)
Well I think anyone who has been around the booth more than a week or two probably knows how I feel about the topic for most educational theater situations. But if they haven't see the gafftaper method.
I'm all for owning, but as an investment, its usually a bad one. You have to love the gear to want to own it. At my current rate, it takes me about a year to cover the costs of the purchase and my other costs, and thats before I make a profit! You also have to enjoy working on them and sometimes coming up with "creative" solutions. Also if you're going to buy chinese gear, you'd better really love working on them. And love buying lots of new chinese parts. Alternatively, if you buy chinese gear, just dispose of it when it breaks. Kind of like a domestic car: when it breaks, find a dumpster big enough.
As for a theater, it makes no sense, as the price is just ridiculous compared to conventionals. Rent for those shows.
Man, domestic cars, my gf's business has multiple vans with over 300k miles, and my truck has over 350k. Gotta love fords :D. Anyways back on topic, new thing i have discovered about x-spots, prepare to replace the lamp sockets when they get to be about 6-7 years old.

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