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Backstage lighting - temp and permanent

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by jamsession, May 1, 2008.

  1. jamsession

    jamsession Member

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    Hi all,

    noobish lighting question (I do sound primarily, but am developing a real love and appreciation for lighting technique)... I did do a search and always appreciate the expertise here.

    With the skylights covered in a gym, it's perfectly dark backstage. ;)

    I'm concerned about safety (my own included) and looking for best options for stage crew to see backstage.

    There are 4 outlets on the ceiling with a single wall switch (non-dimmed) - temporarily, I'll probably cable tie some blue rope lights above the curtain rail holders run from those outlets. It's a 15' ceiling, and having them that high will disperse the light a bit too much, but should still be firesafe and wont fall down.

    or I could use sticky hooks / gaff tape them along the back wall (white) at eye level. Would give good dispersion, still dim enough to not get in the way of the stage.

    I'm also looking for recommendations to give the owner for permanent basis.
    that would probably include something dimmable, maybe from the light board.

    Thx!

    Cheers
     
  2. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    I am sure you will get a lot of input on this question, so I will leave the details of what fits code to others. Backstage lighting is a tricky compromise as it must not interfere with what is happening onstage. One of my favorites is blue or blacklight. What is also needed is a panic-on system that gets things bright real quick if there is an emergency. I suspect the local codes are all over the place on this one, but I'll leave that for others who know better than I.
     
  3. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Occupation:
    Controls Technician - TAIT Towers
    Location:
    Lititz, PA
    We just run a bunch of clip-light type work lights with 25w blue bulbs in them. You can stick them anywhere and you can put a whole bunch on one circuit if need be. Very easy to set up, then you have light where you need it, and when you are done you can easily pull them all down and pack them up to store. We do use lengths of rope light to do floor level illumination of crossovers and sometimes even escape stairs. Very often we will put rope light under the lip of a raised deck so that people can see the edge for the step up.
     
  4. mnfreelancer

    mnfreelancer Active Member

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    Location:
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    We had a box full of about 10 of those cheap clip lights with 25W bulbs in them and blue gel. They usually got clipped to music stands for reading script or to the conduit by the circuit panel. Our stage right light came primarily from a row of bulbs attached to wall above the pin/lock rail on the fly system. They were dimmed with a standard lightswitch dimmer. Of course we had plenty of legs in that trimmed backstage light quite well, a luxury it sounds like you may not have? Also it's a good idea for techs to carry flashlights and for them to know how to use them so they don't shed stray rays onto stage.
     
  5. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    At a certain Magic Show in Las Vegas, all flashlights other than the 2x AA style with blue gel (color not specified, I always like L161) were forbidden, as the "artists" were afraid a bright flashlight would "expose the magic."

    I agree with the above. Two different systems: Worklights and Running Lights are needed. ClipLights (sometimes called Equity Lights) with blue bulbs are the standard. For those with unlimited budget, these are nice.

    See also this thread.
     
  6. jamsession

    jamsession Member

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    cool - thanks for the replies.

    I always have a mini-mag on me when working a show (along with a leatherman type multitool, light wrench, spare AA, AAA, batts, sharpie pen and a couple rubber bands. and what not. and a LED headlamp which lets me work handsfree and puts out just enough but not too much light. I put extra gaff tape on a couple walls outta sight and under the light board, inside the lid of a j-box, or in a 3 ring binder inside cover.

    I'd love to hook up the backstage with a night-light electric eye switch so it would always be on when backstage is dark, but having them all on one switch will be handy. I'm glad the architect/electrician put in ceiling outlets, on a single wall switch.

    Speaking of safety and good cable management, I love the plastic cable covers (speedbump troughs) that you put on a floor - some are yellow, bigger ones have a trough in them with a hinge. at local shop they were like $45 for 3 foot chunks that hook together like puzzle pieces, am looking for a good (cheap) source on that. eg;
    http://www.markertek.com/ProdList.asp?cat=CABLEMGMNT&subcat=&prodClass=CABDUCTING&off=40&mfg=
    if anyone has a favorite.

    last show we borrowed all the big floor mats (4x8') we could find, worked ok for 60' runs of S-VIDEO and cat5 cable, low profile so nobody tripped on them, people might trip more on the speedbumps, unless we go yellow and rig up runway lights ;)

    Cheers
     
  7. noiseboyalltheway

    noiseboyalltheway Member

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    Location:
    Glasgow city, Scotland
    I always found that rope lights were a good option, depending on how much works goes on in that area of the stage, fixed is better, but bear in mind that if the space is also used for set building and the likes fixed lighting might get in the way. we always use rope lights simply coz there easy to move as you dont know until you've built the set weather or not your fixed lights will be visable. we aslo have some fixed light controled from B/S but we normaly turn them off as they tend to leak onto the stage.
     
  8. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    I mentioned blacklight because it is one of my favorites for the R&R world. You can mark everything you need to see with reactive tape so your markings themselves are what are illuminating. This way you can put light where you need it without wires. About the only trip-up would be if a set piece was reactive and caught enough spill during a blackout to be visible.

    In the Rock & Roll world, often someone needs to enter an open stage with an audience present. Lighting lights, or even a flashlight can "disturb" the crowd. In those cases, often the open stage itself functions as backstage area so the equation becomes a little trickier to balance.
     
  9. jamsession

    jamsession Member

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    So in that situation I guess you just eat a lot of carrots :p

    Interesting tips - thx all!
     
  10. herr_highbrau

    herr_highbrau Member

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    Location:
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    I wouldn't go that far! Here are some suggestions I've used before -

    All the following rigged to the bars (pipes?) and dimmed from the lightboard
    1) Par 16s with Barndoors and blue gell
    2) Nocturnes with Barndoors
    You'd be surprised with how much you can get away with solutions like this! They're simple, but pretty effective for most shows. You can also shift them depending on productions. We used normal workers when the tabs were in.

    Non rigged solutions included -
    3) Maglites
    4) Ambient Light from the stage (dependant on production, you get quite a lot sometimes)
    5) Littlites! You get ones with red or white light which are quite cool. Rig them in crew waiting areas, props tables, SM desks. Obvious but simple.
    6) Glow Tape (or white LX) to indicate safe areas.

    Can't say I've used rope light before. What's the light output like? Does it make a difference if it's stuck on the roof?

    The most important thing in my book though is keeping backstage as clear as possible. If there's nothing to trip on/walk into then you'll find it easier to navigate in low light conditions.

    And don't go as overboard as one tech I knew, who was using Army Issue Night Vision Goggles backstage on one gig! Silly fool . . . :p
     
  11. DarSax

    DarSax Active Member

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    Location:
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    We use rope lights in a line on the ceiling, 8ft up. Provides more than enough illumination, and I doubt if its bright enough to really distract the audience. For anything more (like prop tables), we use clip lights with the blue lamps.
     
  12. herr_highbrau

    herr_highbrau Member

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    Location:
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    Yeah, I've seen rope lights used before up high (on catwalks and the like) but they've been pretty close to the walkway (mounted on safety rails). I was unsure if they'd have enough juice when mounted higher, but am interested!
     
  13. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    We got tired of clip lights, plus having to either gel to blue for some companies, or back to N/C for others, plus rigging, powering, etc...

    Then CAE gave me a replacement Leprecon 612, someone else a used C-Tran ENR 12 pack, so I rigged the following:

    - In the SR wing, suspended from an overhang 16' up, Kindorf bars DS to US with 5 Altman Mico ellipses, all on separate channels for 5 area's of N/C downlight in the wing and wall, then 5 PAR38's with blue PAR38 floods, on 3 channels. also lighting thr wing. Nothing spills on stage.

    - The US crossover has 3-6x12's off the grid focused as a SL to SR wash, shuttercuts off the back of the black-out drop, as a N/C cross-over path.

    - SL has no room, so we ran the original rail lighting system - about 15 x 30 watt lamps in a trough fixture, back to to a dimmer and channel.

    All on the Leprecon, or someday on the Unison, if needed. Everything dims, all is controllable from near the SR SM console.

    Saves tons of time.

    Steve B.
    Brooklyn College
     

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