Building inventory for a new theater


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Hi everyone,
We just broke ground on a brand new black box theater that will be finished in about 2 years. I'm working on my shopping list for the lighting inventory. The theater's about 55 feet square. We will be using portable risers and seating so our audience seating configurations are only limited by our imagination. The architect did several sample seating configuration drawings. A theater in the round configuration results in the smallest "stage" at about 20' square. A Proscenium style configuration is our largest "stage" with a space of 35' X 55'. Thrust, Alley and a variety of corner seating configurations are somewhere in between these sizes. It's 17 feet from the floor to the bottom of the catwalks.

The lighting system designer suggested an inventory of:
30 Source4s with a lens collection of: 4-19s, 12-26s, 12-36s, and 6-50s
6- 25-50 degree zooms
28 Fresnels
20 Source4 Pars
6- two cell cyc lights
6- 6’ strip lights

He didn't know we already have 16- 25/50 degree zooms in stock.

My feeling is that this inventory has too many 26 degree's and not enough 50's. It seems to me that I'm going to use the Fresnels, Pars, and strips for down, back, and side light. I'll rely on the ellipsoidals for front light and specials. If I'm trying for a good old McCandles 45 degree angle of elevation on my ellipsoidals, with a 17 foot ceiling, I will have throws of only about 20 feet. With a catwalk network that allows me to hang an instrument just about anywhere, It seems to me that 36's and 50's will be the instruments of choice most of the time. I’m thinking 26's and 19's will be used primarily just for specials.

I'm going to try to get the money to bump the inventory up to 48 S4's, 30 fresnels, and 30 pars. I'm thinking of a lens break down of 24- 36's, 24- 50's, and spare lens collection of 12-26's, 6-19's, 4-70's, and 4-90's

I’m also thinking about going with Selecon Rama PC’s instead of Source4 Pars. I saw a demo and they were amazing. I’ve ordered two to play with before making the final purchasing decision next year. Does anybody else have Rama PC’s? Great light quality, zoom and focus, with a well defined but very soft edge... What more could you ask for? It looks like the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Mine arrive in two weeks, I can’t wait to play with them.

What do you think of my changes? I thought about going with 36- 50's but decided if I need more than 24 I can use my 16 zooms on full wide. Is that a wise choice? What about the 70’s and 90’s should I have a few more extra wide lenses?
Actually, we have a 20' throw for most of our stuff and I find myself using 26's the most out of all of them. Especially with a smaller stage, you need to be able to isolate certain sections and keep away from the whole stage being lit all the time. I don't know the exact measurement, but a 36 would cover most of a 20' stage from 20'.
You might want to by 2/3 of the stock before the theatre opens, do a show or two, figure out what works, then move from there. Don't forget to factor in cable and all that good stuff. Why do you feel you need 6 strip lights? Also it would be helpful to know the dimmer/power config in the space.
Maybe you should consider S4 15-30 degree zooms. I love the ones that I have in my space. I am able to use them from specials to front of house lighting.

Are you considering any intelligent fixtures?

CowboyDan said:
Are you considering any intelligent fixtures?


I'm definitely going to have an assortment of I-cues, goborotators, and hopefully some color scrollers or even Seachangers. The budget is interesting. We ended up way over budget on the building. We had to pull everything that isn't nailed down from the main contractor bid and now have to fundraise to get it all. So I'm putting together two budgets, one that's just conventionals and a second that has everything from movers to LED's. Then I get to wait a year and a half to see what I can actually afford.

I've also been debating the intellingent lighting quite a bit. It's definitely a luxury, but if we are trying to train college students to be good technicians it's a tool they need to have some experience with. So it's a luxury with a very good justification. On the other hand, I keep thinking that for the price of one Mac 550 I can get 4 Seachangers. Imagine having a theater with a dozen or more Source4's that you can instantly change colors on. Way cool and much more practical than a bunch of movers for the majority of my applications. Plus students will still get the experience of dealing programing attributes.

Any other College TD's out there... What's your philosophy on intelligent instruments?
im not a td, but i know i liked learning the ml's we had at the community college. it will be interesting to see what my university will have. at the community collge we had 6 hes studio colors 2 hes studio spots, 4 t-beams and a hog 500 to control the ml's and scrollers. all convetionals were on a etc 24/48. it was a good learning experience.
I am a college TD and I believe that to properly prepare kids you need some kind of intellegent lighting. If they can work on anything that is programmable then they can do it with the fancy fixtures if they continue to work in the field.

I have found one fixture that I really like so far. Elation 250 hybid, it is a spot and wash fixture. You can just google them to get to the home page.
I am not a TD but work very closely with my TD, particularly last year when we were picking out our inventory for our new arts center. I would suggested two S4 Revolutions if you can afford it. They will give you a programable fixture, are quiet and versitile. (however if you have Seachangers and ICues you are really doing most of what an ML gives you asside from beam and focus) I also do highly recomend the ICues, they are dead silent. Being a college student I feel I have greatly benefited from having actual MLs to play with though. I dont know that it is possible to get the programing experience with anything short of a full ML.

In addition, six strips also seems excessive to me, especially with the cyc units. if you are using all six two cell cycs from grid, four strips as a ground row should be about all youd be able to get.

I also think you are right in getting more 50 degree. Our black box is a 16 foot grid, and we use a wide variety of all degrees but not having a 50 when you need one makes things not so much fun. I also think that a few 70 and 90 would be good to have, but 4 90 degree seems a lot, unless you plan on putting one in each corner and light the whole room.

Unless you are very attached to fresnels, S4 parnels are very nice.

Good luck figuring out your budget problems.
For cost, a Fresnel might be more cost effective than a Parnel - operative term being might. A inentory of fixtures also more cost effective to start the program than less and a few wiggles initally. This should be long term goal based. What in say one mover now if priority do you give up in overall inventory base of light?

I love cyc lights... Six cell or what ever, yes you need six of them. The two cell are bonus and perhaps more flexible in need or use or need.

Perhaps if unconfortable about not having enough 50 degree fixtures, you should trade some 26 and 36 for them if not say two of the two cell cyc units for more. Say remove two fixtures from each for two more of the 50 degree. Could also just buy extra lens trains. Perhaps exchange a few zooms for some fixed focus plus extra lens trains.

Best way to tell might be to take the design for the space and design a show in it's plan. Have a go at for a sample perhaps average show, what fixtures you would need and would want. It would ensure stuff like dimmers, location and most important fixtures on hand are sufficient. Back to school in being given a blue line of a stage and designing some show that won't be realized but you learn a lot from. Do the photometrics for the fixtures while you design with them also in seeing optimum hanging positions and numbers of fixtures of any type needed in an area. Tinker with where the zooms will best go etc.

Does your construction have a consultant? If so what does the consultant say? Most likely if unconfortable about the amount of 50 degree, you will be short. Add a few in removing something from somewhere else you are comfortable in exchanging for. This is your initial inventory not it's end result also. You will eventually buy more fixtures of all types, perhaps get what you feel you need now or even most need now if you need to cut the budget some.

Movers, such a thing would not be immediate priority for me yet. Yes for a college I would get some base of mover fixtures to learn from soon. First one must light the stage and a moving light while it can and often can save others in doing won't do it the same way as a cost effective thing at this point initially - my opinion.

On70 degree and 90 degree lenses, believe Selecon came out with such a concept at least five years ago. The concept never really took off much but they were curious. Nice concept but at 90 degrees your fixture might be a wee bit close and where only 90 degrees is needed, how about a wash light intead? Can do a 90 degree gobo, but if a close to action Leko beam, at that beam angle perhaps a scoop or something similar might be more economical in providing the same light for it's purpose. Uses for a ninety degree, perhaps one fixture if one really wants one, but perhaps rent one first and play test or wait until one is later play tested before basing an inventory upon an expectation of what might be interesting.

My thoughts or opinion would be to first build up your base of light, than add to it.

I have specified the gear to a few theaters in the past and even this morning. That does not really matter however, this is your theater home and a place that's all about your intension and meeds. It's a great and memorable experience I'm sure in both fun and not so fun at times. STill you get to shape and mold this plalce. That's fun. Let us all know how it works out.
Thanks all, a lot of great ideas in here to think over. I really like the idea of designing a show for the space. I've got a year and a half or so until we actually buy. We've got four shows in our temporary home this year. I think for each show I'll do a design for the black box too. It won't be that much extra work, and it'll be very educational.

What a great community!
I found at my old theater that the orchestra that was using our space as its home base did not like the lighting created by focused fresnels and ellipsoidals. The big complaint was shadowing on the music. We solved this by purchasing 12 scoops that we used for a soft wash. The orchestra was much happier as the shadows were no longer an issue.

Are you planning on this type of lighting at all or is your venue going to be live theater only?
I found at my old theater that the orchestra that was using our space as its home base did not like the lighting created by focused fresnels and ellipsoidals. The big complaint was shadowing on the music. We solved this by purchasing 12 scoops that we used for a soft wash. The orchestra was much happier as the shadows were no longer an issue.

Slightly off topic but Tenor Singer when you originally lit the orchestra as well as the fresnels/ ellipsoids did you provide them with downlight for their music?

Just a note to people who havent lit orchestra's , concert bands yet if you can provide even downlight for their music they will love you. This is if they don't have lighted music stands. Then you can worry about lighting the members. Normally the downlight should be open white. And this will take care of most shadows caused by front lighting.

A few fresnels opened wide angle will cover quite a large area depending on bar height above stage.
One of the new schools in town has just recently had their inventory shipped. I am close to the director and her husband and I have the privledge to play with their stuff sometimes.

One thing they were showing me was that they had gootn 6 color changing fresnels. In a studio those worked very effectively and were very beneficial. they are a great effect and I would deffinatley recomend them.

I also know what I'm looking for in a college. Now a days a lot of things are requiring the ability of a designer to go intellegent. In my search that has been a big factor. If I'm not going to experience all lighting elements, why would I go there.

Hope I helped and I hope your inventory goes well!
If you get intelligent fixtures, just get two, because you can better spend the money on other things.

The college that I'm at now has twin spins, standard rotators, DMX rotators, a Rosco Imagepro, a GAM Film/FX device, plenty of scrollers, iCues, and a few other things. And they also have six Intellabeam 700HX's, which are really sweet.

A Film/FX would probably be a really nice addition to your inventory, along with a small variety of effects loops. One of rosco's gobo animation devices or GAM's Spin/FX might be a cool addition too.

Basically, get a variety of toys for the source fours. Enough of a variety so that you can do basically anything...and with what you've described (seachangers, rotators, etc.), that seems to be what you're going for.

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