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Finding the right disco ball lights.

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by ademhayyu1, Jul 5, 2018.

  1. ademhayyu1

    ademhayyu1 Member

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    Good evening everyone and happy 4th of July!

    This coming spring is our school’s spring musical. This year it’s going to be In The Heights. My job of course is lighting design and I’m honestly very excited I got a 10 month headstart.

    After doing some research I believe that the nightclub scene is one of the key scenes and every nightclub isn’t complete w/o some disco lights (in my opinion, at least).

    Now there isn’t a budget set yet but I’ve been looking into some disco lights and the Rotosphere Q3 by Chauvet DJ has really got my attention except for the pricing (yikes!). I’m wondering if anyone in the CB Community has had any experience with using disco lights and could probably throw some suggestions and ideas my way.

    DMX Control would be very nice and the price range shouldn’t be too high. My plan B though would be to have a mirror ball and have LED lights aimed at the mirror ball to reflect some color.

    Thanks and please ask some questions if clarification is needed.
     
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  2. Amiers

    Amiers Lighting Phoenix 1 Lamp at a Time

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    You have 10 months, spend 2 of them building the biggest mirror ball you possibly can.

    Like a 3ft ball.



    Flex mirrors are good and cheap.

    Mylar is also good.
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B009L6DIPI/?tag=controlbooth-20

    After that you don’t need disco/DJ lights just a few source 4s with different color gels and some good downlight.

    GL and have fun.
     
  3. ademhayyu1

    ademhayyu1 Member

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    Wow this actually sounds like a pretty fun a cheap idea to try with some friends. I might actually try this out. Thanks!
     
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  4. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @ademhayyu1 Hello Sir! Writing from the perspective of an old geezer who became an "adult" well before the disco era, survived, and is still here to talk about it. If you're looking for an attention getting effect at likely the lowest cost, allow me to toss out a few comments and leave you to cogitate upon them:
    Acquire (Borrow, rent or purchase) a motorized mirror ball legally approved for suspension over the heads of performers and / or patrons. You'd like to think all mirror balls would be but you'll discover that's NOT NECESSARILY SO. Some mirror balls are available with motors pre-installed (hidden) within the ball; more commonly mirror balls are sold without motors with motors to support and rotate them sold as optional accessories. The cost continues to rise as you add features such as DMX controllable variable rotation speed from stopped to fast to faster along with DMX control of direction of rotation, CW or CCW.
    Size of course affects cost and weight.
    You don't necessarily need to hang your mirror ball within sight-lines, although in your case that's likely part of the look you're going for.
    You can hang a ball up stage of a border and just above sight-lines with the only advantage being you can light the ball and reveal its swirling effect without ever having displayed the ball forecasting its effect prior to intentionally lighting it. Again, I doubt this will be how you'll choose to use it. Of course, if it suits your purposes, you can always fly a ball out of sight then fly it in, lit or otherwise, as part of a scene change. Again, totally a question of your theatre's flying facilities and you and your director's desires. You may choose to hang your ball over the audience where its reflected shards of light would envelope the entire audience theoretically transporting them into the era and your scenic space.
    Moving on:
    A small 6, 8 or 10 inch ball can be good, especially in cases where you're hanging them totally out of sight, keeping them out of sight, and only utilizing them for the swirling reflections once you've lit and rotated them. Again small balls are cheaper, lighter and likely more available at local party supplies shops in smaller cities. Larger balls, 18, 24 30 inches and LARGER can look impressive, even when just hanging over the stage (or audience) visible from the moment the house manager opens doors 30 minutes prior to performance and long before you light and rotate them. The down side to this is patrons will keep looking at the ball wondering when you're going to light it pulling focus from your performers' in any and all scenes leading up to the scene using the ball. Again, totally dependent upon the look your set designer, director and yourself are going for.
    Permit me to blather on about the actual lighting of your ball:
    - You could fade up on it or snap to full in a zero count.
    - Many folks choose to light their ball from one angle, often straight on from an FOH position. It works but you'll likely find it's comparatively deadly dull, been done to death by too many people for too many decades and is a quickly boring 'one trick pony' effect.
    - You'll likely learn multiple lights from multiple angles result in a far more dramatic effect. Another option is to begin with one light straight on and add more and more from different angles as the scene unfolds and the story-line progresses.
    If you're only going to use one light from the front, a good follow-spot irised fairly tight can be a great choice.
    - Two lights in contrasting colors with one firing in from each side will illustrate another effect that many designers never consider; even if the ball is rotating at a constant speed, any speed, when lit from two opposing sides, the shards of moving light will appear to change speeds as the ball rotates, honest, they truly will; thus: The light / color coming from SR will reflect at a given speed and appear to speed up as it splashes across the cast and set appearing to move faster and faster as the reflections approach SL and suddenly vanish.
    Simultaneously, the opposite is true of the light striking the ball from SL, it will move at a given speed when it initially reflects towards SL and will appear to move faster and faster until it suddenly vanishes on SR.
    In stark open white it's a good trick; in two contrasting colors even better.
    Of course you can always add old fashioned, disco-era, motorized rotating color wheels to your two, three, four or more lights devoted to nailing your ball although ten years ago you'd have added DMX controlled color scrollers and nowadays you'd be going with DMX controlled LED sources.
    - If one ball is good, two can be better; again, it's all a question of budget, available facilities, and the look(s) you and your co-horts are striving for.
    Let's chat about what lamp source(s) to use: If you want to maintain the look of the era, lamps typically referred to as ACL's, Aircraft Landing Lights, were extremely popular in the disco era. The lamps provided a stark white, tight narrow beam designed to help commercial pilots locate runways and their center lines from miles away and a couple of thousand feet up. Rock 'n roll and disco lighting folks tripped over themselves to employ ACL's to pin-point mirror balls and a myriad of other uses. Since ACL's were designed to be highly resistant to mechanical vibration and to be powered by large commercial jets, they're constructed with small, but thick, rugged filaments designed to operate from 28 volts. LX shops renting to rockers were housing ACL's in appropriate diameter cans, wiring four in series for four times 28 = 112 volts, powering them with 120 VAC (effectively 30 volts per 28 volt filament) and enjoying an even brighter, starker, more intense light at the expense of a substantially decreased lamp life. Forgive them, they were largely drug-crazed rockers and the ACL's were rentals so the lamps suffered the abuse, disco died and the Rolling Stones live on for ever so forgive them their sins as time marches on.
    Speaking of time, this blind guy's been hammering his keyboard for dang near two hours, if this post vaporizes when I hit the 'Post Reply' button, tears on my keyboard will likely do it in. Let's see, there's so many more hints to be told but it's past 4:30 a.m. and I suspect I've given you at least a couple of points to ponder. Let me quickly aim this towards an ending as I've got about another 30 minutes I need to do for myself then catch a few zZZ's before my 8:25 a.m. alarm pries my eyelids open.
    If your space has a flown empty pipe available you COULD hang your ball a short distance below the center line of your pipe, hang a 5, 10 or 14 degree Source Four on either side of your ball a carefully chosen distance away on either side on the SAME pipe, power the rotator from one circuit cabled in from wherever's most conveniently SAFE and another one or two circuits for your Source Fours. With proper slack and cable management, this would give you the options to keep the ball out of sight-lines at all times, or fly it in during a scene change lit or unlit. By hanging the ball and it's lights on the SAME pipe you gain the advantage of being able to alter the height of the pipe with the ball remaining in the same position relative to its lights; you could fly the pipe in to 6' above the deck, focus the lights, then fly it out to any height with the relationship between the ball and its lamps remaining unchanged. If you end up dealing with 575 or 750 watt incandescent lamps, colored gels and NO scrollers; you could fly the pipe in and change gel colors with relative ease several times between rehearsals until everyone's in agreement on final choices. Potentially you could change colors between acts if that suited your purposes.
    When I began typing this hours ago, no one else had responded. When I hit 'Post Reply' I may find you've already received a dozen replies. Oh well, such is the life of a blind touch-typer pounding his keyboard on the internet in the small hours of the night.
    Two closing thoughts: When you choose the hanging location of your ball's light or lights, consider, if practical, not having the shadow of your ball falling within your patrons' sight-lines. The ball and its reflections are the 'magic', NOT a shadow of the ball pulling attention from your, optimistically, stellar effect. Typically you'd light the ball from both sides with the resulting shadows falling off stage in the opposite wings or perhaps fire down on your ball from a little higher and bury the shadow flat on your stage deck.
    ONE IMPORTANT TIP. NEVER fall into the trap of shuttering or irising too tightly on your ball even though you may be tempted to do so to eliminate its shadow. The MOST important light reflecting off the mirrored surfaces of your rotating ball is the light glancing off its extremities, you'll soon come to realize that no matter how carefully you try, shuttering in EVEN THE SLIGHTEST AMOUNT onto your ball will dramatically reduce the entire impact of its effect. As you yourself stated, you've got 10 months; consider begging / borrowing an inexpensive ball AND rotator then invest a few nights hitting it from a variety of angles on a near dark stage with what ever ellipsoidal you can muster and carry about wearing a pair of oven mitts while observing the often radically differing results you can achieve by simply lighting your ball from a variety of different angles. Perhaps solicit the aid of an associate or two, try two lights and observe the results yourself from your patron's perspective out in the house. I strongly suspect you'd learn a number of useful things in the space of two hours.
    All the best to you @ademhayyu1 and never hesitate to post on Control Booth, there are far worse places you could be.
    EDIT: Sorry, omitted a word.
    EDIT #2: Thank you for your "Likes" @Swade White & @JohnD but apparently @ademhayyu1 didn't care a phuquing bit for my efforts. Oh well, that's life up here on the net sans the safety of a net below you.
    (Pardon my despicable pun)
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2018
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  5. mikefellh

    mikefellh Active Member

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    If I don't need to show the disco ball itself but just the effect, I use one of the bulbs that have a motorized globe that spins creating the lighting effect:
    [​IMG]

    Now this is meant for light duty use, but there are other fan cooled and DMX controlled units.

    There's also something like the following, but I don't know if it can be mounted upside down, but the light from this one should be more intense than a mirror ball:
    [​IMG]
     
  6. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    Focus and controlling spill are key to pulling off the effect. No need to buy a bunch of irises for your S4s though. Some sheet metal and chassis punches or a step-bit with a drill and you should be able to make up some gobos that will do the job.
     
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  7. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @ademhayyu1 @JD Gobos along with matte black / non-reflective donuts to place out in your gel slot to sharpen the focus further minimizing spill at the expense of a minor penalty in lumens out the lens and illuminating your desired target. Even minor changes in 'donut' through-hole diameters can provide major improvements in image and edge definition and sharpness.
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
  8. JohnD

    JohnD Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    You might also experiment with drilling multiple holes clustered near the center of your gobo area, maybe multiple sizes.
    Also, if you are using incandescent ERS, experiment with split colors in the gel slot.
     
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  9. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    I lit In The Heights about a year and a half ago and used four old HES Tracspots and my colorwash LEDs (Elation Sixpar 200). But pretty much any disco-y fixture will work for that scene. But it does have to look nice - after all, Usnavi does comment about how he likes what you've done with the lights. No pressure.

    While I didn't use a disco ball, I do think it would work for that scene, as long as it rotates a bit on the faster side or maybe projects some colors. I took the scene to feel a bit more urban and festive and a slow white ball might look a little too formal.

    One design tip is to have two looks/effects for that scene. One upbeat one for the music/dancing, and another slower effect for the dialog interludes. I used something like the following:

    Music/Dancing:
    LED's: Color Snap (about one change per beat - nothing too stroby)
    Movers: Figure 8, multi-color, medium speed

    Dialog:
    LED's: Slow Color Fade
    Movers: Square movement pattern, open-white, slower speed

    Then I cued accordingly. One of my biggest pet peeves is to have one repetitive effect running through an entire scene, seemingly unaware of any changes in music or mood. Breaking it up in to a couple of different looks helped keep things from getting 'stale' as well as alerting the audience to when it was time to listen.
     
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  10. Jay Ashworth

    Jay Ashworth Well-Known Member

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    How about 25 feet?



    (I was at their Tampa show on the Division Bell tour; there were 8 home-made movers -- 2k Fresnel pointed up into a moving mirror -- 4 on each side of the 3rd deck of the stadium. Was breathtaking.)
     
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  11. Amiers

    Amiers Lighting Phoenix 1 Lamp at a Time

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    Wow. I was like I see no mirror ball. Skip skip skip, holy crap that’s huge. Lol.
     
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  12. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    Here's a fairly large mirror ball I came across a few months ago:

    hugemirrorball.jpg
     
  13. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @Les Presumably it hung from a rotator. Prithee tell how it was safely supported and spun. Have you any idea of the ball's weight, preferably expressed in imperial pounds rather than kilograms?
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
  14. Jay Ashworth

    Jay Ashworth Well-Known Member

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    Eyeballing that, it looks like 8ft diameter, and I'd estimate 3-500lbs, just off the top of my head. Presumably, a point and a swivel, both rated for about 2 tons. #IANAR
     
  15. danTt

    danTt Well-Known Member

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    I've done a few events with a 6'... they tend to get hard to find after that as a mirror ball in a case is going to be wider than a truck once you get too much bigger. Want to say the 6' weighed ~250 all told.
     
  16. DELO72

    DELO72 Well-Known Member

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    The key to lighting a mirror ball is the light hitting it should be a tightly focused spot light from either the side or slightly below the ball. The side that is hit by the light will be the brightest in terms of the reflected facets and the lighting effect. Try to have the beam sized to JUST the diameter of the ball itself. a moving light or zoom fixture can be good for this- or a S4 19 deg., 10 deg, or 5 deg. depending on how far away, or using an iris. The cheap ones you get from DJ kits used 4515 lamps, which were very narrow spots. Maybe use an ACL or VNSP PAR 64 as another option if you don't have a moving spot light, Followspot, or ERS with an Iris.
     
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  17. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @DELO72 Understood and agreed but be certain to include the entire ball in your beam, DO NOT fall into the trap of inadvertently reducing the diameter of your beam to less that the diameter of the ball. Trimming in too tightly, and thus missing some of the extremities of the ball, can cost you a lot of the effect's apparent speed of rotation and seeming variations in the rotational speed of a fixed-speed ball.
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
  18. DELO72

    DELO72 Well-Known Member

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    I think it is MUCH preferred to lose a tiny portion of the light than see a bright white circle of spill light on the opposing wall or ceiling! It's a fine line to walk, but I'll always choose the former!
     
  19. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @DELO72 If / when you trim in as you say, you lose the rapidly moving shards of light glancing off the extreme outer surfaces of the ball. I appreciate what you're saying about not wanting to see the ball's shadow but I feel you're better off lighting the ball in its entirety from two opposite sides, possibly in two contrasting colors, and losing its shadow between the legs of the opposite wings and thus well out of your patrons' sight-lines.
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
  20. DELO72

    DELO72 Well-Known Member

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    Ron, That's certainly another way, and one I've used in the past. Lighting it from two angles certainly gives you plenty of overlap and movement within the movement of the rotation, and also can give you two colors if that's what the designer is looking for. It can also be too busy, depending on the look they are trying to achieve. Depends on the design and the designer. I was merely expressing my preferred method using one source. If you have a place you can dump the spill light into (behind the leg of a curtain or out of view), then obviously that would be the better choice to retain most of the light.
     
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