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Gafftaper Method

Discussion in 'Collaborative Articles' started by derekleffew, Apr 24, 2008.

  1. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Las Vegas, NV, USA
    A Method (not the ONLY method) of Lighting the Stage with DMX-Controlled Accessories, Instead of Moving Lights, by [user]gafftaper[/user]. Control Booth, 2008.

    So you want to buy some moving lights for your theater. I will ask you the critical question. What do you REALLY want to do with these moving lights? If your answer is "I want to do concert lighting," stop reading this article--it is not intended for you. If, however, you are lighting theater performances, I suggest you consider my component method instead.
    Edit: Even if one is doing concert lighting rather than legit theatre, accessories still have their purpose. This quote,
    from this thread:, featuring this video, demonstrates how useful components can be.

    So why do you want the expensive mover? DJ effects? Do you really want a set of movers that spins and does concert lighting tricks in unison? You are probably going to need to buy a new console to do that. Trust me you don't want to try to run four MAC700s on an ETC Express. If you are like most of us you want the mover to do: fire, water, strobe, gobo rotation, gobo animation, color changing, remote focus, remote iris, etc. But how often do you need all of those tricks at the same time? How often do you need more than one or two instruments capable of those effects? How often do you need those effects in a single year? The basic principle of The Method is this: For live theater, what you probably really want is a set of lights that have color changing/mixing capabilities and a storage cabinet containing the other effects listed above. So buy the components that do the effects that you need and load up on color mixing/changing. How many times a year do you really do a show where you need this spinning and changing colors? Rent a mover when that show comes up.
    The Gafftaper Method says "Buy the individual components and you'll find you get more tricks that you actually USE for less money." In my theater's case I had a budget of about $50K for toys. I could have purchased 5 MAC700s. Instead, I got 20 Seachangers, 2 gobo rotators, 2 Infinity Effects, 4 Right Arms, 4 I-Cues, and 2 DMX Irises--all of them far more useful on a regular basis than just 5 Moving Lights. Those 20 Seachangers are the starting point for every design. If only I had a few more...
    Lets look at it this way... Below is the feature list of the MAC700 Profile, one of the top choices for theater movers, from the Martin website:

    * 700 W short arc discharge lamp... Bright and higher color temperature than the rest of your lamps. But this also means it will not blend well with the rest of your lighting rig. How much do these lamps cost compared to an HPL?
    * CMY color mixing system... buy a Seachanger
    * 8 position color wheel plus open... buy a Seachanger or color mixer or color scroller
    * Motorized zoom and focus... okay, we can't do the zoom... but City Theatrical makes a remote focus device and a DMX Iris
    * Mechanical dimming... no problem it's called a dimmer
    * Gobo animation wheel with full movement/direction control... buy a Rosco Infinity Effects
    * 9 static and 6 indexable rotating gobos plus open... buy a gobo rotator. GAM, City Theatrical, and Wybron make multi-gobo rotator tray devices
    * Interchangeable 3-facet rotating prism... City Theatrical makes a static version so it's not quite the same but do you really need need it?
    * Motorized iris... City Theatrical DMX Iris
    * Strobe effect 2 - 10 Hz, pulse effects, instant open and blackout... buy a strobe cap
    * Pan and tilt range of 540°/246°... Rosco I-cue or Apollo Right Arm
    * Variable fan control for quieter operation... usually not a problem for components
    * Modular design for easy maintenance and servicing... even easier and less-expensive with components
    * Electronic ballast with hot lamp restrike and flicker free light... not a problem with a conventional incandescent light source

    My theory is that you can get more toys for your money by buying components and you will have toys that you use on a regular basis.
    Just ask yourself. What do you REALLY Want to do with it?
    This is Very True. Other principles of "the method":

    1) Don't spend your money on DMX toys until you have enough conventional gear to properly light a show.
    2) Don't buy movers until you have all the components and a proper light board to control them. (This one is a little more controversial).
    3) If you have covered 1 and 2... you can think about buying Moving Lights, but you still need to answer these last two questions:
    a) Do you have the ongoing money source to pay for the upkeep (the lamps are very expensive!)?
    b) Do you have the staff to maintain them correctly?

    Yes? Now Gaff says you can buy the movers. [edit by DL]: HOWEVER, even if you have the budget and the staff, (the least-expensive, quality made, with enough intensity for theaters over 349 seats, Moving Light is $2500-$3000, used!,) a thorough return-on-investment analysis will show that RENTING moving lights is preferable to BUYING them, with very few exceptions. An $8,000 new moving light will cost $125-300 to rent for one week (additional weeks may be 50% of the first), and the renter need not worry about maintenance, repairs, or lamp costs.

    Addendum 1
    The Gafftaper Method applies to more items in your theater than just DMX toys for your lighting system. For example: Wireless Clear Com, more specialized Power Tools, Wireless Microphones, digital Sound Consoles, etc... The guiding principles are the same. Do you have a complete inventory of the basic conventional gear? If you don't have all the basics it's foolish to purchase flashy new toys first. Buy what you will use on a regular basis first. Always ask yourself WHY do I REALLY want it?, and WHAT else could I get with that same money?

    Here is the original post from June, 2007--the impetus for what evolved into The Gafftaper Method.

    For dissenting/opposing views, see:
    Moving lights in Theatre - Why they make sense
    Another Mod's View on The Gafftaper Method, Part 1
    Another Mod's View on The Gafftaper Method, Part 2

    As with many things in life, when taken to excess, the Gafftaper Method can become detrimental. This 2002 advertisement shows how it can get out of hand when taken to the extreme.

    Last edited: Nov 25, 2009
  2. NevilleLighting

    NevilleLighting Active Member

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    Wichita, KS
    I strongly recommend renting over buying. If you rent you are sharing the cost of the unit with other users. Also, as mentioned, you are not having to maintain the units. The maintenance cost us built in to the rental fee, but trust me, that is less than full time maintenance. To me, the biggest bonus is that you will not be stuck with gear that is outdated in 5 years or less, and also 5 years later only half of it works anyway.

    Here's a simple way to do the math. Add up what it will cost you to purchase the lights and make them work in your system. Include a possible controller upgrade not to mention DMX cables, splitter and power issues. Look at your next season's calendar and figure out how much you'd use them and how much it would cost to rent to cover your needs. If the cost of renting to cover where you would need them for the season is less than 1/6th of the purchase price, then rent.

    An additional benefit of renting is flexibility. Maybe on one show you need wash units and on another you really need profile units with spinning patterns. Renting gives you the ability to choose.

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