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Help setting up tech in a hotel...

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by spoonifur, May 14, 2009.

  1. spoonifur

    spoonifur Member

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    Occupation:
    Lighting Designer
    Location:
    Toronto
    Some friends are planning to make their own Anime Convention next year. I'm going to be doing all their tech, but I'm kind of new to setting up outside of a theatre setting.

    I'm pretty set on audio, but I really need help with lighting. I have no idea how to set up lights on their own. The only way we've done it at school is by getting 3-pin to Edison and just plugging them in and leaving them on. Which I'm perfectly fine with doing. (4 S4's, 2 trees, lighting one small stage.)

    But we're also hosting a dance, and they want "fancy" lights. I don't know the first thing about setting these up. When we set up outside of theatre we've only used LED color bars and just plug them into our lighting board which we haul down to the event.

    BUT, we're going to be renting everything for the weekend and since this is a first year convention we don't have a lot of money.

    How do I go about renting the right equipment for these?
    - 4 lights, 2 trees, 4 3-pin to Edison connectors.
    - 2-3 "fancy" lights
    - Controller?
    - etc???

    Also, I haven't been down to the venue yet. What should I inquire about for lights, and set up?
     
  2. spoonifur

    spoonifur Member

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    I think I'm more than capable of figuring this out before next year, to be honest. I have a guy from a company who will help me out though.

    "Fancy lights" is pretty vague, I just wanted general advice at how to set up smart lights. DMX? And a controller of some sorts, I'm assuming?

    Venue isn't too huge, movers would be too big I think. I just need something like party lights. I was more or less wondering if I can just get plug and play type things, and not have to use a controller at all.

    (I've only been trained lighting in our theatre. So I can program lights, and I can run our board, but I obviously won't have that there.)
    I'll be going to the venue within the next couple weeks to check this all out, I just need to figure out rough estimations for budget. (The space is getting renovated in the fall anyway, so plans for a hang can't be made till later.)
     
  3. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    I wouldn't worry about DMX lighting. Just look into renting some sound active DJ lighting. The only control you would need is a basic switch panel like the American DJ Light Copilot Yahoo! Image Detail for http://www.starlight-online.com/products/adj/copilot.jpg (It may be made by Elation or LSC now). Some popular DJ effects are American DJ Avenger Google Image Result for http://www.beyondsl.com.au/files/em_adj-avenger-ii_fx.jpg.jpg, Aggressor (double version of Avenger), Vertigo Google Image Result for http://www.activemusician.com/images/store/support/EM_ADJ-VERTIGO_FX.jpg, Pocket Scan , and many others. Probably a lot of LED options out there as well. Getting caught up in DMX stuff will just make it more complicated and the guests can't tell.

    As for needing stage pin adapters, etc, I wouldn't recommend it. The lighting you use in your theatre is way too powerful for a mobile application like this. What you want are some Par38 cans or maybe some par46/56's. Maybe 4-8. 8 par38's would be effective and easy going on the electrical system. You may want to rent a separate dimming system for the par cans. A simple 8 channel DMX board and dimmer packs will be fine (like the Elation Stage Setter Yahoo! Image Detail for http://www.directproaudio.com/images/products/Stage-Pak-1.jpg).

    You will want enough DJ (or "fancy" lights) to be able to run 2 or 3 at a time and still have a few on standby. The reason for this is because these lights have a duty cycle of about 15 minutes on / 15 minutes off. Usually what I would do is just switch out the lighting between every song, so it was more like a duty cycle of 3min on / 3 min off throughout the night. The parcans can chase continually throughout the night, or dim to green/blue for slow songs. I recommend also renting an ADJ Starball or similar. It gives the effect of a mirror ball but the light comes from within and you don't need to shine a pinspot on it.

    Power requirements:
    You will want at least one 20 amp circuit for your disco lights. You will want a separate circuit for your parcans. If you are using 8 par38's @ 90w each you can put them all on one circuit, but if you are using par56's you will probably want 1 circuit per every 4 depending on what lamps you are using.

    For a simple system with about 5-6 disco lights and 8 par38's plan on using at least 2 20 amp circuits. Know the wattage of your disco effects. Most use about 600w each, so don't turn on more than 2 at a time unless your controller/circuit can handle it. The Light Copilot and similar switchgear can handle 1800w on at one time. That about maxes out a 15 amp circuit though so keep that in mind.

    You will want to talk with someone about the building you are using so you can know where the circuits are and how much load you can put on them. You don't want to lose your system halfway through the event because the compressor in the Coke machine in the hallway kicked on.

    One other tip - bring more (black) extension cords than you think you will need and also a few power strips.

    EDIT: if my links don't work just google the names. They're pretty common pieces of equipment in the DJ world.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2009
  4. mnfreelancer

    mnfreelancer Active Member

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    Location:
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    I do A LOT of work in hotels and here are a few things to consider:

    Many hotels, at least in my area, use A/V as a value-add-in and as a money maker and sometimes contract equipment and labor to outside vendors like my company on a permanent basis. This means that if a client holding a meeting or convention in the hotel's space wants to use a different A/V company than the hotel is contracted with; or wants to bring their own equipment, they charge a fee. One of the hotels our company is incumbent within charges a $300 outside A/V fee. This is common industry practice.

    On the same thread hotels are out to make money for everything, especially in the meeting space side of the business. Some charge for you using wall outlets, some will make you rent a power drop if you're doing ANY kind of lighting beyond the track lighting that is installed. This can cost as little as $80 or as much as $500 depending on where you are, who you are, what you're doing and how much power you need. There's usually a break for non-profit groups but there's no such thing as a free lunch. I've never encountered it personally but PSAV, a company that is in hundreds of hotels has a system that actually meters the power you use just like the power company would and they charge per KW/H...unlikely in this case but it's out there.

    On power drops, most sizable hotel ball rooms and small exhibit halls are pre-wired for power drops between 60-400 amps, some single phase, some split phase and some three phase. If you find yourself needing more power it's likely there, but for a fee.

    As for renting trees, don't despair, my company offers them and there's probably a rental company in your area that does as well. Make sure you do not overload them and that they get placed in an area where they will be stable and minimally disturbed by pedestrians who may bump into them and knock them over. Also don't exceed the maximum height on push-up stands (Ultimate support type). We have some really heavy steel crank-up (non-winch) trees that go up 10 feet and are stable - the aluminum types aren't as stable.

    Tape cables down very well. If you're used to a theatrical environment where your cable runs are over-head and rarely under-foot err on the side of too much tape use. In a smaller space with people milling around (especially people who aren't accustomed to being on stage with the hazards associated with it) trips are more likely. Also strain-relief for cables is your friend!
     
  5. FatherMurphy

    FatherMurphy Active Member

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    What occurs as the simple solution is to just hire a DJ - they'd have their own lighting rig, be used to setting it up in ballrooms, and they'd also have their own music library. Rates vary with towns and quality of service, but you might be surprised at how cheap some will work, especially if it's in a slow period for them, or if they're an anime fan.

    Although you wouldn't get the fun of figuring out the dance lighting yourself, it would free you up to stay on top of the other AV needs in panel and screening rooms. Nothing sucks the fun out of a project like this faster than discovering during the event that you've bitten off more than you can chew, and things start derailing faster than you can fix them. Make sure you have enough help that you can enjoy the con too.
     
  6. mrb

    mrb Active Member

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    Thats interesting. Do they charge what the electricity costs the hotel, or is it marked up? Its illegal in most states to submeter electricity and profit from it (without being a public utility)
     
  7. spoonifur

    spoonifur Member

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    Occupation:
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    @Les: The lighting I was talking about was something we pull off at our school a couple times a year. (God knows how.) Thanks for all the information, I'll be looking some stuff up before meeting with the hotel staff. And yes! Extension cord is love! I was the kid responsible for scouring the endless departments for more cable.

    @mnfreelancer: Again, something to consider asking about. It makes sense, but I've never heard of it being done here. (Canada) If you want unstable lighting trees, my school pretty much has every type, think I'll be okay with rentals if I can find them. Thanks for the tip about cables, I know what a hassle people are. I know the importance of taping and slack. (A hanging mic cable was taped improperly, and was too tight in one spot. Somebody must have stepped on it funny or something, because cranking the bar back up after fixing something snapped it right before a dress rehearsal. Frustrating.)

    @FatherMurphy: That reminds me, I haven't talked to our DJ. We're trying to keep cost low, the DJ is a friend of one of the organizers. Was meaning to get in contact with him to see if he has equipment. I heard he doesn't have much anymore, so I might be out of luck. I'm definitely going to grab some techie friends to help me out. This won't be a one-women show.

    I'll talk to my contact about what Les suggested after I see the space. Thanks everybody.
     
  8. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    Hiring a dj is a good idea as they will have the equipment and experience to do stuff for a dance.

    The in-house A/V companies will charge an arm and a leg. Swank, PSAV, etc., are all very expensive. Whenever a hotel allows outside vendors I beat them by 25 - 50% on price WITH my delivery and set-up.

    If you still want to do it yourself and you're renting, a good rental company should walk you thru the set-up of their equipment when you pick it up. Chances are it won't be that complicated. The real sticking point I think will be doing anything interesting with the led pars. Depending on the controller you may not have a lot of time to program any interesting chases for them. The "fancy lights" are probably some stuff targeted for the dj market. But they're mostly sound active and/or pre-programmed and all you have to do is on/off at most. Take a look at the Elation and Chauvet websites. There is probably video of stuff so you can have an idea of what's out there.
     
  9. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    In Illinois it varies based on where you are. Some recent fees I've been quoted:

    1. Delivery of a 60 amp power drop: $500. This consisted of the electrician reaching in to a panel and dragging a cable out 30 feet. Fortunately, I know the electrician so I never order this in advance. He does it for a bottle of Scotch.

    2. Disconnecting the fire alarm system in the ONE ROOM so that the hazer won't activate the alarms: $800.

    3. Further cost of city fire department staff $25 per hour, 4 hour minimum.

    Yes, it costs $900 to run a hazer in a ballroom, minimum.
     
  10. mrb

    mrb Active Member

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    what I was talking about was the metering and charging for KWH used. They can charge whatever they want to connect it....
     
  11. mnfreelancer

    mnfreelancer Active Member

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    It may not have been PSAV since I now cannot find what I thought was there about this metering. I remember it was some company that recently spun their power distribution off as a new company but I can't remember who.
     
  12. awhaley

    awhaley Member

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    I definitely agree with the suggestion that the dj may be your best resource for the dj style 'fancy stuff'... even if he is the semi-retired-sold-all-his-gear sort... he may know where to get it and probably knows how to set it up. And you may find that hiring a second DJ who does have all the equipment and letting them work together is STILL cheaper than renting the equipment alone from a lighting shop.

    The S-4s you mentioned are probably perfectly fine to light a stage, and for ballroom-meeting sorts of things leaving them plugged into the wall is probably just fine. A 575watt lamp pulls aproximately 5 amps so for safety's sake, you probably need to split your 4 instruments onto two separate circuits (different breakers) as I wouldn't want to run one circuit so close to capacity, especially all day in a meeting room... You also MIGHT be able to find some lower wattage fixtures that would adequately light the stage... and you definitely should talk to the hotel staff when you can, as sometimes, though not as often as we'd like, the in room lighting is can be quite adequate. There may be spots or track lighting installed to light a stage nicely, assuming you put the stage in the right spot in the room. If your friends insist that the stage has to be in an odd spot and not where the hotel has lighting preinstalled for it, then you're back to setting it up from scratch.

    When you're sure of what you need to accomplish, call the local rental shops, do a little talking until you get through to someone who actually knows something about the equipment, and tell them what you're trying to do. For example, you could say "I've got an event on this date, that lasts for three days, and has to set up by this time. I'll pick everything up at your warehouse the day before (or I need it delivered at this time... or whatever arrangements you need to make.) I want to put 4 source-fours (specify beam angle) on two trees, and they're going to be X feet from the stage. All the cables are going to have to run to (wherever) so I need at least 2 cables of X length, with triple taps to plug two lights into each. I need to dim them, so I need a 4 pack and the smallest controller you've got...

    The shop will tell you what they have and what things cost, and if you're lucky they'll tell you if you've forgotten anything.... for example... they still need to know if I need power cables to reach the dimmer pack... and they need to know how much cable I need to get from the controller to the dimmer pack.... you SHOULD specify that, but they SHOULD ask if you don't... some shops will, others won't. Go ahead and ask the shops about DJ type stuff... just tell them that you're looking for a few DJ type effects lights that will run on their own and respond to music, and that you don't want to spend much money on them as they're really a gimick... they might have something, or know someone who does. If you tell the shop what you're trying to do, a good shop will help you out. Now... you also need to learn the difference between 'helping you out' and 'upselling your pants off...' But that's another conversation... just be careful and if you don't understand why they say you need some expensive thing, ask them to explain it. If they don't have a good explanation for why you need something that they want you to pay for, you may need to call another shop... there are honest people and crooks in every business.

    Hook it all up in your head, and then draw the whole system out on paper... it seems silly to do this for something this simple, but it'll help you catch mistakes. Ask yourself about each piece of gear "Where does this go? What does it physically attach to? How? What does it electrically attach to? How long does that cable need to be?"

    After the phone call to talk about what you need and what they have, you still really need to send them a proper shop order. Look at: John's Pearls
    to see John McKernon's suggestions on what goes into a proper shop order. His formula seems like overkill at first, but it's all based on things that have gone wrong for someone in the past so I recommend heeding his advice diligently. CYA, as always.

    Anyway. Hope all that helps a little! Shout if you have more questions.

    Art Whaley
    Art Whaley Design
     

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