I wish had in my no-budget house...

ACTSTech

Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2019
Location
USA
Well, we’ve selected a new home for our community theater and it will be a looooong, expensive retro-fit, as there’s nothing. No stage, primative lighting, no sound, no chairs, nada.

However, this could be fun. I’m, as I’ve said before, a lighting newbie. I have a few ideas, but I’d like some feedback. If you could add, or wish you had something in your venue that seems so simple but no one thought about it until after the fact, what would it be.

Example, my one buddy told me if he could redesign just one thing about his high school auditorium, he’d ask for more than one DMX input, because always running things through the lighting booth isn’t ideal.

All ll input is appreciated!
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
I just did a storefront theater and distributed constant power from any old panel, and went with ColorSource relays. Users are happy. Complete flexibility and no expensive infrastructure that can't be used till they spend more.
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Well, we’ve selected a new home for our community theater and it will be a looooong, expensive retro-fit, as there’s nothing. No stage, primative lighting, no sound, no chairs, nada.

However, this could be fun. I’m, as I’ve said before, a lighting newbie. I have a few ideas, but I’d like some feedback. If you could add, or wish you had something in your venue that seems so simple but no one thought about it until after the fact, what would it be.

Example, my one buddy told me if he could redesign just one thing about his high school auditorium, he’d ask for more than one DMX input, because always running things through the lighting booth isn’t ideal.

All ll input is appreciated!
Hello @ACTSTech Not so much regarding any one specific theatre but a compendium of comments applicable to essentially all performance spaces:
- House lights that dim. (Smoothly up from black and back down to black.)
- Work lights which are NOT the houselights. (For use while cleaning, rehearsing, constructing, painting,; all times when paying patrons aren't present.)
- Emergency lights that (at least) meet all applicable codes.
- Fire and smoke alarms.
- Weather tight; no leaking roofs.
- Secure; both in terms of keeping urchins of the night out and performers / patrons safe from 'unexpected guests'.
- Running water, washrooms; both public and for performers and crew plus paint sinks if applicable.
- Good access, including for handicapped and wheelchairs, performers, finished sets & props plus raw materials if you're going to be building in the space.
- Parking; for both performers and patrons, convenient access to public transportation.
- Heating in cool climates.
- Air conditioning in warm climates.
- Good ventilation and fresh air for times when neither heat nor cold are desired / required.
- Storage space; more of it than you can foresee requiring.
- Liquor license as a revenue source, especially if renting your space out.
There's a few points to ponder; I'm sure others will post (if they haven't while I've been typing) and I'll edit and add more as they occur to me.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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DrewE

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 18, 2019
Location
Vermont
It's not lighting, but please do your utmost to have the sound mix position somewhere that is in sight of the stage and, perhaps more importantly, gives a good representative sample of the sound in the house. There are few things worse for a sound tech than trying to mix stuff when you can't hear what the sound is actually like. A tech booth above the balcony with a 2' x 3' window cutout to the house does not provide that, doubly so if there is glass in the window. Bonus points if the power amps (and their cooling fans) are not located at the mix position; powered speakers are one means of achieving that easily.

Running conduit for cables is much, much easier when you're building than afterwards. Having plenty of conduit or other places to run wiring, even if you don't need it immediately, can be a very big help when you realize those extra DMX512 runs or whatever would be useful.

Backstage doors that don't slam are wonderful; or, maybe more precisely, backstage doors that can slam are not the least bit wonderful. Especially if you're having events like lectures or town meetings or religious services in the space, house lights that can be set sufficiently bright to easily read by are most welcome.

I wholeheartedly agree with Ron's comments regarding storage space. How many offices have you been in where there's a bunch of cabinets clogging up the hallways because there wasn't enough storage room for stuff that needs to be stored? How often have you ever heard of anyone anywhere complaining that they have a facility with too much closet space?
 

mrtrudeau23

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 29, 2008
Location
Chicago, IL
Along with accessibility, safe and easy ways to get to all your lighting positions. A-frame ladders, single-man lifts, scissor lifts, catwalks all need to be thought about, and in the case of catwalks, planned out. If you get a scissor lift, make sure the stage/floor can handle that weight. The mainstage proscenium space that I work in has 3 catwalks. The first is pretty good, right over the apron, the second is useless from the front of it because it's too high above the first, but you can light up that catwalk really nicely, and the third is too far back to be really useful. Granted the space was designed in the 70's, but they still had photometrics and section drawings back then. :rolleyes: We're also getting dinged by risk management for safety issues due to the way the space was designed, but that's a different discussion. 😒

Storage is key! Plan for at the very least 1/3 more than you think you need. The lighting department here has taken over so many nooks and hidey-holes in our building, it took me 6 months to get it all straight when I started. And we still have things that never really find a home, but just float in whatever theater is dark at the time.

I would tour some venues. See if you can get in the dressing rooms, on the catwalks, on the grid, in the booth, in the shop, front of house, etc. See how other theaters are designed. Talk with the people that work there. Ask questions about what they like and don't like about the space. Take LOTS of notes and pictures, and notes about the pictures so you know what you're looking at after the tenth theater tour. There is no such thing as a perfectly designed theater, but there are plenty of bad ones, or at least ones with issues to learn from.
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
Work lights which are NOT the houselights. (For use while cleaning, rehearsing, constructing, painting,; all times when paying patrons aren't present.)
Actually, in the era of LED, using the same fixtures for house, cleaning, and emergency can make sense. And addressing them individually makes them work well for flexible spaces. Plus you never have to deal with burnt out lamps. And lower electrical and cooling loads and associated infrastructure.

I think you could really benefit from an experienced theatre consultant. Several here but you can also look at https://theatreconsultants.org/members/astcmembership-roster/ and see who's near. I'm assuming you want some big picture help and expertise, not full consulting services. Be clear so no one feels they wasted their time. Having someone that has been through the process 50 times to call on is great help.
 

alich

Active Member
Joined
Dec 14, 2017
Location
Chicago
In no particular order:
  • Houselights that dim without sucking and have a good CT.
  • Altman LED worklights on a seperate relay switch with lock out controls from the booth
  • Bountiful storage both in the catwalks and around/below the stage that won't get taken by other departments.
  • A shop large enough to service anything in the inventory within reason.
  • An expendables/parts storage that's bigger than an elevator car.
  • Bathrooms in every booth, or at least close enough that they can be shared by the booths.
  • Full Source 4 inventory - PARs, Fresnels, Ellipsoidals, with a 10-90° barrel inventory.
  • Somewhere to mount spools of 12/3 and 18/3, preferably somewhere mobile. They take up an awkward amount of floor space.
  • Ethernet ports with dead runs going everywhere you have courtesy outlets. Besides the network ports someone's going to drag in video at some point and need to run hundreds of feet of CAT6 - save them a step and put in the infrastructure.
  • Camera and audio feeds out of the house to where ever your desk is so you can check in on techs without leaving the office.
  • MIDI lines run between the audio and LX booths - ditto for CAT6 lines or ports in the wall.
  • A place for video towers to live that has decent airflow thats not under a desk in another booth - although this should still be somewhere you can get to really easy when something crashes.
  • RPUs/redundancies for everything
  • ThruPower modules in Sensor 3 racks, along with a decent stock of D20, R20, C20 and PhaseAdept Modules.
  • Redundant lines for everything (within reason)
  • Harness clips for positions that suck
  • Spot booth(s) that have a clear line of sight to the stage without clipping patrons, catwalks etc.
  • Full NET3 architecture.
  • Paradigm system with push button stations at every door, lock out and touch screen control at the booth and in the catwalks if there's enough zones that need to be accessed remotely.
  • Projector coves in the balcony! Video designers love that low angle stuff, having built in positions that they can live in QUIETLY with adequate ventilation would be a godsend.
  • Make sure you have a network port near the center house tech table - no one likes running ethernet across the floor every tech..
  • On that note, comfortable, rock solid tech tables that have some sense of ergonomics.
  • 200A 3 phase tie in points at places that make sense for the venue.
  • Raceways on your catwalks, please. And drop boxes in your flyhouses. If it's small enough of a space, maybe with a patch panel. You shouldn't have to run soco that often in a blackbox.
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
I should have stated the obvious - all LED. Starting from scratch today, it will cost less and be much more future proof. No reason to have fixed central dimmers. (A few portables for practicals is all.)

Budget and schedule will determine many of your other choices.
 

macsound

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 15, 2018
Location
San Francisco, CA
Every situation is different but in some modern spaces I've worked in the houselights are usually lower and more artsy looking and the worklights are highbay lights or something brighter/larger/uglier.

Something else on a 300 seat church I've worked on is accessability and fire sprinkler laws. We got around putting sprinklers under the booth because it was under a certain square footage and instead of installing a wheelchair lift, we used a ramp. And installing a ramp of 20:1 instead of 12:1 allowed us to not have a handrail and make the ramp easier to install.

Same project- a mistake to learn from. The ramp wasn't spec'd on the plans and investigation had to be done under the stage and ramp to ensure the build quality was the same as the stage and therefore know for certain that the Genie lift could be driven up the ramp.
 

SteveB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
Lots of Ethernet. We installed 72 Cat 6a lines in our recent black box renovation, 18 quad receptacle boxes all around the perimeter, going to 4 patch bays and 4 switches - Lighting, Audio, Video and Utility/SM. Plus another 16 on our booth countertop. EVERYTHING is using Ethernet.

Also consider isolated ground audio power around the room. With a move to Dante audio systems, powered speakers are whats used and you need power, for video as well.
 

ACTSTech

Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2019
Location
USA
In terms of power for lighting, what would typical for ease of use? This new venue is an old church which we will attempt to retrofit. The old space had 24 dimmers (110v) with each channel run to a junction box. All the instruments had Edison plugs, so there were tons of (probably not code) extension cords.

Just because of cost, we’ll probably keep the dimmers as they’re rather new, but my thoughts would be to transition away from them, or possibly reroute the house lights to them depending on what the funds look like. There’s going to be little stage space with almost no wings, so we’re going to have to be creative with everything. The first architect was rather snotty and said “you don’t need lights”, so there wasn’t much we wanted to say to him that was nice or kind or constructive.

Basically, the stage area has no grid, no catwalks, and will probably not be able to use a fly gallery because of the way the church was designed. We should be able to dead hang schedule 40 pipe without a problem, so what’s a “typical” install for electrics? Is it worth running raceway if we do deadhang the battens? Sorry for so many questions but thank you everyone for the input!
 

SteveB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
What we did for the black box, knowing we had no easy access above the pipe grid due to height issues, was hang a 4x4 steel pipe grid in the room, as high as the ceiling allowed. All lighting circuits are on 8 circuit boxes 12 locations) on the side walls at 1ft below grid height ( some repeat on floor). We had an existing 96 Sensor, which we updated to CEM3 and installed 12 ThruPower modules, to provide 24 dedicated circuits as needed, we do individual cable runs and Soca cable as possible from side circuits. The circuits off the ThruPower have pin receptacles as well as 20a Edison duplex. Thus we have a lot of dedicated power in the grid. We also have 8 Leprecon 6 pack shoe-box dimmers to add as needed.

In your case I would be putting in only DMX controlled motorized circuit breakers for all power, edison or twist receptacles for added shoe box dimmers and/or all LED and movers, etc....

Generally it’s a pain to access raceways mounted above the grid, especially if you’ve got units hanging all over the grid, just makes it impossible to get to the circuits on the raceways. Thus we just cable to the side walls.

Our work lights are 25 Osram Kreios LED flood units, mounted from the ceiling at 1ft above the grid. They are great work lights. They are controlled on an Echo system or DMX.

Our house lights (separate from the wall mounted emergency generated fixtures) are 30 Leviton PAR 30 units that can clamp anywhere. They can power off the shoe-boxes.

As Bill Connor stated, try to go all LED. Power is much easier, you just need the infrastructure for DMX distro and power distro. Buy a lot of DMX cable, 5, 10, 25 ft etc. Buy Cat 6a cables. Plan on some Gateway/nodes to get the Etherent. Buy pass-thru cables, and Lex E-Strings (cheaper than pass thru cables). Buy lots of Edison extension chords, 12/3, 20 amp rated.

Do a light plot for a rep hang. Figure out what equipment, do a complete cable and data layout, buy 50% more. Plan on audio and video power and signal cables ( cat 6a if using Q-Lab and Dante)
 

ship

Senior Team Emeritus
Premium Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2003
Location
Illinois
If renting to other groups... how to load in/out. This be it costumes to the dressing rooms, or scenery and lights to main stage. 1924 Mason lodge theater I'm involved with in becoming a venu during a pre-rental.. chain hoists, truss and lights had to be carried up narrow stiarways given handicapt lifts sharing the stair. It's dock was a normal for the period 10' height above the alley, but bricked up. Optimum doors and elevator recommended off stage Right... to go in avove the new electrics room is at this point pushed for in concept but not going anywhere. Project money already short in it would require extra engineering and lift expenses.. Budgeting for the load in dock, would further downgrade the so far minimal smart rigging grid availibility amongst lots of other concepts.

How do you load in a show quickly to your space, store the road cases and get stuff on-stage verses to the dressing room? I remember helping load in a show at a local theater - also but with working 10' high off the alley door. Easier but still difficult and took a lot more time.l

Upshot.. how easy it is to load in road cases and gear, than where to store them if planning to rent.
 
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Crisp image

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 18, 2017
Location
Eastern Victoria Australia
Running conduit for cables is much, much easier when you're building than afterwards. Having plenty of conduit or other places to run wiring, even if you don't need it immediately, can be a very big help when you realize those extra DMX512 runs or whatever would be useful.
And put some drawstrings in there to make pulling extra cables easier.

I vote dmx runs (or network with nodes) with constant power for led fixtures. Easier to do than dimmers.
Lots of other good suggestions above too.

Regards
Geoff
 
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ggooch

Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Location
West Lafayette, IN
Well, we’ve selected a new home for our community theater and it will be a looooong, expensive retro-fit, as there’s nothing. No stage, primative lighting, no sound, no chairs, nada.

However, this could be fun. I’m, as I’ve said before, a lighting newbie. I have a few ideas, but I’d like some feedback. If you could add, or wish you had something in your venue that seems so simple but no one thought about it until after the fact, what would it be.

Example, my one buddy told me if he could redesign just one thing about his high school auditorium, he’d ask for more than one DMX input, because always running things through the lighting booth isn’t ideal.

All ll input is appreciated!
In response to only one DMX line, run ethernet everywhere. Put a patch panel in a central location and ethernet wherever you possible can. This can then be hard routed at the patch panel for whatever uses come up. A bulk box of Cat6 is not that expensive.

Geoff
 

Dionysus

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 9, 2009
Location
London, Ontario, Canada
Yes indeed thee more Cat6 or Cat6A you can run the better. sACN, Dante, digital snakes, HDbaseT, control networks, and MIDI are all very common examples of things that have taken over for other methods of running signals that have been replaced with Cat6 cabling requirements. You can never have too many runs.
You can either make them dedicated for purpose (easier for volunteers or techs who don't do this every day) or have them go to a dedicated patch area and use them for whatever purpose you need at the time. Both can work. However you can NOT plug certain things that use the same connector together, so having them well marked makes things better generally.

Do you need "shop space"?
Make sure you have adequate lighting positions based on your space. Trust me you don't want to have to re do it all later.
As mentioned at-height access is key. Depending on the size of the space catwalks are pretty much a must but do cost.

Remember you are provisioning for many departments:
Lighting
Audio
Sets
Video
Stage Management
etc.
 

mbrown3039

Active Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2018
Location
vegas, baby..!
^^^ This. Also, where are you located? There might be members near you willing to walk the space with you and offer advice (count me in if you're near Vegas).

As others have mentioned, don't forget about security, both building and people.

Also, you might ant to start this whole thought process by listing what the building will be used for. Community theater, sure -- but what about being able to rent it out to other groups (even if for just a nominal fee)? You might make your electric bill each month by making the space available to seminar speakers, small churches who don't have their own venue yet (or a big church nearby looking for a "satellite" venue), etc.

Whatever path you go, make sure you have either an architect or experienced GC involved at some level....best wishes, m
 

ACTSTech

Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2019
Location
USA
Did you have an initial and 5 year budget in mind..?
Not at the moment in terms of budget. We sort of got blindsided by our old home’s closing. We’re working on a long-term lease with the owner, but being so small, we’re trying to figure out what and how we’ll be able to do. The owner is planning on replacing the heating and adding air conditioning at his expense, not ours, but the rest is going to have to be negotiated. There’s nothing there, and I mean nothing. No stage, no sound, no lights, no seats, no set shop, no costume storage, nothing.

Also against us is that we’re in the cultural black hole of western Pennsylvania. We’ve never operated a year in the red, so that’s a plus, but community support is pretty hard to drum up. Ideally, the board would like to try to squeeze in 250 seats, but personally I’m not sure we could fill them. Musicals typically run two weekends, 3-4 performances each weekend and we get between 100 to 150 people per show. Not by any means a packed house. While we do decent work, and our audiences are loyal, getting other groups is probably out of the question until we figure out logistics (such as dressing rooms, bathrooms, and sort of backstage...)

However, this venue is a go, so we’re going forward. I’m bringing to the board my suggestions, including a different architect as well as a structural engineer before we do anything. We have good people who want to help, talented carpenters, electricians, computer people, but we need more than a few hands. I started this feed because I thought if we’re going to do this, let’s try to get it right.

The board is all in on reusing what we have but not afraid to go ahead and do something new. They want moving lights, they want options for projections, they want things no one around here has, but they haven’t seen a pricetag on anything yet. It’s going to be a learning experience, so thank you all for the help so far.
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Not at the moment in terms of budget. We sort of got blindsided by our old home’s closing. We’re working on a long-term lease with the owner, but being so small, we’re trying to figure out what and how we’ll be able to do. The owner is planning on replacing the heating and adding air conditioning at his expense, not ours, but the rest is going to have to be negotiated. There’s nothing there, and I mean nothing. No stage, no sound, no lights, no seats, no set shop, no costume storage, nothing.

Also against us is that we’re in the cultural black hole of western Pennsylvania. We’ve never operated a year in the red, so that’s a plus, but community support is pretty hard to drum up. Ideally, the board would like to try to squeeze in 250 seats, but personally I’m not sure we could fill them. Musicals typically run two weekends, 3-4 performances each weekend and we get between 100 to 150 people per show. Not by any means a packed house. While we do decent work, and our audiences are loyal, getting other groups is probably out of the question until we figure out logistics (such as dressing rooms, bathrooms, and sort of backstage...)

However, this venue is a go, so we’re going forward. I’m bringing to the board my suggestions, including a different architect as well as a structural engineer before we do anything. We have good people who want to help, talented carpenters, electricians, computer people, but we need more than a few hands. I started this feed because I thought if we’re going to do this, let’s try to get it right.

The board is all in on reusing what we have but not afraid to go ahead and do something new. They want moving lights, they want options for projections, they want things no one around here has, but they haven’t seen a price tag on anything yet. It’s going to be a learning experience, so thank you all for the help so far.
@ACTSTech One cautionary note: About a decade ago, one of our local groups applied for a grant; like you, they "wanted everything". WIN 'tario granted them $250K Canadian. One of the greedier local suppliers beat a path to their door, promised them the moon, a few stars and small planet or two. Basiclally, the salesman invoiced them for every penny then their goodies began rolling in.

They found themselves the proud owners of 10 or 12 scrollers, 24 new dimmers (to bring their dimmer count up to 72, two Rosco Moving mirrors, two non-DMX irises and a stock of spare lamps.
Their next production, practically none of their new gear got used, most was still in its factory packaging.

The two movers and shakers of the group, a husband and wife team, phoned me and asked would I please light their next production, the wife was to direct with her husband producing; their only instruction was to PLEASE use ALL of their new toys.

This is where it got interesting:
All of the scrollers were sized to fit Source Fours.
They didn't own that many Source Fours.
No alternate back plates were included to fit scrollers to any of their existing stock of Altman ellipsoidals and Fresnels.
Any new Source Fours included were supplied with incorrect males: They could've purchased unterminated or with males to fit their system, alas the supplier didn't deal with this.

Included with all the scrollers and two I-Mirrors was only one power supply; too small to power all the devices and sans any mounting clamp.

The MAJOR shyster move was: Only ONE length of XLR 4 Scroller / I-mirror cable was included.
The shyster supplier had spent their ENTIRE grant and left them with Zero funds to complete a working system.

We were able to borrow a ton of XLR4 cable from other groups and fabricate two larger back plates for their scrollers.
Pretty much all of their new toys were utilized for their production but they were paying off favors for more than a year.

Bottom Line: BE CAREFUL who you're dealing with; not all smiling salesmen are your friends.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard