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Lighting budget question

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by chris325, Mar 22, 2009.

  1. chris325

    chris325 Active Member

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    My seven year old high school auditorium has a budget of a year. Our lighting inventory consists of 40(ish) Colortran lekos, 4 source four zooms, 8 Colortran 1K and 2K fresnels, and a Colortran 24/48 board. Over the next year or two, we want to replace our board (which is slow and beginning to die) and phase out our Colortran lekos. Any sugesstions on what to replace them with?
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2009
  2. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    I would do it very slowly (probably painfully slowly) and go with Source4 units all around.

    As far as consoles? Do you guys work with or ever plan to work with moving lights? Do you do concerts or just theater?

    If you do straight up theater with or without movers the new ETC console debuted at USITT looks like an ideal solution. If you do concerts with tons of movers and theater (and have the budget for it and the will to learn it) then I would look at the Ion.

    Mike
     
  3. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    The real question is, do you have to make these purchases out of your $16K budget or are there other plans for some of the funds? Usually in schools you can't just go making big capital purchases like lighting consoles without at least going through the administration, and you will definitely have to go through a bid process. Secondly, whatever console you choose, you should consider some of the infrastructure upgrades that likely go hand in hand with a new console. Sure, there are plenty of consoles that you can drop on your table and plug DMX in and go, but if you are going to do an upgrade you should look at all facets: do you have DMX where you need/want? Do you have a dedicated TCP/IP network in place for lighting? Do you need more data distribution? Things like that.

    You need to remember that when you invest in a new control system that you want to future-proof it as much as possible. Systems always work better when they are planned from the get go and not cobbled together as you have the funds and the need. This could mean setting up a phased installation proposal/contact with your dealer of choice, but if you aren't going to do the whole thing at once, make sure that you have the plans in place to do it and to do it right.

    As for fixtures, personally, since I have mostly Source 4s, that is what I buy. They are a great fixture and they are the standard. And for the record, I hate the S4 Zoom, not worth buying in my book. The rest of the line is great, and you can't beat what you get for the price. I also am a fan of the Selecon Pacific line. They are great fixtures, though I don't know if they are good enough to warrant spend ~$50 more on than source fours. My philosophy for buying fixtures, is that I just take whatever leftover funds I have in my budget after the last show of the season and I buy as many fixtures as I can. I too am replacing old units, and I have a ways to go, but even if you can only buy 4 fixtures every year, every little bit counts.

    However, depending on the size of your stage, you may find that when you get to say the last 10 fixtures to be replace, you should try to do it all at once. Having a half a system of fixtures in your inventory isn't very helpful to anyone.
     
  4. awhaley

    awhaley Member

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    For high school theatres on a budget, I always caution you to 'phase out' things carefully. When you're talking about such a small budget... more older stuff is often better than less newer stuff. Though not always.

    Personally... I'm really excited to see what the price point turns out to be on the new ETC Element as far as consoles go. This may well become THE board for high schools and small theatres.

    As for your lekos... if the Colortrans are working for the most part (ie. the reflectors aren't burned to the point of producing really nasty and nearly useless light) then I would start by acquiring source-4s of whichever beamspread and to whatever quantity you need to provide straight in frontlight in roughly 8' areas to your entire stage. Next I would start in on source-4 pars for overhead use (backlight,toplight, higher angle sidelight.)

    Depending on the beamspread of your colortrans... I would use them (until you REALLY have enough newer equipment to never want them again) for template washes, pipe end sidelight, and color washes on top of the source-4 front light.

    Eventually, for a high school auditorium, without knowing anything about what you actually do there... I would personally aim for a bare minimum of.... Source 4s - enough for straight in front light, pipe end sidelight, and 6 or 8 moveable specials. Source 4 Pars - Enough for solid backlight coverage, plus 8 or 10 for special functions (diagonal back effects... light through set windows... uplighting on scenery or walls... etc.) And then (this part will make SOME people choke....) a healthy quantity of altman 360Qs (say... 16 of them.) for template washes. The source-4 optics NEVER make me happy with gobo washes... they just don't soften the way I want them to, and they don't look clean enough sharp if I want them hard edged either. The 360Q... sometimes with a donut... has a totally different and often quite pleasant quality for gobo washes... We've all cursed at the old altmans when we've been working in a theatre with 30 year old fixtures and they're all sticky and the reflectors are burned... but those reflectors aren't hard to change, the lights are easy to bench focus, and the light is different and useful. Nobody's SEEN what a 30 year old source-4 looks like yet, have we? :p When I get to spec equipment from scratch for a theatre, I always try to get a mix of s-4s and 360Qs in the inventory. People think I'm crazy... until they've had the pleasure of using the right fixture for the job without having to compromise on their other fixtures. :)

    Art Whaley
    www.artwhaley.com
     
  5. tcahall

    tcahall Member

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    Art,

    Thank you for bringing up the ever faithful Altman 6xs. Real work horses and very cost effective. Considering you can get them used for $50-60, they are hard to pass up on a budget and do the job. I really love the S-4, but I am still not convinced that it is the be all and end all of fixtures. Just as a monochrome show runs the risk of being pretty boring, a mono-fixture world can be limiting.

    Tim.
     
  6. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    Are you asking as a student, or teacher?

    I wouldn't phase out any of your lights, unless they're becoming unworkable. I'm still using what looks like some early 306Qs because they supplement my modern rig very nicely. I would do exactly what others have suggested and start buying Source4s, but do it slowly, and find what you like. $16k could buy a pretty nice supplemental rig, however.

    I would look for equipment that students should be familiar with when leaving high school. A pair or so of Rosco I-Cues and power supply are easy to use, and great for training. You might also look at color scrollers or Seachangers to go with a couple of Source4s.

    What other gear are you missing? Everything have a safety cable? Gobos and frames? Top hats or gel extenders? Side arms?

    For theaters, a Strand or ETC console will provide better training for students - these are considerably more common post high school than Colortran. Call dealers for either brand in your area, and they should be more than happy to set up some demonstrations for you.
     
  7. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Lots of great advice so far.

    I'm another voice saying never phase out until you have so many new fixtures you NEVER need one of the old ones. There's always a use for an old fixture.

    When it comes to Zooms I'm right there with Icewolf... the ETC Zoom is not my favorite fixture. It burns Gel WAY too fast and it's just not very friendly to work with. For about $50 more you can get the Selecon Pacific Zooms. They are MUCH nicer to work with, have great optics for gobos. Plus with the proper lamp and a $75 heat shielding transparency holder you can print a color gobo on your ink jet using standard overhead projector plastic and pop it in the Selecon. Just like the Rosco Image Pro but only a few cents per gobo! I purchased 8 Selcon Zooms for my theater inventory I use them exclusively for gobos and texture. They are fantastic instruments. I wouldn't spend the extra to get them for my complete inventory because I don't think it's worth it, but they are a tool everyone should have a few of in their arsenal.

    Have you read my theory on buying DMX toys? It's become known around here as "The Gafftaper Method". While they aren't on the top of your list the principle still sort of applies to just expanding your basic inventory.
     
  8. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Here is the thing about the 360Q, it just isn't more cost effective than a source four these days. You have to remember that many schools are not allowed to buy used gear, and when you price out the 360Q against the Source 4, you will find that for the minimal difference in price you get lightyears more bang for your buck on the Source 4. And for that same difference in price from 360Q to Source 4 you can go from S4 to Selecon and again you increase in features and functionality by a lot.

    Put it this way, I have a collection of 360Qs in my inventory, enough for a full system, yet they are the last units to get picked across the board. I don't think that they have been used once this season (in 6 shows). In fact our older Strand Century units get used first because they are better in all respects save physical appearance.

    I have nothing against the 360Q other than it should not be bought or sold anymore. I know it was an industry workhorse, but it's time is quickly fading, and it isn't an economical fixture to purchase.

    Other than that, I agree with what everyone is saying, don't get rid of anything before you know that you will never need it again.
     
  9. NickJones

    NickJones Active Member

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    Firstly, amen to this.
    its the only good fixture we own, (we have one) but it so much better than any of the other fixtures! Can't reccomed these enough, the printing your own gobos is fantastic, the cooling system they use is great, because it means the gobos don't get overly hot, (quite clever too, if you are actually intrested, look on there website, shows you how it works) but, they can still melt. Burning plastic gobos smell bad... Really bad.
    Secondly, never "chuck out" fixtures. You can never have enough. Even if they just sit on a meat rack for 5 years, there will be use for them.

    As for your console, the ETC Element seems the perfect choice, as soon as our new venue gets built, then I will be begging for one of these. The ION seemed to expensive for what would be using it for, and even old people could use this desk! Try explaining how to use Strand to our director.......

    Just read about the Gaffataper Methood, it makes so much sence. But I presume the Element will use about half that budget, so maybe this is somthing you won't be faced with for a while.
    All the best, jealous you get a set budget! We seem to be told when we are over, and thats about it, not even sure what our budget is!
    Good Luck
    Nick Jones
     
  10. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    I am with Alex for once. The price difference between new units is just not not enough to justify buying a new Altman anymore.

    Mike
     
  11. chris325

    chris325 Active Member

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    I am asking this as a student. All of our fixtures are safety cabled, we've got gobos and frames, top hats, etc. We are looking into purchasing a side arm from Apollo.

    We are looking into an ETC Element or a used Hog and we don't plan to use moving lights at all. Our school mostly does theatrical productions.

    The four source fours that we bought a few years ago have proved to be incredibly useful, we have found ourselves using them in nearly every show. The only Altman lights we are using are several pars, which have seen very little use besides being used as streetlights in a recent production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. Selecon Pacifics, although they are very versatile, are much more expensive than their source four counterparts. Our Colortran board is incredibly slow, and we've had a lot of issues with it freezing in the middle of shows. The Colortran lekos are also a pain when it comes to changing lenses, which requires dismanteling the entire light. Their fresnels, on the other hand, have worked surprisingly well.
     
  12. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    This is absolutely the wrong approach to take to making a systems upgrade. First of all, theatre ≠ no moving lights. One has no bearing on the other. You may not see a use for them right now, but in a couple years you (or who ever is on the crew at the time) may want to use moving lights or LED fixtures or ICues or Right Arms. Not only might you want to, but you might end up owning them, in which case you need a console that won't be a bear to control them with.

    It is all about futureproofing. When you make large capital purchases you can't think only about what you need now, but what you may need in the future. I lighting console should be (for most users) about a 10 year investment, and a lot can change in 10 years. Don't take this to mean that a console like Element is not the right console for you, just make sure that when you get to drawing up a proposal you have though about the longevity of everything you propose to buy.
     
  13. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Element is likely to come in between$4k and $5k. Much higher than that and it's costing more than an Ion... which makes no sense.

    I'm guessing you mean a Right Arm from Apollo? Right Arm is a great choice for a rig that has no other intelligent gear because it has a built in power supply. Power supplies add a couple hundred bucks to the cost of the project. Also don't forget that DMX cable is VERY expensive. Where would you be mounting the Right Arm? They way 28lbs plus the weight of the fixture. They are also pretty large. I have to really think about where I'm hanging one in my black box as it's not easy to just move around. If you have the ability to fly an electric down to stage level to load the Right Arm or if you are thinking about leaving it in one spot great. But if you are thinking it would move all over the place and you don't have the ability to fly the battens to the deck you should consider an I-cue instead (I-cue requires a power supply). I-cue is much smaller and lighter... it's also more limited in what it can do. Trade offs.

    A used Hog makes no sense for a rig that uses no moving lights. In my opinion the best console out there for a small lighting rig is a Strand Basic Palette with a channel upgrade. I'll probably add Element to that list ... but I haven't seen one yet... Heck ETC hasn't even finished writing the software yet... so I'm withholding judgment. As Alex pointed out most schools aren't allowed to buy used gear anyway so this may be pointless. Also pay attention to what he said about future proofing it's good advice. DMX is beginning to VERY slowly fade away and be replaced by internal networks. Don't get me wrong DMX will be around for a very long time, however the new equipment that will come along will eventually stop using DMX at some point in the future and then you'll be stuck with having to buy or rent some sort of a converter in order to work with the new gear.
     
  14. quarterfront

    quarterfront Member

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    Just weighing in on your C'trans....

    I have 74 of them. They were new in 1987, and at that time we had 80 of 'em. We run year 'round, 8 shows a week, with about 12 weeks "down time" per year during which we change over and do tech for a new show.

    About every 5 years they get overhauled. On overhaul we replace ruined shutters, flatten out warped ones, clean everything including the reflector, bench, and reassemble. Reflectors aren't 100% after 22 years, but they're still doing pretty good. After 19 years the front lenses started breaking from heat stress and I had to replace all of them. Lamp socket failure/replacement is an ongoing issue and part of the routine. Over the years 6 units have been damaged in some way or another that resulted in them getting parted out.

    Would I prefer to have a fleet of brand new Source 4's? Sure. But what I DO have is a fleet of good, decently maintained instruments, as opposed to having nothing. Shelling out the bucks to do total replacement of my C'trans isn't an option on the table.

    So, I get to buy a couple S-4's every so often, and am building an inventory of them; but I never think in terms of "total replacement". That kind of thinking's for rich fools and state schools.

    Serious, routine maintainance isn't nearly as hard as people seem to think, and those C'trans, for all their faults, were the cat's pajamas when they were the hot new thing, before the S-4 came along. I mean, think about it, what exactly is there that can happen to a C'tran, outside of dropping it from the cats, that will make it unfixable?

    Back when I was younger and more foolish I was much quicker to look at a unit with some minor problem, a bad shutter or broken lamp cap handle, and see that as grounds for trashing the unit. 4 of those 6 units that got parted out probably could have been repaired in half an hour if I hadn't been a stupid kid.

    Bottom line: Don't replace your fleet. Add to it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2009
  15. highschooltech

    highschooltech Active Member

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    The thing with the element is that it will run eos which treats movers as a single channel so there's no problem there. But defiantly look into some dmx toys (IQ, scrollers, etc) they can really add to a show and tend to work with what you have on hand. I also would recommend the selecon pacific zooms. Great fixtures with great image projection.
     
  16. chris325

    chris325 Active Member

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    Although the Colortrans we have still work, they are a big pain to work with on a regular basis. Changing lenses requires taking apart the entire fixture, while on source 4's lens changing is a quick, simple operation. Also, they can't be serviced by Colortran. One of my biggest pet peeves about Colortrans is that they are incredibly hot. (I've got many battle scars to prove this.)
    I see what you mean. I think that a hog would be out of the question, and that either an Element or an Ion would be the best. The thing is, I honestly don't see my school ever purchasing a moving light. Most of what goes on in our theatre is school performances, and in the event that we would need one, we would rent it. We have a small budget as it is, and I don't expect it to grow anytime soon, as our district recently went through a teacher's strike. We might eventually consider purchasing a moving light, but for now, we will have to wait. We are, however, considering buying a Right Arm. We also have some color scrollers, gobo rotators, etc.

    Although the Pacifics are impressive fixtures, when compared to source four, ETC comes out as a much better value.
     
  17. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    An Element should be able to handle RightArms very well. I've used our plain old SmartFade 24/96 to do it with the faders, and even that is pretty easy. Especially when you only use it in the 8-bit mode, it only uses 3 (?) channels. Any memory board can do the RightArm, but the on demand ML controls of the Element should make it easy to use the tools, as they say it can do iCues easily as well.
     
  18. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    What C'trans are those? Seems both the 5/50s and the square beasts that preceded them have conventional removable barrels -- just like every other fixture. Or are these not the Century-style universal barrel kind but the 360Q-style fixed barrel? If they're in the manner of 360Q, why are you doing that? It's absolutely stupid.

    Serviced? Fix 'em yourself.

    This is every 1K light out there. :)

    Look, Source Fours are nice. If somebody asked me (like they did the other month) what lights to buy, Source Fours are the major winner, certainly for Lekos. But that doesn't mean that everything else is crap. 360Qs were a workhorse; I've got 8 of them in my personal inventory now. They've saved my ass on many occasions. They are a very useful light; if you keep them in decent maintenance, they just work. I've got some Strand-Century Lekos too; they just work. They're solid lights, and I'd put any of them up against a S4 any day. Sure, no rotating gate, no iris slot, but they're all good lights.

    Back in their day, C'tran were one of the kings. They used to make a good light. It seems like you'd be better served by an investment in maintaining the C'tran inventory you have already than you would by replacing them with S4s. I wouldn't buy anything C'tran now, but that's because they're NSI by a different name now. Old C'tran is at least decent.
     
  19. awhaley

    awhaley Member

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    My recomendation for a mixed Altman/ETC system wasn't based on price at all - it's based on the fact that they have different qualities of light. No painter would limit himself to only one brush... the different lekos - ETC, SP, and 360Q each have things they're good at. I hate source-4 gobo washes. I hate frontlight without rotating barrels. I love the SP optics for sharp image projection (especially with the transparency holder) and for wide angles at very short throws (though the ED S-4 lenses have closed the gap... Selecon was there first.) If you get the chance, you should have all three!

    And I know that working with the old Colortrans is a pain... but they make light and that's all a fixture really has to do to stay in inventory in my book. But then, I'm absolutely not above telling an electrician to zip tie halogen worklights to the boom. I'm at a point in my career where I'm not concerned about getting funny looks from 'that's not how we do it here' electricians - I know the show will speak for itself when the curtain goes up and I'll do whatever I need to in order to make sure that it looks its best.

    Art Whaley
    Art Whaley Design
     
  20. Pie4Weebl

    Pie4Weebl Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    I really, really, really, have to disagree with your logic. The altman's do have a "different quality of light" its called bad. If you want a dark amber light, rate all your source 4 dimmers to 50, never bench focus them and drop some chocolate gel in them, that will get you close enough. I don't see how you could suggest they are good for template washs when it is next to impossible to get a consistent focus with the lights over the beam spread and from one unit to another and you can't rotate the gobo in the unit.

    There is nothing an Altman can do that a Source 4 can't and there are many things a Source 4 can do that an Altman can't. Sorry, this kind of attitude is a sore spot for me. I had a designer who opted to add literally 100 specials to his plot because he "didn't like the quality of light" from a VL1000, here is the kicker, it was a member of the T series....
     

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