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Lighting in the Academic/Educational World

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by icewolf08, Jun 25, 2007.

?

What is more important?

  1. Learning the "industry standard" gear and methodology

    12.1%
  2. Learning the concepts and how to make do with what you have

    87.9%
  1. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    I am starting this hread because there were a bunch of things in the short hijack of the Jands Event 416 thread that got me thinking, and instead of further hijacking the thread, this seemed like a better idea.

    In any event, if you didn't read that thread, there was a little debate on what types of equipment is best suited to the educational market, industry standard or not (to be blunt).

    I come from a background where I learned on all industry standard equipment for the most part. My first lighting console in middle school (I don't remember the brand) was an analog 2 scene preset that connected to the wall with a cable as thick as my arm. After that we upgraded to an ETC Acclaim 2-scene and from then till college I was on ETC gear. I have to admit, that in terms of ease of use and teach/learnability it is a good way to go. But this is not to say that some other consoles/equipment wouldn't be the same.

    Once I got to college I met people that came from all different backgrounds, from people who went to school practically across the street from High End Systems so they had all HES gear, to people who never really touched a memory console. At college we had an Obsession II in the proscenium space, and a Strand 300 in the theatre in the round. The thought was that they could teach students both industry standard consoles. This actually is what turned me into a "Strand Guy." It was quite impressive the number of ways we found to break/crash/piss-off the Obsession, plus for me, the Strand OS just seemed more intuitive/user friendly (EOS might convert me back...). We also had 6 Martin moving heads, and after I graduated thy bought a bunch of VL1000s. This is in addition to the 500+ conventional unit inventory which includes units older than myself and modern units. We had plenty of effects devices too, from scrollers to atmospherics to fiber optics.

    Now, chances are, it would have been quite beneficial to me as a student focusing in lighting tech to have exposure to other gear, because in reality there aren't a lot of non-commercial theatres that are outfitted like my college was. I worked on a cruise ship for a while where they have lots of high tech gear, but it isn't always high end equipment. I had never worked with Clay Paky fixtures before, they aren't considered top quality as it were, and people at my college would have frowned on them. Now I work in a large regional theatre with very good budgets, but when I got here, half the inventory was still old Strand radial units (they were calling them "Top Loaders"). The theatre had a bunch of Chroma-Q scrollers, Meteor Elipscans, we even have some GAM Scene Machines (which are pretty cool). I had never touched equipment like this once again because at college it was considered sub par. But, making the transition was not hard for me because one of the biggest pushes at school was in principle, not just with the equipment we had.

    I personally believe that it doesn't matter if you learn on low end or out of date equipment as long as you learn the principles. I am not saying that schools should have a multi-scene preset board to teach, but the people who only learned on one are not less qualified. "Channel 6 at 20" whether recorded as a cue on a disk or on paper is the same thing. If you learn how to load a gel string in a Wybron scroller, it is almost exactly the same as loading a gel string in the original Revolution scroller, which is similar to loading a Chroma-Q.

    The following quote is from the aforementioned thread:
    I can't say that I agree with statements like this. I think that it is more important to get the job done then to buy the newest gear. A 360Q, in functionality is almost exactly the same as a Source 4. If you teach someone how to change a lamp in a 360Q they will have no trouble doing the same for a Source 4, the principle is the same. If s school is outfitted with a NSI console, chances are the student who learned on it will be able to sit down in front of an ETC or Strand and pick up the basics in a few minutes. Besides, if you learned on an Express(ion) then sitting down in front of say a GrandMA is not going to be a walk in the park.

    This is theatre, in other words, it is make do with what you have. Our industry has been this way since the beginning. If you learn how to put on the show with the equipment that you have, then moving to better/ higher end equipment should make life easier. If you start with the easy life in school you may end up being just as unprepared for your first job as the graduate who came from the low budget school.

    What do the rest of you think?
     
  2. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    I was about to post a long rebuttle, and carefully explain my theory, but I just wanna see how this one plays out - keep in mind that by not industry standard, I was saying not industry standard, but of comparable quality, price and features.
     
  3. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Won't vote on it because I think both are important but more so in the latter for a basis of knowledge. By the time you get out of what ever school and get to use the gear, most likely it will be obsolete. What was it just like eight years ago the Mac 600 was the main light for the industry? Highly agree with the above concepts in learning a base of knowledge rather than emphisis on modern. Also teaches you a respect, and say when a beam projector is on a show, knowing what the heck it is.

    "And whoever out there is still requesting 360Q's (yes, they are still being sold) ought to be shot."
    Gee, me in specifying to a customer that they should buy these fixtures for their low budget theater in getting more bang for their buck should than be on your hit list. Should be shot... and you should be stuck in a place without modern gear and be expected to do your job in making art anyway. A 360Q with a HPR 575/115v lamp still out punches and has a more even flat field of beam spred than that of a S-4 fixture.
     
  4. Sean

    Sean Active Member

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    Alex,

    It seems I'm the first to vote here, and I have the same opinion as you seem to (about learning to "make do and get the job done"). I wholeheartedly support that view.
    My comments made in the other thread are about buying new gear. Yes, the 360Q is a decent light. However, why should one specify it in a new project? There is better gear out there.

    Also,
    True. But it won't teach them how to rotate the gate. Or to use a drop-in iris. Or about a gel clip. That's the TEACHING part. I think it's actually easier to work with gear that is less complicated than you know already. So teach a S4, and they'll figure out a 360Q faster than the other way around. Anybody else think this way?

    I don't suggest that every school out there pitch everything they own and buy all new. I suppose it would be great if they could, but what school could do that? I do think that those responsible for academic inventories should keep as much gear as they can safely operational. When money becomes available they should buy what most of the rest of the professional world is buying. When you buy new buy the most current, widely used technology that you can afford.


    I counter: Would you buy gear for work that isn't being purchased by any other large LORT theatre? Planning on buying some new 360Qs? How about some American DJ-type scanners (as a legit moving light, not as a "throwaway" effect)?

    Again, one vote for "get it done"....but a very well argued post! ;)
     
  5. Sean

    Sean Active Member

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    Ship,
    First, I do apologize if I offended. Perhaps I did choose language in the too-strong range.

    If it's a low budget theatre, why not have them buy used S4's? If/when they get more money in the future then their additional gear would have a better chance of matching what they have already.

    Also, just to put this whole conversation back in its original context, the post that started this discussion was about a proposed list of equipment for a school potentially getting a $30,000 grant.

    --Sean
     
  6. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Well, I didnt read all the post above me because frankly, I'm tired (we open tomorrow/today I guess...). My personal feeling is that in the education realm teaching the technology is very important. I feel that students should get to expierience the full gambet of technology, from 2 scene preset for your basic level classes to inteligent lighting and all that good stuff for their capstone. But, I fall on the end of "the basics" more then anything else. Look at full sail, they have the best gear money can buy, but their students get out with the attitude that if they don't have that gear around, they can't do anything. I have made lighting that looks like it was done with inteligents with a rather simple rig. You get the basics, you can apply those to anything.
    ....now my rant...As far as consoles go, any institution that is teaching their students on a console that does not track the way strands/obsessions do is doing a dis-service to their students. Cue only consoles should go away. period. I also feel that students need to get their hands on proper video gear... ie watchout systems or the like. My feeling is the institution does not have to own it, but bringing it in for a show here or their every 2-3 years to give a "heres whats out there" thing is great. Also, all schools should have a subscription of all the trade mags, and the students should actually READ it. This also goes for paroozing lightnetwork, here, and other ponds of knowledge. Also, they should heavily push their students to get the hell out over the summer and actually go do something, and preferably not summer stock at the university. Go work, learn, and make some mulla.
     
  7. DarSax

    DarSax Active Member

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    Just coming out of a high school setting where I was the student, I'd have to resoundingly vote for number two.
    My high school had old Electro-Controls Ellipsoidals, ancient zoom units that you'd never find anywhere else. But once I knew how to use them, I had no trouble when, at 11:30 on Wednesday night before the Thursday opening night, making the decision to rent and eventually being able to light a show using Source Fours.

    In fact, I'd have to say that my experience was all the better having made that jump.

    I learned the basics of a fixture on the Ellipsoidals, about beam angle and what looks good as far as positions, colors, intensities, etc. When the Source Four was thrust upon me, suddenly I realized just how powerful and useful the S4 really was, so I could appreciate that much more its more modern features, like the rotating barrel and interchangable lens train.

    True, to a point that's just pure emotion/mentality but I feel that it definitely implanted and cemented the usefulness of those features in my brain. My thought process as of now is "Well I know if I take a source four and do x and y with it, I can light an actor. But what if I do this and this and this?" I'm more encouraged to experiment, in my opinion. It's the same with consoles. I started out with an ancient Strand, then had a Maxxyz thrust upon me (rental), then an Express (rental), then a Hog 2 (rental). I wish I had been able to use the Express, then Hog, then Maxxyz, so that I could have truly used the Maxxyz to its full potential. I personally would rather learn the basics on, well, a basic instrument, and then use that foundation to move onto more "standard" equipment.

    Side analogy, because the jazz camp I'm working at started today. It's the same thing as playing an instrument. If you start on a two thousand dollar horn, you're going to take it for granted, at least I'd think so. If you start on a cheap horn and eventually move on to a professional grade, you're going to really appreciate and learn and study that horn.
     
  8. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    To me I feel like you are asking the wrong question. I think the question should be phrased something like this... You are a typical educational institution with a decent but not extravagant theater and lighting inventory. Suddently you are given $30,000 to spend. Should you spend it to complete your conventional lighting inventory or should you spend it on two Mac 2k's?

    Personally I think it's more important to master the basics than it is to have a little experience with a variety of gear. In organizing the equipment package for our new theater, I considered purchasing Mega Handles for all the instruments. However, while that would be kind of nice for keeping hangs easy, students need to learn how to use a wrench. In a similar way while I hope to have a few cool movers in my inventory, the priority is to first have a full inventory of Elipsoidals, Pars, Fresnels, Strips, Scoops, and Cyc Lights. If you can provide that well, then great, break out the big toys.
     
  9. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    Though I don't really want to get involved in the verbal fray here, I have to agree about learning on something more complicated first. It took me, another student, and the dept. head about 10 minutes to figure out how to put a gel frame into a source 4... It goes to the side then up?!
     
  10. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    First off, it has been quite interesting to read everyone's comments, and I hope that you all find it interesting too. The point of this thread was not to start an argument, but a friendly discussion. I hope that no one has taken any offense or felt attacked by my post or any others. It seemed to me that this could be a very relevant topic to a lot of people.

    I am sure that I could have worded some of the things that I said better, especially the poll, but as I was finishing my original post the s**t was hitting the fan during Les Mis and I didn't take the time to re-read things.

    I do like Gafftaper's idea on possible revisions to the poll/topic question about how an educational facility would best spend $30K.

    I just got up this morning, so I will try to post a more intelligent response later.
     
  11. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I fully agree. This is an interesting philosophical debate. Unfortunately few of us have the budget to do it all so we have to choose a strategy that we feel works best for our theater, our students, and our skills as teachers. We are all going to have feelings about what is most important based on what we know the best. I'm sure some who read this forum who work in touring rock and roll lighting would have a very different perspective than those who work in a theater. And that's how diverse our the industry is.

    I'm currently taking a summer class at a university to pick up a few more credits to renew my teaching certification. They have a very nice theater program here. They have a 60+ year old proscenium space with a recent remodel and a 60X70 black box. There are about a dozen people on staff here, including one who specializes in just teaching and overseeing all the lighting. It's a good size program. The recently purchased a full set of S4 Jr. Zooms for the black box (50+?) and 30+ full size S4's for the main stage. the rest of the inventory probably contains 100 older 360Q's, and another 100+ Fresnels and pars. They are using an Expression in the black box and an Express with Emphasis system in the proscenium stage. It's a big well equipped theater program. They own 4 Technobeams that appear to be 5-10 years old.

    So you can certainly see what their philosophy is. They are clearly focusing on spending their money to upgrade their conventional inventory. On the other hand, this is a 4 year University with a grad school program. A very solid argument can be made that they are not fully serving the needs of their graduates by only having 4 somewhat basic moving lights in the entire inventory.

    Like I said, it's an interesting philosophical debate.
     
  12. CLEFFEL

    CLEFFEL Member

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    What a great thread...and good discussion...I wish I had time to read more in depth.

    I'd have to say, for me it breaks out like this:
    High School: Focus on the basics...there's really no reason for a high school student to be worrying about programming 30 movers and utilizing an inventory of 400 fixtures. Give them a good base of knowledge in theory, basic drafting, different fixture types (pars, ERS, fresnels, etc.), basic memory console programming (ala Express(ion) line). Give them a base in technology with a little side note about the art.

    College: This is where students should gain exposure to higher level fixtures. They should learn how to program with at least some moving lights and a higher level console (EOS, Hog, MA.) They should learn more about the art of design and how to apply the technical base they learned in high school.

    But that's just my two cents.

    Keep this thread going...I love it.

    -Chris
     
  13. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    Being in High School, I'd have to agree that a strong base in the technical knowledge seems to me to be the most important. I do dabble in design, but we don't draft or anything, but it's basically just me going "hmm. that looks good; well better than not having any light there."

    I would, however, like an education in DMX controlled devices, basic moving light / scroller type stuff. To me that means like some mirrors, some scrollers, some gobo rotators, and maybe rent (hire, for you aussies) a few VL1000TI/S once a year. However, it'd all be used on a basic memory console, Strand 300 series / ETC Express.
     
  14. lamphead

    lamphead Member

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    I agree a great thread. BASIC'S, BASIC'S,BASIC'S
    I'm constantly amazed by some of the young people that come to work at our theatre. There lack of knowledge of the basic aspects of our craft. How to properly coil a cable (a pet pev of mine), treating the gear they use daily with respect/care. I could go on and on. I left the industry for a number of years. When I left there was no DMX and Altman fixtures where the mainstay and if you wanted moving lights you had to have Vari-lite's and a operator from them. I returned to find S4 fixtures and DMX control and any number of cool moving lights and control desks. It didn't take me long to pick up on these great new toys, but it still came down to basic's. How to read a plot, cable a show and focus. Skills I learned in high school and working after school at a small lighting rental company. When it comes time to get a show hung and ready to set cue's, I rather have one person who knows the basic's than four HIGH TECH know it all's.
     
  15. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    (This post is making me think. Maybe I don't know how to correctly coil a cable. Instead of potentially embarrassing myself, can I simply ask what the correct technique is?)
     
  16. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    That is probably a question for it's own thread, as different people prefer different coiling methods...
     
  17. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    New thread will be made in about 30 seconds.

    Now back to your regularly scheduled thread on academic lighting.

    So is this discussion going to get started again? Or has a consensus been reached?
     
  18. Jezza

    Jezza Active Member

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    First off, I'm on the basics side of the argument, but led me tell you all a story for a second.

    the highschool where I previously held the positions of TD and LD, I was oh so blessed to be endowed with an underclassman named, well lets call him X for now. Well X came in as a freshman while I was still a sophomore and thought he knew everything. His parents were both NYC theater people, very successful, and he felt that he knew everything there was to know about lighting.

    First day I met him, I was running a dance performance on our main stage, just some simple color washes, a few chases, nothing too exciting on an Express 48/96. We got to talking when he came up to the console and started running off the names of some big designers he knew and all the new moving lights he was interested in working with. I knew he was full of hot air so I stood him in front of the console and said, "Ok, build me a chase of channels 1, 2, 3, and 4." He sort of stared at me dumb-founded and then started fumbling around, until he succeeded in creating one hell of a mess one of my macros. Now, I was not doing this to be cruel, but I wanted to prove a point, which was "yes, you might know some big people and you might know about some of the latests and greatest gear out there, but that isn't what matters. The basics matter."

    Over the past two years we have been forced to work together, for better and for worse, on every production my high school has put on and I have continually become more and more frustrated with his inability, reluctance to, and resentment towards learning the BASICS of theater lighting. How to coil a cable properly, how to tie it up on a pipe, how to hang a fixture, proper ladder safety, proper handling of instruments, simple electrical theory, you know, the basics! Sure, now he can program in circles on our Express and maybe even write in some cues on a HOG now, but he doesn't know a THING about what really matters.

    So recently, we did a concert and rented 4 MAC 700s to fill in the 80+ instrument conventional rig. Our school has two Express 48/96s so I decided the best way to run the show would be one for conventionals and one for movers. Due to his whinning and complaining and me just wanting him to shut up, I let him program the mover board. He spent 3 days programming this one off, and cursed every day minute of it screaming his head off that he wanted a HOG iPC and that it would make his life so much easier and that you can't program movers on an Express.

    As well all know, you CAN program movers on an Express. Sure its not the most streamlined way do it, nor the fastest, but its completely doable and can be executed very well if you have your wits about you and understand how the console is working. Well my friend X really didn't. He has been getting used to working with high end gear with high end friends and didn't learn his basics.

    Needless to say, the show happened, although the moving light cues were NOT what I had wanted them to be. Now, I'm being forced out of the position by him and his get this, mother, to make way for their "rising designer". Please. No matter, I've get enough work with local theaters and production companies. My position is this: Your shouldn't be given the opportunity to design, until you've demonstrated good knowledge of the basics.

    I guess the point I'm trying to make with all of this here is high school should be where you learn the BASICSSSS. Its plenty nice when we get to bring in some other gear for our big shows, but it doesn't help at all if half of my crew doesn't know how to hang it properly, or cable it properly, or understand how the standard S4 works.

    High School should be the basics-rigging, electrical, basic programming, design fundamentals. College should be more design based, but with an emphasis on larger conventional inventories and more opportunities to rent/have access to more powerful control desks and equipment. Personally, I think that only juniors and seniors in college should be able to spec the newer, higher end gear for their shows. This will force students for the first two years to accomplish their design goals with conventional gear, as we all know is certainly possible.

    There's my .02, although written way too late and with way too many mistakes I'm sure.
     
  19. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    I didn't vote for either. Simply because in the real (i.e., the one where you get paid or you get fired) world the show goes with the equipment you have, not the equipment you want. And there are egos, there are budgets, there are availability ... you name it. Better to teach 3 ways to do something than "this is the only way"
     
  20. Logos

    Logos Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, Having done small and medium scale theatre touring It's simply a matter of doing what you can with what you've got. Which I guess puts me with the learn the basics group.
    Also down here, the gap between Music touring and top end musicals and grass roots theatre seems a lot wider than you guys talk about. I often find myself using the sort of gear we are talking about on the old lighting thread to light quite big shows.
     

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