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lighting real tree's

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by 9voltnewbie, Aug 30, 2003.

  1. 9voltnewbie

    9voltnewbie Member

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    We are planning an outdoor open mic night and the concrete block that is our stage is nestled amongst a lot of tree's(oaks and such, not evergreens)... I thought it would be fun to light the tree's up in a variety of colors... how do you recommend I go about doing that?
     
  2. wolf825

    wolf825 Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Howdy,
    For living tree's...you can get some cool effects and shadows by putting par cans at the base of the tree--or as close as possible, and shining the light with some gel up into the canopy. Additionally you can try setting a par can or similar unit off from the base of the tree and shoot it to one side. Outside lighting is pretty simple--play around with it and find something that looks cool. Just make sure you keep safety first and keep your cables out of the walking paths, and make sure you "bag" your electrical connections so they don't get wet with dew and shock anyone. To "bag" your connectors--just get a ziplock bag and put the ends into the zip lock, then tape it shut. It varies how you can do it--but thats the idea. Keeps the rain out of the electricity and that is goooood...

    hope that helps...
    -wolf
     
  3. TechDirector

    TechDirector Active Member

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    I would experiment with different lights, gels and angles until I find something really cool. The idea that wolf mentioned sounds like a great idea. Maybe for bigger tree's you can use two or three lights with different colors. That would look really spiffy.
     
  4. 9voltnewbie

    9voltnewbie Member

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    awesome idea's, will definitely consider them..

    maybe use two source 4's, gel them, and use gobo's to throw a dual color pattern on the trees! :)

    another question... what can I built to attach the lights to be able to keep them from moving and point them where I want?
     
  5. TechDirector

    TechDirector Active Member

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    Hmmmm. Another good question. It depends on how many trees there are and how much of a budget you are working on and if you really feel like working. Have you ever seen one of those costume rack's that some lucky schools get that has wheels on the bottem so you can cart them around? Well you can make something like that but not so high. to hang the lights on at a lower angle. Wheels would definatly be cool but since your outside, you may not want that; OR just get like those 3 or 4 inch wheels. Because your not going to feel like carrying all that. Anyway thats what I would do.
     
  6. dvsDave

    dvsDave Benevolent Dictator Administrator Senior Team CB Mods Fight Leukemia

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    The Terrible Trio

    This question sounds like a job for The Terrifying Trio, (Ship, JoJo, and Wolf)

    [theme music starts] dun ta da da!! [theme music fades out]
     
  7. 9voltnewbie

    9voltnewbie Member

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    who?
     
  8. wolf825

    wolf825 Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Ahh...yup dual colors and dual lights on tree's workwell...just play with it and let those creative thoughts go. As for what to build to hold the lights in place--you want whats called a "Pidgeon plate". This can be made from wood--basically its a 1' or 2' square of plywood, with two edges raised to lift the center from the ground. In the center you drill a hole for a standard 3/8" or 5/8" bolt to slide into, with a nut. If you're using 3/4" ply or 1" ply--make sure the bolt is no longer then 1 1/2" or you will have too much sticking up and the light won't be able to pivot on the yoke. Remove the C Clamp from your light fixture, attach the plate in its place and secure with the bolt and nut and a washer or two--and there ya have it.
    If ya can't find or don't have any scrap wood--try using a round steel base from an old Mic Stand--they work just as well and add a little more weight to the whole thing to keep it from toppling over. Another thing you CAN do if you don't have any of those--go to the local surplus store and get a cheapo pack of 10 FLAT-style TENT STAKES...these surprisingly fit in the hole of the Yoke very well and since most are curved--you just pound them into the ground to hold the light in place. Lastly--you can also use cloth sandbags on the yoke to sorta hold it in place--but you canot use PLASTIC sandbags or they will melt or catch fire...most theater sand bags are fire-proof treated.

    Hope that helps ya...
    -wolf
     
  9. wolf825

    wolf825 Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Not who...WHOM... =)

    Stick around, post questions--and you'll meet us all. ;)


    woof-woof... :p

    -wolf
     
  10. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Tree Lighting

    On the last two, as a member of the "Terrible Trio" (I like that!) I don't know if I would do them and trust that by the end of the evening they would still be at their aimed position. Nor do I like for this instance using a costume rack as it seems to be for hanging the lights at the base of a tree which would put the light a bit far away from the base of the tree. Plus if store bought - such costume racks will not hold up well to a lighting C-Clamp. Different strokes for different folks and all, but the fixture plywood base and mic stand idea are much more standard to be using for this. Granted that you will have to add some extra special washers to the mic stand, and will probably have to de-rust it later if it gets wet. Plywood stands, and how to build them as well described in a past posting to DVS Dave about a earlier stage lighting question about how to get rid of his lights quickly by myself is I should be so humble and by others, well covers the subject, and I do think it's the best solution at least for under tree up lights. Sand bags are for the bases not for the yokes in my opinion, and stakes could do well for the cable or base but not for the yoke either. No offense as I would trust Wolf to do my lighting any time.

    "Pidgeon plate", must be a West Coast thing like "Apple Box." Pidgeon holes are for storing stage hardware in the scene shop but I never heard of Pidgeon plate before myself.

    5/8" bolt shoud say 1/2" bolt as 5/8" is a bit too large to fit in most lighting equipment yoke holes, but possibly the right size drill to use in the lumber to account for swelling of the lumber should it get wet and you want to get the bolt out. In lumber, especially if it's going to get wet, always drill it out for at least 1/32" larger if not up to the stated 1/8" larger. 1/2" bolts however would be standard for stage lighting yokes unless in small equipment thus in my case a 9/16" drill bit.

    Just a bit of a caution about your S-4 understanding of the above. Lekos as an uplight for a tree would probably not be very effective. PAR Cans were stated and are the normal solution - especially in the PAR 64 size. If you were saying S-4 PAR than all is well, but even a 50 degree Leko isn't going to have the same effect as a S-4 PAR with Wide Flood Lens much Less PAR 64 proper to light branches, much less say a PAR 38 to light the trunk as desired. Lekos are fine for stage lights and directional beams at that, but for washes as you would be using them for, it's not very effective. The PAR 64 is ideal for this application. A Fresnel while too indirect for this use would even be better as a tree uplight than a Leko.

    More cautions. Where is the audience? Given that idea that most people are stupid, how much risk are you putting your audience at when they wander up to one of these lighting positions and burn themselves on the fixtures while "just exploring their world" of being stupid? A differnet situation in the lighting trees at a wedding where for the most part it's visitors won't want to stray off the given path to warm their hands and get their duds dirty on the lighting equipment or the potential mud surrounding it is different than at a concert or play where the idiots will get near and burn themselfs on anything they can, much less be climbing the trees in a matcho show of strength and "coolness". In other words, unless these trees for your use are berricated off than even protected against the idiots that cross the berricade, perhaps it's not wise to just simply put a light below a tree to make it special.

    More to the point, if you want to light them, it might be necessary to go military and plan for the idiots in the audience. Specify places to light from such as with the origional costume rack idea in lighing from say a centralized protected position such as the lighting and sound control area that by nature should be fenced off and watched, in lighting the trees from a distance. I would go with boom bases and lighting trees, than just light from them into the trees you want to sculpt, but from afar as opposed to from below.

    The idea in this case might be best served in this type of lighting from afar anyway given the stage is a primary focus. If you light your area as an overall design for the audience as they come into your theater say from down a path from the parking lot, you want to awe them as they come in and it could just be that you want to service that with lighting the tree tops and area from a distance. A other than under the tree position might be better serving your overall look but perhaps you might still have to do some up-lighting -see below with the tree mounted fixtures. Than once the audience gets into the viewing area, the focus can be on stage - probably too many people in the audience anyway to notice much up-lighitng, much less not have them in the way of your beam spread for the late comers to your stage picture. Much better to light from afar depending upon the design concept of course. If under ltree ighting is necessary, perhaps bracketing directly to the trees and over the reach of the audience might be a good solution to consider for the same effect. Some uplight would be good to use in combination with distance throws to enhanse the trees, but you have to consider audience accessability to not only the cords that they will trip over if they can, but the lights themselves. I love the dramatics of up-lighting, but save them for weddings and other circumstances where the expected audience would not be expected to burn themselves.

    By the way, you will have to excuse my calling the audience - cattle as "idiots" in this insance. It is with good reason and specific to outdoor settings. In a theater proper, the architecture protects the audience from injuring themselves on lighting and other equipment. In a more natural setting, audience control is much more difficult especially in keeping them away from the lighting equipment, from climbing the truss or trees, much less throwing chairs on stage if they don't like what's going on. Can you say one particular riot that happened in Chicago during a show that took the horse mounted troops to disperse at one time I remember? That as a tech person was a real mess to clean up. The "Idiot" phrase is meant to stress that if they can get at something they will in this instance and that would be bad. With your design, you should consider that even if it does not allow as cool of a design, what effect it will have on the overall package of the show.

    In my opinion, I would light such a setting so as to light the space of the stage for the audience as they enter the area and not the trees surrounding the area from when they are already in the audience area. Uplights on trees along the path to the audience is usually fine, peer pressure in finding one's seat is usually well enough to keep one from lingering too near to the special effects lights, but in the area of the stage or audience, it would be bad. To do this it's probably more effective to just light the trees from a distance and from a protected zone than from below if the audience will be able to get near your effect. Perhaps not as dramatic especially in the Fall, but given the stage is the purpose, it might at least be servicable.

    Every year I install the follow spots for the Special Olympics in Illionis. The spot lighting positions are in the grand stands of the audience, but in this case the psychology of the croud is focused not on the lights but on the action in the football stadium. Were lights special PAR 64s for uplighting placed for the big show and put in the easy access of the croud, it could be expected as it is that the people around them would not go near the tech part of the show. Your show I expect would be different and putting fixtures near the audience where they are not protected should become a design factor.

    Hope it gave you some more ideas on the oveall concept of it all.
     
  11. ukdirk

    ukdirk Member

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    I've been lighting trees as part of an installation for two summers now and I've found out - if you use PARCans - it is quite helpfull, if you DON'T seal the cable with tape or any sorts of bag because then there is always a way for the humidity to get out of the system. That demands an FI (how do you call it - a device that shuts down the current when there is a difference between neutral and phase) to be installed. But that should be done anyway.
     
  12. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Yea, I agree with the not sealing plugs in plastic bags idea. I used to even agree with that in general as a more proper method. You will also note that there really is not a "professional" UL listed commercial product for sealing up plugs used outdoors for our market and there is otherwise crap for every other situation. You would think if necessary it would be available. Given twist lock plug boots are available but have very serious problems with vapor seals keeping them together.

    This is the proper method in not bagging up your connections - they are already grounded and at least water resistant.

    But than Sting did his central park New York show.

    Never before that did I see a Socopex type multi-pin/circuit plug that had total melt down and failure just because it rained, rained hard and every piece of gear not only got immerced in the mud but was also in 6" of water - even if "water restistant," it all failed.

    I still have one pf each type of failure including the very spectacular Soco plug type failure and the twist lock plug in a boot failure in my perminant "abortion pile" saves for the "Wall of Shame." Everyone should work on such a thing. It's fun.

    That said, any cable on the ground if there is even the most remote chance for weather should be protected both for safety and pain in the rear value and that's what I tell my kids for their shows. The amount of damage vapor within a plastic bag can do is by far less than that of emersion in water which could not only reck expensive gear but be life threatening.

    I don't do shows anymore, much less have a huge amount of experience with protecting plugs outdoors for a show, but I would recommend protection for them if they will be outside for a long time and on the ground, or if there is a chance of rain or snow.

    But thanks for bringing up a good point of contention. I personally hate taped connections and they are against the NEC specifically because they bypass the un-plugging if there is a problem. A plastic bag can be ripped apart but E-tape or Gaff Tape in sealing a wire to fixture cannot. By the way, Gaffers tape burns when lit by a flame and it's not UL listed for electrical work for that reason. Never use Gaffers tape as a subsitute for electrical tape. You can use it over electrical tape for mechanical strength in a loom but not in lace of it in a electrical box.

    "That demands an FI (how do you call it - a device that shuts down the current when there is a difference between neutral and phase) to be installed. But that should be done anyway."
    GFCI protector.

    GFCI protection as of 1999 NEC code was required for protection of all portable distribution circuits in the entertainment lighting division, and there was no grandfather clause. It does sensing of the current between hot and neutral as above advised and is very useful in general use for all testing of equipment circuits in shutting off power should there be a higher current ratio between hot and neutral. Good stuff think a blow dryer over a washroom sink. Same with the lights. Good in theory but wasn't realistic that I would find the time to upgrade all our distribution equipment with GFCI protection to comply - an I work for one of the few companies that could afford the equipment necessary to complete this improvement. We debated it a while than blew it off. The industry in general did so also - just not practicle. Thus by 2002, it was recindd from the NEC.

    It is no longer required to have GFCI protection for power distribution. Your dimmers don't need a GFCI outlet, breaker or sensor to detect a short - hopefully the normal circuit breaker or fuse in sensing a load that's over it's rating will be sufficient.

    Good or bad it's not required anymore and had it's own problems. For instance, GFCI receptacles don't work well on equipment that delays the hot part of a ciruit in doing work. What kind of gear like this might trip a GFCI? Any computer much less power strip feeding it has a good chance of tripping a GFCI. Power your light board off that GFCI and it might just trip during a show. The GFCI requirement is no longer required.

    That said, I was at one point researching GFCI sensor equipment. Basically a GFCI sensor works the same as an Amp Probe in being a clamp that serrounds the hot wire and reads magnetically or otherwise the current traveling thru the wire. A GFCI sensor with i it's electronics works the same way. Such a system internally shuts down the system without necessitating outlets that for most types of plug don't exist, or the need for individual circuit breakers on each channel that cost arm and a leg.

    "American Electrician's Handbook" has a good section on GFCI protection. Well worth the money and time in reading. In an architectural setting, outlets that you power up to for smaller loads is required to be protected by GFCI protected outlets and that's a good thing. Otherwise, it's not necessary or part of the NEC.
     

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