Lighting System Upgrades

msawyer52

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Feb 22, 2007
Location
Detroit
I had been working with a school as a self-taught volunteer technical director. I have since moved away but I’m trying to help them with the following project. The school has been contacted by a benefactor to provide a substantial donation (50-100K) for upgrading the lighting system in the performing arts space.

Under consideration are the following: 1- Installation of a motorized batten system. 2- Installation of network DMX for running LED lighting fixtures. 3- increase of the lighting inventory.

Can anyone give me a ballpark idea of what it might cost to install a motorized batten. They have no fly or wing space in the facility.

Secondly, what would be the preferred DMX solution? Run straight DMX with splitters to each batten, or using a true network with Cat5-Cat6 and switches.

Following is a brief history and immediate needs of the space.

Brief History of the evolution of our gymatorium done in 2008.
  • The original plans called for a new field house for athletic activity and dedicated auditorium space constructed in the old gymatorium space.
  • During the building process of the field house and auditorium, it was determined that they did not want to give up the entire auditorium space to the theater and included removable Wenger staging, retractable basketball backboards and retractable seating.
  • The backboards and removeable staging compromised the ability to utilize the lighting grid space above the stage.
  • A new lighting system was installed which included a new ETC Element lighting console, 96 unit ETC lighting dimmer rack and wiring from the dimmer rack to the lighting grid.
  • 32 lighting fixtures in the inventory were discarded because of asbestos wiring. They were replaced with 10 new lighting fixtures to add to the 7 they could keep. Inventory now is 18 Source Four 750W, 4 ETC Parnel 750W, 4 Parcan 1000W and 3 old Fresnel 500W, all incandescent.
Problems that need resolution
Lack of safe access to lighting grid behind the theater proscenium.
There are 3 dead hung lighting battens behind the theater proscenium, downstage right and left and upstage center. There are only 2 ways to access the grid and only 1 safely. A Genie man lift or a portable scaffold. A ladder is not usable because the lighting battens are hung on chains, so there is no solid structure to lean against. They used to have a scaffold, but it was discarded during the auditorium construction.​
Because of the distance from the stage height to the Lighting Grid, standard scaffold is either too short or too tall for good access to the lighting fixtures. The scaffolding outrigger footprint is also difficult to use on our stage configuration because they are always on the front side of the fixture not behind it.​
The Genie man lift can only be used when the stage is removed because the stage is not the right height to transition to, nor designed to support the weight of the lift and operator. Proper focusing light fixtures can only be done when the stage is in place.​

Lack of lighting capability of the auditorium.
They cannot rent or purchase LED light fixtures because that requires DMX plus power run to each light fixture. They only have power from the dimmer rack to each fixture. They could still purchase incandescent fixtures, but I don’t know if that’s a smart choice if the move in the industry is going to be LED. The lighting inventory is barely capable of lighting the space and little or no extra for special or good zone lighting. They need to increase the lighting inventory.​


Depending on the upgrades and cost they would be looking to increase the inventory of the lighting fixtures, assuming there might be some $ available at the end.

Sorry for the long post, I can provide some photos if needed.
Thanks
 

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tjrobb

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May 14, 2009
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Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Is wireless DMX an option? Even one receiver in each area, daisy-chained along, could help out. (Never spec'ed it, so I know little).
 

jtweigandt

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Aug 2, 2013
Location
Moline Il
Forget about the moving battens. Hang and pre aim a potload of fixtures in a nice versatile Rep plot.
Have your zones pre defined.. maybe even some that can hit elevated platforms well.. Present to designers and directors..
This is the facility, these are the zones we can hit... Even cheap movers can get you the occasional "special" toplight, tight spot, special to augment that face you can't light when the actors are standing on that 5 foot platform, etc to an exact point on the stage. Your front lighting can be pretty far from the side if you have to, to avoid the basketball frames as long as you balance it in pairs or trios for each zone. Color changing elipsoidals are your friend here. Just 5 Altman phoenix units changed what we can do in our space by an order of magnitude. Your stage doesn't change geometry, and if you have a good base plot, 95% of what you need to do can be done from the booth rather than from a ladder. I have no problem with telling designers and directors..... this aint broadway, here's what you can do in this space.. don't effing put an actor on a 6 foot platform when our proscenium is 12 1/2 feet. I cant bend light and alter the laws of physics deal with it.
 

jtweigandt

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Moline Il
<<<<They cannot rent or purchase LED light fixtures because that requires DMX plus power run to each light fixture. They only have power from the dimmer rack to each fixture. They could still purchase incandescent fixtures, but I don’t know if that’s a smart choice if the move in the industry is going to be LED.>>>
Also be aware etc dimmer racks have available true relay units to replace a dimmer in a circuit. That's how I get power to our LED units.. That coupled with dmx lines or like someone else mentioned Wireless DMX would solve your LED power problem.
 

microstar

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Lawton, OK
What is the height of your battens, both upstage and downstage of the proscenium? If a Genie lift is too heavy for the stage platforming, perhaps a cage-type "A" ladder would work if its footprint isn't too big.
Check out the Little Giant cage ladders, they have models that can go to a reach height of almost 20'.

safety cage.jpg safety cage2.jpg
 

JohnD

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Some photos of the space would be nice.
Since you have an ETC dimmer rack you have some great constant power options. If it is a sensor rack there are R20 modules and Constant Current 20A modules. There also used to be the ThruPower module but I don't see it listed now.
Something to consider for getting switched power and dmx to your lighting positions is The MEGABATTEN Connector Strip (thelightsource.com) . Along with that, you might also take a look at Gym Light Cage (thelightsource.com) .
 
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RickR

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Spokane, WA the great "Inland Northwest"
I concur with most of the above.
  • Buy a manual or light weight ladder/lift, custom scaffolding if nothing else. There are many possibilities.
  • Convert one circuit per position to non-dim. R20 modules preferred, consider rewiring inside the rack for best distribution, (even just via settings if needed, ETC approved!)
  • Buy wireless DMX (unless you have unusual RF issues) Multi-verse or 900mhz
  • Buy as many LED fixtures as you can afford, but stay with high quality like ETC. You need things to last until the next major funding.
  • If you don't have follow spots get two
 

msawyer52

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Location
Detroit
Some photos of the space would be nice.
Since you have an ETC dimmer rack you have some great constant power options. If it is a sensor rack there are R20 modules and Constant Current 20A modules. There also used to be the ThruPower module but I don't see it listed now.
Something to consider for getting switched power and dmx to your lighting positions is The MEGABATTEN Connector Strip (thelightsource.com) . Along with that, you might also take a look at Gym Light Cage (thelightsource.com) .
Yes, I figured to us the R20 relay modules to replace the dimmer modules for power to the battens. Most are recommending wireless DMX but people on ControlBooth usually seem to shying away from it for a fixed installation. I think running DMX cable and opto-spllitters is going to be just fine. Attached are some photos of the space.
Thanks
 

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msawyer52

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Detroit
I concur with most of the above.
  • Buy a manual or light weight ladder/lift, custom scaffolding if nothing else. There are many possibilities.
  • Convert one circuit per position to non-dim. R20 modules preferred, consider rewiring inside the rack for best distribution, (even just via settings if needed, ETC approved!)
  • Buy wireless DMX (unless you have unusual RF issues) Multi-verse or 900mhz
  • Buy as many LED fixtures as you can afford, but stay with high quality like ETC. You need things to last until the next major funding.
  • If you don't have follow spots get two
I like your order of priority. We'll probably stay with a wired DMX, either straight DMX cable or a network setup
 

msawyer52

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Feb 22, 2007
Location
Detroit
What is the height of your battens, both upstage and downstage of the proscenium? If a Genie lift is too heavy for the stage platforming, perhaps a cage-type "A" ladder would work if its footprint isn't too big.
Check out the Little Giant cage ladders, they have models that can go to a reach height of almost 20'.

View attachment 21862View attachment 21863
This looks like a viable alternative to the Scaffold/Man lift problem. Checked Little Giants web site, tallest units is 14', might be just enough. Have to check heights to see if its enough. Thanks
 

JohnD

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One reminder, if ETC commissioned the install, they probably have the original documentation on file, always worth a call or email.
 

JimOC_1

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I volunteer at a cafetorium. You mentioned that 14 ft ladder may work. I don’t know the regs, but Werner 16ft A-frame made a big difference over the 14 ft we had been using. It’s nice to be beside a pipe when working.

How often do you extend the downstage? Could you use temporary trees/sandbags/side tethers, with dimmer packs and power sources? Or more permanent 3rd house electric/floor to ceiling 2” pipe positions?

Those Gym Light Cages JohnD listed look better and better every day.
 

msawyer52

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Location
Detroit
The cage ladder solves things like fall arrests and harness issues, my preferred choice because we're trying to teach students and staff The stage extension is up most of the year, except for BB season. We even extend it further for plays. I think adding a new lighting batten would be last in the list. Above the stage is the main problem, just a royal pain. If we can get the right setup back there we won't have to access it as often. Good LED wash lighting and some extra zones will go a long way of solving some of the problems. Adding lights overall is the other main goal. Luckily in 12 years only 1 light has been hit, haven't been overly concerned about protecting them. Might change if we start hanging $2000 LED lights up there.
 
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RickR

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Wired DMX is usually preferable to wireless. From what I can see your space is well suited to wireless, and it's likely less expensive. Most of my designs go to sACN for long term growth and adaptability. Being able to plug in a console or designers screen anywhere is also a great advantage for most schools. But the added technology and costs might well make a simple one universe hardliner system the best choice. But pull a Cat 5/6 cable for multiple universes or network conversion later.

While I love the S4 Lusters, the ColorSource line will do well for you. And LEDs don't have any glass to shatter.
 

cbrandt

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Michigan
Go find a donor who will add 2 zero's to those initial figures. A motorized batten might run $22,000 each.
This is right on! At that budget, concentrate on your fixtures and distribution. It looks like you have a *lot* of extra dimming capability. Are all 96 dimmers wired out to positions? Start shopping around for sales/auctions on used fixtures.

I second the little giant ladders. We have 2x 17' versions in our inventory. We used to have a 21'. They're fantastic for reaching places that normally you'd need a single person lift to get to. Keep in mind, they take some serious thought about safety to use. They go way higher than a standard ladder, and can get pretty springy at the top. Take some extra time before you allow students anywhere near them.

I've been a stick in the mud about wireless dmx in the past, but it really can be reliable. We've installed a few systems with it. I still always prefer copper, but there are a lot of logistical and cost reasons why you would choose to go with wireless.

I should be right around the corner from you if you'd like someone to come by and take a look.
 

msawyer52

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Feb 22, 2007
Location
Detroit
About 60% of the Dimmer rack has dedicated circuits assigned, there is plenty of capacity to expand. After all the input, I agree, Little giant ladders look like a possible solution. Yes, distribution and additional fixtures then move up in priority. If we get the right setup above the stage we won't need to access it as often. We will look at all the options for DMX distribution and see what fits best, trying to be open minded about it. If we get to go ahead, I'll contact you about a visit, Thanks.
 
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cbrandt

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Michigan
You can use all the old tricks to reduce the amount of time you spend getting up to those. Make sure you're putting in 120v lamps, not 115v lamps. I'd also think about profiling the dimmers down to 95% or so, which will extend your lamp life.

Forget about the moving battens. Hang and pre aim a potload of fixtures in a nice versatile Rep plot.
Rep plots are your friend!
 
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