Moving Lights for High School

wtcstagecrew

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Joined
Nov 21, 2011
Location
Long Island, New York
I am the president of my schools Stage Crew and they recently gave me the go ahead to get some suggestions for moving lights. We usually rent moving lights and overtime that ends up adding up, so they had said get the names of good moving lights. We have a relatively big auditorium with 2 electrics, 2 lx pipes, and also an FOH Catwalk and 2 audience boxes. The stage itself is about 30' deep and about 36' wide. I had called around and Chauvet had told me that four Intimidator Spot 250's would work best, but what concerned me was that they were DJ lights instead of theatre lights.

Does anybody know about these lights and if they would work or any other movers i should look into that would work well?

Thank you!
 
Last edited:

bishopthomas

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Joined
Jan 13, 2010
Location
New Jersey
What lighting do you have now and what are you trying to accomplish with ML's? A 250 will not punch through a typical arsenal of S4's and the like. If you're using haze and going for beam looks then that's a different story.
 

mstaylor

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Jun 4, 2009
Location
Salisbury,MD
I am the president of my schools Stage Crew and they recently gave me the go ahead to get some suggestions for moving lights. We usually rent moving lights and overtime that ends up adding up, so they had said get the names of good moving lights. We have a relatively big big auditorium with 2 electrics, 2 lx pipes, and also an FOH Catwalk and 2 audience boxes. The stage itself is about 30' deep and about 36' wide. I had called around and Chauvet had told me that four Intimidator Spot 250's would work best, but what concerned me was that they were DJ lights instead of theatre lights.

Does anybody know about these lights and if they would work or any other movers i should look into that would work well?

Thank you!
Your concerns are well founded, most DJ lights will not cut through a stage wash. If you search the board about movers in HS you will find that we routinely discourage HSs buying movers. They are extremely expensive to buy, expensive to maintain and many times get taken out of use. What is suggested instead is the Gafftaper Method, it is cheaper and you can have more effects overall.
The other thing to consider is what is the rest of the infrastructure in your theatre? Will your board handle the lights, do you have power for them and do you have someone with the knowledge to keep them in working order. Remember, you can not put movers on dimmers, no matter what setting you use.
 

JFR

Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2011
Location
Columbia, Maryland
I'm a big fan of VariLite! I have used a variety of intelligent equipment (but I'm no expert!) The VL1000 was one of my favorites as a designer and programmer, but I also haven't worked with more current models in a while.

Some things you should think about when choosing whether to purchase or continue to rent, is that you can rent the latest and greatest equipment, while purchasing locks you into the technology. Not a terrible idea, just something to think about considering how quickly the technology is changing, and the level of technology you can afford.

I also recommend looking at units with variable fields. A wash unit that can iris down to a spot is much better than a spot that is always a spot. As a designer you will certainly want the flexibility! (We have 6 Elation Design Spot 250 Pros and they're not exactly useful for anything other than a tight spot or a horrible looking frosted spot trying to act as a wash. I do not recommend them!)

I also recommend a unit with CMY mixing. Again as a designer you will love being able to mix your colors rather than choosing from the stock filters that are often extremely saturate.

I have worked with some Elation products, some Martins and VariLites and a few more ancient items you wouldn't even find at a garage sale but can find on my storage rack, and VariLite is my first choice. If you contact them I'm certain a sales rep will talk to you about their products and probably work out a demo with you and your school.

What console does your school have?
 

shiben

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2009
Location
Chicago, IL
I am the president of my schools Stage Crew and they recently gave me the go ahead to get some suggestions for moving lights. We usually rent moving lights and overtime that ends up adding up, so they had said get the names of good moving lights. We have a relatively big auditorium with 2 electrics, 2 lx pipes, and also an FOH Catwalk and 2 audience boxes. The stage itself is about 30' deep and about 36' wide. I had called around and Chauvet had told me that four Intimidator Spot 250's would work best, but what concerned me was that they were DJ lights instead of theatre lights.

Does anybody know about these lights and if they would work or any other movers i should look into that would work well?

Thank you!
What kind of throw are you looking at? Also, I dont really understand this question. If you rent routinely, then what do you rent? Unless you are trying to go for something that costs less than the rentals, I dont see why you dont just look at those. I would look at VL2500, VL770, MAC 700, at least. Perhaps move up to the next major size (depends on the throw). All will be more expensive than just renting the same number of lights for numerous shows, and then when they get old you need to drop it again, not just keep up renting whatever you had but in very high quality condition, or rent the new thing.
 

icewolf08

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Jan 11, 2007
Location
Lititz, PA
I am the president of my schools Stage Crew and they recently gave me the go ahead to get some suggestions for moving lights. We usually rent moving lights and overtime that ends up adding up, so they had said get the names of good moving lights. We have a relatively big auditorium with 2 electrics, 2 lx pipes, and also an FOH Catwalk and 2 audience boxes. The stage itself is about 30' deep and about 36' wide. I had called around and Chauvet had told me that four Intimidator Spot 250's would work best, but what concerned me was that they were DJ lights instead of theatre lights.

Does anybody know about these lights and if they would work or any other movers i should look into that would work well?

Thank you!
Onething you have to understand about moving lights is that there is a lot more cost to them after the upfront purchase cost. Consider that most moving lights that would probably be suitable or comparable to what you have been renting use lamps that cost over $100. Consider that you have to replace the lamps every 750-1000 hours of bur time to ensure that you don't experience spectacular lamp death (i.e. exploding lamps) and fixture damage. Then consider what it costs to maintain the units. There is probably no one currently at your school with the knowledge and training to do any on-site service of the fixtures, which menas that on a regular basis you will be paying to send them out for service. The more complex the device, the more skill and training and service required. Then you have to think about how to store these units when not in use. You can't just throw them on a rack like a conventional, so youneed road cases ans space where they won't get bashed around or used as a table.

You also ahve to understand how educational budgeting works. Unless your theatre department has some bigtime donors I think you will find it hard to pitch the cost of any moving lights worth owning to the people with the money. Because of the way school budgets work, it is actually often easier to spend more money on something like rentals over time than to spend a big chunk of change at once. The real question is, what do you spend on rentals? I would guess that in a year you spend far less on rentals than the cost of the fixtures. Now, if each time you rent you are spending at least half the cost of the fixtures, then I would consider buying.

You still have to consider though, when you rent, the shop takes care of the units. If you have a problem, they can either fix it or swap it out, often at no extra cost (unless the problem or damage was caused by you). They will provide the lamps and make sure the units are in working order. Also, as mentioned, as the shop upgrades the gear in their rental inventory, you get to use new gear.

The other thing that I always ask when people have money to burn and want to buy moving lights is this: Is your conventional inventory up to date? If you have units older than Altman 360Qs or if you have broken, non-functional units, it would seem a more prudent investment to start by replacing them. Then consider if there are any accessories like scrollers, gobo rotators, I-Cues, Right Arms, etc. that would be used more often than moving lights that you could use. When you consider that for the cost of a pair of new moving lights that are worth using in theatre (~$10k each) you could probably get 10 seachangers, I would pick the seachangers hands down. They would get used on almost every show whereas MLs don't. Thus a far wiser investment.

If you are dead set on moving lights, then stay away from AmericanDJ and Chauvet. On the lower cost end I would look at the higher power Elation DesignSpots, but really it would be wiser to invest in units like the Mac700 or the new VariLite units. You probably want at least a 700w fixture, and they aren't cheap. Robe and ClayPaky are also pretty good players in the ML field. If you are going to buy units, you want to make sure that you buy something that your local shop supports. If they are a Martin dealer but not a VL dealer, then don't buy VL fixtures! Also, make sure that you demo units. Your dealer should be able to line up demos for you. Make sure that you get units that actually do what you need them to do. So when you have the demo, don't just turn on the ML by itself, hang it where you would use it for a show and turn it on with the other lights you would use it with.
 

shiben

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2009
Location
Chicago, IL
Onething you have to understand about moving lights is that there is a lot more cost to them after the upfront purchase cost. Consider that most moving lights that would probably be suitable or comparable to what you have been renting use lamps that cost over $100. Consider that you have to replace the lamps every 750-1000 hours of bur time to ensure that you don't experience spectacular lamp death (i.e. exploding lamps) and fixture damage. Then consider what it costs to maintain the units. There is probably no one currently at your school with the knowledge and training to do any on-site service of the fixtures, which menas that on a regular basis you will be paying to send them out for service. The more complex the device, the more skill and training and service required. Then you have to think about how to store these units when not in use. You can't just throw them on a rack like a conventional, so youneed road cases ans space where they won't get bashed around or used as a table.

You also ahve to understand how educational budgeting works. Unless your theatre department has some bigtime donors I think you will find it hard to pitch the cost of any moving lights worth owning to the people with the money. Because of the way school budgets work, it is actually often easier to spend more money on something like rentals over time than to spend a big chunk of change at once. The real question is, what do you spend on rentals? I would guess that in a year you spend far less on rentals than the cost of the fixtures. Now, if each time you rent you are spending at least half the cost of the fixtures, then I would consider buying.

You still have to consider though, when you rent, the shop takes care of the units. If you have a problem, they can either fix it or swap it out, often at no extra cost (unless the problem or damage was caused by you). They will provide the lamps and make sure the units are in working order. Also, as mentioned, as the shop upgrades the gear in their rental inventory, you get to use new gear.

The other thing that I always ask when people have money to burn and want to buy moving lights is this: Is your conventional inventory up to date? If you have units older than Altman 360Qs or if you have broken, non-functional units, it would seem a more prudent investment to start by replacing them. Then consider if there are any accessories like scrollers, gobo rotators, I-Cues, Right Arms, etc. that would be used more often than moving lights that you could use. When you consider that for the cost of a pair of new moving lights that are worth using in theatre (~$10k each) you could probably get 10 seachangers, I would pick the seachangers hands down. They would get used on almost every show whereas MLs don't. Thus a far wiser investment.

If you are dead set on moving lights, then stay away from AmericanDJ and Chauvet. On the lower cost end I would look at the higher power Elation DesignSpots, but really it would be wiser to invest in units like the Mac700 or the new VariLite units. You probably want at least a 700w fixture, and they aren't cheap. Robe and ClayPaky are also pretty good players in the ML field. If you are going to buy units, you want to make sure that you buy something that your local shop supports. If they are a Martin dealer but not a VL dealer, then don't buy VL fixtures! Also, make sure that you demo units. Your dealer should be able to line up demos for you. Make sure that you get units that actually do what you need them to do. So when you have the demo, don't just turn on the ML by itself, hang it where you would use it for a show and turn it on with the other lights you would use it with.
I think its telling about the price of owning/vs renting that even a very large show with hundreds of units will still rent for months as opposed to buying, and if I had to guess its for the service and replacement units alone. I guess to me renting just makes so much more sense over owning (even though I used to with that we would buy some so as I could toy with them more)... Even if your going to use them weekly. I would imagine the cost of lamps would justify this soon enough...
 

wtcstagecrew

Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2011
Location
Long Island, New York
I'm a big fan of VariLite! I have used a variety of intelligent equipment (but I'm no expert!) The VL1000 was one of my favorites as a designer and programmer, but I also haven't worked with more current models in a while.

Some things you should think about when choosing whether to purchase or continue to rent, is that you can rent the latest and greatest equipment, while purchasing locks you into the technology. Not a terrible idea, just something to think about considering how quickly the technology is changing, and the level of technology you can afford.

I also recommend looking at units with variable fields. A wash unit that can iris down to a spot is much better than a spot that is always a spot. As a designer you will certainly want the flexibility! (We have 6 Elation Design Spot 250 Pros and they're not exactly useful for anything other than a tight spot or a horrible looking frosted spot trying to act as a wash. I do not recommend them!)

I also recommend a unit with CMY mixing. Again as a designer you will love being able to mix your colors rather than choosing from the stock filters that are often extremely saturate.

I have worked with some Elation products, some Martins and VariLites and a few more ancient items you wouldn't even find at a garage sale but can find on my storage rack, and VariLite is my first choice. If you contact them I'm certain a sales rep will talk to you about their products and probably work out a demo with you and your school.

What console does your school have?

right now we run everything off an ETC Express 48/96
 

LavaASU

Active Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2011
Location
Phoenix
I think its telling about the price of owning/vs renting that even a very large show with hundreds of units will still rent for months as opposed to buying, and if I had to guess its for the service and replacement units alone. I guess to me renting just makes so much more sense over owning (even though I used to with that we would buy some so as I could toy with them more)... Even if your going to use them weekly. I would imagine the cost of lamps would justify this soon enough...
I tend to agree with this on SOME things... but I've found others that it is the opposite. In many cases when renting you are paying for feature you do not need by virtue of that's what the local shop has. For example on one type of unit I was renting I discovered that I can rent it for $75/day or buy something that will do everything I was using the unit for for $170. Is the $170 unit as good as the $75/day one? No... but I also didn't need or use the features that make that a $800 unit. I'm in the process of doing the same thing on another item I routinely rent (LED par thread).

That said I do totally understand the quirkiness of educational institutions. In some cases it's easier to buy, in others to rent, and in others I've had to buy inexpensive lights as expendables because the given show/budget only allowed rentals and expendables and the item was either not available for rental or significantly more expensive than purchase!
 

icewolf08

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Lititz, PA
I tend to agree with this on SOME things... but I've found others that it is the opposite. In many cases when renting you are paying for feature you do not need by virtue of that's what the local shop has. For example on one type of unit I was renting I discovered that I can rent it for $75/day or buy something that will do everything I was using the unit for for $170. Is the $170 unit as good as the $75/day one? No... but I also didn't need or use the features that make that a $800 unit. I'm in the process of doing the same thing on another item I routinely rent (LED par thread).
I find it very hard to believe that you found a $170 unit that is in any way equivalent to an $800 unit. I can't imagine that the cheap unit really does anything particularly well, however if it suits your needs, great.
 

LavaASU

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Jan 2, 2011
Location
Phoenix
I find it very hard to believe that you found a $170 unit that is in any way equivalent to an $800 unit. I can't imagine that the cheap unit really does anything particularly well, however if it suits your needs, great.
In this case I needed an RGB led bars to uplight walls... the rental house has nice RGBAW units which are both too bright and have the AW which I don't need or use for that. I've used them on at least a couple dozen shows and only once or twice wished they were the ones the shop has performance wise (I wouldn't mind easier to use menus and such, but for the price difference I'll spend 30 sec fighting with the Chinese menu). I know out audio dept also had something or other (I'm not a noise guy!) that they purchased for roughly the rental price the closest thing the shop had because the units available to rent were top of the line and had about 8000 features we don't need or use.

That said we don't own any sort of large movers as in that case it is FAR more economical to rent VLs or Macs($10k to buy vs $200 to rent) the few times we need them. We do however own some trackspots that get used tons for the flash and trash gigs (spend $75 to rent the cheapest mover the shop has to do ballyhoos or buy the trackspot for $150 to do the same on dozens of shows...).
 

josh88

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in the case of my under equipped space I'm close to needing to rent conventionals (S4's) just to get by. In this case, long term it does make better sense to slowly buy up and create our own stock. But with moving lights and the like, its true that rental cost starts to add up over the years and you could buy them, but I like the rental cost in that I never have to buy the lamps for fixtures and it has the built in benefits like replacement of problem units, various support depending on your rental, etc. and that convenience outweighs the long term cost, especially when you can use the gafftaper method to great effect.
 

shiben

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Joined
Jun 25, 2009
Location
Chicago, IL
I find it very hard to believe that you found a $170 unit that is in any way equivalent to an $800 unit. I can't imagine that the cheap unit really does anything particularly well, however if it suits your needs, great.
Thats kind of the foundation of the gafftaper method in the first place though. A scroller/S4 combination is in no way equivalent to a Mac700. However, if your not in corporate and dont use Mac700/2ks to do everything, A Source 4 with a scroller, which I will hazard a guess costs a bit less than a ML, has the same functionality to you if you just need a light to change color. You can get an RGB color batten that uplights walls just fine for 200 bucks or so, but its not quite as nice as the RGBAW thats really designed for lighting a cyc, which is not what you need it for. Is the 200 one nice? Probably not. Does it have the same functionality? No. Does one need the added functionality? Thats why they make various products.
 

icewolf08

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Thats kind of the foundation of the gafftaper method in the first place though. A scroller/S4 combination is in no way equivalent to a Mac700. However, if your not in corporate and dont use Mac700/2ks to do everything, A Source 4 with a scroller, which I will hazard a guess costs a bit less than a ML, has the same functionality to you if you just need a light to change color. You can get an RGB color batten that uplights walls just fine for 200 bucks or so, but its not quite as nice as the RGBAW thats really designed for lighting a cyc, which is not what you need it for. Is the 200 one nice? Probably not. Does it have the same functionality? No. Does one need the added functionality? Thats why they make various products.
I think there is a big difference in comparing a moving light to a source four rather than comparing two fixtures designed to do the same thing (in this case LED strip lights). In an apples to apples comparison i would never believe that you could find a fixture that was $700 less expensive that really was comparable. Like I said, it may do what you need it to, but that doesn't make it comparable.

I also have never hear of anyone who said that a fixture was too bright or too powerful for their needs...
 

Jawbone

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Nov 18, 2010
Location
California
My opinion would be to buy a small quantity of movers (2-4) probably spots with a frost feature on the gobo wheel to add to your lighting plot. You can get 575w fixtures new from ebay for $500-800 when buying 2 or more.

These would be for learning. I think the point is students want to have access a couple of useful fixtures the students can learn on and use for shows. The only way to learn a light is to have the time to work with it. You can't get away from the importance of movers in the lighting world, most of us use them. Better a student get to use them early on, fresh mind, eagerness to explore. At some point they will have to learn the light, how to get it repaired, its positives and negatives.

You will probably need to move to a console that can control movers as well as conventional theater lights. Used Hog 3 widgets go for around $800 to $1200 on ebay. Great for controlling conventional lighting as well as movers, the software runs on any windows pc, you can program lights with a visualizer outside of school as well. Hog is my favorite, but take the time to explore other solutions as well. ETC makes the Ion, Martin Maxxzy, Grand MA, Enttec, as well as others.

my 2 cents,

Jawbone
 

icewolf08

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My opinion would be to buy a small quantity of movers (2-4) probably spots with a frost feature on the gobo wheel to add to your lighting plot. You can get 575w fixtures new from ebay for $500-800 when buying 2 or more.

These would be for learning. I think the point is students want to have access a couple of useful fixtures the students can learn on and use for shows. The only way to learn a light is to have the time to work with it. You can't get away from the importance of movers in the lighting world, most of us use them. Better a student get to use them early on, fresh mind, eagerness to explore. At some point they will have to learn the light, how to get it repaired, its positives and negatives.
I think you are right that students should be taught how to use this kind of gear, but the school has to have the infrastructure to support it. High school that departments generally don't have a staff person who is in any way trained or capable of teaching how to use moving lights, let alone how to service them. Not even all of the good college programs have people like that (for that matter not even all professional theatres have someon on staff who can fix/service a moving light). Also, most high school theatre departments don't have the budget to support the fixtures.

The other thing is that the students who are interested and have the knowledge, drive, and desire to excell in high school theatre tend to come in waves. Some years they come out of the woodwork, and some years you get one or two.

So it really is a question of what is the best way to expend resources. Often times it is better idea to rent units on an as-needed basis because you don't have to worry about the maintenance and upkeep. You don't have to worry about them units sitting unused when there is no one who knows how to use them. It is just a matter of determine what is really the most practical and useful way to utilize technology.
 

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