The above Ad will no longer appear after you Sign Up for Free!

New Blackbox!

Discussion in 'Stage Management and Facility Operations' started by misterm, Mar 23, 2009.

  1. misterm

    misterm Active Member

    Messages:
    218
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Thomasville, GA
    Hey guys. My principal and administration recently informed me that they are going to conver the JROTC room into a blackbox theatre next year for my program (the decision was made to dispense with the JROTC which was floundering). Right now, my biggest concern right now is lighting. I know how to hang and run lighting, but I've never had to install dimmers or anything before. We can't afford big expensive dimmers, we already have a control console, and we've got an excellent supplier for our instruments. Any suggestions for the dimmer situation? I wouldnt mind using portable ones. Will we need a patch bay and can we run the dimmers staight to the console? Any other suggestions?
     
  2. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

    Messages:
    4,072
    Likes Received:
    675
    Occupation:
    Controls Technician - TAIT Towers
    Location:
    Lititz, PA
    I assume that if the school is converting the room then there is some construction that is going to go on. Chances are, the room does not have the electrical requirements to run even a handful of portable dimmers so you are most likely going to need to get an electrician in to do some wiring for you. Even the simplest "shoebox" dimmers require a minimum of two circuits each, and I would be willing to be that the room doesn't have more than 4-6 discrete circuits in it. Thus you might be able to put in 3 dimmer packs, which doesn't give you too many options.

    In general you should bring in a theatre consultant and get them to work with whoever the school has doing the renovation, this way you will end up with a system that makes sense. There are plenty of budget dimming systems available, however probably all of them will require some serious electrical work in the space. Having a consultant on the job will help you and the school figure out what gear and what work you need.
     
  3. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

    Messages:
    5,804
    Likes Received:
    1,110
    Occupation:
    Project Manager, Stagecraft Industries, Inc.
    Location:
    Portland, Or.
    I've got to agree with Alex, again.
    Chances are there is Maybe enough power in the room to run a couple of four channel portables < what we call China-packs, here at ART> .
    Most local codes are going to require a manual disconnect within close proximity to to any kind of permanent dimmer installation, which means a switch, which means a licensed Electrician.
    What kind of conversion? Are they throwing in a pipe grid as well ?
     
  4. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

    Messages:
    4,416
    Likes Received:
    2,805
    Location:
    Las Vegas, NV, USA
    What Alex said. And likewise for hanging positions. Ideally you'd want a pipe grid 6-12" below the finished ceiling height with 1.5" I.D. BIP on 4'-0" centers from wall to wall in both directions. This is not a job for a DIY-er, but something that should be designed and approved by a structural engineer and installed by certified ironworkers/riggers.

    Back to your original question of dimmers. Does the existing console output DMX? Does it have any sort of ML capability? Can it handle DMX "toys": scrollers, gobo rotators, I-Cues, etc.? Since it seems administration is willing to spend the money, don't limit yourself to what is existing (unless it suits ALL your current and future purposes.

    As for portable dimmers, there are a few types:
    1. "Shoebox dimmers" are usually four circuit packs. Some have only one NEMA 5-15 (Edison plugs) input, so 1800W spread out among four dimmers, usually no more than 600W (5A fuse) on each. The other variety has two power cords with 5-15 plugs, and has four or six 1000W dimmers, but again the total load on any input circuit cannot exceed 1800W.

    2. More expensive, but allowing for a large capacity, The other type of dimmer uses a NEMA L21-20 connector, and thus has 3x20A power input, which allows for 6x1.2Kw or 3x2.4Kw.
     
  5. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    12,547
    Likes Received:
    2,541
    Occupation:
    Theater Manager & T.D.
    Location:
    Seattle, Washington
    As always the first question... What's your budget?

    Being the teacher here on CB I'm going to assume the opposite of my friends above. I'm going to assume that by "convert to a Blackbox" they mean remove the old furniture, get some chairs out of the district surplus, and you are free to paint the walls black if you can get a crew of students to do it.

    If that's the case you need to look at cheap LED Pars... You should be able to power a bunch of them on your limited in room power. (Neo Neon is a popular cheap LED product around here do some searching or send CB member and dealer [user]BillESC[/user] a private message). It won't be amazing but you should be able to get enough light to pretend it's a theater on the limited amount of power you have available.

    Other than that you need an electrician to bring power to the room. A couple of ETC Smartbars might be a good solution to your dimmer situation.

    I'm also assuming it's a really low ceiling. Do you have fixtures? A bunch of 6" fresnels would probably do the trick nicely. Altman Fresnels are cheap but they are a pain to work with over time. If you have the budget I absolutely love my Selecon Rama Fresnels... I think we paid around $225 for them. They are cheaper than Strand fresnels and as nice if not better.
     
    misterm and (deleted member) like this.
  6. MikeyHP

    MikeyHP Member

    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Arlington, TX
    GRRRRRRRRRRR............ My school did the opposite of what your school is doing. We had a really nice and BIG black box type space. It had (and still does have) a huge grid with lots of dimmers, twistloc connectors, and an attached classroom, and a small scene shop. But when the school district added our PAC, they decided that we dident need it anymore. Now it is being wasted as a JROTC room! Also, our PAC has everything except a classroom! We are force to use the blackbox as classroom!!!!
     
  7. misterm

    misterm Active Member

    Messages:
    218
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Thomasville, GA
    yeah, money is definetely limited here. my estimate of 10 grand for basics was met with raised eyebrows. not to mention, they're wanting me to raise the money when i barely have enough to build a set. i've asked for a grid system, and they said yeah, but i really dont see any of this happening anytime soon even though they said it would for sure over the summer. we will have an electrician come in and do all our electrics. and yes the console is DMX. i learned that the hard way since our current one is ECMux at the old auditorium:evil:
     
  8. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    12,547
    Likes Received:
    2,541
    Occupation:
    Theater Manager & T.D.
    Location:
    Seattle, Washington
    Under $10k, huh? That's going to be tough. Does that include the cost of the electrician's wages... cause you can spend $10k on just that.

    What are the physical dimensions of the space? How high is the ceiling? How large are you imagining the stage area to typically be?

    As far as the lighting grid... You'll need professional help to determine how and where the pipes can be hung from the ceiling SAFELY. Don't do this step yourself no matter how tempting... you need both an engineer from the district to consider the weight load on the building and a professional rigger to make sure the hanging connections are safe. You also need them to determine the safe working weight loads for you. Have them install a bunch of connection points to the building around the room and have the rigger teach you how to safely use all the grid hanging hardware then in the future you can move pipes around the room and reconfigure the hardware however you want. As for the hardware itself you can get 1 1/2" Schedule 40 pipe at your local plumbing supply store for around $70 for a 21 foot section. Mine will cut and thread it to whatever length you want for two bucks per cut. There are a variety of products for locking grid pipe together at right angles and at variable angles that run around $10-$25 depending on the device... available at your favorite theater dealer.

    No matter how tempting don't rely on the chain and hardware at Home Depot. It is not safe for overhead lifting. Again consult a real rigger and they will hook you up with the good stuff and teach you how to use it safely.

    If you have a low ceiling, is there a false ceiling that could be removed to give you more height? There's nothing worse than theater with low ceilings.

    It definitely sounds like you don't have enough money to buy any sort of real dimmer racks. You could afford a few basic shoe boxes on your budget.

    Do you have any lighting gear already? If you do then using what you have with shoeboxes makes sense. If you don't then you might want to go the Chinese LED route. It'll keep the room cooler, save on electricity... maybe you can get the district to kick in a little more cash if you sell them on how energy efficient the LED's will be and how it will save them on HVAC bill as well.

    The more details and data you can give us about what you have, what you hope for, what's already in the room and what isn't in the room, the more ideas we can give you about how to pull this off.
     
    misterm and (deleted member) like this.
  9. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

    Messages:
    5,804
    Likes Received:
    1,110
    Occupation:
    Project Manager, Stagecraft Industries, Inc.
    Location:
    Portland, Or.
    Not to rain on anyones parade but even a small classroom sized < let's say 20'x30'> Pipe grid is going to be $7,500 - $10,000. Thisw may be an excellent place for the use of Base and Pipe setups as well as, depending on the configuration of the roof structure, Beam clamps and a few strategeticaly placed dead hung battens.

    I always like to say you can turn any place into a theatre, if you're willing to be flexible in production values etc, you can do anything anywhere.
     
    misterm and (deleted member) like this.
  10. misterm

    misterm Active Member

    Messages:
    218
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Thomasville, GA
    Here's the problem. The JROTC is still in that room until end of year so I'm unable to get in there and get measurements. I've tried to acquire the blueprints from the board office but they haven't exactly been forthcoming with it. The perks are that it used to be a band room so there's plenty of closet space for costumes, props, and storing tools. We currently have a small closet in the chorus room.
     
  11. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

    Messages:
    4,017
    Likes Received:
    562
    Occupation:
    Acoustical, audio and audiovisual consultant
    Location:
    Marietta, GA
    Look through the responses so far and you may see a theme that is basically to take a big step back and start by assessing what you want from the space and what kind of budget you have rather than jumping right to any details. It can be very disappointing to later find that practical considerations that may have been overlooked end up prohibiting all the plans you developed.

    When you say $10,000 for "basics", just what do you mean and what does that cover? Whenever you get into renovation or adaptive reuse there are often code and other practical issues that have to be addressed in any modifications to the space and these can get expensive so it is usually best to identify them as soon as possible. For example, provisions such as added power back to the main distribution panel, adding sprinklers, modifications to the existing structure or supplemental structure to handle a grid or hanging loads, revised and/or after hours heating and cooling requirements, security, etc. may come into play and could easily cost more than $10k to address. Then there can be any demolition of the existing space, finishes or systems and so on. Depending on the age of the facility you can even run into issues like asbestos abatement. And these are all typically factors that are not an option as they are code and life safety driven, I have seen many projects end up spending almost all of their budget on simply making the room usable for the purpose without spending a single cent on the actual systems or technology in it.

    If they have a problem with a $10k budget you may end up having to approach it is a a classroom rather than a performance space with little or no integrated or special provisions and everything handled on a portable basis. So I suggest finding out what may actually be involved in the change in use and what is a practical budget before you get too far into planning, it is better to know now than be surprised later.
     
    misterm and (deleted member) like this.
  12. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    12,547
    Likes Received:
    2,541
    Occupation:
    Theater Manager & T.D.
    Location:
    Seattle, Washington
    Misterm, you just got some OUTSTANDING advice there from someone who does this sort of install work. Listen to your "CB Muse";)

    First off they aren't going to be able to afford or power much lighting inventory so there won't be a need for a large grid. That's why I was thinking more along the lines of getting some equipment and education. Have some hanging points installed (or be told by a professional what is safe to attach to and what isn't). Get half a dozen battens and the proper hardware, be taught how to use it safely and you can move your dozen or so lights around the room as needed.

    Is there a university nearby? Perhaps you can get some free or cheap rigging help from someone who teaches rigging?
     
  13. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

    Messages:
    5,804
    Likes Received:
    1,110
    Occupation:
    Project Manager, Stagecraft Industries, Inc.
    Location:
    Portland, Or.
    That was a beautifully written well thought-out post wasn't it ? :mrgreen:

    Oh you were talking about Museav weren't you? Yeah his was cool too ...
    :twisted:
     
  14. RonaldBeal

    RonaldBeal Active Member

    Messages:
    153
    Likes Received:
    41
    Location:
    TN
    Ten grand isn't alot... getting enough power, and fulfilling any requirements for an increased audience capacity could eat up most of your budget...
    Which room is it... <--TCCHS alumni, but we didn't have ROTC back then.
    RB
     
  15. misterm

    misterm Active Member

    Messages:
    218
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Thomasville, GA
    its the old band room next to the chorus room near the front lobby. they built a freshman academy a few years back and thats where the band room is located now.
    glad to see a TCCHS alum who might actually know something about it!!
     
  16. misterm

    misterm Active Member

    Messages:
    218
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Thomasville, GA
    thanks to everyone's suggestions! I think we have it figured out now. our multimedia dept has a similar hanging grid in their studio and I discussed with them about getting the same thing for us for cheap. after talking to Bill and really looking at the space, i figured out that a few select LED fixtures will suit the space better and will be more cost far less in the long-run. plus, it will at least give us a start until we can update with better lighting in the future with dimmers and all. i'm just happy to have a classroom next year! for the last few years, i've floated around the school, teaching out of whomever's classroom will let me and being at the mercy of the scheduling gods. it gets tiring when you're teaching lighting and have to carry instruments across the school in crowded hallways. my advanced class (my one-act competition squad) is currently rehearsing in the cafeteria in the mornings. our set wont even fit. this is the unfortunate truth about a lot of theatre educators. i know some who have even less than we do.
     
  17. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    12,547
    Likes Received:
    2,541
    Occupation:
    Theater Manager & T.D.
    Location:
    Seattle, Washington
    Do your best to have them run extra power in there. That way down the road, as LED's get better and cheaper, you can add a few more fixtures at a time without infrastructure expenses.
     
    misterm and (deleted member) like this.
  18. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

    Messages:
    638
    Likes Received:
    39
    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    As another teacher, I would suggest thinking long term. $10k will barely get you up and running, but you can add to the setup each year, and tap other financial sources (hint...grants!). I like to think infrastructure infrastructure infrastructure. It is much easier to add seats, or purchase new lights, or hang speakers later on, but electrical to a pipe grid is challenging and costly, especially after a retrofit. I looked at having a room wired once, to replace shoebox dimmers, and the price tag was between $10k and $15k.

    Local installers are usually more than happy to give you an unofficial quote. I would think that the funds you have might at least get power to the room, even if you have to add connections and raceways in the future.

    Depending on the height of the room and your creativity, 100W fixtures can still do some impressive lighting, and dimmers and controls for those may run you $600 or so if you go cheap.
     
  19. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

    Messages:
    4,017
    Likes Received:
    562
    Occupation:
    Acoustical, audio and audiovisual consultant
    Location:
    Marietta, GA
    Two aspects that are commonly overlooked are ventilation and security. Adding theatrical lights, dimmers, etc. often increases the cooling capacity required for the space and possibly how air is delivered and returned. In addition, these are often spaces that may be used during odd or off hours, so access control, cooling, heating and so on may have to be modified to support that use. It is no fun to having marginal cooling to start with that automatically shuts down at a set time when you are still often using the space. Your Facilities people may be able to offer some input on such issues.
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice