New lighting system

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by PACPTech, Aug 6, 2019.

  1. PACPTech

    PACPTech Member

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    Hey everyone! I realize this is a really general question but my group has just acquired a historic movie house that we are going to be renovating into a live venue and permanent home for our theater company. The building is essentially a blank canvas right now and we are starting to gather ideas for our design. I do have somewhat of a background in lighting but I'm curious: what would be on your lighting wish list today? I'm looking specifically for some insight into power/data distribution throughout the space and what you typically would want to see but I'm also interested in current trends for multi universe needs and management.

    Thanks!!!
     
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  2. JohnD

    JohnD Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    I am sure there will be some of the informed regulars along soon including (the now somewhat retired) @BillConnerFASTC and also @Les who is at the Campus Theater Denton, TX. It is now to the point that the choice of incandescent or LED has now landed on the LED side. A new installation of dimmers isn't really feasible these days.
     
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  3. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    Congratulations! If you love on the building it will (usually) love you back.

    My venue went through this back in 1995. Granted it was a huge project entailing a nearly complete build-out of the theatre. Don't underestimate what needs to be done concerning electrical, HVAC, ADA, etc.
    Erich Friend (@teqniqal) can also give plenty of insight as he consulted on this project and has done countless others since.

    Since my theatre is early-mid 90's era, the lighting system was a full-compliment incandescent/quartz with 192 dimmers and DMX for control (no distro). In 2015(ish), we went through a soft upgrade where we exchanged one of the aging Colortran ENR racks with an ETC Sensor rack plus a 24ch ETC Echo panel. Along with this came full DMX distribution and a good little set of LED fixtures to help get us away from Par 64's and 1500w Cyc lights. It's serving us well, as we continue our rolling transition to LEDs.

    That being said, if I had a blank canvas today, it would be an all-LED system with no installed dimmers. However, you definitely should install something like ETC Echo relay panel (or one of the many similar options on the market) so you can at least have control of the relays powering your LEDs. Too often I see spaces that are improvised with LEDs in constant power that is never shut off. This does no favors to the PSU's that drive LED fixtures. I like things to be shut down anytime the board is not on. The "flipping breakers" plan is not sufficient with me either because lets face it -- no one will do that on a regular basis.

    So... Distribute relay-controlled power everywhere you would have a hanging position and then some. Data as well. (I'm not a networking guy, so I will rely on others to talk about that). For the purpose of practicals and the possibility of bringing in the odd 750w Source Four, invest in some nice dimmer packs (at least 1kw/channel) or "Bakpak" style dimmers.

    Don't be afraid to start with "budget-friendly" LEDs such as Chauvet or Elation. But don't go too cheap with the $100 Amazon specials. I recently designed in a space that had about 50 of those things. I would have rather had a dozen Elation SixPars...

    The last bit of advice (since this is a barely legible stream-of-consciousness post as it is) is to get a consultant involved asap.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2019
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  4. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Just for a sense of scale, how much might you spend all together on the project - not just the lighting but the whole theatre? Big difference in concepts and advice if you're spending a half million versus $5M.

    And is this from nothing with new, or will you be begging, bortowing, and stealing? Id agree with distributing power and data if starting from scratch. On the other hand theres a lot of used incandescent gear at very low prices and probably dimers. Bigger service and more install, but gear a fraction of the price.
     
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  5. PACPTech

    PACPTech Member

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    @Les Thanks for the reply. Yes in my recent research it would seem that the scale has tipped to the all LED side but we already do have some used incandescent that we could incorporate as well. I think the idea of a relay controlled grid is fantastic! So is it pretty much the norm these days to not have a dimmer rack at all? @BillConnerFASTC - Right now we are still in the early stages of planning but it has been estimated to be around a $3mm - $5mm project. Because its a historic building and our goal is to have it see another 100+ years, we want to make sure we do it right. Of course, I'm not beyond bartering with anyone :) What are you all using console wise these days? Our current "gypsy" rig has an ETC Congo Jr.
     
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  6. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    Luckily for us, our building was added to the Historical Registry after renovations. Hopefully (assuming it's an official designation) it doesn't cause you too much red tape related headaches.

    I wouldn't say it's the norm to not have a dimmer rack (we're 75/25 ourselves - 25% being the LEDs) and there are lots of spaces that are hybrid or still fully incandescent, but I think the trend has been moving away from installed racks in new builds for several years. Personally I would plan a few circuits in each hanging position intended for the odd standalone dimmer or dimmer pack (and other needs as they arise). To contradict myself (as I do), I recently spoke with my local ISD's Director of Fine Arts about a high school that is getting ready to break ground. To paraphrase her, they are planning a hybrid dimmer/LED system to allow students to still have experience with gels. I highly doubt there is any other motive behind this ;) ;). Seems strange to me as other facilities are ditching their conventional fixtures, but I can't say I completely disagree with their approach. I want to be using the two technologies side-by-side for as long as it makes sense (while also pushing as many grant proposals as possible).

    For data, I suppose you have the choice of installing an optosplitter with DMX runs to each location, but most higher-end builds do more with networking. My space has the optosplitter/DMX setup, but networking is likely the truly forward-thinking approach.

    Don't forget to budget power, data, and money in to your houselighting system. We are still running quartz, but you would be much better served by LED from the get-go. Altman Chalice, ETC's ArcSystem, and Light Source's HL System are a few that come to mind, but do plenty of research there, since a beautiful venue really be undermined by bad architectural/house lighting.

    For control, it seems that most people run the ETC Element (Element 2 now) or ETC Ion. We are running an Element and it is fine for our needs, but I would have preferred an Ion just for the sake of future expansion.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2019
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  7. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    At your budget range, new and all LED is feasible. When a client has some serviceable incandescent units, I often include some solo-dimmers like ETCs ES750 or Strands Bak-Pak, to maintain the distributed power and data system,w a few extra circuits, which is the future.

    I hope your organization or your architect gets professional theatre planning advice.
     
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  8. Chase P.

    Chase P. Well-Known Member

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    One of the venues I frequently work in is an old movie house. The renovation included a full dimmer system, even though the remodel was only completed ~4 years ago. It still works great for the intelligent fixtures, since the dimmers can all be used as true relays as well.

    I'd make two suggestions, the first being that since you don't know how the space will be used, get a number of circuits mirrored in their locations. What I mean is, get two of the same socco outlets (circuits 6-12, for example) in different parts of the building. We're constantly running socco from the back of the proscenium to the catwalks and vice versa, even though they all have their own dedicated circuits. It just depends on the show, the set, and how the designer wants to use the space. Having the ability to steal circuits from nearby instead of miles away would be a major time saver, even if the total number of dimmers stayed the same. Mirroring them is not an excuse for less dimmers overall!

    Along with that, having enough mouse holes designed in that you can get a big socco or feeder run to odd parts of the building, like the catwalks or the trap room. Mouse holes are cheap during construction, but harder to add later. They've been the saving grace in this venue, with a little 24channel Sensor rack that we regularly drag into the hallway outside the catwalks or land backstage. It also prevents cables though doorways, which isn't going to fly for a lot of fire marshals.

    Second, make sure they spec out fixtures that will continue to be supported, and that fit the skill level of the crews you're going to have. It's a hard thing to do, my example venue got VL1000's and Phillips ColorBlast TRX's along with Lustrs (and conventionals). The Lustrs are fine, but the VL's are a royal pain to change the lamps and re-hang (no handles, wtf?), especially when the venue keeps cycling through master electricians. The ColorBlasts all have dying screens after only a few years, and there are no longer replacements. When you've got a company demoing new units for you to choose, ask them about the planned longevity of that product line. Part of your demo should be the crew getting to lift and hang the fixtures, so you can tell if they're going to be able to heave that thing out over a catwalk railing to put it up.

    Finally, a side suggestion to not let the architect shoot down tech needs because they're not pretty enough. It happens all too often with restorations and remodels, because they want to preserve the historic parts of the building. Ultimately, the space has to be usable as a theater, too. There's a major difference between ornate historic plaster trim and the open field of the ceiling. One is just fine to chisel through to put up some very useful FOH rigging points during construction. Don't let them convince you that 100% of the original building is some sacred thing that can never be touched.
     
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  9. tdub

    tdub Member

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    I just retrofitted my theater to an all LED house. I went with relays and networking. You will need to retrain your house crew, but if you hire the right consultant then that should be included in their fee. If you want to use some incandescents , then get some light bars or DMX dimmer packs. Listen to everyone that says get a good consultant first before you spend a dime.
     
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  10. mbrown3039

    mbrown3039 Active Member

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    Not sure where you're based, but -- to echo what Bill said -- please, please, please find a consultant to work with. Don't assume that "we know what we're going to have in this venue so we know what technology we need" -- the world of permanently installed entertainment technology for a for-profit venue (even if the organization running it is non-profit) is a far cry from the production world. Having an expert on your side will help you think out all of the possible different uses you may wish for this theater and have the infrastructure in place to take advantage of those opportunities when the time comes (even if that time isn't right now) -- or, the converse of that: make sure you don't design systems in such a way that you are automatically precluding the possibility of those other events. Or worse, blowing money on things you may not need.

    Tue story: a few years back i visited a historic movie theater (100+ years old) in northern CA that had become a fairly well known regional venue for two separate types of events: indie films and music concerts. The theater has a beautiful art deco decor inside and out, a stunning grand entry lobby with matching circular staircases to the balcony left and right and -- two completely separate Meyer Sound PA systems. The AV contractor convinced the new owners during renovations that they needed a completely separate system for each use. I had been called in to help with a "tune-up" of the live system and was amazed two find the cinema system. Yes, there is a difference between the two uses, but a good consultant would've devised a plan to meet both needs and used one DSP platform for both tunings, probably saving the theater $200-300K in the process.

    The short version: find someone smarter than you and get them on your team! Good luck! m
     
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