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New lights on a strict budget

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by mbandgeek, Oct 31, 2006.

  1. mbandgeek

    mbandgeek Active Member

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    The TD at my school was asked by the principal for a list of new lighting instruments. We are a small school with a dimmer capacity of around 75 channels. All (except for one) of our dimmer packs are operational. Our lightboard is old but still in working condition.

    We were asked to stay under the budget of $2500.

    Our current inventory of fixtures includes
    12 altman ellipsodials
    10 6" altman fresnels
    8 8" altman fresnels
    note: all of these fixtures are 12+ years old.

    My questions are:
    What should be a priority when buying new fixtures?
    Is there a better company than barbizon for this equipment?
    Are there any cheaper alternatives to the source four?

    I will come up with more questions later.
    thanks for any help
     
  2. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    Premier Lighting (premier-lighting.com) is one of the cheapest sources that I have found for fixtures, and production advantage (productionadvantageonline.com) for bulbs.

    Here's some options:

    Either 10 S4 Jr's and 4 S4 Par's or 5 S4 Jr's and 10 S4 Par's. Also include lamps in the budget. You may need to get fewer fixtures if you don't have plugs, clamps and safety cables yet. Also make sure to get the 2000hr HPL lamps.

    If it would help more, get 2 full-size S4's, 2 i-cues, 2 scrollers for 2 of your fresnels, a scroller power supply, and scroller cable instead of a lot of fixtures. Make sure that you can distribute DMX if you are going to chose this.


    Another option: 4 S4 Jr. Zoom's, and 4 Elation Stage Color color mixing parcans to provide a full-range overhead wash. Note that the Stage Colors use THREE HX-601 lamps, so include those in the budget. This is actually the budget that I would probably pick. The color wash might be very helptul.
     
  3. koncept

    koncept Active Member

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    i would probaly pick something along the range of soundlights final option (i have not worked with all of the gear mentioned) but i know i would want good wash fixtures. I would probaly swing more towards the etc s4 (not the junior) and either go zooms or multiple lens trains
     
  4. personalZEN

    personalZEN Member

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    I'll play devils advocate and say that I'm not too fond of the S4 Jr.'s In my experience (2 or 3 shows using a hand full of s4jr's) their light output is not of the highest caliber, and the zooms are even worse.

    It could be the units I was using, but out of 20 fixtures, I was not happy. I also had problems w/burnt gel's and uneven fields, even after a bench-focus.

    Altman 3.5" mini's are great. They get HOT AS HELL (and tend to burn dark colors), but they do a great job and the light output for the fixture size is shocking. I love how tiny they are and how you can pack a bunch of them into small areas.
     
  5. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    I would request a bit more info from you before making a blanket reccomendation. What type of facility is it that you are lighting ? Blackbox, Cafe-torium, Proscenium? Recomending scrollers and I-cues is great, Unless your grid is 12 - 14 ft off the deck < beleive me I've seen plenty, my mainstage grid is only 14' high > then there are significant noise issues to be dealt with first. What is your circuiting situatation? Remember that if you are going to be adding fixtures, it means you'll be needing to add cables etc. to your inventory.
     
  6. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    I would have to agree with Van, before you go saying "get more s4's" you need to look at where you can put it and what is done in the space. Also, before you go dropping 250 a piece on a s4, you might want to give a local theatre or lighting company a call and see if they are getting rid of anything in their inventory. Most companys are getting rid of 360q's like the plague (a few years back Designlab Chicago was selling 360Q's with lamp, clamp, frame, and safety cable for 80 bux a piece, in good condition). Personaly, I would say stay away from the scrollers and i-cues untill the inventory gets a bit bigger, and you can buy more then 1 or 2 (because the infrustructer to get one working cost money too).
     
  7. drawstuf99

    drawstuf99 Active Member

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    I agree with staying away from the scrollers and DMX run things - especially since you say your board is old which may mean that your dimmers and system is old or older - thus not equiped for DMX things in the first place.

    Jrs do have lower output, I've found. We got some of the 26* ones at school and they burn thru gels often too. I'd stick with regular source fours if I were you. You can get them in like the same degrees anyway, and they have more capabilities, and the accesories (gobos...etc.) can be compatible with other fixtures too (rather than the M size of a JR gobo - which is compatible with some fixtures, but in my experience many more us the "B" size of a S4).
     
  8. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Priority should be in supplementing and service calling what you have.

    Seems like a decent start to an inventory and sufficient gear so far, is the intent to get brighter and or more efficient or just new given the “age.”

    On the Fresnels, there has been no big major improvements to them since they lost the asbestos and became grounded. A 12 year old Fresnel as long as in good working condition has nothing wrong with continuing to use it even after 30 or more years. Pay to service call them instead thru a dealer recommended by Altman. At least have that dealer or perhaps compitent and well trained tech person supervise the maintenance call. Perhaps you can call up the local branch of the IA and have them recommend someone who is rated as a ME professionally and get them to either send that someone for free to supervise and instruct or for a price to give a service call to the fixtures. Lots to learn in assisting someone who does such stuff for a living. No real reason to go with something like a PARnel as it’s not a Fresnel - it is a different animal.

    The Altman 360Q’s Ellipsoidal Reflector Spotlights one assumes you have are still good and decent fixtures. Less efficient perhaps but nothing to complain about in doing a controlled beam of light. Again, get them professionally service called and perhaps change to a 575w/115v GLA lamp so as to get more light out of them. Given 12 Lekos, this I might look into supplementing with more fixtures. Beyond that, yep as everyone else says what to choose for fixture highly depends upon what sort of space you are in and a few more things - that’s where the local sales person has the advantage, they come out and see than recommend based upon your situation. I love Altman 3.5Q5 fixtures, not ideal for all situations.

    On Lekos, I might go with S-4 or consider Shakesphere, Strand SL and or the new Leviton/Colortran line, stuff from L&E and or Times Square. Fixed lens - not so much a fan of zooms and I also tend to dislike the S-4 mini-lekos. Just wait until a lamp explodes or becomes bloated, it’s a question of completely taking apart the fixture to remove the lamp than. This plus they are not that efficient just cheap. I might consider such other than ETC fixtures because they would be using the same GLA lamp as the 360Q fixtures. Fixture efficiency is not a huge amount better on a S-4 especially considering that you have nothing modern to compare light output with. Sure, if you had a completely S-4 inventory, other brands side by side in comparison might or might not be as bright but you don’t have - you are attempting to supplement a 360Q inventory. Most third generation fixtures next to the second generation Altman 360Q will be more efficient but not by a huge amount once better lamps are installed in the 360Q.

    I would probably look towards used fixtures. Something with a return policy if not happy and coming from a reputable dealer and or production company - no Joe Bob’s garage lights. Nothing wrong with used lights normally other than some dings and wear given they come from a place that does factory repairs and maintenance to their inventory. - Lots more bang for the buck on a limited budget. In other words, instead of say buying at most 10 new fixtures and going over budget, you might be able to afford 10 fixtures and also be able to afford both having the rest of your gear serviced and the dimmers and light board looked at and fixed. Yearly maintenance on light boards and dimmers is what keeps them running for decades not just “currently running.”

    First take care of what you have and bring it up to operational condition and factory spec. before asking for more.

    Beyond this and assuming cable and more top hats and or barn doors are not in need, I might go for some wash lights. Anything from cyc, to single cell wash to scoop. L&E has a interesting “Runt” but again it’s all a question of need and area of fill requirements. Can’t beat a 14" scoop for some applications, on the other hand a six cell cyc or MR-16 cyc also has it’s own flavoring. Washing of light on a backdrop or from overhead and the color mixing and or blending from wash lights has nothing similar to be produced. I would shoot for ten more Lekos, repair and service of what you have than if money is left over at least two scoops.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2006
  9. fosstech

    fosstech Active Member

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    Before you budget lamps into your proposal, be sure that your school's custodial department won't be able to get them for you on the general maintenance budget. My high school was, and we got loads of HPL's and BTN's for nothing. The only downside was, they took a couple weeks to arrive, but once we had them we had enough spares for years.
     
  10. JSFox

    JSFox Active Member

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    Some great advice so far. A couple of thoughts:

    1 - Avoid Leviton/Colortran. Their quality control is exceptionally poor for instruments and electronics (very surprising coming from Leviton). We have 38 colotran leko's with about 20 that won't focus. 13 of 18 colotran PAR's have extreme overspill regardless of lens. Colortran Innovator light board has 13 documented bugs still not fixed and some are major such as the Track screen not indicating correct information in about 60% of cases.

    2 - In a school there are two goals; 1) Do good productions, and 2) Teach production. It is worthwhile IMO to invest in some variety (even though it may not make sense from a pure production standpoint) so that students can get some experience with different types of instruments. Certainly adding a couple of S4 PAR's and a couple of scoops or cycs would be a good investment - useful and teachable. I bought 4 ADJ P36 LED instruments for $90/ea last year and while cheap and not very bright they have come in very handy both as a teaching tool and for several specials in shows. Make sure you have at least a couple of gobo holders and gobo's, a couple of barns, a couple of top hats, a couple of side-arms, etc.

    We've started a new tradition - each year the production folks raise some money to purchase something 'fun' to donate. Last year it was an ADJ DMX controlled laser. This year they're hoping to get a ADJ moving LED light (with a matching one next year). We'll see if they can raise the money.

    And I strongly agree with Ship - nothing wrong with old instruments (I'm still using 38 year old Strand leko's) and DO get all of your stuff serviced and keep up on it. Get your school use to an annual maintenance budget that is purely to stay where you're at (repair and replacement) and then an annual capital improvement budget to buy a few new things each year.
     
  11. mbandgeek

    mbandgeek Active Member

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    It is a procenium, Our grid is about 15' up, so scrollers are out, we have 3 electrics The third is the one that holds all of our cyc strips.

    We have no drop boxes, our catwalk is 30' away from the stage.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2006
  12. tenor_singer

    tenor_singer Active Member

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    Is this $2500 a one shot deal?

    Coming from a similar situation, I was hoping for quantity versus a higher quality light until I got the program up and running. My super gave me a couple grand to upgrade the school's inventory (which at that time consisted of 6 very old 8" fresnels). My question became... do I buy 4 or 5 Strand SL series or do I buy 10 - 14 Altman 360Q's for coverage? Do I buy parnels or do I buy 6" fresnels.

    IMHO, if you are trying to increase your inventory so that you can get rid of dark spots, I'd go with 360Q's simply because for $220.00 you can get a good fixture at half to a third of the price for a strand SL or Altman Shakespeare.

    Oh... and I'd have to agree with Ship on light age... I'm using some 30 year old 8" fresnels (purchased in 1976 with title 9 funds) and they work every bit as good as some newer ones I have (I just had to dust them and clean the reflector and lense of 30 years of grime).
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2006
  13. zac850

    zac850 Well-Known Member

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    I am going to assume that your using your Altman elipsodials as FOH wash and your assortment of fresnels as your top light wash?

    I like fresnels as top light. In most professional theaters I have always seen PAR cans, but I personally prefer the beam and spread of the fresnels, much more even when looked at next to a PAR can. Not knowing dimensions of your stage, you may want to invest in a few newer 6" or 8" fresnels from Time Square Lighting or Altman.

    In the hard-edged department, I'd suggest the 360Qs, as have been mentioned above. They are good lights, not wonderful like the Source4 is, but as long as you don't need to have a crisp gobo image, they work very well. Add them into your wash as some pipe ends, perhaps be able to drop a few soft gobo washes in them......

    The source4 is a lovely light, of course, but it is more expensive. If you design a lot with gobos it may be nice to get a few 50' Source4s for top light/side light positions, but it depends on preference.

    Cyc lights? I don't know if you have any. I got two Altman R40 six foot strips for $700, used, direct from Altman. Their not as nice as T3 cells or anything, but for the price they gave me some decent cyc lights.
     
  14. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    I had completely forgot about the Altman 3.5Q fixtures. I was looking at them a while back when my high school was considering sidelighting, and they're very nice. I'd go for 10 of those with bulbs, accessories, refurbishments, etc. Get a warm and cool frontlight stage wash. The 3.5Q fixtures should also be able to do overhead specials from a 15' grid. You already seem to have plenty of washlights with your fresnels.
     
  15. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    A fifteen foot grid in a proscenium house ? Mayhap you mean your trim height is 15' ?
    Anyway I think you can see the direction that most of these suggestions are taking. The idea that you could buy a couple of really cheap moving fixtures or a a couple of kick ass effects machines might really be appealing, but you need to remember with lights in a situation like yours, it's quantity over quality. Honestly the 360Q < not a 3.5Q, which I can only assume would be a 3.5" 360 series ???> , is a hell of an instrument you can bang it around replacement parts are readily available, You bench it once a year and it's good to go . Ok so you can't get as clear a projection of a gobo as you can out of a S4, but really when you use a gobo how many times do you really want it in perfect focus ? I think your money < the schools> would be much better spent getting enough fixtures in the building so that you can learn the fundamentals of theatreical lighting as opposed to just scraping by because you don't have enough fixtures to do anything but create one wash.
    I think several of the recent posts in this thread have had links to various ouside sources / vendors, follow them. Take a good hard look at some used 360Q's and maybe even some good old PAR64's or 56's grab a double handfull of fresnels and have a blast. Like I said in my first post though, remember for every fixture you add you need to think about the following;

    1. Does it come with clamp, lamp, plug ?
    2. Do I need more cable to cicuit all these new fixtures ?
    3. What are long term operations costs on this unit as opposedto that unit ?

    Just things to think about. Build a couple of "Ideal" house hangs on paper, then see what you have and what you need. I bet you'll find your more qualified to answer this question than you might think, or more qualified than anyone just taking a wild guess.
    Good Luck and Congratulations, it's not often that Admin just walks in and says "here go spend more money !"
    Keep us posted and let us know who/ what/ where you go with this.
     
  16. mbandgeek

    mbandgeek Active Member

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    your guess is good zac850.

    The 360Q's sound like a great alternative.
    I have a few more questions.

    do the 360Q's come supplied with a lamp?
    How much do the lamps cost?

    Is there a supplier that gives Schools a discount, if so, are they reliable in the way of customer service?
     
  17. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    These may wind up being questions you have to answer. Most Outlets really don't offer discounts to to schools because in the long run, most places buying from them are non-profits anyway, but it never hurts to ask.

    Different companies will offer fixtures in different packages. some will be as is some will be with c-clamp and lamp some will be without.

    Prices on lamps may be set by whom your school district contracts with. When I was in Highschool, we had to get our lamps through the school maintenance budget. We paid twice to threes times as much as when we just ran over to the local supplier and purchased them over the counter, but, man did the school district get a deal on flourescent tubes !

    So you're going to need to go over some of these questions with purchasing agents for the school or your instructor.
     
  18. BillESC

    BillESC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Do you have a Cyc? If so dedicated Cyc fixtures would free up some of your fresnels for more appropiate duty.

    Altman's 360Q's have been the workhorse of the industry for more than a half century, nothing wrong with adding a few more to the inventory.

    I can think of at least one company will beat the prices of the others previously mentioned.
     
  19. Pie4Weebl

    Pie4Weebl Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Gotta disagree with you on that, the space I am doing a show in right now is using those for top lights (proscenium space with a 12' high grid) and the output is kinda weak, I think far cyc fixtures are the way to go and should be cheaper than $700 per fixture.
     
  20. chieftfac

    chieftfac Active Member

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    Hey, as the guy who might be designing your spring musical, go for as many 360Q's as you can afford. I know the PCHS control board,(though, I can't remember the brand) movers or scrollers would waste channels and with no screen they would just be a pain to run. (actually, I'm not sure you can run movers with that board, anyway) With a stage that wide (40' if I remember) you need horsepower, lots of horsepower. If I get the job, I will try to bring in some of my inventory from TFAC (if I'm really lucky I'll be able to use our 48/96 express... well, maybe that is a bit of a dream)
     

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