New School Problems

Schniapereli

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Nov 19, 2006
Location
Provo, Utah, United States
The high school where I work at just got entirely rebuilt, and we've been having quite a few problems, as is usual when a school district tries to build/manage a theater. I could write quite a few threads complaining about issues we've run into, but I had one that I wanted to seek input on.

During the last school year, the district asked me how many lights I recommend stay with the school, and told me that other lights we didn't want would go to other junior highs. I sent them a complete list, and answered all of their questions, while they never told me anything about what kind of equipment we would be receiving, despite my frequent asking.
Now, we are moved into the new school, bigger auditorium, and have all of our new lights, and we've found they have given us less than in our older auditorium. What's more, is now they are telling us they don't see why we should keep any of the lights from the old school despite our previous agreement, since "we have all that new stuff."

In our old auditorium (40'X18' proscenium, 30' deep, 96 dimmers, 3 onstage electrics) we had up to about 130 fixtures in use at one time (dance concerts had most lights).
Our new auditorium is a 50'X20' proscenium, 36' deep, 288 dimmers, 4 onstage electrics and they have given us only about 100 fixtures for this larger space, and leaving literally nothing for side lighting for our dance concerts.

We also have a new little theater (28'X15' proscenium, about 10' deep, 48 dimmers, 2 onstage electrics) for which they only gave us 12 36* Source Four Jr.'s

We feel really ripped off, and are looking for ways to convince the district for the need to keep more of our old lights. Since I am pretty young, they don't really value my opinion very much, or the director's opinion for that matter and she has been doing this for 35 years. But, we were hoping to get some other people's opinions to add to credibility.

So, for a high school lighting stock for this theater, what would you recommend as a professional?

 

Footer

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They put in 288 dimmers and sold you only 100 lighting fixtures? Looks to me that they ran out of money at the end. They had already purchased the dimmers and probably installed them and they needed to get 20k back so they cut half the inventory. They probably already had the old inventory moved to another building before this all happened. No theatrical contractor would sell and install 288 dimmers without selling at least 1 light per dimmer. Call up the shop that did the install and see if they can't help you push.
 

MNicolai

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They put in 288 dimmers and sold you only 100 lighting fixtures? Looks to me that they ran out of money at the end. They had already purchased the dimmers and probably installed them and they needed to get 20k back so they cut half the inventory. They probably already had the old inventory moved to another building before this all happened. No theatrical contractor would sell and install 288 dimmers without selling at least 1 light per dimmer. Call up the shop that did the install and see if they can't help you push.
I disagree. Sometimes circuits are put in locations not seeing a lot of use, such as a handful will be in the orchestra pit. You'll also have three dimmers per fixture probably on the 4th electric for cyc lights, and probably some scattered plug boxes here and there throughout the theatre. What will eat up most of your unaccounted for circuits though is lobby and house lighting. So while our install is 288 for our main theatre (also a school facility), only some 230 are for production use. 48 of those circuits are on drop boxes, and we rarely use more than 2 or 3 off of a drop box at a time. 288 just isn't as big a number as it seems when you figure out how many you'll want to connect theatrical fixtures to at a given time.

Between our main theatre, 288 dimmers, and our "Little Theatre," 48 dimmers, we have roughly 150 fixtures to float between the two spaces. I've been known to put as many as 50 fixtures in the Little Theatre, but it doesn't usually have ill-effect on the main theatre because it's not often we have two events going on, one in each space, that require lots of very intricate lighting.

For us, for what we do, 150 fixtures is plenty. There are rare occasions where it'd be nice to have a few more, but it'd not really be worth buying more at this point unless we needed a wider variety of lens tubes because more often than not there are lights to spare hanging up in storage in the shop.

If they don't want to listen to you, there's not much you can do -- especially if people at the other schools are already attached to their "new" fixtures. You can try drafting an example plot and seeing exactly how many fixtures you'd anticipate using during an event, then price out what you'd still need to get to make that happen versus the cost of renting those extra fixtures for each show that wants them.
 

Schniapereli

Active Member
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Nov 19, 2006
Location
Provo, Utah, United States
So while our install is 288 for our main theatre (also a school facility), only some 230 are for production use.
226 of the 288 are stage circuits at our new theater (I couldn't find my notes with that information until now). The 48 circuits in the little theater are all stage circuits (I didn't count the 12 house light circuits for that total).

For further accuracy, (now that I found all of my notes) they gave us 124 fixtures (auditorium and little theater combined) when the old theater contained 174 in inventory, though only about 160 were used at one time (in the auditorium and little theater combined).
 

MNicolai

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What type of fixtures did you used to have, and what do you have now?

If it's the same thing, I'd say do your best to get the old ones back. If it's not, you may just want to say that to maintain the same technical capabilities that you had before, you want to buy another 30-50 fixtures or so to bring you up to at least your old inventory size, but with modern fixtures.

Figuring 50*($300)=$15,000, if the school doesn't want to pay for it, apply for a couple grants. We probably receive 4 or 5 grants each year for different capital projects that don't fall under into our normal budget and that we can't squeeze into the district's discretionary budgets.
 

icewolf08

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Lititz, PA
If you are interested in a little local help/opinions, shoot me an email or PM. I would write more here, but I haven't the mindset at the moment to really be constructive on account of the fact that we are about to start our first preview performance this evening. I would be happy to offer any help that I can.
 

meatpopsicle

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Mar 3, 2008
Location
LI
They put in 288 dimmers and sold you only 100 lighting fixtures? Looks to me that they ran out of money at the end. They had already purchased the dimmers and probably installed them and they needed to get 20k back so they cut half the inventory. They probably already had the old inventory moved to another building before this all happened. No theatrical contractor would sell and install 288 dimmers without selling at least 1 light per dimmer. Call up the shop that did the install and see if they can't help you push.
I disagree as well. While 100 or a 150 fixtures might seem like not enough for the space that has been renovated know there are plenty of spaces that make do with less. Often overall budget of a project defines the amount of equipment that is meted out to different departments. I know that in the larger scheme it is easier to grow a lighting system that has enough dimmers but not enough lights. Thus it makes sense to put in a system that has an adequate number of circuits and the capability to put in more dimmers. Or, in your case, you got all your dimmers and the lights will have to come in subsequent budget years. Facility programming is about the facility over time, not just the "here and now"
 

BDS0111

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Jun 14, 2009
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Ohio
No theatrical contractor would sell and install 288 dimmers without selling at least 1 light per dimmer. Call up the shop that did the install and see if they can't help you push.
I’ll go ahead and disagree and throw another thought/opinion into the mix… Unfortunately, there are a lot of unethical contractors out there. Sad, I know. I’ve seen this a few times, contractors make more money installing dimmers and circuits and much less selling instruments. A contractor can have a lot of influence over a school district, especially if there is no lighting or theatrical consultant involved. You never know.

Moving on… The plus side, as others have said, always better to have the major infrastructure installed from day one. It doesn’t take anything to purchase a couple of instruments, install a lamp, and hang it on the pipe. But installing new circuits/distribution is a whole different story. That’s a lot of work, especially for a high school that usually would have to bring the lighting contractor and electrical contractor back in to do the work. Better to have the positions and not enough instruments for them than have too many instruments and not enough positions.

I see it as an advantage that over the next few years you can acquire more instruments, add to your inventory, and hopefully bring the inventory up to more than what you had before! One of the pros would be that you’ll have time in the space to play around and really decide what works best for you, thus allowing you to make better educated purchasing decisions. Also, as others have said, it isn’t really how much you have but how you use the inventory available that matters.

Good luck and have fun!
 

Studio

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Sep 24, 2009
Location
Chicago, IL
No theatrical contractor would sell and install 288 dimmers without selling at least 1 light per dimmer. Call up the shop that did the install and see if they can't help you push.
I also have to disagree, we have 48 dimmers hardwired to our first and second electrics with only 16 Fresnells. we then have dimmer strips in our catwalk (enough for 36 instruments) but we only got 20.

Now I would love to have extra fixtures, but that is a luxury we don't have as we receive no school funding, and have other things to upgrade.

But in contrast, our little theater has almost the exact number of fixtures as stage circuits which is 30 Elliposodals (old) and 6 Scoops and about 10 Fresnells leaving 4 spare circuits.

I guess it depends on the designer, and the budget at the time.
 

Footer

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Many theatres will do the infrastructure move first them buy the gear to fill it. It happens all the time with fly systems, sound systems, and lighting systems. However, in order to do that a plan needs to be put in place which it was not in this case. I have spent time as a TD at a performing arts magnet school with a new theatre in this exact same situation. I have 192 dimmers in a black box space with 70 fixtures. The district had no desire to buy any more fixtures "because they spent enough already". After an initial large purchase, very few school districts are going to want to dump more into the venue, however little the amount may be. Usually large amounts of money are earmarked for a certain project. You usually get one shot at getting what you want. After that shot, the odds of getting any more money that usually has to come out of the general fund are nearly impossible.

I am used to working in spaces that have less then 100 dimmer and more then 200 lights. One of the spaces I am routinely in has 120 dimmers and 400 fixtures. Yes, you are not always going to use all your floor pockets or the 10 circuits in the loge, but having 2 dimmers for every light you own is a bit of a waste in a world were expansion is difficult.

How many people have worked at schools that had the "buy up" plan only to have that plan cut the next year because of budget issues? Get the money/gear now while you can.
 

erosing

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Jul 6, 2005
Location
Wisconsin
They put in 288 dimmers and sold you only 100 lighting fixtures? Looks to me that they ran out of money at the end. They had already purchased the dimmers and probably installed them and they needed to get 20k back so they cut half the inventory. They probably already had the old inventory moved to another building before this all happened. No theatrical contractor would sell and install 288 dimmers without selling at least 1 light per dimmer. Call up the shop that did the install and see if they can't help you push.
I disagree too, I think it should say, "No good theatrical contractor would sell and install 288 dimmers without selling at least 1 light per dimmer." ;)

That said I know of a few spaces both ways. Either deal with it (I know, not fun), or fix the situation. Grants are great, so are some of the other ideas that have been mentioned. If you don't get more instruments than you'll just get some experience creating with what you have, might not be completely a bad thing.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

DuckJordan

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Oct 7, 2009
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Doesnt matter
Many theatres will do the infrastructure move first them buy the gear to fill it. It happens all the time with fly systems, sound systems, and lighting systems. However, in order to do that a plan needs to be put in place which it was not in this case. I have spent time as a TD at a performing arts magnet school with a new theatre in this exact same situation. I have 192 dimmers in a black box space with 70 fixtures. The district had no desire to buy any more fixtures "because they spent enough already". After an initial large purchase, very few school districts are going to want to dump more into the venue, however little the amount may be. Usually large amounts of money are earmarked for a certain project. You usually get one shot at getting what you want. After that shot, the odds of getting any more money that usually has to come out of the general fund are nearly impossible.

I am used to working in spaces that have less then 100 dimmer and more then 200 lights. One of the spaces I am routinely in has 120 dimmers and 400 fixtures. Yes, you are not always going to use all your floor pockets or the 10 circuits in the loge, but having 2 dimmers for every light you own is a bit of a waste in a world were expansion is difficult.

How many people have worked at schools that had the "buy up" plan only to have that plan cut the next year because of budget issues? Get the money/gear now while you can.
While I understand what footer is saying here, I have to dissagree to a point. Yes you are probably not going to get a large budge to buy a ton of new gear each year, but this will ultimatly help you in the long run if you take it and run with it. While you have a good inventory right now to do some basic lighting (remember first step in lighting design is ILLUMINATION) you probably still have enough instruments to do a few specialty things. This will help you at least learn how to work with little to no inventory as far as lighting goes, too often i see schools such as the one i am at right now have a ton of lights to play with and use but not necesarrily making you think with your design. My instructor has limited us for our semester project to use only 44 fixtures, they can be of any fixtures except intellegent fixtures, in which case we only have 2 moving lights to work with and 4 LED's to work with, the rest must be gelled and focused the old fashion way. This forces us to think economicly with our designs and understand that while some venues may have all the funding and equipment they will ever need, the ones you will be tried and tested will ultimatly have no gear and a very small budget.

So take what you have and use it to the fullest by thinking about how your going to light it to get the best results, it will also help you and other students decide which lights to invest in, and how they could help you instead of we have all of this so why not buy another one.
 

FMEng

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I recall a conversation with my boss over purchasing some equipment racks. I wanted a certain brand, size, locking doors, and so on. He seemed intent on getting me to give on something to lower the cost, even though I had solid justifications for every detail. We went around and around for a while, until I reminded him that another department was footing the bill. His demeanor brightened and then he said, "oh, then go ahead and buy whatever you want."

Maybe the key point to make to those in charge is that keeping the old instruments won't cost them anything, and it might save them money later on. But, if that is the stand you take, make sure that the ones you keep are in good shape, safe, and won't need repairs any time soon.

You might also compromise and offer to retire the ones that aren't in the best shape. They might be more open to the idea of keeping some of the old ones instead of the whole lot. Sometimes you have to give a little to get a little.

It is also important to make sure they understand that the old instruments are fully compatible with all of the new equipment. Non-technical people might assume that trying to use the old lights in the new place might harm something. We all know that isn't an issue.
 
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