Outdoor Lighting- No power

skyye99

Member
I need to provide adequate illumination for a small stage, something like 20' across and 15 feet deep. The stage is outdoors, built from raw lumber. There are no existing lighting positions, but it should be possible to rig a few fixtures to the proscenium arch. Problem is, there's no electricity running to the site, and it's in a fairly damp environment (rains a lot around here). The total budget for the show is $1000 (educational theatre...), and the space surrounding the theatre that we can use is extremely limited.

Are there any battery powered floodlights I could hang bright enough and with a wide enough angle to cover the stage that would stay lit throughout Hamlet? Alternatively, are there any quiet generators with enough power to run a couple fresnels, say, for the duration of the show that would be within our budget? Because of various regulations, we cannot use fire.

I personally don't have experience with outdoor theatre, especially without wired electricity, so I'm not sure how possible this all is...

Thank you for any help you can provide!
 

cpf

Well-Known Member
You might be able to pull off something with LEDs or borrowed battery banks. Any chance of a generator sponsorship?
 

skyye99

Member
You might be able to pull off something with LEDs or borrowed battery banks. Any chance of a generator sponsorship?

I doubt it, considering I don't even know if we'll have a program. Do you have a ballpark estimate of what rental rates will run for a small generator? There are a few 1500w ones online that would fit our budget but don't run for long enough.
 

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Senior Team
Senior Team
Premium Member
.....Must the show be performed at night? Shakespeare in the park usually happens during the day with the given limitations. Also, is this show a one off or something that is going to happen yearly?

If not, Honda makes some killer small portable generators. They can be rented at most industrial tool suppliers.

Quiet and power are not two things that go together. You are going to have to go LED with one of the cheaper generators. You could buy something like this: 2X LED PAR Can 64 Light 3CH DMX Cool Warm White Amber | eBay

All in all, its going to cost more then 1,000 bucks to do this. Also, I'm not really sure what generators have run limits. None I have seen do. Now, there is a limit to how much gas they hold, but most will make it 3 hours without a problem.
 

TimMiller

Well-Known Member
I would contact an equipment rental company and ask them about renting a small diesel generator. The 20-30 kw multiquip is a quiet unit with a liquid cooled 3-4 cylinder diesel. Also most places will let you come out and listen to their generators so you have an idea of the sound. Also with several lights you will never load down a larger generator enough to hear a sound difference. If anything it may quiet down a little and really start to purr. I have done shows with multiquip generators right next to the stage with no problems. They also double as pretty good fog machines when you have a large rig :)
 

skyye99

Member
Thanks for all the help, guys!

In this same vein, what kind of weatherproofing would I need to do to make sure everything is safe? I figured the generator and dimmer(s) could be under a tarp in a makeshift booth, and the instruments themselves would be hung under the wood roof with a tarp draped to block most rain. Would I need to get different cabling?
 

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Thanks for all the help, guys!

In this same vein, what kind of weatherproofing would I need to do to make sure everything is safe? I figured the generator and dimmer(s) could be under a tarp in a makeshift booth, and the instruments themselves would be hung under the wood roof with a tarp draped to block most rain. Would I need to get different cabling?


You want to look at IP66 fixtures. Chauvet makes a decent LED unit that is outdoor rated. However, many outdoor venues still use traditional fixtures outside. All connections should be taped. Also, all fixtures should be properly grounded and on GFCI breakers. The rig should also be disconnected over night. You would be suprised how well traditional fixtures do when they get wet. They will need some work when you get them down, but they will survive.

Otherwise, there is alway the DMX rain cover:
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len

Well-Known Member
Depending on the run length, you should be able to rent everything for under $1k. Get 2 stands and put them downstage a little, if possible. Use LED, as the power draw will be far less. You can run them off a 3500 watt generator easily for hours. You'll just have to take everything down every day to avoid weather and theft.
 

FatherMurphy

Active Member
I did an outdoor theater for several years similar to what you're describing, except my group would do up to four shows shows over a four to six week period, so the equipment was outdoors for that time period.

What was finally the most bulletproof for portable equipment was an extra hood for the shoebox dimmers we were using, and plastic sleeving over cord connections. The hood was a top, back, and two sides for the dimmer, attached only through the yoke mounts, hung so that the outlets faced down. U-Line makes several sizes of plastic sleeving (intended for heat seaming into custom length bags), and 12" or so slid over a connector pair and taped at the uphill end ONLY provided rain protection for the cables. Taping connectors, or both ends of a sleeve, sounds like a good idea in theory, but in practice, if you make if hard for water to get in, you also make it hard for water to get out. Double taped sleeves would invariably fill with water, and taped connectors would store water inside (both power plugs and DMX lines). Using a longer piece of sleeving and hanging the cable joint over a truss member (upside down U, with connectors at the top) is the most rain tight.

By the end of the summer, the fixtures would invariably be full of dead, fried bugs, and any iron part would be rusty, so thorough cleaning was very necessary. I had a 100 amp single phase service to work with, and ran 24 500w PAR 56s, 8 6x22s, and three or four 500w halogen house lights, plus sound and a few worklights, and never tripped the main. Once we had the sleeving figured out, and the hoods on the dimmers, even constant drizzle wouldn't cause problems during shows (except for audience/actor comfort).

Just as a thought, would your group consider doing the show by torchlight? Used in quantity, citronella oil burning torches are capable of lighting a stage, and helping combat bugs at the same time. You'd be foregoing control and you might have to do more flameproofing, but your power and shock hazard worries would disappear, and your audience would be given a unique experience. Check with the local Fire Marshall well beforehand, and make sure he's ok with the setup.
 

Kelite

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
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I'd start with an inverter for your car. Not much money for a 2000 or 3000w unit. Now that power is solved you've got plenty of budget left for some ip65 LED fixtures.

Bill has a very good point here, depending upon how much power is eventually needed. Your choice of lighting determines this factor greatly, as several posters have given examples of LED products with lower wattage needs.

I have a power inverter running from two automotive batteries wired in parallel on a trailer at my rural property. This inverter will provide adequate power for 1 hp water pump, an electric circular saw, pole saw for tree trimming, etc- individually, not all at the same time.

Using lower wattage consuming LED static fixtures, several automotive batteries and an inverter or two- you may have something quite usable and water resistant.

Power Inverters and Solar Inverters for Home and Businesses – The Inverter Store
 

Dionysus

Well-Known Member
One of the folk festivals I do uses solar-power for one of their stages, a trailer with a number of solar panels mounted to it with batteries and inverter inside. A really sweet setup, and it can power the stage quite well. I cant recall the arrangement for it, or who it's from but it's pretty cool. It'd definatly power some LEDs, or even some 500w fresnels for a performance.
Perhaps something like that can be arranged?

A bank of batteries, to be otherwise recharged and a sufficient enough inverter and other stuff needed to power standard lighting gear (say fresnels, PARs or what have you) is going to be pricy to put together. But it would be cool. A generator is much more affordable, however noisy. Just put the generator far enough away, with something to block the noise as much as you can. Using LED light will greatly reduce the power you'll need, making your battery-gear to be much more affordable.

I'm currently working on an outdoor theatre project that has nothing but natural lighting, but we are using power for audio and for post-show light. This power we are running from a not-so-near-by building, via a sub-panel (to code of course).

I've also done several outdoor shows with full lighting on portable shoebox dimmers, but these had nearby power we could use. And of course full-scale stage lighting with portable rack dimming, needing much more juice.
 

FatherMurphy

Active Member
You might also look into deep-cycle RV/Marine batteries, they're designed a bit more for heavy use between charging opportunities.

Mention was made about taking down fixtures nightly to prevent theft or weather damage - if you plan to do this, keep your focus simple, since you'll be restoring it in daylight each performance.
 

shiben

Well-Known Member
You might also look into deep-cycle RV/Marine batteries, they're designed a bit more for heavy use between charging opportunities.

Mention was made about taking down fixtures nightly to prevent theft or weather damage - if you plan to do this, keep your focus simple, since you'll be restoring it in daylight each performance.

In many developing nations, every house has an inverter and a bank of deep cycle Marine batteries (or just car batteries, this is the developing world after all) and those hook up the the mains power. When it cuts off, your house still has enough power to run the fridge, some lights, and depending on how much money has been put into this, the hot water, more lights, and a water pump. It can definately be done, I like the car idea best, and with LED fixtures such that you can put say 10 of them on a circuit, that sounds like a plan to me. One thing to factor cost in is that you will need to get gas for whatever your running, unless its solar pannels but good luck getting enough of those for 1000 bucks... Actually, good luck with batteries for 1000 bucks too, they cost over 100 bucks a pop for good ones.
 

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