Replacing ERS Lekos with Moving Fixtures

Would you make the jump to moving fixtures in place of ERSs?


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IanTech

Active Member
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Dec 6, 2018
Location
East Bay
A local venue I work at has pondered replacing all ERS (front lighting) Lekos (currently conventional Source Fours) with LED Moving Heads. Obviously doing a 1:1 swap would be insanely expensive. But if we replaced our stage wash with say 4 or 5 Ayrton Ghiblis on each batten.

They believe that the focusing, moving and color mixing capabilities would make them a better choice.

*Hypothetically* If you had an unlimited budget, would you do this? What are some downsides and reasons we would go with, say, Source Four Series 2 LEDs instead (other than "that's the way it's always been"). Would it even look good on video? (think how good Apple's livestreams have been, they use Source Four LEDs in their new SJ theater).
 

MNicolai

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Sarasota, FL
Depends on what events the venue serves but in general no, I would not swap everything for movers just because I could. You're talking about adding a lot of points of potential failure into every show just because you have some cash to set on fire.

Assuming the worst case hypothetical of a 1:1 swap, the possible unintended consequences of going this route would be:
  • You need a more powerful ($$$) lighting console.
  • Every event needs to be staffed by a seasoned, highly efficient programmer ($$).
    • The success of each event rests largely on their shoulders.
    • Better have a few people on call who can fill this role and show up at a moment's notice because you are always one dinner of bad fish away from losing your programmer for 3-4 days to food poisoning.
    • If you do rentals that want to bring their own programmer to throw faders, too bad, you will lose clients who want something simple.
  • If you do theater/dance/presentations/anything-but-RockNRoll, you need fixtures that have framing shutters and are quiet ($$$)
  • You need 15-20% extra fixtures on hand to swap problem fixtures out with. ($$)
  • You need a long-term maintenance plan involving a full-time staff member just to maintain the fixtures ($50-70k/yr) and a parts budget for repairs ($$).
  • You need a long-term lifecycle plan, where somewhere around 8 years from now you would need to replace your inventory in whole when the fixtures become too obsolete or too difficult/expensive to maintain. ($$$$)
  • Pissing off all your donors, because most arts organizations survive on donations to supplement rental/ticket revenue, and if they don't think you're spending their money wisely they'll keep their checkbooks closed.
There can be compelling reasons to move some or most of your inventory over to movers, but just because you can doesn't mean you should. It needs to be in alignment with your business plan and the events you serve. If you must scratch that itch though, explore a lease or service agreement with a local rental shop who will take on the burden of servicing and possibly owning the fixtures and leave you a couple spares you can swap out at any time. Then when it comes time to lifecycle out the fixtures, that's up to the rental shop to take care of. Don't expect this to be cheaper than doing everything in-house though because they're out to make their own profit margin just like you are.

==

Setting aside the 1:1 swap scenario, it is absolutely reasonable to have a small number of movers dedicated for specials and effects. I wouldn't purchase them to serve the role of stage wash fixtures though -- that's just a waste because you'll almost never use them as movers in that capacity, and you still want to be able to layer effects and gobos on top of your stage wash -- not killing your wash so you can flip into the gobo look. I would purchase those as a supplement to upgrading your stage washes to LED's and getting a decent hazer.

Many of the points above apply still just to a lesser degree. You need a console that you can program quickly on and a bench of programmers who are familiar with it. You need a repairs budget and someone trained in how to service these fixtures 1) so that they don't break as often, and 2) when they inevitably do break. You need a robust lifecycle budget because in all likelihood your movers will last half as long as non-movers will.
 

IanTech

Active Member
Joined
Dec 6, 2018
Location
East Bay
Depends on what events the venue serves but in general no, I would not swap everything for movers just because I could. You're talking about adding a lot of points of potential failure into every show just because you have some cash to set on fire.

...
Thanks, I completely agree on all these points and I have thought about doing a leasing agreement (we have 4 Artiste DaVincis on lease right now and have been great). I am certainly opposed how useless the fixtures would be hanging on a batten out in front of the proscenium. We have a 49" wide stage, for a stage wash reducing down to 4 or 5 movers probably still wouldn't justify it.
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
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Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Thanks, I completely agree on all these points and I have thought about doing a leasing agreement (we have 4 Artiste DaVincis on lease right now and have been great). I am certainly opposed how useless the fixtures would be hanging on a batten out in front of the proscenium. We have a 49" wide stage, for a stage wash reducing down to 4 or 5 movers probably still wouldn't justify it.
@IanTech Quoting you: "We have a 49" wide stage". 49 inches wide, not 49 feet, are you sure of this?
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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Dionysus

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Feb 9, 2009
Location
London, Ontario, Canada
A local venue here (I know several techs there) made the jump to "modernizing" their lighting system a few years ago. The company they brought in took out all the conventionals (pretty much) including the ERS front wash. Replaced entirely with movers.
Biggest mistake ever. The space is near useless for traditional theatre productions, and they've lost damn near every typical rental in that regard (my venues have taken up their extra business along with a few others). Also the movers, especially with their fans make NOISE. The space has always been used for (and intended for) acoustic music among other things... with no reinforcement. Which doesn't really work anymore with the lights on.
 

cbrandt

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Dec 7, 2011
Location
Michigan
A big part of the problem is that there is never a truly unlimited budget. Why spend the money on something with a hundred features if you're going to use 4? A set of fixtures setup to be a front wash is always going to be doing that job. Give it some bells and whistles by upgrade to LED, maybe some accessories and such. That money (and time, and energy) is far better spent on other aspects of production. I'd make the same statements about your other standard systems, like downlight, backlight, cyc light, etc.

Movers have their place, but you don't use a jet fighter when a kite will do the job. At that point you're just buying extra problems, not extra solutions.
 

IanTech

Active Member
Joined
Dec 6, 2018
Location
East Bay
A big part of the problem is that there is never a truly unlimited budget. Why spend the money on something with a hundred features if you're going to use 4? A set of fixtures setup to be a front wash is always going to be doing that job. Give it some bells and whistles by upgrade to LED, maybe some accessories and such. That money (and time, and energy) is far better spent on other aspects of production. I'd make the same statements about your other standard systems, like downlight, backlight, cyc light, etc.

Movers have their place, but you don't use a jet fighter when a kite will do the job. At that point you're just buying extra problems, not extra solutions.
I feel like a rental agreement might mitigate a lot of the long-term budgeting concerns, but I have never had great luck with the reliability of rental fixtures (for whatever reason)
 

Eric W.

Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Location
Southern California
For me, as the entire tech. dept. of a small multi-use space (theater, lecture, dance, concert, meetings, etc.) the idea of adding movers to the rig would cause me to consider the following (assuming you have the infrastructure and console to support them):
1. Effect - Movement, color, texture, coolness - for things like dance and music concerts.
2. Saved time - The time it takes to focus a couple of movers on a mic position or podium vs. hanging and focusing traditional instruments is a no-brainer.
3. Flexibility - Having a good rep. plot in place and a handful of movers to take the place of specials that you would otherwise have to hang and focus would be great. Also, I can't tell you how many times a speaker has, against prior advice, decided he's going to walk 4' to the left where there's doesn't happen to be any light to turn on at the moment. If the light that's on him is a mover, you can make the adjustment on the fly.
4. Cost - If you have the budget for 4-6 movers and your existing rig is serviceable, add, don't replace. Then maybe you'll have a little money left over for a new fog machine and a disco ball.
 

NateTheRiddler

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Premium Member
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Dec 27, 2018
Location
Arizona, US
As someone who went through a similar series of questions and considerations for my PAC:

Don’t.

There’s a certain level of consistency, repeatability, and reliability that ERSs offer. I know that, given a focus plot, I can send any minimally-trained LX2/3/4 up into my cats do help me get focus done. This is not true with movers since there’s a lot more to consider. Translating ERS features into mover language, and then that into console know-how, seems to be quite a hurdle for many techs. Could you, as soon as you finish overhauling your front wash, send your newest trained intern over to the console to program your mover quick sheets? No? Then that’s a definitive reason not to make such a switch.

I’m against the idea merely because I feel as though this is a situation of “you could, but why would you?” Experimentally, it’s a fascinating idea, but in practical use I’ll take a front wash of 120 Lekos over 40 quality movers any day. And I’m talking QUALITY movers (Clay Paky/RoBe/Varilite).

If any industry veterans would like to take an opposing opinion to mine I’m open to contradiction; this is just IMHO.
 
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sk8rsdad

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Ottawa
My venue has 16 movers and a reasonable complement of conventional and LED wash instruments. I like using the movers but they aren't the answer for every job. That said, a theatrically oriented mover like the HES Solaframe (no we don't own any of those) would be a good option to an ERS for a venue with a TD with the right skill set (and console) to use and maintain it. Movers don't have to be noisy and can be convection cooled if designed correctly. That feature will absolutely cost a lot more than the venerable ERS.

Our movers are very convenient for short term rentals since we have pre-programmed looks that can be selected with the push of a button instead of sending somebody into the cats to focus. Various washes, lectern and presentation lighting, stage wash, textured wash, etc. are all a click away. They supplement our conventionals rather than compete with them. Over time, the library of looks keeps growing. The downside is increased maintenance and more specialized knowledge to recover from a problem. There's no such thing as a free lunch.
 

venuetech

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Departed Member
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Apr 14, 2008
Location
AK,
I would not replace with movers, I would replace with LED fixtures and add an extra or two into the wash.
The current plan is to replace my 5 unit 750w washes with 7 units of LED. Movers to me have always been a pain to program. Partly that I don’t have a real mover desk. But also when something does not go right it’s a long fix to make it right. A lot of that is the nut driving the desk, but if I can’t do it quickly, the students are not going to fair much better than me.
Having some movers to support the house plot is great but lay in your washes with fixed units.
 

DELO72

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Joined
Aug 8, 2007
Location
New Hampshire
Nope. Replacing ERS fixtures with movers makes for really lazy designs. Every fixture should be chosen to fulfill a specific design choice and purpose. I get the appeal of color and/or gobo changes mid-performance, but it doesn't necessarily get you the perfect color or specific gobo you are seeking. It makes you lazy and forces you to compromise. Also, (especially for front light) CRI is important. Very few Movers will give great CRI, although some are now starting to get there. Keep the ERS fixtures and buy a few Movers to incorporate AS NEEDED in each individual show as they are called for. Don't fall into the "i need to use them because they exist and are trendy!" trap.
 

JohnD

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RonHebbard

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macsound

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Jun 15, 2018
Location
San Francisco, CA
I can see the draw. Ultimate flexibility. And if you have a DMX wall panel by DFD or the like, you could make some nice simple scenes that recall position, n/c and shutter positions.
The downfall I feel is there's nothing to fall back on. Usually, even in the largest of concerts and festivals, there's still a dozen source fours for frontlight for the sole reason that they never move and always work.
Other than that, sure, replace them all with VL1100LEDs. Zoom, CMY, Shutters and QUIET.