# Starting a Theatre

#### Artemis133

##### Member
Okay, so I have another question. I start a job in a week at a new theatre downtown, called Gunthrie. I'm the first lighting designer that they have. They have no equiptment what-so-ever. I was told that I'm getting a budget, and that I get to supply the theatre with everything they need. At least, for this show. It's a children's theatre, and has shows about one hour long. They are fun and happy shows, and the budget will prbably be pretty low.
So, my question, how do I start? What do I need, how do I get the right ones, and what's good for the price? Basically, any tips you can give on building the lighting at all would be helpful.
Thanks.

#### stantonsound

##### Active Member
Ok, a couple of questions that everyone will have, just so we can get a better idea of what you have to work with.

How big is the venue?
Are dimmers installed, if so , how many channels/circuits?
Is there a lighting console?

In general, it really depends on budget. When you say that your budget is "low", I doubt that you will be able to buy a few dozen movers and 100 S4's.

Personally, I would consider buying a few items that you know will be used for every show, like a dozen or so ellipsoidals, some fresnels, some Par's (or whatever the space calls for), and then buy used or borrow the rest.

Don't forget, cable is VERY expensive. Home Depot is selling 12/3 SO cable for $1.45 a foot, and our local electrical shop is selling it for$.85 a foot. With connectors at about $5 each, that will be a least a couple of grand for cable. Many theatres have a great deal of this extra and borrowing for now is a great idea. #### Artemis133 ##### Member Hm... I hadn't thought of borrowing anything. There's nothing around here, but I guess I can go out of town... It's a good thought. As to the theatre, it is in the last stages of construction, but we are not allowed in until the construction is done. I've had all of my meetings and such over the phone, or at a loacl coffee shop. They told me that they have absolutely nothing for lights. I am assuming that this means they have no dimmers, or anything. The owner/director does not exactly know much about tech, so I could be wrong. I am supposed to actually be let in the building later this week. I can find out then, and let everyone know just what exactly I have to work with. Thanks. #### zac850 ##### Well-Known Member Theater size? Stage dimensions? Grid height? Throw from FOH position? Balc rail? Number of electrics? Also, what is the budget? Also, define "no equipment what-so-ever". Is there any cable run to any of the positions? As was stated, cable is expensive (the price for copper keeps skyrocketing). Are there any dimmers? If there are no dimmers, is there at least a panel you can tie in to somewhere on stage or at least near stage? If there is a tie in panel, how much power do you have? On a budget, look at NSI dimmers and consoles, and some PAR cans (get the cheapest you can find). If you have a more substantial budget, everyone likes the Sensor racks (ETC), Source4s (ETC), and an Obsession II (or an EOS, or a Strand 550i, go look at the numerous threads about consoles to use). If your putting in cable, make sure you leave a few circuits free on each multi cable. Especially if its going to be a permeant install, things break, and people need to hang more lights. #### stantonsound ##### Active Member If there are no dimmers installed, electricity really is the main priority. If you don't have it, there is little that you can do. One of the High Schools that I am the LD for only has 21 working dimer channels and no way of accessing any more power (they have an 800amp service, but to way to access it, and with the rules of the school district, we can't do any sort of construction). Again, tell us what you do know about the space. #### Artemis133 ##### Member Stage dimensions-40 ft. width, 30 ft. depth Audience size- 50 ft width, 30 ft. depth Grid height-30 ft. one cat, two electrics, plus a third electric for cyc lights. By no equiptment, from what I understand, means nothing. They don't have dimmers, they don't have cable. They have nothing. I'm assuming that they have a panel, or something where I can hook everything up, but when I ask, the owner tells me he doesn't know yet. What they are doing is remodelling an old restaurant, and that is all I've been told about the power. Budget wise, about 7 grand, from what I understand. This is for the board, and the fixtures. I was told that the "other major things for lights" are in the building budget. I still have to find them, but they are not included in that budget. I think cabling falls into that category, but it could be with the fixtures. Sorry I don't have more information, I've known about this for two weeks, and haven't had many meetings. Three, actually, and all under 30 minutes. I'll try and find out more, and let you know. Thanks for the help. #### gafftaper ##### Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia First off are we talking a proscenium, thrust, round, black box? What type of theater is it? It would be REALLY financially foolish on their part to build a theater but not at least install dimmers and circuitry. I guess I can see not installing a console... but there must be dimmers and circuitry. Ask to borrow the blueprints and all the electrical documents for the space (which should tell you about dimming). Also ask for the architect's phone/e-mail if they are any good they should be able to help you. Finally, ask if a theatrical consultant was hired in the design process... and pray the answer is yes... if yes, contact that person and forget everything else above. Between those items you should be able to determine what is and isn't included. If you are handy with a scale ruler the blueprints give you a good sense of distance of throw from the lighting positions. Throw distance from your lighting positions is critical before we can get very specific on what equipment to purchase. Your basic inventory list will include: Source 4 ellipsoidals (primary front light source), Source 4 pars (side, back and down light), Altman Fresnels (probably 8 inch depending on the space for side, back, down, and possibly front light ), some Altman Zip Strips (down lighting from on stage electrics), and probably some Altman cyc lights (if you have a cyc to light or just large area washes). A lot of cable may be needed... depending on how the place is wired, you may want to look at multi circuit "socapex" to get a lot of power where you need it. Accessories you will need: Top hats/Snoots, Barn Doors, Side Arms, Two-fers, GSP-Eddison adapters (assuming the place is wired with GSP connectors), donuts, pattern holders. Try to get an inital stock of consumeables as well: Tape, tie line, gel, gobos... the list goes on and on. If dimmers and console are already included, your stage isn't huge and your throw distance isn't ridiculous, a very nicely equipped (but no big toys) conventional lighting package will run you$90k-$100k. You can make cuts and "get by" well down into the$70k-80k range, but much below that you are going to have to do a lot of searching for used gear and looking to borrow/rent to fill in the gaps.

On the other side is the question of renting... if you don't have the money to purchase you'll find renting gear for a show gets really expensive quick. You'll want to find a nearby theater dealer to work with for renting.Here is a link to my local dealer's rental pricing page to give you a sense of what things cost. Where are you? I'm sure someone around here can help you find a rental place that isn't too far away. Also check out recent threads on places to rent and purchase lighting equipment.

My college is building a new black box theater and I've spent a lot of time putting together the shopping list for all equipment. Drop me a Private Message and I'll be glad to send you the spreadsheet of what I am purchasing with rough bid prices to help you set your budget.

Last edited:

#### stantonsound

##### Active Member
If dimmers are in the building budget, $7k could get you started (sort of). Many people will give you different advice, but my 2cents worth would be: Board:$1,500 (you could spend less, but this will get you something that will be functional and useful)
Cable: $1,500 Gel, Pattern Holders, Clamps, Safties, Barn Doors, Etc...$500
8 Source 4 Lekos: $2200 20 Par 64's:$1000
3 Fresnels: $300 I don't know what your exact needs are, but that would light the stage and let you do a few things. Granted, there is really no cyc lighting, but with the ellipsoidals in the cat, and the Par 64's for a wash, top lighting, back lighting, etc....you could get by. If you are looking to rent, cable is usually the best thing to rent and most cost effective. For instance, I rent S4's for about$18 a week, less with a discount. That fixture sells for about $280. I rent 100' stagepin cable for$4 a week, and that sells for about $110. The cable is by far a better deal than the S4 fixtures. Also, used lighting is an option, and you could get about 33% more gear by buying used, but if the stuff is not in good shape, you are buying a headache that will constantly need repair. Last edited: #### gafftaper ##### Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia OUCH... ok.... well ignore that post.$7k and no dimming huh?

You are going to have to go deep into the world of Low budget and used gear. Dimming and cable is going to be your largest expense... You need to get just a small simple console... see recent threads on low budget lighting consoles for ideas. The dimmer pack is the killer here. You need an electrician to tell you how much power is available where. You may have to ditch installed dimming all together and go with something like "scrimmer sticks" that are designed for portable lighting. They just plug into a wall outlet... one or two separate circuits are required to power each dimmer. You will need access to a lot of separate circuits in the space but you won't need to hire an electrician to put it all together you can just hang the dimmer on the electric, and run power from there.

Tom's got a good idea about basing your wash on a lot of PAR 64's. It's about all you are going to be able to afford if you have to buy dimming as well.

Last edited:

#### stantonsound

##### Active Member
It might be necessary to rent all of the gear on a 6 mos or a 1 year rental if you need dimming too. Hopefully, the tickets will sell and the owner will take in enough money, or get sponsors, and come up with enough money to purchase the fixtures. There are places that will do an "install rental", where they bring and maintain everything, and the rent really isn't that bad.

#### Lightingguy32

##### Active Member
Take a look at ETC Smart Bars for your dimming needs and add on to that either an ETC Express board or a Strand 520i. You are looking at somewheres between 30 and 40 Source Four Fixtures (lekoes) of different degree fields (19°,26°,36°,50° primarily, and a few 5°,10°,14° fixtures). If your space is small get a dozen source four zooms, they are very flexible solutions. If you are really crammed for space try Source Four Jr.s or Jr. Zooms. For washes use a mix of Source Four PARS (EA) and PARnels. If you need border lights get some standard R40 border lights from L&E or Altman.

For cabling, keep some two-fers and three-fers around. Also have a variety of 5',10',25',and 50'-100' jumpers/extension cables. Keep in mind that cable is going to be expensive, so buy only what you need for the time being and then add on as you need more.

The dimmers are distributed, so you can actually move a whole Smart bar around an electric to wear you want it, clamp it down and then move it when you need to reposition.

#### gafftaper

##### Senior Team
Senior Team
Fight Leukemia
Take a look at ETC Smart Bars for your dimming needs and add on to that either an ETC Express board or a Strand 520i. You are looking at somewheres between 30 and 40 Source Four Fixtures (lekoes) of different degree fields (19°,26°,36°,50° primarily, and a few 5°,10°,14° fixtures). If your space is small get a dozen source four zooms, they are very flexible solutions. If you are really crammed for space try Source Four Jr.s or Jr. Zooms. For washes use a mix of Source Four PARS (EA) and PARnels. If you need border lights get some standard R40 border lights from L&E or Altman.
For cabling, keep some two-fers and three-fers around. Also have a variety of 5',10',25',and 50'-100' jumpers/extension cables. Keep in mind that cable is going to be expensive, so buy only what you need for the time being and then add on as you need more.
The dimmers are distributed, so you can actually move a whole Smart bar around an electric to wear you want it, clamp it down and then move it when you need to reposition.
Yeah the Smartbars are a good idea but did you see the part about the $7,000 budget. #### stantonsound ##### Active Member The smartbars are cool for DJ's and maybe a small corporate show, but the cost is pretty high for what they actually do. You can pick up two 4 channel dimmer packs for less than half the money and get the same function. #### Artemis133 ##### Member So, here's what I'm understanding that I need. -A decent board. About$1500
-A few Source 4s
-A bunch of Pars
-A couple Fresnels
-Necessary gels.barn doors, top hats, ect.
-A ton of cabling (preferably rented)
-Two 4 channel dimmer packs

Rent a lot, and find good, but used, equiptment. Get more stuff as ticket sell...

And that would start off a decent theatre?

Thanks for the help. I think I would have been lost without it.

#### gafftapegreenia

##### CBMod
CB Mods
Take a look at the products made by Leprechon. I am especially fond of the ULD series of their 6 channel hanging dimmers. They cost more but can handle alot more than the 4 channel DJ packs. Then again, the 4 channel packs might be a better bet to stretch your dollar.

I know Source 4's are great, but if your really tight for budget (and it seems you are) check out the classic Altman 360Q. You can get piles on these for next to nothing as most places are clearing their inventories of 360Q's for Source 4's.

Now, as for PARs vs. Fresnels. We've discussed this alot on this board. Now PARs are going to be alot cheaper than Fresnels. That said, used fresnel can be found for around $75, depending where you look and what model/brand they are. (Just a ballpark figure). Personally, I think the Fresnels would give your stage better washes and be more flexible overall, especially for childrens theatre. PAR's are chepaer but can be hard to blend. Additionally, Fresnels can be focused without additional items, PARs need different lamps to change beam spread. Those lamps usually cost around$20.

You say you have a cyc. First off, you are not going to get enough cyc fixtures or new striplights NEW with your budget. I would look into used striplights and used scoops.

Dont forget that with distribution dimming you will need DMX cable to link it all togther.

Take a look at bulbamerica.com. They have enough dirt cheap lighting products to get you by, especially PAR cans and cheap boards.

For used lighting, I suggest usedlighting.com and prg.com. PRG has something like a dozen 360Q's for $800. I know there is alot to think about, and please try not to feel overwhelmed. You can do this, and we're here to help. #### zac850 ##### Well-Known Member Of course the theater is expecting whatever is put in to stay in, and if you rent cable, well, once the cable goes back to the rental shop everything is useless again. Of course, there is really no possible way to make this work on a 7 grand budget and be decent. By that I mean doing a proper install with the dimmers wherever they go and proper cable running to the positions. 7 grand would buy the cable, but not much else. (As I said before, copper is insanely expensive now) A minimum of 36 dimmers (40 by 30 stage, I'd say 36 dimmers a minimum, especially once 3 of them go over for house lights) would run you somewhere around 3 or 4 grand, depending on the company. A non-computer console (2 scene preset) for 36 channels would probably run you another 1500. One Source4 is around$200. A 360Q 6x9 is around $175. A PAR64 is around$65. Lamps are around $15 to$25 each. An R40 3 cell 6 foot cyc light (which is decent but not great) is around $290 each. A nicer zip strip, 3 ckt, 6'6" long is around$730.

So, 7,000 budget, well, if you pull that off and make it look good, and make it safe, I congratulate you.

What I would suggest is to put in a temporary system now, and have the theater save up until they can afford an actual lighting system.

I'd look at getting three small NSI dimmers, 4 channels each, 1.2kw max (around $360 each) which you can just plug into the wall. Go to home depot and get some 12/3 SO cable. Put one dimmer FOH and one dimmer on each of your electrics. Run your home depot cable from some outlets to the dimmers for power. Light wise, get 12 PAR 64s with 1000 watt WFL lamps in them. For control get a basic 2 scene preset console, which should run you around$300. You'll need to get some 3 pin XLR cable to connect your console to your dimmers as well. That comes to around $2580, plus however much cable you get from home depot, and the XLR cable. Save the rest of your budget and wait for the theater to get some money, then purchase a system. When you purchase your large system, you'll already have 12 PAR 64s, which are always useful, and some extra satellite dimmers, which are also always useful. The reason I suggest this is because I have seen too many people, schools and theaters get a small budget and purchase as much second-rate equipment they can with it. Instead of purchasing just enough to get buy and waiting until they have the budget to purchase what they need, they immediately go and purchase a system which WON'T do what they need, and waist their entire budget on it. IMO, it's better to just get by now and get the system that you want when you have the$50,000 to $100,000 later to spend on it. Good luck! Zac Spitzer #### stantonsound ##### Active Member So, here's what I'm understanding that I need. -A decent board. About$1500
-A few Source 4s
-A bunch of Pars
-A couple Fresnels
-Necessary gels.barn doors, top hats, ect.
-A ton of cabling (preferably rented)
-Two 4 channel dimmer packs
Rent a lot, and find good, but used, equiptment. Get more stuff as ticket sell...
And that would start off a decent theatre?
Thanks for the help. I think I would have been lost without it.
Since you are the designer, get what you use. That is what I would purchase and I am comfortable that I can make most productions look pretty good with those fixtures. You may love scoops, or you may hate Par64's. Get what works well for your shows, your space, and your designs. The list that I made has a little bit of what I think anyone would be happy with. I would say that S4 Pars are great, and would love to tell you to get more fresnels and cyc lights, but the budget just doesn't support it.

One thing that I found is that I have accumulated a bunch of gear that was ok at the time to get me through, but is useless to me now. I would say get things that will still work later on and you will save money in the long run. I would suggest to get a decent board (even if used, but you can pick up a ETC SmartFade pretty cheap).

#### gafftaper

##### Senior Team
Senior Team
Fight Leukemia
So, here's what I'm understanding that I need.
-A decent board. About $1500 -A few Source 4s -A bunch of Pars -A couple Fresnels -Necessary gels.barn doors, top hats, ect. -A ton of cabling (preferably rented) -Two 4 channel dimmer packs Rent a lot, and find good, but used, equiptment. Get more stuff as ticket sell... And that would start off a decent theatre? Thanks for the help. I think I would have been lost without it. You're getting lot of good advice. The one big problem I see is the amount of dimmer power needed to get any kind of coverage. Depending on the brand (EDI, NSI, ETC... a lot of people make them) the small portable dimmer packs that just plug into a wall outlet are only going to handle about 600-800 watts per channel. So you can only put one instrument on each channel and it can't be a PAR64 1000 watts. One of those 4 channel units can really only power 4 lighting instruments. So I would think seriously about getting one serious dimmer unit like a 12 channel 2.4k... this gets problematic because that probably means hiring an electrician to wire it up and you then need a whole bunch of cable... you could easily blow most of your budget there. But you might nickel and dime yourself to death with a bunch of small 4 channel dimmers that can't power anything. It makes sense to me to spend as much of your money as you can on getting good infrastructure and then adding a couple lights at a time as you go. Below is a list of prices for what I would consider a pretty good deal on a new instrument including Lamp, C-clamp, Gel Frame, Safety cable, and shipping. -A full size Source 4 ellipsoidal about$300
-A Source 4 Jr about $200 probably a better option considering your limitations -A Source 4 PAR about$170
-Low budget PAR 64 about $70 (if you're just getting PAR's buy used for sure). -Two cell hanging Cyc lights$400+
-Altman 6'- 3 circuit strip light about $800 -Altman 8" fresnel$230.

#### stantonsound

##### Active Member
When she said "I was told that the "other major things for lights" are in the building budget. I still have to find them, but they are not included in that budget", I would figure that it means that the dimmers are in the building budget. At least I would hope.