Unconventional uses of lights


Benevolent Dictator
Senior Team
CB Mods
Fight Leukemia
I was just curious as to some of the more creative and unconventional ways you have used your lights for a production.

Problem said:
For our adaptaion of Twelveth Night, we build a lighthouse as a major set piece. Our problem was, we could figure out how to mount a light atop the structure that could rotate, but not blind the audience every time it passed by.
Solution said:
We hung a 100W household light bulb directly over an old record player. We then mounted heavy-stock paper in a tube on an old record. We cut out a hole in the paper tube and taped a green gel over the hole. The final effect was that the light appeared to rotate around when really it was just the paper moving and (more importantly) it didn't blind the audience everytime it rotated.
For a light house effect, I have mounted in two different retail situations some ETC S-4, 10degree HMI Lekos on commercial turn tables. The turn table spinner is similar to a mirror ball motor but with a top that spins at your desired RPMs and has a power feed thru to use in powering up lights with. The 150w/4,200°K lekos were chosen for their long life and intensity - just brighter than that of a 575w S-4 Leko, but not dimmable. The standard turn table was also only rated for about 3 amps thus a HMI fixture was ideal.

That after trying various Beam Projectors, Ray Lights, Aircraft Landing Lights, and PAR 64 Very Narrow Spots for their effect on a modified base that would take a higher amperage. The S-4 Leko did the best job of projecting a similar beam to that of a light house outside and at night with throw distances further than 50'. Major problem to overcome was that the yoke on such fixtures is far off center and not only did the fixture without modification throw off the balance but it’s orbit was much larger than it needed to be. In making the fixture I had to create some very labor intensive offset yoke brackets to mount the yoke to and re-center the instrument. Since than I found out that ETC offers some offset brackets for the yoke that I plan to buy next time instead of making a bracket, though at least for the second fixture I took some photos of my brackets so I could more easily figure out how it did it. (I get paid to custom make weird stuff. Just Friday I was custom building a PAR 64 with handles and heat sinks so that Peter Gabriel in his current tour can pick the fixture up and use it for a big flash light during one of his numbers.)

Were it a shorter throw and in a theater setting, I would mount a 8" fresnel, inside your sculpture, separate the power feed from the motor power in a spinner so I could put both on separate control channels of a dimmer and let it fly. If I couldn't get the spinner to put out 8.1/3 amps worth of power, I would probably take the 8" lens and reflector and install a smaller lamp on the spinner with out fixture housing given it was masked by sculpture. (The Fresnel lens was originally developed for light houses.) The spinner is a budget thing, your’s was a great idea. Your phonograph idea is interesting, How about writing up a more detailed report on what you did? Can you take a picture to post? Must have been something.

I have done a lot of wired things over the years but probably the one that stands out as most wired was a end of show effect where the exasperated actor at the end as the lights are coming down, goes to the refrigerator to see what’s in it. I decided to install a strobe light inside the refrigerator to strobe him as a final effect. Of course my theater had no budget or strobe fixtures. Ever drill a hole in a refrigerator and mount a fixture inside it that was independent of the door operated switch, than re-wired the light that comes with the unit to fit a 400w lamp for the non-strobe scene lighting? It was strange, almost un-natural to do both things to a poor working refrigerator.

I took a page out of the Gelette, Stage Lighting book that was the most modern book on lighting when I was in college and made my own strobe fixture. This book had mentioned about the fact that if you install a properly sized fluorescent lamp starter in line with the incandescent bulb, it will when fitted up with the proper lamp create a very random strobe effect. The fluorescent lamp starter basically is a electricity collector in that it collects up the voltage and sends it out in bursts of high amperage in an effort to jump the arc gap and start a fluorescent lamp. Unfortunately, with an incandescent lamp, that poor fluorescent starter will never be able to strike that arc of light and will just keep continuing to collect up the energy and send it out in bursts until it burns out - and it takes a long time to burn out. Thus the incandescent bulb will constantly flicker.

I mounted the starter inside the reflector of a exterior work light that was set up with a 100w 2.1/2" RSC lamp. This way the fixture was weather and humidity safe, and had a relatively short filament length. (The shorter the filament length, the shorter amount of time it will take to go from 0% to full.) For my fixture, I just happened to have the reflector and lamp base left over from a very bad concept by Kliegl (an ancient lighting company) on the 400w 2.1/2" RSC based 6" Fresnel that had since been retrofitted to a normal type of lamp and base. They had this idea way back when in like the 1960s that the RSC - double ended work light type lamp would revolutionize the lighting industry, and put them in Fresnels and 3.1/2" Lekos. Too bad the filament length was so long in length that it made the optics way in-effective. Anyway, I mounted the shorter lamp base, starter and reflector inside the fixture and installed it in the fridge. What a cool effect.

Here is my notes on the effects of different starters on different lamps: (Note, to do this effect, you had better have someone around who absolutely knows electricity and have a copy of the book. This is only my experiments on the effects of different starters as they relate to differing lamps which was not published with the text.)

Flicker Effect:
Flourescent starters in line with “Edison” style medium base lamps for a random flicker.
Note: effect works on R, Rsc, G, P, PS, A, and other lamps but not well on Par lamps. The larger the filament, the slower it is to go on.

Starters: FS2 (9v.15&20w.), FS4 (30&40w), FS12 (32w.), FS25 (22w.)

<table border=1><tr align="center"><td>Starter:</td><td>7.5W.</td><td>15W.</td><td>25W.</td><td>40W.</td><td>50W.</td><td>60W.</td><td>75W.</td><td>90W.</td><td>100W.</td><td>120W.</td><td>150W.</td></tr><tr align="center"><td>FS2</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No Effect.</td></tr><tr align="center"><td>FB2*</td><td>X-Fast</td><td>X-Fast</td><td>X-Fast</td><td>Yes</td><td>Yes</td><td>Yes</td><td>Yes</td><td>Yes</td><td>Yes</td><td>ON/ON</td><td>ON/ON</td></tr><tr align="center"><td>FS4</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td></tr><tr align="center"><td>FS5</td><td>ON/ON</td><td>ON/ON</td><td>ON/ON</td><td>ON/ON</td><td>ON/ON</td><td>Yes</td><td>X-Fast</td><td>Yes</td><td>Yes</td><td>Yes(Slow)</td><td>ON/ON</td></tr><tr align="center"><td>FS12</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td><td>No</td></tr><tr align="center"><td>FS25</td><td>X-Fast</td><td>X-Fast</td><td>Yes</td><td>Yes</td><td>Yes(Slow)</td><td>Yes</td><td>Yes(Slow)</td><td>Yes</td><td>No</td><td>Yes(Slow)</td><td>ON/ON</td></tr></table>

Yes = flicker effect without warm up time.
No = Does not work
Yes(Slow) = longer warm up time to work, and slower flicker speed
X-Fast = Flickers at a rapid rate.
ON/ON = Always on, does not work.

(Hate it when forums conserve space by re-writing my tables or spacing. To understand this, you might have to copy and install it on a word processing program, or match up Yes and No's with where they would match to a lamp wattage.)

*Edited to make the tables work by dvsDave at 11pm 6-3-02
Ship said:
The Fresnel lens was originally developed for light houses.) The spinner is a budget thing, your’s was a great idea. Your phonograph idea is interesting, How about writing up a more detailed report on what you did? Can you take a picture to post? Must have been something.

I don't think I have a picture left, but let me try my hand at creating it in a cad program and taking a screenshot!
Wow, it's a table. Thanks for the effort The original experiment data was made years before I even figured out how to do a table on my word processor. How did you put it into the forum? Can I put such things in?

I'll try one:
<table><tr><td>Type</td><td>Brand</td><td>Description</td><td>Wattage</td><td>Bulb</td><td>Filament</td><td>Arc Gap</td><td>LCL/MOL</td><td>Base</td><td>Notes / CRI</td><td>Color Temp</td><td>Output</td><td>Life</td></tr><tr><td>HMI 123w</td><td>Osram #54059</td><td>CL, SE. MH.</td><td>Full HR. (no Outer Bulb)</td><td>125w/80v</td><td>10mm</td><td>4mm</td><td>LCL 26.7mm</td><td>Special</td><td>Any Burn Pos.</td><td>6,000°K</td><td>8,500 Lum</td><td>150</td></tr><table>
G 8 1/2 Metal Halide G 8 1/2 Metal Halide Metal Halide Metal Halide G 8 1/2 Metal Halide Metal Halide
CMH20TC/UVC/U830 G.E. #92079 (?disc.) CL, SE. MH. (UV-C Block) Capsule Warm White 20 w T-4 ½ 3.35mm LCL 52mm G 8 ½ Univ. Burn (CRI 80+) 3,000°K 1,650 Lum 6,000
CMH20TC/U830 G.E. #92696 CL, SE. MH. (UV-Block) Capsule 20 w T-4 ½ 3.35mm LCL 50.8mm G 8 ½ Univ. Burn (CRI >80) 3,000°K 1,700 Lum 6,000
CMH35/TC/UVC/U/830 G.E. #38697 (?disc.) CL, SE. MH. (UV-C Block) Capsule W.White 35 w T-4.1/2 3.35mm LCL 52mm G 8 ½ Univ. Burn (CRI 80+) 3,000°K 3,400 Lum 9,000
MC39TC/U/G8.5/830 Osram #64791 CL, SE. MH. Ceramic Pulse Start, UV-Stop Enclo. Fixt 39 w T-4 ½ G 8 ½ (M-130/E) Univ. Burn (CRI 82) 3,300°K 3,300 Lum 9,000
CDM-TC 35w830 Philips #37372-0 CL, SE. MH. HID, UV-Block Outer Bulb Capsule 39w/88v T-14mm LCL 52mm G 8 ½ Universal Burn (CRI 81) Vibration affects Color Temp 3,000°K 3,300 Lum 9,000
CMH39TC/UVCU830 G.E. #90352 CL, SE. MH. (UV-Block) Capsule 39 w T-4 ½ 3.35mm LCL 50.8mm G 8 ½ (M130) Univ. Burn (CRI >80) 3,000°K 3,400 Lum 9,000
CMH70/TC/UVC/U/830 G.E. #38700 (?disc.) CL, SE. MH. (UV-C Block) Capsule W. White 70 w T-4.1/2 3.35mm LCL 52mm G 8 ½ Univ. Burn (CRI 80+) 3,000°K 6,200 Lum 9,000
CMH70TC/U830 G.E. #92585 CL, SE. MH. (UV-Block) Capsule 70 w T-4 ½ LCL 50.8mm G 8 ½ (M98 & M139) Univ. Burn (CRI >80) 3,000°K 6,200 Lum 9,000
MC70TC/U/G8.5/830 Osram #64792 CL, SE. MH. Ceramic Pulse Start, UV-Stop Enclo. Fixt 70w/230v T-4 ½ G 8 ½ (M98/E & M139) Univ. Burn (CRI 83) 3,000°K 6,600 Lum 9,000
CDM-TC70w/830 Philips #37373-8 CL, SE. MH. HID, UV-Block Outer Bulb Capsule 71w/88v T-14mm LCL 52mm G 8 ½ Universal Burn (CRI 83) Vibration affects Color Temp 3,000°K 6,600 Lum 6,000

(Nope doesn't work on a small section of my MSR/HMI notes. but at least it recognizes the 1/2 and degree symbols. Funny how it changes the table walls into tab spaces. Some day the internet websites will be able to recognize tables as E-Mails do.)

How about a photo?

... Oops, opened the file of death for my computer. 113984KB of data off my scanner. Just a few pages really. My computer is so slow that with this program open, every 15min when the computer does it's backup saves, it takes about 14 minutes to save the data on this file, and another minute or ten to update the screen to any changes such as scrolling I do in that minute. And it's cumilitive. (Cont./Alt/Delete and I'm out of here.) Yep the file of death. Takes a really long time to just exit out of it so much for lamp images. Luckily I'm getting a new computer soon. Perhaps I'll actually be able to use that file.

Here's part of a PDF I recently sent off to some suppliers tracking my purchases over the last couple of years and current costs for some lamps:

GLA (#6992P) Philips #29432-2 0 3 400 339 $15.85
GLC (6989P) Philips #28739-1 0 0 0 0 $16.50
HX 400 0 0 0 0 $17.75
HX 401 0 0 0 0 $18.00
HP 603 G.E #37404 0 3 0 0 $15.81
GLD/HX-754 0 0 0 0 $16.50
GLE/HX-755 0 0 0 0 $17.50
HPL 375wC Ushio #1000666 213 130 60 56 $15.25
HPL 375wX Ushio #1000667 0 0 10 10 $16.50
HPL 575wC Ushio#1000670 816 470 1,030 113 $13.90
HPL 575wX Ushio#1000671 7 73 0 15 $14.55
HPL575/120X+ Ushio #1002283 0 3 0 1 $17.20
HPL 750wC Ushio #1000675 40 360 530 83 $15.95
HPL 750w/115X Ushio #1003153 0 0 0 0 x

Nope, no PDF drawing or table from it. Interesting how on Word Perfect 9 the table walls are recognized as tabs, but on PDF those same walls as printed to PDF are not recognized at all. Computers, they suck.

Yep, I'm paying $13.90 for a Ushio (more expensive than Osram) HPL lamp, but I buy over a thousand per year. Took me about a year to break the $14.00 mark. Four years ago before I started tracking how many of each type of lamp I bought per year and sending my purchases and current prices out for bid to other vendors, we were paying $16.95 per lamp at dealer cost. But how to send your purchases out for bid is a discussion for another day.
Dave allows html in the forums, so if you know how to make tables in html you are set (this is how he did it, I am pretty sure)
I just posted a HOW TO in the announcement forum, click here to view the guide.
Just posted a Guinness inspired post about my greatest and most magical effect I ever did, and a bit about the magic of design. Guess I timed out in writing it and it's lost in the internet. Too bad, the moment is gone. Something about the play from Yates "The Shadowy Waters" and my magical effects I built such as will never be able to be re-created. Those fuzzy moments in desing when everything is perfect in the world and as you invisioned it, and the tech lives up to the dream. A shame it's lost now, but I'm sure to those who don't like to read more than a short page, no real loss. Wish I didn't delete the word processer version of it before I posted it. Gone now. Perhaps some day in the future.
I edited your post above that had that HUGE table in it. if you read the HOW TO, I'm sure you can finish it
wemeck said:
For Mancha the LD used a ceiling fan to create the windmill effect.
How was the ceiling fan mounted? my experiences with ceiling fans consists of trying to mount them in way's other than straight down... the fans don't do well with that..
In a play that I designed lights for i used a ETC S-4 with a 50 lens. I used the gam WWW.Gamonline.com Film Fx Scroler (w/ fire/water effect) and a light amber gell in the fixture. I had two seperate circutes one to control the lamp and the other to control the Moter of the FX. The play had a verry dim lighting plot. I brought the light up in the S-4 just enoguth the see and used the effect to look like a candle effect acrost the whol stage. Looke Really Cool. I used a fernel focused on the floor right above the action to make a glow of the candles on the floor.

Another cool effect I used in this same play was a Martin WWW.Martin.dk Fibersource CMY 150 in a table with a clear plastic top on it. The Table had glass figures one it. I used the light to make all the figures self elumnate with diffrent emotions. The CMY 150 give me the choice of Millions of diffrent collors. There is 3 flags cyan, magenta, Yellow.
most of my "special" lighting effects has to du with cues, colors, and levels. however, i did use the flouresent light starter idea to create a camp fire once. i took 3 starter 3 different colored bulbs and wired them together. then we built up wood around the lights in the shape of a teepee. give it power and voila, flickering camp fire.
well its really no that grewat but it had a really cool effect. for the opening of the crucible we took a small fernell with a 1/4 red 3/4 orange gel and cast it on an orchestra playing behind a set of flats. I love shadow play :D thats about it thought
haha, hows this? I was surfing the net one day, and found something that my fellow head techie wouldn't let me try...grrrr....

you take a leko w/a 575 watt lamp in it and hang it 3 inches above a preared ramen on a metal stage weight. (the kind of ramen in the cup) cook for three minutes and enjoy!

someone try this, i'm eager to know... and i'm afraid of our director kicking me off crew. (I'm still in high school)
dvsDave said:
wemeck said:
For Mancha the LD used a ceiling fan to create the windmill effect.
How was the ceiling fan mounted? my experiences with ceiling fans consists of trying to mount them in way's other than straight down... the fans don't do well with that..

Ceiling fans have a bracket that mounts into the ceiling (out of sight) to prevent the rotation of the fan from twisting and breaking the power cables. We punched out one of the extra punch-outs on the coduit box at teh top of the fan and fed the power cables out from there. We then attached a C-clamp on the very top hole of the unit and hung it. We rewired the fan to work off a stage plug and then attached the variable speed controler which was of course set at a predetermined slow speed.
This is less spectacular, but is definitely non-conventional. For a production of 4.48 Psychosis, I used pairs of scoops for frontlights and just colored them red, blue, and no colour. Then I put them on subs and controlled them manually throughout the show, making a constantly shifting colour and intensity.

It was less a stroke of genius as much as it was a stroke of having no time and going with the first cockamamie idea that came into my head, but it worked so very well for our production that it still stands as one of the things I'm most proud of in my lighting career.

(The play is about psychosis and suicide, and was done in a very tactile and movement-oriented way, so the lighting fit. Obviously this isn't a good approach to, say, Singin' In The Rain.)
Do you have pictures of how the scoops looked? We were considering something similar for a recent production, but canned it due to where the scoops would have had to hang, and used piles of pars instead. Im interested in seeing how that looked, sounds kind of cool!
most unusual thing i've done was use scoops and halogen cyc lights for top light. since there was no cyc used in the show, it gave me three different top washes instead of a single lavendar with fresnels. worked quite well, actually.

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