Upgrading my school's black box studio... with its lower than ideal lighting grid.

Jaixom

Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2012
Location
Hong Kong
Hi everyone, de-lurking after browsing these forums for the past few years. I'm the Drama Technician at my secondary school (Form 7 to 13, international school in Hong Kong, IB curriculum) and I've been asked to submit a budget for gradual upgrades and wishlist items for the next thee years. I was hoping I could get some recommendations of what to include in our budget proposal.

Our conventional lighting grid is 3.5m off the floor, so depending on the size of which lanterns I use, the angles aren't always ideal. We have a 220-240V power system, and due to Hong Kong's history, we use the UK-style round 3-pin 15A plugs for theatre lighting. It's essentially 10 powered lighting bars, with on average 8-10 sockets each, with cross bars mounted to them to create the grid.

Our current lighting stock consists of:
Source Four jr. Zoom 25º-50 - 7pcs
Source Four PARNel - 24pcs
Source Four Zoom 25°-50° - 6pcs
Source Four Zoom 15°-30° - 2pcs
Source Four 19° - 2pcs
Selecon SF1200 Fresnel - 20pcs
Pacific Zoomspot ERS - 3pcs (1 extra that needs a new zoom tube)
Teatro Comma F / PCs (500/650W), 10pcs mix of the fresnels and PCs. (I use 4 of the Comma Fs as 'floor' lighting on floor stands, they are pretty extensively used by our students (and visiting artists and teachers too).

Our black box drama studio is also our primary teaching space for all drama classes and recently it's where we've decided to almost exclusively do our productions so that other members of our school community use out auditorium. All of our lighting stock was purchased before my arrival by either of my two predecessors. Currently we have 96 sockets up in the grid, and 48 sockets on floor-level spread across 8 patch boxes around the walls of the black box. It's all run by an ETC Express 72/144 and powered by 3x Sensor Classic dimmer racks up in the 'sound room', but I have the lighting board on the floor in the black box itself because it's used daily in classes.

I've found that the SF1200s are just too big and overpowered considering their suspended only 3.5m off the floor... even worse if we build up different acting areas using Q-Build stage frames. These should really be in our Auditorium with it's traditional proscenium and high lighting bars. I was considering purchasing several of the DTS Scena 300/500 MK2 FR Fresnel which are basically a match for the Teatro Comma Fs, so that we mainly use for washes and soft edge lighting.

I'm also building up by ordering a couple more S4 jr Zooms... apparently our original spec sheet says that we were going to have 20, no idea why we don't have any at all (i've scoured every gym, the auditorium, under the stage, in every storage closet in the last 8 years to find any of the missing fixtures), as these are pretty much the correct size for when we need spots, hard edges, 'specials' etc.

In this year's current budget I am purchasing an Ion Xe 20 with one usb 40 fader wing, with 2 monitors. We want to buy some LED fixtures next year, and I'm think that we'll start with a few colour wash units. I'm thinking of putting in the budget the retrofit upgrade to the Sensor 3, put in for 10 ThruPower modules so that I can change one socket on each main part of the grid to hard power for future LED fixtures, a DMX splitter to have signalling up on the grid level...

Any suggestions on perhaps a better small fresnel (i.e. ease of use, parts, maintenance...), or even what else I should flesh out my fixture stock with? Suggestions on ways to work with the lower height and still get good lighting in defined areas without too much spill or the dips when the lights don't quite cross enough as an actor moves.

Thanks in advance!
Jaime
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Hi everyone, de-lurking after browsing these forums for the past few years. I'm the Drama Technician at my secondary school (Form 7 to 13, international school in Hong Kong, IB curriculum) and I've been asked to submit a budget for gradual upgrades and wishlist items for the next thee years. I was hoping I could get some recommendations of what to include in our budget proposal.

Our conventional lighting grid is 3.5m off the floor, so depending on the size of which lanterns I use, the angles aren't always ideal. We have a 220-240V power system, and due to Hong Kong's history, we use the UK-style round 3-pin 15A plugs for theatre lighting. It's essentially 10 powered lighting bars, with on average 8-10 sockets each, with cross bars mounted to them to create the grid.

Our current lighting stock consists of:
Source Four jr. Zoom 25º-50 - 7pcs
Source Four PARNel - 24pcs
Source Four Zoom 25°-50° - 6pcs
Source Four Zoom 15°-30° - 2pcs
Source Four 19° - 2pcs
Selecon SF1200 Fresnel - 20pcs
Pacific Zoomspot ERS - 3pcs (1 extra that needs a new zoom tube)
Teatro Comma F / PCs (500/650W), 10pcs mix of the fresnels and PCs. (I use 4 of the Comma Fs as 'floor' lighting on floor stands, they are pretty extensively used by our students (and visiting artists and teachers too).

Our black box drama studio is also our primary teaching space for all drama classes and recently it's where we've decided to almost exclusively do our productions so that other members of our school community use out auditorium. All of our lighting stock was purchased before my arrival by either of my two predecessors. Currently we have 96 sockets up in the grid, and 48 sockets on floor-level spread across 8 patch boxes around the walls of the black box. It's all run by an ETC Express 72/144 and powered by 3x Sensor Classic dimmer racks up in the 'sound room', but I have the lighting board on the floor in the black box itself because it's used daily in classes.

I've found that the SF1200s are just too big and overpowered considering their suspended only 3.5m off the floor... even worse if we build up different acting areas using Q-Build stage frames. These should really be in our Auditorium with it's traditional proscenium and high lighting bars. I was considering purchasing several of the DTS Scena 300/500 MK2 FR Fresnel which are basically a match for the Teatro Comma Fs, so that we mainly use for washes and soft edge lighting.

I'm also building up by ordering a couple more S4 jr Zooms... apparently our original spec sheet says that we were going to have 20, no idea why we don't have any at all (i've scoured every gym, the auditorium, under the stage, in every storage closet in the last 8 years to find any of the missing fixtures), as these are pretty much the correct size for when we need spots, hard edges, 'specials' etc.

In this year's current budget I am purchasing an Ion Xe 20 with one usb 40 fader wing, with 2 monitors. We want to buy some LED fixtures next year, and I'm think that we'll start with a few colour wash units. I'm thinking of putting in the budget the retrofit upgrade to the Sensor 3, put in for 10 ThruPower modules so that I can change one socket on each main part of the grid to hard power for future LED fixtures, a DMX splitter to have signalling up on the grid level...

Any suggestions on perhaps a better small fresnel (i.e. ease of use, parts, maintenance...), or even what else I should flesh out my fixture stock with? Suggestions on ways to work with the lower height and still get good lighting in defined areas without too much spill or the dips when the lights don't quite cross enough as an actor moves.

Thanks in advance!
Jaime
@Jaixom In small spaces, the Source Four Junior Zooms are among my favorites; I'm old and lived in a pre LED era.
Strand Ianiro 4.5" Fresnels with 500 watt sockets were GREAT little Fresnels but also incandescent and not budget friendly.
Depending upon clearances between your pipe grid and the ceiling above it, can you yoke up and gain a little more throw distance?
Frost and one-way stretching frosts may be your friends.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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Jaixom

Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2012
Location
Hong Kong
Depending upon clearances between your pipe grid and the ceiling above it, can you yoke up and gain a little more throw distance?
I can do this in one half of the space, and have done it occassionally. The room can be split into two halves with a dividing wall creating a medium and small set of spaces. In the smaller side there is clearance. In the medium space, which is also where the lightingboard lives most of the time, there are air conditioning ducts about 30-40cm above the grid. As I said not ideal... the space was designed 20 years ago, and then they realised they hadn't put the air conditioning in, so they lowered the lighting grid a whole meter.
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
I haven't speced lighting for a space this low in a while. 11 1/2 feet is a challenge. Last time was pre-LED and the basic 6" fresnel with a 300 w lamp (or so - I don't think available but the 375 HPL version is) seemed most useful at these low elevations with a much greater flood to spot range and worked well with barn doors and top hats. Old school for sure.

In theory the S4PAR with the VWFL lens and directional frosts might be OK, but I might still try the Altman 65K with 375.

That said, I simply don't know what is close to this flexibility and beam shaping in LED because I haven't needed it. the CS PAR with wider lenses seems to work OK at 18', my standard pipe grid height. But still hard to beat the 6" fresnel optically.
 
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macsound

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Jun 15, 2018
Location
San Francisco, CA
Has anyone ever tried (or is it even possible) to mount a colorsource cyc at an angle that would make it useful for stage wash? With such a low ceiling, those nice wide flat color washes are probably the hardest thing to achieve.
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
Has anyone ever tried (or is it even possible) to mount a colorsource cyc at an angle that would make it useful for stage wash? With such a low ceiling, those nice wide flat color washes are probably the hardest thing to achieve.
Well, I almost suggested it earlier today. Would be fun to try but that LED array is optimized for color, not skin.
 
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tjrobb

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 14, 2009
Location
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Our BB is a converted basement. Barely 9', maybe 8-6. On the plus side, a 1k makes a great sun for Dracula... the negative, a 1k blinds the entire room.
 

Jaixom

Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2012
Location
Hong Kong
Just thought I'd include a couple of pictures today as I actually have some time where there isn't a class of kids in the space.

The room is currently split into two spaces, with independent lighting control by a SmartFade 24/96.

You can see in the pics that there isn't much clearance above the grid in this part of the studio.

IMG_20191210_112947.jpg


IMG_20191210_113009.jpg


Just looking at the budget for THIS academic year... and it looks like my former teaching colleague had put in for 10 LED pars... So I've got to actually purchase some fixtures this year before the lighting board even arrives.

With regard to creating large washes, we only rarely need to do a full wash of the studio (it's quite a bit longer than it is wide) and we often have audiences in a thrust seating arrangement.

Anyone have any experience of the ColorSource Linears? Or should I just get a bunch of Desire D40s? One of my colleagues at a different school, their fit out is mainly ColorSource spots, PARs and cycs, with 6 selador 11s. Granted that's their new Auditorium and they have the rigging heights for it.
 

Jaixom

Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2012
Location
Hong Kong
Our BB is a converted basement. Barely 9', maybe 8-6. On the plus side, a 1k makes a great sun for Dracula... the negative, a 1k blinds the entire room.
Oh believe me, I've come from all kinds of school "drama studios"... coming to my current school years ago as an actor before I ever became the technician here made me go "oooh wow", it is still pretty well spec'd. When I was growing up we had 2 drama studios, one was a converted classroom with carpet and a rig low enough that 5'8" 14yo me could do a lot of the adjusting on tip toes... later one we convereted two squash courts into a third Drama Studio... and the bars were only on each of the three high walls, and the railing of the old "audience gallery" which was now the control desk area. we needed a massive scaffold to be errected to even just focus the lights.
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
Just thought I'd include a couple of pictures today as I actually have some time where there isn't a class of kids in the space.

The room is currently split into two spaces, with independent lighting control by a SmartFade 24/96.

You can see in the pics that there isn't much clearance above the grid in this part of the studio.

View attachment 18942

View attachment 18943

Just looking at the budget for THIS academic year... and it looks like my former teaching colleague had put in for 10 LED pars... So I've got to actually purchase some fixtures this year before the lighting board even arrives.

With regard to creating large washes, we only rarely need to do a full wash of the studio (it's quite a bit longer than it is wide) and we often have audiences in a thrust seating arrangement.

Anyone have any experience of the ColorSource Linears? Or should I just get a bunch of Desire D40s? One of my colleagues at a different school, their fit out is mainly ColorSource spots, PARs and cycs, with 6 selador 11s. Granted that's their new Auditorium and they have the rigging heights for it.
You might demo the D22 (ETC Desire series). Feels more scaled to your space.
 
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Jaixom

Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2012
Location
Hong Kong
I've played with the CS Linears. Someone got very enamored of the look, maybe nostalgic for Xrays. Really, they are a Par in a different box. The photometrics are identical a meter from the lens. Unless you need the shape don't bother.
Thanks for the feedback. If I get anything in the bar/linear format in the future, it'll be for very specific uplighting cases.

Incidentally, I have arranged a site visit and consultation with the main distributor for ETC and Altman here in Hong Kong, I'll have a chat with them about the Desire D22 vs D40 vs Altman AP-150. Maybe arrange a demo in our venue with them. I am liking the Altman for it's motorised zoom which means I don't have to keep a stock of the diffusion lenses for the ETCs.
 

rwhealey

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 7, 2008
Location
Denver
Has anyone ever tried (or is it even possible) to mount a colorsource cyc at an angle that would make it useful for stage wash? With such a low ceiling, those nice wide flat color washes are probably the hardest thing to achieve.
I just had a client decide (after the fact) that they did not want a groundrow and hung the ColorSource Cycs supplied as part of the project as such as a stage wash. I did not see how they hung it, but did see a picture of the results - they were able to get a ton of saturated color blasting on the stage.
 

eadler

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 17, 2010
Location
Upstate NY
Did a show early this year in a tiny space on no-budget (really, a volunteer bought the fixtures) with a just-shy-of-9' (2.7m) mounting height with a bunch of 60-degree RGB LED fixtures. Color accuracy wasn't great for white but the price was right and we didn't have space for multiple gelled lights so we used the color changing and mixed manually to our advantage. I'd use them as effects lights in a heartbeat. Haven't used them enough to comment on longevity but I feel the price may do that for me.

That said, the Chauvet fixtures (see suggestions in earlier linked thread) looked really enticing when I was researching then and looked even better in-person when I saw them at NAB (along with a color fixture that wasn't mentioned in that thread, I forget which one though). I believe they have a few wider angle options.

When we need some quick fill in our TV studio (14' / 4.3m grid) we tend to just use the Mole-Richardson cyc lights or old Colortran broads. We have a large variety of Arri fresnels that we use for focused light in addition to S4 36-degrees for effects and tightly-controlled illumination. Mind you, we also have some Kleigl Bros scoops around still so we're not exactly on the latest and greatest here.

The thru-power (or maybe relay) modules seem like a good choice as does a splitter to distribute DMX - I presume you'll drop one near each always-on outlet? Don't forget to include some nice heavy duty DMX cabling and connectors (or pre-made jumpers) and terminators so you can string them along between fixtures.
 

Ford

Sr Product Manager, Chauvet Professional
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Location
South FL
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gafftaper

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you might take a look at the new Ovation Cyc 1 FC.
@gafftaper and @dvsDave saw it at LDI, and may opine as to how effective they think it would be.
Yes, I was quite impressed with the Ovation Cyc 1 FC. You'll see them mentioned in this post with a few pictures. Here's a short Demo Video that Chauvet posted.

For a low ceiling I would say you should be deciding between the ETC Colorsource Cyc and the Chauvet Ovation Cyc 1FC. Both are super low profile and compact. The Colorsource is the budget line of ETC products so it's not quite as amazing as their other cyc lights, but it's more affordable and still looks great. And of course most of all you get everything wonderful about ETC standing behind it. It's been a year since I really looked at one up close so but my memory was they were pretty good about providing a flat wash from up close.

However, with a street price of under $900 (depending on the usual pricing factors) the Ovation Cyc 1FC is a new serious contender that will save you a lot of money. It has the same awesome RGBAL Color engine in the other Ovation fixtures which I love. I have the big brother- Chauvet Ovation Batten B-2805FC's in my theater and they are amazing (and ridiculously bright)! The build quality looks top notch on these new little Chauvet 1 FC's. You'll see in the pictures in the other thread that they blend really smoothly even close up. I believe the recommended setup was to place them 4' apart and 4' away from the cyc. I'm very impressed with them. Yes Chauvet is not ETC. But they have worked very hard over the last 10 years or so to make Chauvet Professional a product line you can trust. Every fixture in the Chauvet Professional product line is quality control tested at the factory. You can call and you will get good tech support. Anyone who says, "yeah they are just a DJ company" has not been paying attention. They have been doing things with LED's and Optics in recent years that will really impress you when you see them in person.

If I were you I would call my local dealer and ask for a demo of both units so you can see how they look with your eyes in your space. If your dealer can't arrange it, write back in this thread and I'm sure someone at ETC and/or Chauvet will be happy to help you set that up.
 
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