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What some might consider a technical nightmare.

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by tweetersaway, Jul 9, 2006.

  1. tweetersaway

    tweetersaway Member

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    Occupation:
    Lighting & Sound Supervisor
    Location:
    Mesa, AZ
    I am, of course, talking about the 'theater' that I'm in charge of set and tech for. The complex was built some time in the 1950's and it's used as both a gymnasium and auditorium. The stage is 15' deep and 19' 6" wide. Aside from the fact that it's also a gymnasium, it's not a terrible theater, but since it hasn't even been improved at all in the past 50 years, the technology is majorly out of date. There is a strip of border lights hung from the ceiling right behind the curtain and(what we discovered this spring and hadn't been known of for probably about 30 or 40 years and interestingly enough, still had the original working bulbs) two strips of footlights that pop out of the stage. These lighting fixtures are all directly connected to the circuit breaker box. Though we are very low budget and the administration isn't close to helping fund it(actually, they were very close to taking away our beloved stage this year to make room for another classroom), we are looking for a light board and system to light our stage. The board would definately need to be portable, but the dimmers could probably be stored in the room with the circuit breaker. So, does anybody have suggestions for a board and dimmer pack that might work? We don't need a LOT of lights, just enough to light the place decently alongside the border and footlights. If you need any more info about the venue or anything, pleaase ask. Thanks in advance for your replies, the drama club could really use the morale boost of new lighting after our near loss this spring.
    thanks!
     
  2. drawstuf99

    drawstuf99 Active Member

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    Hmm, do you have any pictures of this space? It sounds like you might need some new hanging positions as well.
     
  3. tweetersaway

    tweetersaway Member

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    Occupation:
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    I don't have any picturesat this time. I dont have a key to the place and it's all locked up over summer, but I'll talk to the director and see if I can get in there some time soon to take some photos. There is really no lighting grid whatsoever though the pipes that the basketball hoops are suspended on should suffice for a few lights. I was thinking the rest would need to be on light trees in the house unless we got some pipes up on the ceiling.
     
  4. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    If you want to get some cheap parcan/dimmer/bulb/clamp packages that really work (my school has a few), go to www.bulbamerica.com and get some PAR56 packages. Then you can get an American DJ board. And they'll sell you a 4x600W dimmer pack (dual edison) for $80 or so. And they work pretty well for HS use. We have two, and eight pars. Just make sure to get the ones with the Osram bulbs, not the cheap bulbs.
     
  5. cutlunch

    cutlunch Active Member

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    Hi. The first thing I would do is get your school electrician to do a couple of things:

    1) Check what is the maximum power loading you have available to draw on. There is no point in going out and getting more packs then you have power for. And it definetly sounds like your school wouldn't pay for a power upgrade.

    I just did a show at a high school where there was two three phase outlets rated at 32A per phase. But I talked to the schools electrician and he told me the whole Hall + classrooms was only rated at 60amps per phase. So i had to carefully balance my load. Fortunately the drama room next door had a proper 3 phase suppl I used for a third dimmer pack. Although it cost $100 to hire a 3 phase extension lead.

    2) Get the battens and footights checked for electrical safety and whether they are working. They may have asbestos and need pulling out. But if they don't you could see if the circuits could be split from the circuit breaker so they can be used with the dimmer. If you can save the battens then you can at least get some basic colour washes.

    The footlights aren't quite so helpful but for some things they can be used to good effect like front light for a band. The one advantage these lights have is they should use cheap bulbs.

    From what you say you may have to put up trees for the lights. Here in New Zealand if I was in this situation I would go and talk to the engineering teachers to see if they could make me some fiitings. Depending on how far apart the side walls are in relation to the width of the stage. You may be able get a couple of lighting bars run along the side walls. Not ideal but probably easier then getting a lighting bar fitted across the width of the gym.

    That is just some ideas.
     
  6. BillESC

    BillESC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I'd recommend NSI dimmers and control boards, we have some of their gear in our rental department that are over 30 years old and work like new.

    Stay away from the American DJ stuff, it won't last.

    Regarding instrumentation, are you looking for Lekos and Fresnels or will Par cans do?
     
  7. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Well said in all ways. Can't beat the wash of light from the above boarders in a "Gymatorum", much less the use at times of the flip up foot's. But definately make friends with the maintinence staff and have them help you figure out how to do it. Go hang some lights on the freshly painted basket ball net rigging and you piss off the maintinence staff person that just painted it.

    Gonna be hard to upgrade your theater space but it's possible. Some members here have lived in such spaces and made some thing of it to the extent possible. Tree's sure, but avoid the cans if possible, they are of not much more use other than on a budget for throwing up light than what you already have.

    I would think that the first absolute need is to acquire a solid footing for what you have in order to budget and improve upon it.

    What's specifially your fixture, dimmer, control and power inventory for this space, and have it first inspected for safety or stability in working before looking towards the future. Between the maintinence staff and some entity if better suited once budited for or found as a source, your space needs to be looked at for what it is as starting grounds.

    Next develop a plan of what you require. Start a wish list and be realistic in what's really required for design now to the extent of productions you have and given this or a future space wished for, what will be required. Do a six month and one year budget proposal for fund raising and or school budget and pass it off to your instructor to look into getting or changing.


    This is the plan you will work within the goal of accomplishing first, it includes the current inspection and any short term stop gaps that will get you up and running for now. Lamps for blown out replacements, time to service fixtures not working properly and a inspection of the rigging and fixtures, much less dimmers control and wiring for safety or necessary upgrades. Than a budget in what's left to purchase what's needed and above that what you most will need now.

    Two year plan in after the inventory is stabilized and yearly serviced, what you can afford by way of upgrade and the wish list beyond that. Five year plan for what realistically you wish to see in five years and where in fund rasing you need to be, than the optimum wish list for the space or need to get a alternative space into the school's planning.

    Paperwork and lots of inspection for now is probably the best planning you can do at this point. My recommendation would not be to spend any money yet on new gear. First secure what you have and figure out for instance if remote dimmer or localized dimmer pack would be more realistic for your situation. Secure a budget for new gear before figuring out what you most want also and getting it. At times even if you don't have a dimmer, perhaps a single Leko might be more important on the budget than doing a light board. Much less, renting stuff might be more cost effective for now than buying a system that you can afford but does not offer enough support for the future needs.

    Plan 100% out what you need now and what optimum goals you will serve by getting now it will serve later. Waiting now to spend say $100 on a light might mean next year one step better in control board. Long term planning is the key in doing so and controlling what you do now. NSI is good gear for the most part, not the best but good for a budget. First secure what you have and figure it out, than have as say the two year goal moving up to say a 16x32 system of control by way of it. This of perhaps rent for now what's needed and put off owning for say five years.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2006
  8. Pie4Weebl

    Pie4Weebl Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    ship, as much as a long term plan is great for real theatres a quick look at his profile shows he is in HS, so after four years he will be gone, and nothing sucks like spending 4 years on a plan to have it mature after you have left.
     
  9. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Yea, I agree, that sucks - note the many phases of planning. Still what do you advise the quick and hack or long term and optimum solution? Life is often not fair or optimum in realistic outcome. Is it better to attempt to get what one can for while one suffers with what one has, or to do the best with what one has with what they have and attempt to set the place up for future generations a better way? Sure, the joy is in part in making magic now and such a joy includes having it now, but it's also the policy of any of the stage to have one's efforts - I think also have a pay off in the long term for the place one gives ones blood to after time.

    Realistically, this place just is not going to go all optimum in any near future short of an influx of funding. My intent is to stop the bleeding and start the breathing. First look to what one has and ensure it won't fail. Than by both little steps and long term programs ensure it gets what is needed. Can one see the magic of a scene by way of boarder lights and foot lights? Perhaps given a quality moment within the scene no matter what supplements it. First however one must ensure what is there will function safely and even given currently what is breakered can be controlled. This as opposed to no matter how much side light or trees added, it does not ensure what will still be needed to depend upon overhead will function.

    A key thing in getting more is some sense that one can take care of what one has. That's more my intent. Stabilize what one has first than figure out what you need next in having it as next goal. Make the list of all the wish list than prioritize it in getting often small gains but noble goals accomplished.

    Yea, the five even ten year plan is terrible to have to figure out and attempt to get moving. On the other hand, it's realistic and a goal that won't happen in getting moving until having started in motion. Being a visionary for what need get accomplished is at times just as important as accomplishing short term needs to the extent available. This especially given a budget.

    It's not saying in the mean time that magic cannot happen with boarders and foot lights, much less perhaps rentals of gear to supplement the look from what's provided when it otherwise for the mean time will not prove useful. All that the point leads to is some goal of long term plan balanced with short term needs. This is the best balance I would think.

    First secure the gear one has in making it safe and viable for use. Than by way of priority, work on either short term rentals of gear until one can afford one's own if cheaper in the long run, or suffer thru what one has for now in buying one's own at least medium range if not very good gear dependant upon the overall plan.

    Still and most important is the planning and goals for the space. Short of this plan, one can buy as much gear or even crap as one wants and it still will not make neither art any better or a great performance space in a technical way than it might have in having to perhaps deal with say boarder lights another year.

    Not fair for active show usage, on the other hand those with moving lights at their own school, how many given all they could ask for are dealt with the hand of planning the next generation of the theater and it's improvements. Given the chance to study budget and what next much less ten years from now is best to work on acquiring for the space?

    Perhaps as opposed to a let down in tech program, those with less advanced programs are given an opportunity they can instead study - this by way of ten year plan and in general budget and planning in a more in-depth way.

    In the end also if the talent and design is there, it does not matter if an inventory of foot lights or moving lights, magic has always been and will always be created on stage. I think first make safe what you have than move on by way of planning from there in the long term.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2006
  10. cutlunch

    cutlunch Active Member

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    Tweeters' from what you are saying do you have no dimmers packs and lighting board in the school?

    If this is the case probably the first thing you will need doing in your theatre is getting a proper power socket setup where the circuit breakers are. These do cost money so this might be your first hurdle to overcome. You could use as suggested some single phase dimmers that hang onto a lighting bar. But once again you need to know how much current you can draw.

    Have you talked to your local community theatre or if you have a large theatre in town people there. Why I suggest this is that you maybe able to scavange things from them when they upgrade. Some secondhand gear you won't want to touch with a barge pole but other stuff is well worth having.

    For example I help with the lighting for a small community theatre group. It was only in the last 2-3 years that we got our first two dmx dimmer packs. The other four are all analouge some thirty years old but they are as reliable as anything.

    If you are given some old lights so long as they are mechanicaly and electically sound and the bulbs are available you are better off. Also you will impress the school with your abilities and they will more willing to help you.

    And as Ship has said each little milestone along the way to getting your perfect theatre will feel really good.
     
  11. Pie4Weebl

    Pie4Weebl Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    ship, I do see your point, I still don't think it would be the best approach. I mean it sounds like they know what they have already and are looking to supliment it. To me it sounds like the best approach would be to raise a little money and just purchase a small portable system (a pair of light trees with portable lep packs and a small board) and run off of that while planing long term. It sounds like that is really what they are looking for. I would suggest talking to other area theatres and seeing if they have old gear they would give you, or even if they would lend it to you during your tech runs. Once you have the quick fix then it is time to start looking towards the long term. From the sounds of it the current space might not even be available to them in a year or so. But all the same thats my .02 on the issue.
     

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