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Topic: Tour lighting
Message: Posted by: sb (Jun 17, 2006 01:21PM)
OK, I realize that most of us don't "tour" in the traditional sense (as in go out for weeks at a time) but most do one offs, or maybe hit the road on Friday - do a show or 2 on Saturday with another 1 or 2 shows on Sunday an then be home by Monday(a mini tour...?) (with a few exceptions ;) )

Well anyway, that is what I am planning on doing, "weekend warrior mini tours". The shows will play in mostly high school type theaters (with some lighting already there), and I plan on bringing in some of my own intelligent lighting.

I will use the moving lights along with the existing stage lighting and perhaps a few "specials" that I will bring in and hang where needed and also a few practicals (I think that is the word I want - for lights set on the stage???).

This way I use:
Existing stage lights for general washes
Intelligent fixtures for movement, and special cues, and some wash type effects
Misc other fixtures (that I bring with) for specials, and for a few effects where I want lighting on the floor (even though I will also have moving lights on the floor)

We will use the board that comes with the stage to control the house set up, and possible tie my specials into it as well (but I do have a 12 channel light board for this as well - if we need that to control our lights we bring).
We will use a separate board (or computer program - I am not sure what my lighting man is currently using) to control the DMX fixtures.

By using the pre existing light set up, I hope to achieve:
1. less material cost in terms of renting (or purchasing) fixtures, cabling, dimming, truss, possibly more truck space, etc....
2. less labor costs, in terms of set up and focusing, tear down, etc...
3. less time needed to set up the lighting rig

By using the pre existing light set up I lose:
1. control, we are at the mercy of what they have at the theater. We will do an on-site inspection prior to the show to determine if what they have will be adequate. Hopefully my lighting guy is good enough to "make do" with what we have at hand. (I have seen some of his work before, and I DO trust him to make me and my show look good).
2. the ability to make every show look the same (maybe at one theater we have a nice purple wash, but at the next theater we have to use blue and red...
3. Time, after load in and set up we will have to more of a detailed tech run through with the lighting - to actually set up cues, etc... (run troughs are not necessarily bad though....)

And, what about spot lights. One more person on the crew, more cues to get down (more trust in others), possibly having to take another big piece of equipment with. BUT, I think using a spot light operator will make the entire lighting set up easier, as we will not need to make sure all of the areas of the stage are set to have a colored wash and set up to handle a white wash so the audience can clearly see that area. (at least in the way I am planning to do it - ie. using all of the existing set up and not bringing my own truss and entire light rig and dimming and power distro, etc....). So in one hand, not having a spot operator creates more headache with the lighting. But having a spot operator costs a little more (wages) but makes the whole thing look better.

Thanks for reading through all my ramblings here, but I think you should have a good picture of what I am trying to do.

Any thoughts, or problems here?

Thanks again

Message: Posted by: sb (Jun 17, 2006 01:25PM)
Opps, also...

What are other people who do shows like this doing? Are you bringing in your own complete rig? Or just the intellegent fixtures? How about the spot lights?


Message: Posted by: Kevin Ridgeway (Jun 17, 2006 03:21PM)
Sounds like you have thought a lot of this so far, that's great. I'll tell you what we are currently doing and hope some of it will shed some insight.

We carry enough to be totally self contained for scenarios where there are no other options.
Downstage we fly 35' of truss up to 21' high with crank lifts. On that truss are 16 source four pars and ellipsoids. Also on that same truss is a proscenium, legs and a traveling main curtain.

Upstage we have four sticks of 10' truss standing 'easter island' style. Between the center two is an 18' wide black backdrop. Between the outer two on either side are stretch fabric video screens with rear projection on both. Fitted insided each stick of truss is a source four par aimed straight up coloring the truss a nice shade of blue. On top of the trusses are 575 watt moving heads.

Out in the house we use a source four ellipsoidal fitted with a five degree lense, allowing it to act as a followspot and has a good throw of 125-150'. It also has an iris to control the diameter of the beam. It is tied into a dimmer which allows it to be controlled via DMX. It can be mounted and static or on a tripod and truly 'follow'. As far as control, we use Elation's Compu Ware Pro which handles all our lights, special effects and sound.

We carry and tie in a 200 amp single phase distros. We have 100' of feeder cable on hand to reach the tie in spot.

We feel that we spend less time setting up our rig than it can take to walk into an unknown situation, focus their lights, adjust washes and create cues. The downside is the load out takes longer using our equipment.

So back to your questions...as mentioned it seems as if you have a hold on the two main scenarios. One thing that I do see happen occasionally at high school auditoriums...say the show is on a weekend, the light board ended up locked in a room and no one has the key. Or even worse, they have a big play the following week and won't allow you to refocus any of their lights. In this situation, having your own equipment saves the day...but then again so does good communication with the venue.

Hope that helps...I know others will chime in with their experiences as well.

Message: Posted by: chmara (Jun 18, 2006 03:57PM)
When faced with these problems several years ago -- the problem of portability vs. professional looks became evident very quickly. For instance -- multi use intelligent fixtures give a wonderful performance range of effects, but may be delicate and at my last check (several months ago) could be DMXd for a plot but not scaled quickly if stage plot had to be changed for thrust, width, depth and reposition. That means tech time up front.

Therefore I went with traditional lighting fixtures (often top of the line stuff from used houses.) I went with Par 64s for flood effects, elipsoidals for title gobos (stationary) and area accent. Two better quality zoom spots (elipsoidal) are used when scaling becomes a problem and a 1500 watt throw spot that does require a separate operator.

Wiring I use is based upon Edisons for the 110 side, and control on standard stuff such as Leprechaun. I handle cues through my show tech.......which -- if you get out of sequence could be a pain.

Supported by 17' jacks, 10" bar rigs or smaller stands as appropriate to the venue. (I carry all when I do not know the venue) -- but I use bars instead of truss. Of course replacement bulbs and fuses go with me.

I figure lighting adds a minimum of one person to the payroll and 90 minutes to set up.

The other problem is age -- mine, not the fixtures. While the quality of show is enhanced and controllable
one our side -- the rigging becomes more physically difficult as we age. Some years ago -- my son fell from 23 feet while rigging a show - and now has enough metal in his feet to set off alarms in airports that do not even have metal detectors. I have learned that performing with a sqwinged back earned by rigging ain't no fun -- and you still have to load and move.

I recently looked at some portable TV location lights because of sizing and power -- but they would fry gells and were not able to focus well.

Another problem to consider -- some community centers are now IATSE or unionized with the tech department billed regardless of use -- or mandatory for lighting and electrical -- and rehearsal.

So, with curtains, light and sound, about 50 per cent of my show trailer and van are devoted to tech -- the rest to magic.
Message: Posted by: sb (Jun 20, 2006 04:29PM)
Thanks for the excellent responses guys!


You said that you carry enough equipment for when you have no other options. So if you get to a stage and they have a decent or even so-so set up, do you use their set up or do you set up your "easter island" rig and front truss? I really like the idea of having a complete set up on hand, but at this time having a complete set up "just in case" is not feasable. BUT, if before hand I know the situation is going to be bad, then renting the extra truss seems to be the way to go. (eventually, if I get up to the amount of shows that I want to be doing, then getting a complete rig is definatly the way to go.) Having everything this self contained is the way to go, can do the show on a gym floor, stage, anywhere!

Again thanks for being so detailed in your responses. they really are awesome answers! A litle real world story, goes a very long way in showing what to really do. As opposed to theory.

Now, about Elations Compu Ware Pro. Does this software allow for easy scaling (putting your fixtures in different venues and adjusting for different trim heights, and stage sizes, etc...)? I have a NSI MLC16 board, with it I used Roboscan 518s, Martin Mini Macs, and Martin Robo colors. I did lighting for bands, a few stage productions, and of course illusion shows. I never really knew how to scale the lighting on this, but had a cheating type of shortcut that worked for me, but I would not trust my crazy meathod with someone else doing the opperating - and the way I did what I did was more of "on the fly" type of programming instead of a totally pre programed program. But now for my own show, I will have a LD/operator, and I NEED to know what the lights are going to do and I need to be sure they are going to do what they are supposed to do. Basically, it needs to be pre programmed, like a magic show is supposed to be.

One more question, in regards to tie-ing in to the main power. I have never done this, have NO experience with this. Would this be something that I could do (with a little training), or do you need an electrition? Is it possible to tie in on nearly every stage? Do you carry any type of generator in case there is no place to tie in?

Opps, one more question...Is it possible to use the Elation software with either a show tech, or Virtual Soundman?

Ok, one more...
Do you ever use color changers/scrollers with your portable set up? It seems that using these would add a lot of options.

Gregg, your story about your son is very eye opening. I certainly do not want an accident on my coincience (spelling).

I also agree about the portability/professonal looks problem. I have seen many shows (or just demos) that the lighting does not look very good. On the other hand, the shows with the lighting done well - really are a few steps above.

Message: Posted by: Kevin Ridgeway (Jun 21, 2006 07:53AM)
If you have the room for carrying production with you, then purchasing will always be cheaper after just a few shows, than in renting. However, you will need to handle upkeep, so there is a trade off.

As far as what happens when we get to a venue that has decent production already...It is case by case, with us leaning towards using our equipment, as the show will look the same, run smoother and quite honestly, we can set ours up faster than focusing, setting cues, etc with their equipment.

Compuware Pro is very easy to use. You can even program your show while sitting in your home or office. Using the 3D visualizer allows you to design your stage in three dimension and view it from any angle. The software does indeed make it easy to work on different size stages. I can also refocus a moving head to a new location, say out in the house for when Kristen reappears there, in less than a minute. I'll be honest and say I am quite surprised and impressed that you were able to control those fixtures from an NSI 16. I think you will be excited when you see what can be done with the software. Yes, it could be used in conjunction with a Showtech, but there would be no reason to. The software will play your music, video, etc. One touch of the space bar starts and pauses the show. Breaks can be inserted to make it pause automatically right where you need it to. An RF device could even allow you to do this from stage. The show would be made up of timelines with each fixtture or group of fixtures on its own timeline. We have even designed and programmed shows for other people remotely from our office.

As far as tying in power. You need a distros, I recommend single phase. I also recommend using Camloc connectors, having a set of bare end tails and also carrying 100 amp two pole breakers from the following manufacturers: Square D Cutler Hammer and Siemens. This will allow you to tie into almost any scenario. You should never do this yourself. State in your rider that an electrician is needed. There is one scenario where you could get away with doing it yourself...if it is all Camloc and you are simply twisting in your connectors. This will typically be the scanrio in an outdoor event with a large generator and multiple power panels around the grounds, like a carnival, midway, etc.

We do not currently use color changers or scrollers, but they are indeed a great addition. I personally prefer changers with true color mixing, as you can now slowly change the color and mood of the stage, instead of a harsh change with scrollers.

Hopefully that asnwers most of your questions. Let me know if you would like to play with the Elation software, I can help you get through the learning curve.

Message: Posted by: silverking (Jun 21, 2006 12:41PM)
One thing to keep in mind with scrollers is that the traditional gel string (where each color just butt's up against the next color) isn't intended for color changes "en-vista" but is meant to be used with the fixture dimming out...the scroller changing the color....and then the fixure being brought back up.

If you want to get adventurous, you can make a poor mans effect by cutting your gel strings on an angle, and then if you leave the fixture up while the color changes, you will get a slower fade from one color to the next. This angle joint has to be cut over at least 24" to get the effect with longer being better.
Note that if you make your angle joints longer, it will cut down on the number of different colors you can have in your gel string.

The downside to this system is that you're commited to which color changes into which other color based on how you've joined them together.
Of course if it's the same show each night, you will know this ahead of time and it can be adjusted to work perfectly for you.

I've seen this effect used before and if you adjust your approx 24" angle cut to match the speed of your scroller and the timing you'd like on your LX cue, you can duplicate the looks of another 50 dimmers in your rig with just 8 or 10 scrollers.

This idea is great for those touring with a small rig but looking for a bigger look.

Also, further to what Kevin mentioned above about tie ins, if you do tour with your own distro and cam-loks, make sure you also carry two cam-lok turn arounds for those venues who have a reversed ground and neutrals on their cam-lok panels.

More and more, bare wire hook ups are in violation of local or regional electrical codes, although many smaller venues still use them regularly.
Message: Posted by: afillius (Jun 26, 2006 01:51AM)
Another thing to note is that some fire inspectors will require you to install a disconnect switch between the power tie in point and the distro.
Message: Posted by: muzicman (Jun 27, 2006 12:23AM)
Compu Ware Pro is by far the greatest gift to performing magicians I have ever found. Most DMX controllers are deficient for performing stage because they lack the perfect syncronization needed between lights and sound. A paid professional light manager could never come close to the results you can get from Elations software. Kevin was able to steer me toward this purchase after a year of searching for an affordable solution. I didn't want "chase" patterns or setups for DJ's. I needed something that could sync my lights with my prerecorded soundtrack. I needed something that was easy to program, easy to scale, easy to modify for different venues. I have used this product for almost 2 years now and I smile everytime I turn it on because I know I won't have to worry about the lights at all. Contact Kevin from Living Illusions for the best prices in the world as he is also an Elation Dealer.

One other thing to consider. I got the lights, I got the software, I got a show and I want it to look the best that it can. I discovered early on that unless I ran my fog machine, the lights looked flat and unentertaining. The problem is that fog is hard to control and it disappates in seconds. Sometimes the fogger would go nutz and it would make the stage hard to see. Long story short, my lights didn't look great as I had envisioned. I then discovered something called a hazer. A hazer is different than a fogger as it makes smaller particles, that hover longer, and it allows you to see the entire beam of the light. Kevin again had the solution. It's called The Unique Hazer and this thing is AWESOME!! My light shows have never looked better and it's amazing how little it uses and how long it lasts in the air. It's also DMX controlled so I have perfect control. 99 step fan let's me use it everywhere.

Last week, I showed my wife a laser pointer I had modified. I didn't really modify it, but as a magician I can "misdirect" people for the sake of entertainment right?
Anyway, she asked my why I modified it and I said I needed it more powerful so I could carve things with it. I am always tinkering with electronics so this is a very convincing misdirection. I then turn it on and I start making Star Wars Light Saber sound effects, Because of the thin layer of haze I had shot into the room 1/2 hour before she arrived home, you could see the entire beam of the laser pointer. She actually started scolding me and checking the walls for burn marks. Thanks again Kevin for your assistance with both the Compu Ware Pro and the Unique Hazer. You rock!