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Topic: Starting Out with Lighting
Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Jun 28, 2007 02:49PM)
For all you long-timers and other lighting experts out there, knowing what you know now, if you were thinking of adding stage lighting to your small illusion show (schools, churches, etc.), what sort of system would you purchase? Not specific brands, maybe, but general choices of controllers, fixtures, etc.? Once you were comfortable with the initial purchase, what would you add?

Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Jul 2, 2007 05:57AM)
Message: Posted by: Eldon (Jul 2, 2007 10:55AM)
A couple of trees with 4 small par lights with gels on each side. Dimmers and a simple controller. Later I would add a hazer and two intelligent lights. (One for each side.) Again with a simple controller and a foot switch.

P.S. Go here http://www.magicroadie.com/ and click on lighting.
Message: Posted by: Bill Nuvo (Jul 2, 2007 11:07AM)
I personally wouldn't go with a footswitch but have a controller that is worked by somebody you are paying to do so...who also controls the sound.

You need at least two trees with 4 pars on each. Don't go small, buy ones you'll be able to use later on if/when you expand.

I would actually spend the money on lighting that multitasks (intelligent). Lights that can change their colour/gobo/texture through a controller are the way to go. That way your future needs will also be met without adding new lights.
Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Jul 3, 2007 07:21AM)
What brands/sellers would you recommend?
Message: Posted by: Eldon (Jul 3, 2007 09:45AM)
This is a good place to start looking.

Message: Posted by: chmara (Jul 3, 2007 03:15PM)
The lighting industry is in a phase change to add technology and computer controlled lighting (DMX) which is in substantial use and is the future.

BUT - as with all technology it can grow with your show -- and break regularly along the way. It can (also) use all the old style lighting heads that are not automated for movement and are rock solid.

Therefore make sure all your lighting controls can handle DMX and stick with dimmer packs and controllers that are DMX compliant.

Do not buy cheap lighting heads (instruments) if you are traveling with them. Aluminum dents quickly and badly, and used or reconditioned PARs of steel can be found very inexpensively on line. A little more cost up front but they stand up to the most inexperienced voliunteer gaffers well.

As far as movable lights -- the latest thing - these are not yet "scalable" to stage size and depth for pre-programmed movement so unless you can guaranted you will only use a specific size range of your movement be prepared for set-up and tuning time.

I tend, once again, to use old standby pre dmx lights, creating stable pools of light in a set performance area using not only par cans, but zoom spots and affordable lekos. The downside here is that once they are jelled for color they stay that way --- unless you get DMX controlled color changers for them. They give a consistant pool of light or spot effect PER INSTRUMENT and varying intensity during the show can give as complete a mix of light as any broadway production.

The old way takes more weight, more instruments if you go crazy with lighting for dramatic purposes -- but is rugged, predicable and breaks less.

But, do not skimp on your original lighting and get a system you can build into a bigger show. DJ lighting, to me, is not the way a pro should go if he/she is in for the long haul. And remember, th epower supply or your venue also can limit what you can use -- and many older venues may only have a 15 amp or single 20 amp circuit in which you are supposed to get juice for your lights and sound....unless you have extension chords galore!....
Message: Posted by: Kline (Jul 3, 2007 04:43PM)
Gregg makes a few good points - I'd like to comment on them bur due to time restraints tonight....
I have actually been chatting with Chris Starr about production and have decided to go in depth on a few things - its amazes me how so many people miss the point when it comes to lighting and audio.
Unfortunately, my svhedule is rather hectic ( Runig out for a gig in a few actually ) but I am willing to share a bit of knowledge....IF you are willing to ask questions and keep it going.....
Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Jul 3, 2007 09:37PM)
Okay, let's take a few routines, one at a time, and discuss lighting for each. For the sake of argument, let's assume the show takes place on a "standard-size" high school stage.

The first routine is a production of silks, parasols, etc. that occurs on a small table in the center of the stage, but that at one point stretches forty feet across the stage.

The second is a pretty standard Sub Trunk.

The third is a Snowstorm in China at one corner of the stage.
Message: Posted by: Christopher Starr (Jul 3, 2007 10:38PM)

Many of us are interested in a decent, dmx style lighting set-up for non-stage gigs, like in a hotel banquet room, church/school basement-cafeteria, etc. Any thoughts on a lighting set-up for that type of situation?

Message: Posted by: Kline (Jul 5, 2007 09:37PM)
It actually doesn’t work that way...per say.
I have no parameters to work with. Costumes, music, etc

Ok - if your working on a floor , level with your audience, we need to define the performance area from the "house" area.
With conventional fixtures, I might suggest a basic 8 light wash, 4 per side. with a cable run through the audience, it becomes somewhat of a liability - this is reduced by taping the line - but what a pain. If at all possible, do a cable run across the front of the performance area or all the way behind the performance area ( behind your backdrop ). As far as colors go, use a warm wash. I prefer Apollo gels but its totally up to you. I'll list a few that I strongly recommend EVERYONE have - you never know when you will need them but if you have them, it makes a world of difference. Why settle for what’s in the venue when you can easily change the look if you have too !
1.Any version of a diffusion gel - this will warm up even a white light
2.A Neutral Density gel –takes the white “glare” off of skin
3.Bit of pink - a soft pink without too much red – this also helps skin tone if you don't have makeup
4.Monday Morning blue
Try to stay away from "hard" colors such as green or red. They tend to have sharp edges and its not easy to blend them into a wash.
Depending on the fixtures you are using, determines the distance from the performance area that you need to have the lights on stands - it seems as if there is a good deal of referrals to "DJ" type lighting here on the Café - the standard no cost light is usually a par 56. I suggest 300W lamps for this set up as they only draw 2.5 amps per which means you can easily power one stand and dimmers on one circuit. Usually you will have opposing sides of a ballroom on different circuits. In most ballrooms it is a safe bet that adjoining walls are on the same circuit. If you use a 300W wide or medium lamp, there is less time "tweaking" the look because of the soft edges the lamp creates.
With all that said, lets now figure the distance from the performance area - with a 300W lamp, I would place them no more than 20 feet away.
So here is what the load list should look like.
2 Stands
8 cans - they actually make cases that will hold 8 fixtures - check out the DJ supply store.
1 Case for dimmers and cables.
With this, you will not take up a great deal of space and you will look the part.
Now this is for a convention fixture set up - the dimmers can be digital or analog - if we move into intelligent fixtures, the set up becomes a little tricky depending on the fixture chosen and the actual placement of the fixture.
Give me an idea if you want to go into intelligent lighting on this type of gig.
Hope this helps !
Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Jul 6, 2007 09:02AM)
Thanks for the information! I know it's only a start, but it's a lot more than what I had. If you have to go more than 20 feet from the performers, how does the wattage change? At what point would I need to consider moving fixtures?

I bought a 12-channel DMX board at a good price. I am sort of a techno-geek so, if nothing else, I can play with it a while and sell it. Starting with the most basic DMX setup, do I just need dimmers to go with the fixtures, or something more?

"Costuming" will be black shirt/pants, with or without a jacket. Music is "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves for the silk routine and an upbeat "custom" somg for the Sub Trunk. The song for Snowstorm sounds a lot like the theme from Edward Scissorhands.

Thanks again for your help. I'm sure that, like most things, it gets easier with experience.
Message: Posted by: Kline (Jul 6, 2007 09:09AM)
On 2007-07-06 10:02, amosmc wrote:
Thanks for the information! I know it's only a start, but it's a lot more than what I had. If you have to go more than 20 feet from the performers, how does the wattage change? At what point would I need to consider moving fixtures?

20 feet is a good number to keep in mind. Moving the lights further from the performance area does not change the wattage, however, using a fixture with a high wattage lamp, allows you to have lights further from the performance area - keep in mind that it also effects the type of light that should be used. A standard par fixture alone with a 600W lamp will throw further than 20 feet, however the beam will also be a lot wider thus leading to "falloff" and the look will not be the same - at greater distances, you should be using a fixture which can be trimmed with shutters. ( ETC source fours are great for this - the source four zoom is ideal )
As far as whether or not you are controlling digital or not, that is totally up to you. The problem with the lower end digital boards is that there is no stick or dials - these help with programming - these boards usually only have faders which makes it difficult to move the yoke or mirror in a timely fashion from cue to cue.

A forum like this is not the place for me to "design" lighting for an act - I can easily go through options and information about lighting equipment and fuel the conversation with knowledge, however, to actually light an act properly, I would need to actually see it.
Now with that said, I can give you advice on how to enhance your performance with the intelligent lighting. A basic rule for magic show is to enhance the actually moment the magic happens with some sort of change whether it be a pop, a color change or even and accent on the overall look of the stage with a simple gobo change on the upstage fixtures.
for example - when you finally produce the long sink and I assume you and you assistant will each head outward from center stage - this would be a great opportunity for your lights to chase in those directions from center outward. Whether you use "movers" or conventional fixtures, if you are using a digital board, it is rather simple to program in a chase and lay it into the overall scene for that routine.
Hope this help a bit
Message: Posted by: chmara (Jul 6, 2007 02:01PM)
Gel - I prefer *** Amber and it seems to pop red a little and does not wash out green.

Chording -- make sure you get stuff that lets you run amperage at length from supply without overheating. I have found that 50' lengths work well for me (I just hate havng 25 foot cords and 32 foot runs)

Here's a thought to help differentiate your act -- most magicians just want a bright area (wash) so they can be seen. Why not split your performance area into several smaller stages using pools of light in various shapes and colors to suit the mood of the effect. (Read show-tech type control here) ?
Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Jul 6, 2007 05:57PM)
Thanks for all your help. I am really not trying to get you to design lighting for me (I don't even perform). I'm just trying to learn some things about general lighting design for magic. I chose those three routines because of differences I perceive in the ways they are staged.

I'm afraid I phrased my "wattage" question poorly.

For example, I believe that the intensity of the light decreases by the square of the distance from the source. Does this mean that a 300-watt lamp at 20 feet would have to be 1200 watts at 40 feet to provide the same intensity and color, or is the color affected differently? Do the shutters affect the color at allk, or just the "shape" of the light?

Are there one or two intelligent lighting manufacturers you would recommend to a beginner? What about particular fixtures that give the most flexibility for the money?

I'm enjoying this...
Message: Posted by: Kline (Jul 6, 2007 07:14PM)
I am actually sittign with Ryan Joyce working on the next tour and discussing lights and controllers. For a beginner, I would reccomend the Martin scanner - the mx1 or mx4 - I do have 12 of these and they are GREAT for learning DMX. Currently they are going for about $375 a piece. They are only 150W but they do a great job in the smaller venues.
Back to the general lighting. unfortunately in theaters there are not 1200W lamps - there are 1K lamps and 2K lamps however, with a fixture like the ETC source four (specially the zoom ) - thses fixtures have 575W lamps and due to the internal lens you can litterly throw the beam a good distance.With the shutters, they simply frame in the beam - for example, you can litterly make a square image instead of a circle.
The shutter have nothng to do with the color - the shutters come before the gel frame which is the outermost piece on a conventional light - now the beam throw wil be affected by darker colors.
Power supply is a another topic as we need to understand lighting in general first, however it is VERY important.
I think Greg jumped the gun a bit mentioning pooling - this is a good deal of work to focus but it does give a different look - can not be done with the 8 can set up that we are discussing though - rather more like a 32 or 48 fixture rig. usually all 1K lamps so we say we use 32K or 48K downstage.
Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Jul 6, 2007 08:46PM)
I may not be asking this question the right way, but light-wise, is the MX-4 similar in throw and intensity to the 300-watt fixtures mentioned above or would they be equivalent to a normal 150-watt fixture?
Message: Posted by: Christopher Starr (Jul 8, 2007 03:29PM)

So far, I have purchased 2 ROBO Ranger Intelligent Light Model: IH8000-1, as well as 4 Martin Roboscan 812 DMX Light DJ Scanners. I figure that the two Rangers could rest on the floor behind me, and the 4 Martin's could be truss mounted behind me. I am now interested in how to light the act from the front. There has been some talk of LED pars, which seem to make sense in so much that you can alter the color via dmx control, and they are very low watt, as well as last forever. However, I still don't know how they compare to a regular par can throw/wash.

There is also the power issue that you alluded to in an earlier post.

Lastly, there is the subject of dmx/control and or programming. Kevin Ridgeway promotes the Elation Compuware software program, which would control both lights and mp3 sound. It sounds very appealing.

Still in the dark....

Chris :coolest:
Message: Posted by: Kline (Jul 8, 2007 06:24PM)
I have not seen the Robo Ranger light - I assume it is a moving head - I have seen and owned about 8 at one time the Roboscan 812 - very old light as far as technology and it has been discontinued by Martin for years. No worries if you take care of it. They are great lights to start out with.
As far as placement, I like the idea of the scanners behind you - be sure to keep them on a 45 degree angle so you can get them most out of the mirror movement.
One thing to keep in mind with movers, it atmosphere enhancement ( I.E Haze ) - without it, you will only see the result of the fixture ( the movement and the image ) with the haze, you will create more of a 3D effect.
Not really too sure how to post pics here but I can send you pics from my studio that explains this a bit more.
As far as placement of the heads, upstage is fine - keep the directly under the outermost scanners to creates a uniform look.
I am a huge fan of multiple rows of fixtures - as far as movers go, I try to always have 3 rows of electric. one downstage ( downstage of the main if at all possible, however, most theaters do not have any pipe downstage of the main ), one at mid stage and one a few feet of the upstage traveler. Please keep in mind that we are usually using multiple fixtures and usually do not have less than 12 per show.
I am not familiar with the LED pars but I am familiar with the elation software - not a big fan but then again, I am programming with a larger board.
I did however, use Light Jockey for years and it seemed a lot easier of a program to synch the lighting with the music. Its totally up to the end user -
On a side note, intelligent lighting does take time - it is not a pull it out of the box type of special effect - I have seen performers ( If you want to call them that ! )that bought lights and thought they could easily incorporate them into the show...ha !
The video on my site http://www.stevenkline.com/untamed show the most elaborate setup I have ever done with lighting and special effects. We had 40 intelligent lights, 3 foggers and a good supply of pyro. The entire rig took approx 9 months to program - that's once we got it set the way we wanted it.
I have not worked with the LED pars - I would imagine that they are not what you are looking for the LUX on a LED is way to low for theater work and I'm not too sure they even have any sort of throw. If at all possible please do some research before you invest in the latest and greatest - the old trust traditional fixture still might be the best !
I hope this helps.
Message: Posted by: DAVE_ATLAS (Jul 8, 2007 08:05PM)

The par lights actually have a pretty good throw. The problem with the par lights is you have to get a par 56 or 64 size light to get any sort if significant throw. I usually just stick with source 4's and 6x9's if I need any sort of throw over 10 feet or so.

Message: Posted by: muzicman (Jul 9, 2007 01:36AM)
DMX lights are great but unless you get an intelligent DMX controller, you will find they are not going to do what you want them to do. I bought a DMX controller and it only allowed me to preprogram "chase" type sequences and the speed was controlled with a slider. I finally got ahold of Elations Compuware Pro and my lights now are in perfect sync with my soundtrack.

Another thing is a hazer. I bought all these DMX lights and the Elation software but the lights looked flat. It wasn't until I got a good hazer that my lights came to life. The hazer allows you to see the entire beam. A fog machine doesn't do the job very well. It's hard to control and disapates really quickly. A good hazer will make your lights look 100 times better.
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Jul 14, 2007 10:49AM)
Wow! Lots of good information on equipment here, especially the new stuff.

But let's back up for a moment. Stage lighting is not about equipment: stage lighting is about putting light on the action, hopefully in such a way that the dramatic effect is enhanced. The American stage designer Robert Edmond Jones, in [i]The Dramatic Imagination[/i] (one of my all-time favorite books) quotes Max Reinhardt: "...the art of lighting a stage consists of putting light where you want it and taking it away where you don't want it." And then Jones goes on to say that this is not so simple: "On the contrary, it demands the knowledge and the application of a lifetime."

Back when I was at about the ripe old age of sixteen or seventeen (around 1968), I read an article by Dave Bamberg in an old [i]Sphinx[/i] and thought I'd add some lighting to my act. I picked up several books on lighting at the library, read up on the equipment, and ended up with a few instruments and a dimmer. I thought it was great.

It was awful. The shadows were in the wrong place, the highly-touted "illegitimate amber" was the wrong color for me, and, because there was no way I could light the entire space evenly, I ended up constantly going in and out of the lights. Finally I caught on and realized that the effort required to carry all this stuff and set it up was wasted: it didn't add squat to the show.

I would suggest that anyone who really, seriously, wants to consider spending money on lighting equipment start out by doing two things. First is to find a recognized theatrical lighting designer. Yes he or she will cost money, but it's not an expense: it's an investment in the show. Second is to sit down with the designer and spend some serious time discussing, not the equipment, but exactly what it is that the lighting is expected to do from a theatrical and artistic standpoint. It is only after you understand exactly what you want to do with lighting that you can start selecting the equipment; otherwise you're letting the tail wag the dog.

I wrote about how to work with a designer in one of my columns here in the Buffet section; you may want to take a peek at it.
Message: Posted by: Kline (Jul 14, 2007 02:00PM)
Back in 1968, I knew nothing about lighting - in fact the only lighting I knew about was the really bright one that was at the end of the tunnel...and then someone spanked me on the A$@ !

George, GREAT advice - you know - I actually have a copy of this book in my production road case- "backstage Handbook". GREAT reference book for any theatrical worker.

Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Jul 14, 2007 03:55PM)
Yeah, I know about that light too. Problem is, half the time it's not the end of the tunnel... it's the locomotive.

The Backstage Handbook is really good. It's amazing how much practical information is between the covers.