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Topic: New Show - Lights - Hiring vs Buying
Message: Posted by: MikeJRogers (Jan 15, 2004 03:50PM)
Hi everyone,

In about 2006 I'm hoping to have an illusion show. At the moment I'm doing some figures to find out how much it really costs to put on a medium sized show.

My question is this, for the first year or so of the show would it more efficient to hire lighting equipment or buy it. If I hired the equipment I would be able to get much more advanced lighting technology. So what do you think, hire the equipment and purchase new equipment later on or buy the equipment now and gradually build?

Thanks for your help,

Message: Posted by: M-Illusion (Jan 15, 2004 04:06PM)
If you have the budget at that time, I would say purchase your own equipment. But, as I've told you before, it's costly.

And, it's really only practical if you're going to use the equipment on a regular enough basis to make it cost efficient. If not, you would be better off renting. Especially if it's going to be somewhat more of an occasional use.

I'm, of course, assuming we're talking intelligent lighting here. Now, more and more venues are actually stocking in-house intelligent lighting. Some places will let you use it at no cost. Others charge a rental fee.

Get some figures, and just look at it from both points of view. Yes, by the way, I know I owe you a PM, which I'll be getting to very soon!
Message: Posted by: MikeJRogers (Jan 15, 2004 05:05PM)
Thanks for your reply M-Illusion. I'll keep your advice in mind.

Looking forward to your PM.

Mike :wavey:
Message: Posted by: Dennis Michael (Jan 16, 2004 05:40AM)
If you commit to a self contained Illusion Show, the investment is quite expensive.

Consider the costs:
[*] Van/Truck
[*] Trailer ($4,000 Plus)
[*] Illusions ($2,000 average each 4 required)
[*] Magic Effects or Illusionettes
[*] Assistant ($150 per performance and rehearsals)
[*] Stage Hand ($150 per performance and rehearsals)
[*] Lighting System ($1,000-$2,000)
[*] Sound System ($1,000-$2,000)
[*] ShowTech ($2,400)
[*] BackDrops ($1,000-$2,000)
[*] Professional Photos ($1,000)
[*] Advertising and Marketing (10-20 percent of gross receipts)
[*] Concession Stand Popcorn Maker, Candy Cotton, Juicer ($2,000-$5,000)
[*] Magic Kits (Backroom Sales Item)
[*] Novelties (Backroom Sales Item)
[*] Gas, Food, & Lodging

In this Month's (January 2004) M.U.M. magazine, Duane Laflin has a very good article on a two-person Illusion show. This is a must read article for anyone who is considering doing illusions. Duane mentions the pitfalls of a large illusion show and the advantages of an illusion show that can be done out of a van or small trailer.

Topics include being self-contained with set-ups under two hours, streamlining sound systems, minimal lighting, Spider Backdrops Systems (Duane is the USA Distributor), Roll on/off easily packed illusions, using audience members to fill the stage. It is quite enlightening.
Message: Posted by: MikeJRogers (Jan 16, 2004 05:46AM)
Thanks so much for your reply Den, it's really helpful.

Is there anyway I could obtain a copy of that article? I don't recieve the M.U.M Magazine

Thanks again,

Message: Posted by: glodmagic (Jan 16, 2004 11:29AM)
Lighting is [can be] a backbreaking time consuming ordeal once at the theater. You have plenty enough to do. A good show support lighting system can take considerable time to set up and despite the fact it is computer controlled you will likely end up needing an experienced operator to hit your cues(unless you have your show down to the seconds and never change).

I have found that this is the one area where I can get local theater staff to do the job. Often the built in systems are needed anyway (Ellipsoidal, followspot, etc) along with your wiz bang servo lights.

We have the locals:
Load-In/Load-Out the truck and bus
set the backdrops and fly
Set up our Audio systems.
rehearse the light cues and operate them in the show

WE assemble/disassemble the Illusions and other show material unless it is not "secret sensitive" in which case we have the local hands do that as well.
Strangely enough we bring in the audio equipment. This is one area that experience has taught me never to trust the house system. I use that often to augment our own.
If your music distorts or they cant hear you it doesn't matter how good the Illusions are.

Notice Den's cost on Stage hand rental and compare this to the overall cost. He is right on target. We typically pay $100-200. a day depending on theater and venue and I think it's a Deal! Don't think that you will need to provide a day of training either. There is an abundance of very qualified AV grips available who require nothing more than understanding your show. Sometimes because they are used to boring plays (boring to them, Not me)or the same ole stuff, they are often fascinated by an Illusion show and Want to be part of it. We have played Theaters where we hire a single stage hand who shows up with 3 friends to help at No charge just to experience the show for free. Gotta love magic for that!

The show set-up (grunt work) is exhausting. Learn to hire when feasible and cut yourself some slack or you will burn out and the show will suffer.
Message: Posted by: Dennis Michael (Jan 19, 2004 08:37AM)
May be if you contact Duane, he could send it to you. I am not about to type the whole article. Is there a local SAM club where you could go? This is a SAM magazine.
Message: Posted by: MikeJRogers (Jan 19, 2004 02:15PM)
I'm from Australia.

I'll see if I can find a copy somewhere.


Message: Posted by: paulnathan (Jan 25, 2004 07:29AM)
Why don't you get a basic lighting system to start with. I would reccomend two trees with four pars on each than I would put each of these ar a forty five degree angle from the stage. I would then add a single elipsoidal coming from the center of the house. you can get all of this used for a reasonable amount of money, than for bigger or better paying gigs you can rent intelligent lights.

Generally the rule is if you are going to rent something more than four times a year you are better off buying it.

here's my sneaky thing that I do. Whenever I need to do a show were I am providing the lights I hire a kid who "happens" to work for a local lighting company. I have him come in and do the set up for me. he orders the lights from the hous and gets a big discount (about 50%) off the the rental price. I then pay him a flat fee for the set up and running the lights. I get a great deal on the lights and a good competent board operator who really knows the equipment. and I get it for a reasonable price.

Of course it also helps that I own most of my own lights (which I have purchased at auction or for very cheap over the years) so he only has to ad a little here or there.

Just a thought.

Message: Posted by: Kevin Ridgeway (Jan 25, 2004 02:51PM)
Paulnathan...gives some good advice here on a asmiple yet efective set up. As he mentioned it is very inexpensive to start this way, then build up.
I would make one minor alteration...and that is to make sure to go with Source Four pars. They only use 575 watts, but put out the same amount of lumnes as a 1,000 watt par can.
The great thing is that you can put 3 source fours on a single 15 amp circuit, provided nothing else is on it. Plus, if you use 2.4K watt/channel dimmers you can squeeze 4 source fours on a single channel...where as you could only put 2 1,000 watt pars.

Also, going with an ellipsoidal from the center of house like mentioned above is a great cost effective way to get around an expensive follow spot. Once again, going with a source four ellipsoidal will do wonders here...especially a source four rated at 750 watts. Try to stick with a low degree ellipsoidal for this use. A 19 degree fixture will give you a nice tight spot even at distance.

Living Illusions
Message: Posted by: paulnathan (Jan 25, 2004 04:28PM)
Good Call Kevin.

I actually use a lot of source fours. botht there Parnells and elipspoidals. and you are right on all accounts.

Message: Posted by: Fitz (Jan 29, 2004 12:21AM)
Hey guys I'm a lightting tech but a magician first. I would answer this question by first finding out what kind of lights you are asking about.

If you your asking general lights like pars and ellipsoidals I would buy these instead of renting because you can use them anywhere you go and they will pay for them selves fast.

If your talking about inteligent lights I would probbably rent. I know the company I was working for rented these lights out for about $250 per fixture per day of use. That sounds expensive but the lights cost $3,500 to $7,000 each to buy. We also had many package deals like 16 moveing heads (8-High End Studio Colors 575w and 8-High end Studio Spots 575w fixtures) and a Hog 1000 lightting board which would also cost $10,000 new to buy. This would rent for $2,000 for a weekend.(retail price $106,000) Now you would charge your client $10,000 for this light package. Keep in mind you still will need some one to program for you. I'm available if you need me, I also do pyro. :)

Hope this helps,

Lights, sound, video, pyro, stageing, and special FX

Oh if you are looking for used lights check out http://www.lightbroker.com

Message: Posted by: plainman007 (Aug 22, 2004 12:06PM)
Hi fitz can I ask you some lighting doubts ???
Message: Posted by: The Mirror Images (Aug 23, 2004 08:54PM)
It seems to come down what you want to get out of the illusion show.

A couple of question you should ask yourself. What venues are you looking into performing at. The major theaters or the lower end theaters. Call them see what type of lighting hook ups they have. There are several. But if they are up to date they they will have a three straight prong style. With this said then you can determine what you would like to get. IF you go with itellegent Lighting make sure you hire someone that knows what they are doing.

I agress with wizard_of_oddities what he is saying about the itellegent lighting (IL). You can rent them and as you go on you can buy one or two here and there and build up to where you don't have to rent them. This way you don't blow your budget all at once.

You will also need to keep in mind about a lighting board. What is the board able to do and what is it not able to do. Check these things out. Some time theaters even have there own board but they may not be able to do IL. Thus means you have to supply your own board and hook ups.

Also if you also invest in intruments. Don't go the cheap route and by cheap ones. You pay more for them in the end. The light lamp life is shorter and the lights don't last as long as the higher end brand. You pay less with the higher brands in the long run. Some brands are ETC, Martin, NSI, and so on. OK NSI is ok in my opinion but they are good for the money.

PM me if you have any other questions. I am a lighting designer and use mainly ETC equipment and so on.


Message: Posted by: muzicman (Aug 23, 2004 10:16PM)
I purchased my own intelligent lights for my stage show. I did not go "ALL OUT" but I got great fixtures. I spent over 3k. Get replacement bulbs at the same time and keep a log, they do have a limited life. It wasn't til I got my lights and started working with a DMX controller, that I quickly realized they won't work the way I wanted them to. The low end DMX controllers allow you to make "Chases". It's impossible to sync the lights with the sound. I didn't want to hire a light operator, and I didn't want to depend on my venue (school gyms). The lights work great out of the box for a band or a DJ, but I wanted INTELLIGENT lights. The only reasonable priced hardware/software that allowed me to do this was made by Elation called Compu-Pro.

I have learned a lot about lights and I knew from the beginning I didn't want to compromise. Lights can add that extra feeling that you just can't get from any other source. I feel the lights or lack of lights can make or break a show. I wanted to give the feeling of "Theater" and use the colors of the lights to give feeling and emotion. Great sound is also used for building the emotions. I did not compromise on either of these very important aspects of a succesful illusion show. Budget atleast $2500 for your lights and cables and supports/truss system and another &750 for the hardware and software to make them work right. Oh, you'll also need a laptop and some MP3's. Your looking at 3-5k minimum and that's bare bones, basic lights and hardware. That's just for the lights.
Message: Posted by: plainman007 (Aug 25, 2004 10:05AM)
Hi Micheal, How are you.

To everyone I wud agree as micheal says in that don't be penny wise and pound foolish. And with stuff like intelligent lights, most of them that are being disposed by industry people who have used them thoroughly and roughly. And many times roughly handled lights will fail in their stepper motors etc. These are then replaced (sometimes with spurious parts). At the end you'll be paying more on maintenence and still have a second hand product. My advise would be go first class. When it comes to intelligent professional lights there are 2 basic types. Moving lights and colour scrollers. You will find most shows comprising of therse 2 elements. Scrollers are used mostly to wash the stage in colours. They replace your dingy and large par cans with their usual gel frames (color paper frames). Now instead of having 40 pars you could have just about 10 scrollers to bath your stage in any color lighting. You can get about 12 colours or many more from a single light and even strobe ( flash at selected speeds) and gobos (short for go betweens, metal shapes that creat patterns on the beam or floor). The other category are moving lights which are either moving heads or scanners. Keep in mind there are some mild differences between heads and scanners, like heads can move towards the backdrop creating colour patterns on the drop etc. They mostly have a 560 deg pan and 180 deg tilt. But they cannot move too fast. Scanners on the other hand can have instant moves and beam sweeps. So if you want the Copperfield show kinda programming to be incorporated where you strike a pose and the lights turn with a bang onto you etc. Then only scanners can do that. Heads will move sluggishly. If you need more details on these pm me. About the method of prgramming the software and scenes etc. I think kevin (living illusions) has a much better idea since I myself am taking help from him on that angle. Talk to him. Hes a very helpful guy. Wish you all the very best.
Message: Posted by: Kevin Ridgeway (Aug 25, 2004 11:10AM)
Plainman007...thanks for the kind words. Also good input on moving heads and scanners. One thing that can be done with scanners to give them the mobility of heads is to mount them horizontal instead of vertical. Now the pan is tilt and the tilt is pan. On most stages this new "pan" will be enough for any spot on stage while the new "tilt" (175-180 degrees) will be enough to hit the audience as wll as the backdrop. In Elation's Compu Ware Pro, there is an option to interchange pan and tilt with one simple button.

On to another topic of lights. If you wash the stage with a fair amount of light then the cheaper 150 watt lights will not be seen at all. The 250 watss lights will be seen a little. At the 250 watt level, only go with fixtures that use the MSD 250 bulb. Stay away from 250 ELC bulbs. Those are glorified overhead projector bulbs and are not that bright. Now if you can afford it then fixtures with the 575 watt bulb is the way to go and will punch thru most washes. Also for the most amount of light in the air, go with wash fixtures, not spots. They won't have the gobos, but they are brighter, wider beam and will have color mixing even at the lower end. Color mixing is the best way to acheive color.
In theory, you want to have a certain amount of light at a certian place in space or on the item you are lighting. When lighting yourself, you should have at least 100 footcandles on you. Footcandles diminish the further the throw of the light. Thus the further the light, the brighter it must be to maintain that 100 footcanadle. Now using lights for effects doesn't mean you need 100 footcandles when it hits the stage floor. But it needs to be bright enough to see while in the air. Of course you need the correct amount of haze. To acheive that look where the stage if full of color in the air...the placement of those lights are upstage, and its the haze that is creating that effect.

Sorry to ramble on, but hopefully this will give you some more info when deciding on what to use. Feel free to ask any more questions on lighting, I'll help where I can.