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Author Topic: power for a large mobile production  (Read 17216 times)

g'bye, Dick Rees

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Re: power for a large mobile production
« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2015, 08:27:44 am »

We would love to pull our own trailer mounted, pure sine wave generator and cost isn't really the issue. The issue is, here in Wisconsin, during the winter months, it's many times in the single digits or worse-below zero. I can't imagine any of the venues allowing us to prop open the doors to run the wiring in.

Does anyone here have any suggestions on how that could be done?

If cost isn't the issue, get a proper distro and pay an electrician to tie it in.  That'll be a lot cheaper than owning, transporting and maintaining a generator.

As to propping the door open in the WI winter, just move the beer there to keep it cold, cut down on the draft and save on refrigeration...
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Bob Maitland

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Re: power for a large mobile production
« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2015, 08:34:23 am »

If cost isn't the issue, get a proper distro and pay an electrician to tie it in.  That'll be a lot cheaper than owning, transporting and maintaining a generator.

As to propping the door open in the WI winter, just move the beer there to keep it cold, cut down on the draft and save on refrigeration...
lol...and thanks for your reply.

 We have the money to get all of the proper professional power distro equipment needed. What do you think the cost of hiring an electrician would be to tie in and then come back to remove it? And is there anyway to get 40 KW using this option?
« Last Edit: January 02, 2015, 08:45:17 am by Bob Maitland »
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g'bye, Dick Rees

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Re: power for a large mobile production
« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2015, 09:02:43 am »

lol...and thanks for your reply.

 We have the money to get all of the proper professional power distro equipment needed. What do you think the cost of hiring an electrician would be to tie in and then come back to remove it? And is there anyway to get 40 KW using this option?

There are so many issues tied up in what it appears you're trying to do.  I would guess that there will be many different scenarios and solutions, perhaps even on a per gig basis.  Your arrangement/relationship with each venue could be different. 

Given your lack of hard info to qualify and clarify your original question, I'm guessing there are other issues you need to address.  For one thing, after ascertaining your ACTUAL power needs, you need to find out what power IS available to you in each proposed venue, if it's adequate, if hook-up can be provided by a venue electrician, etc, etc, etc.

It sounds like you need to bring in someone with real production experience on staff to deal with the million and one issues you'll encounter.  Free internet advice will fall short if you're unaware of all the issues which may come up.  But one thing for sure::

Buy plenty of liability insurance.
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Bob Maitland

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Re: power for a large mobile production
« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2015, 09:25:50 am »

There are so many issues tied up in what it appears you're trying to do.  I would guess that there will be many different scenarios and solutions, perhaps even on a per gig basis.  Your arrangement/relationship with each venue could be different. 

Given your lack of hard info to qualify and clarify your original question, I'm guessing there are other issues you need to address.  For one thing, after ascertaining your ACTUAL power needs, you need to find out what power IS available to you in each proposed venue, if it's adequate, if hook-up can be provided by a venue electrician, etc, etc, etc.

It sounds like you need to bring in someone with real production experience on staff to deal with the million and one issues you'll encounter.  Free internet advice will fall short if you're unaware of all the issues which may come up.  But one thing for sure::

Buy plenty of liability insurance.
Thanks for your reply.

I never would of thought that electrical power would of been the limiting or deciding factor.

We're just a group of people who love music and have money to invest...and don't even care about the money. We can get a 100% return on our investment plus depreciation and interest after just 104 shows.

Trust me, we'll be well insured, have fantastic marketing and have something great to offer. We just need a little help on this.
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Rob Spence

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Re: power for a large mobile production
« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2015, 12:07:27 pm »

Thanks for your reply.

I never would of thought that electrical power would of been the limiting or deciding factor.

We're just a group of people who love music and have money to invest...and don't even care about the money. We can get a 100% return on our investment plus depreciation and interest after just 104 shows.

Trust me, we'll be well insured, have fantastic marketing and have something great to offer. We just need a little help on this.

Ok, so how about answering the questions on gear?
There is a big gap between needing two 20a outlets and 40kw.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD
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Sean Schult

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Re: power for a large mobile production
« Reply #15 on: January 02, 2015, 12:49:35 pm »

I can't imagine any of the venues allowing us to prop open the doors to run the wiring in.

If use of generator power becomes a requirement (such as if you routinely play venues that do not have enough onsite power available), then this clause needs to be in your contract so the venue understands the requirement in advance. You could then try to mitigate the draft by finding a vertical opening, and stuff the remaining opening with moving blankets.

I work in the Milwaukee area, and most places around here can get you 100A at minimum. We'd need to see your inventory to know for sure, but from the sounds of it so far it seems unlikely you'd need more than that. I don't see many generators used for indoor gigs, especially of that size. Performance spaces will tend to have a tie-in ready, and that is the most common solution. School gyms would be a bit tougher, but there's usually a sub panel nearby you can find some room for an additional breaker in. You'd need an electrician for either one of those things though. Some acts make power a requirement of their rider, so the house is responsible to have tails tied-in and ready to connect. Then it only requires a "qualified person" and not an electrician to connect the tails to the feeder/distro, which someone in your group could learn to do safely.

It sounds like what you really need is someone to help with your production who can advise on matters like this, and make sure setup goes smoothly. I like to do a site visit of places I don't know before setting up there if possible, so I can be sure to come prepared for any unknowns such as no power available, obstacles to load-in, changes to stage plot required to conform to room, etc.

Whatever you end up doing, do it safely, and good luck with your endeavor!
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Stephen Swaffer

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Re: power for a large mobile production
« Reply #16 on: January 02, 2015, 01:37:47 pm »

From an electricians standpoint, I can do a distro tie as quick or quicker than I can locate 2 dedicated 20 amp circuits in an unfamiliar venue.

Once you determine your power needs and distro requirements, have someone familiar with the industry or an electrician spell out your requirements specifically in a way electricians can understand, that way if you can't advance a venue you can intelligently ask a local electrician for help and he can be properly prepared.

Way too often I hear, "I need 220 volts."  That tells me nothing.  Tell me, "I need 240 volts, 50 amps, 14-50 receptacle"   or "I need 240 volt single phase, 100 amps, ready for 1/0 tails" and I know exactly what you need and can promise you it will be ready and right.

Maybe I am too cheap, but my rates are comparable to auto mechanics in my area and I make house calls.  Given the investment you are talking about, hiring an electrician for a day (or half a day) to make sure your setup will work correctly and you can advance correctly should be a minor cost.
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Steve Swaffer

Guy Holt

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Re: power for a large mobile production
« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2015, 01:43:04 pm »

What do you think the cost of hiring an electrician would be to tie in and then come back to remove it?

Hiring local electricians can get really expensive.  Because their license is on the line, most electricians will want to be on site for the duration of the show and their hourly rate adds up very quickly.  Even those are willing  walk away after doing a tie-in and come back latter or the next day to tie-out will want $300-$500 for their service if you can find them.

Having provided location power to remote film sets in the Northeast for almost 20 years, I have to agree that a diesel generator is not necessarily the best approach and it is not because you have to prop a door open to run the power. You can always bring the cable in a window and use a sound blanket to make a weather tight seal around the cable.  The big problem with diesel tow plants is finding somewhere to plug in their block heaters on the road.  Most hotel/motels do not make provisions for block heaters and so you invariably show up on site with a stone cold generator that won’t start. It also sounds like you won’t have the capacity to tow anything besides the gear trailer. Here are a couple of things we do for set power that might come in handy on some venues.

One way to access more usable 120V power at a venue without an electrician is to step-down a 240V circuit to 120V with a “Transformer/Distro”. Common 240V circuits that you would find at schools and churches include Range Plugs, Dryer Plugs, Food Warmers, as well as special receptacles for floor polishers, large copiers, and window air conditioners. If the school has a wood shop you will find plenty 240V receptacles. Most will be of the 30-50A variety which means a small film style 7.5-15kVA step-down Transformer/Distro will convert the 240 volts supplied to 120 volts in a single circuit  of 60-100A. Now that you have a larger 60-100A 120V circuit you can use standard film style distribution equipment to break it out to 3-5 20A circuits, which will probably be enough on top of what the venue will already have.


Master shot of an iRobot commercial lit with a 4kw HMI Par (outside) & 1.8kw HMI Par (inside) powered from a 30A/240V dryer outlet through a step-down transformer/distro. Note: Sunny feel created by 4k Par on an overcast day.

I used this approach recently to provide power and GFCI protection for 6kw of HMI lighting from a wall outlet on a recent commercial for iRobot. The spot contrasted the iRobot Scooba designed to clean kitchen floors to the old mop and bucket approach.


Left: Transformer/Distro plugged into a 30A/240V dryer outlet. Right: 4K HMI Par under rain protection powered by Transformer/Distro

For the mop and bucket approach we had a haggard looking Mom slopping water all over the kitchen floor as kids ran slipping and sliding across the floor. Because we knew water would get everywhere we used one of our 60A Transformer/Distros on a Dryer Plug to power a 4K HMI, a 1800W HMI, and some Kino Flos. 


Left: Arri AS18 1800W Par powered from Transformer/Distro. Right: 4Kw and 1800W HMI ballasts powered from Transformer/Distro.

We put a 100A Shock Block like the one pictured below on the load side of the Transformer/Distro to provide Ground Fault protection inside around the wet kitchen floor. It was a good thing that we did, because it ended up pouring rain that day and so the Shock Block did double duty for the 4k that was outside the kitchen window.


A single 100A GFCI "Shock Block" can provide ground fault protection on wet locations for the entire distro system of a Honda 6500 portable generator when used in-line with a Step-Down Transformer/Distro.

By providing access to more "house power" through common 240V household outlets, a Transformer/Distro can eliminate the need for electrical tie-ins tow generators that can be temperamental in extreme cold. As a back up for venues that don’t have any 240V receptacles the same Transformer/Distro can be used to step-down the combined 240V output of a couple of paralleled Honda EU6500 or modified Honda EU7000is generators to create 120A at 120V. The same film style distribution equipment can then be used to break it out to 5 20A circuits, which will probably be enough on top of what the venue will already have (use this linik for details.)

Guy Holt, Gaffer,
ScreenLight & Grip,
Lighting Rental & Sales in Boston
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: power for a large mobile production
« Reply #18 on: January 02, 2015, 01:46:16 pm »

So Bob, what's your role in all of this?  Performer?  Financial backer?  Promoter?  What is the nature of the program material, the size of the venues to be covered and their layout (covering the side bleachers of a gym is different from covering the floor, or an auditorium or a cafeteria)?

Is there a local promoter, local presenter or sponsor?  As Stephen point out, putting your needs into words that electricians who don't work with entertainment or event power will understand is a good thing, and you can make the electrical provisioning part of the local sponsor/promoter's job.

If the venue/sponsor/promoter wants your show, they will find a way to accommodate your needs whether it be for an electrician or finding a way to get big feeder cables inside from the generator.  There are always ways to get things done, it's just that some are inconvenient and/or expensive.
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g'bye, Dick Rees

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Re: power for a large mobile production
« Reply #19 on: January 02, 2015, 04:23:28 pm »

We can get a 100% return on our investment plus depreciation and interest after just 104 shows.

I know it's just January 2, but this may well be the most hilarious statement of the entire year.
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Re: power for a large mobile production
« Reply #19 on: January 02, 2015, 04:23:28 pm »


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