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Author Topic: Lighting equipment for summer camp theater  (Read 2143 times)

Tim Weaver

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Re: Lighting equipment for summer camp theater
« Reply #20 on: December 14, 2020, 06:21:42 pm »

Don't get stuck in this kind of situation.  A local college "upgraded" their 250 seat theater system to LED lighting.  They pulled out 96 channels of working ETC dimming, and the ETC console, and replaced it with 96 channels of a much lower grade (in my opinion) of dimmers and a console that I don't think ever worked.  The reasonalby professional LED instruments specifically state they should not be used on a dimmer channel!  The dimmer manufacturer actually has non-dim modules for the racks, but a truly unqualified person working at the college worked with an unknowledgable local electrical contractor (their first theater system) put together the system specifications and bid.  They not only threw out (literally- I think it went to a landfill) good gear, but replaced it with cheap gear that is the wrong gear.  I believe the college instructor involved was fired for other reasons that same year.  The theater lighting system was unsuable the one time I worked an event there.  After spending much of two days (donated to a local arts orginization I support), and getting nothing usable out of the system. I gave up and brought in my own system.  Had to do the same thing with sound.  Hundred of thousands of dollars of tax payer money wasted.


That sounds like an install (distributed audio) done in the swanky football boxes, bar, and ballroom that was built at A&M when I worked there. The fire alarm contractor won the bid to do the audio system. They literally pulled xlr to the different input boxes and never terminated them. There were tons of other wiring problems too. We ( I worked for the Theater Complex on campus) had to go in and basically do everything except pull wire to fix that install.

OP, I'm sure you are getting the hint now that if you don't rent this rig, it will be a failure that someone down the road has to deal with. It's essentially a waste of money. If you absolutely can't persuade the powers that be to build a rental budget, then just stick with the basics and get a local well-respected company to design an install this system.
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Dave Garoutte

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Re: Lighting equipment for summer camp theater
« Reply #21 on: December 14, 2020, 06:23:54 pm »

Don't get stuck in this kind of situation.  A local college "upgraded" their 250 seat theater system to LED lighting.  They pulled out 96 channels of working ETC dimming, and the ETC console, and replaced it with 96 channels of a much lower grade (in my opinion) of dimmers and a console that I don't think ever worked.  The reasonalby professional LED instruments specifically state they should not be used on a dimmer channel!  The dimmer manufacturer actually has non-dim modules for the racks, but a truly unqualified person working at the college worked with an unknowledgable local electrical contractor (their first theater system) put together the system specifications and bid.  They not only threw out (literally- I think it went to a landfill) good gear, but replaced it with cheap gear that is the wrong gear.  I believe the college instructor involved was fired for other reasons that same year.  The theater lighting system was unsuable the one time I worked an event there.  After spending much of two days (donated to a local arts orginization I support), and getting nothing usable out of the system. I gave up and brought in my own system.  Had to do the same thing with sound.  Hundred of thousands of dollars of tax payer money wasted.
Sounds like the lighting equivalent of the 'Three systems to get it right' for churches sound systems.
Buy once cry once!
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Jerome Malsack

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Re: Lighting equipment for summer camp theater
« Reply #22 on: December 17, 2020, 01:26:05 pm »

true on the three systems,  but consider that the system needs to support theater and for each play comes a different configuration and changes in location for the lights to meet the scenes and the  movement on stage.   Light has to be reconfigured for each new performance and will take time,  plan, and adjustments,  programming.   How many scenes and will there be changes from act 1 to act done ? 
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Lighting equipment for summer camp theater
« Reply #23 on: December 17, 2020, 03:14:48 pm »

I guess "summer camp" has changed since I was a kid.  We did skits around the campfire.  This sounds more like a way for parents to more ethically dump their kids somewhere for a couple of weeks - "hey, Billy and Susie, you can be Shreck Jr or Seusical the Musical!"

Ultimately it depends on what the finished product needs to look and sound like.  If parents are attending is the expectation a polished, professional level production; or is it cardboard and tempera paint or somewhere in between?  Shows staged mostly for other campers?

If this is a theatre camp where kids are supposed to learn things then a dead hung rep plot is going to be both visually disappointing and unlikely to create much enthusiasm from the techie kids who will only learn that actors get all the love and that they are, as Frank Zappa put it, "evil barbarians with a wrench in their pocket".

Ease of use is a misnomer... how about "ease of learning almost nothing?"  Obviously, products that are impossible to use are not helpful, but if this is all set up for ACTORS to just walk in a do a show, then never mind.  If it's to teach kids some tech, too, and get them some experience they might not get at school, using equipment their schools may not have, then this is a disservice.

So is this about the product or the process?
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Dave Garoutte

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Re: Lighting equipment for summer camp theater
« Reply #24 on: December 17, 2020, 03:41:00 pm »

true on the three systems,  but consider that the system needs to support theater and for each play comes a different configuration and changes in location for the lights to meet the scenes and the  movement on stage.   Light has to be reconfigured for each new performance and will take time,  plan, and adjustments,  programming.   How many scenes and will there be changes from act 1 to act done ?
The three systems thing refers to:
First buying something cheap to save money (#1). 
Then buying something better, but not the right tool(#2). 
Then when the complaints keep coming, finally spending the money and hiring the expertise to get the system you should have gotten in the first place(#3). 
The false economy of not getting the right thing the first time is the point.
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Tim Weaver

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Re: Lighting equipment for summer camp theater
« Reply #25 on: December 17, 2020, 06:59:13 pm »

The three systems thing refers to:
First buying something cheap to save money (#1). 
Then buying something better, but not the right tool(#2). 
Then when the complaints keep coming, finally spending the money and hiring the expertise to get the system you should have gotten in the first place(#3). 
The false economy of not getting the right thing the first time is the point.

To be specific, system 1 is always DIY shopped on price alone. System 2 is always because, "hey ask John he's got a bitchin home theater so he definitely knows what he's doing", then system 3 is when you crawl bakc to the integrator which gave you that unbelievable price quote in the first place! lol
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Erik Jerde

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Re: Lighting equipment for summer camp theater
« Reply #26 on: December 18, 2020, 11:47:51 pm »

Regarding the lighting company.  Make sure they are competent in theatrical/entertainment lighting and not just an architectural lighting firm.  Get references.  If they aren't into theatrical/entertainment lighting then do everything you can to replace them.

Regarding access.  You need to have a plan of how you're going to get to the fixtures for focus and maintenance.  If the floor is raked this becomes more difficult.  If it's not a slab on grade this will restrict your ability to use boom lifts and a structural engineer should be consulted.  Fixed seating makes it even more challenging though not impossible.  Bucket lifts are the most economical but rigging movers from them can be difficult to impossible unless they're really small.  Based on what you wrote about budget the smart thing is to buy a lift (look for a used one).  That way you can do maintenance when needed and not have to find budget/say mother-may-I whenever something breaks.  You'll need a little money yearly for inspection.  Your dealer should be able to give you a price.  Don't skip the maintenance - this is a life safety issue.  Sell it to management in that the lift can be used by the maintenance department for their needs and they come in super handy for hanging decor etc.  You need to have a place to store it!  Of course if your lighting bars are moving then it's a lot easier though a lift makes focus much easier.  Otherwise it's a lot of up and down and that gets old REALLY fast.
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Re: Lighting equipment for summer camp theater
« Reply #26 on: December 18, 2020, 11:47:51 pm »


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