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Author Topic: Looking for advice for a school theatre  (Read 1467 times)

Karen MacLean

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Looking for advice for a school theatre
« on: August 14, 2022, 03:13:11 PM »

Hello!  I am looking for some advice.  We are looking to replace some of our theatre lights in a school theatre. We have a handful (maybe 10-12) of Strand Lekos which have served us well, but we also have a lot of old Par 64s and older fresnels (30 or so). Our supplier says the bulbs for the par 64s won't be available for much longer. We are looking to slowly replace the older fixtures.

We're not sure if starting to buy LED fixtures is the right move, or instead look to buy some good used fixtures at a lower price.  As there is a move to LED, certainly there will be people selling off their older lights. Another consideration is, of course, money.  We aren't in the position to invest that much and rather replace a few fixtures each year. We can look for donations and fundraise if it makes sense to invest in LEDs.

Which lekos and fresnels are recommended?  I've heard Strand is going out of business. ETC source fours?  Are there other options?  I don't know much about other brands.  Thanks for any advice!

 

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Jeff Lelko

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Re: Looking for advice for a school theatre
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2022, 07:51:34 PM »

Hi Karen,

In my eyes the conversion from halogen to LED must be done right if done at all.  This usually involves a fair amount of time and money to overhaul the lighting rig and get everything set up correctly.  Ballpark you can budget $1-2k per fixture all said and done at the intermediate level.  Granted you'll generally need fewer LED fixtures compared to their halogen equivalents, but it's still not a low cost venture.  Cheaping-out on fixtures usually gives a dim result in which everyone looks either pink or blue - hence my comment that it needs to be done right or not at all - especially for theater.

ETC Source Fours are still a good investment in my opinion.  You can get them very cheap these days in great condition.  You also already have the dimmers in place so the swap-out should be very straightforward.  The nice thing about Source Four Pars is that they use the same lamps as the Source Four ellipsoidals, so you won't need to stock an excessive amount of different lamps to have on hand - especially if you go down the route of converting your entire rig to ETC.  Beyond that, ETC has enough backwards-compatibility to slowly transition to LED while reusing lens tubes and whatnot.

One other point - what's your console?  If it's an older board like an ETC Express it'll struggle with the added channel counts and control philosophies of the newer fixtures. 

Hope this helps!
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Rick Earl

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Re: Looking for advice for a school theatre
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2022, 09:30:29 PM »

Hi Karen,

In my eyes the conversion from halogen to LED must be done right if done at all.  This usually involves a fair amount of time and money to overhaul the lighting rig and get everything set up correctly.  Ballpark you can budget $1-2k per fixture all said and done at the intermediate level.  Granted you'll generally need fewer LED fixtures compared to their halogen equivalents, but it's still not a low cost venture.  Cheaping-out on fixtures usually gives a dim result in which everyone looks either pink or blue - hence my comment that it needs to be done right or not at all - especially for theater.

ETC Source Fours are still a good investment in my opinion.  You can get them very cheap these days in great condition.  You also already have the dimmers in place so the swap-out should be very straightforward.  The nice thing about Source Four Pars is that they use the same lamps as the Source Four ellipsoidals, so you won't need to stock an excessive amount of different lamps to have on hand - especially if you go down the route of converting your entire rig to ETC.  Beyond that, ETC has enough backwards-compatibility to slowly transition to LED while reusing lens tubes and whatnot.

One other point - what's your console?  If it's an older board like an ETC Express it'll struggle with the added channel counts and control philosophies of the newer fixtures. 

Hope this helps!

I agree 100% - Cheap LEDs will cost you more in the long run, as you end up buying them twice.  ETC does not show indications of stopping the incandescent fixtures they manufacture and there are multiple manufacturers of the lamps.    Multi-color LED fixtures that look good use a lot of control channels and need constant power to operate.  Often not found in most school theatres.   I work at a university and our cost to replace PAR cans with LED fixtures is about $1100.00 per fixture, that includes fixture cost and circuit conversion.   Luckily our console can handle the extra channel counts, but we also had to add infrastructure to accommodate the extra control universes needed for the transition to LED and automated lighting from conventional.
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Brian Jojade

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Re: Looking for advice for a school theatre
« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2022, 01:27:40 AM »

For a new install or a full overhaul, LED lights certainly would be the choice.  However, as others have noted it is significantly more expensive to purchase LED lights that are as good as the halogen equivalents.  We're at a fun time where holding out can mean significant savings as prices for the technology continue to drop.

Par fixtures can be found super cheap as places doing overhauls are getting rid of theirs.  While halogen lamps are going to become more difficult to find, there are LED lamps that can be put in if needed.  The problem with that route though is even though the lamps are technically dimmable, the dimming curve is not going to behave the same as your halogen.

I have found the American DJ Z100 par a pretty impressive inexpensive direct replacement.  Output is a simple white light and you can gel it just like you would with traditional par cans.  At $450, they are significantly more expensive than your regular par can, but when put side by each, the Z100 actually outperforms the 1000 watt par can!

Of course, if you really want to take advantage of LED lights, you'll want fixtures that have the capabilities of different colors so you don't have to mess with gels anymore.  But again, as the previous posters indicated, you do NOT want to cheap out as the results are going to be disappointing at best.  Good stage quality LED is expensive.
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Brian Jojade

duane massey

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Re: Looking for advice for a school theatre
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2022, 03:19:11 AM »

Not mentioned is the idea of training the students on the world they will be moving into. I agree with the comments about the $$ involved to upgrade, but one should also consider whether or not the theater is used for training/education or for current productions.
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Duane Massey
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Paul Johnson

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Re: Looking for advice for a school theatre
« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2022, 03:25:27 PM »

As an ex-educator, who taught in a UK college 16-20yr olds with the intention of giving them an 'industry standard' introduction - I have changed my mind completely in the past 15 years. The old industry is very different. Now, things have progressed rapidly. The old Fresnels with their lovely beam edges and our profiles (your elipsoidals) like the Source 4 range with halgen lamps is vanishing rapidly.

Now, the range of LED Fresnels and Source 4 style designs are hugely expensive, and frankly, UK qualifications no longer require this industry standard kit to learn on. School up to 16 just need illumination that can create mood and drama. Add on 5 years for college and uni and anything they had at school will be gone, so the education requires the basic different styles of lighting - washes for area lighting, then things with lenses that can light specific areas. Then the effects type kit. A lighting control that has groups/pallettes is all that is needed with even cheap moving head lights. Non-technical staff often have to use the kit, not just the technical minded subject specialist or technician. A touch screen that might say the names of the areas the students are working in - as in stage left right, upstage downstage, or just area 1, area 2 etc then a list of colours, then a button marked on/off is all that's needed.

If you have limited budget, then 20 chinese movers is much better value than 6 'quality' brands. They will offer better value for your budget - because modern lights, unlike old Strands or Lekos have short design life. An RSGB lensed Chinese product will be expensive - they are not cheap, but a source 4 LED is much more expensive and you always need lots - 6 maybe for a typical school stage at least - and - they fail too.

PAR cans with 1K lamps are land-fill. The lamps are already unavailable or stupidly expensive. Theatre class lamps like Source 4's are getting more and more expensive too. There is no sense whatsoever in buying a halgen lamped product - just daft now.

In some of my shows with big budgets we hire in loads of Martin or Robe lights. expensive ones. Theyre always being cleaned and repaired. Small shows will happily tour Chinese sourced products and they seem no less reliable. Common issues are power supplies and drivers for the LEDs, so half the red just vanishes, or they won't power up - that sort of thing, but you have many more of them for the money so it always leave spares - although if I need 12, I buy 14 - ostensibly for spares, but I usually end up using the spares for extra light sources - too tempting.

I always promoted using the kit you will use later in your career, but this kit will be in the graveyard by the time they graduate as designs come out so fast. That old way of working worked fine when lights were in use for ten years or more (30 with older Strand, Mole and Leco), but a 3 yr old Robe will be scrap before they get their flat hat ceremony! Every show that comes through now have really nice new gear, all the time. Some cheaper light strips last week that I can source quite comfortably from Germany for sensible money. Six months ago they didn't exist. A school performance space that can go red in the centre and blue everywhere else at the push of a button is enough - having an expensive brand is no longer necessary as the damn things are just as unreliable.
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Brian Jojade

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Re: Looking for advice for a school theatre
« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2022, 07:37:29 PM »

I tend to agree that the long term use of lights is much MUCH less than it used to be.  Stuff is much cheaper now, so replacement every couple years is less than buying stuff designed to last.

In a school environment where stuff is abused to no end, if/when stuff gets broken it doesn't hurt quite as much.

But - there still is a line between cheap and crap.  If you get cheap but decent quality stuff, you can put on a decent show.  The biggest problem is that if you do have some pieces fail, finding an identical replacement may prove next to impossible.  Make sure to get enough spares to last you the budgeted life of the gear.

If you buy crap, it's going to be crap, and nobody is going to like using it.  If you can't get good skin tone with lights and everyone on stage is a weird color, it just doesn't look good and everyone suffers.  In that case, sourcing old used halogen lights would be a better alternative.
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Brian Jojade

John L Nobile

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Re: Looking for advice for a school theatre
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2022, 11:02:50 AM »

If you can't get good skin tone with lights and everyone on stage is a weird color, it just doesn't look good and everyone suffers.  In that case, sourcing old used halogen lights would be a better alternative.

That seems to be something some lighting guys forget. Seems like the priority is blinding the audience with floor lights.

I have a bunch of 33 year old Strand lekos and an equally old CD80. The cans are on the front pipe and do a great job of lighting the talent. I have no plans of changing them but the lights over the stage are LED's. There's also a whack of PARs and Fresnels but I hardly ever use those. It's a good combination for our stage.
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Paul Johnson

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Re: Looking for advice for a school theatre
« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2022, 12:55:44 PM »

I would have agreed with you but over the past year, I have changed my mind. I run some big professional theatres and agree totally that getting white out of an RSGBWAUV (keep adding colours) is rarely easy, but the LED whites are now very acceptable. I also have a video studio and that now is totally LED and colour is fine. An Arri 1K Fresnel in the LED form is six times what the tungsten version cost, so I have some Chinese cheap LED Fresnels and the colour is what it says - it takes gel happily. LED versions of source 4 type kit can be a wide variety of prices now, and the whites can be perfectly usable. The quality of the white is much, much better.

As I said - budget for surplus for spares, but now I just buy more than I need and just use them. Time between availability and gone is now usually about a year. I have just been quoted 40 for a 2K lamp, and my stock is dwindling. Buying tungsten now is only an option if you can afford to stockpile lamps.

My education experience is that while you can often get decent budgets for an install, there is rarely any budget to cope with repairs and often, even gel!
« Last Edit: September 19, 2022, 12:19:35 PM by Paul Johnson »
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Bob Stone

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Re: Looking for advice for a school theatre
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2022, 01:58:11 AM »

Not mentioned is the idea of training the students on the world they will be moving into. I agree with the comments about the $$ involved to upgrade, but one should also consider whether or not the theater is used for training/education or for current productions.

The concepts of theatre lighting can be taught whether the fixture/console is the latest LED/DMX/Moving stuff or old halogens with dimmers. Properly illuminating people and set items, along with creating the right mood, designing a show and running queues, etc. can all be done regardless of the hardware.
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ProSoundWeb Community

Re: Looking for advice for a school theatre
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2022, 01:58:11 AM »


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