Open Forum

What are your lighting challenges?

  • 1.  What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 11-29-2018 11:19
    I'm curious-do you have specific challenges when it comes to teaching lighting?
    Or recurring challenges with the lighting for your productions?
    I'd love to hear them and brainstorm solutions!


    ------------------------------
    Benjamin Pilat
    Director of Education
    Stage Lighting Bootcamps
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 11-30-2018 14:22
    One of my current challenges is that I have a fairly current light board (ETC Ion), but my lighting instruments are old - a few Source 4s, but lots of old Fresnels and even some ellipsoidals from the '70s.  I also have the problem that some of my channels don't work for one reason or another, and my floor pockets were all destroyed in a flood in '08 and never replaced. My auditorium is scheduled for renovation this summer, so I'm hoping many of my limitations will go away. That only leaves my own limitations of lack of lighting knowledge - I have enough to make me dangerous, as they say.

    ------------------------------
    Kevin Welsh
    Auditorium Director
    Columbus IN
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 11-30-2018 15:20
    I'm a set designer, not a lighting designer, and not a teacher. However, one of the things I've noticed over the years, with some set design classes, is that the class touches on the parts of the stage itself briefly and then moves right into flats and construction. And some of the students seem to be far more interested in this than in the creative part of design.

    A friend who's a former professional lighting designer and now teaches at a college has mentioned that a lot of his lighting design students are more interested in the controls and the equipment than in the creative use of lighting to create moods and define atmospheres.

    Given both of the above, I would think a "challenge" might be to get the students to look at the design part and the tech part separately.

    ------------------------------
    George F. Ledo
    Set designer
    www.setdesignandtech.wordpress.com
    www.georgefledo.net
    http://astore.amazon.com/sdtbookstore-20
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12-03-2018 13:21
    Edited by Benjamin Pilat 12-03-2018 13:23
    Kevin- What a bummer about the flood!

    On the bright side, you've got a great light board. It's the theatre standard in the US and if a student learns the Ion, they know how to use half a dozen other ETC boards that use exactly the same software (Element, Eos, Gio, Nomad, etc... they're all basically the same thing in different hardware packages. Think: built-in touchscreens and motorized, faders, etc).

    And exciting news about the renovation! Are they keeping you in the loop? Sometimes you need to push hard to get equipment lists and drawings. I'd encourage you to run it by someone you trust and/or post here. Some architects have NO idea what actually goes on day-to-day in a theatre. The good ones do, or they hire a theatrical consultant for assistance. Renovations are a great opportunity to expand technical possibilities, but beware: whatever you end up getting, you'll probably have for a long, long time.


    ------------------------------
    Benjamin Pilat
    Director of Education
    Stage Lighting Bootcamps
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12-01-2018 08:20
    I have found that there is a dichotomy between being creative/imaginative and understanding how to use your equipment. When I first introduce my students to the light board, I often have them record two color washes, when they then play them, they react to the transition as though they just created something magical. That magic diminishes considerably when we start talking about fixture functionality, programming and the like.

    I have yet to find the right balance in teaching both elements.


    ------------------------------
    Dana Taylor
    MSD of Mt. Vernon
    Evansville IN
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12-01-2018 09:33
    Back in college and grad school, our set/lighting/costume design classes were totally separate from the tech classes. In the design classes, you designed and in the tech classes or the labs you did tech.

    This actually had a good although probably unintended effect in that it helped the students understand whether they were interested in design or in tech. Both of my schools were considered professional training programs and most kids went right on to the entertainment industry, having a very good idea of what they wanted to do.

    In my own case, I started out as a diehard techie until one professor, especially, made me realize I was more interested in design than in tech. Forty years later, I'm still happy with that decision.

    ------------------------------
    George F. Ledo
    Set designer
    www.setdesignandtech.wordpress.com
    www.georgefledo.net
    http://astore.amazon.com/sdtbookstore-20
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12-01-2018 12:19
    To echo Kevin, I know enough to be dangerous.  Nothing at my school works like it is supposed to.  And, nothing is user-friendly.  We don't have enough dimmer modules or fixtures to fully-illuminate our stage, so that's a fun challenge.  I purchased a super-cheap LED system that we use for color wash (as our strip lights are hung upstage of our cyc...) and to fill in dark areas.  To focus anything, I have to go up on a lift, which is AWFUL and so time-consuming.  Our source 4s are "junior" fixtures and they have no lenses, so that's fun, too.  We have Fresnels that are so old, it's incredibly difficult to find lamps to put in them, and the lamps the school (finally) ordered for me for our ETC source 4s don't fit!  So, there are essentially too many lighting challenges to name.  The good news, is that two years from now, there will be a brand new school and a brand new auditorium.  Hopefully, that will come with a black box classroom...
    I feel that there is a critical need to help teachers with their technical needs.  We come from such varied educational backgrounds and, often, the way we learned is no longer applicable.  My method has been a mix of trial and error (after error after error) and drafting interested students into looking up tutorials on YouTube to teach me!
    I think the most frustrating thing with the lights is that there's no one above me in our county (like a theatre specialist or an auditorium facility manager) who really knows what we have, when it was last maintained, and how to help the teachers when issues arise.

    ------------------------------
    Lisa Dyer
    Henrico VA
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12-17-2018 19:55
    @Lisa Dyer I know... theatre teachers are so often called on to shoulder dozens of jobs! But great news on a new school/auditorium in a few years.

    You made a good choice with cheap LED's since they don't need dimmers. And yes-focusing lights from a lift is super time-consuming. You could explore options to swap out your push-around lift for a drivable one like this or this. Drivable lifts are a HUGE timesaver. Maybe your district could swap one from the maintenance inventory. Or a local company would accept your old one as part of a trade. Or make sure one is requested for the new building-and see if you could get it early! As a last resort, construction companies rent them by the day, week, or month. Maybe you ask to rent one for a few days to re-hang and re-focus a rep plot that works for the majority of your shows. 2

    You said your S4 Juniors have no lenses-as in... no glass lenses? If that's the case, they might as well be a bucket with a light bulb in it! Worse, does that mean there's nothing between the lamp and the stage? Theatrical lamps occasionally explode, so the spectre of hot, broken glass raining onto the stage may convince someone to address that. And the lamps that don't fit your S4's? Maybe the local theatrical supply company would exchange them as a goodwill gesture?

    Most importantly, it's great to hear that you're trying! Especially since your district has you out in the wilderness. It's not like other teachers are responsible for plumbing and heating problems! Video tutorials are really great, and you may be able to find some advice on ways to stave off these problems until you've got your new space.







    ------------------------------
    Benjamin Pilat
    Director of Education
    Stage Lighting Bootcamps
    Marina del Rey CA
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12-03-2018 09:37
    In terms of lighting our productions, we have very few instruments with which to work - almost too few to provide even a decent wash for the full stage.  The district made some renovations to our vintage-1953 auditorium in the early 1990s, and then added a few more instruments in the early 2000s, but neither the school nor the district has really maintained those lighting upgrades, which were minimal in the first place.  My troupe co-director and I - neither one of us tech mavens - have offered to work with a theatrical lighting company in town and a tech professor at a local college to improve the situation, but the district has waved us off, saying that their maintenance personnel need to be behind everything.  (Under a low-bidder rule, the last time anything was done to improve or expand our lighting capacities, the contract went to a company whose principal line of work was sound systems for churches.)

    ------------------------------
    Jeff Grove
    Theatre Teacher, Aesthetics Department Chair
    Stanton College Preparatory School
    Jacksonville FL
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12-17-2018 19:26
    @Jeff Grove Sorry to gear it's been difficult to get someone qualified in. Have you pushed the district to have their maintenance crew take down, clean, and re-hang your lights? It's standard practice to do that each year in most theatres, but sometimes lights collect dust for decades without being touched. Plus, cleaning lights increases their light output so you get more bang from your existing gear.

    And if the district won't clean your lights? Then it seems entirely reasonable to request permission for an outside company to help.

    Also, while your lights are down being cleaned, you can reconsider how best to re-hang them. If you barely have enough to cover the stage, I'd suggest doing a single no-color wash from the front. Basic illumination is the first goal-it's tough to get into anything artistic if you don't have that covered.

    ------------------------------
    Benjamin Pilat
    Director of Education
    Stage Lighting Bootcamps
    Marina del Rey CA
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12-20-2018 08:26
    If this thread didn't feel like it was for me...

    So, I've got a gorgeous auditorium to work with in my high school. Truly, it is a part of history. The school, built in 1926, was updated in 2004 after being closed in the late nineties; however, being renovated to be a STEM school, much of the arts' related areas were left mostly untouched - inclusive of the auditorium, except replacing lamps and adding a few pars near the mezzanine to help light the front of the stage. Original seating, original stage, and massive (and maybe deadly) fly rail system. "sound system" is a set of Bluetooth connected speakers hung way up on the very high ceiling and kind of awful (I produced the last show using a set of computer speakers spaced through the auditorium and this was somehow more effective). The theatre nerd in me absolutely loves it and the learner appreciates a challenge. The "now I have to use this to teach my kids how to produce a show with realistic skills to take into their internships/life" side of me is kind of like, "well... darn."

    They also moved all control of the lights from our old school manual dimmer rack to an updated but primitive method of on and off using our (forgetting the name but the same metal circuit box you have in your house for the electricity). My every other light in my first rail of lighting, which lights up downstage except the lip (total darkness there), is attached to a dimmer slide like what you'd see in a yoga studio or a house. The other lights on that same rail are like the rest - I flip a switch inside the circuit box and they cut on or they cut off. All of the stage lights are dead hung except the giant ass scoops at the back of the stage that point toward the audience and have gels no newer than about 4 years on them (quite worn). I don't have a way (or permission) personally to get to the lights to redirect them and I can't create plots or areas too much except downstage/upstage and scoop/no scoop at left, right, and center. We've been given these workshop lights on bright orange poles (something taken from a construction site it seems, lol) to set up on the sides of the stage, which is helpful in dance numbers. There are many dark places on stage most of my students with darker features facial expressions are completely lost from the audience at times, depending on where they stand, regardless of whatever make-up we might have (which isn't usually a lot - we have no budget except the $600 we've been able to raise). Any changes or modifications to our electric anything have to go downtown - and not downtown to the school district but to the general government office (I work in DC - everything is intertwined and mixed up). While I've been told they'd consider my request to come and help reposition some lights, they likely won't be out until next fall.

    We do have one single very cheap robotic we got from a donor - DJ style light - which helps with texturing or a spot but it is a bit shaky in use as I don't have a board to connect it to and we just use a USB-3pin to connect to a laptop and sometimes the software has issues with it. It's still beneficial to us though. I've also been able to incorporate some incandescent lighting into scenes in our last set, but for the upcoming show, we'll have a very mobile set and it's unlikely I'll be able to do the same (it also looked nice for the set but didn't add much in visibility). Most of this is because floor pockets are all inoperable and we have to use a multitude of daisy-chained extension cords to get them onto the stage in the first place.

    Hit me with some ideas!

    ------------------------------
    Sharkey Andrews
    Teacher, Special Education
    DC Public Schools
    Washington DC
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12-22-2018 05:22
    Edited by Bob Diebold 12-22-2018 05:28
      |   view attached
    I'm a new member, and I will probably be starting my own post in the near future to address the myriad challenges I'm facing… In any case, I was able to identify with quite a few of the lighting woes previously mentioned. I'm a 3rd year English Language Arts teacher at a middle school in a very small community in Western North Carolina. I have a fairly extensive background in theatre and hold a BFA (teaching was kind of a second-calling for me). I have taken it upon myself to start a Drama/Theatre Club at my school, and I have a fair number of students who are interested in working on the play I have planned for the Spring. I recently applied for a grant to do this production and was generously awarded $1600. That's the good news.

    The bad news is that my school building and auditorium (which I have openly started referring to as a theatre) was built in the 1920's. We're supposed to be getting a new school in a couple years, but I have no idea if a theatre (auditorium) is in the plans. For the time being, I have to work with what we have, which isn't much. The stage is massive, and there really isn't a lighting system, aside from the overhead fluorescents. I was going to rent lighting, but I soon realized that would kill a sizable chunk of my grant money, not to mention the fact that I would have to spend more money renting them in the future (and I don't know if another grant will ever happen). Since I want this to be an ongoing thing, I turned to Ebay to see if I could find something cheap. I was able to buy an old NSI lighting board, dimmer, and 9 par cans that came out of a church for $80 (I only had to drive 6 hours to pick everything up). Since I don't have a way to use the grant money for Ebay purchases, I just decided to use my own money. I try to look at this like a hobby, so I don't feel as bad spending my own money… I have purchased two additional dimmers for about $35 each and 9 more par cans for $100. I plan to use some grant money to buy new bulbs and small things the fixtures are missing. Fortunately, I used to restore old pinball machines, and I have a fair amount of experience repairing electronics. I was able to get the dimmers working again with some new transistors and a couple of chips. They're very primitive units from the 90's that use microplex cable, but they do work.

    I spoke with my school principal, and she's made arrangements for me to meet with the district electrician. I know I'll need dedicated circuits installed near the ceiling for each dimmer, so I'm hoping the electrician can do that. The breaker panel is fairly accessible in one of the wings, so I don't see it being a huge issue. I'm hoping 16 lights will be enough to at least light up the stage, since it's fairly big. As far as hanging the lights, I'm planning to purchase some 10' piping from the hardware store that will need to be dead hung from the ceiling (there is no fly system). An enormous antique strip light that doesn't work will first need to be disconnected and removed from the ceiling, since it's in the best position for my lights. I hate the idea of dead hanging the lights, but I can't foresee a safe and economical way of being able to raise and lower them…

    I'm currently in the process of cleaning up 50 years worth of trash "backstage" that no one has ever thrown away. I pulled my trailer below a second floor window where the stage is located and just started throwing junk out the window, so I can easily transport it to the dumpsters :)

    There is a traveler track/curtain, which I attempted to close the other day. Half of it closed, but the other half wouldn't budge. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that it wasn't moving because a huge section of curtain nearest the centerstage side was ripped down the seam from top to bottom. That's the part that would pull the rest of the curtain across, so it needs to be fixed. The only ladder I could find was too short to reach the curtain, so I brought some rolling scaffolding from home that I use to work on the outside of my house. As dangerous as it sounds, it's much safer than trying to do anything on a ladder! The athletics department has a cherry picker, but there's no way to get it up to the stage level (nothing but steps). I know there's a fair amount of liability involved with what I just described, but I don't see any other options. I live in a very poor county, and I don't think anyone has ever attempted something like this. I could probably request to have some maintenance workers from the district come help, but who knows when they would actually be available or what they would be willing to do…

    I feel like an army of one, at the moment. I told my wife the other night that this will be one of those things where I have to do all the work myself, so I accept that. Whenever I mentioned cleaning the theatre, for instance, the custodians run in the opposite direction. If it's not sweeping a floor or replacing soap in the bathroom, they don't want any part of it. I have another teacher who is willing to help with the production, but she's not the type that's going to be climbing ladders and moving garbage. In a way, I suppose it's both a blessing and a curse that no one wants to be involved. I wish I had some help at times, but I also feel a certain freedom to do what I want to do and make this my own.

    I have attempted to attach a photo of my busted curtain....



    ------------------------------
    Bob Diebold
    Bostic NC
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12-22-2018 12:52
    Bob, I think it may be of value to see if you can recruit some of your students, especially any hopeful techs, even in the cleaning process. Make it a learning experience - as you clean out items, talk with them about the challenges of the space and solicit their ideas. Though they may not be experts, they are creative, and getting them involved in cleaning may help bring that boost of investment in the space itself. 

    Sent from a mobile device - please excuse any typos.





  • 14.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12-24-2018 09:19
    Ditto on getting the students to help with the clean-up. For the students, I used class time. Making one's acting/making space clean is the first step to a good rehearsal or a productive build session. Yes, many complained (maybe all of them!). I put on an '80s music playlist on Spotify and they boogied as they worked.

    ------------------------------
    Annemarie Bean
    Long Trail School
    Dorset VT
    abean@longtrailschool.org
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12-24-2018 17:19
    One of my challenges, lately, is that we have some border strip instruments with medium screw bases, while 150watt incandescent lamps have been phased out.  I looked into medium screw base LED's but do not like the color temps available and just have not seen enough output from the lamps to make this viable.  Additionally, LED PAR Lamps dim to a certain point and then just pop off, so that's not good.

    I'd like to convert them to something else like 12 volt MR16's for example, but really have not found a great place to start.  Would be nice to find a retrofit kit to LED or similar, but have had little luck in that regard.

    ------------------------------
    Michael Johnson
    Trinity NC
    ------------------------------



  • 16.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12-25-2018 13:53
    ​Michael-I just learned about a company that makes ​exactly what you're looking for! The Luxium Zobo Z3 is a theatrical-quality medium-screw replacement. It's a five-color LED Par with a high CRI and really nice light quality. It has interchangeable lenses to change the beam spread and has wired or wireless control options. I just used them in an event space: we're installing track lighting and since they're wireless, they can pop in wherever they're needed. But they'd be perfect to replace R40 border lights.

    I'm connected to their owner and sales reps, so I can help set up a demo or a quote if you're interested. Feel free to shoot me an email: benjamin@stagelightingbootcamps.com

    -Ben

    ------------------------------
    Benjamin Pilat
    Director of Education
    Stage Lighting Bootcamps
    Marina del Rey CA
    ------------------------------



  • 17.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12-26-2018 08:27
    Ben,

    Thanks for the suggestion.  The price point is out there a bit.  We'll keep it on the back burner and see where that leads us.  I could see that as a simple solution here and there, though, so thanks for the response.

    ------------------------------
    Michael Johnson
    Trinity NC
    ------------------------------



  • 18.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12-26-2018 21:01
    Michael,

    Yes, true. At $150 each they aren't cheap, but they solve the problems presented by the $10 Home Depot version. Plus, since they change colors, one of them does the work of 3-5 single-color LEDs. It would be perfect if you had 4-circuit R40 borderlights: you could put an LED in every forth slot and leave the others empty, repurposing some dimmers for another use. Still, assuming 24 LEDs to cover a 50' stage, you're still looking at a few thousand dollars.

    You're right, they're useful for projects in quantities of one or two: lobby displays, inside scenery/props, etc. I'm buying a couple to use for a traveling lighting demo.

    Good luck!

    ------------------------------
    Benjamin Pilat
    Director of Education
    Stage Lighting Bootcamps
    Marina del Rey CA
    ------------------------------



  • 19.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12-24-2018 20:52
    You believe: "Build it and they will come." If you think that means the tech, this techie says make the show great and be satisfied just to illuminate it this time--with what you have. Someone from the "they will comes" is bound to make the mistake of asking if you need help. Even if they just bake cookies, have a list for them to pick from. My prediction is that they will build a theatre for you in 5-10 years. I won't be around to hear whether I'm right or wrong, but I'll know.

    Your curtain: If I understand your description and your level of experience, you probably don't need this. The rip just needs to be repaired--best removed from the carriers and sewn on the floor. It would help to have a sewing machine more powerful than home models, but they will work and two helpers are recommended to help feed into and away from the machine--a relatively safe task for your student age group. You can find diagrams like this online:  https://www.chicagoscenic.com/resources/SS_ADC280_installation_instructions_0314.pdf 
    This rig assumes a lightweight fabric, overlapping center opening and, as you describe, the master carriers pulling all the weight. There are better ways to rig heavier curtains that distribute the pull as the drape packs at the sides.

    My research says that you get more techies from the "friends" of the enthusiastic performers. Adults come later, but believe and they will come.

    Break a leg.

    --
    Professor Thomas C. Hird, Theatre and Dance
    Director of the School of Arts and Media
    Cal State East Bay
    510-885-4813
    FAX 510-885-4748





  • 20.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12-26-2018 21:15
    Bob,

    You're on a great path-and you've scored some killer deals!

    Here are two of my favorite values:

    1. ETCNomad
    ETCNomad is a $250 option to turn your computer into a fully-functional light board. And it's not fly-by-night software, it the same thing used on Broadway shows but with a steep educational discount. It's the industry standard and is a great learning opportunity for students and teachers alike. You need to purchase it through a dealer-let me know if you need a recommendation.

    2. Rosco I-Cue
    A used one will run you about $500. It's a motorized mirror that slides into the gel slot of a Source Four, turning a conventional stage light into a moving light or repositionable special. Suddenly, one light can be repurposed many times in a show to highlight different areas of the stage. Plus, you can dead-hang the light and refocus it from the ground. It would pair well with your full-stage PAR Can wash: dim the pars and turn on the I-Cue for a special, focused moment or for a guest speaker, etc.

    You may already be aware, but remember that PAR lamps come in different beam spreads, from very narrow to wide flood. You'll want to get the ones most appropriate for your throw distance.

    ------------------------------
    Benjamin Pilat
    Director of Education
    Stage Lighting Bootcamps
    Marina del Rey CA
    ------------------------------



  • 21.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 01-01-2019 19:50
      |   view attached
    I've been following this great discussion happening here.  Lighting seems to be the most misunderstood necessity by our admins(!).

    I'm attaching a related article, recently in the USITT magazine TD&T, titled "Lighting Technology Education in the 21st Century" by Autum Casey and Todd Proffitt that you may each find helpful in supporting 'the cause'.

    Beth

    ------------------------------
    Beth Rand, EBMS
    Educational Lighting Designer
    School Theatre Operations Coach

    www.PRESETT.org
    - LIGHTING INSTITUTE FOR THEATRE TEACHERS - ONLINE MINI COURSES
    - HIGH SCHOOL THEATRE OPERATIONS ONLINE COURSE FOR TEACHERS
    - HIGH SCHOOL THEATRE OPERATIONS BOOKS
    - THE ECLECTECH SHOPPE

    beth@PRESETT.org
    Westminster, CO
    ------------------------------

    Attachment(s)

    pdf
    TD&T LIGHTING ED ARTICLE.pdf   8.24MB 1 version


  • 22.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 01-03-2019 10:28
    Hello all,

    Being a lighting designer I love this thread. So many of us encounter the same issues. For me personally, I have the kids who say that they want to design but are never there when they need to be because of "illness", "work" ect... Our technical theatre classes are more introductory and students think its an easy A and are not fully committed to the process. ​

    Administration does not understand the need for lighting. We finally got an upgrade and it took everything to make sure that they understood what lighting means to the theatre. It wasn't until an outside event came in and our fall production of The Wizard Of Oz, that the light bulb went off and they got it.

    Finally, with everything moving to LED, I find that the blues are hard to match with the Rocso gels that I have. Even though preset in my ION, I have had to create my own color pallet.

    Again, great discussion. I hope to be teaching a lighting design class at festival this year and will address much of what has been written.

    ------------------------------
    Crit Fisher
    Lighting/Sound Designer
    New Albany High School
    ------------------------------



  • 23.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 01-09-2019 14:52
    Thanks for such a great discussion, everyone! I've got some new blog posts that may be useful for the group:

    6 Budget-Friendly Stage Lighting Products
    Getting Started in 3D
    Color Temperature Explained
    Create Better Fire Effects with Pixel Mapping

    Find more tips, tricks, gear and info at LightingBootcamps.com


    Is there a topic you'd like us to cover? Let us know: hello@lightingbootcamps.com

    ------------------------------
    Benjamin Pilat
    Director of Education
    Stage Lighting Bootcamps
    Marina del Rey CA
    ------------------------------