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Moving Light Upgrade - Opinions and Thoughts Required!

Guest JordanHallLD

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Guest JordanHallLD

Hi guys ..

I'm a 15 year old lighting enthusiast at my school and look after the whole of thel system and also design, rig and operate most of the shows.. We hold an annual christmas production which this year has been confirmed as FAME The Musical. I always have a budget for this annual event .. I usually hire in 2x MAC 500's or Robe 575At's .. Looking for a change this year .. Anyone used the Mac 700's before? I have been told they are very good .. I have seen specs. etc and it all looks well, give me your opinion on them if you have used them ! Are they as good as people have been telling me ? May also get 2x Mac Wash lights .. The 600's good? Ohh and by the way, and I would love the mac 2000's but only have a smallish budget!

Just thought I should find out whats would be the best for the production .. don't want to be ordering 2x 550's or 700's and rigging them and playing with them to find they are totally not what I expected!

Respond please:) .. Pretty new to this forum .. Would be nice for some feedback :)






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The word 'overkill' springs to mind. You're supposed to be lighting the actors, not giving them vision damage :)


Is there any particular reason you need a 700/1200W fixture, as opposed to the the 575W Mac 500 (which does pretty much the same thing - it certainly does what I imagine you'd need it to do), or is it a case of 'I have the money, let's hire something more fancy'?

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Guest JordanHallLD
The word 'overkill' springs to mind. You're supposed to be lighting the actors, not giving them vision damage ;)


Is there any particular reason you need a 700/1200W fixture, as opposed to the the 575W Mac 500 (which does pretty much the same thing - it certainly does what I imagine you'd need it to do), or is it a case of 'I have the money, let's hire something more fancy'?



thanks for the reply HAHA ! hmmm well the lighting of the actors is fine .. I tend to use the heads quite alot - Just an example - Last year was the wizard of oz - Had them strobing for the storm with rotating gobos around the audience .. Used static 'brick effect' gobos for the yellow brick road etcetc .. plus much much more. We use the lights more or less in every other scene. Its also for ease of use too - We have a 48 channel system at school and with the complex stage sets we design.. it is quite hard to cover all areas - for example we had a scaffolding based castle last year - for a split second an actor was on the top hanging over the turrets - The moving lights just posiioned there when I needed it. Its just easy and also when you have a tight timescale I suppose!! Since we started hiring them I learnt that the possibilities with intelligent fixtures are endless!


I do think its beause I'm young and I want to experiment !! Thats all :)

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Might I suggest modifying the subject of your post? "Required!" will probably put people off (especially with an exclamation point...).


As to what we would "be best", we probably can't tell you without knowing the specs of your venue. The 600s are great fixtures for some spaces and absolute crap for others.


The 700s are a pretty light, and the 2000s are great, but like mark_s said, might be overkill. Unless you are blessed with a giant venue, then they might be weak (although the 2K packs a lot of punch...).


Some people will say, at your age, to get the basics in line first and then move on to movers, but I read that you understand that they are versitle but not toys. That's a step in the right direction.




edit: spell check, stupid...

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Why is it that everyone on this forum who is at school wants to light everything with moving lights?

When I think of all the musicals and operas that I have lit not once have I used (or needed) a mover. If I were your teacher I would tell you to spend your budget on hiring in more dimmers. Although, you really ought to be able to light a school musical easily with 48 channels. Think of it as a test. Then you can spend your budget on buying some new lanterns.


Also (now that I am in rant mode), how on earth do schools these days have such enormous budgets for luxuries like theatre lighting.

I have to fight for every penny with my general manager for glamorous items such as lamps and a bit of TRS. Now I know where my tax goes.


You have no idea how lucky you are.


However, I'm glad your interested, so keep up the good work.

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Jordan, hi - welcome to the BR.


I'm going to have to say what I would say to ANY high school student, and that is to ask precisely WHY you a) HAVE to have moving lights in a school production and b) why you feel the need to go 'bigger and better' than last year?


The answer to a) may be that you have specific effects that you want to achieve that you can't with ordinary lanterns. If so, all is well, but you don't really need to 'upgrade' (meaning spend more school funds) to do a better job with what you had last time.


The majority of moving lightsare pretty much similar in what they can physically do, so the main differences between the makes and models are quality of build, optic quality, noise levels and that sort of thing.

You are asking for feedback on the quality of different Martin models, and the only real answer is that when comparing to the 550's you've used before the 700's will be brighter, maybe quieter and likely sharper focus etc. Apart from that you won't really notice a huge difference. Brighter is perhaps the most noticeable difference in your situation.


However, back at question a).


You need to stop and think, as (presumably) the LD for the show, what your design needs. Having been involved with fame a couple of times, it isn't really the sort of show that necessarily HAS to have movers, so why do you need them?

Experimentation in youth is all very well, but you will most likely find that most of the answers you get here will scorn the intelligent lighting for school shows per se. And on the whole, I'd agree with that viewpoint.


I manage an amateur theatre, and we host a wide range of shows from plays and school productions (just closed Bugsy Malone this week) to dance shows (LOADS of 'em!!), variety and panto. I'd say that 70% or more of them wouldn't benefit from movers. The ones that do lend themselves to heads are the dance shows (though NOT all decide to go that way), some of the variety shows and occasionally a musical, but mostly not.


You say you have limited budget - well, for the hire cost of a couple of new Mac 700's you could probably hire a better desk, extra dimmers, and LOTS of decent generic lanterns and with those you could learn to do the job properly without having to resort to the 'easy way out' of utilising a moving head all the time. True theatre lighting is NOT about how many nodding buckets you have, but how you use the tools you have.


There IS a place for intelligent lighting in theatre, but not as a first step - usually a last one in the designer's toolbox for 'ordinary' shows.


Oh, you might do well to scan through the older posts - you will find quite a few topics of this ilk, many of which saying exactly the same thing....



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For Fame I would even go so far as to say movers would detract from the show (in my mind, Fame has always been a PAR rig for the 'rock' sort of show as opposed to a wiggling lights type show). In fact, for the price of movers, you could get a hell of a lot of PAR's.
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I'm also intrigued that you've selected movers when the show has only just been confirmed and nobody has yet (presumably) designed the set, picked the musicians bal bla bla.


Can you imagine Constable picking the colours he was going to use, and the brushes, and then wandering off to find a suitable scene to paint that fitted just what he had in the box?


The design element is missing - Until the director has the show under their belt, with their style and complexity level - what is the point of even thinking about lighting - especially at the selecting kit level.


I get the feeling that you are using moving lights to save you using conventional lights. If the set allows somebody to be in shadows and this is not for dramatic effect, then you just need something to fill.


I know exactly what you mean - yes it is easier to wait till technical, then swing a mover around to a dark spot and then light it, and plot it - but this is not good design - in fact it's a solution to bad design.


If you really insist on using movers, then I'd suggest you forget about bright, new, all singing, expensive ones, and get lots of 250W versions - don't forget good lighting is also about angles - so a one covers all, either side provides illumination, not good lighting. With maybe 8 lower power ones, there's more chance of one being in the correct position - and when they are all on, you have more possibilities. The other question is what type. Throwing gobos everywhere is very 'disco' and not 'theatre' - but this needs thinking about early on. Maybe a mix of profiles and washes would be good?


So Tasks (should be) for a school/college show



Directors wishes

Set Plan



Budget again

Design again

back to step 1 and repeat


Remember that lighting is a technical support to the production, not the be all and end all. Lighting usually allows the Directors vision to be communicated to the audience. The average person in the audience hardly even notices the lighting as long as it doesn't leave the cast in darkness!

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Obviously I can't comment on any other school's situation, but here are a few thoughts from my (private) school's productions.


We don't have a huge budget or government funding to buy shiny new kit, however we at least have some sort of budget. We suffer from the fact that all of the directors don't really think about lighting until the plotting session, and don't trust the pupil 'stage' crew to do any sort of lighting design. By plotting time it is too late to refocus lights because of health and safety issues and thus half the time we have a rough idea of what they want (IE a spot here and there) but other then that it is usually up to us (the pupils) to guess a lighting rig. This leads to quite a lot of fun really, and teaches the pupils to think about what general washes might be needed.


When the director sits down and says "right now I want a light pointing here" then we are a little snookered most of the time. Luckily we have enough generic lights to cover lots of points around the stage and usually some compromise could be made. However, once I managed to get the budget for a couple of mac500s and a fatfrog (as we only have a normal frog) for a dance-show/play combo thing. I was beginning to regret this choice at first, because the directors for this were so well organise we knew everything they wanted before we got to the very tight window for rigging and focussing.


Then we got the plotting session. They asked for all of these extra points to be lit (say a specific spot in a specific place, or a colour that we hadn't gelled etc etc) now if I had a generic only rig because is was impossible to re-focus anything (yes impossible, ladder too short and scaff tower was elsewhere!) we would have had worked out something else: compromising their artistic plan. Instead, I just moved one of the 500s (or both) to point to the right place, and tada we had what they wanted. it also meant that we could have nodding buckets for the dances, which is always fun for the technicians.


However, though the mac500s solved one problem for me (for the play part of this gig) is produced another. Though I was there to programme (the theatre stack for the play and subs for dances) and there for one of two nights to operate, I wasn't there for the other. This meant that I had to brief another person to operate the lights. they saw mac500s and decided to go mental with them in the dances. The comments that I received from audience was that they came to see the dancing, and not lights blinding them/moving everywhere/changing colour ever half second!


So, my view on the use of moving lights in schools? They CAN be useful SOMETIMES, but they need careful moderation, and really aren't really needed at all unless you have weird circumstances like my school. Also they take longer to programme and are more complicated to programme. In a school environment when you have a large number of inexperienced young people going through the 'crew' and operating the lights: you want to keep it as simple as possible. However they can be a useful get out of jail free card, if used sparingly.


Do the audience come to see lots of flashy lights or a good play? Are they going to look up and say "ooo a nice mac700" or are they even going to notice? It might be best to spend the money elsewhere.




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how on earth do schools these days have such enormous budgets for luxuries like theatre lighting.


I was working the other day with a colleague, who had just finished a (private) school show that had £50K budget!!!

Including Orbit stage, pyro, lasers and full lighting and sound production. I mean...for goodness sake!



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Hi J,

Welcome to the BR forum's

if you need advice without having to justify yourself try http://www.lightnetwork.com/ for a forum with perhaps a little less judgemental attitude and who welcome those in seach of information or alternatively pretend your 45 years of age so people don't give you a hard time.


Good luck and my advice is do what you have been doing and experiment as much as you can with whatever technology you can get your hands on and try and get as mush use out of them as you can.


Regards C

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I was working the other day with a colleague, who had just finished a (private) school show that had £50K budget!!!

Including Orbit stage, pyro, lasers and full lighting and sound production.

Why not throw the money at a show if they have it.. Only thing I can say to that. Lucky students at that school that get a chance to be surrounded by such high professional standards during a production, so early in their (potential) careers.


In regard to the all to commonly spoke of school/kids & ML's argument. All I'll say is, yes, in an ideal environment it's nice to be able to learn how to light properly with a generic rig, but, as Simon pointed out, in school situations, this isn't always suitable and if it is possible and with in budget, then IMO there is a perfectly valid reason to get a few MLs to use along side a generic rig. It just ad's flexibility..


After all, the way things are going, the quicker new LD's/young'n's to the industry, get used to using ML's the better. So many shows/productions/venue's use them or have access to them, then why not let students use them in a situation where they have time to learn and it doesn't matter too much if there's a mistake with the programming, etc.


In terms of the situation of the OP, weather to get mac700's or not. I'd say yes, if you really need a fixture that can mix colours (instead of just having a colour wheel or two) and's a little brighter than a 575w head, then go for it. It'll just give you experience with another fixture that does something different. On the other hand, if a robe 575 AT does fine now in terms of what you need the fixture to do and you don't really need the extra punch that a 700w lamp'll give you, then stick with them. You know what they can do, how well they do it etc.. Basically, stick with what you already have some experience with.


Just my thoughts.



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If you really want to spend money and are saying that it is not easy only having 48 channels why not consider some nice chrome P64's with different lamps in.

Mabye a few stage washs with CP62's a few CP60's for hard white beams etc.


Then you can spend some money on getting some scroller kits so there is no issuse having different colour states.


If you are diturmind to get some movers then why not go for 250's - like others have said.


Most school halls, I have found, are no where near big enough for 575's ler alone 1200's but yours may be an exception.


I remember when I was back in school and we always wanted to hire in movers but could never afford it - looking back now we would have ruined the shows if we had!!!!




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Ahhh, FAME!

Great show - lots of fun, with some very, erm, risque songs! (Can't keep it down?)

I did this at University, where we had a reasonable hire budget and a fair bit of time (well, we thought we'd have a fair bit...)


Moving lights used? Zero.

Was the show good? Yes!


Later on I lit a production of Dracula Spectacular at the same venue, and I hired one City Theatrical Autoyoke, and a pair of Mac 300s.


Why did FAME use pure generics and DS use moving lights?


Because it was found that moving lights weren't needed for our production of FAME, while the number of specials required for DS meant that I wouldn't have had space on the truss or enough dimmer channels to do it otherwise.

The Autoyoke handled the specials and the Macs created the multicoloured washes and occasional strobes that the director wanted.

- And it took absolutely ages to program using our generics desk!


What I'm trying to say here is:

Don't get moving lights because they're cool.

Only get moving lights because you need an effect they provide.


You don't know what effects you'll need yet, so discussion of possible equipment is pointless at this stage - wait until you have an idea of the director's vision for the show.

(And what the budget will be!)

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My School Owns 10 MAC 250 Kryptons, Washes and Entours, and too be honest we dont use them much for stage productions, as the programming can be hard due to a small amount of time we have to program !


Used more for concerts, youd be better off just doing a Generic rig and leaving the fancy kit for a concert or band night, where it will be used more and will be appreciated more. That is when you can explore with them a bit more. If the rest of the school is trying to put on a production and your fiddling with the moving lights, I don't think that the director will be best Pleased !

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