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High School of the Performing Arts


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Im 16 and attend Alexander W Dreyfoos High School of the Arts in Florida. We have 5 majors at the school, one of which is obviously theater. Our theater is older yet still I consider it exceptionally nice. roughly 600 seat, ETC Expression 2x board, (I use my MagicQ PC and dongle for any complicated show I work on), some 420 dimmers, and 500+ Source fours, full fly system, wings, and high grid.


Now I would like to incorporate some intelligent fixtures. Since most of the shows are run by me, I could use Magic Q for control so that is no problem. What I have yet to decided is what to get. My plan is to buy 6 Martin SCX-600 or 8 Chauvet Intimidator 2 HTI's for scanners. I plan on permanently installing 4 of these on a fly system bar about midway back from the stage and 4 more towards the front. They would be mounted horizontally to allow the most coverage. I would also like atleast 2 moving heads, probably to put at ground level on the stage. My original thought was the Chauvet Q-Spot 250 but then realising it was for a theater figured ide better go 575 to give it the extra "punch" through the conventionals so I moved up to Q-Spot 575's.

The theater manager is also looking to purchase SeaChanger RGB for the source fours so I dont think ide need wash heads. however they are expensive so that may leave my budget shorter. As far as that goes my plan was to figure out what I wanted then ask for the money. hopefully anything under $5000. if I cannot get the money I was planning on buying four scanners for me personally and wowing the right people with my personal ones.


Can anyone make suggestions on the placement or models I picked out.

2+ Chauvet Q-SPot 575 http://www.chauvetlighting.com/fixtures/qspot575_fix.shtml

6+ Martin SCX-600 http://www.martin.com/product/product.asp?...uct=maniascx600

8+ CHavet Intimidator 2 HTI's http://www.chauvetlighting.com/fixtures/intimhti_fix.shtml

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I would go with a company that if the light fails, you can get it repaired or get a replacement for it.


Something like the major brands, Varilite, Martin, Robe, Clay Paky, Highend or Coemar for automated fixtures.


Thats if something goes wrong and you need a replacement and the show is programmed, you can just switch the light over, and your back up and running in no time, and most hire companies will have a replacement of that light for you.


Seachangers are really good, I saw at PLASA last year, and really liked. I have used them once and had no complaints.





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But... you say you are 16, and is your system is anything like the UK, you leave at about 18. So in 2 years time. once you leave taking your magicQ and dongle with you., the school loses the control interface you have been using. thus I would suggest that your purchasing should be to fit the infrastructure that will be there then - if this means a new desk (oer Magic Q dongle), then so be it. Also, as a student you may well no be into the budgeting, but the school would need a larger maintenance budget for those fixtures than for the current generic lights. This needs someone on staff to negotiate with the financial controller of your school.
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Hi stgtech,

I study (and work) at a MA based college, which has just opened a brand new space. Unlike our other spaces, which use VariLites and various other bits of moving gear, it was decided not to use any moving heads or scanners at all.


There were several reasons for this:

[*] Maintenance costs associated with our own stock, servicing, repairs, etc.

[*] Few students know how to design or program effectively for movers

[*] We have the budget on shows to hire in movers if required, meaning designers can specify equipment they prefer rather than what's in the grid


What we did instead was what it sounds like your theater manager is doing - kit out a number of our Source 4s with SeaChangers. As others have mentioned, what happens when you leave? Even before you leave, who maintains, services, and repairs your scanners or heads? In the vast majority of cases, it is nearly always cheaper on a long term basis to hire in intelligent fixtures on a per-show basis.


Finally, I would ask you to think about why you want these fixtures...why would you like to incorporate scanners? Are there any design reasons for doing so? Is there any reason existing S4s with color changers can't work?


I don't mean to discourage you, but I'm sure most people around here will agree with me when I say movers are really, in schools, best left to hire. I've found that out the hard way!

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Movers are rarely the best idea for school IMHO.


What I would advise is to spend the money on a desk that can control movers when needed (however, ease of use is more important in this application), and hire in movers for shows that need them.


Benefits of hiring:

-You can get what you want, I.e martin/robe/varilight rather than buying budget fixtures.

-The school will not need to pay for maintenance/new lamps

-They won't be left there doing nothing when you leave


If you work out the cost of hiring over the year, and the cost of buying the units, replacing lamps and maintaining them, hiring will most likely work out cheaper, or close at least.


You really shouldn't let the school rely on your equipment, won't do any good in the long run.


I know movers are fun 'toys', but that's no reason for the school to buy them, if you are going into the industry then you will probably get to use them soon enough.

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Here's an important thing that everyone involved in buying kit should remember:


It isn't all about you. You will (undoubtedly in the OP's situation) move on and go elsewhere. You have to select kit on the basis that other people will be the primary users eventually. So your personal preferences are, in the long term, irrelevant. You need to select kit that is appropriate to the venue and the performances that take place there.



With that in mind, I think you're barking up the wrong tree. The kit you're looking at is very "disco" and the venue you describe is very "theatre". Also, the venue has no reasonable means to control moving lights. That you have a MagicQ system is totally irrelevant - they won't be yours, they'll be the venues. The Theatre Manager sounds like he/she has a handle on what the venue really needs, as should be the case.


You will also need to consider the long-term costs of this kind of system. Has the venue got the resources to service this kit?


Finally, as a student, you can certainly advise, but the staff should be actually making any decisions.

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Well thank you all very much. I appreciate all your comments and quick responses. Yes, I realised that the fixtures I chose were primarily "disco" and you have all confirmed this and persuaded me against the Chauvet choice. However as to renting, we do 10-20 MAJOR shows per year min. Is it still cheaper to rent? Robe seems to be highly recommend and also quite affordable. Even four Robe heads would be nice. I dont want to sound like I just want new toys to play with as I have already messed around with them alot on my own work, but I really think the students and performances would benefit greatly from the technology. Even my middle school, (which happens to be middle school of the Arts.) now has intelligent fixtures. 4 Chauvet Q-Spots. Slightly lower end yet I thought performed great in a theater when used correctly and sparingly. Although they dont have a dimmer :(


Finally, as a student, you can certainly advise, but the staff should be actually making any decisions.


The staff are the ones who encouraged me to handle this on my own. We have a foundation that distributes our money and quite frankly they tend to give it much more easily to students who can show they care enough to spend the time. and can show basic reason for the product in question.


Surely you have no dispute that as a school of the ARTS with a theater major where many of the students end up working in the field even during school years, could not benefit from offering some intelligent lighting? Maybe im wrong but that just the way I see it, ide like to hear other opinion's though. As far as running it which most of you mentioned here I agree. We have recently been having trouble with the expression and it is quite possible we will have a new board when I return. Taking this into account if it happens to be like a congo jr. or the like :D would you then consider just a few movers a worthwhile consideration.

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The fact that you use them more increases the cost, as they are bound to break a lot (I did realise this when I make my original post).


As you already seem to have a decent generic rig, then I wouldn't necessarily say that movers were a bad next step, however:

-I really don't think your desk is up to it, I still think you're better off buying a new desk, also, if you have 10 events a year it will be better than hiring a desk each time, and would pay for itself sooner than movers, also people do not need to learn new desks that only come in for shows.

-Does your school really have the maintenance budget?

-I'm not convinced that after you leave they won't just sit there doing nothing, as no-one will be able/bothered to use them.

-Colour scrollers for your existing lights could add a lot to the system.

-Starting off by learning with just generic's is good in my opinion, it stretches you more.

-This seems like adding to the system, rather than anything it needs, is there other areas that actually need improvement, I.e sound or video.


However, if you were going to get movers I'd go for a few decent units rather than lots of cheap units.


Just because you were encouraged to do this yourself, doesn't mean it's a good idea, I'd recommend getting someone in to see what they suggest.

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Thanks I rather like the idea of having some one come in to make recommendations. My mentor is a dealer for alot of the moving light manufactures so im sure he could check over anything that someone who came in said. I wholeheartedly agree that generics are the way to learn. If you cant make a good show with generics then I could never recommend movers, however the students coming into the technical department have to demonstrate competence in lighting before even being allowed to attend the school so I believe they are up to using them. I do see your point about them sitting there when I leave, and I was banking on the idea that another dedicated student was there by the time I left, however that is a rather large guess, and it would be a shame to buy them then have them goto waste. And the thought did not even cross my mind that the more shows (duh) the more wear tear = maintenance. so thanks and I think the best bet is to opt for a new board. then rent. but just so I can figure what the school is looking at to rent, what does anyone figure (very roughly of course) 4-8 good movers would cost to rent, I know its different everywhere but just guesses would be great. For the main theater shows we would be looking at 3 weeks time and anything else big roughly 3-5 days.
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Hire shifts the maintenance costs onto the hire company. It also means that if one breaks you can get a replacement rapidly - hours - and also means you can hire what you need - mostly spots, mostly washes, a combination, anywhere from 2-20 moving light etc. There is a topic on here (refering to the mousetrap IIRC) whcih stated that some major West End productions hire kit for the maintenance reason listed above),


Hire has much more flexibility. However it also has less time for practice and learning to programme. but the experience of learning to programme for new fixtures is one that will stand students in good stead in the future.

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so thanks and I think the best bet is to opt for a new board. then rent. but just so I can figure what the school is looking at to rent, what does anyone figure (very roughly of course) 4-8 good movers would cost to rent, I know its different everywhere but just guesses would be great. For the main theater shows we would be looking at 3 weeks time and anything else big roughly 3-5 days.


I can't give you figures for Florida, but for Massachusetts:


My supplier has a 'card rate' of $150 per week for a brand name (Martin Mac 500) 500 watt mover. A 250W, like the High End Studio Spots or Mac 250s would be around $125. Scanners vary between $50-125 depending on the model.


Couple of things to bear in mind:

One, weekly rates work on a sliding scale - the second and third weeks will be cheaper than the rates above.


Two, these prices are quoted rates on the hire cards. Theatres and schools that are looking to hire repeatedly will normally be able to negotiate discounts. It is therefore quite important that a hire company can have one 'contact' in the school who they primarily deal with. Discounts can sometimes be quite steep (25%) or other incentives can be added in (free delivery, etc.)




Now, in any one year I might spend a lot of money on the hire of movers - potentially enough money to buy some. However, the convenience of both not paying or caring about maintenance or repair, combined with the fact I can always hire the latest equipment means I would far, in nearly all cases, rather stick with hiring. This doesn't just apply to movers - right now I hire in a lot of LED lighting, simply because the technology is changing and improving so rapidly if I was to buy a unit it could well be out of date in half a decade. If I rent, I can always get the latest model.

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Moderation: This topic, although USA based, has brought back to discussion the old and often repeated arguments about the displacement of responsibility to students. In this case, we are assured by the OP that he does have the budget to spend, but doesn't know what to purchase.


We have to be careful here. We have suggested a decent amount of alternatives open to him, and we really can't go much further. The reason being that the school have given him responsibility for a shopping list - not a project. So all the usual discussion on running costs, hire vs purchase, suppliers, lifespan, replacement/repair decisions are missing from the equation.


I can't comment on the US situation, but from what I have been told, they do things very differently over there - in terms of the 'scale' of educational facilities - but I don't know how it works financially.



It does appear that progression in this thread is impossible. We haven't moved very far at all. The OP, I assume has read all the old topics on this subject, and is still stuck. Rather than waste a lot of money (by UK standards) I think that if it was me, I'd be asking myself if I was really the person to do this. It will be uncomfortable to read in the press in a couple of years or so about the waste of money, or poor choices that were made now - and be the person the blame when it all goes wrong. "We were advised by a student who claimed to be knowledgable that this was the right euipment for our hard earnerd budget..." if (and when) this happens your name will be linked to it - so be very careful.





It may be time to close this topic. The mods will monitor it, and if it stalls where it is - it has run it's course, and we will shut it. So please don't just continue the circle if you post - please think before continuing.

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I'm not going to talk about not getting kit because you are at school (all schools will eventually buy this kind of kit, one day)


Make sure you budget for maintenance, talk about this with the manager. You may find the foundation is willing to fund something to cover that by adding a lesson or two on fixture maintenance. And even if they don't there will be a local company that will be happy to visit once a year. But all thats been said ;)


My main interest in the kit is actual choice. You need to look much more at things suited to theatre, the VL1000TS is one of the best theatrical type moving heads (and with external dimmer not that expensive for a VL) and does a very good job. But basically you should be looking at tungsten lamped moving heads with shutters as your first choice, although its not a hard and fast rule, just a rough guide to what you might see after school. And just because you have S4 SeaChangers doesn't exclude a good washlight. The reason for getting the washlight is its soft edge (and maybe beam shaping) not its CMY mixing, think long and hard before excluding them.


You may want to look at something like Clay Pakys new Alpha range, some very nice instruments, with the added selling point of having ACN already onboard, so in a couple of years when you leave or when the school gets round to upgrading its control they can really push to go straight to ACN.


Remember that if you are looking for these to be used in theatre productions they should be flexible, quiet units. Don't be afraid to only buy a very small number of fixtures, if nothing else it will teach you to make them work as hard as possible is shows (and love MagicQ's auto move when dark function ;) ) the one thing I noticed designers don't seem to do in America (at the risk of starting a huge argument :) ) that doesn't mean they need a thousand gobos, just to be able to a few things very well...


My list of requirements would probably go in this kind of order...



Colour mixing


Zoom (linear, not stepped)


indexing gobo's


And thats about it... everything else is needlessly increasing the price..


Oh and I should also mention that the VL1000 has an insane zoom on it, and is just about the only moving head out there with a gel slot on the front... I love them, although they can struggle against a 1k par wash for rock stuff, in tungsten form at least...

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while I agree with AndrewR in some ways however the vl1000 does have its downfalls - even basic maintenance of is very difficult, the unit is quite complicated in comparison to todays modular world. the colour mixing system, if you actually watch it roll in, is really quite splodgey ie rather than it being the colour across the whole beam it is an introduction of parts of the colour in different places across the field, hard to explain and simply my observation. I also feel for the money you simply dont get enough gobo for your money.


I must reccomend along with AndrewR the clay paky alfa wash series. if you have lots of profiles then why not go for a wash unit or 4. a big great big fat back light wash does wonders for all types of gig theatre or rock. if you do really have 500 s4s why more profiles. Back light RULES (or pipe ends).


buy for the art.

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  • 3 weeks later...


to me it sounds as if you are bound and determined to buy intelligent lighting but listen to the age of recent experience with use of intelligence in educational institutes... being I worked for a production company when it came time for me to do my senior thesis for the lighting design of our spring productions my boss didnt allow me to use moving fixtures being they are a good way to cheat in lighting... I had become to used to cheating my conventional washes and making up with intelligence until I had a difficult time doing a conventional show with color scrollers... now I believe high schools should NOT use intelligence... it is something that can be taken advantage of too easily and inhibits the creative mind of "old school" lighting... just remember there are really cool gobo effects to be made with conventionals...


peace and happy lighting

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