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Ecotheatre and beyond


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Hi there


Just wanted to introduce myself. I am a journalist from the UK - If you read L&SI, Pro Sound News, Installation Europe or L&SA you may have come across my stuff.


I've recently started a new website to share information across the industry on improving energy efficiency in venues, on tours, and during events. I would be very interested in any contributions people want to make to the site, whether it be things they have done themselves or stuff you have heard about.


The idea is to share information on positive action that can be taken, recommend suppliers, products, advice, even create an eco-digs list for various towns and cities around the world. There is an area for Students and I am also trying to build up a book and research list.


I am also interested in transport - anything really that will help to make this industry the cleanest it can possibly be.


At the moment the site is in its infancy and has been funded entirely by myself so its development will be determined by how much I can afford. Sponsorship and any offers of help would of course very welcome!


I really do look forward to hearing from you and from being a member of this forum, together I think we really can make a difference and improve all our working lives.

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Welcome - I'm afraid I'm not really an eco-convert. Maybe just not got feeling for it. At home I try to be as eco-friendly as I can, recycling where possible, but at work - maybe not quite so. I put up with an electricity bill of around a grand a year, because I leave the computers on, the studio racks on and the other bits of kit - simply because they seem to be reliable this way, so I put up with the running costs. I use whatever kit will do the job best, I would certainly never consider an item because of it's impact on the environment. I'd use the right one for the job, and if that was the power hungry one - I wouldn't lose sleep.


Vehicle wise - oddly I've just come across something that did make me think. Luckins transport have been sitting outside the venue for a few days, and every time I walked past the curtained shut cab, the engine was running - this did make me think. However, I've driven in and out when I could have bussed or walked and again, didn't give it much thought.


I suppose eco-wise I'm a baddie - but I have started to object to this whole carbon footprint thing, even if I honestly don't quite understand it. I use multimap or similar to plan a route and it tells me the impact, carbon-footprint wise. I'm not going to feel guilty.


Compared with many, our industry seems fairly frugal - after all, we might have lots of lights, but they're rarely all on at once. As somebody self-employed, many of the eco schemes to me actually cost me money - and as I pay for them anyway, why should I pay more. I know that the minority usually pay for the majority, but money is tight and I don't see the sense in tweaking the way I do things, for minimal financial reward in this area, when I'm more worried about big issues. Eco, to me is something to do when I can, not a method of working by itself.


The article on the theatre trying to be eco-friendly (was this yours?) seemed on the surface a good move, but the real facts seemed to suggest it was less than claimed in some way?


tell us more.


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Chalk me up as another one for the bad side... I've left many kW of lighting rigs on at 20% overnight in damp or uncovered locations to keep them dry, run a hot-standby generator on critical gigs, consumed many tons of PVC tape and am not, despite what anyone tells me, about to put CFLs in my house - tungsten is just more pleasing to the eye, dimmable, and mighty straightforward too.


Energy will have to get a lot more expensive before this business does anything different - okay, there are a few 'green' festivals out there but that's in my view a marketing tool - anyone here been to a festival that, bio-diesel generators or no, didn't have loads of diesel-chugging plant going around the site, hundreds of trucks and vans delivering (and cars arriving with 1 punter each), and about fifty million plastic pint glasses everywhere? Free plastic ponchos?


I think there was a Radiohead tour a year or two ago that went mostly LED - it's just about viable for RnR to light in LED but good luck in theatre. And maybe they had to get a smaller genny - but I would doubt it really made that much difference.


I'm not trying to rubbish your efforts, sustainability is important to all of us - I recycle when I can, think separate waste collections are a great idea and would like to see my food come in less excessive packaging. But when at work, getting the best result for the lowest cost is how decisions are made - being 'green' only enters into it when necessary to sell tickets to 'green' folk in my experience, which is essentially an economic decision.


Do you think half as many people would recycle if it wasn't cheaper to have segregated waste collected than general waste (obviously there's a government subsidy involved)?

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So, I've been making a few small moves in this direction recently. Our blues and our worklights are all Par 38 fittings so we're experimenting with CFLs in those (especially the one's we never, ever turn off...). Probably more importantly, we're getting really keen on turning the theatre lights off (save the ghost light, of course) when there's one in there, even if it's just for an hour. We're also a bit better at not working under stage light when the worklights would do the job just as well. Finally, we try and open the blackout blinds more often during fitups - the natural light "feels" healthier, too!


The real killer for us is finding replacement golf-ball lamps for the dressing rooms. They seem to be harder and harder to find - and maintenance came and replaced a load with CFLs - they just couldn't understand that having tungsten in there was important to us!


It's all small stuff compared to the power consumption of the most modest lighting rig - but it's what we can do right now.

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I've just lit a show at the Arcola in Hackney who are working hard to make themselves into a green theatre, while some of their ideas don't work brilliantly (the LED equipment is a bit disco and doesn't dim very nicely, while the Flourescents give a nice light but snap on and off at around 2% and give funny colours while changing colour and fading up and down) but they have done a couple of very nice things:


- They have down lamped their Source 4's to 375w, since their grid is only at 3m they have no real need for the full whack of a 575 unit, and the 375w stuff is suprisingly bright, even when next to a 750w Source 4

- They have down lamped the Acclaim fresnels to 300w, again these work very well, although you have to re-consider your colour choice a bit as they have a much warmer colour temperature than the 650w units

- They have got some Selecon Aurials, which are 50w birdie type units, with an in-built transformer and a 'beamshaper' (lens and shutters to you and me) on the front, these are good as they are very small and can be tucked in around the set, and they are suprisingly bright, however they are really designed as architectural units and so focusing them is a pain and they don't lock off very well.


I think the above are probably some of the best ways to go - looking at whether you need the full brightness for all the lights you have and down-lamping where possible. The next step for them is to down-lamp their Par 64's to CP88 and they will be away.


I'm not a fan of LED for theatre, gave it a go but you just can't fade it or get a good intensity, however I can see where it would work for music/R&R, Flourescent has it's benefits but again the snap on/off is a problem.

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Guest lightnix
I'm not a fan of LED for theatre, gave it a go but you just can't fade it or get a good intensity...

That depends on how you use them and which systems :D PM me for further info.

White LED luminaires for general stage illumination are feasible, although it's the small size of the market which (IMO) is partly delaying their arrival.

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Ok then I was going to start a new thread on this but...

This company featured in L&SI in November for their new LED Fresnel.


I am currently helping a local Church install a basic lighting rig, for a total budget of £1,000. The Unistrut install to rig the lights is in place, and 2 P123 fresnels currently light the Dais very well. They asked me to consider other Eco ways of running the lights. I said that there will come a time when LEDs will be in stage lights.

I have shown them the L&SI article, and we have looked at the site, but the cost of each light is too much compared to their budget. They will look at it again in a few years.


I try and keep things off - computers can cost up to £30 each a year to run all day everyday I am told.

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name='ecotheatre' date='28 Nov 2008, 9:41 AM' post='263093']

anything really that will help to make this industry the cleanest it can possibly be.


Some thing that I’ve noticed, but never said anything about as it might be seen as "sad" is the lighting to the front of some west end theatres. I noticed when walking past the Shaftsbury one Sunday afternoon that all there architectural lighting as well as all the golf balls round the signs where on in full daylight. blue HQIs don’t make much impact agenised the sun!

Surely a timer would help here? This seems to be the same for a lot of west end theatres.

Just a thought!


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Whilst I try to do my bit at home (CFL's & LED's), I find it very hard to do so at work as the building is open for 16 hours a day(we are a college with two venues). The venues when not in use are kept "dark" unless we're working in them, which at the moment we are.


I've tried to introduce a "turn the lights off" policy but unfortunatley not everyone follows this.


In other instances where I've been involved in productions outside of work, a few places have tried to go down the Eco route and found problems as mentioned above by other posters.

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There's no doubt at all in my mind that the industry as a whole will gradually be looking at more energy efficient ways of doing what they do. Lighting manufacturers such as ETC (Source 4), Selecon, and Martin are all producing versions of their fixtures that take advantage of low voltage lamps, and more companies will soon be following suit as they chase that green dollar. As LED technology improves, and we designers learn how best to make use of the various new units at our disposal, it won't be long before we get used to integrating them into our design just as moving fixtures – once only to be found in the realm of rock gigs, have found a place in theatre. It's just a matter of time. Sure, they're not there yet, but as someone who worked with LED miniatures five years ago, and helped create work that was dependent on their use, the leaps forward have been startling – imagine what'll be available to us in another 5-10 years. New builds and redevelopments will have to seriously consider power consumption, as it could mean the difference between survival or going under. Electricity is going to become a far more valuable commodity that we now deem it to be. Most theatre technicians don't come close to an electricity bill for the venue they work at. Were a venue to decree that they were going to 'clamp off' or set a weekly consumption limit, and your contract made specific reference to this – you'd guarantee a change of perspective fairly quickly, especially if your job was potentially on the line. We've all wasted in the past, I've dropped in fully laden grids on at full to dry stages after painting, and I hate to think how many megawatts are consumed by fully lit but empty auditoriums in this country over the course of the average year. But a change is gonna come, and I for one applaud those companies and venues that are bravely taking the eco path, regardless of whether the technology is quite in place – someone has to take a lead, and it's often the case that it's through their research (and mistakes!) that the rest of us are able to follow with confidence. Revolutions don't often occur overnight, but you only have to look at the advances that many of us have seen since we started in the industry to know that the years ahead will hold many innovations and surprises
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Our blues and our worklights are all Par 38 fittings so we're experimenting with CFLs in those


I take back what I said about CFLs being useless - they'd probably do quite well as blues...

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Every time we've bought new lighting for the last few years we've gone for more energy-efficient alternatives: we replaced our 1kW Harmony profiles FOH for Source 4s lamped down to 575w and they're brighter; when we needed new fresnels for our studio we bought Parnels meaning we get the same brightness at 750w that we used to get at 1000w; when we wanted new battens for footlights etc we went for LED battens; when the backstage corridor lights (60w BCs in a circular fitting) come to the end of their life (and they're starting to go one at a time at the moment) we're replacing them with 2D equivalents at 18w. All of this achieves a reduction in power usage without there being any problems at all. It will be a gradual process but we're on the right track.


More importantly, we recently realised that we heat the theatres (2 in one building) every evening, of course, but on those days there isn't a show on we all go home at 6.30ish and continue to heat the place for several more hours. We're now installing a switch we can trigger when we leave to turn off the central heating until the next time it would automatically trigger to turn back on. Very easy and will save a significant amount of gas over the year. Saving gas, of course, is equally as important as saving electricity.

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We're doing much the same, but at the same time considering a wholesale replacement of really old kit. In addition to the primary savings, we will save it all over again in Air Conn savings. (Depending on the time of year etc)


One thing I have already done is to put push button time switches on the mirror lights, 25 mins per press. Again, saving about 750W, and A/C again.

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Disposal of the CFL lamps as they reach the end of their life is something you need to think about. Waste collection of these costs a bit more, but can be majority recycled/chemicals recovered.


Again, in one of my previous theatres, we over the course of one year, replaced all non-dimming tungsten lamps FOH - bars, stairs, foyer with CFL replacements. To begin with the areas were brighter, and cut power use by those areas in more than half. These areas are illuminated 0800-2300 every day, and the energy drop was noticeable.


There was no increase in spend, nor specific finance allcated to make this change, out of a monthly lamp budget of £300 which included stage and building lamp purchases, we stayed within budget throughout the year we did this, and the savings the following year were again significant, as each lamp has a much longer life expectancy.


One area that was very obvious was the CP88 units lighting a FOH bar. These were feature uplighting on a glass wall in colours. High temperature colour was replaced on a monthly basis, costing £90 a roll, using two or more rolls a year. The lamps were burning out very quickly, possibly due to pointing upwards and being on for long periods. These were either £15 or £19 each. £1200 was spent on LED colour changing pars (cheap ones, approx £100 each) They worked really well, as they did not replace area lighting, and paid for themselves in the lamp savings alone within their first year. Even if these low price units only last three years, which was expected at the worst case, then they have paid for themselves twice over without regarding energy savings or what is no longer spent in man hours cutting and fitting colour, or buying colour for that matter. Special dispensation was made to buy these, but we had to show the drop in lamp spend as an immediate benefit.


Industrial waste is one area we as an industry really need to look into further. We separate 'recyclables' from non recyclabe on site at work, where the recyclable skip is then taken away for further sorting. It is a start, but every theatre will have a large wheeled skip full of mixed waste after a load out, if not more. Wood, paper, plastic, metal can all be separated for recycling, how many of us even think about that. How much of that wheeled skip is those four streams?


Scandinavian companies use little friction based tie straps to hold cables onto trusses and bars, and to strap everything together. We tend to use LX tape. The little fabric straps are more secure and infintley re-usable, Why have we not explored this avenue further? Would over two years, or maybe three, the outlay on straps not outweigh the spend on single use tape? Clearly some tape use would be retained (flying deads, repairs, etc) but a lot of tape use could be stopped by use of these straps. I know some tours use sash cord on looms, which is one step toward saving money and resources.


Certain conference carpet types are recyclable - not reusable, they are destroyed into fibres and something done with them, but not all. Is there a more resource friendly way to fix this carpet than double sided tape - can the tape be made from recyclabe materials? Can gaffer tapes be made from a recyclabe commodity, use of a digesting chemical to break the adhesive off the fabrics could be an idea, or an organic medium that is easily compostable?


How possible is it for theatre tours to be moved via intermodal transport (shipping containers)? Near major population centres there are transhipment yards that move containers from Truck to Train. Could the train do the long haul of the show move, with the final 20 miles at each end being on truck? These trains are electrically powered. This may be seen as a step backward, but has anyone explored it?

Saying that, HGV engines are continually being engineered to run cleaner and leaner, with technology such as exhaust gas recirculation and selective catalytic reduction bringing pollutant levels down in exhaust gas, although the chemical additive for SCR is not without it's own problems.


I'll stop now, but hopefully I have given some food for thought....

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