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Suggestions for LED stage lights for school


Hockeybod
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It's time to think about replacing the old stage lighting for a school hall with LED lights. The stage is used for around six productions a year so not heavily used. We have:

  • 10m wide proscenium-type stage
  • Two full-width lighting bars in front and two behind the proscenium arch, internally wired with 15A sockets
  • 24-channel Zero88 Jester which I understand 
  • won't run LEDs but it means we already have DMX cabling from the booth to the stage.
  • A small budget!

Any suggestions would be welcome, including 'don't buys'! I've attached a picture, best one I could find without going there specially.

  •  3A2A4724.jpg
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What mix of lanterns are you looking for? Fresnels, profiles, PAR can replacements, maybe a mix of all of these, or others?

You'll need to budget for something to control them, too. That could be an existing PC/laptop with a dongle running free software, or a console. 

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There are infrastructure costs too: DMX cabling and hard power to the rig points used.

What lights do you have at the moment and are you looking to replace effectively one for one?

I’m a bit sceptical about this type of refit. I’d expect to keep the best conventional and augment rather than replace with LED. With the likely budget the LED fixtures available will not match the optical abilities of existing fresnels and profiles and not the brightness of the parcans I see in the picture. 

To make a LED replacement acceptable a reasonably substantial budget (several thousand) will be required.

Edited by kgallen
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Thanks for the advice - the current budget is nil! I'm looking for a ballpark figure to see whether we need to apply for a grant towards the cost and hence what our options might be.

I do sound and confess I know very little about lighting. My Dad did professional stage lighting (I remember him telling me about Sunset dimmers) and must be turning in his grave 😔

We have DMX cabling in place running two banks of Zero88 Betapack 3 dimmers. A new desk is definitely needed, but how much of the old installation might be re-used, for example the 15A cabling to the lighting rails?

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I think you'll probably be best served by getting either a consultant or one of the install companies in. There's some work to be done here, and you've already said you don't have a lot of knowledge in the area.

You probably want a quantity of profiles for the FOH bars (or maybe some good fresnels - certainly not LED PARs!), and a quantity of washlights for onstage (maybe some battens if you use a cyc at all). It sounds like you'll then need circuits converting to hot power and DMX cabling and distribution installing. That's a project, not buying some units from a box shifting company and installing them.

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If the present system is working and you have no pressing need to refit I'd be very much inclined to go along with kgallen's advice above. There is nothing magic about LED it is just lighting. If you can still get the spares for what you have and it does what you want and you have no money it seems obvious to me that sticking with what you have might be best. After all none of this gear has done a lot of work by the sound of it, except for power consumption it is almost certainly greener than a lot of imported LED stuff and you can repair it with a set of simple tools and a bit of nous.  

Edited by Junior8
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More good advice, thanks. I'm coming round to the same conclusion - what are we gaining from switching to LED? There's plenty of used halogen lighting out there if some of ours don't survive PAT, and we already have more lights than we really need or use. What we really need is expertise, not more kit!

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1 hour ago, Hockeybod said:

 we already have more lights than we really need or use. What we really need is expertise, not more kit!

I love it when someone sees the real solution to a problem.

All too often school lighting ends up in the hands of the 'goto person for everything with a plug' which is commonly the most savvy IT person or the caretaker because he is the man who changes bulbs.

 

I help out with 2 AmDrams and most of the fitting are old (some 50+years) there are conversations about changing to LED to 'save money'.

New LED fittings say 30 at £200 = £6000

Cost of running old fittings; assume 10KW for 5 hours (far too generous) each for dress rehearsal and show 4 times per year = 200KWh at 25p = £50 (in reallity this is far too generous). £6000/£50 = 120 years!

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45 minutes ago, sunray said:

'goto person for everything with a plug'

That's me! I don't even work for the school but my youth theatre group uses the hall for its productions and theatre tech is something I'm interested in. Both the school and my group benefit from any improvements.

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2 hours ago, kerry davies said:

Hi, David, welcome to BR. My two pennorth is that fixing stuff that ain't broke threatens my idleness and buying stuff when a damned good clean results in better than I can afford to buy is a no-brainer.

ERK don't get started on dirty lights.

One of my groups did a murder mystery play just before lockdown, a member of the audience approaced and asked if we could do it for her club in their hall. Their hall had a reasonable set of lights but on mechanical dimmers (Strand J8 style), however the lights were dirty. As I had scenes programmed into my desk I rigged my/our lights. and a comparison between similar products (patt23) soon showed the need for a clean. One of their patt123's had a massive cobweb between the lens and empty gel frame which I moved with a screwdriver to show  their 'technician' this was a thick matted lump but he couldn't understand the problem.

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17 hours ago, Hockeybod said:

There's plenty of used halogen lighting out there if some of ours don't survive PAT,

14 hours ago, Hockeybod said:

'goto person for everything with a plug' That's me! 

With conventional halogen lighting there's very little to fail PAT, there's only really damaged/deteriorated cable and lampholder. Someone competent with a screwdriver and electrical wiring (which sounds like you might be) will be able to keep them going almost indefinately and passing PAT. The only thing stopping that is possible lack of replacement lamp holders - or physical damage to the lantern body.

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I took out and repaired all the ones that would clearly fail visual inspection, mostly because the outer insulation was torn. Some others have rubber outer insulation which I suspect has deteriorated with age. I'll see what PAT throws up, but expect I'm going to be in the market for some new silicone 180deg cable.

Does anyone remember the Sunset dimmers my Dad used to talk about? I seem to recall something about water cooling and hearing them sizzle. He was thrilled when the am-dram group upgraded to a new solid-state system, must be 45 years ago.

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40 minutes ago, Hockeybod said:

Does anyone remember the Sunset dimmers my Dad used to talk about? I seem to recall something about water cooling and hearing them sizzle. He was thrilled when the am-dram group upgraded to a new solid-state system, must be 45 years ago.

See https://www.theatrecrafts.com/bhc/equipment/strand-resistance-dimmers-type-d

Most of the makers produced a similar style of dimmer as they could be mounted directly behind the switchboard and operated by a linkage.  They would certainly have run warm under load. They went on in production far later than you'd think. 

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