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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Stage, lighting and sound

    Hello All,

    Our parent's association is keen to sort us out some decent audio / visual equipment for the various school productions that go on during the year - school plays, nativity plays, end-of-term speeches, X-Factor style talent contests, etc. The budget is likly to be around £5,000 - £10,000 - we want to avoid having to hire equipmnt in. I'm thinking to set up a stage in the corner of our main hall - the area is currently used mainly as storage and, properly arranged, is a decent-sized area. We already have some wodden trestle staging which we can add to to make a full stage, we'll then need to add lights and sound.

    I've discussed in a couple of threads already about the various issues we've been having with sound, so now I need to consider lighting. My current plan is to set up the stage with a truss unit at the front and back that we can hang lighting off, and then have a central light fitting in our hall, also with lights. Are these kinds of things appropriate:

    4x Americandj Mega TRIPAR profile Cans with 4 x link leads | eBay

    LED-based stage lights with DMX controls? Are there any better / different lighting control systems around? I'm thinking of around 12 lights on the central fitting (3 pointing in each direction) and probably 6 on each of the front and back trusses on the stage. Does that sound like enough?

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    Andrew_C's Avatar
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    You have asked a question that comes up on The Blue Room almost every month.

    Have a read, especially in the FaQ. The question is huge, and the answer is almost always, "Install infrastructure first, get that right, then lights (NEVER movers) and sound. Hire extras if you can't do it all at once. Don't forget to budget for installation. Which, as you are hanging things over peoples heads, won't be cheap."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew_C View Post
    the answer is almost always, "Install infrastructure first, get that right, then lights (NEVER movers) and sound.
    After looking at the price of moving-head lights, I think I can understand that one. I'm currently thinking of around 30 slim PAR LED lamps:

    Products » SlimPAR

    From the power consumption given, I should be able to run all of them off one 13amp power supply

    Don't forget to budget for installation.
    We're setting the stage up in our main hall - a room with listed wooden panelling. This is all going to have be done as removeable equipment that we can pick up and move if needed.

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    Andrew_C's Avatar
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    Never mind the purchase price, maintenance and lamps are the real killer (apart form the programming time.)

    Can you get control and sound cables installed? Much easier and safer than running around the walls and across doorways etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew_C View Post
    You have asked a question that comes up on The Blue Room almost every month.

    Have a read, especially in the FaQ. The question is huge, and the answer is almost always, "Install infrastructure first, get that right, then lights (NEVER movers) and sound. Hire extras if you can't do it all at once. Don't forget to budget for installation. Which, as you are hanging things over peoples heads, won't be cheap."
    What he said - any reason why LED over generic fixtures?

    DMX is still standard and well suited to schools - artnet is another protocol but more expensive for small installs that don't need it.

    "school plays, nativity plays, end-of-term speeches" - you'l probably get a very reasonable system installed for 10k (on lighting anyway),
    "X-Factor style talent contests"... urm, not so sure you'll be able to achieve this.

    Another thing to think about is who will be servicing the equipment?

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    Talk to a lighting firm and get advise as well as your own research to blend ideas together. Get someone like Stage Electrics to come in and visit and look at the space and price it up.

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    dhicks (3rd July 2013)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew_C View Post
    Never mind the purchase price, maintenance and lamps are the real killer (apart form the programming time.)
    I got the impression that LED lights were lamp (and maintainence) free - is that not correct? I'll be the one maintaining them, I guess, with the caretakers helping me lug them around if needed.

    Can you get control and sound cables installed?
    No - the entire hall (walls and ceiling) is clad in white, listed panelling. The stage itself will be tucked into a corner of the room (the room is kind of parrelleogram-shaped rather than rectangular), and we can run cables and so forth under the staging with no problem.

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mjs_mjs View Post
    any reason why LED over generic fixtures?
    I got the impression (which could be wrong) that they would be low-maintainence, lower power consumption and less heat output - the current floodlights we use make the hall roasting hot.

    DMX is still standard and well suited to schools
    Right-oh. I can't run a control cable up to the ceiling fixture (power is there already as it's where the chandalier used to hang from). I see wireless DMX controllers are available for around £100 from eBay, has anyone used anything like that before?

    "X-Factor style talent contests"... urm, not so sure you'll be able to achieve this.
    We'll do the best we can. Our parents do tend to go a little over the top with this sort of thing - for the spring fundraiser we were worried that the power supply in the church hall wouldn't be up to powering the amount of equipment that was being used!

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    I got the impression (which could be wrong) that they would be low-maintainence, lower power consumption and less heat output - the current floodlights we use make the hall roasting hot.



    Right-oh. I can't run a control cable up to the ceiling fixture (power is there already as it's where the chandalier used to hang from). I see wireless DMX controllers are available for around £100 from eBay, has anyone used anything like that before?



    We'll do the best we can. Our parents do tend to go a little over the top with this sort of thing - for the spring fundraiser we were worried that the power supply in the church hall wouldn't be up to powering the amount of equipment that was being used!
    Well lower maintenance - yes if you buy decent = more expensive ones, lower power - yeah, less heat - yeah. If you buy cheaper ones such as those from cpc, more than likely you'll find one or two fail (I speak from experience), i've had good experience with some QTX based LED's and chuvet tripar I think.

    Wireless DMX is usually fine, just be aware of the actual frequency they use as some wifi can interfere with of some them. some have frequency swapping so they move frequency if interference interferes.

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    have a look at Prolight Concepts great as a stage wash, prolight also have a full range from light to sound kit

    LED is the way forward as its bright and cost next to nothing to run (about 10x less) 300w LED is as bright if not brighter than 3Kw of generic fixtures also no need for dimmers etc

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    Our hall has listed panelling too. The planners didn't stop us running cables behind it to sockets concealed behind covers.

    It really is the biggest improvement you can make. Saves SO much time!

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    LED-based stage lights with DMX controls?
    So, our plan currently seems to be to hang a dozen lights in the centre of the ceiling, replacing the current floodlights. This is about the only part of the hall we're allowed to drill holes in, so we'll be fitting a square of scaffolding to the ceiling to hang lights from. Once we've got it set up we don't want to have to touch it again, so I want some way of having teachers easily control the lights. I'm thinking of connecting the lights to a Raspberry Pi via a USB DMX interface, then making a web-based interface for light control, so all you have to do is open the web page on an iPad and select which light you want to be what colour. Is there already a solution to do this (I see there's a Raspberry Pi DMX control command-line utility, so that's okay)? How do I go about integrating those dozen lights with any we have running elsewhere in the hall - I don't supposed there's likly to be a handy web-based API anywhere for lighting control, is there?

    For picking up children's voices on a stage, am I right in thinking the best option is to have multiple small shotgun mics suspended above the stage? Would hanging them from a front-of-stage truss be okay, or would they need to be over the middle of the stage more (most performances should nearer the front of the stage, if anything)? How many mics would I need - would 3 be enough?

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    I know cost might be an issue but nothing beats radio mics actually being held by, or clipped to the performer. Children possibly won't create the level of volume required to be picked up by shotgun mics. If you can't afford them, even a couple of Shure PG58s and a receiver should be better than shotgun mics. Go for SM58s if you can, Much better clarity. and you don't need to have them constantly manned when the performer moves. Shotgun mics often fail if left in one place, as the performer moves about, and the level reaching each mic isn't sufficient for broadcast without feedback, as you have to turn them all up to 11 to get anything out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jallsop View Post
    Children possibly won't create the level of volume required to be picked up by shotgun mics.
    As an audio engineer who has worked with many children's performances I cannot disagree more; correct choice of microphone and correct placement along with knowing how to use a full parametric EQ on the channel means that you pick up the children's vocals nicely, without feedback and stage noise. Often it is unfeasable to have a choir of 30 all with lapel radio mics... let alone the cost involved and the issues of RF interferance and licensing.

    Quote Originally Posted by jallsop View Post
    If you can't afford them, even a couple of Shure PG58s and a receiver should be better than shotgun mics. Go for SM58s if you can, Much better clarity. and you don't need to have them constantly manned when the performer moves. Shotgun mics often fail if left in one place, as the performer moves about, and the level reaching each mic isn't sufficient for broadcast without feedback, as you have to turn them all up to 11 to get anything out.
    Again I cannot agree with this, shotguns correctly places along a stage can do wonders - Becky, an engineer i've worked with afew times is the FOH engineer for STOMP, she does the whole show using shotgun mics!!!

    Sorry to be negative, but Shotgun mics placed correctly are one of the correct choices for picking up a large or small ensemble. (If correctly placed you will never need to move a mic during a performance/show.)

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    For the room as I understood it, meant that cabling could be a problem, hence my suggestion of radio.
    I have never been 100% happy with shotgun mics, but then I have only ever used those previously set up by others, rather than ones I have set up.
    It does depend on the spread of use of the stage I suppose too. Most work I do is music based, with just a little spoken once or twice a year. We tried shotgun in our theatre, but felt it was not as good as individual mics, radio or otherwise. We also had a real problem with the fans from our Martin Macs, which we have on the stage sometimes.



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