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Stage Lighting?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Jeb, Jul 25, 2004.


  1. Jeb

    Jeb

    Jul 22, 2001
    USA
    3 piece country and some classic rock. Small to medium venues, with sound controlled from the stage.

    Whats the simplest and most affordable method for some basic stage lighting. I'm thinking a four can tree on each side of the stage. How much would I have to reasonably spend and where to look for killer deals?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Simple? Here's my recommendation:

    Mount 4 cans to a light bar plus a dimmer pack (x2 - one of these assemblies for each side of the stage). That way, you only have to run one power and one control to each side of the stage.

    Buy a simple programmable controller and program 3 'scenes', one 'chase' and 'blackout'.

    Done - once programmed, it is simple setup, teardown, simple to run from stage with your toe.
     
  3. Jeb

    Jeb

    Jul 22, 2001
    USA
    Thanks for the reply, sounds practical enough.

    Is there a complete "kit" available made up of the hardware components that you mentioned? Where to look and how much would I have to invest? Remember, I'm not interested in any kind of extravagance, I just want luminate the stage with the least hassle, hardware and expense.

    Thanks.
     
  4. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    American DJ makes a 4 outlet dimmer pack for about $99 each, which has 20 or so chase patterns, and is linkable via a standard XLR cable, has a simple twobutton footswitch, one for blackout, the other for rotation through the patters.

    I'd suggest you choose the pattern that always has three of the four lights on at a time (per side), and it rotates every 6 seconds or so, so that's there's some "movement" in the color changes, but you always have at least 3 lights on a side so you're not ever in too much dark. Simple, cheap, effective.
     
  5. xush

    xush

    Jul 4, 2001
    mobile AL
    I've been wondering about the same stuff lately- good thread...I'll be watching.
    We made some cans out of PVC with floor stands that tilt them up a bit, but we need some kind of spot-type setup too.
     
  6. Jeb

    Jeb

    Jul 22, 2001
    USA
    I've surfed American DJ and Ebay and the more I look, the more questions I have. I'll be looking at my local music store this week.

    I'm assuming that a "controller" and a "dimmer pack" are the same thing?

    Can you run 8 cans off of 1 four channel "dimmer pack controller" if it has double outputs (eight sockets)? Other than cans, stands and cable, is this all I need?

    Sorry, I'm no expert on this technical stuff, I just play bass.

    Thanks!
     
  7. They certainly don't make it very obvious, do they?

    A controller MAY have built-in relays or dimmer packs with outlets to plug in a few lights. (kinda like an integrated amp) but I think most high-end controllers just control. They in turn command either separate relays (for straight on/off operation, such as turning a fog machine on or off) or separate dimmer packs (to dim the lights as well as turn them on or off).

    I have searched the 'net for some time to find a good comprehensive guide to this kinda stuff but to no avail.
     
  8. pbd

    pbd Commercial User

    Jul 17, 2003
    Metro Detroit
    owner Procables N Sound
    I have had a lot of experience in this area working professional theatre and consulting for 20+ years. The controller is kind of like a sound board, it will operate what you put into it. There can be two kinds, analog (AMX) or Digital (DMX). The Dmx can be run with XLR mic cables if the runs are short. You would control the dimmer packs with the mic cable to the controller. The dimmer packs come in all shapes. The popular ones mount to the lighting tree and usually have 4 channels. The dimmer pack should say DMX to go along with your DMX board. Some of the packs have dip switches so you can change the "address" of each channel. For example, channel one on tree one can be programmed to be the same as channel 1 on tree 2 or different. Each pack is labeled for it's wattage per channel. If your cans are 500 watts and each channel will handle 800 then you can only plug in one light. OR you could plug in more and not be able to turn them up all the way. Here's a link to Pro Sound and Stage Lighting. It has lots of cool stuff but this is linked to their kits. http://www.pssl.com/bsearchresults....&int_Ordersdir=as&uid=2004072913271753&max=10
    We also use intelligent lights as solo/spot lights and to add movement to the stage. They usually require a larger controller/board to operate the better ones.

    Here's a little trick to help with color on your stage using minimal lighting. Diagonally cut your gel color then tape it to another cut piece. Place this in the light and it will give you the benefit of the two colors. If possible never light with white. They sell many light colors to take the edge off you and your gear while allowing a lot of light through.

    Please let me know if I can be of more help.
     
  9. RicPlaya

    RicPlaya

    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    Lights sometimes cause interference with your gear and sound system if they are on the same circut. Check the outlets at the bar...sometimes less is more, we learned the hard way!
     
  10. Jeb

    Jeb

    Jul 22, 2001
    USA
    I appreciate, and have took note of, the comments made here but I'm not prepared to invest more than a few hundred bucks in this endeavor. I have a pair of '4 par38s and T bars' on the way.

    American DJ T4 and Chauvet SF-4005 appear to be 2 different brands of the same bare bones "set it and forget it" controllers that will meet my current 'low budget' requirement. Any one have experience with either?

    Thanks again.
     
  11. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    PBD said:
    "If possible never light with white. They sell many light colors to take the edge off you and your gear while allowing a lot of light through."

    I think this is touches on an important consideration for those less familiar with the technical aspects of lighting.

    Big-time concerts use deep, rich, intense colors on stage, but to do this they use many tens of thousands of watts of bulb to end up only getting ONE or two thousand worth on each musician on stage. When it comes to stage FLOOD, forget it! Just forget it - the intense-color thing simply doesn't work without enough power behind it (in case you'r wondering what 'enough' maybe is: if you aren't forced to use a special power tap into the club mains, then no-way) - it's a waste of money. If you look at the transmittance charts for the different gels, and remember that the 'area under the curve' is the proportion of the bulb light that's getting through (you don't have to understand the frequency spectrum or anything), you'll see that for those deep colors, almost ALL of the 'white' light is getting completely burned-up and wasted in the gel.

    I guess my main point is that what puts across that 'big-time concert lighting'-look is BRIGHT (even if it's just white - well, a light 'fleshtone' or whatever) more than 'deep colors'. So because of that, to get the most out of your budget, keep the gels VERY light, and keep those lights tight on each musician - whether it be using a tight spot pattern, or putting the lights right on top of'em!

    I see alot of smaller bands using almost all backlighting - I mean hardly ANY light on the front of the musicians. This isn't the worst idea, really, depending on what you want to put across. It seems to me that it's mainly kind of phsycological, but bright is bright, even if it's just 'cheating' by literally just shining light in people's faces from the stage. That allows you to use the deep gels (in fact you almost HAVE to when they're shining right in peoples eyes!) Then you also get that surreal hair and edge lighting on the musicians.

    So in a nutshell, I guess: If you have to have intense colors, put'em in the back, glinting right into the audience's eyes (but remember, this'll make your front lights seem even dimmer!), and keep front lights lightly-filtered and right on top'of'em!

    OK, I suppose one thing you could do is illuminate just one face alone with a spot that's just two feet from their face - an 'outlaw country' band I used to be with would do that with their fiddle player (the LIGHT-guy would, I mean - I was the Audio tech), but it was a 1000W par attached to the speaker stack, and he'd step over to within two or three feet of it for the part where that effect was used. (he was a great one for oblique low/back/side light, because he'd tear-up his bows, and leave the hairs flingin' around - it looked great! The chicks were just falling at this guy's feet - I dunno.)

    Hope I've been of some help,

    Joe
     
  12. pbd

    pbd Commercial User

    Jul 17, 2003
    Metro Detroit
    owner Procables N Sound
    Good post Joe. Along these same lines position does make a difference. When lighting is all from one direction you will lose depth perception of the performers. Back and front lighting together will cause the performers to "pop" out. 45 degree angles from the front of the stage area will help 'surround' the performers also.

    Chase lighting is a great tool but you shouldn't use it for the entire show, it gets monotonous. instead use two different light colors that you can bring up separately on your board. These 'washes' can be used blended or separate for effects during and between songs. They can also be chased.

    Another effect would be 'kickers'. place a fixture mounted to a board in front of each performers area and use this for brightening them. It's a neat effect, kind of like the flashlight under your chin. But once again, don't use just white. They sell gels that look almost white but they actually do a lot of work cutting harshness out of your appearance.
     
  13. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Alexandria,VA
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Thanks for all the lighting tips thus far. I have some other questions.

    How about effects lighting? Do the Moonflowers, gobo's, lasers, etc. make much difference on the mood of the stage/dance floor? If so, what are some effective and/or essential effects?
     
  14. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Thanks, pbd -

    I've always been interested in lighting, but audio is my specialty (and I'm a bass player, obviously!), so when there's only a certain amount of money to go around, I go for the sound. The little 'power trio' band I'm with now usually runs three ellipsoidals - one for each of us; fleshtone gels, and we leave'em on (no controllers). I told the guys that if they invest anything more in lights before we get some decent bass bins on the sound system, I'll be pissed!

    ...but when I used to travel on the road as a 'live producer' (yes - a 'soundman', but there are SO many TERRIBLE soundmen out there; NO production, missing every cue, NO fader riding, don't even know how to set up compression, etc. Don't even get me started...) I always got involved with the lighting tech. In fact in two cases I convinced bands to try fairly newbie light guys (guys that I knew) and then trained them pretty much from the ground up - and being their mentors and bosses (and the guy that gave them the opportunity to forever be able to say that they 'toured with a band'), it was pretty much MY light show. Pretty cool time those were, 1979-1984. One 'Hard Rock' band - Monarch - had a light-guy AND a follow spot operator - there were also plenty of bad follow spot operators around, but I had this guy doing very smooth, professional work (you know: like 'anchoring' the left edge of the disk while he pans and enlarges the beam to include two musicians, and then without stopping the pan, he'd anchor the right side of the disk in one place while narrowing the beam agian down to the just the guy on the right. He got good at that. He could just quickly jump from performer to performer doing that, and talk about leading the audience's eyes around the stage - in the palm of his hand!).

    You know what's the simplest thing that looks SO cool? I used to work audio with a smaller local band just a few years ago. What we'd do is put a little cluster of two or three pin spots somewhere on the stage (usually just to the side of the singer - he just did vocal and harp), and he'd stand step under them at times, and tilt the angle of his head around (he knew what to do by just watching in a mirror held up in front of him for a while a couple times for practice) while he sang - sort of along with the words he was saying. This was so cheap and simple, and ablolutely psychodelic! you could just sort of leave the lights on for the whole song, and no one noticed them much until he stepped under them (like for a couple Doors songs), and then, with a different colored gel on each lamp - MAN!

    Joe
     
  15. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    I've got a very recent local band story for ya, Jive:

    Band bought a bubble machine, used it at a gig; girl slips on bubble residue and breaks her wrist; she sues the band, and wins medical cost and like 'neglegance' money or whatever for suffering - from the BAND, not the club. They're bummin.

    Go for that schmultz if you want (I'd just go for better main lights - like ellipsoidals, or fresnels at least, instead of pars), but I'd stay away from the bubbles.

    Joe
     
  16. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Alexandria,VA
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    I'm not going for the bubbles, foam, confetti, or other liabilities. Maybe a fog machine, but not until I'm sure it won't set of any fire alarms or sprinkler system.

    I just mean effects lighting, like Moonflowers, line dancers, etc.
     
  17. jondog

    jondog

    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    One thing I've found is it doesn't take much. A simple system adds a lot, and if you get too complex then you really increase your setup/teardown time. Here's my whole lighting inventory . . .
    - 4 par 38s w/ clamps
    - 4 Starburst multi-lens chaser thingys
    - 1 T-Bar stand
    - 1 GrooveWheel effect light
    - 4 Strobes w/ single footswitch

    It is too much for most of the bars we play, any place that is bigger has their own lighting. For smaller places, I just clamp the par cans to speaker stands or the tv hanger or whatever and point them different directions.

    For medium places I'll add the Starburst chasers on the T-Bar and just leave them on random the whole time. My drummer has a smoke machine that makes them look much cooler. One problem I have is with the Groovewheel -- it's a very cool psychedelic swirl, but it needs a lot of distance to make the projected image very big. There is rarely a safe place at the back to clamp it up and project it on us.

    When I'm going all out, like for holiday shows, I'll set up the whole deal. It's essential to have footcontrol on strobes, they get annoying fast so must be used only at key moments. I got a $5 Xmas light footswitch at Home Depot for this and it works great because they are relatively low power -- do not use a cheap switcher for powerful lights or you will fry something.

    I prefer deeper/richer colors, like red and purple. I've found that too many yellows make everything too bright -- many bar-goers like dancing in the dark because it increases the romance etc. Green makes people look ill.

    Lights suck a lot of juice, put them on a different circuit from the sound gear if at all possible. If not possible, re-evaluate how many lights you need. My chasers have messed with our digital sound board and edrums on several occasions (the board's Furman shows the level dip at every flash), so at the first sign of trouble they get turned off, and of course the setup/breakdown time is wasted. Deeper colors like purple take more wattage to get the same level of light as brighter colors. Par 38 cans just have a regular household sized bulb socket -- I've found bulbs up to 250W in dept. stores, you can go even higher if you look for photography bulbs but they have a shorter lifespan.

    Sometimes I have difficulty because the bar isn't dark enough to make the lights stand out. One place we play has huge windows that let the streetlights stream in, they're tough to compete with.

    I haven't used them, but www.cheaplights.com looks like they have some good deals.

    And that's all I know about lighting! :hyper:
     
  18. pbd

    pbd Commercial User

    Jul 17, 2003
    Metro Detroit
    owner Procables N Sound
    Sounds like you guys are getting some good effects for little money. Our band, which I run sound/lights for, has 8 par 38's and two intelligents. I think they're dynamo or something like that. We paid about $600 a piece but they do everything. They need 6 channels on the DMX controller- X axis, Y axis, shutter, speed, gobo, color. The lights can run separate or together. They'll strobe, chase, color cycle. We have some simple programs we put into the board to run chases, washes and effects. When focussed correctly they will act as audience kickers and as backlight for the speaker or lead singer. They hang anywhere and plug into any A/C. A DMX signal runs to it right from the stage snake. Because the signal is digital there are no crosstalk problems. So setup is pretty quick. We setup our show and have lights and sound in an hour. We tweak after that. Working professional theatre helps in planning quick in's and out's.
    The wiggly's we use are 550 watt by the way but they're halogen which makes them appear to be about 1K.

    Joe P it sounds like you got to do a lot of live stuff. I did too, Rigging, spot, lighting, sound, stage hand etc. Makes you well rounded! :hyper:

    Jive1- anytime you can add movement, not necessarily frenetic chases, but things changing on stage, it's good.
    You'll end up looking at setup time, cost, power consumption, abitlity to run the devices. Basically all of Jondog's suggestions! Good post Jondog! Sometimes these lights can also help to draw the audience into the stage by including them in the focus. Or enhancing their dancing area.

    Lighting gets shuffled to the back most of the time because to do it right you need 400amps of 3 phase power or more! I think the small DJ style lights that are available now offer a lot to small bands and the halogen technology has come a long way! You can have the equivalent of 4K watts of lights but only consume the energy for 2K! it's awesome!

    OOps! sorry for the long post guys. Hope some of it helps.
     
  19. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Alexandria,VA
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Thanks for the advice JonDog and PBD.

    Do you have any particular effects lighting that you recommend? I'm looking for practical, cost efficient, and cool looking. Are there any effects that you should avoid, or find impractical for most situations?

    I probably won't use DMX, just a sound activated light should suffice. I already run the sound for the band and adding lights to the task mix will probably hurt my bass playing.

    I'm glad this thread appeared because I'm looking to add some lighting to improve the overall quality of gigs, and to justify higher pay for gigs. I know about sound, but lighting is an entirely new game for me. Thanks thus far.
     
  20. jondog

    jondog

    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    I'm not familiar with a lot of special effect lighting. A smoke machine will make most lights look cooler and will not set off fire alarms. As far as cost, check the B Stock page on the link I posted. You can also buy used lighting gear off of ebay, criagslist, and the other usual gear sources.