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As many of you know we just lit the 17th Annual Column Awards at the Granville Arts Center in Garland, Texas. The tech process was a little grueling to say the least. The Granville is a seriously busy touring house that also houses several local arts groups so time was never on our side. We were limited on load in to one night from 7pm to 11pm which with over thirty moving lights and over thirty other intelligent fixtures, a four hour load in was seriously pushing it as far as time goes.

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The rest of the week we had one night of rehearsals for 10 musical numbers plus one night for special numbers plus the opening dance sequence. Luckily for us I’ve been doing this a long time and have serious knowledge of the board and the lights we were using. We were able to pull off a good show for the limited time that we had.

What should a producer think about then, well let me give you some insight on it. When you as a producer decides to build a production be smart about time. Figure out the best way to get it done. This means look at your load in, your tech time, and finalizing the process. Load in cost includes the rental space plus the labor. Now I’ve done shows where the producer offers people to help to save money. Here’s the thing about that, the inexperienced labor will generally double the time to load in because they don’t know what they are doing. So like with the Column Awards, a 4 hour load in took almost eight hours due to the fact that I had to go back and fix everything that was done wrong. This personally is more of a waist of money due to the fact that those extra 4 hours which could have been spent programming was lost which could have an impact on how your show looks.

Cost is always a factor but your tech time is imperative. I was talking to one of my friends that was out with Bon Jovi and the tech process for integrating the video alone was a four month process for eight songs. Video is another beast we can talk about later but moving lights are just as labor intensive to use. The shows I build are extremely lighting intensive as far as integration goes. I build lights in a song to A. go with the music, B. light the talent, and C. flow with the choreography. The movement of the lights for me must flow and follow the actors choreography which entails building an extensive focus palette library for your convenience. It also means you have to have the time to build effects that go along with whats happening on stage. So as far as time goes what should a producer think about. Remember each song can take up to four hours of programming depending on the intricacy of the number. So if your show has ten numbers plan on 40 hours of programming time. This seems like a lot right? Well that number is most likely going to be smaller due to the fact that as you go along you will build focus, beam, and color palettes as you go along which you will use in other numbers making your cueing time a little smaller.

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Sticking with time here is my most important thing that I can’t stress enough. Give your designer the time to clean up his work. There are too many shows that rent spaces and don’t want to pay for a full day mid week to give the designer the chance to fix and finish. This is the time that I sit with video from the rehearsals and fine tune the show I’m doing. A1 most important thing for a designer. If you restrict your designer to only working during rehearsal time you’ve tied his hands and most likely you wont be impressed with the final product. Plan on paying for a full day for your designer so they can make your show the best it can be.

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You Get What You Pay For. I love when a producer comes to me with a plan, we discuss what they want, I quote them a price, they think it’s too high and they hire a less experienced designer to save money. Meanwhile they sit and complain that the show looks bad and don’t understand why. YGWYPF. The designer you pick will come with everything they’ve done before. I travel with a flash drive and some disks that have just about every show I’ve ever done on them. I can import effects from past shows or even remount a show that I had done over the past 20 years. Pick a designer that’s appropriate for what you’re doing. My background is theatre but I toured doing concerts for years so my lighting is usually more music based. That doesn’t mean I wont do a play but it does mean that I’m not going to be the best person to do a non musical. I use a ton of saturated colors and I usually do plots that are unorthodox or very abstract. I trained under Tom Skelton who was extremely strong in dance lighting and a lot of my lighting will reflect that. (Stanley McCandless my ass) It’s not going to work out well for you or the designer if you throw them into a show that doesn’t fit the way they design. Now Lighting Designers are whores so we’ll take anything you give us but that doesn’t mean it will turn out well.

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The integration of video along with lighting means more time. Plus it means being prepared to do it. Let your designer know that there will be projections and let them know what projector your using. In my past dealings with video the smaller shows tend to not have the budget to get a projector to compete with the stage lighting so the designer has to become creative in how to make both work together. We just recently did a concert where they used a heavy amount of projections which for that venue meant we had to refocus their entire plot. The space was narrow and their house plot consisted of either front light or back light which washed out the projections like mad so we had to make a side light system to avoid hitting the cyc. Talk to your designers early to have a game plan and schedule enough time to fix what needs fixing. Just because there’s a house plot doesn’t mean it will work with your show.

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Get your designer what he needs. This doesn’t really apply to the majority of theatres around. I mean most theatres have purchased a light board and lights that they are expecting the designer to use. Most of us will work around that with minimal complaints. But if your building a touring show listen to your designers needs. I like the Jands Vista board for concerts as well as the Hog 4 or Avolites Sapphire Touch. For theatre I prefer the ETC EOS or ION due to ease of use for a board op. Every designer is going to have a different preference. Remember what I said earlier about the designer comes with his past. Well I always request a Jands Vista board so when I get there all I have to do is load my last show and it has every effect I’ve ever written on that board which in turn makes it easier to do bigger shows.

12778665_10156584825555305_7460656429512086884_o So there it is my little blog about making a show. Remember the entire production team is there to make the best show possible but it starts at the top. Make it easy on your design team and you’ll smile all the way to the awards show.

Hazers

Posted: June 19, 2012 in Atmospheric, Product Recomendations

Pick a hazer, any hazer!!!

I have been asked a lot lately about hazers. Tons of questions about the different types of hazers, decibel levels, size, and cost. Well here you go. This post will explain the difference between the different types of hazers as well as give you my recommendations on whats best for you. We actually tested all of these units at our venue over the past two years all except for the F3 Fazer. We did test the F3 Fazer at the Elation’s Road Show at the Ballpark at Arlington this year. The first thing you must understand about atmospheric equipment before you purchase them is the differences between them. Atmospheric machines basically come in three different groups. Haze, fog, and low-lying fog. Haze is a long-lasting with low dispersion time. Fog is a smoke type effect that is good for large volume but needs to dissipate quickly. Last is low-lying which is just that, fog that stays on the ground. Now since were dealing with hazers today let’s look at the two different types that they make.

There’s two main types of hazers. There’s compressor based and heated. Compressor based models will be able to start-up with no warm up times where the heated models will have a heating cycle prior to use. Most heated units will be water based while most compressor units will be oil based. Now that doesn’t mean that a compressor based hazer can’t use water based fluid. You’ll have to look at your owner’s manual to know for sure whether your machine can run water based materials. On the other hand though most heated models are water based. Water based models will use a Glycol based fluid that is heated to produce smoke. The water based units will create a much drier haze but doesn’t last as long as the oil based machines. Oil based hazers use a food grade mineral oil to produce the haze. Oil based haze will generally end up hanging almost twice as long as water based. The downfalls to oil based hazers is you do get a residue from the haze. Now a lot of the companies that we will look at today have formulated fluid that will truly not leave a lot of residue so truthfully I really don’t think this should ever be a factor in buying a hazer. First let’s compare the non heated units, two of which are from Antari.

DF 50

First up is the DF 50. WOW what output. The DF 50 has been the stable for the entertainment industry for years. This machine is a compressor based machine that uses a mineral oil based fluid to create haze. Now the tank size on this machine is about 1.5 quarts which gives you about 32 hours of continuous run time. Total amperage used is about 5 amps. Talk about a rock and roll fiend. I have for years toured with this unit and there are several reason why. Long hang time and the thing can take a beating.  Plus in a 50,000 Sq Ft theater I can haze the entire space in about 10 minutes. Now with that said there are draw backs to this unit. It is extremely loud. There have been several shows that I have done where the DF 50 was just too loud to use it. Not a good unit for television, just too loud but all in all it’s a great unit for concerts. This unit will run you about $2,300 new but will reliable and will outlast most of your gear. The fluid tends to run you about $50 to $80 dollars a gallon.

Antari HZ 500

Next up is the Antari HZ 500.  It has a 2.5 liter tank and can run continuously for 20 hours. The HZ 500 will run Antari oil based fluid and Antari Water Based fluid. The haze output is around 2,800 CU FT per min. The HZ 500 uses about 4.5 amps and has switchable power input. Finally it does have DMX control capability so you can have total control of your equipment.  I was excited about this unit. First off I’m a sucker for anything that comes with its own flight case. Flight Cases are cool!!! This turns out to be the unit that I bought for Davis Lighting simply because it uses both oil based and water based fluids. I’ve used it on several shows and love it for theater due to its quietness. When I say quiet I mean almost silent. I have actually been able to use this product during a television broadcast running constantly and never being heard.  When we fired it up in our venue, once again we are 50,000 SQ FT with 1,700 seats in our main bowl, it took it a little over a half an hour to fill the venue with a complete layer of haze. Now that was with oil based haze. With water based haze it took a little longer and looked a little more like smoke with splotchy results but it did work in the venue. I know that in the specs above it states that it will run for 20 hours continuously. Listen I filled my machine up to the proper level, it has a window on the front so you can see your fluid level, and that puppy ran for almost two days continuously which amazed me. I called the Elation tech guy to ask about replacement parts one day for curiosity sake. His answer, which I loved, was listen if it stops working it’s time to buy a new one. The parts should last regular touring for years. That endorsement mean a ton to me. I toured for years and know how much stuff gets beat up on the road. It is truly the perfect hazer for theater’s that are looking for something that can be controlled via DMX plus be silent. This hazer was also listed on the approved list from Actors Equity which was a driving factor in my purchase. Like I said less output than the DF 50 but worth it for the silence.  I paid a little over $1,600 for my unit and I usually pay $80 for 5 liters which is almost a gallon.

Antari HZ 350

This is the little brother to the HZ 500.It has wireless control, a 2.5 liter tank, runs on 120VAC at about 4 amps, is oil based and finally has about a 2,400 CU FT per Min output. The HZ 350 was an interesting machine. It had a much lower price point but as well there were several extras that you end up buying to make it do what the 500 does. The other thing that got to me a little was the way it was advertised it sounded like it had wireless DMX on board. That’s not really true. It does come with a wireless remote  that was kinda cool especially for say a club that wants to put their hazer up in truss and let it run all night long.  It was quiet though. Not quite as quiet as the 500 but comparable. This machine took almost two hours to get full coverage in our space. For us that’s just too long. Now the hang time after we finally turned it off was quite fantastic!. Took almost three hours to dissipate.  Another great product from Antari but it wasn’t enough for a space my size. The price point on this unit was $700 and it uses the same oil based fluid the HZ 500 uses so $80 for a gallon.

Now to the heater based machines.

MDG Atmosphere

Let’s just start with the Cadillac of the smoke based hazers. It too has a 2.5 liter fluid tank. Runs on MDG neutral fluid which is oil based or water based.  She will run for 45 hours continuously. It has an 8 minute warm up time and requires a separate CO2 tank for propulsion. We actually weren’t even going to take this machine out of the box. The price point was way too high for us but we’ll get into that later. I have never before seen a hazer with this many different parts, things, stuff, ETC. It like the Martin 24/7 will automatically purge the system to keep it clean. If you remember earlier I stated that the HZ 500 was quiet, HA HA HA, this unit is truly silent. It uses CO2 instead of a pump to push the fluid into the heating chamber. SILENT. The orifice on the output nozzle is so small that your particle output is about .5 microns. Lastly the output was outrageous!!! It took less than 10 minutes to fill my space. Now as with any smoke based hazer the hang time was much lower than the oil based haze. Now comes the bad part the cost. The base model was right around $3,100. The problem was that everything cost you more. Want DMX control there’s a module you have to buy. Want your own CO2 tank you have to buy it. Want a portable CO2 bottle that’s an extra. Want a timer that’s extra. Trust me it’s a great unit if you have the money. Remember if you go with this unit you will be purchasing CO2 on top of fluid. Fluid runs about $50 a liter.

Ultratec Radiance Hazer

The Radiance Hazer is a water based hazer. It has no tank, it uses the bottle that you buy the fluid in as the tank. It will run on 120 AC at 8 amps. The output that is listed is insane, it says 25,000 CU FT per min. In my space I hazed completely in 7 min. INSANE. I have done arena’s with two of these and been able to have the entire thing hazed within an hour. Ringling Brothers uses two of these units for their tours. It rocks and for the price it’s probably the best buy for a smoke based hazer. Since it’s water based it tends to not leave as much residue as the compressor based models. It is extremely quiet as well was quite surprised by it. Price is close to $1,200 and fluid runs about $70 a liter but a liter will last forever. They don’t list continuous run time for this unit but we used it for our Christmas show every year before I bought my own hazer. Thats two weeks of rehearsal daily and three shows. Great product.

Elation’s F3 Fazer

This unit is switchable power from 100 V AC all the way to 240 V AC so at 120 your running at about 8.5 AMPS. The tank is a 2.7 liter tank and the output is about 300 cu ft per min. It goes through about a liter every 5 hours. What I loved about this unit is a 90 second heat up time. Now we tested this unit in another venue that was a lot smaller so I’ll try to be fair about this. You have the same built-in control like the HZ 500 with an added volume output. You have DMX control which is nice for people who like to program into their shows. It comes in a flight case (WHICH I LOVE) and can be stood on end like this.

On End

Just a great unit. Now Antari has this unit priced around $1,500 and fluid is right around $60 so this is a cheaper alternative to the MDG but does not have the output of the Radiance. Because of how this unit outputs the haze is much more uniformed rather than the Radiance.

Listen all of the machines listed above are great hazers. Some are better suited for different situations. I hope I have explained in detail enough for you to make a decision that helps you and your company enhance your production. All of these machines are available for purchase through Norcostco, PRG, Vincent Lighting, Barbizon, and Eclipse Lighting.

New Coroplast Set

Posted: April 18, 2012 in Set Design

We’ve had a lot of people asking about how we did our coroplast wall at Pantego Bible Church. So here is what we did at Pantego. The original idea came from a website, here’s the link. After studying the design I actually decided to expand on it. I decided to make our wall moveable so we could make two completely different looks on stage. During the message we can close the upstage wall to make a clean look for the message part of the service.

ADC 280 Silent Track

The first thing we did was move our ADC  280 silent track from our upstage position to downstage just shy of our proscenium. We bought two new master carriers to support the weight of the walls. Originally I was going to weld some 1/4 threaded rod to the master carriers to support the wall but the clearance was so close I just quick linked some eye bolts to the carriers themselves. The next step was to build the wall frame. We did standard 4×8 Hollywood style flats with a center support.

Looking up at the 4x8 frames

Once we got the wall up and in place we cut 1×2 into 8 inch pieces. This becomes my supports to offset the coroplast. We used natural clear coroplast that we got in 4×8 sheets. We cut the coroplast down to 2×4 panels.

Front View of the hard legs being built.

With the moving wall we started from the bottom making sure to keep it level. We found out that if she was not level at the bottom by the time you got to the top it was horrible. We used t50 3/4 inch staples to attach the panels to the 1×4 frame. On the moving wall we tried to use just one of the 8 inch supports to get our offset but that really didn’t give the wall enough support. The dimensions of the hard legs were different from the wall. The wall turned out to be two sections that were 12×16 feet for a total of 24 feet of moving wall. To mask the rest we made two hard legs that were 7 feet wide. This gave us enough masking to hide lights as well as give the moving wall enough room to open up and reveal the drums.

Another good look at the front.

The whole set took about a week to build with two people at first then the last two days we had about 5 volunteers helping. I have it lit with four trackspots from the top, eight LED bricks from the bottom and two ETC S4 with twin spins from the rear. I truly would love to have some Colorblaze’s on boom bases as sidelight to get more shadows on the upstage wall but unfortunately I’m using everything I own right now. Here’s some pics of the wall being used on Good Friday and Easter.

Good Friday

Good Friday Service.

Easter Service

The finished wall at the Easter Service 2012.

I will add some pictures later of the wall open with the drum kit behind it.  As well some of you asked where I got the templates for Good Friday. Well I actually designed them myself. Here’s a good pic of it as well as my rendition of it that I sent to Rosco to have made.

Crown of Thorns

Thorns Template

Good Friday Thorns.

Hello and Welcome!!!

Posted: April 14, 2012 in Welcome

Scott Davis

Scott Davis on stage in Toronto.

I just want to take a second to welcome you to my blog.  I am hoping that this becomes a great tool for young designers to learn some things from us old farts who still work our tails off doing the things we love to do!!!