Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Accessorizing Your Gear

A continuation of 'Know Your Gear'...

Now that you have selected the best fixtures to add to inventory, how are you going to use them? It's time to start thinking about grip, control cable, power cable and distro. There is a decent chance, on a special event, that your distro may be seen to guests - there is an absolute chance that your cable will be visible. The look of your gear is just as important as how you lay it out and run it (stay tuned for that blog post!).

Grip. In the special event lighting world you may be hanging these fixtures in a variety of different type of spaces, which requires different type of grip. Consider where, and how, you are hanging the fixtures - in a ballroom on a truss, in a tent, inside a piece of scenery or decor, top mounted to truss. All different scenarios that you need to be prepared for, which all require different types of hang options.

Control Cable. Depending on the manufacturer, the fixtures can send data through either 3pin or 5pin (in most cases), sometimes both options. Do you buy one piece of cable per fixture? What lengths? Is your inventory constantly turing over on gig after gig, meaning do you need to have extra cable on hand so that you aren't waiting for a show to come back to the shop before another show is prepped? All of this information, along with a handy 'general rule of thumb' that true lighting techs know, you'll be able to make logical and economical choices.

Power Cable. These questions are similar to those above for control. However, there are several options if your fixtures have the ability to run at 208v. If running 208v, your typical GR (or Edison) cable won't help you out here. When you branch out into different types of lighting gear, cable options are an expensive necessity. Know your venue situations, and how you are going to need to run your lighting rig for a successful event.

Just a note about control and power cable. There is no magic formula. However lighting designers, most of the time, like their rig to be symmetrical. This is a decent jumping off point when purchasing cables.

Distribution. There are many choices of distros on the market. This decision will be determined by the type of fixtures purchased and how you will be powering them. 120v distros, 208v distros, some with GR, L620, Soca or a combination of outputs and inputs for that matter. Most manufacturers of power distribution offer a build your own distro. Although not as inexpensive as what they have in built stock, this is the best way to get exactly what you need.

A lighting inventory just isn't about the quality and type of fixture. Like I was writing about last week. This also applies to the above as well. There are the super inexpensive, cheaper options but quality needs to be taken into consideration here too. When speaking of the quality of your cable and distro, safety should be a top concern. Happy shopping! ~Beth, Lead Production Tech @ Solus Lighting LTD

"Choices are the hinges of destiny." - Pythagoras 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Know Your Gear

Know the gear that you are going to purchase.

Let's look at LED lighting fixtures as an example. There are many many different choices of LEDs to add to inventory. While trade shows like LDI are an excellent opportunity to see a vast variety of gear from many different manufacturers all in one space, there isn't too much of a chance to get some real quality time with what they are exhibiting. Vendors also typically bring their brand new, high end pieces of gear.

If possible, you are going to want to get your hands on whichever piece of gear you are thinking of buying. Have the sales rep bring a demo fixture to your shop. Write down or have in mind some questions for the rep about the fixture, hook it up to a console and put it through your test.

I know that it is possible to fall in love with a piece of gear the instant you have control of it (it has happened to me). Once you get into having control of all of the attributes of a fixture, there will be things you love and things that you 'can live with' - or there will be things you dislike.

Obviously, budget is always a concern here. What you want, and what you can afford may not always line up. The lighting market is flooded with quality gear, and these days seems to be even more saturated with knock-offs of that same gear. It may be tempting to purchase the cheaper option, but keep in mind it is the cheaper option for a reason. Don't make a knee-jerk reaction to keep costs low, chances are in the end you will not be satisfied and will not be making the best decision for your company and clients. Gear that constantly needs maintenance to function may end up costing you more. Whether that means extra time spent from techs, or even worse - a gear failure during an event, resulting in a refund to your client and word of mouth about the quality of your gear.

Other things to consider is what 'accessories' you need with this fixture...grip, control & power cable. I'll talk more about that in our next post. ~Beth, Lead Production Tech @ Solus Lighting LTD

"I'd rather make a show that 100 people need to see, than a show 1000 people want to see" - Josh Whedon

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

When it's time to punt, are you ready?

No one likes the punt. Not in football, and certainly not on a gig. Sometimes, when the time crunch is on and it's do or die time, you will have to punt. As a tech, how you handle the punt and what the end result looks like shows what you are made out of.

Although no one wants to be in the position where an element of the design or a piece of gear just isn't working, it happens. We all use a system wether it be Vectorworks, AutoCAD, old school paper & pencil drafting or making & triple checking gear lists, to ensure layout is solid and that spare fixtures can be built into the job. However, eventually you will find yourself in a situation where it's just not going to happen on time. Sometimes it's something small and only noticeable to the designer (which sounds like the better option, but not always). Sometimes it's a rather significant part of the design that the client isn't going to miss that they aren't seeing.

What I'm getting at is that at the end of the day, you have to have confidence in yourself and your tech skills. Most of the time when you're gigging, you are familiar with the gear being used - even if you haven't used that specific piece of gear, you get it. How many times have you been on a show with a moving light, LED or a connector torn apart to the point where a bystander who isn't in the industry would say a little prayer for you as they strolled past... these are the scenarios where you stay calm under the pressure and have faith in your experience and knowledge.

I have built up a toolbox over the years that helps put me in a position to handle almost anything when out on a show. Sometimes I take some hits over the neatness and how organized my toolbox is (same tools go back in the same spot...always!). If grabbing for a tool is second nature, then that's one less distraction from the task at hand.

Let's circle back around. No one likes to punt. No one likes to disappoint their clients and designers. I'm not going to say that this is never going to happen, it has to happen in order for you to grow as a tech. But how you handle your punts will help you grow as a tech that completes third down time and time again.  -Beth, Lead Production Tech @ Solus Lighting LTD

"The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way" - Robert Kiyosaki