This week on the podcast I have a special guest, Seth Shoemaker to discuss how to manage the installation of lights. I’m excited to share this because it does help those that are working with a temporary or permanent install.
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Main Segment (2:00)
David: I had first met Seth as a volunteer at the church and we were both very new to lighting. When did you first start working with stage lighting?
My first experience in stage lighting was back in high school actually. We had 8 lights, all conventional, with dimmers, and a preset console which was pretty awesome for us. That was pretty much my lighting experience until I became a tech director here at the church.
David: I’m always talking to those who are new to lighting. The simplicity and the number of things you can do with a preset console are very impressive. You can get started with a preset console with no experience and in no time do extraordinary things with it.
That’s how I felt when I got started with a preset console. I knew nothing going into it and as I started picking it up I could easily set up as many looks as I wanted to. It was very easy to use.
David: I want to dive into permanent installations. You actually own your own company, Spire AVL, that does installations. Do you primarily work with churches or is it a mix?
We’re mostly churches but we have worked with schools and theatres as well.
David: One of the things I noticed after moving to Nashville I had joined a tour with an illusionist and four comedians. This meant I was running audio and setting up the lights. When it comes to permanent installation I’ve noticed there are so many places that actually get it wrong.
So that’s what I was hoping to focus on today because I’m sure you see so many things done wrong. You see churches that have a need but are sold something totally different. Why does that happen?
Well, the number one reason this can happen is not knowing what your goals are for doing an install. So, we encourage the client to know what they want to do with the system. But not just for today but for the future, five years to 10 years from now.
We can offer you the best equipment to fit your needs today but what about 2 years from now? It can be a huge investment and you want to get the most out of it for as long as possible.
David: Obviously, it’s a business but you want to make sure the customer that is happy with the service and the products.
Absolutely, we had a client that had pushed a certain direction that we didn’t think was the best set up for their needs. Right before we went to install everything that Tech Director left and the new director came in and was not happy with what was being brought in.
You definitely need to make sure that everyone that needs to be involved is involved with the decision making. I’ve often seen those that actually work with the equipment do get left out in the decision making and will be forced to work with equipment they are not familiar with.
David: That is a great point because more than ever we have more choices than we ever have before. This leaves so many different ways to get the job done. A certain piece can get the job done but is the best fit for you?
I’ve seen that a lot, especially with the latest and greatest gadget. Yes, this will do what you need but you can work this less expensive piece and it will still do everything you need it to do.
David: There are some companies that spend by far the most money in marketing and therefore those products are extremely expensive.
Yes, I’ve run into this many times where products are popular as well as expensive. But in some cases, you can find a cheaper alternative that does the same thing.
There are different factors that go into selecting the right products for your setup. One of those is your budget and that is normally what will come into effect when selecting the right hardware.
Another one is considering how long do you plan on using this setup. Perhaps you’re planning on redoing the entire theater in 2 years so obviously, you don’t want to invest a whole lot just to redo it.
David: Another mistake that I’ve seen in my past experience is seeing that AV gets called in at the last minute. Ideally, what is the best time to contact a pro, how early would be enough?
Normally, when we get called in it’s already pretty late into the project which does set some barriers in the progress. At that point, some pieces have already been selected so we have to work around that and find what fits.
Preferably, we like to be pulled in early enough in the design aspect of the project so that we can offer suggestions for lighting, tech booth, inputs, outputs, and so on. Those are important things that come into play when designing the project.
We had one situation where we were called in early enough to be able to avoid a stage and lighting issue. The design team wanted the stage at a certain height but after the fourth row in the audience, you wouldn’t be able to see the faces of those on stage. Thankfully, we did catch it early on and made the necessary adjustments.
David: So, out of curiosity who early would you like to be called in on a project?
Normally, if it’s a new build we prefer to come in when the walls are going up, and before the electricians come in so that we can suggest layouts and where to set things up.
When an AV company does get called in late and there are change orders that will end up costing more money to the customer. The costs may not come from the AV side but also from the other trades involved with the project.
David: That’s good to know because I’ve seen many situations where the AV Company is brought in to late and just ends up costing them more in the long run.
There are a few big mistakes I’ve seen from my experience. The first is the audio setup is placed in a horrible location. The house lights is another issue that comes up often. Have you seen this?
Yes, house lighting is one of the biggest areas people try to cut budgeting on. The dimming features are questionable and I have even seen where the console won’t be able to have control over the house light.
The quality of the house lights is very important and worth investing in. When choosing house lights I do often recommend the DMX controllable lights.
Now, there are programs out there where you can see how house lights will look and operate in your setup. We actually use a program call DIALux that helps choose the right house lights for a project.
David: That’s great! To wrap things up, do you have suggestions for those who want to get the most out of using an AV company?
I would just say that when working with an AV contractor make sure to get a lined out pricing list of everything so that you know the contractor is being honest and upfront.
Next would be is bring in an AV contractor early in the project. As long as you know what direction you want to go working with AV contractor early will help save you time and money.
David: Awesome, thank you so much for coming in today and sharing this with our listeners!
I hope you enjoyed this interview today and was able to take some great tips from it. I do think it does apply for those that are in an install or even not in an install. These are the type of questions you want to ask when working on a production.
Be sure to check out the Learn Stage Lighting Patreon as I mentioned earlier to help support the project and reaching our goal to continue doing 4 podcasts a month.
I appreciate you and I will see you next time!