By David Martin Jacques
Copyright © 2001 by David Jacques
Published in the April, 2001, issue of Church Production Magazine
Soon after the publication of my last article: From a Designer's Perspective- Should Your Church Invest in Automated Lighting?, Church Production Magazine received numerous letters from its readers asking about lower cost alternatives for purchasing state-of-the-art moving lights. The fixtures and controllers that I previously wrote about are necessary for both complex productions and sanctuaries with long lighting distances. It is important to remember that light decreases in intensity the farther it has to travel. Therefore, churches with lower ceilings can get away with less powerful lighting fixtures. This article will address how your smaller church may enter into the world of automated lighting without spending a fortune.
There are two ways to approach purchasing "low-cost" automated fixtures. You could purchase automated accessories for your present lights (movable yokes, mirrors, color scrollers, irises, and gobo rotators), or purchase smaller, less expensive automated fixtures. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
If you already own good, modern ellipsoidal reflector spotlights (like the ETC Source Four), then you could add automated accessories to these lights. Several companies have introduced devices to replicate some of the features inherent to automated fixtures.
The Rosco "I-Cue" is a moving mirror that attaches to the front of any Leko with a 6.25 inch gel slot. This device essentially turns your stationary light into an automated scanner. The light hits the mirror and the mirror reflects the light to its desired destination. A low-voltage DMX signal from the lighting console controls the mirror. The cost of the I-Cue is approximately $560.
Like most of the devices mentioned in this article, a separate power supply is required to control the I-Cue. The good news is that the I-Cue can use a standard power supply from several color scroller companies. You may also "daisy-chain" one I-Cue to another. It is important to note that due to its mirror design, the I-Cue is somewhat limited in its pan (230 degree) and tilt (57.3 degree) movement.
GAM Products manufactures the "MotorYoke"--a movable yoke that attaches to a standard Leko. The advantage of this device is in its ability to pan the light 360 degrees. However, this advantage comes with a price. Figure on spending around $1690 for the MotorYoke. The power supply adds another $869-$1359 dollars, depending on how many motor yokes you wish to control.
In addition to these focusing devices, other special effects are available through component automated accessories:
Both GAM and Rosco offer single and double gobo rotators that fit into standard Lekos. These units will help achieve the rotating morphing effects typical of sophisticated automated lights. What they will not do is remotely drop in and remove the pattern(s). So unlike the flexibility of a dedicated automated light, once you place the pattern in the fixture, you must live with that pattern until you physically remove it. The gobo-rotators cost between $550 and $850.
GAM Products also offers a remote iris unit. This device will decrease the field of light from full flood to a pin spot. The cost of the remote iris is approximately $794.
In addition, you may purchase color scrollers to remotely change the color of the light. Scrollers come in several designs. The simplest is the basic string of color that holds up to 16 colors. The limitation of this design is that you may have to travel through other colors to get to the color you desire, making it necessary to dim the light out, scroll to the correct color, then dim the light up. These scrollers cost approximately $600 each.
Wybron has developed a new scroller system called the CXI. This unit utilizes two separate scrolls of colors, enabling you to fade from one color to another. This device costs approximately $1400. The power supply for this model costs $2000 and can control up to twelve scrollers.
So lets go ahead and build our "inexpensive" automated light:
Leko $ 260
Rosco I-Cue $ 560
Rosco Gobo Rotator $ 534
Color Scroller $ 600
Power Supply $ 850
If you decide to go to the GAM MotorYoke instead of the I-Cue, add another $1130 to the mix.
Wow! Seems a little expensive? Why not just purchase an inexpensive moving light? You can for anywhere between $2000 and $4000 dollars. But the decision to go with separate component devices may be a good one. The key is to understand exactly what your needs are.
Maybe you only require remote color changing. If that is the case, then the price of your "automated light" drops substantially to around $800 (Leko included). Or if you only need to move the light and not require the color to change, then the Rosco I-Cue or the GAM MotorYoke may be the way to go. There is no reason to pay for a feature that you may never use.
In addition, these devices may be added and subtracted from any Leko in your inventory, and in any combination, depending on your needs. So there is logic in this choice.
On the other hand, if you find that you will be utilizing most of the effects listed above from one light, I suggest you seriously consider purchasing a dedicated automated light. Not only will these fixtures accomplish similar effects as the separate automated accessories, most automated lights use arc lamps and dichroic color filters that offer a more powerful, and colorful, quality of light. The major manufacturers have recently developed fixtures that are reasonably priced--especially considering their enormous flexibility.
The High End Technobeam is a sophisticated scanner automated light that you can purchase for about $3795. This model offers twelve dichroic colors, seven fixed gobos, seven rotating gobos, and an optional iris. A wide-angle lens is also available.
High End also produces the Studio Spot 250 ($5000) and Studio Color 250 ($3750). Unlike the Technobeam, these fixtures are moving yoke automated lights and have a greater range of movement. The Studio Spot 250 has similar effect capabilities as the Technobeam.
If you find that you only require color changing from a high intensity light source, the High End ColorPro takes the place of a fixed Par Can wash. This fixture utilizes a 2000-hour arc lamp that produces a high intensity light with less power consumption than conventional banks of Pars. It also zooms from 17 to 37 degrees. The cost of the ColorPro is $1825.
Although developed for architectural purposes, the Martin MiniMac may be the perfect choice for very short throws. This small, movable yoke fixture uses a 150W arc lamp with color changing (12 colors) and gobo rotation features (7 gobos). Martin also makes a wash fixture that matches the MiniMac spot. The MiniMacs may be purchased for approximately $2000 each.
Rumor has it that Vari*Lite is also developing a family of lower-cost automated fixtures. Up until recently, Vari*Lite would only lease their fixtures to end-uses. This pioneering company is now openly competing in the retail market--which should ultimately benefit the consumer.
Once again I suggest you speak with a professional lighting consultant before
you purchase any of these fixtures. Only then will you be able to isolate your
needs and choose the most appropriate lighting for your church.