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Recently I worked a gig where the client needed uplighting along a wall.  Something that everyone has done before and sounds super simple!  With this particular gig it was suppose to be nothing out of the ordinary.  What made it a breeze was that I had battery operated LED uplighters.  Set them up, set them to a fixed color and call them done. 

Well, with this particular client, there were some requirements. Each of the six uplighters needed to be in different colors; colors that corresponded to their corporate colors.  No problem, so we thought…

Laying them out was a breeze.  Since the fixtures were fully charged and ready to go for the event, there was no need for locating power.  Set them where they need to go, turn them on and we were good to go.  The headache came when it was time to set the colors.  The client provided us with their pantone colors. 

As any one knows, mixing quad color LEDs is NEVER going to be the same as a pantone, but we tried.  Even though the fixtures had wireless DMX built in, we normally run them in standalone and mix the color at the fixture.  Downfall number one for us. We started of with the red, easy right, red at 100%.  “Hmm, that is TO red, can it be softer?” ask the client. So, back to the fixture, flip it over and add some white.  Five minutes later, the red was good and we could move on. The same situation played out for each of the six colors.  Total time, 35 minutes.

You may be asking, why not go wirelessly? We could have, but then we would have had to change all of the fixtures to wireless DMX mode, setup the console, (which we had not done yet), configured the wireless transmitter and “assigned” all of the fixtures to responded to wireless.  All of that, probably another 20 minutes. That is not including the color mixing time with the client to find their “perfect” colors. Maybe easier in the long run, but we had not been setup for that. 

Perfect, the uplighter were all set and we could move on to lighting the space. “hold up, what about that wall over there?” ask the client.  To my response, “ what about it?”. We need some uplights over there too.

My thinking, “AHH CRAP”, my response, “oh yeah, that would look nice!” Mad dash time!  Well, all the cool LED uplighters were in use, time to go old skool and break out the 75w PAR cans on floor bases, of which there were plenty.

To be safe and not over load a circuit and to match what we did on the other wall, we used 6 cans.  Setting them out was easy as they are always ready to go. First stumbling block, power.  The nearest power outlet was 35’ away. Time to break out the extension cables and gaff tape.  The first go, we used a 50’, WAY to much. We took that up and used a 25’ and 15’, much more manageable and no excessive cable mounds any where. When it came time to break that circuit out to each of the fixtures, thank god for the Lex E-String. At that moment in my life it was the greatest invention in the world! So they all powered up and where ready to go.  “CRAP”, one lamp out.  Time to hunt down a replacement lamp or swap it out.  Add 5 minutes.

Now the REALLY fun part, gel. Luckily, we had a wide variety of gel on hand that we could cut and load up.  Now we have all cut gel before and if you don’t get it cut just right, the gel ends up with wrinkles or gaps in the holder.  Add another 10 minutes for perfect cutting. Loading them into gel frames, THE WOREST, sandwich holders are cheap, but effective, though you can never get the gel into the bottom fold seated correctly the first time. Add another 5 minutes.

In steps the client. “Those don’t exactly match the others.” Hands being tied and 6pm there was no time to order and have rush delivery of the “perfect” gel. It could have been a whole different story if the client didn’t understand that.  But they listened to reason and critical meltdown was adverted.

After everything was said and done, the new six cans were up and running and we could get back to programming.  The new set defiantly took longer then the LEDs, not by much though.  Is there a cost savings when using the LEDs, add up the time, energy and gel cost, I think the LEDs won. Especially at load out time.  Pop the 6 LED uplighters in their road case and walk away. The PAR cans, wait for cool down, rip up tape, file the gels, wrap the cable and THEN walk way.  Little more involved.

All and all, no one noticed that the two sets of uplights were a little off, the booze was flowing.  It just shows that while LEDs are great, a little TO much control may hurt in the end, it did in this case.  Extra time was needed to adjust the colors to make the client happy.  Not all clients are that picky, but they are out there. Where as with the PARs, if we didn’t have the gel on hand or if the client HAD to have the specific color, we would have been up the creek. 

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