You've got to love it when you reach a facility and you realize that they must have run out of money (or just used a very bad integrator) with no backup in place, because the stage has no lighting. Now I don't mean just a little bit of lighting, or a bit of cheesy lighting, or some scattered pro lighting that was done without a proper lighting plot. I'm talking about a stage with eight potlights (hi-hats if you prefer) at the front edge of the stage front. Now this isn't a stage that could get by with just those eight lights... We're talking 80 feet wide and 20-25 feet deep with a 150-square-foot thrust lower speaking platform. All that and eight 6-inch potlights.
Now this isn't the first time I've seen this and this definitely won't be the last. This is something we run into all the time. Let me explain what happened in this case, which is the same story every time I run across this issue. It starts off in the design phase. Maybe it's a new build, maybe just a nice big renovation. The customer has the GC, the designer, the architect, the electrician, and you, the AV integrator. Once you’re on the scene, you start modifying the current build process. You're in there adding dedicated circuits and grounds to the electrician’s plan. You're adding speakers and room treatments to the designer’s plans. You're adding input to the architect’s plans to ensure proper speaker placements, etc.
Then you really start to mess with our favorite people—the electricians. You start to tell them that you are specifying all kinds of stage lighting. You’ve got fresnals, par-cans, washes, maybe a motion head or two, and all kinds of trusses. You've got a lighting plot and it's gonna be amazing. So what does this mean to the electrician? Not much, he's got to set you up with dedicated lines for your lighting rigs, etc., but he's also most likely gonna pull down every single fixture he had planned for over the stage. He might leave you a few tubes or a pot or two, but for the most part... gone!
So fast-forward a few months and guess what? Your amazing lighting rig got AXED due to (I'll give you four guesses) BUDGET. Here's the problem—between you and the electricians, no one decided to make sure that those original fixtures over the stage got put back into the plan. So here you are, stuck with a stage that has almost no lighting whatsoever. Kinda like the example I mentioned before.
What am I trying to get across? That the electricians screwed up? Well, maybe. But more accurately—we both screwed up! Part of our job is to ensure that we have a backup plan in place for everything. We always plan and design for expansion, but we need to also plan and design a backup plan. Just like we always design a hardline snake to the stage from FOH even though we're planning to just use wireless microphones and IEMs, we've got to plan for stage lighting accordingly. It's no harder to plan for basic lighting coverage in and around your stage lighting plot to ensure everything is covered. Many times, you'll find your clients will use this basic lighting when changing cables or gear on stage and simple thing like during cleaning. Sure the stage lighting is super sexy and much more fun to design and quote, but remember that functionality is always paramount in your designs.
Matt D. Scott is the president and founder of Omega Audio Video, in London, Ontario, Canada. A self-professed tech-head, Scott shares his opinions on social media, local radio, omegaaudiovideo.com, mattdscott.com, and through various publications.