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Old May 12th, 2007, 09:40 AM   #16
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Bill, do you have any picture of the rail system that you are describing? I would be interested to know if there’s something new out there that I’m not aware of yet.

I’ve been in hundreds of TV and sound stages, some brand new, and all I’ve ever seen and worked with are grids. The only rail system that I’ve seen and worked with are in portrait studios and most were set-up for a maximum of five lights, normally four, and the movement of each light was restricted to a confined area or the rail movement will conflict with each other. In portraits the lights are mainly pre-set to a specific position and only minor adjustments of 2 to 4 feet are needed but in video that’s a different story, on TV production set I might use as many as 30 lights all independently positioned and I’ve never done a studio set-up with less than 15 lights. The problem with moving rails that I know is that each rail can only have one light mounted on it, logically if you have two lights on the same rail then both light will have to be repositioned together and not independently, that would mean a lot of moving rails for a studio or having to reposition lights independently thus defeating the purpose of the rail system. This is why I would be very interested to know if there’s something new out there.

Back to the original question. Why do you need a grid? Move in first and the see what your needs are. Mainly a grid is advantageous for a fix set, (anchor desk, kitchen, panel discussions, etc.) where the lights basically remain the same. If the set will always be different then a grid system will more of a pain to set up lights, you’ll really get a workout going up and down that ladder. Grid mounted lights will be useful mostly for lights that are placed across the camera view as stands mighty get into the picture. The lights on the camera side can be positioned on stands much easier and you can have much more control than on grids, even with a grid most likely you will still need lights on stands. You can easily create movable floor grids if necessary to keep the floor clear.

On the picture of your future studio you have what looks like an 18 or 20 foot ceiling, that’s way too high, you might have to drop the grid 4 to 6 feet and that means a lot of hardware and a lot of $$$.
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Old May 12th, 2007, 06:18 PM   #17
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Actually a 20 foot high (or even higher grid) is not uncommon but you'll definitely need a motorized system to drop the pipes that the lights are hung on lower when needed and that will be part of the extra "$$$" mentioned in the previous post. As I mentioned earlier, if this is a leased space you might think twice about huge investments in the ceiling which will just be thrown away by the next tennant unless they happen to want a studio just like yours.
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Old May 13th, 2007, 12:38 PM   #18
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To go on a bit of a digression here... it seems like a grid+studio encourages certain ways of lighting a set.

When you hang lights on a grid, it will be far away from the talent and therefore can't be very soft. The classic lighting setup is to cross-key with four fresnels, which in my opinion looks unnatural since you rarely have four hard light sources like that in real life. Granted, not everyone is doing that now and there seems to be a bit of trend towards using fluorescent lighting (and it does save on electricity costs), which gives a softer light quality and looks more natural.

2- As Nino points out, it does take more time to put lights on a grid than on a stand. Though of course with stands it can be hard to position lights above a set.
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Old May 13th, 2007, 03:07 PM   #19
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Damn,

I went out into the studio and took snaps of my grid, but the board seems not to be taking images right now.

Here's the companion post I wrote. I'll post the still shots as soon as the board lets me.

____________
[QUOTE=Nino Giannotti;677872]Bill, do you have any picture of the rail system that you are describing? I would be interested to know if there’s something new out there that I’m not aware of yet.


Nino,

Okay, about the rail system...

First,
Nothing like walking out to photograph black powder coated steel against a flat black ceiling on short notice! Props to the flash designers on my Sony digital still camera! and damn you all for encouraging this - on the 6 megapixel originals I can suddenly see how god awfully DUSTY my pantographs are and now I'm compelled to to clean the damn things (drat!)

As to the rail system, it's not so much new, as a more modern european implementation of a traditional rail system with more “designed in” flexibility.

The features are these:

Unlike a traditional pipe system, ONLY the ceiling mounted parallel base rails are really "fixed." The sub rails are mounted on dual "swivel trucks" as you can see in the tighter shot below. (I slid 3 cross section ends together for the wider photo) These have friction brakes that are hook/pole operated (the aluminum pole hanging from the wire brake actuator) so you can hook them, pull down and instantly re-position the rail. Since the trucks themselves swivel, you can change angle of the cross rail at will. And that means you can also change the position of a light at one end of the cross rail, while leaving the position of an insturment at the other end of that rail relatively unchanged.

No, it’s NOT infinate positioning of each light, but it's flexible enough to get pretty close – My ceiling grid is my studio BASE. If I’m doing a standup spokeperson plot with 10 lights – I can probably do 8 of them from the grid (including the typical keys, rim lights, background lights and fills. If I figure I need two more “precision” lights, I take out TWO stands. That’s 2 stands rather than 10 and a HUGE impact on floor traffic in my small studio space.

Each cross rails also slides relative to the fixed rails allowing you to extend the cross rails out in either direction - which I use quite a bit for positioning lights a ways out from the grid. (see the "wider" photo)

Also in the wide shot, you'll notice that I've used their system for my cyc curtains as well. (the curtain rail is hanging on ceiling offsets under the orange fire sprinkler pipes in the distance.) On the other side of the studio, That single curtin rail is actually three parallel cyc rails the outside of which has spud carriages and a superclamp can rig a rim light (infinitely positionable) along that “circumfrence” rail in a flash.

For me, the BIGGEST advantage of the rail system is that it encourages an obstruction free studio floor during shoots. No cables to trip over. In fact in the wide shot, you'll see a bunch of yellow “home center screw hangers.” I use these to "overhead" my audio cables. So the ONLY time any cables come down from the ceiling is when I do the drops for the camera(s)

For me, it’s quick, adjustable, and very flexible. Yes, it has limitations. But what technology doesn’t. If you’re doing a fixed studio and want to land somewhere between a ridgid fixed grid system and a “you MUST use lightstands” system – I think this is a great solution.

Perfect for everyone? No.

But I can do a rough in plot for any typical studio job in an hour or less - single handedly - and without a single cable or stand to trip over.

WELL worth it IMO.

YMMV.
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Old May 13th, 2007, 07:48 PM   #20
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The referenced pictures
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Old May 29th, 2007, 01:33 AM   #21
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2" Pipe & Cheese. Start there. Truss is useless in most studio applications as it weighs much more than several instruments, it is primarily used in concert settings where it is necessary to create a structure where none previously existed. With the ceiling in those pictures you could create hundreds of combinations with a handfull of 2" pipes and some steel cable and shackles. Good Luck, Charles.
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Old June 4th, 2007, 01:55 PM   #22
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I have another example of a pretty nice rail system - though I think the rails itself are fixed and only the pantographs can be moved in a linear way. Unfortunately this is not where I work, the photos were shot during a visit at the rbb studios in Berlin...
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Old June 4th, 2007, 07:21 PM   #23
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If you can afford them, the rails really do provide the ultimate in flexibility and preserving floor space too.
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Old June 8th, 2007, 03:23 AM   #24
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I was going to build a floorstanding grid, but then i realized...
What about telescoping hangers.

This is what i decided to go with (at least now) is buy a bunch of telescoping hangers, and attach them DIRECTLY to the existing ceiling beams.
(If you look at the pictures) These can drop the light down 14 feet , (avenger model) which should be in the exact right spot.

IF i get some metal pipe and slide it threw the beams in the ceiling then i can make a pretty cheap lighting grid, and have the lights drop down anywhere i need.

We already own a Fork lift with an attachment man lift that can raise a guy up to rig stuff.

This should work well i think... why not.
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Old June 8th, 2007, 09:29 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyson Persall View Post
I was going to build a floorstanding grid, but then i realized...
What about telescoping hangers.

This is what i decided to go with (at least now) is buy a bunch of telescoping hangers, and attach them DIRECTLY to the existing ceiling beams.
(If you look at the pictures) These can drop the light down 14 feet , (avenger model) which should be in the exact right spot.

IF i get some metal pipe and slide it threw the beams in the ceiling then i can make a pretty cheap lighting grid, and have the lights drop down anywhere i need.

We already own a Fork lift with an attachment man lift that can raise a guy up to rig stuff.

This should work well i think... why not.
I'm sure that will be fine as long as the added weight can be handled by the roof structure. Telescoping hangers get you a similar effect to the pantographs that have been mentioned and shown in this thread. I've never used those but I imagine you need to be careful they are properly locked off each time so they don't slide down and hurt someone ;-) I'm not sure what kind of guards they have against that sort of thing.
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Old June 8th, 2007, 11:08 PM   #26
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Tyson,

You're absolutely correct that there are plenty of ways to rig lighting.

And something simple and cheap in home brew grip gear will often do EXACTLY the same job as a fancier system as far as function goes.

When you move up to something like a lighting rail system, you're trading MONEY for two things. Convenience and efficiency.

When I was starting my career and working predominantly with friends and other beginners - everyone could hang out for a whole day to light and shoot a scene and not only was it practical - it was FUN! Dragging a ladder to every light - even if I had to do it a dozen times to tweek all my lights was just part of the whole experience.

But a rail system started to make sense when two things changed.

First, when I had been working long enough and successfully enough so that I finally had a studio ceiling to HANG it from...

And second, when my TIME - and the time of my clients - finally became valuable to the point where production efficienty started to have a real economic impact.

Having the ability to grab a pole, move a light, use the pantograph to drop it six inches and go back to something else in 10 seconds is worth almost nothing in a studio full of volunteers doing work for little or modest money.

But the same tool, when it eliminates extra time climbing and moving ladders while a corporate CEO is standing around getting paid, literally, a million bucks a year - well, it just makes a darn good economic sense not to waste his or her time.

So the real question is does the kind of work you really do require this particular tool? O, perhaps, can having this tool HELP you get the kind of work you desire? If so, go for it.

If not, yep, it's a waste of resources. Buy some more lights, or audio gear, or a better camera with the money.

Learn those well, and the chances go up that someday you'll need something like a lighting grid.
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