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Old May 8th, 2007, 08:08 PM   #1
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Building a Lighting Grid for Studio. Need Advice.

So where do you buy a lighting grid, and the parts that go along with it to rig lights off of it? Where can i get all that stuff to build a studio?

Beyond that, What do I need to rig lights to a lighting grid? I know the lights have the holes that hook up to a C-stand or they can be rigged to hang from the ceiling off the lighting grid.

From what i can tell about looking at lighting grids photos - some of them are just metal poles with clamps that attach that have the 1/2 inch pins that connect with the lights. Then there are special power strips that hang from the ceiling as well...
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Old May 8th, 2007, 10:03 PM   #2
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you have a lot of open ended questions here. I'll take on the first and most vital one. Can your ceiling handle the weight? Grids are made with steel pipe and iron couplers. You can pick the spacing, you can rent the pipe cutters and threading machine and put it all thgerther yourself. However if it all falls down ( usually over time due to stress points ) it will probably hurt somebody, and if it is "hot" it might start a fire.

Have you looked into the laod bearing rating of your area?
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Old May 8th, 2007, 10:56 PM   #3
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Well there are homemade solutions and totally off the shelf solutions to this issue. A homemade solution is literally a pipe grid that you have made and hung on the ceiling (of course checking with a competent construction / building engineer to make sure that the ceiling will support the added weight).

I've looked at this myself before and I thought the best solution was to use free standing light trusses like those used at rock concerts on the stage above the performers. It's usually a welded mass of 4 long pipes with cross bracing between to hold them all together. You can get them in all different lengths.

This is nice because it doesn't depend upon the strength of the roof support at all as it uses one post at each side of the studio and the truss rigged across it. Just depends upon the floor for support so your floor must be adequate. Here's an example. This truss can be used for a clear span of 40 feet (how wide is your warehouse?):

http://cgi.ebay.com/4-92-foot-Square...QcategoryZ2994 4QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

You support this from the floor with columns of more of the same exact truss material. In effect your transferring the problem of ceiling support from the warehouse trusses and walls to your own new truss columns your adding and the floor (assuming the floor can support the added weight!). Get a qualified engineer to help you set it up and to understand all the loading factors and all that.

Here's another example of the same thing and how it was supported but its a much less beefy one that can't go 40 foot clear span:

http://cgi.ebay.com/KNIGHT-LIGHTING-...QcategoryZ2994 5QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

You would put one of these sets of trusses/columns every few feet (maybe 10 feet) ideally to hang your lights from. If you do it right, you can take it with you later when you leave for that larger 14000sq foot sound stage in the future ;-)

Then, how you hang lights from that wil usually fall into two ways: 1). pipe clamps attached to the yokes of your lights or 2). Baby spud type mounts on the trusses and then female adapters on your yokes. I prefer solution 1 because it just seems more secure to me. For wiring and electrical issues, there are grid solutions that come in predefined lengths and include all the wiring and even have baby spud mounts on them. Have an electrician do the wiring, that way you're should be pretty sure everything will be to the codes in your area.

Another "fun" item to hang from a grid is something called a pantograph. It has other names too. Its basically a device that you hang from your grid and then hang your light on this device and it lets you lower it closer to the studio floor for lights like fluorescents which may need to be closer to the talent at times.

http://cgi.ebay.com/4-HEAD-PHOTO-STU...QQcategoryZ386 0QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

They call it a "counterbalanced extension instrument". It includes an entire railing system and includes 5/8" baby spud mounts at the ends which is a pretty standard mounting for a studio light fixture which will most often have a 5/8" female stand adapter on it or a pipe clamp. If your light comes with a pipe clamp and you want to use a rail system like this, just remove the pipe clamp and replace with a TVMP adapter. Here's another example from Amvona:

http://cgi.ebay.com/PHOTO-STUDIO-LIG...QcategoryZ3008 8QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem



You can see this can get expensive quickly to correctly outfit this stuff. Just use good stuff and be careful. You don't want any of this falling down as that wouldn't be pretty...
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Old May 9th, 2007, 03:33 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Andrewski View Post
Well there are homemade solutions and totally off the shelf solutions to this issue. A homemade solution is literally a pipe grid that you have made and hung on the ceiling (of course checking with a competent construction / building engineer to make sure that the ceiling will support the added weight).

I've looked at this myself before and I thought the best solution was to use free standing light trusses like those used at rock concerts on the stage above the performers. It's usually a welded mass of 4 long pipes with cross bracing between to hold them all together. You can get them in all different lengths.

This is nice because it doesn't depend upon the strength of the roof support at all as it uses one post at each side of the studio and the truss rigged across it. Just depends upon the floor for support so your floor must be adequate. Here's an example. This truss can be used for a clear span of 40 feet (how wide is your warehouse?):

http://cgi.ebay.com/4-92-foot-Square...QcategoryZ2994 4QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

You support this from the floor with columns of more of the same exact truss material. In effect your transferring the problem of ceiling support from the warehouse trusses and walls to your own new truss columns your adding and the floor (assuming the floor can support the added weight!). Get a qualified engineer to help you set it up and to understand all the loading factors and all that.

Here's another example of the same thing and how it was supported but its a much less beefy one that can't go 40 foot clear span:

http://cgi.ebay.com/KNIGHT-LIGHTING-...QcategoryZ2994 5QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

You would put one of these sets of trusses/columns every few feet (maybe 10 feet) ideally to hang your lights from. If you do it right, you can take it with you later when you leave for that larger 14000sq foot sound stage in the future ;-)

Then, how you hang lights from that wil usually fall into two ways: 1). pipe clamps attached to the yokes of your lights or 2). Baby spud type mounts on the trusses and then female adapters on your yokes. I prefer solution 1 because it just seems more secure to me. For wiring and electrical issues, there are grid solutions that come in predefined lengths and include all the wiring and even have baby spud mounts on them. Have an electrician do the wiring, that way you're should be pretty sure everything will be to the codes in your area.

Another "fun" item to hang from a grid is something called a pantograph. It has other names too. Its basically a device that you hang from your grid and then hang your light on this device and it lets you lower it closer to the studio floor for lights like fluorescents which may need to be closer to the talent at times.

http://cgi.ebay.com/4-HEAD-PHOTO-STU...QQcategoryZ386 0QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

They call it a "counterbalanced extension instrument". It includes an entire railing system and includes 5/8" baby spud mounts at the ends which is a pretty standard mounting for a studio light fixture which will most often have a 5/8" female stand adapter on it or a pipe clamp. If your light comes with a pipe clamp and you want to use a rail system like this, just remove the pipe clamp and replace with a TVMP adapter. Here's another example from Amvona:

http://cgi.ebay.com/PHOTO-STUDIO-LIG...QcategoryZ3008 8QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem



You can see this can get expensive quickly to correctly outfit this stuff. Just use good stuff and be careful. You don't want any of this falling down as that wouldn't be pretty...
This has got to be one of the most comprehensive and helpful posts in a long time, massively impressive.
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Old May 9th, 2007, 06:34 PM   #5
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When I built my studio, I went with the IFF studio rail system.

Back then (7+ years ago) it was manufactured by the european arm of Manfrotto (Bogan) and was available through the local high-end photo stores.

Unlike a pipe rail, you don't need a wrench or a ladder to reposition lights. The rails interconnect with sections that slide relative to other sections. So I have twin parallel rails that run from one end of my stage area to the other - then three "cross rails" that slide relative to them. From the cross rails, I bought a variety of fixtures including sliding spigots, cable hangers, and a variety of light mounting solutions including the aforementioned pantographs (scissor supports) and adjustable hanging rods.

It's purpose built for what you're talking about. It's a light/medium weight track and rail system and the point of it is that DURING a shoot, without getting out ladders or wrenches - you can simply use a pole to remove the brake, move a light where you want it, and re-set the brake on that instrument in about five seconds.

It ain't cheap. But time wasted when you have a full crew and a gaggle of talent and you're trying to re-light something is ALSO not cheap.

I figure the few grand I threw at it when I was building the studio has paid itself back in efficiency about a thousand times over.

Pretty good investment to my way of thinking.

YMMV.
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Old May 9th, 2007, 06:49 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Stil Williams View Post
This has got to be one of the most comprehensive and helpful posts in a long time, massively impressive.
No kidding. The quality and quantity of information on these boards is absolutely amazing. Thanks to everyone who takes the time.
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Old May 9th, 2007, 08:27 PM   #7
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Building a studio has been on my mind for 6 years so I have a lot of information on all aspects of it ;-). When I finally settle down and do it, it'll be a labor of love and I'll do it in a warehouse most likely like the original poster. I'm too busy with other things right now to even attempt settling down.

The problem with most existing warehouses though is the "clear span" you get between columns. There are lots of reasons you don't want columns in the middle of a studio, but its much more expensive to have the proper self-supporting truss system on the roof (that doesn't require columns in the middle of the studio). Imagine all the stuff it has to support: the roof itself, air conditioning ducts and system, electrical conduits, perhaps fire sprinklers, the pipe grid, the lights and riggings, maybe even a catwalk or two, etc. The trusses can be enormous. In one studio I visited in Hollywood the trusses are 130' across and about 12 feet high so they lose about 12 feet above the grid to just the roof supports! There are enormous columns along the walls in that studio which help support the trusses.

It's a fairly daunting task to find an existing structure that will support all this stuff. That's why many end up building a new building. But there are certainly alternatives. Like the truss system I mentioned that uses the floor for support instead of the ceiling supports. Electrical services to the grid are quite a different matter and you could practically write a book on what needs to be done there to be safe.

We didn't even talk about a DMX distribution along the grid to allow automated dimming and instrument on/off, etc.
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Old May 9th, 2007, 08:32 PM   #8
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When I built my studio, I went with the IFF studio rail system.
That's one of the other ones I couldn't think of the name and was trying to find a link. So here it is:

http://www.iff.it/accessories_categories.php?id_main=9


But there's still another one I saw recently I can't find either. It had square conduits running the length of it and baby spud mounts at regular intervals.
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Old May 10th, 2007, 10:01 PM   #9
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We are really talking about two different things here, there are grids and there are railings. Grids are a fix number of crossing tubing while railing move to any XY position, for obvious reasons each moving rail is intended for one light only. Railing was very popular with portrait studios where they used only four or five lights from the railings. Railings are made to carry strobe heads that are usually lightweight.

TV studios all use grids and unlike rails they might have dozens of lights hanging from the grid. Over the year I built several grids and it can be done very (relatively) inexpensively. I use 10ft sections of galvanized ĺ pipes that you can buy at any Home Depot or plumbing supplies. For connections go to www.mcmaster.com and search for KEE KLAMPS. I donít have a studio anymore but I still use grids on location when needed; now I use aluminum instead of galvanized tubing for weight. You can see some of my portable grids on http://efplighting.com/?Building_grids.

How much weight youíll be able to support will of course depend on the ceiling that youíll be attaching the grids to. You can attach a support every six to eight feet to just about any ceiling and if you do it right you should be able to hang any type of lights. For a variety of attachments go to Matthews at www.msegrip.com

Depending on the height of the ceiling you might consider also investing in a mobile platform ladder because unless you have many and many light youíll be constantly doing a lot of repositioning.
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Old May 11th, 2007, 12:02 PM   #10
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Tyson:

A couple of more points to add to some the existing excellent information.

Part of the lighting grid that you want to think about in your design is control. Are you going to install dimmers? (Highly recommended) How many circuits do you need, and how much current does each circuit require? (1 20 amp circuit at 110 volts supports 2000 watts of light). What kind of spacing do you need on your grid? What is the overall size of the grid. These are all design factors to consider.

I've designed and installed a few grids, including two in our studios. A traditional lighting grid actually consists of two parts...a structural part which supports the lighting instruments, and an electrical part, which powers the lighting instruments. The electrical part can connect to the lights via pigtails or sockets, and they can use a variety of connectors.

Our grids combine the two parts into one. We use 2" pipe, hung on 4 foot centers. The longitudinal pipes are the load carriers. The latitudinal pipes are the wire conduits, and have 4 x 4 by 2 boxes with quad edison plugs at 4 foot intervals. Each box has it's own 20 amp circuit.

Our 40 x 60 studio has 24 circuits, each "mirrored" at opposite ends of the studio, so we actually have 48 boxes controlled by a 24 channel dimmer. The whole thing probably would cost about 8 - 10K to build.

The weight issue should be considered, but usually is not too big of a problem. The lighting grid probably comes in a 2 to 3 psf. A typical drop ceiling is about half of that, and a "Hard" ceiling, like drywall, is about the same. We just hang our grid off of the roof trusses. The lowest load factor of any roof I've ever seen is 40 psf.

Hope this helps some.


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Old May 11th, 2007, 02:13 PM   #11
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Here is a picture on the interior where you can see the ceiling...
Since A few people have been mentioning the Strength of the ceiling Structure and if it can support a grid with lights, ect. I'm no engineer so I know nothing about it - but maybe you can tell me... PS: all that junk in there is currently being removed...

interior:
http://www.definitiveproductions.com...udioWide44.jpg

exterior:
http://www.definitiveproductions.com...StudioEx33.jpg
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Old May 11th, 2007, 03:49 PM   #12
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Tyson:

That looks like a typical roof truss build from angle iron and bar. My guess is that you will have no problem supporting a light grid and instruments. But you will have to have that verified by local authorities.

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Old May 11th, 2007, 04:53 PM   #13
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That looks like an office/warehouse complex and thus a leased space right? If so, you may also need to verify with the leasing authorities if it's okay to make modifications to the trusses too. they'll probably be okay with it but you never know and make sure you get it in writing. Another thing to think about if this is a lease is, like I mentioned, what will you do when you move on? Will you just leave all this grid infrastructure behind, etc? Or will you want to take some or part of it with? This will all influence the style of grid you build and how "permanently" it is installed.
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Old May 11th, 2007, 05:30 PM   #14
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A Grid fosters poor quality lighting.

I have had, and worked in studios and on sound stages for 40 years and have yet to see a grid that compliments or aassists the job of quality lighting. You can sink a fortune into all of the accessories needed for a functioning grid; panographs, legs, sticks, stingers, adapters, splitters, and the list goes on.
With a grid one can only place an instrument on or beneath a batton, without time consuming rigging and gadgets, etc. If one has a grid that has 8' spacing you restrict placement of an instrument greatly. 4' spacing is better, but infinite placement is best.
Many "pros" wouldn't consider a grid. Use light stands, C-stands, and/or build a bridge for overhead placement and move it where ever you wants.
There is a tendency to think that a grid makes a studio. In truth, a grid generally detracts from the job of quality lighting.
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Old May 12th, 2007, 02:11 AM   #15
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Kennedy,

Sorry, but I have to totally disagree with you.

A modern rail system is built, not on a "fixed" grid, but on a system of sliding rails such that in literally 10 seconds one can position (with very few limitations) any fixture at any point in X/Y space. Add a pantograph to any light, and that light gains complete positioning flexibility in XYZ space.

The old ridgid "fixed rail" grids are a thing of the past. In modern rail systems, only one set of "top rails" are fixed. From those fixed rails, a second parallel rail system is typically mounted on double sliding trucks so each cross rail can be moved and locked in any required position.

I've worked with one of these systems for six years straight, and I've NEVER had a problem instantly moving any light PRECISELY where I need it, quickly and easily.

For what it's worth.
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