Carts are powering down the fast lane when it comes to lighting live music venue tours. The development of more compact, but powerful, LED fixtures and other advances in lighting technology have made it possible to put together a bright, flexible and endlessly interesting lightshow on four or five pre-cabled carts. Now that cart-based shows are a viable option, more lighting designers are jumping on board, drawn by the prospect of saving time on site and easily adapting their rigs to different stage configurations.
Victor Zeiser and his team at Squeek Lights are no strangers to putting their designs on wheels, having developed custom cart shows for tours by clients like Animals As Leaders, Real Friends, and Silverstein. Zeiser shared some insights with us on how he determines when to roll out carts, and how he adapts them to his lighting designs.
You’ve done a lot of good-looking shows with carts and a lot without, so how do you decide when to do one or the other?
“There are a couple things we consider that can lead to selecting carts for a tour. The biggest factors for us are how quickly we need the rig to go up, and how much space the band has available for us to use. We often push the idea of carts when we have a non-lighting crew member taking on lighting as an additional responsibility. That person doesn’t need to have the afternoon eaten up by setting up a lighting rig!”
You mentioned space too. How does that come into play?
“The big thing that you need to be aware of is how much trailer space the carts will take up. You have to calculate that into your planning.”
Does stage size have anything to do with your decision whether or not to use carts?
“Bigger stages tend to be better for carts. We always want to make sure the client is able to get the carts into the building, and that there will be room for them on stage every day. If you get into a space where you can’t get the carts in the building, or don’t have room on deck, you won’t have a show!”
Are there certain types of fixtures that lend the selves to carts?
“We’ve had good luck with using medium to smaller fixtures as well as static fixtures on our carts. Ideally the fixtures should be fully protected by the carts. If the fixtures are too large, carts are not a good choice. When using static fixtures, we try to pick ones with secure yolks, as we have had some back luck with cheaper yolk fixtures breaking.”
Does using carts influence the configuration of your design?
“Yeah cart designs tend to be a little more boxed in, and you end up with vertical rows of fixtures a lot more than you normally would. With larger carts you can break things up via left and right placement. With smaller carts you break things up by using a variety of fixture types.”
Do clients have any reaction or opinion to carts being used?
“My clients LOVE carts. Using a cart can free up so much time for the responsible person verses setting up fixtures one at a time, so it is a big win for them. Having all the wiring built in also reduces the amount of trouble shooting that is needed on the road.”
What are the big advantages of using carts?
“Speed of setup and reduced trouble shooting are big advantages. Plus, carts can also be a used as scenic elements on tour.”
Have advances in lighting technology made it easier to consider carts as a design option?
“LED lighting is great for carts. We can load up a cart with some LED movers and blinders and have it all fit on a single 20-amp circuit! The smaller size also helps keep the weight down, which is important when the carts need to be lifted or stacked.”
Do you ever mix rigs, where some of the rig is on carts and some isn’t?
“We will do this often. We’ll have the main portion of the rig on the carts, and then have extra pieces, frequently side light or floor lights, off carts. Sometimes we will also place larger fixtures like hybrids or spots on top off the carts to increase the side of the stage picture. In the end it comes down to what you feel is best for your client.”