by David 

How to Keep Your Lights Running in Tip-Top ShapeLighting Console Layout for Events with Camera (A.K.A Every Event)

If you want your lights to live a nice, long, happy life, it’s important to take great care of them.

So, whether you own or take care of someone else’s gear, here’s how to get it done!

Taking Care of Your Fixtures and Consoles

Lighting fixtures do the difficult work of actually putting out the wonderful light that we see on stage.

If you’re doing lighting in a installed environment, the great news is that you’re not going to be putting a lot of wear and tear on your fixtures.

In fact, most of the time you really don’t need to do much for your fixtures in this scenario.

Just be sure and periodically bench focus your conventionals and keep your dimmers and moving lights clean.  I would suggest checking in on your fixtures about once a year and inspecting them for any wear and tear that is unusual.

Lighting FixturesFor your consoles, be sure and buy or make a simple cover to keep things dust-free when not in use.

Brush off your consoles periodically with a light touch of a unused paint brush, and you’ll keep particles out of the faders so they can live a long life!

However, if you’re doing lighting with gear that you setup and tear down often, the chore list can get a little longer!  In addition to the above, it’s really important to keep your fixtures in some sort of case.

Depending on how you transport your lights, you may not need to buy a fancy-dancy roadcase.  For many bands, DJ’s or portable churches, a system of lightweight cases or even just plastic bins will do just fine.

The determining factors here are 1) how much you gig and how much wear and tear you put on cases and 2) what else is riding in the trailer with the lights!

If you’ve got large, heavy items like risers and big road cases, than plastic bins and soft-cases will get crushed easily.  But if you don’t have any of that, then you can probably get away with such!

And as always – take care of all gear like it’s yours – whether it is or not!  When you treat gear carefully in setup and tear down, it lasts much longer.

Keep Your Gear Dry!

Another important note for gigging bands and portable churches is to make sure that you keep your gear dry!  One of the biggest killers of equipment is moisture, from either storage that gets wet or rainy gigs.

For the sake of your gear, bring trash bags and/or tarps to cover your gear in the event of water – and never play outside if it’s raining – it’s just not worth the risk to your gear or your performers!

Now, if your gear does get wet, it’s very important to turn them off ASAP!  Then, when you do get it torn down and taken home, unpack everything and sit it out to dry with fans blowing.

You’ll want to remove any covers from moving lights and take apart anything you feel qualified to in order to get it dry.  Many pieces of gear will be okay once they dry, as long as they are not on while wet!

Taking Care of Your Cables

Just like your fixtures, when you take care of your cables, they take care of you and live a long life. The number one cause of cable failure that I see is improperly-wrapped cables.

If you’re wrapping your cables around your arm and think that’s okay – please stop!  No matter how you wrap, check out this page for a quick refresher to keep your cables running strong.

Cable MaintenanceIn addition to keeping your cables working, wrapping cables properly also makes it easy to unwrap and setup your rig every day.

This goes for installations to – if you setup and tear down floor lights or move lights around, always wrap your cables well and they’ll live a long and happy life! In addition to this, when you’re wiring up fixtures, you want to be on the lookout for a few cable no-no’s that can bite you later.

1) Make sure that your cables aren’t being pulled tight around any corners, or on the back of the fixture itself.  Anywhere that gets pulled like this can create a short and take a cable out of commission.

2) Always leave slack for the fixture to move a few feet and be focused.  That way, when someone is in the dark focusing the fixture, they don’t have to worry about the cable, and they won’t accidentally pinch or pull a cable.

Now, when you do have a bad cable, the first thing to do is to make sure that you mark it well.

Light colored tape (or even better – red!) with a big X on it will usually suffice.

Then, when you’ve got a minute, whip out the soldering iron and make your cable happy again!

If you don’t know how to do this, or don’t feel qualified, then make a big pile of cables and pay someone to fix them all at once. ix it.  Here’s how to fix broken cables!

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  • I have just gotten 16 motion lights. and I am trying to figure out a good way to transport them. I would like to NOT have to break them down each night off the tree, however I am more concerned with a DIY way of transporting them. Any tips?

    • Hi JP,

      The biggest key is making sure you are gentle with them in whatever method you transport them. So, you can leave them on a tree crossbar, but make sure you support and cushion the heads of the lights. I’m not sure how you transport your gear, but if you place them in a cable trunk with some foam, or on some kind of rack where the heads aren’t leaning on anything, you’ll be good!

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