This article will help you create a spec that will get your electrics bid correctly and built as intended
What is a Scenic Electrics Specification?
The Scenic Electrics Specification is a document created by the Lighting Design team in cooperation with the Production Electrician. It's purpose is to convey what lighting treatments are part of the Scenic design, what types of products are desired, and how the designer intends to use them. It also conveys standards for all equipment used, such as dimming resolutions and control preferences.
What makes this document so important?
The Scenic Electrics Specification is one of the most critical documents used in the bidding phase of a production. There are a wide range of products and methods that can be used to approach a design element, so a more detailed spec will help to ensure that the designers intent is preserved and that the scenic shop can accurately bid the equipment. A spec with complete and detailed information is more likely to be bid and built as desired.
The document also serves a second critical function. It is the reference point for the Scenic Electrics Designer throughout the engineering and technical drawing phases of the design. For this reason, it is of the highest importance that the document remain up to date with any changes that may take place during the bidding phase.
Who uses this document?
The LX spec should be a point of reference for everyone on the production team who works with the lighting included in it. The Design team, Project Managers, Electricians, Estimators, Technical Designers and shop Technicians all need to read and understand the details provided.
What information should be included?
The LX spec should be a comprehensive guide to the scenic electrics in the production. Typically, they are broken down into sections to help organize the information in a familiar way.
The cover page should include the show title, date of creation and revision number, and contact info for the Producer, General Manager, Lighting Designer & Associates/Assistants, Production Manager, and Show Electrician. It is particularly important that this page tell you who to contact with questions.
The notes section is typically broken up into two segments; notes from the Lighting Designer, and notes from the Production Electrician.
Notes from the Lighting Designer should include specific instructions pertaining to the execution of the design intent, as it pertains to the bidding and construction of the scenic electrics.
The second segment contains specific information provided by the Production Electrician. Details included get more specific regarding the type of equipment used, construction details and standards of workmanship.
It is important that both the Lighting Designer and Production Electrician use this section of the document to clarify their expectations for the Scenic Electrics and take into account all guidelines which will apply to the work in general.
Scenic electrics unit descriptions
This section comprises the bulk of the electrics specification document. It should be organized in the same order as the scenic bid drawings package, and grouped by scenic unit, then further broken down into lighting treatments. Each section should clearly reference the sheet number of the scenic drawing(s) where the lighting can be found.
A typical example might look like this:
[unit name], [drawing plate #]
[lighting treatment #1]
description of lighting treatment including design intent, location and orientation of lighting source.
number and location of control zones, written on spec and notated on drawing.
lighting product specification, including web link to product spec page
control equipment specification (dimmers, drivers, control resolution 8 bit, 16 bit, etc.)
specific unit notes, as applicable (unit flies, travels, rotates, etc.)
How the unit receives power and data
This format would continue on, adding additional lighting treatments as needed and then moving on to the next scenic unit. It is preferable that each unit be on a dedicated, single page if possible as this makes it easier to reference all of the details at a glance without having to scroll between pages.
Special consideration - Battery powered equipment
If the scenic unit is to be operated via battery power, it is important to include some additional information.
Battery type (chemical composition)
Desired runtime of the unit. While the full details of this are often unknown before technical rehearsals begin, an approximation is required to properly size the battery equipment and can often have a large impact on the final cost of the unit.
Charging details. Will the unit be charged with the battery in place or will the battery be removed for charging? These details often impact the details of what equipment is required in the system.
Wireless data control specifications
Dealing with substitutions
During the bidding process it is sometimes necessary to use alternate equipment to fulfil the needs of the design. Reasons for this can be based on cost, equipment availability or dictated by the geometry of the scenery itself, among others. It is important that substitutions be dealt with properly. First, any changes to the equipment list must be disclosed to the Lighting Designer and Production Electrician, the reasons for them should be discussed, and alternates agreed to among all parties. Second, the alternate solutions should match the design intent as fully as possible. Lastly, any alternate to the original lighting must work within the space allowed by the scenery and be consistent with similar equipment on the production. Any substitutions made should be highlighted in an updated specification document and distributed to all parties as quickly as possible.
Filling in the knowledge gaps
The details of scenic electrics can often require a lot of time and attention, as well as a specialized knowledge set that deals with all of the various factors that need to be considered in a successful design. For this reason, it is important that Scenic and Lighting Designers collaborate with experienced technical partners that can help to refine and implement the lighting technologies that go into the scenic elements.
Thanks for reading through this blog post, I hope it has been informative. Over the years I have worked with countless productions to help refine and implement lighting elements and I know how important the scenic electrics specification is to the process. I hope that this helps to refine the nuances of this element of the production process, and demonstrate some of the information that is essential to include within it.
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