December 2012 Issue
The Biz

25 Secrets Your LD Won’t Tell You

The business of automated lighting programming provides many opportunities to work in different manners.  Sometimes you are both the LD and the programmer, and sometimes you are purely a programmer working directly with a lighting designer.  When working alongside a lighting designer, the relationship between the two of you becomes very important.  If you do not get along, then the programming sessions will drag on without any fun.  When you do click together, the programming just flows.  Of course, no matter whom you are working with, there are always some secrets that the LD will not tell you.  The following tips explain common bits of information that your LD may withhold from you for one reason or another.

#1: Don’t assume your LD selected the fixtures in the plot.  Many times they are swapped out by the rental company or provided directly by a manufacturer.

#2: Which console you select to program does not matter to the LD.  He/she just wants to ensure that you are proficient at programming it and can do so with no problems.

#3: LDs expect you to understand the capabilities of the fixtures.  You should never start programming a production without first learning the features of each lighting fixture or media server.

#4: If something is not going to work (it is not bright enough, missing an important feature, or is in the wrong place), let your LD know as soon as possible.  They don’t want to be faced with these sorts of problems once programming has begun.

#5: Sometimes the LD is looking for your opinion and experience with other fixtures.  If you can let him/her know about other gear that you have used that might be better, it can be helpful.  However, do not suggest that they change it for this show, rather make the suggestion for a future production.

#6: Please do not explain exactly how you plan to program a particular sequence.  If the LD asks for a random dim chase of the fixtures, just program it.  He/she does not want to be asked if it should be built as a chase, loop, or effect.  He/she simply wants to get the look built and move on.

#7: Saving the show file is always important; just be sure to let the LD know when you are saving.  If you start archiving files right when the LD wants to start another task, you might slow down the thought process.

#8: Programming is the LD’s time with you.  Do not let distractions such as phone calls, text messages, unrelated tasks or other interruptions take away from the programming time.

#9: If the LD chooses to work on another production or take a phone call, he/she wants you to keep working.   Take the time to clean up previous cues, organize palettes/presets or save the show.  Don’t worry about how much attention the LD is putting towards the current task.  Just stay focused on how you can help the current show.

#10: Lighting designers have many people coming to them with requests and opinions.  You should stay out of these conversations and only program as the LD suggests.  After all, it is their design and their show.

#11: Find out early if your LD wants you to make suggestions for looks, or if he/she just wants to dictate the design to you.  While most LDs appreciate the input, some simply want you to create what they ask.

#12: Most designers are not interested in the particulars of a console.  If something cannot be done with the chosen console, be clear about this so he/she can decide the best action to take.  Use caution, though, and be sure that your facts are accurate.  Some LDs may have previous experience that contradicts your statement.

#13: Some LDs are also very skilled programmers.  These LDs may suggest methods for you to program a particular look.  It is best to follow their suggestion rather than attempt to program it differently.

#14: Usually an LD will know how much you are charging a production for your programming services.  You can talk with the LD to determine if you are charging the right amount.  Most LDs want to ensure that both you and the production are getting a good deal.  You may even be told to raise your rate if it is too low compared to other programmers from the LD’s past.

#15: The LD’s deal is the LD’s deal.  Do not ask LDs how much they are making for a gig.

#16: You may see the LD flying business class when you are sitting in coach.  You can ask your LD or producer for a similar deal.  They often will not tell you this, but you can negotiate for it if you simply ask.

#17: If an LD knows the budget, he/she might ask you to reduce your rate.  He/she will understand if you cannot lower your rate and will still likely hire you again when a gig can afford you.

#18: An LD will likely have a close relationship with band or cast members as well as members of the management.  Do not try to get close to these same people unless necessary.  It is the LD’s realm to work directly with these types.

#19: Except in rare cases, the LD will not let you know how to dress during programming and rehearsals.  You should understand the gig you are working and dress accordingly.  I once saw a tech come to FOH at a band rehearsal wearing no shirt and no shoes.  The LD promptly fired him.

#20: Even if you are a very skilled programmer or LD, the LD that hired you does not want you soliciting for future work at this gig.  You should not hand out business cards looking for work.  However, most LDs understand the need to network, if only for programming work.  A better idea is to collect contact information and email clients at a future date (but only for programming work).

#21: Many programmers become designers during their career.  Do not take any design gigs from a designer you have worked with in the past.  Always contact them first to see if they want to pass on the gig first.  No matter what, always give “props” to those who have helped you in the past.

#22: The LD might be a bit dazed, but the programmer is always expected to be on his/her A-game.  Ensure that elements in your console are organized and labeled as well as keeping track of paperwork and plots.  LDs always appreciate when organized programmers can help them stay on task.

#23: Most LDs count on their programmers to retain show files and other related documents for years after the completion of a production.  No matter the size of the show, always save these items, as you never know when they will be needed again.

#24: Keeping your console area clean and organized helps the LD feel good in the space.  No one likes to work in a messy area.

#25: Every LD always wants to have fun.  Remember this always and help to contribute to the fun of the programming sessions and time together.

Working alongside lighting designers is a privilege for automated lighting programmers.  We get to help them to bring their vision to life while also learning from their creativity.  LDs often expect us to follow certain unwritten guidelines, and thus, they may not reveal everything to us.  Hopefully the above list has helped you to become more informed for your next programming session with an LD.


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