Tips & Tricks

Don't Blind the Audience!

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I have also seen productions where very bright and narrow beam fixtures are pointing in a nice downward fan-out into the audience. What happens is that the poor audience members standing in the beam cannot see any of the show for the entire song or scene. Just as laser specialists pay attention to the termination of their beams, lighting programmers need to be aware of where they are pointing the automated lights. Of course, there are moments that it is okay to focus into the audience for illumination or effect, but consideration must be taken in regards to the duration and purpose.

-Brad Schiller, from "Feeding the Machines," PLSN, Jan. 2015, page 57

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Club Rule Number One: Be Specific

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What’s the proper way to convey your lighting hopes and dreams to your house LD du jour? I prefer an annotated set list, with two simple pieces of information for each song: color, and an arrow indicating tempo. Most any house rig you encounter will feature color and tempo, but may not be capable of movement or beam effects. You may include up to three specific cues, and I’ll try my best to nail them, but any more and you might consider hiring your very own LD. Avoid adjectives, and if you don’t speak lighting, maybe avoid words altogether. I might accurately guess what you mean by moody, but when you tell me a song is fluffy or itchy, results may vary. Does “they don’t like green” mean no solid green wash, or not even a hint of green? Is “not too much haze” your timid way of implying no haze whatsoever? Be specific.

-Stosh Rickenbach, from "Club Rules 101," PLSN, Jan. 2015, "LD-at-Large"

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Prepare for, Don't React to, Weather Emergencies

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“Weather is extremely unpredictable, but in the world of live events, the responsibility of protecting audiences, crew and gear falls to the production. Keeping everyone safe has to be a priority. Unfortunately, with all the other aspects of putting on a show, it can get swept aside until it’s too late. It’s not enough to simply react to weather emergencies. It is time for our industry to start preparing in advance. It’s important to adopt strategic plans for these situation that will, inevitably, arise.”

—Rich Barr, veteran tour production manager and co-founder of Perfect Storm, as quoted by Rachel Pfennig Hales for "Safety Factor," PLSN, Dec. 2014, page 36.

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Use Thumbnails to Quickly Locate Media Server Content

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Many of the same steps for working with automated lighting can also be applied to punting with media servers. Speed is the name of the game during a busking show, so finding that ‘blue’ clip you want or creative effect in a hurry means that your desktop views have to be well-thought-out… When you're using stock content, if you're not familiar with it already, then you may find it very useful to take advantage of a remote content management application (if the server has one) so you can see thumbnails, making it easier to locate clips by color and/or name at least.

—From “Busking with a Media Server” by Vickie Claiborne, PLSN, Dec. 2014, page 54

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Obscure Fixture Features: Quickest Path

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If your luminaire has a feature called “quickest path” or “snap,” and it is enabled, then you will instead see the color wheel turn the other direction and go from red to white to blue. In this case, the wheel has turned in the direction that gets to the new result in the fastest manner. The quickest path setting is usually selected in a control channel or by selecting a discreet value for each position on the wheel that indicates you want the quickest path versus normal path. You can toggle the path setting as needed during your programming, thus allowing more creative choices in how parameters change.

For more on obscure fixture features, read Brad Schiller’s “Feeding the Machines” column, PLSN, Dec. 2014, page 57.

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Pre-Viz Options Expanding for Video Designers

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The lack of a single source for video design, management and playback has thankfully changed, and now video designers have some very powerful pre-visualization/media server hybrid packages. Two of these, the d3 (d3 Technologies) and Ai (Avolites Media), offer the same levels of design and pre-visualization control to video directors that wysiwyg, ESP Vision and LightConverse offer to lighting designers. These proprietary hardware/software servers offer the video designer the ability to lay out all projection details needed, including angles, throw distances and lens options, while also storing the content and the timeline or cuelist for playback as well as allowing for via external control (like DMX or Art-Net).

—From “Video Digerati” by Vickie Claiborne, PLSN, Nov. 2014, page 100

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Go to the Web to Pick Up Tricks from Others

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If you are on Facebook, Twitter, ProLightingSpace or any other social media network, look to your friends for help. If you are looking for answer on a specific topic, look for a group or user base forum to ask your question. You may not get an answer right away, but trust in the people on the forums — most times, they are willing and able to help. Don’t let the flamers and haters get to you. Some people on the Internet are looking for trouble. Just ignore them and look to people that genuinely want to help. ProLightingSpace.com has a number of groups dedicated to almost every aspect of your business, from lighting design, video, media servers and even specialty groups like House of Worship. A number of users on ProLightingSpace have found answers to their questions throughout the years. Looking back at some of the older questions, they still get responses even today. Maybe it is a different take on the subject, or a better technique is found. In any case, the archives and past postings are another great place to find those tips and tricks.

—From Justin Lang, “Focus on Fundamentals,” PLSN Nov. 2014


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Art-Net: Best Used with a Closed System

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It is important to note that Art-Net is specifically designed to be used in a closed network situation only.  Art-Net is not designed to be used in conjunction with the Internet.  On top of that, it is not a good idea to run Art-Net over a building’s internal network.  Your lighting rig (or architectural installation) should run on its own isolated network.  This, again, will help to make sure that there are fewer opportunities for your Art-Net network to have problems. So, keep your lighting network separate from your collection of YouTube videos of dancing.  Cute they may be, your lights don’t care.

From “Building the Art-Net(work) by Michael Graham, PLSN, Nov. 2014

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Boss or Leader?

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I really dislike the term “boss.” I especially hate when people say things like “Whatever, you’re the boss.” I think this is because I find distinct differences between the words Boss and Leader. For instance, a boss tells you what to do and walks away assuming you will get something done, and that’s the end of it. But a leader will ask you to do something, then make sure you know how to do it properly before walking away. Believe it or not, I have seen lighting crew bosses walk up to crew members and say, “You’re doing that wrong,” and then walk away, expecting the tech to seek out the correct way from someone else or screw something up even further by trying some new way he thinks may work. A leader will stop and show the tech an example of the right way to do the task.

From "LD at Large" by Nook Schoenfeld, PLSN Nov. 2014

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The Move to 4K: Costly, Yet Inexorable

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There’s a caveat with 4K presentations, and companies desiring to move in that direction need to have their eyes wide open. The workflow, from concept to presentation, is the same, but the budget for a 4K event would essentially be four times that of an HD event — because you’re dealing with signals that are four times HD. The storage medium needs to be four times as large. The rendering of your graphics and videos will take an enormously longer time, and the file size of a 4K video is exponentially larger than that of an HD video. Your graphics department might consider investing in a dedicated, high-powered “render farm,” — just to get the graphics and videos complete in time for the event. Don’t let these facts discourage you, because the end result will certainly be the finest, most spectacular way to put your event on screen, in native 4K.

—Paul Berliner, from “Video World,” PLSN, Oct. 2014

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