Tips & Tricks

Watch Out for Internet Truth-Stretchers

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Anyone can falsely certify himself or herself as a pro on the Internet, and that needs to stop. Truck loaders can give rigging advice now. Companies spend money investing in a new employee who just may have fabricated their career. There’s a person online who claims to have held many touring positions, yet nobody could vouch for them. On some threads, they claimed to be an audio executive, FOH mixer and friend to countless roadies. They claimed to be an accomplished LD. Eventually this person proclaimed himself to be a safety expert. This was no longer harmless….Perhaps the time has come for an actual registry of touring personnel. A site with the mission of giving us the tools to locate crew based on their skills, certifications and verified tour experience.

—Nook Schoenfeld, from “Editors Note,” PLSN, April 2015

 

 

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The Dark Side of Visualizers

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Visualizers are awesome, but you have to control them. Don’t let them control you. Because they are so fast, it is really easy to not think clearly about how all of this will go together when it is done. The next thing you know, you have designed something that looks more like the Death Star rather than the simple set you were first asked to design…. So now that you have your Death Star set complete with enough lights to be seen clear from the Outer Rim in front of your client in the rendering, you will have blown their minds. But if the next comment out of the person signing the check is, “Looks cool,” it’s usually followed by, “How much is this going to cost?” Your answer to that question could end your meeting pretty quickly if your number is way higher than what the client was thinking.

—Michael Graham, from “Focus on Fundamentals,” PLSN, March 2015 page 52

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Agree on an Evacuation Plan Before You Need to Use It

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What happens if the weather catches us a off guard? That happened to my team and I in December of 2009 in the Mojave Desert, during Virgin Galactic’s christening event for SpaceShipTwo. The event began in a clear tent with a press conference and speeches. The guests were then invited out into the Mojave evening to watch SpaceShipTwo rolling down 1,800 feet of taxiway. Guests then went to the tent along with two inflatable domes measuring 80 feet in diameter to party and celebrate. SpaceShipTwo made it down the taxiway and was christened, but the winds got stronger and stronger. When the winds hit a [previously agreed-upon] trigger level, the buses were called back and the 800 guests were politely but firmly and rapidly moved onto the waiting vehicles and sent back to Los Angeles. As the last buses left the site, the winds still didn’t let up, and the call was made to completely clear the site. I still vividly remember sitting with my colleagues Austin and Dennis safely at the perimeter of the site as the winds gusted to 105 mph and lifted the massive tent and folded it like an umbrella on a windy day. A chilling sight, for sure, but made less so by knowing the guests and crew were safe.

—John Featherstone, from “Wecome To My Nightmare,” PLSN, March 2015

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You're at the Gig with No Console. Now What?

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A prominent LD has asked you to take over a gig for him as he needs to be home for the birth of a child. He designed the plot, but now needs you to travel to a Caribbean island to program and operate a large rig of lighting fixtures and media servers for a music awards ceremony. When you arrive, you are told that the console has been stuck in customs and that only the network processor has arrived at FOH. No other consoles are available in the area. The show is in three days, and you must program for the 12 songs and all the awards segments. Your best option is to keep moving forward. Launch the PC version of the console on your laptop and plug into the network processor. Now you will have full control of the rig, but only your keyboard and mouse to work with. Request a monitor and familiarize yourself with the keyboard shortcuts. Then get programming! That's a much better approach than simply taking a day or two off and hitting the beach. Do that, and the production staff will likely hunt you down and feed you to the sharks!

Brad Schiller, from "Feeding the Machines," PLSN, March 2015

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Corporate vs. Rock 'n' Roll Shows

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In an effort to stay consistently employed since I left my last tour, I have been doing more work in the corporate/trade show end of the industry. Because these shows are usually one-offs, every show is a new product. While I miss the energy of playing along with a band every night, I love getting to be creative with new projects. While the vibe of a corporate show verses a rock tour can be compared to a set of identical twins who’s personalities are polar opposites of each other, the same skills are needed to create a polished product for either. The organization that lets a master electrician run three miles of cable in a quick systematic manner (on an arena tour) lets him do the same thing in a convention center. And that skill-set that allows an LD to walk into a house rig and set the mood for a song by filling the stage with dramatic scenes painted out of light also allows her to add depth, color, and texture, to a corporate meeting or broadcast event.

—Jess Baker, Guest “LD-at-Large,” PLSN, March 2015, page 68

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Auto Show Lighting Rigs Moving to New Fixtures

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At the Los Angeles Auto Show (LAAS), TLS Productions, Creative Technology and Christie Lites provided a new workhorse fixture — Elation Design Par 575s — to replace conventional 575W daylight PARs. Arnold Serame, who lit the Toyota, Lexus and Scion booths at LAAS, credited the no-frills fixtures for their economy and reliability. Fewer fancy features, he noted, means fewer moving parts to break. But he credits one moving part — the yoke — for increasing the time available to get the focus just right. Creative Technology’s Chris Wasilauskas, who lit the Kia and Audi booths, agrees, noting the huge advantage remote focusing has when rigs need to change from auto show to press event mode.

—From “Niche Projects: Lighting the L.A. Auto Show,” PLSN, February 2015, page 41, by Thomas S. Friedman



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Share Console and Media Server Thumbnails

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When it comes to media servers, I still use palette windows, but I find it tedious to have to sit there and store a palette for each and every video clip. Thankfully, with most lighting consoles today, CITP technology now allows for thumbnails to be shared between the console and the media server, so I can simply create my Layer Groups for the media server and then open a special window on the console that will allow me to view the media thumbnails. (Two examples of these types of windows are the Smart Window on the grandMA2 and the Media Viewer on the Hog4.) These special CITP windows allow me faster access to media clips without all the hassle of using an encoder wheel.

—Vickie Claiborne, from “Video Digerati,” PLSN, Feb. 2015

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Keep Concert Playbacks Organized with Pages

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Working with pages is an essential tool for lighting programmers. I cannot imagine using a single page for most productions I am involved with. Whether used for various songs, theatrical acts, tech pages, or even just storage, I find organizing my playbacks with pages tremendously powerful. Of course, every console has different terminology, features and options, so, as always, be sure to read the console’s user manual to learn the specifics for your desk. Even if you think you know all that you can do with pages on your console of choice, I urge you to read the chapter on pages, as you will probably find an option or function that you never knew existed. Be sure to always label your pages so that you know exactly what you created them for and place them in an order that flows with the production. Paging your playback controls expands the capabilities of your hardware and allows you to be more free and creative with your programming.

—Brad Schiller, from “Feeding the Machines,” PLSN, Feb. 2015

 

 

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Keeping “Four Shows” In Balance

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I am often asked, “How many shows do you have going on?” And my default answer is “Always at least four”…I don’t mean four different projects or clients; I mean always at least four shows in one: 1. The Show I Do for Myself; 2. The Show I Do as Part of a Team; 3. The Show I Do for my Client; and 4. The Show I Do for The Audience. Keeping these “four shows” in balance isn’t always easy, and sometimes they are downright contradictory. But getting really clear on what the “win” is for each of them and reviewing a project using that measure after the fact is really fundamental for me. I find the “four show theory” keeps my work balanced, the needs of the team I’m part of acknowledged, my clients well served and makes sure my ultimate employer, the audience, get the best show I can possibly deliver.

—John Featherstone, in “LD-at-Large,” PLSN, February 2015

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Pursuing a Career as a Cameraman

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At the camera position, you’re an integral part of the event. In a multi-camera show such as a baseball game or a concert, you’re part of a team that’s creating the show’s visual story line. The Director calls the shots and creates the show’s plots and sub-plots with the shots he selects. On headsets, the cameraman has the Director in one ear, program audio in the other ear, and he’s completely aware of the crowd and the action at hand. In a single-camera production, you are the event — whether you’re shooting video for your own script or working with a field reporter. So how do you get the gig? I talked at length to cameraman Danny Zemanek, and here’s how he did it. “I knew that I wanted to be a cameraman, from early on. Not a director, not a producer, but a cameraman. At Versatile Video, a Bay Area production company, I worked as a utility guy in their remote truck division, and that put me around the gear. Our utility crew would set up the cameras, test them, load them in the truck and set them up at the event. That’s how I started. I learned everything I could, I put myself around the equipment, and I practiced with the gear to hone my skills.”

—Danny Zemanek, as quoted by Paul Berliner for Video World, PLSN, Jan. 2015

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