Tips & Tricks

The Recipe for Programming Perfection Takes Time

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Have you ever noticed that the top programmers in our industry are not those that just started programming in the last few years? When building your perfect programmer, remember that it takes time to make perfection. In fact, I would argue that there is no “perfect” programmer - all great programmers are continually learning and cooking.

—Brad Schiller, from “Feeding the Machines,” PLSN, Aug. 2015 page 57

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The Importance of Knowing Who's Who

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Four years ago, I started working with a famous artist. I was only a few months into being his LD, a position that was more like Russian roulette, based on the long line of predecessors. I was setting up Front of House around noon that day. This older gentleman was putting up his personal video camera right in my sight line. Instead of attacking him about what he was doing (“You can’t video the show!) Or dissing him over poor cable management (his were very messy), I simply asked him in a very nice tone if he wouldn’t mind moving just a bit to the side and keeping it clean. We were expecting a lot of guests at FOH today. Our soundman, who’d been with the artist a long time, was nice enough to stop what he was doing and introduce me to the artist’s father. Gulp. Point being, if I had barked at him, there probably would be someone else writing this column about the jackass he replaced on that gig.

—Joel Reiff, from “LD at Large,” PLSN, Aug. 2015

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Nook's Tidbits: The People Behind the Leko

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The name Leko is a contraction of the original manufacturer's names, Joseph Levy and Edward F. Kook, founders of Century Lighting, which formed in 1929, launched the Lekolite ellipsoidal reflector spotlight in 1933 and merged with Strand Lighting in 1969. Many companies make ellipsoidal fixtures, but only one makes an “official” Leko — Philips’ Strand Lighting division.

—Nook Schoenfeld

 

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Cables Galore in the Festival Bone Yards

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PLSN editor Nook Schoenfeld caught up with BML Blackbird crew chief Russ Felton and asked about his plan of attack for handling a gig requiring five semi-trucks of lighting gear. Felton spoke of the need for stashes of spares and gear dubbed bone yards. “I have seven distinct areas to cover, hence I will create seven different ‘bone yards’ on site,” Felton noted. “Each one will have the fixtures the LD spec’d and whatever hardware that I need…The bone yard is simply all the gear that I possibly might need to pull off lighting that area, no matter what the designer throws at me. As far as cable, there’s only one thing I can do. I bring along one 5-foot, 10-foot, 20-foot and 50-foot jumper cable for every fixture. Since I have lots of LED fixtures, I will two-fer a lot of circuits together on site. Sure, it’s a lot of cable, but better safe than sorry. I’m in a 400-acre field in Delaware; can’t just run to the shop for something.”

—Russ Felton, as interviewed by Nook Schoenfeld for “In the Trenches,” PLSN, July 2015

 

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For Some, EZcast Might Serve as BYOD Solution

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The concept of BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device”) is becoming increasingly important in video and business circles. When you walk into a meeting room, the best thing would be that your own device (cell phone, tablet, PC or whatever), immediately and natively discovers the Wi-Fi receiver in the room, discovers the display device, sets up and authenticates a connection, enables you to push video to the display, and assigns a participant as the moderator. And the next time you meet in the same room, you’re logged on again. If only it was that easy…but we do now have EZCast, which combines both the Miracast and Chromecast ideas with cross-platform support,  including Apple. It’s also an inexpensive HDMI-enabled dongle, with auto-discovery and arbitration. Users can send video from their desktop to a device with the attached EZCast dongle, which then acts as an integrated Wi-Fi access point. In the conference room, you can mirror your screen, stream from the Internet, or connect to a webcam. EZCast becomes a remote control, a video transmitter, a desktop mirror — and by the way, it has 256-bit AES encryption.

—Paul Berliner, from “Video World,” PLSN, July 2015

 

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Defying the Safety Risks of Gravity

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Gravity and its related safety hazards never sleep, so crews working at height need to be vigilant about protecting themselves and others. Mountain Productions is helping with an expanded array of fall protection offerings including harnesses, lanyards, fall arrest systems, helmets and more. Their inventory from DBI-SALA includes personal harnesses and self-retracting lifelines along with other fall safety items. They also offer KASK’s Super Plasma helmets to keep crew members safe on site, with comfort features that can help assure the helmets are used on the job, and Python Safety’s drop prevention products to help ensure that fumbled tools don’t become hazardous projectiles in the first place.

—From “Product Spotlight” by Thomas S. Friedman, PLSN, July 2015

 

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Staggering A "Peel" Can Entice the Eye

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One of the most magical and simple effects to create on stage is a “peel,” where a series of fixtures makes changes, one after the other. For instance, let’s say you want to move 12 fixtures from a U.S. position to a DS position. If you simply do this with a fade time of 10 seconds, they will all begin at the same moment, travel at the same speed and end at the same time. However, if you assign each fixture a unique position fade time that is slightly greater than the previous fixture, then the look will be very different. Now they will all start at the same moment, but move at different speeds and different end times. If instead of assigning these consecutive times to the fade time you used the delay time, then all the fixtures would move at the same speed, but start and end individually. By staggering the delay times, very interesting changes can easily be created. You can further vary the look by staggering the values in different orders (left to right, random, in pairs).

—Brad Schiller, from "Feeding the Machines," PLSN, July 2015

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New Solution for Real Time Monitoring of Power

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Whirlwind now offers a monitoring solution for projects that need accurate and reliable real-time power utilization feedback. The PL-PM1 power meter is a 2-RU rack-mount unit that connects to your Whirlwind distro by means of a Eurostyle connector on the rear of the unit, and displays the voltage on a bright and easy-to-read display - even in direct sunlight - on the front of the unit. Far from being just a simple voltmeter, however, the PL-PM1 also has a second set of readouts for reading amperage usage across all three hot legs, allowing you to monitor current across the entire system in real time. Additional displays show the AC frequency, neutral-to-ground voltage and amperage on the neutral leg.

—From “Product Spotlight” by Craig Rutherford, PLSN, June 2015

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Striving Toward Patching Perfection

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A patch is a set of instructions that assign specific controls on the desk to fixtures and their attributes in the real world, and it's an absolute requirement for every single show...Often the master electrician or the crew chief will determine the best patch, depending upon how they plan to cable the rig. In other cases, the programmer may patch the rig as he/she sees fit and then share the information with the crew. Sometimes one person fills all these positions and simply plans the entire rig and patch himself. No matter who creates the patch, the lighting programmer must receive the data and enter it into the console accordingly. It is also important that the designer, programmer and ME/crew chief know the console fixture numbers, as this is how the units will be referred to throughout programming and show.

— Brad Schiller, from "Feeding the Machines," PLSN, June 2015

 

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Touring Life, When You Don’t Look Like The Other Boys

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My name is Becky Pell and I am an anomaly. I’m a live sound engineer, and I’m a woman. It’s an unusual combination, but I’m rarely conscious of it until someone points it out...It is hard work and long days; you do have to work your way up and be prepared to get your hands dirty; and it’s really not glamorous at all most of the time. But I honestly believe that being a woman in this business is as much of a problem as you decide to let it be. And man it’s fun!

--Becky Pell, from "Lady Roadie At Large," PLSN, June 2015


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