Tips & Tricks

Setting the Stage for Special Needs Kids

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Children in wheelchairs not only have special needs, they need special design consideration when they’re part of a show - getting them in and out of the audience, getting them onto the stage requires ramps, elevators and other accessibility features. For ABC’s MDA Show of Strength Telethon, which aired as a two-hour special Aug. 31, LD Lee Rose, who worked with production designer Joe Stewart and art director Tina Miller, took other steps, ensuring that fog fluids were hypoallergenic and strobe speeds would be well below the potentially seizure-inducing rate of 15-to-20 flashes per second. Performing artists can also have special needs, but in this case, the focus was on the kids, and the lighting looks for each performer were more or less consistent with the overall look of the show.

—Debi Moen, from “Designer Watch,” PLSN, Oct. 2014


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It Can Pay to be Flexible on Fees

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People are always asking me what to charge for a gig. I have my certain rates for various jobs and prefer when I can obtain that pay scale from a client. But like the rest of everything we want in life, the charge is negotiable. I may be sitting on the couch earning nothing waiting for the phone to ring. It always does. And when it does I will entertain any offer, because it’s paying me substantially more than my couch.

—Nook Schoenfeld, from LD-at-Large, PLSN, Oct. 2014

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A Mega-Pod of B-Eyes for Lady Gaga

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Not every tour can splurge on the latest head-spinning fixtures out there like the B-Eye K20 from Clay Paky, with a list price well over $10K per fixture. Fewer still can include a “mega-pod” with 72 of the fixtures. So when LeRoy Bennett opted for that many B-Eyes to be flown upstage for Lady Gaga’s tour, he can rest assured that the “signature look,” as lighting director Whitney Hoversten calls it, won’t be widely copied. Here are more details from Hoversten on the subject: “We’re using the new Clay Paky B-Eyes. They have been extremely cool to play with, and they make up a large majority of the look of the show. We are using them in their maximum mode which, at 169 channels apiece, eats up a lot of universes. However, it is so worth it in this particular application. When trying to come up with new fresh looks and different ways to accent musical nuances, it has been so beneficial to have control of each individual cell, and there are seemingly endless looks and variations that we can come up with.”

Whitney Hoversten, from “Designer Insights,” PLSN, Sept. 2014


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Projection Basics: 2D Masking vs. 3D Mapping

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The popularity of projection mapping continues to grow, but when clients ask for video projection, do they want true 3D mapping projection, or are they merely visualizing 2D projection with masking? The content creator has to determine exactly how to give the client what they are expecting as well as provide a reasonable estimate of the time needed to create the content. Since 3D content that is created for projection is far more sophisticated than flat 2D content, it will take longer to create. 3D models have to be created of the object first before any images can be created, and the rendering time for creating 3D mesh-wrapped media can be lengthy. Knowing the expectations of the client also helps determine the proper amount of gear that you will need to provide to complete the project, which is, of course, another big consideration when estimating the costs involved. All of these details need to be hammered out early in the discussion. It’s best to ask a million questions about the project during the conceptual phase so that you can make the best decision possible.

—Vickie Claiborne, from “Video Digerati,” PLSN, Sept. 2014

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Magic Sheets + Mobile Devices = Smiling Programmers

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One of the newest automated lighting features that is getting talked about often is the Layout View, or Magic Sheet. While this feature has been around on consoles for many years, only recently has it really taken off. The great adoption of multi-touch applications on tablets, phones, and computers has allowed manufacturers and programmers to expand the abilities of this wonderful tool and really make the best use of it. Now lighting programmers are jumping all over it and finding it an extremely useful instrument in their arsenal of programming utilities.

—Brad Schiller, from Feeding the Machines, PLSN, Sept. 2014

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The Art of the Change

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Most producers think that once the show is programmed that changing the lighting fixtures will have a very minimal effect. Of course, most designers and programmers know that this is far from true. When programming a show file that could require a change of fixture types, understand that most lighting consoles tie the programming data to the fixture instance and not its unique DMX patch information. This means that the fixtures hold the data regardless of how they are patched. With this information, you can rest assured that changing or copying from the instances will move your programmed data and that you can re-patch as needed. Also be sure to make use of palettes/presets. With palettes used in your programming, you can easily update the parameter values of changed fixtures. This is particularly important for values that pertain to specific fixtures such as gobo rotation speeds, strobe speeds and edge focus. Many of today’s consoles have routines to assist in changing the data from one fixture type to another. This is accomplished through the use of a unified library model. A unified library model presents the programmer with the same method to select a gobo and set its rotation mode and speed while never revealing the DMX work required to achieve it. In this manner, the data is stored that states “fixture five, gobo three, rotate clockwise 16 RPM.” Now if you want to change to a different fixture, you can easily do so, and it will utilize the same programmed data. Somewhere in the console the specific DMX values output to the fixtures to accomplish gobo selection and rotation will change. The programmer never has to be aware of the DMX mapping requirements for each fixture type.

—From “Feeding the Machines” by Brad Schiller, PLSN, Aug. 2014

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IF/THEN's Magic Mirror Doubles the Scenery

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The most prominent set piece for the new musical, If/Then, which explores the two different paths that newly divorced urban planner named Elizabeth (Idina Menzel) could take in her life depending upon a key romantic choice she makes, is a large reflective surface about 32 feet wide by 24 feet tall that is made up of two-by-four-foot tiles that looks like a giant mirror. Scenic designer Mark Wendland says it is made of a Mylar-like product that was picked because it is light in weight. PRG, who built the set, recommended the material for that reason. The mirror is mostly used in various vertical positions to reflect objects on and LEDs in the floor, but at the beginning of the show it is preset in a horizontal position so that its initial appearance surprises the audience. When it is used in a fully vertical position, it is about nine feet off the deck and reflecting back set pieces to add depth or make something like a fire escape appear to be multiplied rather than having extra set pieces.
From “Inside Theatre” by Bryan Reesman, PLSN, July 2014


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Accepting Travel Vouchers Has Its Pros and Cons

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In LD Richard Dunn’s case, he got a $400 voucher (pro) but had to wait for a subsequent flight. Then he got bumped from that flight as well (con). Delta offered lodging (pro), but with only a few hours before the next scheduled flight, Dunn opted to while away the wee hours in Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport (con). Inspired by a Celine Dion poster, Dunn used that time to create a mock-dramatic lip synch video, singing “All By Myself.” The video went viral, with links from USA Today, TMZ and other big sites launching interest from viewers around the world (pro). But along with the positive reactions, there were a few “ugly” moments (con). “One guy has a fake fan site — he’s pretending to be me, and he’s making some strange statements that are not my style at all,” Dunn says. “I have also had folks download my video and re-upload it to their YouTube channels as their own, to cultivate clicks and subscribers.” Despite those oddities, Dunn hasn’t let frustration dampen his outlook. Celine Dion invited Dunn and his wife to her show, and Dunn reports that his job calendar is booked well into 2015 (pro.)

—From “Designer Watch” by Debi Moen, PLSN, July 2014

 

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Don’t Pretend to Know Everything

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There was once a programmer who was asked to change all the green lights to blue. When the LD noticed the programmer looking at the screen and notating all the green lights so he could select them, the LD mentioned that there is a quicker way to accomplish this task. The programmer bluntly told the LD that there was no such method and that he had to manually select all the green lights. The LD again said that there was a method, because he had seen other programmers do it in the past. Once again, the programmer protested. So as the programmer took his time notating and typing in the green fixtures, the LD called me and had me explain to him the simple two key presses that allow it to happen automatically. Of course that programmer was promptly removed from the LD’s list of programmers.

—From “Feeding the Machines,” PLSN, July 2014 by Brad Schiller: “What NOT to Do.”

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A Plea from Nook: Hope for the Best, but Plan for the Worst

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Personal note here: In the last few months our concert industry has lost some friends who tragically passed before their time. Some left nothing but their legacy and a Facebook fund to help their kids. Some lost their spouses. We get paid well and life insurance is relatively cheap. My heart breaks to see that any children are left to fend for themselves because we felt 10 feet tall and bulletproof. Please look after your families now. Cover their future. I’m tired of these tears while I make on line donations.

—Nook Schoenfeld, from "LD at Large," July 2014

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