Tips & Tricks

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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An Uplifting Idea for Rigging Productivity (and Safety)

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A new safety device has been introduced to our business from Scotland recently, and has been making waves on this side of the Atlantic as well. The Uplift Fall Protection System establishes a new, intelligent way technicians as well as other people in the entertainment field will work on gear hanging in the air. Designed by Limpet Technology out of Edinburgh, this unique device leads us into a new age of safety when it comes to technicians, actors and anyone whose feet leave the ground in their work environment. Upstaging Lighting, a leading innovator in touring lighting systems, is the first American company to buy and utilize the Uplift Fall Prevention System (UFPS).

From “Road Test: Uplift Fall Protection System," by Nook Schoenfeld, PLSN, June 2014

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Giving a Touring Production Access to a Venue’s House System with Their Console

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One of the great advantages that an Ethernet network gives you is flexibility in configuration, so rather than having to pull different cables to alter a configuration, you can simply change some settings and completely alter the behavior of your Ethernet system. Using the management tools available, it’s simple to select a port on a particular node and then to define its behavior at the click of a mouse. [If a touring production] is bringing their own console to a venue [and] they want to use the venue’s network infrastructure, the venue’s electrician can use network management tools to alter the configuration of the nodes to output different universes of Art-Net data (coming from the touring console) for the touring show’s info, but still send Art-Net data from the house console to one single port on the network to control house lights. By altering the configuration on the nodes, the original patch on the venue’s console can be left untouched. Once the touring production leaves, a simple mouse click will restore the original venue settings.

From “Focus on Fundamentals” by Peter Kirkup, PLSN, June 2014

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The Four "Ps" of Programming

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Automated lighting programming encompasses a vast amount of processes and routines, but actually the entire practice can be broken down into four segments.  Each of these segments is very complex on its own, and all four are required for any lighting programming project.  Programmers do not have to master each of these areas, but they certainly need to have a good understanding and be proficient in each.  All automated lighting programming projects require work in the following areas: Patching, Preparation, Parameters, and Playback…There is one other “P” word that is equally important: Protect.  It is not only the programmer’s job to enter the data into the desk, but also to save and protect this data so that it is never lost

From “Feeding the Machines” by Brad Schiller, PLSN, June 2014

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Video Mapping Applications Expanding to New Industries

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The use of video mapping technology at ConExpo in Las Vegas, filled with all types of machinery used in every aspect of construction, shows just how far our world of entertainment technology stretches. Who would have thought that dump trucks would make for good projection objects? But, you know, they do — Caterpillar’s large booth (approximately 200 by 200 feet) featured a large pyramid-shaped structure located in the center lit with content from eight projectors. The content showed Caterpillar’s trucks and earth movers in action at places like a rock quarry, making it look like trucks were driving up “roads” on the edges of the pyramid. For one of Volvo’s newest pieces of equipment, a large front-loading dozer, I designed a 3D video presentation that was projected onto the machine highlighting all of the latest improvements… By using 3D video mapping, the audience’s imagination is captured, and they want to stay and watch the whole presentation — technical boring bits and all. This is what makes video mapping a bold new frontier for marketing. The sky is the limit in terms of “tricking” the human eye into staying engaged.

From “Video Digerati” by Vickie Claiborne, PLSN, May 2014

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Use Palettes or Presets to Save Your Work with Framing Shutters

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It is important for a programmer to understand the unique requirements and processes that are involved when programming fixtures that have framing shutter capabilities. Once you get the shutters, pan/tilt, and zoom set as needed, it is also essential to store this information into palettes/presets. This way you can come back and quickly select or update them easily at a later date if needed. It is never a good idea to simply store framing shutter data into cues without using a palette/preset. Due to the complexity of shutters, I will often store/merge my data into the palette/preset as I am working with each and every unit instead of adjusting them all first and then storing. This helps by protecting the data as I work with multiple fixtures. It is also useful to store a combined palette that has the pan/tilt, zoom, edge, and framing shutter values for quick recall of the exact position and adjustments.

From “Feeding the Machines” by Brad Schiller, PLSN, May 2014

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