Tips & Tricks

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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Three Common Uses for Masking Fabrics

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Rose Brand notes that its masking fabrics can be used for a variety of purposes and projects. They are the versatile element that we see our customers using in almost infinite ways.

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Nook's Tidbits: Strobing Safely

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Strobe lights have been known to occasionally cause seizures for those with photosensitive epilepsy, particularly if strobes operate at speeds exceeding 15 flashes per second. However, there has never been a reported incidence of a seizure when strobes are limited to eight or fewer flashes per second. (For more details, go to plsn.me/Strobe-Tip).

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The Art of Lighting Chrome and Brushed Metal

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Sparkle can be good or it can be bad. If a sparkle turns into a glare, it can actually distract you from directly looking at the product. This is how I feel about audience blinders at a rock show. When they come on, I tend to close my eyes and miss what is happening on stage…I find the best way to light shiny chrome is to point your light straight on. You get significantly less glare…I have been designing trade show booths for Titleist Golf for more than a decade. The shafts of clubs are all chrome, but the grips and heads tend to be black. I use a little extra lighting to make club displays pop. However, I still get the occasional person asking if I can make their chrome not so shiny. I smile and say, “Of course.” I then add filters to the fixtures and bring down the intensity. Voila, the shiny is much less shiny.

—Mike Mahoney, from LD-at-Large, PLSN May 2015

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Nook’s Tidbits: Podium vs. Lectern

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Contrary to popular opinion, they are not the same. A podium is the raised platform on which the speaker stands to deliver his or her speech. “Podium” is derived from the Greek word pothi which means “foot.” A lectern is a raised, slanted stand on which a speaker can place his or her notes. “Lectern” is derived from the Latin word lectus, the past participle of the verb legere, which means “to read.”
—Nook Schoenfeld


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Telegenic Soft Lights Can Reduce Squinting on TV

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Soft light fixtures are primarily used in cinematography and photography. The basic reason for this is that the light emitted out of these fixtures tends to wrap around an object, leaving no shadow behind the object. It can also be used as “Fill” lighting, supplementing other practical light fixtures and reducing any shadows caused by them on a set. These fixtures are often a staple in grip trucks and used in close proximity to the object one is illuminating as the fall off of light is rapid with this fixture. Many directors of photography have been known to swear that the use of soft lights eliminates skin wrinkles on camera…. Soft lights have often been used for front light in film, as the light source (bulb) in these fixtures is never directly exposed to the eye. Thus the actors or newscasters one sees on the screen are rarely squinting.

—Nook Schoenfeld, “Road Test” for Ushio Pro-Panel V2 Soft Light, PLSN, April 2015.

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Learn Advanced Fixture Functions BEFORE the Show

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If you are a programmer tasked with using advanced fixtures like the A.Leda B-Eye (Clay Paky), the Shapeshifter (High End Systems) or the MagicPanel 602 (Ayrton), you should try to familiarize yourself with the fixtures before arriving on site. This means getting your hands on a unit and a console. Recently I programmed a show using Shapeshifter C1 fixtures and then a second show using B-Eyes, both on a grandMA2 console. Because of its relative newness on the market, I didn’t have the opportunity to touch a Shapeshifter prior to its arrival on the show site. And I was immediately regretting that when I tried to enable the macros to make the fixture come to life. Choosing Enhanced mode for the DMX protocol, each unit takes up 79 channels. And the effects macros channels have multiple parameter control channels that affect attributes like speed, fade, and intensity. And it wasn’t as easy as just picking a macro and speeding it up at first. In fact, I set aside a good chunk of time after the end of the day to stay and program some palettes for the units so that I would be in better shape for the next day. With hundreds of effects and thousands of variations on each one, there can be an overwhelming amount of work involved to make something purposeful play on the unit.

—Vickie Claiborne, from “Video Digerati,” PLSN, April 2015


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Dealing with the Unexpected

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After a decade or so of touring, I’m eternally surprised at the sheer variety of problems that I get confronted with on the road. It seems there’s no shortage of new and creative ways that things can be mishandled, plugged in incorrectly, and perhaps even not plugged in at all. It’s important that we develop a skillset of improvisation and problem solving…. These days, I have a global labeling system in my programming so that anyone who sits down at my console is able to understand the system and apply it to the rest of the show. If I can’t be there to load a truck, I make sure a trusted associate confirms everything is on there for me. And being flexible in the face of adversity — such as a tropical storm or another unpleasant force of nature — makes the unexpected infinitely more tolerable.

—Craig Rutherford, from LD-at-Large, PLSN, April 2015

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