Tips & Tricks

Art-Net: Best Used with a Closed System

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It is important to note that Art-Net is specifically designed to be used in a closed network situation only.  Art-Net is not designed to be used in conjunction with the Internet.  On top of that, it is not a good idea to run Art-Net over a building’s internal network.  Your lighting rig (or architectural installation) should run on its own isolated network.  This, again, will help to make sure that there are fewer opportunities for your Art-Net network to have problems. So, keep your lighting network separate from your collection of YouTube videos of dancing.  Cute they may be, your lights don’t care.

From “Building the Art-Net(work) by Michael Graham, PLSN, Nov. 2014

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Boss or Leader?

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I really dislike the term “boss.” I especially hate when people say things like “Whatever, you’re the boss.” I think this is because I find distinct differences between the words Boss and Leader. For instance, a boss tells you what to do and walks away assuming you will get something done, and that’s the end of it. But a leader will ask you to do something, then make sure you know how to do it properly before walking away. Believe it or not, I have seen lighting crew bosses walk up to crew members and say, “You’re doing that wrong,” and then walk away, expecting the tech to seek out the correct way from someone else or screw something up even further by trying some new way he thinks may work. A leader will stop and show the tech an example of the right way to do the task.

From "LD at Large" by Nook Schoenfeld, PLSN Nov. 2014

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The Move to 4K: Costly, Yet Inexorable

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There’s a caveat with 4K presentations, and companies desiring to move in that direction need to have their eyes wide open. The workflow, from concept to presentation, is the same, but the budget for a 4K event would essentially be four times that of an HD event — because you’re dealing with signals that are four times HD. The storage medium needs to be four times as large. The rendering of your graphics and videos will take an enormously longer time, and the file size of a 4K video is exponentially larger than that of an HD video. Your graphics department might consider investing in a dedicated, high-powered “render farm,” — just to get the graphics and videos complete in time for the event. Don’t let these facts discourage you, because the end result will certainly be the finest, most spectacular way to put your event on screen, in native 4K.

—Paul Berliner, from “Video World,” PLSN, Oct. 2014

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A Single Source Video Content Playback Solution

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What options do you have when managing the playback of content in multiple locations from a single source? Until recently, the answer would have been to create a matrix of routers, cables, media servers, and controllers to accomplish what should be fairly straightforward. Patch Player, by ExtraPro LLC, is a new content playback application that lets users control content playing in various locations from a single source without the need for lots of cable, equipment, or people.  Created by developer/owner Ted Mizrahi, Patch Player simplifies the process of control and setup for presentations, tradeshows and other types of multi-show environments by putting it into your hands, literally on the same handheld Android OS device you may already be carrying in your pocket…And since content is stored locally on each player, only the trigger for a piece of content is being broadcast by the Controller. This means each device handles its own processing, making playback fast and real time responsive.

—Vickie Claiborne, from “Video Road Test,” PLSN, Oct. 2014

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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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