Tips & Tricks

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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A Little Help From the House Programmer

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This year I’ve opted to spend the summer lighting one offs for my bands. If I want these gigs to go smoothly, I am going to need some cooperation from the house programmers at all these venues. I actually don’t need a programmer as much as I need someone to set up a light board in advance so all the fixture attributes are in the console before I arrive. What helps me is if they have some generic focus positions already in the console along with the usual basic color palettes. This is not much to ask. I can take 150 movers and come up with six focus positions for all of them in one hour. So can most programmers, if they’re good. These programmers are there days before I get there. I may show up on a plane at 11 a.m. and walk into the gig at 1 p.m. for a 3 p.m. sound check and dinner at 6 p.m. I don’t necessarily have that hour to focus and generate color palettes. But I know the local guy did over the last couple days. If not, they should skip the hour lunch that day and work while somebody brings them a sandwich. That’s what pros do.

From “LD at Large” by Nook Schoenfeld, PLSN, May 2014

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Advanced Planning Helps Newcomers Learn the Ropes

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Hello, my name is Matthew Schiller, Brad’s son, and I have taken over my dad’s column to tell you about my first programming experience. My high school in Austin, Texas put on a production of Miss Saigon, and I was assigned the position of automated lighting programmer for the show. I programmed this show with new LED technology on a board over 15 years old. Throughout the first few runs of the show, multiple issues happened when a light got stuck or came on or went off at the wrong time. This became very frustrating and took hours of reprogramming or tweaking the lights to fix. But in the end, it was all resolved. By the last show, I had become a pro at running my cues with nothing going wrong. Overall, I had a fun experience programming, and I would love to do it again.  I am glad that I took the time to study how to program and practiced with the board prior to the very busy production schedule.  I definitely gained a greater understanding about the position of the automated lighting programmer.

From “Feeding the Machines” by Matthew Schiller, PLSN, April 2014

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China-Sourced LED Panels Backed with More Service, Support

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Paul Motal and the company he founded, Matrix Visual Solutions, are involved in nearly 800 events per year, either as the producer or as the full-service provider of audio-visual gear and expertise through rentals and sales. Motal is an evangelist for customer service. “To build a brand in the U.S., good service is paramount. If you can back the product and you can provide the service to take care of the customer, it builds your brand. The word gets out. That has helped us to grow.” He mentioned two customers who had called the week before speaking with PLSN. Both had high-profile events — one involved an automotive racing event in New Orleans; the other was a hotel opening in Houston. Both needed some guidance to feel as comfortable as they could with the product. So Matrix flew engineers to their locations at no charge. “If you take care of the people, positive word of mouth will come from it. It costs us a little to send out engineers to do on-site service, but no one else does it. It really distinguishes us.”

From “Company 411” by Tim Bradley, PLSN, April 2014

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App Brings Smartphones Into LD's Visual Design

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Cory FitzGerald, production designer for Demi Lovato’s Neon Lights tour, notes that the set, which is based on a “neon-like concept full of Video Blades in smoke colored covers…essentially tubes of single pixel video elements diffused by the plastic covers,” is complemented by a phone app developed by Wham City Lights “to let the audience participate.” The app turns smartphones into handheld lighting effects by flashing color, text and imagery to the music. Songs for the interactive experience are selected in advance, and the resulting effect can be created by the App’s developers or using the App’s online lightshow editor program. When the inaudible ultrasonic Wham Waves signal is made active through the sound system, the Wham Waves can be embedded into the song, click track or played on its own to sync the phones in the audience. Once the Wham Waves are played, every app-enabled phone bursts into color and syncopated flashing with the music.

From “Designer Watch” by Debi Moen, PLSN, April 2014, page 50

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Don’t Blind the Audience

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For years, lighting designers have been matching lumens between the lighting and video elements. The video was always brighter. In the last couple years, much of that has suddenly changed. That’s because we lighting guys now have some powerful weapons in our fight against video dominance. One problem I noticed with the advent of all these new bright lights is that lighting designers have gotten use to focusing lights directly into the crowds’ eyes. In the days of old, this wasn’t so harsh. One could put a gobo in the light beam or soften it up with a diffuser so it wasn’t so blinding. I see shots of people with their hands in front of their face constantly. To me, that’s bad. I can take 40 Sharpys and make amazing “Matrix” style focuses of light beams in an arena. Yet not a single beam will terminate in a spectators face.
—Nook Schoenfeld, from LD-at-Large, PLSN, April 2014


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