Tips & Tricks

Club Rule Number One: Be Specific

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What’s the proper way to convey your lighting hopes and dreams to your house LD du jour? I prefer an annotated set list, with two simple pieces of information for each song: color, and an arrow indicating tempo. Most any house rig you encounter will feature color and tempo, but may not be capable of movement or beam effects. You may include up to three specific cues, and I’ll try my best to nail them, but any more and you might consider hiring your very own LD. Avoid adjectives, and if you don’t speak lighting, maybe avoid words altogether. I might accurately guess what you mean by moody, but when you tell me a song is fluffy or itchy, results may vary. Does “they don’t like green” mean no solid green wash, or not even a hint of green? Is “not too much haze” your timid way of implying no haze whatsoever? Be specific.

-Stosh Rickenbach, from "Club Rules 101," PLSN, Jan. 2015, "LD-at-Large"

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Prepare for, Don't React to, Weather Emergencies

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“Weather is extremely unpredictable, but in the world of live events, the responsibility of protecting audiences, crew and gear falls to the production. Keeping everyone safe has to be a priority. Unfortunately, with all the other aspects of putting on a show, it can get swept aside until it’s too late. It’s not enough to simply react to weather emergencies. It is time for our industry to start preparing in advance. It’s important to adopt strategic plans for these situation that will, inevitably, arise.”

—Rich Barr, veteran tour production manager and co-founder of Perfect Storm, as quoted by Rachel Pfennig Hales for "Safety Factor," PLSN, Dec. 2014, page 36.

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Use Thumbnails to Quickly Locate Media Server Content

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Many of the same steps for working with automated lighting can also be applied to punting with media servers. Speed is the name of the game during a busking show, so finding that ‘blue’ clip you want or creative effect in a hurry means that your desktop views have to be well-thought-out… When you're using stock content, if you're not familiar with it already, then you may find it very useful to take advantage of a remote content management application (if the server has one) so you can see thumbnails, making it easier to locate clips by color and/or name at least.

—From “Busking with a Media Server” by Vickie Claiborne, PLSN, Dec. 2014, page 54

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Obscure Fixture Features: Quickest Path

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If your luminaire has a feature called “quickest path” or “snap,” and it is enabled, then you will instead see the color wheel turn the other direction and go from red to white to blue. In this case, the wheel has turned in the direction that gets to the new result in the fastest manner. The quickest path setting is usually selected in a control channel or by selecting a discreet value for each position on the wheel that indicates you want the quickest path versus normal path. You can toggle the path setting as needed during your programming, thus allowing more creative choices in how parameters change.

For more on obscure fixture features, read Brad Schiller’s “Feeding the Machines” column, PLSN, Dec. 2014, page 57.

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Pre-Viz Options Expanding for Video Designers

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The lack of a single source for video design, management and playback has thankfully changed, and now video designers have some very powerful pre-visualization/media server hybrid packages. Two of these, the d3 (d3 Technologies) and Ai (Avolites Media), offer the same levels of design and pre-visualization control to video directors that wysiwyg, ESP Vision and LightConverse offer to lighting designers. These proprietary hardware/software servers offer the video designer the ability to lay out all projection details needed, including angles, throw distances and lens options, while also storing the content and the timeline or cuelist for playback as well as allowing for via external control (like DMX or Art-Net).

—From “Video Digerati” by Vickie Claiborne, PLSN, Nov. 2014, page 100

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Go to the Web to Pick Up Tricks from Others

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If you are on Facebook, Twitter, ProLightingSpace or any other social media network, look to your friends for help. If you are looking for answer on a specific topic, look for a group or user base forum to ask your question. You may not get an answer right away, but trust in the people on the forums — most times, they are willing and able to help. Don’t let the flamers and haters get to you. Some people on the Internet are looking for trouble. Just ignore them and look to people that genuinely want to help. ProLightingSpace.com has a number of groups dedicated to almost every aspect of your business, from lighting design, video, media servers and even specialty groups like House of Worship. A number of users on ProLightingSpace have found answers to their questions throughout the years. Looking back at some of the older questions, they still get responses even today. Maybe it is a different take on the subject, or a better technique is found. In any case, the archives and past postings are another great place to find those tips and tricks.

—From Justin Lang, “Focus on Fundamentals,” PLSN Nov. 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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