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.
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
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
Anyone can falsely certify himself or herself as a pro on the Internet, and that needs to stop. Truck loaders can give rigging advice now. Companies spend money investing in a new employee who just may have fabricated their career. There’s a person online who claims to have held many touring positions, yet nobody could vouch for them. On some threads, they claimed to be an audio executive, FOH mixer and friend to countless roadies. They claimed to be an accomplished LD. Eventually this person proclaimed himself to be a safety expert. This was no longer harmless….Perhaps the time has come for an actual registry of touring personnel. A site with the mission of giving us the tools to locate crew based on their skills, certifications and verified tour experience.
—Nook Schoenfeld, from “Editors Note,” PLSN, April 2015
Visualizers are awesome, but you have to control them. Don’t let them control you. Because they are so fast, it is really easy to not think clearly about how all of this will go together when it is done. The next thing you know, you have designed something that looks more like the Death Star rather than the simple set you were first asked to design…. So now that you have your Death Star set complete with enough lights to be seen clear from the Outer Rim in front of your client in the rendering, you will have blown their minds. But if the next comment out of the person signing the check is, “Looks cool,” it’s usually followed by, “How much is this going to cost?” Your answer to that question could end your meeting pretty quickly if your number is way higher than what the client was thinking.
—Michael Graham, from “Focus on Fundamentals,” PLSN, March 2015 page 52
What happens if the weather catches us a off guard? That happened to my team and I in December of 2009 in the Mojave Desert, during Virgin Galactic’s christening event for SpaceShipTwo. The event began in a clear tent with a press conference and speeches. The guests were then invited out into the Mojave evening to watch SpaceShipTwo rolling down 1,800 feet of taxiway. Guests then went to the tent along with two inflatable domes measuring 80 feet in diameter to party and celebrate. SpaceShipTwo made it down the taxiway and was christened, but the winds got stronger and stronger. When the winds hit a [previously agreed-upon] trigger level, the buses were called back and the 800 guests were politely but firmly and rapidly moved onto the waiting vehicles and sent back to Los Angeles. As the last buses left the site, the winds still didn’t let up, and the call was made to completely clear the site. I still vividly remember sitting with my colleagues Austin and Dennis safely at the perimeter of the site as the winds gusted to 105 mph and lifted the massive tent and folded it like an umbrella on a windy day. A chilling sight, for sure, but made less so by knowing the guests and crew were safe.
—John Featherstone, from “Wecome To My Nightmare,” PLSN, March 2015
A prominent LD has asked you to take over a gig for him as he needs to be home for the birth of a child. He designed the plot, but now needs you to travel to a Caribbean island to program and operate a large rig of lighting fixtures and media servers for a music awards ceremony. When you arrive, you are told that the console has been stuck in customs and that only the network processor has arrived at FOH. No other consoles are available in the area. The show is in three days, and you must program for the 12 songs and all the awards segments. Your best option is to keep moving forward. Launch the PC version of the console on your laptop and plug into the network processor. Now you will have full control of the rig, but only your keyboard and mouse to work with. Request a monitor and familiarize yourself with the keyboard shortcuts. Then get programming! That's a much better approach than simply taking a day or two off and hitting the beach. Do that, and the production staff will likely hunt you down and feed you to the sharks!
Brad Schiller, from "Feeding the Machines," PLSN, March 2015
In an effort to stay consistently employed since I left my last tour, I have been doing more work in the corporate/trade show end of the industry. Because these shows are usually one-offs, every show is a new product. While I miss the energy of playing along with a band every night, I love getting to be creative with new projects. While the vibe of a corporate show verses a rock tour can be compared to a set of identical twins who’s personalities are polar opposites of each other, the same skills are needed to create a polished product for either. The organization that lets a master electrician run three miles of cable in a quick systematic manner (on an arena tour) lets him do the same thing in a convention center. And that skill-set that allows an LD to walk into a house rig and set the mood for a song by filling the stage with dramatic scenes painted out of light also allows her to add depth, color, and texture, to a corporate meeting or broadcast event.
—Jess Baker, Guest “LD-at-Large,” PLSN, March 2015, page 68
At the Los Angeles Auto Show (LAAS), TLS Productions, Creative Technology and Christie Lites provided a new workhorse fixture — Elation Design Par 575s — to replace conventional 575W daylight PARs. Arnold Serame, who lit the Toyota, Lexus and Scion booths at LAAS, credited the no-frills fixtures for their economy and reliability. Fewer fancy features, he noted, means fewer moving parts to break. But he credits one moving part — the yoke — for increasing the time available to get the focus just right. Creative Technology’s Chris Wasilauskas, who lit the Kia and Audi booths, agrees, noting the huge advantage remote focusing has when rigs need to change from auto show to press event mode.
—From “Niche Projects: Lighting the L.A. Auto Show,” PLSN, February 2015, page 41, by Thomas S. Friedman
When it comes to media servers, I still use palette windows, but I find it tedious to have to sit there and store a palette for each and every video clip. Thankfully, with most lighting consoles today, CITP technology now allows for thumbnails to be shared between the console and the media server, so I can simply create my Layer Groups for the media server and then open a special window on the console that will allow me to view the media thumbnails. (Two examples of these types of windows are the Smart Window on the grandMA2 and the Media Viewer on the Hog4.) These special CITP windows allow me faster access to media clips without all the hassle of using an encoder wheel.
—Vickie Claiborne, from “Video Digerati,” PLSN, Feb. 2015