Tips & Tricks

Share Console and Media Server Thumbnails

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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

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Keep Concert Playbacks Organized with Pages

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Working with pages is an essential tool for lighting programmers. I cannot imagine using a single page for most productions I am involved with. Whether used for various songs, theatrical acts, tech pages, or even just storage, I find organizing my playbacks with pages tremendously powerful. Of course, every console has different terminology, features and options, so, as always, be sure to read the console’s user manual to learn the specifics for your desk. Even if you think you know all that you can do with pages on your console of choice, I urge you to read the chapter on pages, as you will probably find an option or function that you never knew existed. Be sure to always label your pages so that you know exactly what you created them for and place them in an order that flows with the production. Paging your playback controls expands the capabilities of your hardware and allows you to be more free and creative with your programming.

—Brad Schiller, from “Feeding the Machines,” PLSN, Feb. 2015

 

 

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Keeping “Four Shows” In Balance

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I am often asked, “How many shows do you have going on?” And my default answer is “Always at least four”…I don’t mean four different projects or clients; I mean always at least four shows in one: 1. The Show I Do for Myself; 2. The Show I Do as Part of a Team; 3. The Show I Do for my Client; and 4. The Show I Do for The Audience. Keeping these “four shows” in balance isn’t always easy, and sometimes they are downright contradictory. But getting really clear on what the “win” is for each of them and reviewing a project using that measure after the fact is really fundamental for me. I find the “four show theory” keeps my work balanced, the needs of the team I’m part of acknowledged, my clients well served and makes sure my ultimate employer, the audience, get the best show I can possibly deliver.

—John Featherstone, in “LD-at-Large,” PLSN, February 2015

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Pursuing a Career as a Cameraman

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At the camera position, you’re an integral part of the event. In a multi-camera show such as a baseball game or a concert, you’re part of a team that’s creating the show’s visual story line. The Director calls the shots and creates the show’s plots and sub-plots with the shots he selects. On headsets, the cameraman has the Director in one ear, program audio in the other ear, and he’s completely aware of the crowd and the action at hand. In a single-camera production, you are the event — whether you’re shooting video for your own script or working with a field reporter. So how do you get the gig? I talked at length to cameraman Danny Zemanek, and here’s how he did it. “I knew that I wanted to be a cameraman, from early on. Not a director, not a producer, but a cameraman. At Versatile Video, a Bay Area production company, I worked as a utility guy in their remote truck division, and that put me around the gear. Our utility crew would set up the cameras, test them, load them in the truck and set them up at the event. That’s how I started. I learned everything I could, I put myself around the equipment, and I practiced with the gear to hone my skills.”

—Danny Zemanek, as quoted by Paul Berliner for Video World, PLSN, Jan. 2015

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Making a Case for Chain Hoist Versatility

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Measuring 48 by 24 by 32.55 inches (WxDxH), the MTN Box from Mountain Productions is designed for your standard truck. The inside however, can be modified with whatever insert you require to fit your needs… The new series of CM motors are three inches longer that the traditional hoists. This is a problem for CM owners who have to rethink their own case designs. Not so with the MTN Box. They have designed a special insert where two motors fit sideways at an angle to absorb the additional length. One case fits all.

—Nook Schoenfeld, from “Product Spotlight,” PLSN, Jan. 2015, page 56

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Don't Blind the Audience!

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I have also seen productions where very bright and narrow beam fixtures are pointing in a nice downward fan-out into the audience. What happens is that the poor audience members standing in the beam cannot see any of the show for the entire song or scene. Just as laser specialists pay attention to the termination of their beams, lighting programmers need to be aware of where they are pointing the automated lights. Of course, there are moments that it is okay to focus into the audience for illumination or effect, but consideration must be taken in regards to the duration and purpose.

-Brad Schiller, from "Feeding the Machines," PLSN, Jan. 2015, page 57

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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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