Tips & Tricks

Weight Load Monitoring Offers Peace of Mind

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Weight load monitoring might still seem to be a novel concept to some, but not to Dart Rigging, which purchased its first Ron StageMaster (RSM) system from Eilon Engineering in 2005 — the same year the rigging company starting working with tours for Rammstein. Because Rammstein shows have grown in complexity over the years, their most recent shows would typically involve close to 20 truckloads of gear weighing close to 50 tons — and much of it ends up in the air. “We’ve used the RSM product for a long time,” says Dart co-owner Martin Gehring. “It’s a type of insurance and, at the end of the day, it gives peace of mind.

—From “A Rigging Assist for Rammstein” by Larry Beck, PLSN, Dec. 2013

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Using Flames Onstage? Plan Early

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David Leveaux’s new production of Romeo and Juliet starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad exemplifies the trend of Broadway productions becoming genuinely live action versions of Hollywood — in this case, flames onstage are creating the visceral impact. The production features two horizontal battens, each more than 40 feet long, and flame appears along 33 feet. A vertical batten is about 25 feet in height, with flames along 16 feet. The system is fueled by propane…When it comes to dealing with fire, special effects design consultant Jeremy Chernick cites early planning as a crucial element. “The earlier that flame is brought into the design, the more likely that it will work, and in a lot of ways the more savings will be available to the production. If the scenery is already built, then it’s harder to integrate into the set.”

—From “Inside Theatre” by Bryan Reesman, PLSN, Dec. 2013

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Prioritizing Tasks when You’re Under the Gun

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An automated lighting programmer must always be ready for the unexpected. Not every gig starts off with you preparing the show file, getting the time you need, and having everything run as planned. You must understand the time available and the work that is required…A recent corporate gig serves as a case in point. In that case I was helping a friend with an international gig with a very busy schedule. I looked at the required work and prioritized what needed to be done. This knowledge was only available to me due to my past experience with similar events. I made the choice to concentrate on the scenes and to put off programming all the “other” bits until later. I knew what it would take for me to create the operating layout and what I needed to build to cover anything that happened on stage or in the house. When appropriate, I spent the time to build these elements without jeopardizing the most important scenes. This allowed me to be ready when the client wanted to rehearse and not have them waiting for lighting.

—From “Feeding the Machines” by Brad Schiller, PLSN, Dec. 2013

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Football’s Skycam Depends on Human Operators

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Skycam is a high definition camera system that flies in three dimensions above a playing field. The system is computer controlled, driven by cables and powerful winches and, most importantly, operated by a highly skilled team of operators and technicians. The Skycam system took the sports industry by storm around 2001, because it offered a point-of-view never before seen and an opportunity for enhanced game analysis. ESPN was the first to use it for Sunday Night Football, and since that point, its use has grown to other networks and even to other sporting events. The system is operated by up to a nine-man crew, according to Skycam’s Stephen Wharton. “We have a full time five man crew that consists of the pilot, the camera operator, an EIC [Engineer in Charge], an E2 and a rigger. The pilot is responsible for flying the camera above the field. The operator, who you can think of as the gunner in an aircraft, is responsible for pan, tilt, focus and zoom — in other words, he’s the shooter. The EIC is responsible for managing the entire crew, including the E2 and the rigger. We also have an additional four people who are reel watchers.”

—From “Video World” by Paul Berliner, PLSN, Oct. 2013

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It’s About Time

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Our consoles give us the ability to manage timing in varied methods…When a parameter changes from one value to another, a time is assigned that dictates the speed at which the value change will occur; this is called fade time.  Most consoles let you assign a specific fade time for each parameter of every light.  You could have a cue with multiple fade times that cause different parameters or fixtures to change at different rates, or assign some fixtures that increase intensity as others are fading. Most consoles also offer the ability to adjust the delay time — the time when a programmed fade time starts.  Another timing parameter, known as follow time, controls the amount of time between each cue or step. You can assign a follow time of a cue to a specific value, or you can tell the console to auto-follow or follow-on.  Auto-follow causes the next cue to automatically begin its fades and delays as the previous cue completes all its combined fade and delay times.  The follow time can also be set to manual. At any moment, of course, you can override programmed times as long as you understand the controls at your fingertips.

—From “Feeding the Machines” Brad Schiller, PLSN, Oct. 2013.

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Metallica Concert Scenes for 3D Film Included New Programming Challenges

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“Programming a film is different, because we are always looking at intensity levels on everything: the band, the set, the audience. We still had the thousands of cues, just like the touring show. We ended up changing some of the stage and set pieces after the first two months of programming in 2011. We also changed out the fixture types in a few places. It is always a challenge for focuses in the round. You really need to walk the room’s 360 degrees when updating graphic focuses. We moved the console several times during the programming and playback. This gave us a better perspective for the 360-degree gig. Sometimes paying attention to the lighting system was a challenge. It was very spread out. On top of that, when the fire, lasers and video were all going, there was a lot to look at.”

—From Troy Eckerman, who joined LD John Broderick and programmer Rob Koenig in a conversation about Metallica Through the Never with Debi Moen for “Designer Watch,” PLSN, Oct. 2013.

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Tour-Friendly Venue Design

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Some venues care about the act and theater, even if the design of their venue is a tad outdated. Sometime in the 1980s, people came up with the concept of building big stages and covering them with a big white tent. This does protect the stage from rain, etc.; but it also allows all the sunlight right through the translucent roof. What I love about the Shoreline venue in San Jose is that they have black drapes that they insist on closing before the event, masking any unwanted light from hitting the stage. These guys care about your show. Of course, the big problem is that this venue was built in the 1980s and they have endured growing pains. The stage is not deep, the roof not tall. But the real problem is with the layout — I have been playing there 30 years, and I have never seen my band from the front of house mix position. The seats here are on a good rake, looking down at what appears to be a three-foot stage. My front of house area is flat. I will never see the stage over the audience when they stand.

—From “LD-at-Large” by Nook Schoenfeld, PLSN, Oct. 2013

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Pippin: Sharing the Grid with Lighting, Acrobatic Gear

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Tony Award-winning LD Kenneth Posner got a chance to limber up some new artistic muscles for Pippin on Broadway, which featured European-style circus performers. An important part of the lighting design concerned the grid over the stage and the performers. The real estate there had to be split between the acrobatic gear and the lighting truss in order to avoid having the circus performers shake the grid, a situation that could prove dangerous. “I learned a lot about the circus world and the notion of lighting performers moving through space, lighting three-dimensionally. So as the performer moved through the air they were lit, which is something I don’t normally have to deal with. That was a challenge that I embraced and fell in love with on Pippin.”

— From “Inside Theatre” by Bryan Reesman, PLSN Sept. 2013, page 22

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How to Create an Epic Show

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“Years ago, Shep Gordon (manager for Alice Cooper and Luther Vandross) taught me that the key to creating a memorable show that is equally as successful on the financial statements as it is to the public is to make anything that you do appear three times larger than it actually is… If it is a five-truck show, make it look like 15. In our case, we took 18 trucks and filled the arena. I want Shep to know that the formula still works!”

—Tom Marzullo, Tour Director/Production Designer for Justin Bieber’s Believe World Tour, as quoted by Steve Jennings for “Designer Insights,” PLSN, Sept. 2013

 

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Kling-Net: An Alternative to Merging DMX

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How do you take two different DMX sources and combine them into one signal? The answer, until recently, has been to use a piece of hardware that can receive both DMX source inputs and then merge them back into one DMX signal that is then sent to the fixture(s). This has been simplified somewhat, however, by the software engineers at ArKaos who developed Kling-Net. Kling-Net was created as an alternative communication protocol for pixel mapping video on an LED fixture. As it is an Ethernet-based protocol, it is sent out from an ArKaos media server via an Ethernet cable and then connected directly to the fixture or via a switch and then out to several fixtures. This communication protocol is not the same as DMX or Art-Net, and it does not require being merged back into the DMX stream before communicating with the fixture.

—From “Video Digerati” by Vickie Claiborne, PLSN, Sept. 2013

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