Although programmers for film do record cues, we typically are not playing back cues like you would on a live show. We do have our moments when we have to create some sort of cue list to play back, but mostly we set a look in a cue, and then we shoot that shot. We label the cue the scene number that matches the camera slate. Once that shot is done and they are moving to the next shot, we start to create the next cue as they light it. The reason for using an advanced console is to have a greater amount of efficiency and to be ready for anything that they might throw at you last minute. There’s usually not a lot of prep time for these things, so the more ready you are the better.
– From Brad Schiller's upcoming September Feeding the Machines article, an interview with film lighting programmer Scott Barnes.
Pop quiz: What are the two most important tools of a lighting designer?
If you said Starbucks or the Internet, maybe you should consider a career in audio. If you said light and dark—congratulations, you just might have a future in this business.
As the saying goes, if the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything starts looking like a nail. Some lighting designers use light as a hammer, forcefully applying it to every “nail” they see. What we often neglect to recognize is that we have a lot of tools at our disposal, including the dark. And nothing can better emphasize the light better than the dark.
A great example was a Prince show, two years ago, that was lit by Peter Morse. Morse clearly gets it. His use of light and dark is phenomenal, and given the chance, he will use it to great advantage. In this case he was given the chance because “his purple badness” kept the video crew in check and asked Morse to use as much dark as he used light. And Morse pulled it off like a modern-day Rembrandt
– From Richard Cadena's upcoming Focus On Design column.
Imagine discovering an incorrect DMX assignment on a somewhat inaccessible unit. Never happens in real life, but hey, let’s pretend. Some newer intelligent lights allow you to reassign the DMX address from the board. [Now that the Remote Device Management or RDM protocol allowing bi-directional communication has been published we will start to see a lot more fixtures with this capability. – ed.] It’s a little tricky until you’ve done it a few times; I freely admit I have to step through it with the manual open right next to me. Setting several channel controllers just so sends a DMX assignment change to the distant unit. Not something I like to do often, but it saves a lot of ladder work. It’s theoretically possible to call this function up by accident, which is why you can turn the option off at the menu if you wish.
– From John Kaluta's Technopolis article in the upcoming September 2006 issue.
As an automated lighting programmer, you are often exposed to many different productions, designers and other contacts. Every gig should be approached as a learning experience. Watch how the designer interacts with the client, study the shop order to see how it was conceived and changed, and notice how the LD calls the conventional focus. Observing professionals in the real world is often a much better learning experience than any classroom environment. I also like to collect various bits of paperwork from productions so I can study the subtle differences. Magic sheets, plots, patch sheets, followspot notes, etc., all have unique touches that each LD applies. By noticing how each is used by the LD and crew I have learned how to improve my own designer paperwork.
– From Brad Schiller's stint on the LD-At-Large page in the August issue.
Video scalers can be both a blessing and a curse. While a scaler will allow us to adjust the input resolution or even the format to match a specific output format, it does not guarantee our image quality.
Most projectors topped out at SXGA+, giving them 1050 pixels. So what happens to those other 30 lines of information in a HD 1080 frame? They get lost in the scaling. They can either be thrown out and part of the image is cut off, or they get squeezed in and the image has this very slight fuzzy appearance where it occurs. On an SXGA+ screen trying to reproduce a 1080 image, the distortion is slight and often unnoticed except by a trained eye.
All of the major and most of the minor projector manufacturers have taken care to install good quality scalers onboard their projectors. Still, just like in audio world, there are a number of even better quality outboard scalers that do amazing jobs of helping us get our images under control.
– From Paul J. Duryee's Video World article in the Upcoming August PLSN
Often it can be very useful to adjust the default pan and tilt position of your fixtures. For instance, if we have some moving head fixtures on the stage floor and we use the standard default, then they will all begin pointing straight up. When we build a position, we might select the fixtures and tilt them down, then pan them as needed. If, when we build the next position, we decide to pan them first, and then tilt them down, we will create two similar but very different positions. When we play back our cues, we will find that the fixtures “flip” between these two positions because they are panned and tilted in the opposite ranges.
A simple way to avoid this mistake is to define a default pan and tilt position for these fixtures prior to building your positions. First, we tilt all the fixtures down then pan them as needed so they are all pointing downstage center. Now we store these pan and tilt values as our default values. Then anytime we are building positions, the fixtures will all begin from this location and we can simply pan and tilt as needed, without having to worry about panning or tilting the wrong way around.
– From Brad Schiller's upcoming June Feeding the Machines article
If a lamp tests good and the plug tests good (you might not know for sure until you open things up) the problem is in the cord, or, more likely, the lamp socket. A bad connection at the socket can cause arcing, which usually makes the electrical connection worse, eventually causing failure. The worst part about this is that the damage is sometimes irreparable. In a pinch, you can remove the lamp and maybe (maybe) scrape off enough carbon to re-establish a connection, kind of like filing the electrode on a spark plug. The trouble is that this sort of “repair” usually leads to another failure down the road a bit. In my experience, it’s medium bi-pin sockets and old Fresnels (and BTRs) that suffer this sort of malaise, but you might find it anywhere. If you have to make this sort of emergency fix, flag the unit for later overhaul, as it will very likely need a new socket assembly installed.
– From John Kaluta's May 2006 Technopolis column.
If a known good light doesn’t light in a circuit, that proves it’s not the light, so we go the other way; we start troubleshooting dimmers, circuits, patch panels and everything else in the feed. It’s possible that this could take a while, so if you have a show in the next few hours you might want to prioritize your tasks.
A good first place to start is with the dimmer rack. If everything appears to be normal with a sight inspection, i.e., LEDs lit, meaning power is on, no error messages such as overheating, and the DMX512 signal is good, then we might want to check the dimmer channel. “Swapping out” is still an effective troubleshooting technique here; it’s just a little more tedious and far easier to get confused. If we’re lucky enough to have a modular dimmer (some even have hot-swappable modules) then it’s a simple matter of swapping modules to see if the problem follows the module. If not, then we should look elsewhere. Perhaps the dimmer output is not connected properly. A good old-fashioned re-patch can prove you right or wrong pretty quickly. If the outputs are terminated with Socopex connectors, then perhaps we can just swap cables to see if another dimmer pack will work. Otherwise we’ll have to disconnect the circuit and use a continuity checker to see if we have continuity in the circuit. We can short the hot and the neutral (after they’ve been disconnected, of course!) and test for continuity on the other end. If that doesn’t isolate the problem, then we look elsewhere. Of course, we’ve already checked that every dimmer pack and DMX-driven unit have the correct DMX512 address, right? And let’s not forget the hundred-to-one shot - an unterminated DMX512 line.
– From John Kaluta's Technopolis article in the upcoming June 2006 issue.
[The Crabb Family] didn’t want machinery industrial, but they didn’t want everybody to feel like they’re in church. So the first concept was some scaffolding towers with lights hanging off of them, which was an idea I got from a beauty pageant four or five years ago. And then, I added video screens hanging at different angles. I knew we were going to be in a theatre, so I wanted to take full use of line sets to be able to hang stuff anywhere and not have to hang a super structure.
– From the PLSN Interview with LD Andre Huff in the upcoming May 2006 issue.
When you are testing a lighting circuit for continuity (a complete circuit), any non-infinite reading on the meter is accepted as good. A cold lamp will have a relatively low resistance, so the meter should read something. It should be something close to zero, but the chances are pretty good that the reading won’t be exactly zero (zero means “short-circuit”). An open circuit will read infinite; some Ohmmeters will blink, some display “OL,” many display a cryptic “1 .”. The trouble that some techs have is twofold: If your meter is auto-ranging and you are touching the test leads you’ll get a reading, which you may interpret as a good…oops. You just checked your own resistance (the resistance of your own body, that is) and misread the results. Setting the Ohmmeter range too high can lead to the same silly results. Don’t touch the meter leads and you’ll be fine.
– From John Kaluta's Technopolis column in the upcoming May PLSN.