Certain lighting rental houses are huge, as they always acquire new acts and more gear. They are great places to try and get your foot in the door. But you may be the low man on the totem pole for quite some time until you work your way up. I am a big fan of the little guys. I mean those regional lighting companies that excel in their particular part of the States. Inevitably, these companies will find themselves shorthanded, and young techs will be “thrown into the fire” by necessity. And the faster you figure out how to squelch that fire and do something new, the more valuable you become to everyone. These companies may not be able to pay you what you wish to start, but they can give you a faster way to work yourself up in the biz.
—Nook Schoenfeld, from “LD-at-Large,” PLSN, August 2012
We’re in a new cycle now in the H.O.W. universe, one where many and small is the paradigm, replacing few and huge. The so-called satellite church has become the new model, and it’s one that will be making technology manufacturers and operators very happy regardless of their personal beliefs…Some larger churches now have as many as a dozen satellite campuses, and others are following suit. The implications for projection, lighting and staging technology are clear. More locations means that churches need to buy more systems and, just as importantly, they will need design, installation and operational expertise to get those systems started and keep them running.
—Dan Daley, from “The Biz,” PLSN, July 2012
Many of the more specialized services that were previously available only to those with big budgets and deep pockets are becoming more mainstream. An exciting new technology is video projection mapping, which is a projection technique that uses different types of surfaces, including buildings, to project and incorporate a dynamic video display. RSN members predict that digital mapping will become more a part of “main street meetings” than ever before. Another key development to watch over the next six months is the ongoing evolution of non-linear, 2D and 3D real-time editing, playback and control software, which is very user-friendly, creative and flexible. What’s most impressive about this technology is that it enables the use of 3D in real time, which is extremely important in our line of work. Similarly, LED lighting is becoming more diverse and affordable with new products being launched in the market.
—Donald Guzauckas, from “Five Trends to Watch in Live Event Staging,” PLSN, July 2012
Okay, you’ve gotten the word out and you have some people that are willing to join but they don’t have any previous experience. Now what do you do? It’s not disrespectful to the volunteer to make sure they are plugged into the right serving opportunity. Here at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, we firmly believe that not everyone is suited for every volunteer opportunity. For instance, not everyone enjoys spending a few hours with 10 crying babies and, you know what? That’s completely okay. Same applies to production: not everyone has the eye for lighting or the eye to frame a camera shot in a fast-paced environment. It’s at that point that we have to make a decision. Do we keep someone in a position that they’re just not getting the hang of, or do we find another opportunity that is more to their strengths and allow them to flourish? I personally would choose the latter.
—Chris Thomas, from “Houses of Worship: Training the Volunteer,” PLSN, July 2012
While corporate events can be fun to work on and pay well, they also have their own sets of requirements for the automated lighting programmer. Many elements are common for all these events, and it is important that you are aware and prepared…The main speaking area is usually a podium, although in recent years, many corporate events are doing away with podiums in favor of just having an open stage. In either case, I will focus ALL my fixtures to the podium or primary speaking area. They may not ever get used in these areas, but I have them ready if needed. Often, the LD will use conventional fixtures for these speaking areas, but if a lamp goes out or a dimmer rack fails, light will be needed. This is why I always take the time during pre-production to focus my lights into these areas. Then, if something does go wrong, I can manually grab a fixture or two and quickly get them to the correct location.
—Brad Schiller, from “Feeding the Machines,” PLSN, July 2012
Seemingly difficult technological concepts aren’t impossible to teach or learn, you just need to find everyday words to describe what’s going on. In the June 2012 issue of PLSN, Video World contributor Paul Berlinger uses the somewhat abstract concept of an IP address as a case in point. Here’s his explanation of what it is, for non-techies. “An IP address is essentially a computer’s home address, so that the digital postman knows how to deliver mail. If you want to communicate with (or deliver to) that computer, you need to be in the same city and neighborhood, with knowledge of exactly where that computer is. We call this being in the same IP “scheme.” Now, a computer’s subnet mask is like a zip code — a special function that limits a set of addresses to a particular range. To complete the analogy, the computer’s “gateway” is like the border patrol. If you have any hope of ever communicating with that computer (or device), you better know how to get in the gateway.”
—Paul Berliner, from “Video World,” PLSN, June 2012
When you are freelancing, networking is essential to your chances for success. As your network continues to expand, keep a database of all your contacts. Sure, using the free address book on your computer or Gmail address book works for starters. When your database grows, you’ll begin to wonder just who some of those contacts are. Keep notes — where you met, what you talked about. This will help in the long run by keeping these valuable connections fresh in your mind. Don’t just keep a well-maintained contact database, use it. Keep in touch with them. Everyone loves getting the good kind of email, a friendly, “Hi, how’s it going, what’s new, what tour are you on these days…” Who knows, a simple email may spark a conversation that leads to a gig.
—Justin Lang, from “Editor’s Note,” PLSN, June 2012
While a 2D image is a non-animated image, motion can be created with this type of content easily by rotating the image on the screen, changing the location in the raster, or resizing. A DMX-controlled media server allows the programmer to easily manipulate all of these attributes from a lighting console, and also to store those changes in lighting cues. However, for media servers not being triggered by a lighting console, all of these attributes have to be rendered into a video clip from within a digital video editing software application. Motion Graphics are images that are animated using keyframes. They can be digitally created or captured using a camera and then imported into a non-linear editing (NLE) program. Since NLE software is designed to work with file-based media, analog and digital tape, stereoscopic 3D material and film — all in the same timeline and workflow — a composited video can be rendered and exported much more easily than the old-fashioned method of cutting and splicing tape.
—Vickie Claiborne, from “Focus on Fundamentals,” PLSN, June 2012
Most automated lighting consoles allow you to label most items within the desk. It is essential that you use this tool to label every palette/preset, cue, list and other items as you store them. I like to label everything that I can. I even go into the patch and label each fixture as to its location in the rig. Sometimes it might be the “DS Truss” or the “Green Truss” but it always helps me to later read the exact location of fixtures. Again, with this information visible in the programmer and cue data, I can quickly assess the data and understand the effect on stage. I am meticulous about naming every single cuelist, even if it is just for a simple flash key or other task. I never know when I will come back to a show file to re-mount a show. I certainly will not remember what “list 17” is doing, but if it is labeled “Hazers,” then I have no doubt as to its purpose.
—Brad Schiller, from “Feeding the Machines,” PLSN, June 2012
Reel Video Systems (RVS), makers of LED screens that roll up, cites a number of advantages with the concept. First, there’s less need for labor on site to assemble a video wall from panels. “Our screens come rolling in, and you just rig them to the motors, plug in power and a signal, and you have a show,” says Andy Gerber, visual display manager. “We’re able to set up and tear down in significantly less time than traditional LED screens.” Of course, on everyone’s mind these days, more than ever, is safety. “If we’re at an outdoor event, we can monitor inclement weather, and the moment we think there’s a chance of a problem, we press a button and the screen goes away in 20 seconds. This is important because we know that with sudden, hard winds, LEDs become one of the most dangerous aspects of that outdoor event. Now we’ve taken that dynamic out of the equation.” The screens, which weigh about 25 percent less than traditional screens, feature Cree LEDs. “It’s a 3-in-1 surface-mount pixel, all contained in one LED. And even though it’s a lightweight screen, we have high resolution.” Another important feature: the roll-up screens run on DC power, not AC, which requires less voltage and makes the displays more energy-efficient than other screen options.
—Kevin M. Mitchell, from “Company 411,” PLSN, May 2012