Sight & Sound’s Millennium Theatre, which opened in Strasburg, PA with a production of Noah on Sept. 1, 1998, got an assist from Mountain Productions, Columbus McKinnon (CM) and Motion Laboratories on a new rigging solution for their productions at the venue, seen by some 800,000 visitors per year. For an updated production of Noah that featured 60 live animals, 100 animatronic animals and a cast of 52 along with 11 set elements used for the Ark’s interior, Sight & Sound’s Glen Broderson was looking for an alternative to the existing rigging setup that required the entire grid to be lowered for maintenance. The old truss grid was removed and replaced with seven rows of 115-foot truss with eight motors for each. Now, only the parts of the rig that need attention can be lowered, reducing the manpower needed for ongoing maintenance. The new system is expected to streamline the workflow required for major show changeovers as well.
From “Installations,” by Justin Lang, PLSN, May 2013.
The test consists of 150 questions that need to be completed within a three-hour testing period. Each test is different; the computer chooses from a large pool of questions created by a panel of experts. The number of questions you need to answer correctly to pass is determined by the questions you get on the exam. Each question has been rated by its difficulty by the team of experts who created the test, and this rating is used to determine the final score. Detailed content of each test can be found at etcp.plasa.org. Shortly after the test, you will be given a raw score and a report that indicates a pass or fail. If you do not pass the test, you can take it again. If you take it within a year, you’ll get a significant discount. If you did pass, you will get a certificate, wallet card and pin, all identifying you as being an ETCP-certified rigger…Certification lasts for five years, after which you will need to get recertified. To renew your certification, you need a total of 40 points. You can earn points via job experience, taking or teaching classes in rigging, being involved in writing rigging standards and even by taking the exam. But the maximum points they’ll accept in any one category is 30—so to qualify for renewal you’ll need points in multiple categories.
—By Todd Proffitt from “Focus on Fundamentals,” PLSN, May, 2013
Most automated lighting consoles provide programmers with the ability to assign a priority level to individual playbacks. Just as the name implies, a playback can be given a numeric value that gives it more control than those with a lower numeric value. This can be very useful. A common scenario is to set a high priority for a playback that assigns a group of fixtures to light a podium. When these lights are focused and illuminated on the podium, you generally do not want any other playbacks to override the podium lighting (because usually the person at the podium is the most important). If you suddenly need to trigger an audience ballyhoo, you want to ensure the podium lights stay put. By assigning the podium playback a higher priority than other playbacks, the console will ensure that their programing is never overridden by other playbacks with lower priority. So even if your ballyhoo playback includes the same fixtures that are in the podium playback, the fixtures in the podium playback will always overrule the ballyhoo playback.
—Brad Schiller, “Feeding the Machines,” PLSN, May, 2013
“One thing you learn rapidly in lighting cars is that there are a lot of specular surfaces, including chrome, glass and mirrors. When you combine that with the turntables that are used for most exhibits and shows, you realize that reflections appear different from every seat in the audience. You simply don’t have the control that you would have in a studio environment where you can light the car using lighting reflective surfaces such as a cyc or bounce cards. In any case, the goal is simply to make the product look as elegant and sexy as you can. Cars are more than mere transportation — they are aspirational products, meaning that, in many cases, people project themselves, or how they would like to be seen, through their choice of vehicle. Lighting, if done right, plays a large part in selling the product to the customers.”
—LD Jim Tetlow, as quoted by Debi Moen, “Designer Watch,” PLSN, May, 2013
I appreciate a lighting tech that goes out of his way to send the house guys up to the spot perches to fire and fine tune the local spotlights at every venue. It’s a thankless task that easily takes an hour of your day. Most lighting crew chiefs hate this and cannot be bothered with the task. I’ve actually had a touring tech tell me that if I wanted good spots everyday, I should’ve rented them and another tech from his lighting company. The majority of shows I do are at the mercy of the local house or rental companies’ inventory. And if I wait until show time to find out that half of the lights are dim and useless, I’m in trouble. That’s why I can’t always depend on the crew chief sent to me by a lighting vendor. It’s why LDs often request that rental companies use their personal electricians on certain gigs. Because we need guys who care about all the lights on the show.
—From “LD at Large” by Nook Schoenfeld, PLSN, May, 2013
Television lighting designer Ted Wells has been honing his craft since the early 1970s. PLSN contributor Michael S. Eddy asked him about career advice. Here’s Wells’ reply: “I got two pieces of advice, and I count both of them equally in their value. One was to be available, be helpful, and have a good work ethic, because attitude and desire will take you a long way. You can be extremely talented, but if you don’t have the other qualities, it doesn’t matter who you are; ever.
"The most valuable piece of advice in terms of lighting was, it’s about the face. The television medium is about close-ups. I think that’s why people watch TV — to see those close shots of the faces of the performer or actor. It’s about being in close with them, so it is important to make sure you always get the face right. The background will always take care of itself. The background is just painting. Don’t take away from who the performer is — it’s okay to bring huge energy to the moment with lighting, but don’t overpower the performer.”
—From “PLSN Interview” by Michael S. Eddy, PLSN, April, 2013, page 42.
Shania Twain’s new show, Still the One, began its two-year, 110-show residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Dec. 1, 2012. A key issue for show director Raj Kapoor and production designer Michael Cotton was how to make use of the venue’s huge LED screen in a manner where it would not marginalize the talent performing in front of it. As video designer Bob Bonniol related to PLSN’s Vickie Claiborne, “their idea was to go in the opposite direction. Make the media more environmental, and the audience reacts to it not as a facet of the design, but as a whole... In blending the show with the venue and making it totally environmental, it allows Shania to be a center of it all, as opposed to “her vs. the screen.” It works. It’s brilliant.”
—From “Video Interview” by Vickie Claiborne, PLSN, April 2013
Sydney-based Mandylights lighting designers Richard Neville and Alex Grierson were part of the international creative team that lit the world’s tallest building – the 2,722-foot-hight Burj Khalifa in Dubai — for New Year’s and the month of January. The sheer scale of the project was a challenge, with the need to light scores of performers on 15 stages across a vast swath of land and water for an on-site audience of 1.7 million. Another challenge was in making the show work as a unified whole, coordinating the dynamic aspects of 350 intelligent lights, video projection, flame projectors and thousands of water fountains. “I love to use strong lines of light in my designs, so I approached this show in the same way,” says Neville. “I put long lines of ACL fixtures in across the tops of the various screens so we could suggestively extend the color and content of the video out from the screen surfaces and then made sure we programmed with a lot of detail to keep the lighting true to the video,” he adds. “My associate, Alex Grierson, and I split the rig up into parts and programmed separate cue lists so that we could each pay more attention to specific parts of the rig. In some sequences, I’d have a couple of cues while Alex would be madly programming moving lights to follow each step of performers on the lake stages, while at other times I was frantically programming reactive cues to the 210-meter-long (689-foot-long) screen while Alex would have time for a coffee.”
—From “Designer Watch” by Debi Moen, PLSN, April, 2013.
Each year, I get a few calls from bands looking for a set or lighting design for their tour. For Imagine Dragons, there was one stipulation — whatever I designed had to fit in a 16-foot trailer towed behind a bus. I thought about something my friend Jonathan Smeeton described on Facebook. He developed a “set in the bag” concept for one of his artists. Some simple cloth sails made of stretchy silk-like material that one attaches to a skeleton frame of aluminum. I was thinking tent pole style nylon sails. But once I drew my idea on paper and sent them to my artist, I realized they were a lot bigger than what I originally thought of. I had envisioned a little freestanding half moon shape behind the drummer. Once drawn, it turned out to be 15 feet high by 32 feet wide. Then I asked for two smaller shapes that could go downstage on the sides of the half moon. My artist Chris Tousey came up with some shark fin-shaped sails that added to the depth of the stage. In front of these sails I designed four aluminum trees. — 14 feet tall by about eight feet wide. Complete with faux leaves. The trees looked totally 3D and curved like old fruit trees. I hung three Martin MAC 101 LED movers and three homemade lanterns from each tree. Joe Gallagher built the entire set for a fair price, and it fit on top of lighting cases. The whole set was huge, but took up four feet of truck space.
—From “LD-at-Large” by Nook Schoenfeld, PLSN, April, 2013, page 60.
Every automated lighting fixture manufacturer selects the wavelengths their color mixing system will produce, and therefore it can be difficult to get different fixture types to match when color mixing. Some manufacturers will use more saturated colors than others. Their lights may appear brighter as you color mix, but you might have trouble getting deep reds and greens. Unfortunately, your console cannot help you with these physical limitations, but sometimes there are offsets you can adjust in the desk. In addition, with the use of palettes or presets, you can store different values for different fixtures in the same location. This lets you then simply select your “purple” palette and feel comfortable that all the fixtures will go to the same purple color (assuming you made them all match when you created the palette).
—From “Feeding the Machines” by Brad Schiller, PLSN, April, 2013, page 56