So here's the situation -
I learned Vectorworks on my own and have been using it to design my plots over the last year or so. I drafted my entire theatre from scratch, so I like to think I'm pretty well versed in both the fundamental CAD and lighting features. It produces beautiful plots that I love. However, I've found that trying to turn lights on and do some pre-vis/visualization/rendering in Vectorworks is just a huge pain in the ass. Going in, I had hoped I could use it to aim a few lights around, add some gobos and gels, and use it as a visualizer to shape my ideas, so I don't have to rely on the relatively inexperienced visualizer in my head.
I've tried, but working with the visualization aspects is so frustrating that I often just fallback to the visualizer in my mind and basically say, "well I hope this looks like what I think it's going to." It takes such a long time just to turn a single light on, all lights must be connected to a corresponding focus point to be aimed, there's no way to enable haze globally, there's no way to adjust hard/soft focus, using gobos is iffy, there's no intensity falloff based on distance or a way to adjust intensity of a light at all, the beam shapes are sometimes incorrect (S4 PAR WFL has a circular beam when rendering), shutter cuts rarely work as the should, no way to save looks, piss-poor real-time vis mode, etc. It really seems pretty much useless to me, at least for theatrical rendering.
So, long story short I have a show (play) coming up where I'm only going to have three days with the console to cue, which basically means I need the whole show designed, hung, and circuited before I can even touch the board. While I'm sure you professional LD's have enough experience that your "mind visualizer" is pretty accurate, I still feel like I'm at the point where I have trouble visualizing an entire look in my head, or visualizing how a certain angle/color/gobo combo will play on a person or a piece of scenery. I feel like I could really benefit from something that would allow me to quickly experiment with angles, gel colors, gobos, etc. while giving me a relatively accurate rendering so that I can build up a look light-by-light and basically experiment with different looks through trial-and-error. Sure, I could go into the theatre or a light lab (assuming I had one) and do the same thing, but with a piece of software like this, experimenting that would take hours can be done in minutes with much less work.
I tried the WYSIWYG demo, and it looks to be just what I'm looking for. The real-time rendering and actual rendered images just feel a lot more realistic than VW, soft/hard focus is supported, it's got an amazing library of instruments, gobos, etc., has some decent paperwork functions built in, quickly hanging, aiming, and setting levels for multiple lights is easy, has an amazing real-time rendering mode, etc. It's just really nice to use and experiment with. I'm considering springing for a license because I could almost design and cue the entire show virtually from the comfort of my home.
If we disregard the cost, what are your thoughts on WYSIWYG? Have you guys had a similar experience as mine in regards to trying to do visualization with Vectorworks? For those of you who use WYSIWYG, have you found it's been pretty accurate in terms of it's rendering? Can you design an entire show with only WYSIWYG and a gel book by your side without any nasty surprises once it transfers to real-life? Those of you who don't use WYSIWYG, what is your design process like? Do you do any sort of pre-visualization at all when designing, or do construct the entire design in your head and then tweak once the lights are hung?
Perhaps I just need the experimental/trial-and-error process to be a good designer. I think I would make a terrible artist a hundred years ago, but I can do some pretty decent Photoshop and web design work simply because I can use trial and error and tweak here and there until it "just looks good" to me.
Anyways, sorry for the rambling post, any and all thoughts on WYSIWYG, Vectorworks, or how you guys actually imagine and design a show is much appreciated.
P.S. It should be noted that I'm using only conventionals, although I don't think this makes a huge difference.