# Design Issues and Solutions Your philosophy on assigning channel numbers

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by JChenault, Sep 23, 2009.

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So here's the question - as a lighting designer - what is your philosophy for assigning channel numbers? IE when you have full lattitude:

• Is channel 1 an 'Area' light or something else.
• Is DR usually channel 1, or do you start DL ( or UpLeft or anyplace else).
• Do you put channels together by position, or by use. IE if you have six areas with 5 lights per area ( front right, front left, side right, side left, down) would you put all of the Area A lights on channel 1-5, B on 6-10 and so on - OR - would you put A-front on 1&2. A sides on 13&14 A down on 25? -OR- some other plan.
• If you have a warm / cool side light from a box boom position ( right and left) do you sequence "Right Warm, Right Cool, Left Warm, Left Cool" -OR- "Right Warm, Left Warm, Right Cool, Left Cool".

I'm just curious how other minds approach the problem ( and I have never seen it discussed ). If anyone knows of a reference about the topic, please post it.

John
2. ### rochemWell-Known Member

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Awesome topic! I'm looking forward to reading some of the responses that pop up here. For me, it varies a lot based on the plot for the show. For my house plot, I use channels 1-10 as my warm area fronts and channels 11-20 as cool area fronts. When using areas, channel 1 is always my DSL area, so that it coincides with my Unit Numbers in the FOH. After the area fronts, I put my box boom units, by color not position, so BoxL Warm then BoxR Warm, BoxL Cool, BoxR Cool, BoxL Neut, and BoxR Neut in that order. Then comes side lights by color, then top/back lights. After that I start adding in temp washes, any specials, cyc lights, and whatever else I have.

Basically, when deciding what channel number to put where, I imagine as if I was using a preset desk with faders for each channel, and imagine which channels I would most want near eachother for ease of pushing up faders. I personally can't see the advantage to having all of your BoxL units near eachother, for example, since you will generally be keying with only one of those colors from both sides, rather than all of those colors from one side. Of course, I always memorize my plot/magic sheet before going into tech or focus. I just think it makes tech go a lot smoother, and although it can be a big challenge with 100+ unit plots, it helps me to not be constantly relying on the paperwork. I would imagine that with very large plots with lots of movers or scrollers, one would always be referring to the paperwork anyways, so grouping channels together would not be as important. Also, on that note, I ALWAYS use groups for programming. I have groups by system (R80 tops), by area (DSL), by position (FOH Cove), and lots of other kinds of groups.

EDIT: I almost always letter my areas (A, B, etc.) to differentiate from my channel/unit numbers. Channel-1, Dimmer-53, Circuit-217, Unit-1E4, Area-1 is just too many numbers to keep track of.
Last edited: Sep 24, 2009

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I don't label areas by letter because of how I channel.

Area 1 is always the most DSR area because I design from the house not the stage.

Channel 1 always goes to area one, 2 to 2, ect.

I very rarely have more than 20 areas...so my next wash (usually my SR side light) will start at 21 ect.
4. ### TheDonkeyMember

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Then I add in all the Washes/Fills
Then Specials.
Then Practicals.
Then Toys(Smoke)
Then Full stage washes.(of a specific color)
Then Cyc lights.
5. ### pteroMember

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After a lifetime doing this, Stage Left/Stage Right is so ingrained, when I'm out driving or riding, I turn Stage Left to go right! So, for me, DL is area 1 and all systems are numbered reflecting DL as the start of the system. Unit numbering also runs SL to SR.

Agreed on most of your method. Shows are different enough that each ends up unique, but background thinking remains the same for organization. I have a sample 'screen layout' worksheet in the excel doc I develop a show with and pay attention to the visual layout. Area Cools are underneath Area Warms on the next row. and on and on... A glance at the screen nets a quick read on which systems are in use and relative levels.

For better or worse, we run less than 100 Channels. In order to keep it on one screen, I don't number above that. With 73 Dimmers there are enough dead/unused channels, 17 not in use, the visual thing will usually work. That's 17 'blanks' to sprinkle throughout to help define sections visually.

Sometimes Channel strings are easier or more difficult to verbalize. I have a programmer, and the situation demands working over a headset. The need to say 'stuff' out loud can influence assignments.

We also hard patch during roughly half of our productions. Yes, it's true. Classic phone patch as some call it. We have some 265 circuits into 73 dimmers. With hard patching occurring during performance, the range of patching dimmers will have a relation to their Channels. Dims 13 thru 18 assigned to say, (83)>(88). That way, if there's an issue I can immediately call for a check on a Dimmer by number, knowing the conversion becomes automatic. Other factors will push the start of the string around, in this case to (63) or to (73), f'r'instance. But the sort of one-to-one deal always exists.

A general note, without fail I use the (xx) convention to denote Channels in all cases. Lightwright shows them this way. That might be a changable preference in LW, but it's my preference, too. OOooo, LW5 should arrive tomorrow. YAY.

Area numbers or letters don't matter to me by the time I'm Q-ing. For the Magic Sheet: Channels, Colors, and Directional arrows are normally all that need to be noted. The Area numbers or letters are buried in schedules. I generally use numbers myself. We do a lot of twofering so labeling does not sync w/Channel numbers.

The Magic is often laid out 'geographically' with some amount of floor plan underneath. Usually a larger simplified FP, plus a few Half-Size or smaller plans will fit on one sheet. They'll allow most of the channels to be noted graphically: area, side, top, special motivated systems. Some things on the magic are simply in list form, grouped by usage.

What really counts is what works for you. There is no right or wrong about it. ummm, nuff for now.
Last edited: Sep 24, 2009
6. ### kiwitechgirlActive Member

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I start numbering from DSR, and channels are always grouped by purpose - each frontlight colour, each toplight colour, each backlight colour, each sidelight colour; specials come after generals, numbered working SR-SL and DS-US. Cycs are usually on the end, grouped by colour. If I'm using movers, they usually start at the next "hundred" - so if I'm using 150 channels, the movers start at 200. My channel numbering allocation varies depending on the show and the space; sometimes I number each group starting at a "one" number - frontlight colour 1 starts at 1, frontlight colour 2 starts at 21, colour 3 starts at 41 and so on (which of course means that each area's lights will all end with the area number), sometimes I don't bother and the numbers are all consecutive!

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Do you only work on one stage? If not how do you deal with a stage where those areas would be 15' or larger?
8. ### icewolf08CBModCB Mods

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I always channel from DL to UR and by system. So, first the front systems, then sides, tops, and so on with the specials and movers at the end. I also try to line up systems on the console display, so if 1-15 were fronts then 21-35 would be the next system. That way you always know that area 1 is a channel ending in a 1 offset by 20 (since the old convention was 20 channels across on the screen).
9. ### MillburyAuditoriumMember

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Intersting topic ^_^

Well, I setup our board as follows.
We have a Leviton Status, so it has no pages of sub masters, so it has all physical sub masters.

So for the bottom row I have groups like, all stage, which are all stage lights except colors. Then 3 sliders for for red blue and green, which are actually three different color strips but connected together. Then all the far cycs, right middle and left above stage spots. Then the last two are houselights and proscenium.

In the middle row I have 1-16 for individual foh spot control. Then some individual key above stage fixtures.

Then the top row is for specific show affects.

EDIT
Well, I realized I messed up : P I thought you meant how do we assign channels on our boards.

Well, for soft patching, really, I have not changed it in a long time, mainly because we have the luxury of having all of our fixtures at our disposal due to the large number of Sub masters the Status has.

As for patching, we have ours by type of fixture although, I need to re-patch it this year, I don't know what happened or what I did, but the channel numbers a strewn all over the place, like, it will go from channel 16, to like 30 for the next fixture

But when it is correct we have it by type of fixtures. Also by plug numbers.
1-16 are the FOH spots (Which plug numbers are 1-16 as well)
Then, well, I don't know exact numbers, but say, 17-about 25 are Fresnels, 17 starting house left stage across to right then back to the second bar left to right then so on.
then 26-about 30 are mini ellipsoidal above stage in the same format as the Fresnels.
Then 31-36 are far cycs, also same format.
Then 37-46 would be colors, although when assigning subs, we make each color, which is three addresses, just to one sub, So there would be three subs for colors, rgb.
Then 47-58 would be houselights. 47 and 48 being the two rows of proscenium lights, and then 49-58 are individual rows of lights. (Which was helpful a few times, once a lady was called up to the stage for a raffle prize or something, and I didnt want to light up the whole house, so I followed her with rows : P
Last edited: Sep 24, 2009
10. ### LightingTigerNew Member

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In my very imited experience, I have found that I like to group channels by purpose. For example, if I've broken the area up into 12 zones (which I did for the last show)it would look something like this:

warm light---11 thru 22
cool light---31 thru 42
neutral light---51 thru 62
down light---71-82

House lights are all on channel 1. Washes, 5 through 10. Specials, 85 through 96.

I have enjoyed reading the other responses!
11. ### mstaylorWell-Known Member

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I always number DSR to USL because that's the way I am looking at it. Warms in the first sequence, Cools in the second string and so forth. I started on a two scene preset and have just kept the habit. From there I set subs by purpose.
12. ### calkew5Member

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Like a lot of others here, I number my areas from SR to SL because when I used to program with subs, that was the way that made sense. I guess it's also like reading a book left to right. I have a hard time thinking about it any other way at this point.

Since my space has only 48 dimmers, two of which are broken, I do a lot of two-fering, and when I do, I skip channel numbers so I don't confuse myself. If I have areas 1-7 of front light, and the instruments for areas 5 and 6 are ganged together, I'll put them both in 5 so that channel 7 is still area 7.

I wish I could arrange the channels on the console's monitor in nice neat blocks, but the channels on Express go across by 12, not 10, so it's an impossible dream.
13. ### waynehoskinsActive Member

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I too follow the general consensus of the group. Most of the time I'm on an Express in either an educational or community space, pushing the rig to its limits.

I try to avoid having more than 10 channels in any given system, and it's based somewhat on how the show would cue. If I have no need to isolate DLC from DL, then I'll twofer those two units together (or pro-patch them together, depending).

Here's how I usually do my hookup:

1-10 frontlight system (warm if there are two)
10s - backlights
20s - sides from SR
30s - sides from SL
40s - wash systems
50s - specials
60s - templates
70s - cyc stuff

Houselights are on the last channel, and worklights are the one below that. If I'm using curtain warmers, that'll be up there too.
14. ### shibenWell-Known Member

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I find that how I patch and arrange channels really depends on the show, but in all but a few situations we used some form of Channel per Circuit patching (Thats how the boss wanted it, so thats what I did). Sometimes, it will be a total scattershot of 1-1 patched channels with groups assigned to subs. However, I prefer to do concerts (what I mainly did until a month or so ago) with 1-5 as N/C frontlight, as specials on the band members (no one really came thru with more than 5 people, and if they did, things got bumped up). 6-15 would be frontlight wash 1 (Usually Congo Blue), 16-25 frontlight wash 2 (Medium Amber), and 26-35 wash 3 (Magenta or Red). 35-40 would usually be toplight wash, 41-50 Backlight wash (both got scrollers), and then going up from there with assorted specials, HS, HH, MS, Shins, blinders, etc going on from there. Houselights are complicated, and based on several issues in each space.

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Even though I started in community theatre, I spent so many years with early touring rock n roll that I group by colors.

For example:

1 - red front
2 - red rear
3 - red left
4 - red right
5, 6, 7, 8, same order in blue
9, 10, 11, 12 same order in the next color.

Once the washes are done cyc colors follow and finally specials.

This was in the days of analog control only and two scene preset boards were the thing. What a step up it was when we got a 36 channel Lighting Methods out-board 5 scene preset board.
16. ### NevilleLightingMember

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I may be old school, but that's because I'm old. I learned channeling from NYC designers I assisted. Pretty much all of them used the same channeling method. Basic rules as follows....

All numbering starts DSL. We number pipes SL to SR so we number areas and channels the same. The channel order depends on where the beam of light falls onstage, not where it is hanging on the pipe.

Every system (by system I mean color/angle, such as warm frontlight or cool sidelight) starts with 1. So warm fronts might be 1-9, then cool fronts start over at 11, the next wash at 21 and so on.

Always channel all of your FOH in the first block of cues. This comes from two threads of development. The first goes back to old days of touring and piano boards when you had to hook into the local venue patch bay. The second is from dealing with musicals and other shows what have downstage drops. As the drop flies in you need to kill all of your FOH. That's much easier to do if all those channels are in a continuous block.

From there, keep all of your types of systems together. I work in a very regimented order so that my hunting for channels when cueing is kept to an absolute minimum. My order is:
Frontlight
Box Booms
Misc. FOH
Sidelight (left warm, right warm, left cool, right cool)
Crosslight
Downlight
Backlight
Drop light
Other scenery light
specials
toys (hazers, fog, strobes, etc.)
non-dims
houselights

The number of channels I use varies widely with the venue and the type of show. For example, on some shows my left warm sidelight fits into 9 channels. On others it might take 30-40.

Never feel bad about leaving empty channels unless your light board is limited on number of channels. Channels are free. The only downside is you may want to watch how many screens you have to flip through to see your channels. When you're getting to the point where you're flipping through 4-5 screens of channels that can be a real drag. For that reason I sometimes put specials into holes that are created in my area light channeling, for example, maybe my warm sidelight only takes 12 channels so I have 8 empty channels before the next system numbering. I sometimes will stick stuff in there. The downside there is that when I kill all of my sidelight I will take out all of them in one block (example" channels 41-120 at zero). Think about what you might be taking out in the process that you don't want to.

I never use less channels than dimmers. Even if I think I will always turn on all of my blue downlight I channel each circuit separately, just in case I find out that I don't want to turn it all on at once. My only exception is drop lighting. All circuits for any given color on any given drop go to single channels.

Channeling, like magic sheets (I see a new thread) can be a very personal thing. However, I will say that the rules I have put forth are pretty much industry standard in professional theatre. If you want to assist a professional designer in your future you may do well to learn this system. I don't take any credit for it, only passing along what I learned from others, and they were passing along the wisdom they learned from their mentors (ie: Tharon Musser, Jean Rosenthal, Ken Billington and others). I have tweaked a bit, personalized my approach, but it is standard enough that I can turn over channeling to a professional assistant and I will get a channel system that feels comfortable to me when I cue.
Last edited: Sep 30, 2009
17. ### TheDonkeyMember

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I'm currently in Highschool, so only one stage.

It's not really much of design as much as getting the whole stage lit for us, we're not exactly short on instruments, but don;t have them in hundreds if oyu get what I mean...

After the set/stage is lit, we usually only have ~2-3 leko's left over for specials. Assuming, of course, that we find enough extensions/power distro to get the channels up.

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For those that don't know, one the reasons this style of system (Channeling from SL to SR) started in NYC is because of the union. Your Production Electrician does his dimmer check at top of show from the stage, so sorting the channels from the electricians standpoint was a curtesey.
19. ### starkskETC Technical Support SpecialistPremium Member

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Channel assignment actually depends on which console I will be working with as well as whether or not I have a board operator that I have to relay instructions.

On a text based display, such as Express consoles, where I have defined line breaks on the console and, barring changing to a flexichannel state, the screen will stay in the same view, I use the line breaks to seperate by position. (Ie.: Line 1 is my FOH, Line 2 is my 1st Electric, etc...) When I have booms, I will center my channels for the FOH and Electrics and use the outside channels to reflect booms. (Ie.: Channels 1-5 are the furthest DSR Boom channels from top to bottom. Channels 21-25 are the furthest DSL Boom channels from bottom to top. The next line would be the next upstage booms, so on and so forth)

On a console that I have control over the channel layout, such as a Congo, I will use the groupings by hundreds for each wash, using the tens to determine position. (101 being the first wash DSR FOH area, 201 being the second wash in that area, etc...) For things that fall outside of a system of units, such as specials, I will either channel in the 001-099 range or in the very high channels. Then, because I can control what channels are displayed and where they are located on the screen, I setup my screen to look like my magic sheet so I very rarely have to look at my hardcopy of paperwork.

In both of these setups, I am trying to minimize my time looking down at my paperwork and not having the stage at least in the background of my view.

~Kirk

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