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Design Issues and Solutions A Lighting Designer's Tool Belt

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by atb3185, Jan 8, 2009.

  1. atb3185

    atb3185 Member

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    What are some "must haves" for every lighting designer's arsenal? What tools/items do you keep on hand just in case?
     
  2. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Depends on your level in the industry. But the one thing that every lighting designer MUST have is a Clear Com compatible headset.

    Mike
     
  3. renegadeblack

    renegadeblack Active Member

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    I've got a roll of gaff tape with a belt clip :)

    oh, and a swatch book
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2009
  4. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

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    Well, it depends on your roll in the industry and what level of entertainment you are work on, but for the most part the "tools" of the LD are a swatch book, a laptop, paper work and more paper work, a script, research material, maybe a board manual and of course, pens, pencils and all that good stuff.
     
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  5. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Swatch book is a must to have, but not while out on gigs usually past hang day. I never take my laptop to a show, but it is good to have your CAD program on to draw your light plot. On hang day always have an extra copy or two of your light plot in case your ME lost one. You will need your cheat sheet on focus day. After that you should have it committed to memory. My old prof told me that you should never look at your cheat sheet after focus. In fact I keep mine on a note card in my back pocket through tech rehearsals. You need a copy of your cue sheet. If you function at the Community Theater level then having some of your own gels can't hurt things either (especially if you are like me and like odd colors that no one keeps). You might want to keep more odds and ends at the Community Theater level, such as gaff tape, an exacto knife, any custom gobos you might need, etc. Also at this level you will need your hang schedule at the hang. If you work in concert lighting then your headset and your quick wits are about all you will need.

    So it all depends.

    Mike
     
  6. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    First, if you need tools to take to the hang, its time to take a look at your career and why you are at the hang, if you want to be an LD that is.

    Big thing people are missing here, you must have your own Littlelite. Beyond anything, having a dimable light source is a must.

    A headset is nice, but not required. Swatch books are, office supplies are, but most places will just give you a clip light or a desk lamp. Bring your own light.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Why do you need a light? What would you look at that isn't already committed to memory?

    I beg to differ on a headset being optional. Have you ever seen some of the headsets even at top level regional theaters? YUCK!

    I always go to the hang. That way if the ME has any questions or issues I am right there to answer them. Otherwise you have to live with what he decides (and there is a reason they are ME's and not LD's). I always bring a spare plot as well. It takes up no space and weighs nothing so why not? You would not believe how many top level ME's I have seen lose plots.

    Mike
     
  8. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Top-level LD's need:
    MacBookPro to email about future jobs
    iPhone to talk about future jobs
    Associate LD to explain to the director why the LD is on the phone (or can't be at the rehearsal)
    Assistant LD to take notes about what the
    Moving Light Programmer is doing wrong
    Another Assistant to say repeatedly "That's not how we do it in New York"
    CPA to hide the kickback from the lighting rental company
    Unpaid Intern to fetch coffee and other menial tasks
    :twisted:
     
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  9. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    OMG! That is funny right there! I know that LD (and he wasn't very good) and I have held several of those positions!

    Mike
     
  10. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

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    Paperwork is there so you don't have to commit things to memory. It's there to make your life easier by having things down on a piece of paper, thus clearing up your mind to think more creatively about your lighting.

    Also, if you can be at hang, great. It can be really useful to have the LD at hang so you can say all the classic lines "You put 200+ more pounds on lineset XX than it can handle..."

    Also, I take offense at the "(and there is a reason they are ME's and not LD's)". That carries a lot of implication as to your opinions on the intelligence levels of the different roles of theatrical professionals. It shows a lack of respect toward the ME as a position. I have found that having a knowledgeable ME who both knows their own craft and something about design is world's better than an ME he knows that "light hangs here". A design-intelligent ME is better at solving problems as they arise. Of course, the good ones know to give design input only when asked.
     
  11. Sony

    Sony Active Member

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    Not everyone has a perfect memory and remember 100% of everything they decided, not only that but memories aren't always 100% reliable, however a piece of paper will never lie to you once you've written the facts on it. Also it's useful to take notes on what went wrong during rehearsal so you can fix it later, not everyone like to strain their eyes in the darkness. I definitely think the littlelite is a great idea...while the Headset is definitely optional, I'm sure you can deal with the junky headset every once in a while. Also not everyone has the money to spend on a nice headset, those things are expensive.

    I also agree with gafftapegreenia...you sound like you have a prejudice towards those working under you and I can tell you from experience...those are THE WORST people to work for. Everyone hates working for the LD who has his head so far up their rear that they think they know better than everyone else. I truly believe that most ME's are not ME's because they failed at being a Designer they just enjoy making things work more than they enjoy making things look good.

    To each their own I guess.

    Stuff I always carry on me:
    Pens and Pencils
    Paper
    Script
    Notes
    Laptop
    Swatch Books (Rosco, Lee, Gam, Apollo)
    Light Plot
    Circuit Diagrams
    Exacto Knife
    Wrench
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2009
  12. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    We have different views on paperwork which is good. For me paperwork is there so if I get hit by a bus then another designer can come in and take over the show. If I am having to take time looking down at the paperwork I am not looking up at the stage where 100% of my focus should be. In addition if I am having to think "cool front light area 2" and then look at my paperwork to see that it is channel 2 before I call "channel 2 up 10 points" I have wasted valuable time in addition to perhaps the moment to make the adjustment being gone (actor moved, next cue got called, etc). I prefer to keep my mind 100% on my creative endeavor. But every designer has their own style. To me a light is not a must have. I never use it anyway.

    Let me say that my comment on ME's has nothing to do with their intelligence level. They chose their specialization for a reason. I have met ME's with no design ability at all, I have met ME's with no desire to design, I have met ME's that couldn't tell R80 from R03. But for some reason they chose to be an ME and not an LD. The design is your design. An ME should not make any adjustment without the OK of the designer. I have had ME's have to rehang entire lighting positions because they made a design choice (which is not their place) and it was the wrong one as far as I was concerned. Is this a comment on their intelligence? By no means. These guys are some of the smartest people I know (one is a former nuclear engineer), but they are not lighting designers and most importantly they are not me. I do not disrespect them. When they tell me that something is not physically possible I take their word for it (unless I know how to do it) and we sit down and find a solution. But again, they are not designers. I would prefer to have a "hang light here" ME than an ME who fancies themselves a designer. If I wanted someone else questioning my decisions or trying to anticipate what I am going to do I would get anther Director. The worst thing I have ever had was a board op who kept asking me if I wanted to make this change or that one. I later found out (when I noticed a cue didn't look right) that he rounded off all my levels to the nearest 5%! As you said, the best ones are the ones with an opinion that only give it when asked. But given the other options I would rather have one with no opinion at all. This is not disrespect to the ME position. But to me, everyone in the theater has a job to do. The ME's job is not to design the lights. He does his job, I do mine, the Director does his, etc and we have a great show. He does not do mine and I won't tell him how to handle an out of weight line set, or how to patch his dimmers/console or how to cable the lights.

    This is just my opinion, your mileage may vary, but I assure you I hold ME's in a high respect (just as I do my journeyman), but I am the deisgner, they are the electricians.

    Mike
     
  13. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Why do you need a wrench or circuit diagrams as an LD???

    Let me say this again, I completely respect ME's. I didn't say they failed at being designers did I? Some never wanted to be designers (which are usually the best kind to work with), some just haven't gotten around to it yet but want to be, and some are washed out designers (which are often the worst to work with). But there is some reason they are a ME and not a LD.

    I totally respect them for what they do and listen to their advice and allow them to do their job unimpeded by me (I will never tell them how to circuit, how to hang, how to rig, how to fly, etc) and I expect the same courtesy from them.

    Am I way off base?

    Mike
     
  14. TimMiller

    TimMiller Well-Known Member

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    I just got done doing a show with a guy like that. He also was a middle man, hiring out all of the gear. Now if he quits bugging me for a friggin discount now that the show is over and done with because he felt some gear was not up to par, even though it works perfectly..... And for him to tell me that 4 1k fresnels will work just fine if they are only run at 50% pop.. 30% pop.... and what part of no matter what you set the intensity at if you are over 2.4k the breaker will pop he does not understand.
     
  15. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    I had a hard time explaining that to a TD once. He wanted me to put 40A worth of lights on a 20A dimmer saying the lights would only be run at 50% at the most. I refused and went back later and found a tripped breaker. You guessed it, he went out and wired it up that way anyway and claimed my dimmers were defective.

    Mike
     
  16. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

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    I think it comes back to the earlier conversation about it depending upon what level one is working at, but obviously this conversation has been in terms of more professional LD's, so in that case, one shouldn't need a wrench.

    Also, you've made your position clear with a very solid and valid argument.
     
  17. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Thanks. Sorry if I hijacked the thread.

    Mike
     
  18. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

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    Oh well I kinda did too. I think this thread has been pretty realistic in the idea that the professional LD is just that, a designer. That is there job.
     
  19. Sony

    Sony Active Member

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    Because not everyone is under the stranglehold of IASTE nor do they always have a programmer to program for them. I personally like to fine tune the focus myself sometimes and I also do my own programming 90% of the time and sometimes it helps to have a circuiting chart next to you so if you need to take out just one light you can just look at the plot and say "CHANNEL 46 RELEASE"

    It's scary to believe that's how most theatres are run eh? I guess however you are mostly talking about large theatres and in that case then yes you don't really need those two things, but I don't think we should limit this thread to just LARGE theatres.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2009
  20. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Wow, I have not worked in a theater that did not have a board op since....... ever. No, wait, I take that back, two years ago I did a design for a theater who's operator quit on them, so they paid me $250 to run the board for tech week. Now it is in my contract. Just like I have been my own ME as well (but I charge union scale).

    I always fine tune my own focus during notes (THAT is what an ME is for), but I don't see why you need a circuit diagram to do that?

    I think we are having a misunderstanding over terms. By circuit diagram do you mean a cheat sheet (or magic sheet, iow which lights are focused where) or a channel hookup (which shows which dimmers/circuits are in what channel)? I can understand having a cheat sheet as mentioned above not everyone memorizes their channel numbers (although if you try it I assure you it is VERY helpful). But to have a channel hookup is very useless.

    I wouldn't say large theaters. I think it is the difference between regional theater and community theater. There are large and small regional theaters (I have worked at both). It is not a matter of size but of specialization.

    Good conversation though. Yes, it has been since college the last time I did community theater, I do forget what it is like. But I think this all comes back to there is no one size fits all answer. To me a light is useless, but I HAVE to have a headset. I don't need a wrench or paperwork, but I carry a copy of the plot and always attend the hang. You need to find your style and what is expected of you. It also varies from job to job. Sometimes I will take off my designers hat and put on my designer/electricians hat. Then I need a whole different set of tools.

    Mike
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2009

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