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Control/Dimming Expression3 Designers Worksheet

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by KeeperoftheKeys, Apr 16, 2009.

  1. KeeperoftheKeys

    KeeperoftheKeys Member

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    I recently came across an old (published in 1998) ad for an "ETC Expression 3 Designer's Worksheet", this apparently was a tablet to connect to the Expression3 and then control all desk functions.
    I was just wondering how to picture this system, did it work in a similar way to the Jands Vista nowadays or was it totally different because it had no display capabilities?
     
  2. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    It was basically an interactive magic sheet. You could hit an area to grab a group of lights.
     
  3. KeeperoftheKeys

    KeeperoftheKeys Member

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    Was it actually capable of displaying the magicsheet (like you would be able to on a cintiq or any touch screen) or did you have to overlay it with a printed version?
     
  4. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    You had to create an overlay and then program the device to know what was where. All things considered, it was kind of a PITA to use on account of needing to reprogram it for every show. The concept was good, the application was just wonky.
     
  5. jmabray

    jmabray Active Member

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    True - but at the time it was introduced, it was pretty cool.
     
  6. Pie4Weebl

    Pie4Weebl Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    someone rented it to me for a show three years ago and billed it as a moving light board..... I still hold that against him.
     
  7. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    Colortran had a similar system for the Prestige consoles, a graphics tablet that functioned as the Designers Remote. It had a pre-configured overlay glued on to the tablet, that had most console faceplate functions pre-assigned, and an area to lay in a printed 8.5" x 11" plot or magic sheet.

    You then had to record the assignments of the assorted magic sheet items. I used it with a mini version of the plot, which was color coded. It was FAST to get channels/systems up and at level, less so at the actual console facepanel functions.

    It was also a pain in that you had to plug in the remote on deck, then go to the console and re-boot the console for it to "see" the remote. Our console was 5 flights up.

    The tablet also worked with a separate PC they gave us, which was called "Magic Disk Writer". Essentially an IBM AT computer, 512 kilobytes of RAM, no hard drive, one single 3.5" floppy drive (Colortran was one of the first to use the new 3.5" format, which was an improvement over the 5.25"). By using the graphics tablet with the PC, you had the first off-line editor. We never used it as such as the tablet required you to use the attached pen to press buttons on the overlay to replicate console functions, and there was lots command line errors.

    I essentially used the Magic Disk Writer as a PC with a bootleg version of Lightwright - called ALD - Assistant Lighting Designer at the time. I also had a single floppy version of a word processor called PC Write.

    I don't miss those days.

    SB
     
  8. Dionysus

    Dionysus Well-Known Member

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    I've attached a waycom tablet to a strand 520 in the past.
    You can program the different areas of the tablet to activate different macros, and thus grab lights or direct movers to different locations or whatever your imagination and macro-programming skills desire.
    It was actually VERY handy.

    Yes you had to print out a sheet which marks the different locations on the tablet, but in certain situations I find if very handy. However most of the time it is just way too much work.
     
  9. quarterfront

    quarterfront Member

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    As it happens I used a Colortran Prestiege Magic Sheet extensively and use an Expression 3 Designer's Worksheet currently. I'm told that I'm an oddball in this.

    The Designer's Worksheet is GREAT. There's some work you have to do setting it up, but it pays off in time saved during tech.

    The big downer is that the folks at ETC chose to use a Kurta graphics tablet as the hardware, and because the Kurta was out of production before I even got mine, there's the problem of the pens. When ETC gave me the tablet it came with a corded mouse. They offered me a wireless mouse too. Thing is, using a tablet, you gotta have a pen to be fast, a mouse is too slow. My first pen failed after about four years; I bought 3 on ebay and am down to only one spare. It's the Achilles heel of the whole system. I found a corded Kurta pen on eBay, but it won't work with my tablet....

    Okay, anyway, the way it works is this. You create "regions" on the tablet that are associated with macros. Touch the region with the pen, the macro executes. So you do up your magic sheet in CAD, print it out, lay it on the tablet, then go into the Designer's Worksheet Editing display and do your regions. You define a region, then enter the macro.

    This can be tedious, but you save a lot of time by having macros predefined. I always know that I'm going to have macro 101 for "Chan. 1", macro 102 for "Chan. 2", etc... so I already have those entered as part of my new show default memory. This allows me to select "Region 101", use the pen on the tablet to mark it out, then just hit "Enter Macro" instead of keying in the channel stuff, which allows me to knock through all the single channel points really fast.

    What works great, though, is that you can create macros that select groups of channels. So, once I'm done doing single channels I'll define regions that do that. So, for example, on my magic sheet I'll have an area for side lights; all the single channels will be aranged in a grid, warms on top, cools below; then there will be a title, "Warm Sides" above the warms and I'll make a region on those words that will run a macro that selects all of the warm side channels, and above all the sides, the word "Sides", and on that a region that will select all the warm and cool side channels.

    Laying out acting areas on the magic sheet, I'll put an X where the area is, and then put the channel numbers hitting the area around the X, then make the X a region that selects all of the lights for the area. I create regions that select all of the areas lights for the whole stage from each direction, all of the area lights for a given platform, all of the area lights period, etc....

    I also have small squares that are always across the bottom of the sheet that are set as "@10", "@20", up to "@FL". So, for example, with two pen taps I can grab all of my cool sidelights and put them at 60%. With two pen taps I can bring all the lights on the DSR platform to 80%. Two more pen taps, the one light that spills over onto the housefloor is at 50%. Etc....

    Using the tablet makes moving my iCues around lightning fast. I have marks that grab each iCue's lamp channel, and marks that grab each iCue as a "Fixture"; and then also marks that grab only the ones from the front, or all of them. I have another mark that runs a macro that says "Only Postion @ Focus Point". I have another that says "Only Postion Enter Record Focus Point", and another that says "Return Solo" so that I can record a focus point in three or four pen taps. If I'm using focus points extensively I'll make a map on the tablet for focus points, and make regions for the focus points where the macro runs "Only Position @ FocusPoint # Enter". So, in two pen taps I can grab any or all iCues and move them to any focus point.

    So, anything you can do with macros you can do with a pen tap. Way cool.

    This sounds tedious to set up, but it's actually not. Creating the magic sheet in CAD is time consuming, yes, but I'd be doing that anyway, I just have learned to do it a certain way to make it tablet friendly. Defining the regions and macros generally takes me about 15 minutes.

    Actually, I don't know why anybody wouldn't use a tablet interface. It's incredibly intuitive and fast.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2009
  10. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    Yup. Brings back memories of how efficient it was, once you got it setup. If you saved as a basic file and used a rep plot, it was a very effective tool, only recently matched by touch screens.

    I recall the Colortrans did not have macro capability per se, but you could record touch points on the tablet that did the same thing, Channels, Channels at Full or a Level, Groups, or a simple "@ XX Level" command, to achieve what Quarter described.

    I also recall setting up a color coded plot for a visiting Hungarian Dance company, who's LD spoke zero English. He tapped away and recorded away and was good to go and I recall that it was about the most efficiant method we could come up with, given the circumstances.

    SB
     
  11. quarterfront

    quarterfront Member

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    Yup. On the C'tran you defined points as opposed to regions. That's one thing about the ETC tablet that's better, you make a region that can be as big as you like so points that you hit a lot you can make into easy targets. The C'tran's points were just that - points - and you had to hit 'em right on the money with your pen.

    Anyway, yeah, on the Prestige you defined command strings on the tablet that worked just like macros, but the only way they could be accessed was via the tablet.
     

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