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Handling practical requests.

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by BlackoutGo, Jan 1, 2017.

  1. BlackoutGo

    BlackoutGo Member

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    Occupation:
    Head of Lighting
    Location:
    Regina, Saskatchewan
    I'm at a smaller professional theatre (small in the sense of technical crew) and was curious and want input as to how other head of lighting/electric handle the requests for practicals? Currently the problem I'm experiencing is set/prop designers requesting that items 'light up'. When pushed about the desired effect they will wait until the lighting designer is in the building to have further discussions, thereby causing longer days for myself during programming days and q2q.
    I am looking at creating a check sheet for all practicals that are needed, please add any suggestions to the list;

    Is it actor controlled or Lighting console control?
    Has it been discussed with the director and lighting designer?
    What is the desired effect?
    What is the intent of the light. (glowing, spotlighting, intense, color changing)?
    Is it being handled roughly or in a normal fashion?
    Is it wired or is it wireless?
    How bright is the light needing to be?
    How long is it on for?
    How big is the practical?
    Are we able to cut open or add a base/area big enough for the battery and possible controller

    However, I'm unsure how else to approach this without making the designers feel like children. TD understands my frustrations, but is new to the position this year and is waiting to implement his changes.

    Thanks
     
  2. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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  3. BlackoutGo

    BlackoutGo Member

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    Occupation:
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    That was a very interesting read, as I do feel that most theatre' have an odd way of where jobs fall as technology and size of operation increases. We are only about 20 years after from one technician doing everything besides costumes here and only 3 years since I had to change bulbs that weren't in theatre/attached to dimmers.
     
  4. JChenault

    JChenault Well-Known Member

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    I am not sure of your role in this question. Are you more of a master electrician, or are you also responsible for finding / building all practicals. I am assuming the second.


    If you are responsible for finding / building the practical - I think you are missing the simplest requirement. Give me a picture of the kind of fixture you want.

    ( And if it has not been discussed with the designers and directors - I think your response has to be to talk to them first)
     
    Amiers likes this.
  5. BlackoutGo

    BlackoutGo Member

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    Occupation:
    Head of Lighting
    Location:
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    My role is both ME and installer of the electrical components in the practicals. I do make requests for props and set to put boxes for the controllers and boxes, but I have no role in choosing the outside exterior of the practicals. Departments know my minimum dimensions for controllers and batteries, but tend to 'forget' them.
    And yes, you wouldn't believe the amount of times that practicals are a surprise to directors and lx designers. Hence the reminder to the designer to talk about it.
     
  6. RickR

    RickR Well-Known Member

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    I would broaden the form to include anything not human powered. If it emits light then the LD must be consulted! Otherwise it falls back to your check list. Turntables to flash pots to RC mice have all been know to show up unannounced!
     
  7. EdSavoie

    EdSavoie Active Member

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    ^ This.

    That's got to be one of my biggest annoyances, when someone runs some sort of seperate light or sound emitting equipment without discussing it with us first.

    You're placing a mic right in front on the main speakers are you? That's lovely...

    Or,

    Wait, why are you turning on a projector... Oh for crying out loud! Now all the scenes need to be redone so we don't wash out the image.

    Or,

    No, you don't get to control your own guitar amp, you're [not going to be heard] / [drown out everything]
     
  8. Jay Ashworth

    Jay Ashworth Well-Known Member

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    Nothing is ever actor controlled.
     
  9. ruinexplorer

    ruinexplorer Minion CB Mods Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    Jay, maybe you mean that they should not be actor controlled as it takes away the control from the technical staff. While it is nice for the actor to be able to flip a light switch and have the practical turn on without the possible delay from the light op visually noticing and then taking the cue, it is better for it to be controlled by the light op for the possibility that the actor might forget to turn off the light and not being able to control a blackout. Of course, that is just one of many instances that the actor should just act as if they have control over a practical device.
     
  10. Jay Ashworth

    Jay Ashworth Well-Known Member

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    The question was phrased:

    > Is it actor controlled or Lighting console controlled?

    So I phrased my answer the same way. :)
     
  11. BobHealey

    BobHealey Active Member

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    There is nothing stopping the lighting department from wiring the switch into a console controlled relay or dimmer, so you can have both the instant on/off of the actor flipping the switch, and the ability to make sure its blacked out until its needed again.
     
    Jay Ashworth likes this.
  12. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    I know of one IATSE Local 52 console programmer who had a complete system of lo-vo switches configured that enabled an actor on a film set to hit a room wall switch and trigger an Expression console via analog inputs. I recall that he was working on a system for the Ion. Really neat trick on a big film set there the console was in a room a 1/2 mile away.
     
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  13. ruinexplorer

    ruinexplorer Minion CB Mods Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    Yes, this is often an ideal option. This solves the issue of blackout. It does of course mean that if it is not corrected at the performer's control, then it puts the onus on the technician to ensure that it is held out until that can be corrected. If not, it pops on again the next time the relay is given power.

    That is pretty cool. I'm sure that there are tons of great options for practicals. The more positive answers that we can provide the OP, the better.
     
  14. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Another thought is to have a SPDT practical switch inter-wired with a SPDT mechanical relay whose coil is powered via the LX console allowing either the actor or the board op' to operate the practical. This would allow the actor to operate the practical and the board operator to reverse the status of the practical, either on or off. I typed "mechanical relay" although some folks are referring to them as 'air gap relays' these days.
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard.
     
  15. RickR

    RickR Well-Known Member

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    Express and Ion (and many other) consoles have a very simple analog input system. See the back of the manual for the DB9 pin outs.

    If the contact triggers a macro in the console then it's very easy to back up the actor OR override or whatever is needed. None of this external relay logic stuff comes into play! That said I prefer momentary switches unless there is a close up of the switch.
     
  16. dthomas32308

    dthomas32308 Member

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    Occupation:
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    I take a unique approach to practicals as I besides lighting design I'm also an AMX programmer. Depending on if it's a standard light switches or other I wire the switch with 5V connected back to the IO ports (set to NO) of an AMX master which also has a DMX interface connected. When the actor flips the switch for the practical it triggers events which send DMX out of the interface to an ArtNet node with a universe set up for DMX In which is connected back to the lighting console which sets the practical channel to 100 if switch is on or 0 if switch is off. This allows for actor control with instant triggering of the practical while allowing me to override the practical if the actor forgets to turn it off and for blackouts. I also have a DMX interface attached to the processor at FOH with the DMX output from the console to the dimmers looped thru to allow control of the house and work lights preshow and during emergency stops.

    I actually use AMX systems for a lot more during shows such as the touch panels receive a video feed of the various IR cameras I set up for on/off stage monitoring and also as the visual cue triggering system for the stage manager. Touch panels get set up in the booth for each department as well as backstage and in the dressing rooms as they have intercoms and audio feeds from the ambient microphones so the SM can make announcements backstage from their panel (which is wireless but has a wired Ethernet dock in the booth) as well as activate countdown timers and trigger various pre-recorded audio notification (such as 5 minutes and places calls) so the SM doesn't have to be locked into one place. All panels display the full stage camera feed anytime a notification/timer isn't active and the dressing room panels are set up so the actor can touch the panel screen at anytime and another screen pops up where they can alert the SM quickly of issues that may cause a delay like costume malfunction without having to find a tech to relay the message. All panels have a button for emergency stop which causes all panels to change to red screen with "EMERGENCY STOP Hold for instruction" which also sends a trigger to the light console to bring up work and house lights when SM acknowledges the stop on their panel. The last panel I recently added was for the house manager/box office with buttons that sent notifications to appropriate panels for things like house opening, holding door, etc.

    Its definitely not a standard use of the equipment but since I have quite a bit of gear laying around it slowly started getting implemented starting with practicals, a show where the comm base stations magic smoke escaped and grew from there as I had time to design/program the features. This control processors, network switch, DMX interfaces, artnet nodes, etc are mounted in road cases with one for FOH and one for backstage. The touchpanels and IR PTZ cameras live in pelican cases and the various cables in a wheeled trunk so everything can travel with me easily as needed since I freelance at various venues. It takes me about 10 minutes to show everyone how the system functions and the main venue I work with is now raising the funds to invest in their own equipment since it's sped up communication and cut down on having to make so many verbal announcements allowing the techs to focus. Next task I'm thinking about is sound cue triggering and maybe adding/integrating a X32 rack into stage rack with an X32 Compact for FOH so the sound persons panel will trigger scene recalls easier than on console. Ultimate goal is to be able to run a complete show from one or both racks depending on show needs.
     
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  17. BlackoutGo

    BlackoutGo Member

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    Occupation:
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    For myself, as the venue is in the round, there are few times where I'm actually able to have my practicals hard wired. With the use of 4 RC4 2 channel dimmers, I'm typically able to make due. However, there are times when there a dozen hand held lanterns on stage, on top of the 4 wireless packs, in which case the lanterns end up with a toggle switch which the actor controls. I would love to afford another dozen RC4, but budgets... I could look into arduino controlled devices, but by the time I take into account my time and the parts, it is more efficient to go with RC4. At the end of the day my enemy is time.
     
  18. theatrewireless

    theatrewireless Jim @RC4Wireless #LiveLifeUnthethered

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    We have very affordable RC4 rental rates for exactly this situation -- it makes sense to have a few devices on hand all the time, and then add more just when you need them. On our website you can choose devices and play with dates to fit your budget. Round-trip shipping cost is a flat $25 in the USA and you never pay rent on shipping time. Have a look at http://www.theatrewireless.com/rental/.

    Thanks for mentioning us!

    Jim
    RC4 Wireless
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 11, 2017
  19. porkchop

    porkchop Well-Known Member

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    Speaking of budgets that is one of the questions I deal with often: "Who's budget is this practical coming out of". It may seem like an obvious question for a sconce or a table lamp, but if the practical is also a prop the lines can get fuzzy.
     
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  20. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Who's budget came up this week in a growing company with separate PO systems and buyers to use them and what worked before, just project codes for things boughght assigned to a project from many departments. Under discussion...

    That said, got notified yesterday of a project, don't know how long the fab dpt. knew about it before I did, but they needed some specific display booth lighting fixtures by the middle of next week as of yesterday. Found the lights they wanted, sent out for a quote and today got it = 3+ weeks lead time. Found another source for something similar.... 3+ weeks to get. Given this information, I tossed it back to the designer. You might be able to get them on Amazon or if you find similar fixtures at a home center, I can re-produce the concept with lamp parts. Not exact similar but can do the thing in the concept with such parts.

    I prefer to do any wiring out of where I work properly. Nuff said and end of subject in who's problem it is about practicals. If Fab shop figures out and acquires a fixture even on the day before it ships, I'll still wire it up. I'm out of the game in acquiring the fixture - tried and recommended solutions, but thru normal means I cannot get what is wanted - shot that back to those that yesterday asked me for advice in a lighting fixture. There will be expressed discomfort for what ever light they figure out in ball tossed back in their lap for this display lighting, but it's in part my liabiality and supervision anyway. If ME or electrical shop, by way of practicals, I would be offended were I not involved, and see the end results when I'm not involved. Never good, late notice but I still prefer to wire them up.

    Anything electrical involved, you are part of - wanted or not so involved you should be. At some point, yes throw it back to the designer or department wanting it so as to acquire or figure out its feasibility, but end result is you are the... with questions person doing it. All questions answered or not - to be solved or not later. Doccument your concerns etc, in the end it's less about who did what but what magic you made on stage that works.

    As long as your try hard to solve the problem, than further offer solutions, at some point until you at least hear back from them a day later in Not! for advisement.
     

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