Lighting a Concert

OnTheRock

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There is a current thread about Trans Siberia Orchestra being a must see from a lighting perspective. I'm wondering about the mechanics behind such a show. Are there book or web references describing the techniques?

With some musical compositions, one can get a MIDI file, which provides timings and such with which one can time stamp cues. But in a real performance, with real musicians, how does one fire off cues? Does the LD read music and set cues at the appropriate times? Are the timings automated at all? Do any of the instruments, like the piano/keyboard/controller, have inputs into the lighting desk to help fire cues or special effects when special keys, notes, or commands are triggered?

When doing the lighting design, does the LD analyze the music sheets and come up with light groups and light movements based upon what they read and hear, ie, is the score dissected note by note from a lighting design perspective?

In interviews with concert light designers, is there ball park figure on how long it takes to 'arrange', ie, design and program the lighting effect, for each song ... given that the lights are in place and patched into the console (yes, kind of catch 22 in that question, but I hope you get the gist of it)?
 

soundlight

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With some musical compositions, one can get a MIDI file, which provides timings and such with which one can time stamp cues. But in a real performance, with real musicians, how does one fire off cues? Does the LD read music and set cues at the appropriate times? Are the timings automated at all? Do any of the instruments, like the piano/keyboard/controller, have inputs into the lighting desk to help fire cues or special effects when special keys, notes, or commands are triggered?

When doing the lighting design, does the LD analyze the music sheets and come up with light groups and light movements based upon what they read and hear, ie, is the score dissected note by note from a lighting design perspective?
To start with, more and more concerts these days use tracks. That makes it easy, just send the timecode from the tracks, and you've got it. However, for a show that isn't as big as TSO, so maybe (giving an example that I've seen) the Goo Goo Dolls, all of the cues are fired manually from the board. The LD actually pushes the GO button for most cues in the show. He also manually controls some of the moving lights that follow the band members with a trackball, using the MA3D console visualizer to move the focus point for the lights around.

Here's some books to go for, all in my library or will be in my library after christmas and my next birthday:
Control Systems for Live Entertainment, 3rd ed.
The Automated Lighting Programmer's Handbook
Automated Lighting
Concert Lighting, second edition

The first is about control systems integration, and the rest are about automated lighting and concert lighting design.

I'll give a longer post later, when I have some more time...
 
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derekleffew

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OnTheRock, don't know if you saw this link or not. Most concerts these days use WYSIWYG, ESP Vision, or Martin Show Designer to pre-viz the designs, and save time and money on pre-production. Most tours also rehearse for at least a week in an unoccupied venue will full production. The load-ins/load-outs need to be rehearsed as well, as rock shows MUST load in and be ready for sound checks/talent arrival in 6.0 hours.

I suggest reading Nook Schoenfeld's, Brad Schiller's, and Vickie Claiborne's articles in/on PLSN.
 

Charc

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To start with, more and more concerts these days use tracks. That makes it easy, just send the timecode from the tracks, and you've got it. However, for a show that isn't as big as TSO, so maybe (giving an example that I've seen) the Goo Goo Dolls, all of the cues are fired manually from the board. The LD actually pushes the GO button for most cues in the show. He also manually controls some of the moving lights that follow the band members with a trackball, using the MA3D console visualizer to move the focus point for the lights around.
Here's some books to go for, all in my library or will be in my library after christmas and my next birthday:
Control Systems for Live Entertainment, 3rd ed.
The Automated Lighting Programmer's Handbook
Automated Lighting
Concert Lighting, second edition
The first is about control systems integration, and the rest are about automated lighting and concert lighting design.
I'll give a longer post later, when I have some more time...
<mini-hijack>

Of these 4 books, given that I won't be actually designing a concert anytime soon, but am interested in control/practice/theory, what should be at the top of my list?

<Back to the thread, live music, no timecodes>
 
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soundlight

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<mini-hijack>

Of these 4 books, given that I won't be actually designing a concert anytime soon, but am interested in control/practice/theory, what should be at the top of my list?

<Back to the thread, live music, no timecodes>
Automated Lighting. Excellent book. It also gives, as we have mentioned many times here, an excellent background in the history of automated lighting.
 

derekleffew

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I have to agree. I would rank the books in question this way:

Automated Lighting Richard Cadena. The best general book on working with moving lights. Excellent history. Fairly up to date on fixures and control consoles.

Control Systems for Live Entertainment, 3rd ed. John Huntington. Expands the discussion beyond lighting, and discusses at length all the protocols used.

The Automated Lighting Programmer's Handbook Brad Schiller. A good resource, but geared specifically to the programmer, and although all the concepts are the the same, primarily just expands upon the User Manual of the WholehogII.

Concert Lighting, second edition James Moody. Even the newest edition is somewhat dated, unfortunately.
 
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len

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Some bands don't like set lists. They just wing it. And I've seen tours where there are 5 - 8 people controlling the visual elements, from light operators to pyro to video. Plus spot operators, etc. Each tour/artist is different.
 

soundlight

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Some bands don't like set lists. They just wing it. And I've seen tours where there are 5 - 8 people controlling the visual elements, from light operators to pyro to video. Plus spot operators, etc. Each tour/artist is different.
This is where wings come in handy. I've seen/heard about/read about alot of tours where the LD and his/her assistant have a few fader/direct select wings layed out, and then theres a video guy for stock footage, a video guy for IMAG video, and spot ops. This is the kinda concert design that I find great - because it's gotta be real live music, and the designers are much more in sync with the band in terms of just going with it. From what I hear, Billy Joel is a good example of this. The LD has alot of songs programmed, but also does alot of busking during the show with his assistant using the Maxxyz fader wings. Article here
 

derekleffew

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...With some musical compositions, one can get a MIDI file, which provides timings and such with which one can time stamp cues. But in a real performance, with real musicians, how does one fire off cues? Does the LD read music and set cues at the appropriate times? Are the timings automated at all? Do any of the instruments, like the piano/keyboard/controller, have inputs into the lighting desk to help fire cues or special effects when special keys, notes, or commands are triggered?

When doing the lighting design, does the LD analyze the music sheets and come up with light groups and light movements based upon what they read and hear, ie, is the score dissected note by note from a lighting design perspective?

In interviews with concert light designers, is there ball park figure on how long it takes to 'arrange', ie, design and program the lighting effect, for each song ... given that the lights are in place and patched into the console (yes, kind of catch 22 in that question, but I hope you get the gist of it)?
Back to more of your original questions. Here is the link to our very own soundlight's first lightshow. I'm sure he will tell us how long it took and how it was conceived, programmed, and cued. I can't find the original thread, but here is the discussion of his second effort.
 
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soundlight

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Back to more of your original questions. Here is the link to our very own soundlight's first lightshow. I'm sure he will tell us how long it took and how it was conceived, programmed, and cued. I can't find the original thread, but here is the discussion of his second effort.
Discussion of first one, including gear list is here.
 

OnTheRock

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In interviews with concert light designers, is there ball park figure on how long it takes to 'arrange', ie, design and program the lighting effect, for each song ... given that the lights are in place and patched into the console (yes, kind of catch 22 in that question, but I hope you get the gist of it)?
Soundlight indicated the following in one of his descriptions (which matches something of what I was expecting):
I basically set up my cue stack, and put in 147 "GO" commands at the times that my friend found by zooming in on segments of the audio track in Cool Edit Pro, and when I ran the program, it fired the cues internally. The audio was not synced to the light board, I just pressed "enter" on the computer and "S4" (run command) on the Obsession at the same time, and everything was happy.
 

len

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This is where wings come in handy. I've seen/heard about/read about alot of tours where the LD and his/her assistant have a few fader/direct select wings layed out, and then theres a video guy for stock footage, a video guy for IMAG video, and spot ops. This is the kinda concert design that I find great - because it's gotta be real live music, and the designers are much more in sync with the band in terms of just going with it. From what I hear, Billy Joel is a good example of this. The LD has alot of songs programmed, but also does alot of busking during the show with his assistant using the Maxxyz fader wings. Article here
I don't know about Billy Joel, but it wouldn't surprise me to find out that is true. He seems like the type of performer who was confident enough in his material and his band to be able to do that.

Fader wings would help immensely. One band I worked for used two consoles, although a wing would have probably sufficed. One ran the basic cues for each song. the second was operated by a second guy who was tasked with following the lead singer and ran cues just based on where he was standing on stage (which varied every show).
 

DarSax

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There was a story on DMB that addressed that specifically, one of the ops was quoted saying something like the band might decide to play a song one night they hadn't played in seven years, and tech had to be ready. For that reason, something like 80+% of the footage was b-roll, to try and fit in with whatever was necessary.

(Side note, I saw that tour, and it was grrrrrrrrrreeeeeeattt.)
 

derekleffew

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While I'm not a DMB fan, just don't understand the phenomenon, I ran spot for him about two years ago. The band hadn't been together in a while, and did three days of rehearsal. They performed two consecutive nights, and only four songs were repeated. The LD programmed for 3 days, and then busked most of both shows, and very well, too.
 

BillESC

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My concert history is several decades old for the most part, before computerized lighting consoles. Anyone remember Scrimmers?

Touring with Harry Chapin the show was different every night and as the board op I simply had to deal with it.

Touring bus and truck with "Hair" was a different story as the show was the same every night, only the venue changed.

We're contracted to provide sound and lights January 4 for a Christian Rock Concert. The first time I'll see them is at sound check. I do have a floor plan so I'll be able to focus ahead of time.
 

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