Lighting in the Academic/Educational World

What is more important?


  • Total voters
    34

Dreadpoet

Active Member
I am going to go against the grain and advocate for use of newer technology. I realize that not all people have a budget...(blah blah blah). If you push hard and know the right buttons to push, most theatres can aquire an exceptable stock of conventional lights. It is important to try and push/incorporate at least two moving lights if possible. Does it have to be top of the line....no. There are alot of technologies out there that the can meet a wide range of budget needs. I think it is then important to teach the basics from the new technology. Don't make it too complicated. Students need to be getting used to what they will be running up against in the near future. They need to get comforatable with the basic concepts of new technologies. What use is a lighting tech who can't even fathom the simplest of fundamentals in moving lights etc? I wouldn't hire him/her. We should never except the idea of "I'm just making do with what I got." Rather, we should seek to get more. I have had the misfortune of comming to a department that excepted the making do theory for too long. In the end, student's could not possibly have been equipped to do tech theatre/entertainment as a living. I have put myself on a 5 year plan to get us up to standard. Then I will continue to push until I get the most kick a** facilities for our money.
 

CLEFFEL

Member
I see your point and agree that it is a good idea to get kid's hands on good gear. There's not much point in teaching them how to use a piano board and spaghetti patch anymore.

That being said, I think it is more important to teach the fundamentals first so they understand the concepts behind what exactly is happening inside a moving light (for example). I can teach someone with a good base in fundamentals how to incorporate moving lights into a show, or how to program on a higher end desk, but if they don't understand the fundamentals, what's the point in having all that great gear?

Now I don't know what kind of program you're in...the above applies to high school primarily. Once in college (after the fundamentals have been established in high school) I say get the best gear you can and turn them loose.

But again, that's just my $.02.

-Chris
 

soundlight

Well-Known Member
Not that they should be installed anymore, but Softpatch made a whole lot more sense to me because of my HS's spaghetti patch system.
 

Charc

Well-Known Member
Not that they should be installed anymore, but Softpatch made a whole lot more sense to me because of my HS's spaghetti patch system.

To me, it was the opposite. I only truly understood hard-patch, after my training with our memory console and our soft patch. Then it was like seeing, physically, what happens in my board when I hit "23 @PATCH 10*".
 

Pie4Weebl

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
As a college student I'm going to vote with technology on this one. I feel like they need to verse me in the kind of gear that is out there and how to be utilize it. Right now I feel like the bulk of modern equipment I am learning about on my own and not from school. Currently I am working on a production of Seussical in a less than stellar (900 seat house with maybe 20 lights) and everyone from my old place is telling me that its critical to be really good at doing a lot with a little, and while that idea is swell, if you focus on doing wonders with little what jobs will that best suite you for in the future, why yes little jobs.
 

icewolf08

CBMod
CB Mods
As a college student I'm going to vote with technology on this one. I feel like they need to verse me in the kind of gear that is out there and how to be utilize it. Right now I feel like the bulk of modern equipment I am learning about on my own and not from school. Currently I am working on a production of Seussical in a less than stellar (900 seat house with maybe 20 lights) and everyone from my old place is telling me that its critical to be really good at doing a lot with a little, and while that idea is swell, if you focus on doing wonders with little what jobs will that best suite you for in the future, why yes little jobs.

I don't think that is necessarily true that it only prepares you for little jobs. Inevitably even if you have a 500 unit inventory you will still find yourself in the situation where you need more than you have to do what the designer needs. Or you might have an inventory of equipment that is less than ideal, but you need to know how to make it work.

Now, this is not to say that schools (colleges especially) should not start introducing their students to intelligent lighting, but, as many have said if all a school can afford is an i-Cue and seachanger then they can teach just about everything you need to know about intelligent lighting. You can teach setup, data distribution, programming, patching, etc. without having a Mac2k.

Especially in theatre where intelligent fixtures are used mostly as either moving specials or to cut down on the number of static fixtures you need. Since the standard design concepts still apply when you use an intelligent fixture as opposed to a static fixture, the only real difference is how you program it, and a good programmer will pick it up pretty fast.

Now, concert and entertainment lighting may be another story all together since it is usually designed around the WOW! factor. But this usually isn't what college theatre departments are teaching.
 

Charc

Well-Known Member
I don't think that is necessarily true that it only prepares you for little jobs. Inevitably even if you have a 500 unit inventory you will still find yourself in the situation where you need more than you have to do what the designer needs. Or you might have an inventory of equipment that is less than ideal, but you need to know how to make it work.
Now, this is not to say that schools (colleges especially) should not start introducing their students to intelligent lighting, but, as many have said if all a school can afford is an i-Cue and seachanger then they can teach just about everything you need to know about intelligent lighting. You can teach setup, data distribution, programming, patching, etc. without having a Mac2k.
Especially in theatre where intelligent fixtures are used mostly as either moving specials or to cut down on the number of static fixtures you need. Since the standard design concepts still apply when you use an intelligent fixture as opposed to a static fixture, the only real difference is how you program it, and a good programmer will pick it up pretty fast.
Now, concert and entertainment lighting may be another story all together since it is usually designed around the WOW! factor. But this usually isn't what college theatre departments are teaching.

Alex, that's a great point on the "more than what you have". The way I see what you wrote, is what applies to myself. We just alter our rep plot for everything, no pre-concieved design. And on more than one occasion, I've come down to the last focus, and realized I have zilch open, or in the right position. Doing a lot with a little is an important skill.

On the flip-side. I've been involved with productions in two little hole-in-the-wall type theaters. When it gets to have under ten lights, the design factor is lost. Now I feel like I'm going to catch some flak for this, so let me try and explain my self. You have 3 Shakespeare 30º, 3 65Qs, and some track-lighting and other edison circuits; all from the same FOH pipe. You have to make this work for every seen of something like The King and I. At a point, it becomes (in essence) "flipping the light switch". I'm not trying to say that there isn't anything that can be done to enhance the lighting, but I mean, as soon as you take one ERS and shutter it off as a special on a flat, you just lost 1/3 of your ERSs. If you can barely light the stage, how are you supposed to design?
 

gafftapegreenia

CBMod
CB Mods
Ok, seeing as I just graduated highschool, I feel perfectly apt to respond to this question. Now, my highschool did not have a stage. Rather, we had a large multipurpose room in which we set up stage platforms. The lighting for this space consisted of 30 circuits on Rosco dimmer strips. The only way to access this lighting was from a Genie lift, which I wasn't supposed to use but my TD let me because I knew how to properly handle myself on such equipment. I can still name the entire inventory by heart: 9 6x9 360Q's, 6 PAR 64's, 9 65Q Fresnels, and 4 3.5Q's. In addition, we had a random 4 channel striplight and 2 14" scoops. Our board was a Strand GSX. Nothing to extreme here, but what we were able to do with that basic inventory was actually quite flexible. Adding to that the fact we had a good relationship with the local rental house, we always had lighting for our fall plays that was both effective and artistic.

Now, I mentioned we don't have a stage, yet for a school without a stage, our crew is one of the most dedicated and ambitious crews in Southeastern Michigan. I say that not as a brag, but as fact. The amount and quality of set we have constructed are much more elaborate and imp;ressive than many of the surrounding schools. For our spring musicals, we always have to rent off site. This means moving our set in three to four, and this year five, truckloads from the highschool ot whereever we've rented. In 4 years, I have had experience on 5 different stages throught school, and 2 different stages through various summer activities. Of those stages, I have been the LD on 4 of them, and involved with lighting on 6 of them. And of course, there are the countless stages and setups I have witnessed from 15 years as a Polish folk dancer, a member of the choir, and a large supporter of local theatre

Yes, my highschool crew complained about the moving the set, dreamed about owning a stage, and griped about logistics, but when all is said and done, I can't be any more thankful for my highschool experience. I feel I have done more, seen more and made more connections around town than the average highschool student. Sure, schools with a stage might do several (more than 2) productions a year, but they come nothing close to the intensity of the program I was involved with. This all coming from a school where theatre is strictly extra-curricular.

From having this experience, I have designed with everything from A lamp striplights and old Fresnels to PAR 64's Source 4's and everything inbetween. I've used boards by both ETC and Strand. I couldn't be happier with what I have already done, however:

I KNOW THERE IS MUCH YET TO LEARN.

I've read alot and I've seen alot, but I've yet to be able to do alot. Being "the lighting guy" in highschool consumed so much of my time on top of schoolwork that I have yet to have a large amount of experience to exploere the ideas in my head and the theories on paper. Sure, I've done alot in different spaces, but I haven't really had the time to play and experiment when I wasn't under-the-gun of a shows deadline. So much I had to teach myself that I was busy learning the basics and didn't have time to play around. That is really what I look forward to college for- the chance to explore. Already I look back at the shows I've done and think "If I did it today, it would be SO different". It fun to see myself evolve.

I, for one, am for the Integration of technology and fundamentals. As I searched for a college, I wanted one that had an emphasis on the future while retaining the past. Some places operated on the belief that all a designer needs is a mastery of fixed instrument designing. Other places were caught up in technology. I believe a found a place that will offer me both, because if there is one thing I have seen in the working world is that, as a designer, one must be prepared to encounter anything. You walk into a place, all ETC, great. You design a show, spec all new gear, great. But when your working for that regional thats got the mix of Century, Kliegl, Strand, ETC, Altman, Martin and Vari*Lite, it helps to know what your dealign with and what each thing can do. Flexability is the key. Getting caught in one track or the other is the road to a limited career.

I really try hard not to be one of those "kids who think they know everything", because, well, I know I don't, and I like to believe its that fact that sets me apart. I mean, if I knew everything already, why would I need college. Yet, at the same time I believe I know more about instrument selection, about color theory and design basics than the average college freshman, at least I've tried to absorb as much as I can while still in highschool. What I do know is that I want to learn as much as I can from those who have the experience and are ready and willing to share it with me. I hope this all makes sense. I really try to come off as someone who is sincere and truly interested than someone who thinks they're the greatest thing since the HPL.
 

icewolf08

CBMod
CB Mods
On the flip-side. I've been involved with productions in two little hole-in-the-wall type theaters. When it gets to have under ten lights, the design factor is lost. Now I feel like I'm going to catch some flak for this, so let me try and explain my self. You have 3 Shakespeare 30º, 3 65Qs, and some track-lighting and other edison circuits; all from the same FOH pipe. You have to make this work for every seen of something like The King and I. At a point, it becomes (in essence) "flipping the light switch". I'm not trying to say that there isn't anything that can be done to enhance the lighting, but I mean, as soon as you take one ERS and shutter it off as a special on a flat, you just lost 1/3 of your ERSs. If you can barely light the stage, how are you supposed to design?

It is interesting to look at what you are saying charc and what gafftapegreenia is saying. The "hole in the wall" theatres you describe operate like you say, and the audience probably expects that, but in gafftapegreenia's case with limited inventory and space they are still able to make the magic happen.

I understand the rep plot limitations as I worked in a summer-stock theatre that did seven shows in nightly rotating rep so our only choice was to have a rep plot and recolor and repatch for each show. Our budget was virtually non-existent, to the point where it wasn't easy to scrape together money to buy the cheapest PAR cans we could find. Our inventory was not even up to par with the high school I went to, and the theatre was basically a barn. I had myself, an intern and the designer to handle all the work, and most of the time that meant only two people working while the designer designed. You get really creative in situations like this, and you learn a lot.

Even in college, we didn't own any intelligent fixtures until my second year (it may have been my third, I don't remember. Also, they have continued to up the ML inventory over the years). At that point, every student designer wanted to have them in their show, mostly for no other reason other than it was cool. I mean Ithaca College Theatre had been producing highly esteemed work regularly up til then, but MLs must make it better. Frankly, I think, from a design perspective, as I mentioned before, MLs in theatre can give you the special effects you need and maybe eliminate the need for a bunch of conventional fixtures, but the design principles are the same. Having MLs allowed us to have tech classes around advanced equipment like how to program for MLs and how to fix them.

If you learn the fundamentals of lighting like color theory, how to design, how to program, how to choose instruments, then stepping up to intelligent gear isn't that hard as a designer. As a technician, sure, you need to learn about high end gear, but if you sit down to program a show you should be able to figure it out pretty quick (except on congo where you might have to stand on your head to understand the syntax).
 
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Charc

Well-Known Member
It is interesting to look at what you are saying charc and what gafftapegreenia is saying. The "hole in the wall" theatres you describe operate like you say, and the audience probably expects that, but in gafftapegreenia's case with limited inventory and space they are still able to make the magic happen.
I understand the rep plot limitations as I worked in a summer-stock theatre that did seven shows in nightly rotating rep so our only choice was to have a rep plot and recolor and repatch for each show. Our budget was virtually non-existent, to the point where it wasn't easy to scrape together money to buy the cheapest PAR cans we could find. Our inventory was not even up to par with the high school I went to, and the theatre was basically a barn. I had myself, an intern and the designer to handle all the work, and most of the time that meant only two people working while the designer designed. You get really creative in situations like this, and you learn a lot.
Even in college, we didn't own any intelligent fixtures until my second year (it may have been my third, I don't remember. Also, they have continued to up the ML inventory over the years). At that point, every student designer wanted to have them in their show, mostly for no other reason other than it was cool. I mean Ithaca College Theatre had been producing highly esteemed work regularly up til then, but MLs must make it better. Frankly, I think, from a design perspective, as I mentioned before, MLs in theatre can give you the special effects you need and maybe eliminate the need for a bunch of conventional fixtures, but the design principles are the same. Having MLs allowed us to have tech classes around advanced equipment like how to program for MLs and how to fix them.
If you learn the fundamentals of lighting like color theory, how to design, how to program, how to choose instruments, then stepping up to intelligent gear isn't that hard as a designer. As a technician, sure, you need to learn about high end gear, but if you sit down to program a show you should be able to figure it out pretty quick (except on congo where you might have to stand on your head to understand the syntax).

From what I understand from gafftapegreenia's post, he had just about 30-31 instruments. It seems to me like that number would be pretty decent for both forcing creativity, and allowing some flexibility. And it sounds like he really enjoyed his HS too.

On a side note about MLs. I've been giving them a lot of thought lately, and I don't think you can deny they have a certain "bling" factor, if you will. On a serious note, before I'd actually recommend a martin, vari-lite, or even elation, I'd up the ante on our conventional inventory. We need more conventional fixtures, and they come first. As I'm beat to death on here, I got an I-Cue, not yet set-up (school's out for summer), but I think what most excites me about the ML is its flexibility. Every Wednesday we have assemblies, and we never have the right light in the right spot, so I always get sent up with a c-wrench in the middle of things to actually get light on the podium. But being able to grab a light with a mouse, and move it to where I want it, its just really exciting. It's a lot of dynamic control, and I think that's what's interesting about it. Without them, lighting has no motion. (Way to state the obvious, I know, but hey, it's 1:30 AM.)
 
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len

Well-Known Member
If you can barely light the stage, how are you supposed to design?

This is the basic problem that everyone runs into no matter what level they are working at. Be it touring, a one-off, a theater, whatever, there's always situations where the equipment is not sufficient to do the job. So you have to figure out what to light and not, what's important, etc. You have to make choices and unfortunately, not everything you wish for can happen.
 

Charc

Well-Known Member
This is the basic problem that everyone runs into no matter what level they are working at. Be it touring, a one-off, a theater, whatever, there's always situations where the equipment is not sufficient to do the job. So you have to figure out what to light and not, what's important, etc. You have to make choices and unfortunately, not everything you wish for can happen.

(In that case I feel lucky to have the 182 or so circuits and dimmers. We make do.)
 

gafftaper

Senior Team
Senior Team
Fight Leukemia
(In that case I feel lucky to have the 182 or so circuits and dimmers. We make do.)

You may have a weirdly shaped house Charc but you are VERY lucky when it comes to power. I know lots of places that would kill to have more than 40 circuits but just can't afford it.

I actually seriously thought about getting a hard patch panel installed in our new theater so that I could teach hard patching (it's both expensive and hard to get one these days by the way). I think that being forced to figure out how to get buy with only a couple dozen circuits is a great lesson in lighting design. There are a lot of places out there that this is exactly what you have to do.

There I am again back to my ranting about basics, sorry. But, you learn a lot less in a theater with a hundred plus dimmers. The challenge of how to get everything you need on a limited number of dimmers will teach you a ton. In my my high school tech lighting design final students had to design a scene with a specific set of color changes. They had an inventory of about 40 instruments to choose from... but were only allowed to use six 2.4k dimmers and two 1.2k dimmers to do it.
 

Pie4Weebl

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
so question for those comparing learning the basics to driving. With a car the worse thing that could happen is you crash.... and with lighting the worst you have is what, it looks bad? Live and learn right, just because more moving lights mean you can screw up easier doesn't mean you shouldn't be afforded that right.

An example of basics commonly used is learning use of color. Yeah I learned a good bit from swapping out gels, but I learned a lot more quickly about "the composition" of color more from playing with cmy fixtures. You can experiment more when changing the wash is a matter of moving the "c" level 10% instead of regeling 20 pars.
 

Charc

Well-Known Member
so question for those comparing learning the basics to driving. With a car the worse thing that could happen is you crash.... and with lighting the worst you have is what, it looks bad? Live and learn right, just because more moving lights mean you can screw up easier doesn't mean you shouldn't be afforded that right.
An example of basics commonly used is learning use of color. Yeah I learned a good bit from swapping out gels, but I learned a lot more quickly about "the composition" of color more from playing with cmy fixtures. You can experiment more when changing the wash is a matter of moving the "c" level 10% instead of regeling 20 pars.

That is a very valid point for technology side here.

A rebuttal? Anyone? Gaff, Alex?
 

icewolf08

CBMod
CB Mods
An example of basics commonly used is learning use of color. Yeah I learned a good bit from swapping out gels, but I learned a lot more quickly about "the composition" of color more from playing with cmy fixtures. You can experiment more when changing the wash is a matter of moving the "c" level 10% instead of regeling 20 pars.

See, this is exactly the trap that intelligent lighting creates. Since most design for theatre occurs in an office somewhere being able to pick colors that work for the show and work together is an art that you need to have under your belt. Not every theatre that you design for will have scrollers or fixtures with color mixing. Also, not every show you work on will have the budget or color in stock to change out a system, so you need to know what you are doing and not go in thinking "Oh, I can just tweak the CMY values." This of course is also besides the fact that often one of the first things that I get asked to do by designers is program CMY color groups that match the scroller colors and other colors in the show as opposed to matching everything else to the color mixing fixtures.

I am not saying that intelligent lighting is not a good teaching tool, or something that should be taught, but you have to have something to build that knowledge base on top of. Color theory, lighting techniques, photometrics, angles of incidence, texturing, and what messages/emotions lighting can convey are just a few of the lower building blocks. You need to know how to figure out where you need to hang lights, and not be of the mindset that says: "I can point this light anywhere so it isn't a big deal if it isn't in the exact right place."

I would rather work on/see a show that is well designed and has not intelligent hardware at all than a show that is poorly designed and has lots of intelligent gear. I have see many a college production where the student designers use the intelligent gear just because they have it and you can tell that they don't really know what they should be doing with it. On the flip side, I have seen college shows where student designers implement their intelligent fixtures quite well. It is the difference between tool and toy. The students who do well with the MLs are the ones who have a good grasp of lighting design fundamentals, the others don't, and it shows in their implementation of conventional fixtures also.
 

gafftapegreenia

CBMod
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I once had a lighting designer tell me in a summer class "First, you must learn and master all the rules, then, you can break them all." It's something I've taken to heart.
 

Schniapereli

Active Member
I once had a lighting designer tell me in a summer class "First, you must learn and master all the rules, then, you can break them all." It's something I've taken to heart.
I heard the same thing from my english teacher in 8th grade during a lesson on poetry, and have since tried to apply that to my whole life.

I have also liked the quote "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."-Teddy Roosevelt.

I have never had really good equipment at my school. I just say get over it, and get back to work. I think that its better to learn like that, because you do not limit yourself to your equipment, and you use it to all of it's extents.
 

gafftaper

Senior Team
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so question for those comparing learning the basics to driving. With a car the worse thing that could happen is you crash.... and with lighting the worst you have is what, it looks bad? Live and learn right, just because more moving lights mean you can screw up easier doesn't mean you shouldn't be afforded that right.
An example of basics commonly used is learning use of color. Yeah I learned a good bit from swapping out gels, but I learned a lot more quickly about "the composition" of color more from playing with cmy fixtures. You can experiment more when changing the wash is a matter of moving the "c" level 10% instead of regeling 20 pars.

Here's your rebuttal Charc...

The "worst thing that can happen" is that you learn how to make a very expensive toy do tricks but don't know how to choose the correct conventional instrument for the job, don't know how to choose gel color, don't know how to bench focus, don't know how to quickly hang and focus, etc...

Should you be "afforded that right"? Sure everyone should have the opportunity to use as much cool stuff as possible. My point here and in the "shutters as iris" thread is that other things are more important, especially in theatrical applications. The vast majority of community theaters out there don't have any moving lights. Even the large professional theaters with large budgets only have a few because they don't really need them. Conventional and lower end dmx gear like scrollers, seachangers, rotators, etc are far more useful in theater. If you want to work you need to master the equipment you will be using in your work place... and the vast majority of us won't be working in a theater that uses many if any moving lights.

So then the question is where should students learn about moving light gear in order to pursue a career in the lighting for the music industry? That's what universities are for. Also as has been discussed in another recent thread, a lot of that industry is a work your way up the ladder from within sort of deal. So get yourself a job coiling cable with a company that does lights and sound for concert tours and work your way up.

As far as learning about color composition faster by playing with CMY mixing, 2 points:

1) I can buy 3 Seachangers for less than the cost of 1 VL1000, I can teach the same CMY mixing and have a unit that is far more practical for theater applications.

2) In my opinion you can learn more with 3 fresnels, some red, green, and blue gel, and a white drop... maybe throw in a 4th fresnel with some amber just for kicks. Also since this is additive, instead of subtractive like CMY, what you will learn translates directly to working with gel.

P.S. I love the "master the rules before you can break them" idea. It's very true.
 
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Charc

Well-Known Member
Here's your rebuttal Charc...
The "worst thing that can happen" is that you learn how to make a very expensive toy do tricks but don't know how to choose the correct conventional instrument for the job, don't know how to choose gel color, don't know how to bench focus, don't know how to quickly hang and focus, etc...
Should you be "afforded that right"? Sure everyone should have the opportunity to use as much cool stuff as possible. My point here and in the "shutters as iris" thread is that other things are more important, especially in theatrical applications. The vast majority of community theaters out there don't have any moving lights. Even the large professional theaters with large budgets only have a few because they don't really need them. Conventional and lower end dmx gear like scrollers, seachangers, rotators, etc are far more useful in theater. If you want to work you need to master the equipment you will be using in your work place... and the vast majority of us won't be working in a theater that uses many if any moving lights.
So then the question is where should students learn about moving light gear in order to pursue a career in the lighting for the music industry? That's what universities are for. Also as has been discussed in another recent thread, a lot of that industry is a work your way up the ladder from within sort of deal. So get yourself a job coiling cable with a company that does lights and sound for concert tours and work your way up.
As far as learning about color composition faster by playing with CMY mixing, 2 points:
1) I can buy 3 Seachangers for less than the cost of 1 VL1000, I can teach the same CMY mixing and have a unit that is far more practical for theater applications.
2) In my opinion you can learn more with 3 fresnels, some red, green, and blue gel, and a white drop... maybe throw in a 4th fresnel with some amber just for kicks. Also since this is subtractive, instead of additive like CMY, what you will learn translates directly to working with gel.
P.S. I love the "master the rules before you can break them" idea. It's very true.

My first version of this post was long, and REALLY rambly, it's 3:25 AM. I'll just leave it at this: another great post by Gaff. More valid points. The Volvo>BMX. Goodnight.
 

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