Lighting Paperwork and Plotting Software

Joined
Sep 26, 2019
Location
California
I’m curious as to what design paperwork/plot software other designers recommend. With all my down time, I’m trying to broaden my horizons and expand knowledge on different programs that are out there.
 

MNicolai

Well-Known Member
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Mar 30, 2008
Location
Sarasota, FL
I would search the forums because there have been a number of lengthy discussions about this in the past that are still relevant.

For lighting plots Vectorworks is the standard. For scenery, it can lean more toward AutoCAD though Sketchup is also a great tool for quick 3D modeling.

There's also Drafty and some other apps that get the job the done -- Drafty actually has some cool features and is easier to get to start to finish without the complexity a program like Vectorworks is going to have that might slow you down.

Vectorworks isn't cheap, so if you're freelance you'll find lots of people improvising other solutions -- everything from Gimp to Photoshop to Excel to Powerpoint. If you're working on more complicated plots, VW will treat you best, but for most everything else you can do just fine with a lot of the other cheap/free solutions out there.

I think VW has a 30 day trial, in which case you can try to maximize the amount you can learn about it in that timeframe, but like most things the way to get really good at it is to do it a lot over a longer period of time -- especially if you want to start digging into some of the rendering and pre viz options.

From a learning standpoint and career development, I would say get your hands on whatever you can and go crazy. Don't ever feel like you need to have one piece of software or another though to actually do your job. Drafting is about communication more than anything else and if you can communicate your ideas effectively and efficiently using another tool, there's no compelling reason to spend thousands of dollars on specialized drafting software if you can achieve the same result another way for a fraction of the price.
 
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SteveB

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Joined
Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
The industry standard for paperwork would be Lightwright. Does a good job of interfacing with Vectorworks, as well as the ETC Eos consoles. Not terribly expensive for all it does.

If you are an Educator or student, there’s a free Educational version of Vectorworks as well as a less expensive student license for Lightwright.
 
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John Palmer

Active Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2014
Location
Cerritos, CA
As has been mentioned, Vectorworks & Lightwright are the standard. Buying into VW & LW and possibly a computer that can run them is pricey. In fact, it is truly hard to justify the price for many features that you won't use. A 2d light plot does not require all of VW's features.
I have been a Lightwright user since the days of ALDPro. I have had every version of LW from 2 to 6. I cannot say enough good things about the software and support from John McKernon. LW is a great.
All of this by way of saying, if you are interested in less expensive programs, they are out there. I have recently been looking into options.
SoftPlot - Yearly subscription handles plot and paperwork. Least expensive, at least at first glance. (I haven't played with it, yet. A friend recommends it. This is where I will start.)
Drafty - Various subscriptions but for handling lighting and paperwork has a higher annual cost.
Capture - Adds visualization connectivity which comes with a higher cost and increased computer requirements.
What and when I will invest money is right now based solely on ROI. This is a business decision. If the business requires VW, I will buy into it when having it returns money to the business. Also, I feel that it is fair to point out that there is a certain backlash currently against VW based on how they are administering their Service Select plan.
Take care,
John
 

MRW Lights

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2017
Location
NYC
@John Palmer,

What's the insider baseball on the VW Vision / SS issue? I've just gotten back into VW and am thinking about buying into pre-viz.
If you're an EOS user, you may want to wait for the highly anticipated Augment3d release. I think they're actually still taking beta testers.... it's got a little ways to go, but being able to replicate Cue data in real time in an offline editor direct from the console environment itself sure is nifty....

This is the start of 3d model uploaded with associated plot from VW, through LW, into EOS for a TV Set. It takes a few steps, but it took me as much time to make an Export EOS Package preset in VW that packages the 3d model, refreshes LW with EOS export and exports the Augment3d plot into the associated show file for import into EOS.

IMG_3139.jpg
 
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MNicolai

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Fight Leukemia
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Mar 30, 2008
Location
Sarasota, FL
My use case is a little different than most. I would be using it more for quickly throwing together concepts for staging, lighting positions, renderings of lighting in use, speaker deployments, etc. Not so much event design as space planning and presentation, which ultimately ends up moving over to Revit for construction documentation (sigh....).

This week for example, I got a conceptual SKP model on Wednesday from an architect for an outdoor amphitheater space and site orientation based on some concepts I sketched out last week. Imported into VW and started throwing lighting positions, truss, hoists, speakers, and an orchestra on stage. Then Thursday afternoon we did a Teams meeting where I showed them what my first impressions were and the implications on event deployment and we talked through how to address that while I manipulated the staging in VW. They're sending me a revised SKP today and I'll update my VW and spit out some conceptual renderings to show the client on Monday -- which is looking both at architectural lighting concepts as well as rental event lighting possibilities. Seems like fastest way to get from here to there could be Vision and driving it with my Nomad brick rather than living in tedium setting looks up in VW. It looks like I might be able to replicate that same goal in Augment3D, but I'm not sure about the quality of renderings or ability to handle architectural light sources.

Nemetschek's in a weird position on how Vision fits into their pricing plans though. With Autodesk, you get more perks for having the monthly subscription over perpetual licenses, but with Nemeschek, you get 2 free universes of Vision only if you buy a perpetual license. And there's no monthly subscription equivalent for Vision as there is to VW. Urrgh. So for monthly VW subscribers, you can pay $1900 for Vision w/ maintenance, or you can spend twice as much for a perpetual VW license with SS. It'd be nice to be able to be monthly on both because most of my projects are still in Revit and it'd be nice to spin those licenses up only as needed.
 

John Palmer

Active Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2014
Location
Cerritos, CA
What I have been hearing is that the SS plan prices are not remaining consistent. Every year users are commenting on how much the increase is. Also, I have heard that the SS cost per year is tied to when you started with Service Select and that some years were more expensive than others and that keeps the cost higher in perpetuity. So different users that joined at different times pay different rates each year. If you started high, you will always be facing larger increases.
Now, I can't attest to the veracity of these reports, but they are what is driving the anti-VW backlash in the theatrical design community.

Augmented3d is not supposed to be a photo realistic visualizer. If you want that function Vision, Wysiwyg, or Capture are better options.

Hope that helps, Mike.

Take care,
John

@John Palmer,

What's the insider baseball on the VW Vision / SS issue? I've just gotten back into VW and am thinking about buying into pre-viz.
 

ScottT

Lighting Programmer
Joined
Jul 30, 2008
Location
New York City