# Lighting Programs

#### Dani

##### Member
I was wondering if any one could give me information on Autocad or vectorworks, what they are like, which is better to work with, what other programs there are besides these, and an average price, and anywhere on line to purchase these programs.

-dani

#### Footer

##### Senior Team
Senior Team
Before I write a 9 page paper on this... what are you wanting to do exacly with it. Are you designing strictly lighting, or would like to do both. Are you a student? Are you windows or mac? Do you own lightwright? How much cash do you have to spend?

AutoCAD is great, but without add on's is a horrible for lighting plots, and if your on a Mac you SOL. Also, the full version can cost an arm and a leg.

Vectorworks Spotlight is a great lighting program. It works on both Mac and Windows. It has a great rendering engine, and with ESP Vision added does some pretty amazing things. It however has what I think is a slow interface compared to autoCAD. Its great for design work, but horrible for anything that actually has to be built (i.e. shop drawings). It also interfaces with Lightwright seamlessly.

Then there is WYSIWYG which is my personal favorite for lighting. It is by far the fastest start to finish plotting program. The rendering engine is good, but it is nothing compared to Vision. It does have its flaws, and costs can cost be around 3 grand for then entire package. Its paperwork package is good, but is nothing compared to Lightwright.

All of these programs in their full version run over a few thousand dollars. What it really comes down to is, what will you being doing the most, what do others use around you, and what you want to spend.

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#### drawstuf99

##### Active Member
I havent used Vectorworks yet, but I'm getting it soon and it comes pretty cheap at a student discount.

I use AutoCad. An old version actually. I think it's good. The only issue is sometimes finding the CAD blocks of fixtures can be a bit difficult, but there are many all around the internet for free download - even on lots of the manufacturers sites. Once you understand the program, it's a wonderful thing to know. I don't personally find it hard to do plots with it. It doesn't do everything automatically, but it looks fine and it's easy to read. Not to mention, if you get into set design you're going to want to know autocad or something very similar. Autocad is blazing fast if you get a hang of it.

I like CAD, but haven't used Vectorworks, as I said. I'd recommend CAD if you have any desires to learn about drafting light plots as well as drafting construction plans and sets..etc.

#### soundlight

##### Well-Known Member
For macs...MacLux Pro is awesosme. It's what the TD/LD here does all of our plots on. It works great, and is incredibly easy to use.

http://www.macluxpro.com/mlphome2.html

For PC's, student edition of VectorWorks with Spotlight.

Of course, I've done light plots in microsoft publisher, GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), CADstd, PLCad, and a number of other cheapo/free cad/drawing programs. It's easy to create some symbols, make your "key" or "tools" corner with a bunch of symbols, and copy them in to your "virtual electrics.

#### SteveB

##### Well-Known Member
Footer has some good points and I can elaborate (and disagree a bit)

I have an Emphasis system and got WYSIWYG Perform Console Edition free. I'm also a LONG term Lightwright user (Assistant Lighting Designer/ALD, ALD Pro, Lightwright 2, 3 & 4) thus migrated to Vectorworks due to the integration with LW. I've only dabbled in AutoCad

Having spent 3 years on VW prior to WYG, I have a hard time using WYG and have pretty much given up on it, mostly as the free Perform CE edition I have can't print. Still, I find the *drafting* portion of WYG to be terrible, and never found the paperwork at all useful - even prior to discovering that the CE version doesn't allow printing. I never liked WYG well enough to want to upgrade to full Perform.

I find that the VW/LW combo to be unbeatable, if pricey. For lighting work, with the occasional need to import/export into .dxf/.dwg A-Cad compatible formats, VW pretty much does it all. Note that this compatability with A-Cad drawings gets better with each and every version of VW

As Footer noted, If I were doing scenic shop/construction drawings, I would mostly be working in A-Cad, though our college scenic designers and shop are very happy with Vectorworks. Most shops use A-Cad, where as *most" LD's use Vectorworks, except possibly in the industrial lighting design market, where A-Cad is still very much in use (according to a friend who works in that market - he does use VW as well, though)

Note, of course that these are all generalizations. This subject has come up both here and on the LightNetwork over the years, but I believe the trend is swinging towards VW as the industry CAD program. I know that I see it more and more each year, as files sent to us for upcoming events. I have NEVER seen an A-Cad file, and only once a WYG file (version 17 which I could not open with version 15).

Steve Bailey
Brooklyn College

#### digitaltec

##### Active Member
Let me give you my views and observations as an industry professional. Eighty percent of my job is drafting and/or working with CAD drawings. I’m going to take the previous posts and expand on them.

The three main programs that are used in the lighting industry are Vectorworks, WYSIWYG, and AutoCAD. Now, some people use other ones but most large lighting companies or freelancers are using those three in some combination. All three have their own advantages and honestly depends as always what your intentions are.

The company I work for uses Vectorworks as their primary CAD software and is also my personal favorite and the program I have the most experience and knowledge about. I am currently running version 12.5 with Renderworks on a MacBook Pro. I use it to not only build lighting plots but also build booth layouts and scenic elements. I know that we also use this program in our fabrication shop to assist in designing custom elements we build. The included symbols are not very realistic but I build my own symbols or get them from a co-worker. The Renderworks side of it is very useful but use ESP Vision for most renderings that are being sent to clients.

Lightwright is actually built into Vectorworks so really unless you REALLY like using lightwright as an independent program, there is no need to use it. Vectorworks can generate all of your paperwork though I have never used it because it’s useless to me. It seems to only be a widely used program in the theater world and not used is many other applications. I use the lightwright feature purely for labeling fixtures easily.

Another popular program is AutoCAD. Liked mentioned in previous posts, to use this program for lighting, you need to install a lot of plug-ins. This program seems to be used a lot by scenic designers and to be honest, I am constantly getting DWG files from scenic designers. Though the entertainment industry this is probably the most widely used program between lighting to scenic to costume design, etc. I have not used this program much but I know a few of our designers that send us their designs use AutoCAD. So it is being used by some of the top lighting designers.

There is also WYSIWYG. Now, I personally have not used WYSIWG in over 3 years. From what I have read, it seems that the latest release of WYSIWG is having a lot of issued and a lot of the hard-core users are complaining a lot of the program is developing. I do not know anyone who has used this for pre-viz. I’m not even sure if it’s possible but I have seen a few renderings and it seems to look fine but I know currently the render engine is having some issues. But I would read posts on the lighting network to see what users are saying about this program. I’ll have to ask around and see what my friends think of this program.

So, here is a brief start to a discussion that I would love to have and get input from others. I can elaborate anything you wish. I did not want to make this post to long, though I think it’s to late.

I'm sure I forgot to include some thoughts but I hope you might spark some thoughts for me to post on.

So, ask any questions you might have. I would be more then willing to discuss anything you wish.

#### Footer

##### Senior Team
Senior Team
Let me give you my views and observations as an industry professional. Eighty percent of my job is drafting and/or working with CAD drawings. I’m going to take the previous posts and expand on them.
The three main programs that are used in the lighting industry are Vectorworks, WYSIWYG, and AutoCAD. Now, some people use other ones but most large lighting companies or freelancers are using those three in some combination. All three have their own advantages and honestly depends as always what your intentions are.
The company I work for uses Vectorworks as their primary CAD software and is also my personal favorite and the program I have the most experience and knowledge about. I am currently running version 12.5 with Renderworks on a MacBook Pro. I use it to not only build lighting plots but also build booth layouts and scenic elements. I know that we also use this program in our fabrication shop to assist in designing custom elements we build. The included symbols are not very realistic but I build my own symbols or get them from a co-worker. The Renderworks side of it is very useful but use ESP Vision for most renderings that are being sent to clients.
Lightwright is actually built into Vectorworks so really unless you REALLY like using lightwright as an independent program, there is no need to use it. Vectorworks can generate all of your paperwork though I have never used it because it’s useless to me. It seems to only be a widely used program in the theater world and not used is many other applications. I use the lightwright feature purely for labeling fixtures easily.
Another popular program is AutoCAD. Liked mentioned in previous posts, to use this program for lighting, you need to install a lot of plug-ins. This program seems to be used a lot by scenic designers and to be honest, I am constantly getting DWG files from scenic designers. Though the entertainment industry this is probably the most widely used program between lighting to scenic to costume design, etc. I have not used this program much but I know a few of our designers that send us their designs use AutoCAD. So it is being used by some of the top lighting designers.
There is also WYSIWYG. Now, I personally have not used WYSIWG in over 3 years. From what I have read, it seems that the latest release of WYSIWG is having a lot of issued and a lot of the hard-core users are complaining a lot of the program is developing. I do not know anyone who has used this for pre-viz. I’m not even sure if it’s possible but I have seen a few renderings and it seems to look fine but I know currently the render engine is having some issues. But I would read posts on the lighting network to see what users are saying about this program. I’ll have to ask around and see what my friends think of this program.
So, here is a brief start to a discussion that I would love to have and get input from others. I can elaborate anything you wish. I did not want to make this post to long, though I think it’s to late.
I'm sure I forgot to include some thoughts but I hope you might spark some thoughts for me to post on.
So, ask any questions you might have. I would be more then willing to discuss anything you wish.
Saying Lightwright is built into Vectorworks is a bit of a misnomer. There is a paperwork feature in Vectorworks that will produce paperwork, but it in no way compares to what lightwright can do. It does not generate reports, coflicts, cost estimates, manage gel as well, ascii patches, etc....

#### SteveB

##### Well-Known Member
Digiatltec wrote:

"Lightwright is actually built into Vectorworks so really unless you REALLY like using lightwright as an independent program, there is no need to use it."

LW is not bundled into nor part of VW, which is what this statement implies. VW offers it's own paperwork generation, but most agree that it is nowhere as functional as Lightwright, which is a stand-alone application that must be purchased separately.

The designer of Lightwright - John McKernon, has spent years working with the VW folks to get the data transfer between the 2 programs as seemless as possible - there's even a Lightwright button in the VW Spotlight Export section.

SB

#### digitaltec

##### Active Member
Ok, I appologize for the Lightwright miss understanding. Lightwright as I found out today is not in fact a part of Vectorworks.

What I am curious to ask now is why I am using lightwright to label all my fixtures, yet do not use lightwright at all. Is just that "feature" built into Vectorworks but exports all the data for paperwork to the actual Lightwright application?

I did open up my copy of Lightwright for the first time to explore it's features and I can see why it would be a helpful program for theater folks.

Learn something new every day. Thanks for clearing this one up. I would not want to give out false information. Probably should have tried it out before posting.... dont hate me.