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Nearly a rant, but not quite. Spectacle? Annoyed old engineer? What?

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by Ancient Engineer, Feb 13, 2019.

  1. Ancient Engineer

    Ancient Engineer Well-Known Member

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    I was originally going to post this in the thread by JohnHuntington about Spectacle Snobbery and realized at the end that I had fallen off the tracks, so I made a new thread.

    And... Go.


    My careers have spanned "big" technical theatre, little black boxes, motion pictures, television, broadcast engineering (purt-neer lost art IMHO), business theater, schooling (and all that implies), supervision, management, and producing.

    Every day I learn stuff, I have not come close to doing "everything".

    I have always worked towards professionalism (which is doing what needs to be done regardless of how you feel about it) and excellence (because perfection is impossible and leads to frustration and failure).

    Tastes change. I have seen it many times across the course of my careers.

    SOME of the current trends in theatre/music/movies make me nutty... but I get it.

    I have seen more live shows and movies that are simply unpleasant to watch. Now what they are doing is, in fact, very cool. But as an audience member it verges on unpleasant and occasionally dangerous.

    By example (and NOT rant, which I want to avoid. Really.)

    1. SPLs have become so dramatic that when actors are delivering their lines they are essentially inaudible and then the music/effects roll in over 102dB (sometimes dangerously higher) and I have to jam fingers in my ears. Or everything RMSs out over 104dB and it is dangerous loud. Concerts are almost always this way now. I saw (famous band) and was far away from the stage and speakers and the show was clocking over 106dB on average...yipes.

    2. Movies are sooooooo over-edited. I blame technology for this. It used to be a process to insert a cut, now it takes one click... The reason Jackie Chan fight scenes are awesome is that they hold the shot long enough so the audience can see the action develop. Today there'd be 243 jump cuts in there nauseating the audience. (and inciting me to walk out most likely)

    3. The current propensity to back light EVERYTHING live because beams man... I saw a recent theater production in a major market and there was essentially NO light on the actors/action, but the hazer was pumping away and we had sweeping beams and blinders (that parked in my face for up to 5 minutes... I ran my stopwatch, nuthin' else to do, couldn't see anything), just awful from a patron experience. This is pervasive and I get it... beams are cool.... sometimes. I'd rather see the performers (band, orchestra, actors, anyone on stage) than have a Sharpy parked in my face with color wheel on "spasm". Dancing with The Has Beens is awful for this. Essentially every concert is like this now. Please, lets illuminate the stage and not the audience. (except for the occasional string of Fays waaay up yonder so (lead singer) can see the audience briefly)

    4. Flash and Trash becoming the defacto lighting for "serious" dramas. I have been asked a few times now in a non-musical drama theatre setting to add some "flashing and colors"... I ask the director how that is advancing the story and they either snap out of it or 12 Angry Men now has a disco scene suddenly... Ugh.

    So, am I snobby about wanting to "see" the show?
    I could care less whether it is monster trucks (I have some great friends who also happen to be awesome techs who work for Feld) or serious drama.

    Whadya think?

    <sigh> This veers dangerously close to a rant... Moderators, feel free to squelch this. I have no pride. Or shame...


    Hmmm... Tasteful Spectacle - Could be the name of mine and Ron Hebbard's new international company... LOL
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2019
  2. tjrobb

    tjrobb Active Member

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    I've always been of the mind that if it doesn't advance the story it probably isn't needed.
    Light and sound should be seen and heard, but not noticed. It's a subtle art, and there are exceptions, but that's why it's art. If they didn't matter in the story we'd go back to staged readings under floods (of which I have no issue).

    I wonder if this works into the "look at me! I'm so important!" issue that seems to keep coming up; people are too concerned about what's cool or gets them noticed and lose the art along the way.
     
  3. NateTheRiddler

    NateTheRiddler Member

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    I like to consider my lighting programming style (for musicals/concerts/etc) to be EDM/Rock.

    That said, I want to add to your rant. I don’t believe in flash and trash. I started in the Entertainment industry working in television and film editing, where we learned the rule “movement with motivation.” Never just edit because you can, edit because you must or because the situation demands it.

    When I program for rock and EDM shows, I get a lot of “feedback.”
    “Nate, why aren’t there more strobes?” “Nate, why aren’t there more chases?” “Nate, why don’t you use more bally’s?” Now, mind you, no client ever says those exact words to me, but I know what they’re looking for. They’re looking for the latest Skrillex concert or Ultra Miami rig brought to life in their show.

    Instead, I prefer motivated pan/tilt movement, intelligent color chases/bumps/sins, subtle dimmer transitions, and tasteful syncopated strobing. I’m anal-retentive about matching tempo and beat, making sure to never make my lights play harder than the music.

    So I agree with you; I’m discovering that certain designers are leaning hard on the “bump all” key a little too hard sometimes.
     
  4. Ancient Engineer

    Ancient Engineer Well-Known Member

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    The key bits being: motivated, intelligent, subtle, tasteful...

    Like a certain famous car show reminds us: Power and Speed are not always the best choice.

    I generally dislike the way PAR cans make light... but sometimes it is the best choice for certain applications. Then, I use 'em.

    Tasteful Spectacle.

    Perhaps that could be a new relative standard... (?)
     
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  5. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @tjrobb I've two comments:
    1; More cowbell!
    2; I originally read too quickly and thought you'd posted: "go back to staged readings under hoods" which'd have a totally different connotation. (Back to our regularly scheduled diversion.)
    Toodleoo! (From north of the walls)
    Ron Hebbard
     
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  6. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    A very valid rant. Just because something can be done does not mean it should be done. If everything is a special, than nothing is special. I blame it on the desire of each production to "one up" the last thing that was done. I don't mind loud concerts, and most are more tolerable these days because distribution of sound is better with modern systems and distortion is lower. But, if everything is loud then you have lost the other holy grail, dynamic range. Compressors rule the day, but should they? Lighting is no different. Everything is a super-rig. The production is designed and ruled by budget as compared to art and need. I enjoy big productions, but am sick of the competition. I am there for the show. If something adds, great. If it doesn't, then leave it in the warehouse.
     
  7. Ancient Engineer

    Ancient Engineer Well-Known Member

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    Who gave the gun to the baby?

    Tasteful1small.jpg
     
  8. Ancient Engineer

    Ancient Engineer Well-Known Member

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    Erh mah gerd I saw (famous popular band) and when the lead singer did his slow, intimate number I could hear the compander "breathing"... ugh.

    The rise time on the clamp must have been about .00002ns because it would suck your eyes out dropping easily 15-25dB from where the expander had parked <blam>.

    It could literally be felt.

    Back on my first roadshow as FOH whipping-boy, if that sort of thing woulda happened, the chief would have leapt over me to cut that <poo> out.

    And then he'd probably take away my greenie privledges...LOL
     
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  9. seanandkate

    seanandkate Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    I'm in the same camp with @tjrobb. The job of ALL of the departments in a show is to advance the story. Anything else is just grandstanding or flash and trash for the sake of flash and trash. Good tech can make a good show great, but it can't make a bad show good. It all rests on the story that the show is trying to tell.
     
  10. TimMc

    TimMc Well-Known Member

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    Down here on the other side of the Walls, Ron, when you ask for more cowbell you get more cows, too. And the audience says "MOO!" :p
     
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  11. TimMc

    TimMc Well-Known Member

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    I toured with a "show band" gig for a couple of years. I got the FOH audio mixing gig because I told the producer my job would be to take what the cast and orchestra gave me and make it "tastefully larger than life." He said "we bust on characters pretty hard, don't worry too much about taste."
     
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  12. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @TimMc And what about when you have readings under hoods? I can feel @dvsDave 's silver deletion hammer about to descend.
    From north of the walls;
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
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  13. TimMc

    TimMc Well-Known Member

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    That's "Car Repair for Dummies."

    "Under the bonnet" perhaps, for those subjects "to the Queen in Right" who still use Her Majesty's English.

    :eek::D:clap:
     
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  14. GreyWyvern

    GreyWyvern Apollo Staff

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    "Moo with me! Come on sir, moo with me."
     
  15. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @GreyWyvern and @TimMc Not only does Dave go "Moo", the radio station in his town goes WOWO! (Woah, woah,)
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
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  16. JonCarter

    JonCarter Well-Known Member

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    Just saw Ancient Engineer's post tonight and must agree with his original post and many of the comments. FAR too many shows and films have become "Light Show-offs," "Sound Show-offs" and "Editor's show-offs" just because the technology exists rather than because the SCRIPT CALLED FOR IT. I believe that ALL of the currently available technology (which is much more than when I was doing this stuff) should be used subtley to enhance the script/score/show rather than because the technology exists. Maybe this is being done because the "shows" aren't worth doing?
     
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  17. Chase P.

    Chase P. Well-Known Member

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    I just worked on the hang and focus for a straight play with a pretty compact little box set. There are four VL's and a whole bunch of Auras in addition to using literally every available circuit (plus a portable rack) in the house for S4's and Lusters. Having not seen the show, I remain very confused as to what in the world all these could possibly be pointed at. I can't imagine that the VL's and Auras are doing any moving during scenes, and that volume of them could effectively light the entire square footage of the set.

    Maybe I'll get a comp and see what the heck is going on.

    I love a bit of spectacle, but not when it's the only part of the play worth seeing.
     
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  18. TimMc

    TimMc Well-Known Member

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    I worked with a designer we called Mr. 15 Percent. Over 300 conventionals and a few LEDs. Think of trowel-applied "glow".
     
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  19. JohnHuntington

    JohnHuntington Active Member

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    Great post! And I agree.

    David Byrne's American Utopia tour this past summer I thought was a a great example of a spectacular show that was very tasteful and almost minimal. Fantastic.

    On the other hand, I saw King Kong on Broadway last night. The "creature" is truly amazing, but the book and songs are not. Why can't we get both in one show?

    John
    p.s. From your profile, you're younger than me so you're not allowed to call yourself "Ancient" :)
     
  20. Chase P.

    Chase P. Well-Known Member

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    Trowel Applied Glow is my new favorite punk band.
     

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