Plot Question: Side Lighting Instrument Spacing & Labeling

Jordan Street

Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2015
Location
Salt Lake City
I'm having an OCD situation and need advice on how to solve or overcome it. I'm using a rep plot that was designed by a well-known local designer and it has some pretty dense side lighting on the onstage electrics. It's not Broadway-level dense, but 90 instruments (five separate systems across five electrics, 18 instruments per electric) seems dense for a smaller proscenium theatre. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about the flexibility, it's just creating an OCD headache because it's crowded and I don't like where I have the labels.

Using standard 18" centers with Source 4 instruments causes them to overlap at the lens tube and lamp base when their orientation is parallel to the pipe.
  1. Do you accurately plot side lights using 18" centers (or whatever the actual spacing is)?
  2. With side lighting on 18" centers, how do you arrange the dimmer/channel/color labels so that it a) reads clearly and b) doesn't look like garbage? Do you limit the information on the plot to dimmer and unit number and leave the channel, color and gobos for paperwork?
I've attached a screenshot of the plot (still in draft form) for reference. Screen shots or PDFs of your plots are welcome!

Screen Shot 2019-11-25 at 2.41.29 PM.png
 

macsound

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 15, 2018
Location
San Francisco, CA
It's hard to tell without seeing the rest of the plot, but sometimes things are drawn how it's convenient and may not represent actual placement. I'd venture to guess, again with this limited screenshot, that a ladder or taildown is in order.
 

SteveB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
I would rotate the units 90 deg. to the pipe and create custom label legends. I typically have 4, SL Downstage, SL Upstage, repeat for SR, though it’s generally that the SL Downstage label is the same as the SR Upstage, I just name differently them to keep track. It’s fair to say I have a LOT of label legends, including specific to fixture type and orientation, likely 30 LL’s in a document. It’s also possible to nudge a particular attribute label a bit, as needed.
 
  • Love
Reactions: RonHebbard

Jordan Street

Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2015
Location
Salt Lake City
It's hard to tell without seeing the rest of the plot, but sometimes things are drawn how it's convenient and may not represent actual placement. I'd venture to guess, again with this limited screenshot, that a ladder or taildown is in order.
Sorry, I'll attach a full file for you. I have ladders with high sides, head highs, 2 mids and shins. The spacing on the plot matches the rep hang so, in this instance, the plot and the hang are the same. I'm just phishing for better ideas for labeling instruments when they overlap with one another. My OCD just wants everything to match.
 

Attachments

Jordan Street

Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2015
Location
Salt Lake City
I would rotate the units 90 deg. to the pipe and create custom label legends. I typically have 4, SL Downstage, SL Upstage, repeat for SR, though it’s generally that the SL Downstage label is the same as the SR Upstage, I just name differently them to keep track. It’s fair to say I have a LOT of label legends, including specific to fixture type and orientation, likely 30 LL’s in a document. It’s also possible to nudge a particular attribute label a bit, as needed.
Rotate them 90 degrees even for side light? I end up having LLs for every system and sometimes divide the system into SL/SR, like with side light.
 

Lynnchesque

Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2019
Location
Fresno, CA
So, philosophically, you have to remember that the plot is not supposed to be pretty- it's a tool you give the ME/crew so that they can hang the rig without you standing over their shoulder for every little thing. So yes, it needs color and gobo information, everything. A stack of paperwork will immediately get knocked over and lost on a busy work call.

On this plot though- With the Source4 symbol stacked like that, some of the noses get covered up, which is the spot that seems to indicate the type of lens tube in the fixture... so uh, kinda a problem. Anyway, looking at the full plot, the SL side is way more clear than SR where everything is stacked and jumbled.

You could draw as convenient and then include tape-measure marks to indicate actual placement, or rotate as convenient and include focus/purpose notation.
 

SteveB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
I end up having LLs for every system and sometimes divide the system into SL/SR, like with side light.
Correct. As I stated, I have a LOT of legends. You can import the legend library to new files, so you're only doing the work once. And consider that in most respects, the purpose of the plot is to give the electricians the information needed to get your plot hung with lights where you want them. You do a lot of paperwork and drawing to display that information clearly. That includes creating many different legends.

Note also that in many cases where legends are used in a position, the mirror legend on the other side of the stage is easy to create as you just copy, re-name, then edit, reverse horizontal or vertical as needed, and save. You are not drawing a new legend every time.
 
  • Like
Reactions: RonHebbard

derekleffew

Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
Premium Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2007
Location
Las Vegas, NV, USA
So, philosophically, you have to remember that the plot is not supposed to be pretty- it's a tool you give the ME/crew ...
This. So many times I've said, "The light plot is not intended to be a photo-realistic rendering of what the fixtures look like..."

You could draw as convenient and then include tape-measure marks to indicate actual placement,
That's what I do with sidelight on a pipe: Space them at 2'-0" or even 2'-6" but label them as 18", with a big note "Do Not Scale."
I was taught that an electrician should never need to apply a scale rule to a light plot, and even if he did, called out dimensions always take precedence.
You probably already "cheat" on the DS/US axis by moving the FOH closer to the stage than it is, to reduce the amount of blank space over the apron/orchestra pit.

Granted, this may go completely off the rails in today's world when most everyone drafts in 3D, but I've never done that, nor have I ever seen a 3D light plot that makes any sense when printed on 2D paper.
 

Jordan Street

Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2015
Location
Salt Lake City
So, philosophically, you have to remember that the plot is not supposed to be pretty- it's a tool you give the ME/crew so that they can hang the rig without you standing over their shoulder for every little thing. So yes, it needs color and gobo information, everything. A stack of paperwork will immediately get knocked over and lost on a busy work call.

On this plot though- With the Source4 symbol stacked like that, some of the noses get covered up, which is the spot that seems to indicate the type of lens tube in the fixture... so uh, kinda a problem. Anyway, looking at the full plot, the SL side is way more clear than SR where everything is stacked and jumbled.

You could draw as convenient and then include tape-measure marks to indicate actual placement, or rotate as convenient and include focus/purpose notation.
Thank you! Yes, I agree that it is best to put as much information on the plot as possible. This is the rep plot supplied by the venue that I've copied into a new document. One of the biggest issues has been with the noses being covered up, but they are color-coded on the original rep plot to indicate the lens type, but that doesn't solve the issue of the labels being messy and inconsistent. I like the idea of spacing for clarity and noting measurements and I'll be making adjustments accordingly. :)
 

Jordan Street

Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2015
Location
Salt Lake City
This. So many times I've said, "The light plot is not intended to be a photo-realistic rendering of what the fixtures look like..."

That's what I do with sidelight on a pipe: Space them at 2'-0" or even 2'-6" but label them as 18", with a big note "Do Not Scale."
I was taught that an electrician should never need to apply a scale rule to a light plot, and even if he did, called out dimensions always take precedence.
You probably already "cheat" on the DS/US axis by moving the FOH closer to the stage than it is, to reduce the amount of blank space over the apron/orchestra pit.

Granted, this may go completely off the rails in today's world when most everyone drafts in 3D, but I've never done that, nor have I ever seen a 3D light plot that makes any sense when printed on 2D paper.
THANK YOU! This is exactly what I needed. I'm going to adjust the spacing on my plot and add measurements, as well as a note saying not to scale. Thankfully, I'm also the ME and have a humble crew of two IATSE electricians who know what they're doing and have worked the show before, so this is entirely for my personal satisfaction. Plus, being a rep plot, 90% of the fixtures are already hung and focused, so I really only have to worry about swapping rep color for show color, hang/focus of my show specials and occasional touch-up focus of rep fixtures.

Surprisingly, the plot is accurately scaled as far as FOH beam position placement. The beam positions in this space are some of the most well-planned, useful FOH positions I've worked with. In fact, the Far Beam could be used for downstage FOH light but the designer chose to purpose the Far Beam for the apron/orchestra pit area instead, which I can't imagine gets utilized frequently enough to warrant what I consider to be a waste of an entire FOH position. Anyway, I don't want to restore rep focus at load-out so my usable FOH light comes from the Near Beam and 1st Electric and the rest is side light (which wouldn't be an issue for normal dance, but this show is children's dance that incorporates a lot of theatrical elements and, well... dance parents wanna see their kid's awkward cute face when they're practically in the wing of the furthest upstage area).
 

notoriousRBG

Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2015
Location
NY
I personally always draw electrics with accurate spacing between lights, what is the point of a scale drawing otherwise. I may move a balcony rail closer so it fits on the page (and call it out as "Not Drawn in True Position") but I think that within each lighting position the page scale should be accurate.

For pipe ends on 18" centers I allow fixtures to overlap but make sure they're stacked so that the barrels are visible (see photo).

I have label legend for sidelight that puts channel number on the side of the fixture (one legend for SL, one for SR because I think using VWX flip function takes too long). I rarely include color and never dimmers on a light plot but I know this is a point of contention. I do mostly broadway and large theatrical ALDing where it's not the norm.

If you do want dimmers and color I'd just put the dimmer below the channel number and color on the side of the barrel. Like you've done but maybe smaller font.

Not that you asked for more drafting advice but I think the biggest things that affect legibility of your light plot are:
  1. fixtures have no white fill so you can see thru them where they overlap
  2. all the lineweights are very similar and light (why is the scale bar heavier than the instruments? is it more important?)
  3. color, channel, and dimmer numbers too big, they're bursting out of their containers.
  4. nothing is dimensioned. I agree with @derekleffew that if your electrician needs a scale rule to hang the show, you've done something wrong.
  5. be careful of overlapping text on your drawing. I'm guessing you just haven't gotten around to fixing yet.
Screen Shot 2019-11-27 at 11.30.40 PM.png
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
THANK YOU! This is exactly what I needed. I'm going to adjust the spacing on my plot and add measurements, as well as a note saying not to scale. Thankfully, I'm also the ME and have a humble crew of two IATSE electricians who know what they're doing and have worked the show before, so this is entirely for my personal satisfaction. Plus, being a rep plot, 90% of the fixtures are already hung and focused, so I really only have to worry about swapping rep color for show color, hang/focus of my show specials and occasional touch-up focus of rep fixtures.

Surprisingly, the plot is accurately scaled as far as FOH beam position placement. The beam positions in this space are some of the most well-planned, useful FOH positions I've worked with. In fact, the Far Beam could be used for downstage FOH light but the designer chose to purpose the Far Beam for the apron/orchestra pit area instead, which I can't imagine gets utilized frequently enough to warrant what I consider to be a waste of an entire FOH position. Anyway, I don't want to restore rep focus at load-out so my usable FOH light comes from the Near Beam and 1st Electric and the rest is side light (which wouldn't be an issue for normal dance, but this show is children's dance that incorporates a lot of theatrical elements and, well... dance parents wanna see their kid's awkward cute face when they're practically in the wing of the furthest upstage area).
@Jordan Street A few words about swapping rep' colors WITHOUT dropping frames, mis-inserting / not re-inserting correctly / inadvertently moving previously / correctly aimed fixtures:

If fitted, open any latches securing frames within any given fixture.
Assuming thin frames (Preferably flame proof cardboard) pre-loaded and labelled; slip your next frame into place behind (closer to the lamp) the frame you want to remove.
In two motions with one hand, slide the new frame in behind the original frame (thus guaranteeing it lands in any / all supporting clips) and employ your fingers to lift the original frame up and out.
With very little practice, this becomes an easy / second nature way to insert new frames into fixtures and remove existing frames; all in one quick and easy motion with very little potential to alter the focus of any / securely tightened rep' luminaires.
Toodleoo!
Ron ( Long retired from Stratford's Shakespearean repertory Festival) Hebbard
 

Aaron S.

Member
Joined
Mar 8, 2017
Location
Los Angeles
I'll add my 2 cents into this discussion. I think a lot of this comes down to personal preference, your crew, and how comfortable you are with whatever software you use for paper work and plots. I personally don't like a lot of clutter on my plots. Here are some things I do when I get a plot to prep it for when my crew hangs it. If the designer has a container for the dimmer numbers I will remove that. I will also get rid of any color or gobo information. I will assign an electrician to deal with color and gobos and they work from LW not the plot. Another thing I do, and again this is just personal preference, I hate those symbols, I find them to be messy and cluttered. I will go through and replace all those symbols with the ones I like. As it happens the symbols I like don't overlap each other when you have them at 18" centers. Someone suggested turning them 90 deg, I personally wouldn't do this, your electricians will then hang them facing either upstage or downstage and when you go to focus, you now have to spend time at each unit rotating them for sidelight. I will also go into the file and shift around any labels, or Ch. numbers to make them a bit easier on the eyes.

While I do agree that the plot is there as a tool for the electricians to get the show hung, I disagree with the notion that it doesn't need to be pretty. If there is so much going on that it takes your electricians 5 minutes to figure out what degree fixture it is, or what color, or channel number, or gobo you need there does that make the show go in any quicker or with more accuracy? I do think it's important to be as accurate as possible, otherwise like @notoriousRBG said, what's the point of a scale drawing. I do think that called out dimensions should take priority, and it should be assumed that if there isn't a measurement it should be 18" unless otherwise noted.

Just looking at the first image of your plot you posted gave me anxiety. In my mind there is just too much there. I will make another suggestion. Again, this is just personal preference. In my venue we do things more or less in this manner, 1) Mark out the position. 2) Hang that position 3) Circuit 4) Drop color, gobo, accessories. There have been a couple occasions in the past that I have printed up a few different plots for my crew. 1) With measurements being dominant for marking positions. 2) A plot with no color or gobo info, measurements are there but not dominant, for hanging and writing dimmer numbers onto. 3) with the color and gobo info and not much else for someone to drop color. I also find that doing it this way lends itself to having multiple groups working on different things in different parts of the space without having to search around for the only plot with all the info on it.

Every situation is different and what works for me and my crew might not work for you and yours.

VWIMAGE.jpg
 

notoriousRBG

Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2015
Location
NY
I usually aim for 1’9” at least btwn pipe ends but it’s not always possible. I never go tighter than 18”.

Source 4s on booms will need to be short yoked if you want 18” btwn fixtures.
 

josh88

Remarkably Tired.
Fight Leukemia
Joined
Jan 26, 2010
Location
Ypsilanti, Michigan
Is 18" spacing what most of you actually use? I see reference to 2' spacing in the drawing but 18" in real life. I tend leave my side light at the 2' spacing mark unless I really have no other choice or it is a paricularly large system.

Geoff
On battens everything we do is based on 18". We're often tight for space but have pretty full plots and find with the light focused, its enough space for a S4 98% of the time. All of our electrics have 18" increments marked and labeled on every pipe (as well as the proscenium opening, and typical leg openings) to speed up hangs and accuracy.
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Yes, but does the 18" split center? or center unit? What do you do if a designer wants the other?
9" either side of centre, yoke US or DS on centre, or close as, if there's a system supporting cable on centre. Every theatre in my area has its centre sheave on centre and thus its centre supporting cable is off centre by half the sheave's diameter.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard