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spare no expense

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by pyrolighter, Oct 23, 2006.

  1. pyrolighter

    pyrolighter Member

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    i work for a local Community theater and the theater director told me to find a few light plot programs so we could intigrate th pc into our light design to make life a little easier. on that note i was wondering what some of your oppinions were on diffrent programs for the PC. cost is of little to no importance so im looking for a fairly priced and easy to use program. any suggestions??
     
  2. farmerjo1111

    farmerjo1111 Member

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    I use 2 different programs. The first on is AutoBlock which is a plug in for Autocad and can be found here http://www.autoblock2000.com/AB2005/ The other program that is Use is Softplot 8 and that can be found here http://www.stageresearch.com/products/LightingSoftware.aspx I use them both regually and depending on the space and time I will use either or both. Both of these programs have their pluses and minuses. Thats what I use. I know other people that use VectorWorks. I hav't tried it but I know that is a popular option.

    Dustin Strobush
     
  3. zac850

    zac850 Well-Known Member

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    There are two main programs in the lighting world that are used to create a lighting plot (create a visual representation of where the lights go) and one main program used to assist in the paperwork of the show (what light is in what circuit is in what dimmer is in what channel is in what group and so on).

    For the lighting plot, the main programs are Vectorworks and AutoCAD. I personally have only used vectorworks (though my school uses AutoCAD and I will be learning it later this year). I find vectorworks easy to use, and does everything I want it to. If you want to do 3D plots it may be tricky, but nice 2D plots are fine with it. Vectorworks has several flavors, standard, renderworks, spotlight and several others. Spotlight is the flavor that deals with lighting. Renderworks is useless unless you get advanced and want to do pre vis and render plots.

    From what I hear, vectorworks is the main application for the lighting industry (and by that I mean I have met many people [including a big designer who designs Radio City Music Halls Christmas Spectacular] and they use Vectorworks). I believe that most senic designers use AutoCAD.

    AutoCAD is the other big application. I can not speak in great detail about it, having never used it, but I have heard good things about it, though most people say they like Vectorworks better for lighitng. I know as was previously posted that you need a plugin to do lighting plots.


    For paperwork, the industry standard is Lightwrite. This is a spread sheet application that makes orginizing lighting fixtures easy. Once you set up your theater (easy to do) you can create lights and do all the paperwork. Basically, its a verson of excel, only it knows what data your giving it. So you can patch your show into dimmers, and tell the program how many watts whatever light is, and the program will tell you the load of the show. You can tell the program what dimmer ranges are in what dimmer pack and on what phase of power (if you have a 3 phase system) and it will do all that math for you as well.

    The demo of Lightwrite is for 75 fixtures, and besides the 75 fixtures it is a perfectly working copy, so I would suggest downloading that and giving it a try.

    Vectorworks is very nice and will export your visual plot into a lightwrite file, I'm not sure if AutoCAD will do the same.


    Note: and heres the big note:
    How big is this space? How many fixtures? I have found that it may not be worth getting an expensive program if the theater has only 20 or 30 lights. Its easier to keep track of things on paper or in excel. Personal preference of course.

    Personally, if the show is less then about 20 fixtures, its easier to keep everything in my head and not need to worry about any of the paperwork (mainly because updating paperwork whenever anything changes gets annoying). More then 30 or 40 fixtures, its defiantly nice to have paperwork and nice visual plots, and once you get past 70 fixtures, it really becomes necessary (for me) to use proper paperwork to keep everything in check.

    Hope this helps, and I hope its readable. I got about 2.5 hours of sleep last night, so I'm kind of running on empty here.

    Good luck,
    Zac
     
  4. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Another option would be WYSIWYG by cast software. I have used it on the last show I did and its a rather quick program to learn and it is fairly easy to output a plot and paperwork, though I still use Lightwright for my paperwork. WYSIWYG does not have a very steep learning curve after you get your space drawn in. Its a pretty simple drag and drop interface that anyone can pick up on fairly quickly. If money is truly not an object go with WYSIWYG. As far as cost for everything go, AutoCAD can run you a few thousand, without LD Assistant, Vectorworks can run around a thousand, and Lighwright goes for about 600 for a group liscense, 450ish for individual. WYSIWYG is also in the few thousand ballpark, depending on how much you want it to do.
     
  5. zac850

    zac850 Well-Known Member

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    Ah, I forgot about WYSIWYG. I guess the biggest question is what pyrolighter is looking to do. If he has 20 or 30 lights and just wants to keep track of paperwork, the free demo of lightwrite will work fine. If designing is the key, maybe looking into vectorworks. If he wants to get an Emphasis system and use real previs capabilities, thats another bread of animal all together.

    When I see the words community theater, I immediately think small system (mainly because thats what the community theaters I've worked in have been like). So, Pyrolighter, what goal do you have in mind for this software? Do you have any, or are you just looking for what is out there to make life easier?

    If this is the case, can you give us a bit of information on your system. Both what is it physically (number of lights/dimmers, etc) and in terms of how the space is run (one show that hangs for a month then change over and another show for a month; one rep plot for ever and always; constant groups coming in and changing the plot around; etc).


    Hope this helps,
    Zac
     
  6. bdesmond

    bdesmond Active Member

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    Must be a nice gig you're on if you're not worried about cost at all.
     
  7. JSFox

    JSFox Active Member

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    Though I primarily use Vectorworks and WYSYWIG (both good) we are looking at Google's Sketchup. It's biggest advantage (besides cost) is apparently it's 3D rendering capability. It can import/export DXF and other major formats so sharing shouldn't (in theory anyway) be a problem. Don't get overly focused on it though. While CAD is a good thing, paper and pencil still work really well. Would you rather have 10 more S4 leko's or CAD software?

    BTW, there are many community theatre's with fairly extensive facilities. Most I've designed for have had 70+ leko's, 30+ fresnels, 20+ cycs/scoops, etc. One guy I recently met had over 400 lekos, 32 colorcommands, and 6 VL1000's in his community theatre.
     
  8. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Sketch up doesn't do lighting... and there is a version for free... that will export 3d into wyg....
     

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