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Subs VS Cues

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by ChickenLive, Apr 14, 2008.

  1. ChickenLive

    ChickenLive Member

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    Me and a couple other guys at the school seem to have this fight with our theater teacher. She insists on running shows on just subs. And she is always pressuring us to stay away from cues, even if we backup everything on subs. I personally enjoy cues because of the fact that I know the show will be the same, and how I want it, every time. Also, I like the fact that I can sit back and just press GO to run things (less stressful). I believe that subs are great when needing to create looks and record them for later or setting similar light groups to one dimmer. But, I'm not sure; is she right, are we right, or is it just a matter of preference? Any pros or cons of using either method? Or maybe there is a better method that I don't know.
     
  2. SerraAva

    SerraAva Active Member

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    It is all a matter of preference really. Cues are great because as you said, everything looks the same each time you run it. It is also less stressful as well, just hitting 'Go' as oppose to racing to set up each scene in a black out or scene changes with a bunch of faders. What happens if you grab the wrong one by mistake?

    Subs are great because they are fast to record. When cueing myself, I will generally record subs for looks for each scene and then go back and cue them. Subs are also great if you don't have time to program, or it is only minor stuff. I would never cue a lights up and down orchestra concert for example.

    Other things I really don't cue sometimes are dance concerts depending on complexity and/or time. Sometimes I only get the see a number once, out of order. So I just get a generally idea and go off of that. Each show won't look exactly the same, but it is a good way to keep sharp and use to running things by the seat of your pants.
     
  3. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    Tell your teacher that is the learned opinion of this list (well.... Serra and I so far) that it's perfectly OK to create and run as cues, as it offers greater repeatability of the timing of the fade in's and outs. But that you have subs available as needed.

    Also spend some time learning how the console functions to stop/hold, go back and/or advance cues quickly into the next look. Knowing how to run a show with subs and/or cues is important knowledge that will assist your future career in technical theater.

    Steve Bailey
    Lighting Director
    Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts
    Brooklyn College
     
  4. DaveySimps

    DaveySimps CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Subs are a great tool for programming, and running on-off type of events or concerts, but recording cues is really the standard for theatre shows. Consistancy is key, so the show does not drastically change from night to night. It sounds like your director might be stuck back a generation or so in lighting technology in the days when only two scene preset boards were standard and may not be comfortable with cueing. This is just a guess though (I have seen it happen many times.)

    Cuing a show also helps in an instance when a rugular board operator cannot run the board, in the case of illness, emergency, etc.. If all of the cues are in the board, another crew member can take over and just listen to the stage manager and press go. Although it is not as ideal, this person would not necessarily need to know as much about the board as you do. In many educational setting, there is only one "lighting guy", so this may be a big concern. Replacing someone on a show that is run on faders would not be nearly as smooth of a transition.

    ~Dave
     
  5. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    My opinion is... for a theatre show, you should not be making artistic decisions at the console, it should be programmed into the console already and played back. Now, for one offs, subs all the way. Write cues, it will make life easier for everyone.
     
  6. jmabray

    jmabray Active Member

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    I would be really interested to why your director seems to think that Subs is the way to go. Ask the question. It might give you some insight into why they are thinking that way and how to craft your arguments so that they might see the error to their ways....
     
  7. LD4Life

    LD4Life Active Member

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    Wow! I don't think I honestly ever heard of someone using strictly subs for an entire show (other than quick, simple one-offs). I've worked on shows that ended up have a couple hundred cues, each one different from any other. Try remembering the sub positions for that. Sorry, short rant, I'm off my soapbox now. Anywho, as I said, I use cues for anything other than quick, simple shows or concerts. But that's just my 2 cents.
     
  8. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    Although we are talking about board mechanics here, it is still worth remembering that the terms are for two different concepts:

    Cue: A sequence step in a show. "On cue, the actor enters from stage left."

    Sub: (or Submaster) A grouping of channels that can usually be called up with one control and have proportional ratios as may be needed.

    On modern light boards, an entire show can be set up as a stack of cues, each one having all parameters (Fade up time, etc.) preprogrammed. It guarantees the show will present itself the same way provided the board op hits the button at the right time. By using subs, you set some limitations, such as the number of subs, and that each scene cue requires you to bump a specific sub.
    Your teacher may just have gotten into the habit from rehearsals, where you are constantly doing things out of sequence.
     
  9. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    It's probably a "we don't have to to fix it, just make it brighter". One more question, what does this director do during the show? Wouldnt happen to be on com would they?....
     
  10. ReiRei

    ReiRei Active Member

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    We've never used subs for a show, only for outside gigs like band concerts and things like that which don't need too much planning. However, subs are a little iffy in my opinion. Someone recently set our board to a 1 to 1 patch and when I tried to bring the house lights out in at the beginning of a show, they wouldn't go out because three of our house dimmers were in different channels.

    I wouldn't even dream of using a sub during a show like Beauty and the Beast or Little Shop of Horrors... no way. I guess it's almost a good skill to have to be able to quickly change the right sliders for a scene change or something... but I'd still go with cues... definitely cues.
     
  11. Brilliant2007

    Brilliant2007 Member

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    ReiRei - This is why you should always always re-load your show into the desk before you do anything! You never know what might have happend since the last time you used it. Especially in a school, think of all the random people that walk into the theater and try to turn the lights on for whatever reason. Make a few copies of the show...carry one with you, hide one near the console, and leave another one somewhere else so that whenever you are running a show you can load it and have things the way you like it!
     
  12. Brilliant2007

    Brilliant2007 Member

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    Subs v cues...I only really use subs for live on-the-fly shows. Once in a while I might use a sub to trigger a hazer or an effect or something like that. Subs are too hard to track and it is too easy to accidently record random channels into a sub. It is too easy to screw the show up using them live. It is even easier to forget to pull a fader down when moving to the next look!! I don't even use them for programming purposes, working in groups and individual channels is much faster and accurate than fumbling around with faders. I record cues even for simple one-off events...it just makes everything smooth and orderly that way.

    Are you calling up individual channels and then recording the sub and calling it a cue? For example, Sub 1 = "Cue" 1. Or are you looking at your paperwork and saying....okay, for this look we need sub 2 @ 40%, sub 4 @90%, sub 17 @ 64% and so on?? If you are doing it the second way that has got to make for some really shaky and difficult crossfades.
     
  13. mnfreelancer

    mnfreelancer Active Member

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    Pre-recorded cues are also nice because you can run a show from anywhere your RFU plugs into. Good for dress rehearsals/cue-by-cue etc. when you can't get up to the board or you need to be at a different location for some reason...
     
  14. mbandgeek

    mbandgeek Active Member

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    I grew up on a two scene preset board, and i have also helped tech a few shows where a cue stack was used. Both methods work fine, and i prefer the cue stack, but my school doesn't have a board like that. I find that shows that i use submasters for are consistent enough for HS theater. Regional theater, probably not.
     
  15. Logos

    Logos Well-Known Member

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    I have to say that I think both situations have their place. I don't run into cue stacking a lot outside of the pro world in Adelaide. Most shows are run on subs, 1 sub for one cue, multiple pages.
    This seems to be a factor of the difference between your country and ours in the number of dimmers that are present in venues. The average here outside of the big pro venues is 48 - 96 dimmers.
    In addition we don't see that many of the big Strand and ETC boards here outside of the big pro venues. The LSC maxim range is most common and cue stacking on that is a pain as it is with the Jands Event range, also quite common.
    Personally I like to busk in some of the work I do. I work once a year for a Japanese Theatre Co who like me to improvise lighting and I do a lot of the sort of shows where I have a series of basic looks set up on subs and add over the top with chases and colours.
     
  16. ReiRei

    ReiRei Active Member

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    We should really start making better use of the RFU at our school... we use it to check dimmers and that's about it... otherwise we unplug the board and monitor and bring it down into the house. Thus, our RFU lives in a drawer... it makes me a little sad...
     
  17. Flea

    Flea Member

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    If there's time for programming (or I'm able to program on a visualizer before bump-in), I've been taught to always use cues in any show, whether it be theatre or not. Sure, operating on subs can be fun and keep you on your feet throughout the night, but I really don't think the show will look as good as it would if you spent the time programming beforehand.
     
  18. ChickenLive

    ChickenLive Member

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    Well, how I like to do it and the only way she would let me do it is...

    1. Put up dimmers to how the scene should look or groups of similar/specific lights
    2. Record that into a sub (preferably on a clean page and in order)
    3. tape/label subs if using for a bigger/complicated show
    4. Go through script and make cues from prerecorded subs
    5. Figure out timing and any extras
    6. Run it threw with a rehearsal and make tweaks
    7. Use just a script and the Go button for performances

    This way makes sense to me in that it is redundant in if the cues fail, then I still have subs to work with.

    Last year they did the big musical, Fiddler on the Roof, on subs. Also, we did the big musical Hello Dolly on Subs and another manual board. Hello Dolly, was a very technical show to do because of the juggling between using the two boards and a spot and one scene that required fast changes according to music and dialog. By the second show when I had some time to sit down, I setup cues for the whole show despite the much disapproval and cautioning of the director. Though, we never used the cues because the person technically in charge of the lights (ran the main board during the show) wasn't comfortable using them.

    As for where the director is; she is usually backstage somewhere and pops in the booth every so often, so it is very hard when I am not very familiar with the show.

    She did say something about double tapping into a dimmer accidentally when using cues, but I don't think that is whole reason she doesn't like them. I think she is doing a good job, especially being the only one managing over all the systems of the theater, but I wish there was someone specifically devoted to Tech Theater that could come in and work with us and help with these bigger shows.

    Oh, and I need a way to convince her to backup the shows onto disks or a computer hard drive. She had a bad experience with lightening erasing the show off of a floppy disk and now doesn't backup any of the shows or settings.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2008
  19. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    First off no one on Broadway and no one in large professional theaters uses subs. Furthermore larger community theater and good university programs don't use subs either. Anywhere that has good equipment and has a real lighting designer uses cues. The reason? A large part of the design is the timing of how those cues work. Designers are not board operators. They create a look record it and then a board monkey presses go every night so that the designer's concept never changes. There are also all kinds of things you can do with split fade times, auto follows, and effects that you just can't do from subs on most boards (not true with some of the newer boards).

    So why should you use cues instead of subs:
    -Every night looks the same. You set the light levels in tech and your director never has to complain that you didn't get enough light in a scene or that a blackout was too fast or slow.
    -It teaches you something about how the board actually works. There is a ton of power inside a light board that the vast majority of high school programs never even scratches the surface of. Learning how to program the board is a great educational opportunity your teach is passing up to help you prepare for college and beyond.

    Why does you teacher not want you to use cues?
    My guess is she doesn't understand how the board works herself. She's afraid you are going to get in over your head and mess up something and she won't know how to fix it. So it's easier to tell you to just run it from subs because that's what level she is comfortable with. Don't argue with her about it and be careful not to make her feel insignificant in her knowledge. Instead reason with her that you have a very powerful light board capable of so much more than subs and you want to learn how to program like professional lighting designers do. Appeal to her sense of allowing you the opportunity to learn. Also tell her that you've found a forum on the internet filled with Express experts... including several from the factory who will support you if you have problems.

    As for your strategy of recording. This is what I teach my students. Start by programing areas and colors. For example: down stage blue, down stage pink, upstage blue, upstage pink etc... break them up in as many different ways and color groups as is logical for your space and the show. Make a chart with: submaster#, Circuit #'s, Description. Now you have a well organized box of colors to paint with. Instead of just using a preset you can grab three subs and quickly mix just the right look for an area and then record it. If you have lots of submasters available then add a few subs with upstage wash, downstage wash etc... however leave these washes at about 60-70% so that you can fine tune the color balance by adding in a little more pink from another sub. Once you have a cue recorded you can open it up and record it as another cue. So instead of recreating "the apartment at night" from cue 7 again as cues 13 and 18. Just fire up cue 7 and then record it as cue 13 and 18 (sort of like using Save As in Word to make copies of the same file)

    With your Express 48/96 you have a LOT of submasters available to work with. You also have arguably the best console ever built to learn to program with. MANY of us around here are very experienced Express users and can help you if you get stuck.

    Good luck.
     
  20. porkchop

    porkchop Well-Known Member

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    First of all not backing up in my opinion is silly. I'd say not only should you back, up but you should back up multiple stages in case something really bad happens. We backup every night no matter what, personally I think that's a little much. I prefer to back up any time I've recorded something different from the previous save. If you have lightning erase a disk in the floppy drive then how do you expect the board to save the show? In your directors defense I too had a floppy get wiped once, after that we started a three disk rotating backup system so that the most recent save was in the board, but the two previous where sitting on the desk next to it on different disks.

    Ok now on to subs vs cues. Cues are great they allow the board op to change and keep a consistent show. They allow the board op more freedom to think and help in any necessary trouble shooting during the show. They allow for quick and easy changes to be made on the fly without the need of a pencil and eraser. I could go on, but most everything I have to say for cues has been covered.

    There is definitely a place for live subs though. One of the highlights of my high school tech career was when I did a big band show in a a big concert hall, 30ish fixtures, 12 live channels (some here static so we just hot plugged them to full to save dimmer room), 4 subs, and live mixing. I talked to the conductor and he mentioned a few things that he would really like to see in a few parts but for the most part I was acting as LD as well as board op for this show. This also allowed me to show up a few hours before the house opened and still put on a great show. If you can handle all the subs and the repeatability of cues isn't an issue I'd say have some fun and make artistic decisions from the board, but if you are simply bringing the same faders, to the same level, in the same amount of time every time it seems a little pointless to me to do it on subs when that's one of many things that cues are made for.
     

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