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To Lightwright or No?

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by TheSwami, Dec 1, 2008.

  1. TheSwami

    TheSwami Member

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    I have a dilemma:

    (1) I am an undergraduate lighting designer, which in the venues I have access to my typical plots lie somewhere between 40 and 80 fixtures. I.e, just outside the bounds of what the lightwright demo can cover, but not so many that I can't do my paperwork by hand (which I usually do). However:
    (2) I am serving as Master Electrician on a show opening late January in a much larger space: 1000 seats, 192 installed dimmers plus at least 48 additional on a portable pack. I know our LD has 30+ scrollers and at least two intelligent fixtures. He's done the design in Vectorworks, so it would be easy to export data into Lightwright. However:
    (3) As a student designer, I don't find myself needing lightwright on a regular basis. Sure it would be nice to use for every show, but I would really only need the full version maybe three times a year. And even the student price at $135.00 is costly.

    So my question is: Do you think it would be worthwhile to invest in Lightwright at this point? How often do you highschoolers/undergrads/graduates/professionals/freelancers/touring-designers/programmers use Lightwright? Should I wait awhile until it becomes more crucial?

    (Also a little add-on: does a Lightwright license ever expire?)

    73
     
  2. maccalder

    maccalder Member

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    Once you purchase Lightwright, it is just like purchasing most software, you have the license for that version of the software for the rest of your life - but no automatic entitlement to upgrades (although I believe that if you buy LW4 at the moment, you get free upgrade to LW5 upon its release)

    As for "Is it worth it?" - only you can quantatise that. I like LW, the ships I work with all have the designers LW files (although no LW license), so it was worth my while to purchase a license so that I could maintain shows effectively. I also use it when I do lighting designs in my off time back home - as often I leave long before shows close... so that works for me too. For you? who knows... maybe you would be better off waiting for a little while, maybe not.
     
  3. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    All of our students are using LW, either as student versions or versions they purchase themselves (full-blown). They are all using VW as well.

    It's a great program and the more you use it and learn what it can do, the easier it is to use down the road. Consider it a tool, it's a tax write-off, it's both a tool you know how to operate as well as a skill that potential employers will consider when hiring.

    You keep the license and pay the upgrade fee for each new version.

    Steve B.
    User of ALD/ALD Pro/LW1/LW2/LW3/LW4
     
  4. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    The big thing is the student version is a 3-year license. Mine just expired, but it is easy to upgrade to "full" from the student version. There is nothing limited about the student version, except it prints STUDENT: NAME under each piece of paperwork. Not a huge issue, considering most LD's lightwright says X company that they are no longer affiliated with. The student version can be found for about a 105 bux.

    I would say go with lightwright. Most of the people on here who are day to day M.E.'s, including me in a former life, eat, live, and breath lightwright. It truly is the best thing ever. It makes your job much easier to do, and keeps you orginized. Its defenitly the way to go in any show, period. It catches your mistakes, makes it easier to deliniat jobs to people, and keeps you up to date. Buy it, you will be using it at some point, buy it now, make your life easier.
     
  5. CavezziMagnum

    CavezziMagnum Member

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    You do not need to Buy Lightwright. Vectorworks has built-in Paperwork generators. They are fully customizable, and typically need to be severely doctored when created. If you already have VW, its a much easier and less expensive way to get that awesome Channel Hookup or Instrument Schedule you've always wanted!
     
  6. quarterfront

    quarterfront Member

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    +1 for it all depends on what you're doing and who you are.

    Me, I work at one theatre all year, and do one recurring outside gig every year. The outside gig is at a theatre that uses LW; my year round gig, I don't bother.

    If I were working at all sorts of theatres all the time I'd probably get LW.

    But the once a year gig, they have everything in their files allready; I submit PDF outputs of my paperwork (using an AppleWorks spreadsheet thing I built years ago that uses macros to juggle my data from Instrument Schedule to Hookup to whatever) and flag any changes, they make the changes in LW on their systems.

    As for my year-round gig, I'm using the very archaic VectorWorks 8.5.1, and over the years I've tweaked the internal paperwork generation stuff to where it does exactly what I want.

    Now I'd hate to do all that tweaking and building for a new space - I'd probably break down and buy LW. But for what I'm doing and where I'm at... Well, $250+ for a spreadsheet? I think not....
     
  7. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Does your school own LW? If your theatre department has LW on a couple machines and it is ok that you use it, then just use that. Many schools have CAD Labs (computer rooms) for the theatre department and install software like VW and LW, so if you have one and can have access, use that.
     
  8. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Sort of a dissenting opinion. TheSwami, while I too love and own LW, there's little it can do that cannot be done in Excel or a database program. It's just a little more work and the output isn't quite as nice. Even when I do use LW, I find myself needing Excel and often Word also.
     
  9. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    While not wanting to hi-jack the thread...For once derek I couldn't disagree with you more. If I used Excel for my paperwork it would take me 7-8 times longer. With the notation features in 4 there's no use for Word. And with how I typicaly draft making a LW file is simple. But this is little more than a difference on how the two of us work.


    To the OP...If you're a student...uhm...don't you have access to LW at your school? If so use it.
     
  10. bdkdesigns

    bdkdesigns Active Member Fight Leukemia

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    +1 for buying LW for me. When I priced out the student edition last year, BMI had the cheapest price.

    I don't think I could live without LW anymore...well, at least as efficiently. I've gotten used to drafting my plots with just my purposes put into Object Info. I then drop it into LW to put in all of my channeling info, color/template info, and anything else that I need. Then I Export back to VW and update the plot. I've found this to be much faster when drafting. Sure I could do a find and modify to adjust things but I've found LW much faster. After hang, I then add my circuiting info into LW and Export to VW again.
     
  11. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    Do you absolutely need LW to paperwork 80-unit shows? No. I do that manually all the time. It's not all that terrible making it in Excel (or actually, Openoffice).

    But it is tedious. If I had twice that many units in a hang, I'd need smarter software, because most of my paperwork time is spent setting up the mechanics of the paperwork, recalculating and reiterating data (to make an instrument spreadsheet from the instrument schedule, and the like).

    Having to have LW to make paperwork is much like having to have Acad/VW to make plot. It's not essential, and some guys still do it manually, but many times it's a time-saver (or at least it feels like it sometimes).
     
  12. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    wayne don't get me wrong....I haven't actually drafted a plot or done paperwork for the last 6 shows I've done. Granted I use the same plot in the same house. But when I do a new plot for this space I will do a full plot and paperwork...even though its less than 60 lights. Becase I need the record.
     
  13. CavezziMagnum

    CavezziMagnum Member

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    Will someone please tell me what is so great about Lightwright anyway?

    I've already posted to this, but now that I think about it, many times I've seen people talk about Lightwright. I agree, it is a good program, and works well. But through my experience, why bother paying for another program when (if you're using VW) it has a built-in Paperwork Generator? Besides, I've NEVER had a problem with any of my paperwork, and i've gotten many compliments on the paperwork produced through VW.

    Basically: Whats the big deal with Lightwright?
     
  14. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but one of the biggest complaints I've heard (VW Tech Forum) is up to VW 2009, the paperwork would not sort thru 2 queries - I.E. "If Channel is XX, then make Color YY", as example. Or the very basic LW capability of sort Channels/Dimmers, Instruments/Color/Whatever by Position/Dimmer/Instrument, whatever. VW would not do this and to many folks (like me) that are constantly using LW, this is HUGE and there is no way I was using the VW paperwork when LW was a huge improvement.

    Plus, Error checks, Color Counts, extremely easier paperwork layout, etc... available in LW but not as easy or clean in VW

    In general, LW is already setup and configured, or is extraordinarily tailor-able to particular needs that using Excell or VW, where I had to setup columns, cells, and rows EACH time, was painful and slow.

    I get zero plots and or hookups sent to me in anything other then LW and VW. NOBODY sends a hookup in Excel. If they did, I would port it to LW.

    Steve B.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2008
  15. evbox

    evbox Member

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    For a community theater production or undergrad show, excel will do you just fine. Save for the exporting back and forth to Vectoworks and sorting features as mentioned above, Excel is a fine substitute. I mainly use Excel for my undergrad shows anyway.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2008
  16. Goph704

    Goph704 Active Member

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    If your not on tour, buying LW is kind of a waste of time. Learning LW however is not. Doing things in either vector works or Excel will put it in your head a little better, and the point about VW paperwork generator is still valid.
    So for this show I would say, don't bother. However since we are becoming a software driven industry, I do recommend buying it at some point, simply because we never know how cool LW version 2.0 could be. A few years back i worked under an M.E. who had just bought LW a month before. We had 14 movers in a production of "In to the woods" and the M.E. spent more time teaching himself how to work with the program than he did on hanging the plot. I would really advise learning LW or any program on it's own when you don't have to depend on it for the show your working on.
    Will you use it in the future? Sure. will you need it in the future? Who knows.
    -Goph
     
  17. thenelsontwins

    thenelsontwins Member

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    LW is my old friend.

    In the olden days, when working in the theater only where shows stay up for weeks, if not months at a time and I have lead time as well as design time LW is fantastic. LW is great for keeping it all organized as things change.

    In my theater days the average number of fixtures used was between 150-200 fixtures and up to about 500. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending.

    LW is great if you have a lot of time to actually do the paperwork and have to walk away from the show after it is all up and running.

    Making additions in LW is far easier in excel, if you, like I did, use a lot of the paperwork functions, Channel Hookup, Dimmer Schedule, Instrument Schedule, etc. etc.

    NOW with Vectorworks, which I used for a while instead of AutoCAD, it does create paperwork based on the drawn plot and info therein. There are aspects of VW that are incredible and functional, but the paperwork generation was not ideal.

    Of course, I am pretty picky. One of the hardest things about LW is setting up the paperwork to look how you want it to look for the first time, and then understanding all the the systems it has built into it and how they work.

    The LW downfall for me, as well as Vectorworks, is the seeming flexibility in some aspects of the software and the rigidity of others. Both do information input very well, their way. So a bit of adaptation to the language is necessary, and adapting what YOU know and use in your head, to align with what they use in their programming.

    Which is why, I still use AutoCad all the time instead of VW. And why, when I need paperwork, I just dump it into excel. Typically the shows I'm going out to do, I am there the whole time, and programming. And typically I have a vast number of moving lights and not nearly as many conventionals.

    Really, LW is great, VW is great, but I swear by AutoCad drafted plots and excel now. It just makes more sense for what I do. But, when I go back to the theater world, I will be using LW again.

    The unfortunate thing about all of this is LW, VW, AutoCad, and Wysiwyg is they do a bunch of stuff really well, and a bunch of other stuff really poorly. I find that the way I do work now is just like I did years ago with a drafting table and vellum, in order to get it all to work FOR me I have to do a lot of working around what I don't like.

    In that, I find I have a lot more time to consider my design, to consider my options, and above all, find mistakes.

    To each his own.
     
  18. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    "simply because we never know how cool LW version 2.0 could be."

    Do you mean Lightwright 5 ?. We are at 4 now with v5 due out this winter.

    " and the M.E. spent more time teaching himself how to work with he program than he did on hanging the plot. "

    Been there. I believe I spent roughly 20 hrs. per week, for 6 straight weeks in late '03, simply getting OK at BASIC stuff in Vectorworks. Plus 2-3 years of constant use to get good at it. I've more then saved that time spent in the the past 5 years. I'm also still finding better ways at doing things in LW4, after 25 years of using every version of LW.

    "I would really advise learning LW or any program on it's own when you don't have to depend on it for the show your working on. "

    Maybe I'm different, but I prefer to put it off till I absolutely need the hookup the next day, THEN I learn it. Nothing like being focused and desperate to make me remember how something works.

    Steve B.
     
  19. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    VW, A-Cad and WYSWYG certainly have their quirks and that I believe is what you refer to when describing the software as doing things "poorly", though WYG does some things just plain awful and that's just bad software design.

    I have never heard anyone describe Lightwright as doing anything poorly and I'm curious as to what exactly people find that it does badly.

    To me, it does pretty much exactly what the user needs it to do and what it describes itself as - a paperworks program. Probably the only area that has been weak, is interfacing with CAD, in that it's not an integrated program like WYSIWYG. I don't consider that weak, just the definition of the program - a Paperworks program and I find the back and forth to VW painless. I'll be curious as to what the so-called one-button-push update to and from VW 2009 does, but don't really need it.

    Oh, I remember that the LW Reports section makes you use a separate program - I use Open Office, to generate a color order, but in truth, that was a deliberate decision on John's part to not re-invent the wheel and attempt to make LW do something not as well that other software does better. I have no issues with that and from memory of the Broadway Lighting Master Class, I was surprised at how many folks, especially Broadway electricians, use LW, VW, Word and File Maker, among others to generate their paperwork.

    Bottom line is we are indeed now an industry that uses all kinds of software and I highly recommend getting LW, as it's the basic industry standard program for paperwork.

    My $.02

    Steve B.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2008
  20. thenelsontwins

    thenelsontwins Member

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    Yes. Exactly. Perhaps poorly was a ... well... poor choice of word. It does what it does and that which it does it does it well, if that makes any sense.

    On any show with more than 50 conventionals, LW is a must for me. Anything under 50 I can track in my head with notes scrawled like a maniac in sharpie on my arm.

    I find a lot of mistakes and I make a lot of changes during design and LW allows me to quickly update ALL my paperwork in a single change.

    I also found over the years that in the theater world I rarely referred to my light plot and typically left it in the book. Before this rock and roll/corporate world I'm in now, the plot was a tool to design with and show the confused stagehands what I need where. After that it is all spreadsheets for me, so to have a program like LW (rather than excel) to track 400 fixtures, notes, changes, adds, deletions, etc. etc. was a must.
    Oh, and magic sheets.

    But now in this other industry, all I need typically is the plot to hand off to the electrics lead and away we go.
     

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