Who Programs the Board?

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As I have stated, its been hit or miss with a lot of the things I have done. Also, I pretend not to have done it all, I am only 20 and still in school. I have just been fortunate in my opportunities. So this is just what I have seen in the real world so far and not what is been told/done in the class room.
There are a lot of different LD's in the world. Everything isn't just rock 'n roll or theatre. A lot of what I do is corporate work. That means set up, program, rehearse sometimes, run the show, tear it down, go to the next show all in one day a most of the time. I don't have the luxury of time to sit down with the client through every 'scene', go over what they want done, tell a programmer and a master electrician what needs to be done, and tweak till its what the client wants. We do a sight survey, go over what they want, get ideas, then its up to me to make it happen.
Google Hair o the Dog. I designed for '07 at Philly. I met with the client once. All they wanted was the gobos around the room. Don't even get me started on the Delilah's gobo because that was handed to me as the doors were opening. Anyway, load in was 4 PM, weren't allowed downstairs until 5 PM when the place closed to the public. Doors were at 7 or 8, can't remember which. Either way, there was no were near enough time for me to explain to someone else what needed to happen programming wise. Set up was this goes here, that there, focus this here, that color there, etc. Stuff was added, taken away, and changed that day as set up was going on of course. So, because of time, I programed.
Point being is that not every show, even one's with tons of money floating around, have the luxury of time and rehearsals. It just needs to happen, and it needed to happen 10 minutes ago. So thats why I program most of what I design. Your own situation might be different for your own needs. If you can give out duties, I recommend it actually because it takes stress of others. Trying to do many jobs at once can be too much for one person to handle on larger shows, but sometimes thats not how it pans out.

Designing and doing work in the corporate/industrial world is a completely different beast, however many corporate types like to have even more info before they walk in to the space. They usually do not like the "I'll make it work" approach, instead most insist on fully realized rendering. Usually in the corporate world there is even less guessing in the space then there is in any other field, what you showed them with the rendering you made better be the same thing that they walk into.
Just like in any field, when you start out your going to be doing everything yourself. There are plenty of designers for theatre out there right now that have to hang, focus, cue, and run their own show because if you get paid 600 to do the design, 600 to be production electrician, and 60 dollars a show run (making these numbers up) you get to eat more often then if you were just designing. People do everything all the time, but usually at a loss of something. If you spend half you time programming and thinking about how best to cue a sequence and keeping track of blocks, hot moves, and all that other good stuff you are not focusing on the show, your focusing on the technology. A scene designer should not be working in the shop, the costume designer should not be stitching, and the lighting designer should not be touching anything, in a perfect world. Due to budget things get throne on more then one person.
Now, going in a hanging 30-50 lights and having to do everything yourself is a pretty easy thing to do, doing that for a show with 350 fixtures, 60 scrollers, and 20 movers is another thing all together. Back to the OP, in the educational world that is what you are working up towards, your training should be pushing you to work in that situation, and in that situation you need all the help you can get.
 
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Cyclical

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You had me at "incest".

What I've never quite understood about the college programs training their students this way is how they can go through all that, and come out at the end thinking you can pull off these massive team efforts when the designer or design team is just winging it. I just ME'd for one who drew one fresnel per circuit on the as-built, and scattered around some 360Qs for front light. No color was specified for anything, half of them didn't identify the focus area, there wasn't even a rough circuit plot, and more circuits were used than exist in the theater. Then I get an e-mail asking how I plan on doing the patch. Uh, 1-to-1.

That's just my personal gripe, though. If you're expecting things to be done a certain way, you have to hold up your end of the bargain.
 

Grog12

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Rock and roll designers are often referd to as LD (Lighting Directors) LD's are also board operators. Its sort of a gray area for the union... Sometimes you might be asked to hire a shadow while your at the board.
JH

That's not quite right. Lighting Directors are typically the person qualified to make changes on the road/fly after the Designer is no longer with the production 24/7.
 

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That's not quite right. Lighting Directors are typically the person qualified to make changes on the road/fly after the Designer is no longer with the production 24/7.

It all depends on the show, usually they are the same person, sometimes they are not. The Lighting Director is more of a blanket title, also sometimes the head of the electrics department as a whole in many theatres that run multiple shows in rep or in a short period of time.
 

gafftapegreenia

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As a college student, who has had this question on his mind, this thread has been of high interest.

Thus far in my experience, I have been my own LD, ME and Board Op. That's how my highschool worked- no big surprises there. As I have said in the past, thankfully my highschool experience gave me a good taste of a variety of theatres, stages and equipment.

In choosing a college, I wantend one that would give me the widest range of experience. Of course, I'd love to be one of those Designers on the top of the food chain who are able to simply design and not have to worry too much about which light is controlled by what channel. HOWEVER, I have a long way to go before I get to that point, which I'm not even sure I want to be at this point.

In the end, my college choice came down to a small, private liberal arts college and a big name conservatory. In the end, I chose the small liberal arts college. Why? For a variety of reasons. For starters, the smaller college had recently been given a large endowment for their arts programs. With this endowment we are updating the theatre, the scene shop, the electrics shop and the entire lighting inventory. We have even been able to take the next step and buy two intelligent lights, 16 seachangers and other toys, along with cable, ethernet nodes and a few other odds 'n' ends. All of this in a program that will allow me to get as much - or as little - experience as I want. It's up to me to me to make the most, just like in the real world there's no one telling me that "this semester you will do this". Rather, I have to be responsible and plan my life.

So why didn't I go with the conservatory? Well, for starters, they admitted their theatre needed a major technological update. Ok, I can live with that. More important, however, was the fact they had no plans for intelligent lighting. They even said that even though the current student LD had intel's, they would probably get rid of them when he left! I'm sorry, but just as a fresh-out-of-college actor can't only do Shakespear, neither can I, as a relative newcomer in this field expect to only be doing shows with conventional fixtures after I graduate. The way I see it, if I want to have steady work, I need to make myself the most versatile and valuable artist I can. Sure, that may mean I get jobs where I have to "be my own everything", but my hope is, as I gain experience, I will be able to move up the ladder.

I think that my point about colleges and experience relates to this conversation about who programs the board. It was stated that, in the ideal world, the Designers can just design, there's a seperate board op, master electrican, etc etc etc... How many of us actually work in that perfect world, and if we do, how often is that? Ideally, the college experience should give a student training on all levels: on the one hand, teaching the student how to function within the structure of a major, union production and still be a succesful designer, and, on the other hand, how to be able to think on their feet while operating their own show.

The point was made that the designer should not worry about technology. I could not disagree more. The designer must be aware of the physical limitations of their space, circuits available, the lighting inventory and all the paintbrushes on the market for which to paint with light. At the same time, the designer must be creative and never limit their imaginaton. They should have a mastery of color theory and all the different methods for lighting the stage. They should not disqualify anything, but rather be able to realize whats possible and do-able in a given situation.

As for the tales of terrible techies/poorly trained students, unfortunatly it is always the worst ones that give their colleagues, friends, teachers, alma matters, unions a bad name. If these people are so bad, why not sell yourself a little to show that you are a more desirable hire than they are? If you are more capable, you will eventually get the job. The buck stops with whoever pays the bills.

On one last note, I am very thankful for controlbooth and the community on here. Discussion like this are very useful to the youth in this industry. It is valuable to be able to compare and contrast several viewpoint, as well as being able to recieve real-world opinion and feedback from those who use the most technological tools to those who have used it all.
 

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The point was made that the designer should not worry about technology. I could not disagree more. The designer must be aware of the physical limitations of their space, circuits available, the lighting inventory and all the paintbrushes on the market for which to paint with light. At the same time, the designer must be creative and never limit their imaginaton. They should have a mastery of color theory and all the different methods for lighting the stage. They should not disqualify anything, but rather be able to realize whats possible and do-able in a given situation.

When your sitting down drafting your plot, yes the technology does matter. You should know your limitations of your venue, though I have gotten in fights with M.E.'s that look at the plot, and say theres only 20 circuits on the 1st elec, you have 24 needed.... but I digress. You need to know what you can do with what you have when you are in the beginnings of the design. After the plot is done, and you walk into the space, you should no longer be concerned with the technology in the physical sense, but how to make that technology make your design. Really for most designers it should not matter at all what kind of lighting console he/she is using on the show. A channel is a channel, a cue is a cue, a count is a count. I go back to the scene design thing, it is helpful for a designer to know what the shop they are giving drawings to, but the scene designer does not really care how the show is built as long as it looks like it should look. Be it steel, wood, concrete, etc... When you are designing do not let the physical stuff take up your whole life, if you can let others worry about how to cable that electric, how to rig that piece...

When I walk into a space, all I care about is when I call out ch 23, it turns on, it is the right fixture, it is the right color, and it is in the right place. When I am cueing, all I care about is that 23 is still in the right place and still turns on. I care that cue 14 was recorded properly and that the time on it is correct. I care that the cue 14 is called correctly. However, I could care less what dimmer ch 23 is plugged into, what circuit it is on, what size of gel is in it, what DMX address it has, or what it took to turn it on on the console. Thats not my job, thats someone else's.

Now you should be able to do all those jobs listed above, and should know how to do them well. You should have to do an entire dept's work by yourself at least once, but that should not be the norm. Real world, if you have to do everything yourself your design is going to suffer because in the design phase you will make things easier for you the technician. That limits you, and a limited design is a usually a crappy design.

Now that is just my opinion on theatre, in other worlds, things are different.
 

Cyclical

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As for the tales of terrible techies/poorly trained students, unfortunatly it is always the worst ones that give their colleagues, friends, teachers, alma matters, unions a bad name. If these people are so bad, why not sell yourself a little to show that you are a more desirable hire than they are? If you are more capable, you will eventually get the job. The buck stops with whoever pays the bills.
That doesn't fly. First off, I don't need to be better than someone at their job to tell when they aren't doing their job well. And that I can make a value judgment about the quality of their work doesn't mean I want to do their job. Like I said, I just don't get how you can learn a particular process, be forced to use it over and over, and then forget how to use it as soon as you leave campus. I could understand choosing not to follow the process, but doing everything in your power to undermine it, and then wondering why nobody else is bothering to follow it just seems a bit dunderheaded. Yet, mysteriously, that's what almost everyone of these kids does when they land a design job around here. In their defense, I think the program is a little insular. Unless they've explored for themselves, its graduates will be sent into the world having only heard of a fly rail in books and a lecture or two.
 

gafftapegreenia

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What region are you in, and what is this 'God-awful' program these kids are graduating from? How someone can have never been on a fly rail in four years of college blows my mind. I know highschools more intense than that.

Would someone give me an insight as to what precentage of young designers fall into the category of "poorly trained kids trying to undermind the structure of theatre"? It's a shame those are the types you've had to work with. However, I think it's a little unfair to stereotype all recent college grads, as I've worked with more experienced designers that could easily be filed in the same category as these useless kids.

Look, I'm, not going to sit hear any say I'm the best, or that you don't have a point, but I hope that I don't fall into the category of "brainless college kids". Lighting is pretty much my life, and ever since becoming involved with lighting and realizing my interest I have tried to learn, understand and try everything that I can. Yes, I'm still learning and realize there is yet much to learn, but at the same I hope I can consider myself just a little bit more knowledgable than most people my age.
 
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SerraAva

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The I have seen with touring Broadway shows is that every venue changes from one extreme to the next. If the programmer/board op isn't a designer or involved in the design of the show, the design will differently be lost.

At my high school, the big theatre has no grid. When a Broadway tour of Fiddler on the Roof came through, they couldn't hang their lighting trusses because the had to be hung from a grid for some reason. So, they brought in a few spare movers that they had, some foot lights, and used the in house lighting. It was one of the best shows I have ever seen. The programmer or board op or LD or what ever he was told me it wasn't even half the show because he was missing so much. He show me some pictures during load out and wasn't kidding. If he hadn't been able to do all three, the show just would not have happened. He didn't call the LD and ask what to do and reprogram the whole show with his instructions. He just did it. He told me of a space that they did the show in worse then ours because they had very little in the way of in house lighting, so what did he do then?

Point being I guess is you have to be flexible, everything is not always going to happen like it was originally written in the plot, initial renderings, and in the LD's head. If you aren't able to be flexible, the show just won't happen time to time.

Most people I work with in the corporate world really don't care about intial renderings. I generally get company colors or event colors, a few costume gobos and thats it. They do request specfic things from time to time. I guess the biggest reason why intial renderings don't work is because so much can change when on site and actually seeing it up.

When I did an event in Lake Placid, NY I had two Mac 2k's go bad on me during the week there, my spare and another. Needless to say, its extremely hard to find Mac 2ks in Lake Placid, the closest was Albany a few hours away. I changed some things up, move stuff around, re programed a bit, and ended up saving the client a bunch of money as the rentals for all the 2ks I had on site ended up getting reimbursed. They were happy, and the initial renderings went out the window.

Again, flexible. Its not a crime to have one person program and design. To be honest, I want to be out on the gigs, see the shows happen, experience set backs, fight through them and come out on top, better then I was before it happened. Thats the fun part for me. The challenge and the unknown factor. Without it, I wouldn't be in this line of work. Just making plots and and calling out what I want to see, not caring how or why it happens is something I would want to do when I'm old and gray, and can't push it anymore.

No offense to any designers on here, its just how I feel, so I ask how do others feel about this? I just get a sense of accomplishment each time I run a show I designed and programmed. I can look back and say, "Wow, I really did that and people really enjoyed it." or, "Wow, that really sucked and I need to fix this, people hated it." I guess I just feel that programming, in a sense, is part of the design and the design process. And sorry for the insanely long post, was at work all day and would have responded as each item came in other wise.
 

soundman

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The I have seen with touring Broadway shows is that every venue changes from one extreme to the next. If the programmer/board op isn't a designer or involved in the design of the show, the design will differently be lost.
At my high school, the big theatre has no grid. When a Broadway tour of Fiddler on the Roof came through, they couldn't hang their lighting trusses because the had to be hung from a grid for some reason. So, they brought in a few spare movers that they had, some foot lights, and used the in house lighting. It was one of the best shows I have ever seen. The programmer or board op or LD or what ever he was told me it wasn't even half the show because he was missing so much. He show me some pictures during load out and wasn't kidding. If he hadn't been able to do all three, the show just would not have happened. He didn't call the LD and ask what to do and reprogram the whole show with his instructions. He just did it.

While I can not say for certain I can be pretty sure the touring op was not in on the production and design meetings, its not cost effective and there can be a lot of turn over. Im guessing he had seen the show enough to know what it was supposed to look like though and was able to come close to what it was like in other venues. A op can not and should not change a design with out permission or consulting the designer, my guess is when the TD found out they were playing a space where a major show element could not be used there were some calls made. The LD might have shurged it off and said do what ever but its still his or her call. The LD's name goes in the program for better or for worse. Had the LD or the producer came for a check up and seen the show looking differnt then it did in tech there can be hell to pay.
 

Cyclical

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I'm not stereotyping all college students. I didn't intend it to sound like I was applying my observations to everyone, everywhere. And there have been people come out of that program who were as professional and meticulous as could be from the time they were teenagers. I just find it curious that anyone, let alone a large group of students, could go through college with the goal of, "designing on Broadway, and putting on bitchin' rock concerts", and manage to take so little away from their schooling. This topic just brought back some odd memories, and I felt like wondering aloud.

It all comes down to the individual, and I apologize for not being more obvious about that. It just happened that I was talking about a fairly large group of individuals, and didn't do too well differentiating that from a blanket statement about all college students.

To answer some of your questions, the theater they work in for school has a thrust stage, and they have no fly system. Everything is dead hung from catwalks, including the lighting. From what I can gather, there's no requirement from the program that they work elsewhere, so some kids make it to graduation without ever working another venue. I wouldn't call the program god-awful, though. It does produce some talented artists. One of whom is the designer from my first post. It just has a few rather gaping holes that result in interesting situations for the smaller venues that give some of these folks their first jobs.
 

Jezza

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While I can not say for certain I can be pretty sure the touring op was not in on the production and design meetings, its not cost effective and there can be a lot of turn over. Im guessing he had seen the show enough to know what it was supposed to look like though and was able to come close to what it was like in other venues. A op can not and should not change a design with out permission or consulting the designer, my guess is when the TD found out they were playing a space where a major show element could not be used there were some calls made. The LD might have shurged it off and said do what ever but its still his or her call. The LD's name goes in the program for better or for worse. Had the LD or the producer came for a check up and seen the show looking differnt then it did in tech there can be hell to pay.

I have to disagree. While it may be logistically the designers "call", he's not the one out on the road, seeing issues as they come up and having to adapt the rig to suite. If I were the LD and walked in on a show that was only using parts of the main rig due to spacial limitations and the programmer/op that I sent out was the one who orchestrated this switch, I would be proud of them. It gives me confidence that they are the right person for the job and have a good artistic and logical sensibility. I would think he did what he had to do under the circumstances and is still making the show look good. Once again, 'the show must go on'.

Personally, I think that the LD/Programmer relationship must be VERY close and almost symbiotic. I think LDs need to have extensive knowledge of every single aspect of their rig, from the images they have in their mind for certain songs or scenes, to the specific color temperature of their fixtures, the kinds of bulbs, the way the power is distributed in the room, etc. They might not need to recall all that information all the time, but they can't be ignorant to it and push that responsibility off onto the ME. Similarly, they need to be familiar if not experienced programming the desk that the show will be written on so that they understand the limitations and the strengths of the console, approximately how long certain keystrokes and actions take, how the console refreshes cues, handles MLs, how its cue structure works, how it will be synced to other equipment, etc.

At the end of the day, I would MUCH rather design AND program my own show. As Serra Ava said, there is a sense of complete satisfaction when you have completed the whole job by yourself--you are increasing your skill set and working through all the complications that arise. I think in order to be completely expressive and be able to translate exactly what you see in your head or feel in your heart onto the stage, you need to be in control of all aspects of your design.
 

gafftapegreenia

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Cyclical, thanks for clarifying, that really helps to fill in the gaps.
 

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While I can not say for certain I can be pretty sure the touring op was not in on the production and design meetings, its not cost effective and there can be a lot of turn over. Im guessing he had seen the show enough to know what it was supposed to look like though and was able to come close to what it was like in other venues. A op can not and should not change a design with out permission or consulting the designer, my guess is when the TD found out they were playing a space where a major show element could not be used there were some calls made. The LD might have shurged it off and said do what ever but its still his or her call. The LD's name goes in the program for better or for worse. Had the LD or the producer came for a check up and seen the show looking differnt then it did in tech there can be hell to pay.

I have friends who are the head elecs for the wedding singer (was out on rent last season), the producers, and an asst head elec for circ. I have talked to them many times about this very thing. The one who used to be out on rent was about the 20th or 25th head elec for that show. The designers are long long gone for those shows. They still stop in once in awhile to check to see if their design is still there. On the road your job is to get the design as close as possible night after night. Also, when riders go out you and you get a survey of spaces back you can start attempting to make things fit as you go. The extremely small "Bus and Truck" or "Bus and Trailer" shows usually do travel with the designer or someone that is close to the designer. These shows usually don't carry their own lighting, but usually carry a console. The head elec spends the entire night chasng inhibitive subs to make things look they way they should.
 

SerraAva

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Great example of a small show like what Footer is talking about above is Kenny Rogers. They carry a Grand Ma with a Ma Lite for back up and also carry their own movers. The rest of the 'rig' is subbed out venue to venue, which is 3 trusses with about 100 or so par 64's on each truss and some random lekos for specials. That is a fun show to focus, has to be done from the truss while in the air.

To soundman, I doubt they called the designer for that one. They walked into the school, looked up, and went oh crap, no grid. They then proceeded to pull the lighting 53' out of the dock. Sometimes important information like that does not get passed along, or just gets lost in the mix. Thats when the crew who is on the road needs to step up, and not depend on the designer for every little thing. At the same time, they should keep as close as possible to the original design of the show. Like Jezza said, if it was my design, I would have been proud to have someone work so hard to keep with my original design under those conditions.
 

soundman

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I think that the LD/Programmer relationship must be VERY close and almost symbiotic. I think LDs need to have extensive knowledge of every single aspect of their rig, from the images they have in their mind for certain songs or scenes, to the specific color temperature of their fixtures, the kinds of bulbs, the way the power is distributed in the room, etc. They might not need to recall all that information all the time, but they can't be ignorant to it and push that responsibility off onto the ME. Similarly, they need to be familiar if not experienced programming the desk that the show will be written on so that they understand the limitations and the strengths of the console, approximately how long certain keystrokes and actions take, how the console refreshes cues, handles MLs, how its cue structure works, how it will be synced to other equipment, etc.

I just speaking from what I have seen but designers don't care about the what phase fixture 4 on the front truss is. All plots I have received in professional environments come with channel numbers, fixture types, gel and patterns and nothing else. All the LD needs to know is the total number if circuits available. One LD I worked with moved almost every electric in the theatre a line set upstage or downstage. The other electricians and I couldn't see the reason behind it but ours is not to ask why, ours is to do and die.(They were fixed electrics not drop boxes but the cable order to move the circuits did not put her over budget so she got it.) I do agree that the should pay attention to color temperatures of the fixtures as that might result in a gel order so specing a certain style of lamp could be something the designer does.
 
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Logos

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I am now going to do a turn around. I am semi retired and I don't do the big stuff anymore. I do jobs for mates or because they are interesting or to light my own shows when I put on my Producer hat. There is never any money, I do usually have one person to work with me who programs and operates but we both spend time up a ladder at the rig. It's largely small scale stuff and is reminding me how challenging it can be to do a good design with too few fixtures that are too old and no money.
With regard to the touring show debate, you do run into some touring guys who will attempt to do exactly as the Designer ordered even when it is patently obvious that it is impossible, the good ones are those who make the show work while preserving as much of the original design as possible. They are the ones who get the good jobs.
 

Grog12

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It all depends on the show, usually they are the same person, sometimes they are not. The Lighting Director is more of a blanket title, also sometimes the head of the electrics department as a whole in many theatres that run multiple shows in rep or in a short period of time.

We weren't talking about theatres. We were talking about rock and roll. But this works for both R&R and theatre:

If he's a designer...he's a designer...you're not a Lighting Director unless the Designer left you in charge and lets you make artistic descions.
 

SerraAva

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Sometimes the number of circuits available isn't enough info to do a plot. Every dimmer in the world isn't 2.4k. Some theatres I have worked in still have telephone patches with 1k and 7.2k dimmers. Just because they use old telephone patches doesn't mean the space sucks either. http://www.spotliters.com/picasso-photo.html
That was a show I designed in Tohill Theatre at Rowan University. Old phone patch, with a portable Sensor Rack to extend what they had in the phone patch. If I was a designer and didn't know that the space had 1k, 2.4k, and 7.2k dimmers, the ME might have been in trouble trying to hang the show.

Its not just this space too, I have been in spaces which have 1.8k, 2.4k, and 6k Sensor dimmers in their racks. Also, as a designer, I would want to know if SineWave dimmers are available. The ability to dim things not normally dim able would be a huge asset in a design. Not knowing what hardware and software you have available to you as a designer is only like doing have of your homework. You won't know your limits as to what can be programed and how much you can squeeze onto a truss or electric. An ETC Express is a totally different programing school of thought from a Hog 1000 which is different from a ETC Congo which different from a Jands Vista. The Jands Vista is a really fun board and makes you think about lighting programming completely out of the norm. If you want to get that A+, you need to finish your homework completely. However, sometimes you just don't need to in order to get the grade. Knowing the limits is just another way of stacking the 'test' in your favor.

So, who programs the light board? It could be the designer, it could be a programmer, it could be the board op, it could be an ME, it could be a lighting director, it could be someone who does all the jobs or part of the jobs. It doesn't change the fact that all should know a little about what each design for each show is. They all must work closely and all must know the limits. If this doesn't happen, whatever the show type, be it theatre, corporate, rock n roll, or touring, some where along the way, the original design might be lost.

I am not some college kid trying to shake up the system, if the system works, why change it? I am just some one who in my real world experiences have found it faster for me to design and program, while someone else does ME work who I trust for me and sometimes someone else runs the board. When some one else runs the board, I want them there, looking over my shoulder and asking questions, so they can know how and why I did what I did. They might have a good idea for something pop up, you never know. I also want them there and see how its done just in case something goes wrong when I am not there, so they can fix it and not have to call me for every little thing. If I am not running the board for the show, then its because I have another job else where. Wow, another mouth full, this is certainly turning into a good debate, which is one of the reasons I am here, to here others experiences so I can try new things and learn.
 
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