Who Programs the Board?

Footer

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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.

I was talking about music tours, I have worked many a show where the designer is the lighting director, and usually they like to be called lighting director. Once again though, it all depends on the show, on the person, and where they are in the world.
 

icewolf08

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Ok, time for me to jump in. Just got out of the second night of focus for our fist show of the season, and it is kinda nuts, but it always is.

To go back to the original question, who programs a show, I have to say, that in general, on the professional level the designer isn't going to be the person sitting at the console during tech. Community and academic theatre and even summer stock I can see that they may have one person to take care of it all, but in the commercial and regional world you will very rarely find the designer behind the console. You will almost never find the designer behind a console at a union house. I can't speak for the corporate or concert world though, I don't have the experience.

In high school it was normal to find one person designing the show, leading the crew, programming, and pushing the go button, but never did we have that in college. Ever lighting student was taught how to run the console, and almost every one got to program a real show, but the designer always sat at the tech table and there was always someone else to program for them, be it the ME or AME.

You may feel like it is faster now for you to sit at the console and program your own show, but there are a lot of designers out there who never learned the ins and outs of todays high tech consoles and would be lost if they sat down in front of them. As a designer you will pick up speed as you practice telling your op what you need. It lets the designer think about the design, and not worry about the computer. The Designer knows what channels they need and they don't need to worry about how to key that in. If they say channel X at 80 they don't need to worry about weather they are hitting Enter or * or if they have to stand on their head because they are programming a Congo, the board op/progrmmer just get it in.

It just takes practice and getting used to. Speed doesn't come in a day. I had the good fortune to learn a lot of this in school. The higher up on the ladder you get, the less physical work you end up doing, this is true of all industries. The electricians are the ones who run around hanging lights and plugging them in. The ME is supervising and helping out as needed. Som places have a lighting supervisor who usually deals with getting info and paperwork to and from designers as well as handling purchasing and scheduling, and office/desk jobs. And then you have the designer, who is often in a completely different location from the theatre until focus and tech, and probably rarely touches a light or board.

--

Now on to some of the other issues that have come up. Designers do need to know how to work within the limitations of a venue, but by the same token, an ME needs to know how to work a plot into the space. I will use my theatre as an example. At the beginning of the design process I send out an info packet to the designer. It has our entire equipment inventory from instrumentation to templates, accessories to two-fers. It also has a system overview which includes the number of circuits, dimmers, linesets, etc. It is the designer's job to work within the inventory, we try to rent as little as possible, but I dont't tell them they can only have 30 channels on the First Electric because it has 30 circuits. If the designer wanted to hang the entire plot on two linesets, we would find a way to make it work.

Along with this is the fact that (and I believe it was Footer who said this) the designer only cares that if they say channel 41 the right light turns on. They could care less what circuit and dimmer that is, and what it took to get it there.

Now, for the show I am currently working on we have run out of a lot of things, but we can still make it all work. So far we have run out of pig-iron for the fly system (I didn't believe my crew when they told me), twofers, 5' and 10' cable, overhead circuits (raceways and drop boxes over the stage) and fly space. The set pieces barely clear the lights, it is just crazy. I am down to picking multi up from floor pockets to get enough circuits in the air to hang the show. Does the designer care? No. He only cares that by Thursday at 6 PM all the lights have the right color and template, that they are focused, and turn on when he calls the channel. It doesn't matter what me and my crew have to do to make that happen.

Look at the light plots from most professional designers and you will find a note on it that says something to the effect of: "This plot represents the artistic vision of the designer. The designer is in no way qualified to asses the practical and legal implementation of this plot. Etc...." Basically it is a CYA statement that says, "I sit in a design studio all day, you need to hang this in a safe manner that complies with local codes and regulations."

I am sure I missed things, but I thought that was all pretty important.
 

Footer

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Now, for the show I am currently working on we have run out of a lot of things, but we can still make it all work. So far we have run out of pig-iron for the fly system (I didn't believe my crew when they told me),

Done that once, its kinda embarrassing to have to call a local high school to get bricks from them, but then again we let all the kids that helped pull bricks down down come over and tour the space (and they also helped haul the bricks back up to the rail...)
 
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Pie4Weebl

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I tend to disagree with the idea that a designer needs to know little about "the other side" of the design. You need to have an idea of what the space can do. For example if you are using 5 moving lights in a house with an express it is unrealistic to expect the ME to whip up movement chases as quick as you could on a hog. And if you are a designer you should try to be concious of where circuits are, yes sometimes it is worth it to take the extra effort for "that one special" but knowingly putting 40 channels on a pipe with 20 dimmers makes your more of an a-hole than anything else. Every so often you just wanna punch the designer who openly couldn't care less about how difficult it is for the tech to make something happen.

Is it aparent I don't particullary enjoy being the ME for the LD of the show I am currently teching?
 

Grog12

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I tend to disagree with the idea that a designer needs to know little about "the other side" of the design. You need to have an idea of what the space can do. For example if you are using 5 moving lights in a house with an express it is unrealistic to expect the ME to whip up movement chases as quick as you could on a hog. And if you are a designer you should try to be concious of where circuits are, yes sometimes it is worth it to take the extra effort for "that one special" but knowingly putting 40 channels on a pipe with 20 dimmers makes your more of an a-hole than anything else. Every so often you just wanna punch the designer who openly couldn't care less about how difficult it is for the tech to make something happen.
Is it aparent I don't particullary enjoy being the ME for the LD of the show I am currently teching?
The flip side of this coin is sometimes the set is so far downstage that if you don't make the effort you have little to no light/control. The M.E. has to be just as knowing of the other side as the designer does.
 

soundman

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And if you are a designer you should try to be concious of where circuits are, yes sometimes it is worth it to take the extra effort for "that one special" but knowingly putting 40 channels on a pipe with 20 dimmers makes your more of an a-hole than anything else. Every so often you just wanna punch the designer who openly couldn't care less about how difficult it is for the tech to make something happen.

Im on your side on this one and lord knows I havehadto do it but think ofit like a carpernter complaining because the set wasn't stock platforms and had fractions of inches in it instead of nice even numbers. It is something that should be gotten used to early because the chances of it going away are slim. Granted if there is another electric a foot one way or the other and they wont budge on some of the top light then they might jsut be bull headed.
 

Footer

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Im on your side on this one and lord knows I havehadto do it but think ofit like a carpernter complaining because the set wasn't stock platforms and had fractions of inches in it instead of nice even numbers. It is something that should be gotten used to early because the chances of it going away are slim. Granted if there is another electric a foot one way or the other and they wont budge on some of the top light then they might jsut be bull headed.

If the money is there, if they time is there, if the labor is there, you do it. Only if dropping in 20 more circuits to that pipe will cost you money/time/labor that you do not have can you attempt to get it changed.
 

SerraAva

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Its funny to say that designers should never touch consoles because they don't have time to learn the ins and outs of all of them. If I didn't/don't take the time to learn the ins and outs of all these consoles, I wouldn't be designing for some of the companies that I do. One company I work for has a Jands Vista and a Hog PC which they use most of the time. The other company I do a lot of work for likes to use a Hog 1000 or Ma Lite most of the time. When it comes to theatre, its whatever I can get my hands on or they rent. All of those consoles have different ways of doing things. If a designer doesn't realize that, he might be calling out for things that take time to get to, or want something to happen that just can't on that console. Is it just some sort of excuse for designers to get lazy? "Well, there is a bunch of different consoles out now, so I won't learn how they work and their programing schools of thought anymore, let someone else worry about that." Sounds to me like an excuse.

Money and time also aren't the cure all for everything too. Sometimes you are just physically not allowed to do things because the venue won't let you. My old high school, the house lights are never allowed to go bellow 15% because of 3 multi-million dollar lawsuits against the building for people falling down during shows. Don't think that every lighting guy, myself included, complains about this.

Another good example is when I worked on a massive, and I mean massive, Bar Mitzvah last year. Think of it like Super Sweet 16 on MTV, expect WAY bigger (MTV was actually there, letting kids make there own music videos with the kids in it on site). We had to run feeder through ceilings and up and down stair cases all over the building because no generators were allowed. The fact that we had to pull power like this limited use to how much we could tap off the building as well as where and how the runs of feeder were to stay in fire code. No amount of money in the world was going to get us more power, because the building its self wasn't allowed to tap the grid for anymore power. Now if this doesn't effect design, I don't know what does. You have this much power here, here, and here. You can't move the drop points and have to be careful of how all cables are ran from those drop points.

Did we have to money to change it? Yes, just wouldn't let us. Did we have the time? Yes, we knew about the event a couple months out. Certainly had the labor. Don't think we didn't try. Also, one guy programmed and designed that event too. Not enough time to sit down with a few different people and figure things out, especially with many rooms. A lot of the design decisions were left up to me, an electrician, on site. I would call things out like more blue or red in different rooms with LEDs in them and would take care of how things were focused. 48 hours straight on the clock is a real pain, but very good money. :mrgreen:
 

icewolf08

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SerraAva said:
Its funny to say that designers should never touch consoles because they don't have time to learn the ins and outs of all of them. If I didn't/don't take the time to learn the ins and outs of all these consoles, I wouldn't be designing for some of the companies that I do. One company I work for has a Jands Vista and a Hog PC which they use most of the time. The other company I do a lot of work for likes to use a Hog 1000 or Ma Lite most of the time. When it comes to theatre, its whatever I can get my hands on or they rent. All of those consoles have different ways of doing things. If a designer doesn't realize that, he might be calling out for things that take time to get to, or want something to happen that just can't on that console. Is it just some sort of excuse for designers to get lazy? "Well, there is a bunch of different consoles out now, so I won't learn how they work and their programing schools of thought anymore, let someone else worry about that." Sounds to me like an excuse.

The thing is Serra, you are talking about the corporate/event/party world, which operates very different from theatre. Sure, fore someone like you, you need to know how to design and how to program you consoles, but most of the designers that I work with haven't sat down in front of a console probably since they left school. They just don't need to. Sure, I can't run multiple cue stacks on an Expression and I don't have direct access buttons or touch screens on my Strand 500's, but I can turn on any dimmer and move any moving light with any console that outputs DMX. All my designers want to know is if the console is tracking or not, and that the right things turn on at the right time. Sure, it may take me longer to program MLs on an Express, but it can be done. A good programmer will find a way to get what the designer wants into the console.
 

SerraAva

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Thats a good point Ice, a good programmer would be able to do that. But at the same time, what if a designer thought it would take 2 days to program and it took you 4 because you can't do things as fast on your console? Or how about the LD wants 10 things happening at once because on another show he had that and you can't because you have 1 cue list? Your saying the LD needn't worry about it nor the console, can either waste time, cause a show to go over budget very fast, cause a lack of rehearsal time on space, or worse yet cause the demise of the show because your console can't do something the last one could. I think it would be worth it to learn the console a little bit, not saying make it sing and dance, just how cue lists work, how easy it is to work with movers, etc.

Same thing goes with space limits, like Pin4Wheel said, 40 units on a pipe with 20 dimmers, might cost more time and money then the space has/budget will allow for. Now the show is compromised again because you didn't know limits, or thinking its fine because there is 40 units let's say 750w Source Fours, and you think the dimmers are 2.4k and they are only 1k. You can't two-fer them, so they have no choice but to drop 20 more circuits. More cable, time, and money then you thought would be needed. Or worse yet, you thought they had the time and money but something else happened or went wrong, so no more 40 units, only 20 now.
 

Footer

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Thats a good point Ice, a good programmer would be able to do that. But at the same time, what if a designer thought it would take 2 days to program and it took you 4 because you can't do things as fast on your console? Or how about the LD wants 10 things happening at once because on another show he had that and you can't because you have 1 cue list? Your saying the LD needn't worry about it nor the console, can either waste time, cause a show to go over budget very fast, cause a lack of rehearsal time on space, or worse yet cause the demise of the show because your console can't do something the last one could. I think it would be worth it to learn the console a little bit, not saying make it sing and dance, just how cue lists work, how easy it is to work with movers, etc.
Same thing goes with space limits, like Pin4Wheel said, 40 units on a pipe with 20 dimmers, might cost more time and money then the space has/budget will allow for. Now the show is compromised again because you didn't know limits, or thinking its fine because there is 40 units let's say 750w Source Fours, and you think the dimmers are 2.4k and they are only 1k. You can't two-fer them, so they have no choice but to drop 20 more circuits. More cable, time, and money then you thought would be needed. Or worse yet, you thought they had the time and money but something else happened or went wrong, so no more 40 units, only 20 now.

Every show goes through a budgeting process, and if you don't do this your in trouble. When I get a plot in, I take it and start circuiting and all that good stuff, making sure it can happen any way possible (saftely of course). Also, you check power needs, and expendables. If you HAVE to have something changed, its usually discussed way before the first light goes into the air. Usually designer types only real care is how many circuits FOH, how many over stage. Thats it. Thats all they should have to care about. It is very easy in most spaces with galleys to import/export power. If you have drop boxes even better.

Now as far the the programming thing goes... If you are doing a show with a lot of movers, your going to rent a console that can work with those easily, period. First, it is impossible to run more then about 10 movers on any given express, your technology is going to limit you WAY before your programming time will. Time is money, and usually getting better console with save time and therefore much more money then spent on the console will be saved. If you have a design come in that have 50 movers in it and you own an express, budget in the extra few hundred or whatever a week and get the proper console to run that show, as an electrician thats your job. If you are over on dimmers and you have the cash and the power, rent more dimmers. Your job is not to say we can't do this, your job is to say we can do this, but it might cost more. If you want 10 things to happen at once, program it on 10 subs and have the cue stack trigger the subs. There are ways to make things happen. Designers need to know the overall of what a console can do, and as a programmer it is your job to relay that information. However, the designer in no way needs to be able to sit down at your console and start working, thats not their job.

A show could be plotted with fixtures underhung, overhung, sidehung, diagnolhung, and every other which way. Could be overweight, you could have 10 circuits on this electric and need 200. What do you do?. You drop in the power needed, you marry the batten, add a truss if needed, and hang the show.

Do not let yourself be the limiting factor for any designer. You should do everything needed to get that design in the air. Thats your job. Whatever it takes, as long as its safe and does no go over budget and falls within time allowed. If it does not fall within time allowed, you can always hire more bodies. Your job is to get the show up as designed, and you have to think of all ways possible to make that happen.
 
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SerraAva

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Budgets, as I have found out, are very, very funny things. One minute they might be this, the next they are that. The change over time in my experiences, for better or worse. I change orders right up to the week gear comes in.

As far as movers go, I have a lot more friends who owe me favors that own movers then one's that own lighting boards like a Hog 1000 or Congo Jr. You say budget for it. I get a budget of 2 grand, and that Hog 1000 is going to cost me a grand. That doesn't leave a lot for other things, after you take out gel, gobos, extra cable, and two-fers. I might have 600 left over. That isn't a lot of money for extra lights or scrollers, etc. But I have that Express 250 that I know can do it, and its free. So, I don't always get that moving light console, period. I just make it clear as stated that it will take more time to be a better show and will be because instead of spending money to make my life easy, I am spending it for a better show.

I just responded to what Ice said was all. Money was not in the equation, I just said it might be a limiting factor. Ice just said it takes longer, and it can't do as much, but it will still get it done. I agreed and have done it myself before. He also said like so many others, the designer needn't worry as long as it gets done. My question was at what cost? The difference in both cases, one person being the designer and programmer, knowing exactly, no matter what the circumstances my be, what the issues are. The other having the duties split and something getting lost, or changes, or doesn't get translated, or some many other things that can happen. Sometimes money isn't the answer, sometimes it is. Wouldn't it have just been better to do a little more homework and save the money and the aggravation?
 

SerraAva

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PS: Thanks for having a nice lively debait with me here, I am normally stuck with clients who just don't care or actors and directors who don't talk tech. They just look at me like I am nuts. :)
 

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