Automated Lighting Demonstration Version 5.2 Design and Paperwork

Creating the Automated Lighting Demonstration

The Automated Lighting Demonstration was created through a structured design process. Although many of the parts of this process overlapped or happened simultaneously, there were seven basic steps.

1) Research of Audio Source Material and the Visualization of Lighting Images

The purpose of the demonstration was two-fold, to explore the relationship of  light to music, and to explore the technical possibilities of our lighting equipment. At the same time, I wished to convey some of the elements of lighting style associated with certain popular musical genres. With these goals in mind, I was looking for audio sources that would allow me to explore the greatest range of visual effects. Usually the music came first but sometimes I found music to support a particular image I had visualized. The basic structure of the show developed as follows:

2) Soundtrack Construction

With the structure in mind, several hundred musical sources were auditioned and notated. From these approximately 50 were selected for the final mix. To create the mix, CD audio tracks were digitally ripped from CD to hard drive and then edited and mixed to a digital four-track stereo master for transfer to CDR. (see Technology for more information).

Audio Edit List Click to view Master Edit List of sound source in pdf format.

 3) System design

The demonstration provides an opportunity to not only drag out all of our lighting effects, but to set up a lighting system more like that of a concert rig than a conventional theatrical design. I worked from sketches to design images of light in fog, incorporated familiar elements such as a strobe and mirror ball, and plotted the position of the automated equipment to maximize its flexibility in creating the images I had imagined. To enable the crew to put the equipment in place for the show a Light Plot and Channel Hookup were created.
Light PlotThe Light Plot is a CAD drawing that indicates the location and electrical connection of the lighting and special effects equipment used in the show. Channel numbers on the Light Plot indicate how intensity will be controlled on the Control Console. (Click Plot to view in pdf format.) HooukpThe Channel Hookup is a spreadsheet that contains information about instrument type, lamp wattage, color, patterns, and lighting accessories in use. The Hookup is arranged in Channel order for easy reference to the Light Plot. (Click Hookup to view in pdf format.)


4) Cue Synopsis and Construction

With the soundtrack and Light Plot in place, the long task of constructing the moment to moment cueing of the lighting began. This process required careful analysis of the soundtrack, time codes, and was aided by two important working documents:
A Cue Synopsis indicates major changes with corresponding music changes. This is a rough working document. (A sample page is provided here in pdf format.) The Cue Synopsis was expanded into a series of nearly 200 Cue Construct Sheets that detail all of the control elements necessary to create each precise change in the lighting. (Original sheets are handwritten on this form, available in pdf format.) 


5) System Setup

Before actual programming could begin, the lighting system had to be installed in the theatre. Equipment was hung and cabled (electrically connected) according to the information provided in the Light Plot and Hookup. Once in place, color and accessories were added and each lighting instrument was precisely focused and adjusted for use in the show. The control system was also put in place and tested.

6) Programming

In performance lighting terminology programming refers to the process by which individual lighting elements are created moment by moment and stored in the computer control system. Although creating light cues and effects requires training in the use of the control system software, it does not require computer programming in the traditional sense. Three important documents aid in the translation of lighting ideas and cue constructs into actual lighting control system information.
Magic SheetThe Magic Sheet for conventional equipment provides a visual key to the lighting images for the demonstration as well as intensity control channel numbers for use in programming. (Click Magic Sheet to view in HTML format.) Trackspot Magic SheetThe Trackspot Magic Sheet conveys corresponding control channel information for the four Trackspot automated fixtures used in the demonstration. (Click to view full size in HTML format.) 
Group/Effect Cheat SheetTo aid in the recall of the many individual sequences and elements used to build the final cue structure of the show an Effect/Group Cheat Sheet was created. It provides a place to record information while programming to quickly recall where various elements of the show are stored. For more information about programming see Technology. (Click Cheat Sheet to view in pdf format.)

Lighting images are created by building simpler elements into more complex elements.


7) Show-Control and Editing

Finally, when basic programming is complete, the Show-Control system is enabled in Record Mode. The demonstration is then played back with cues manually executed at the right places in the music. "Go" presses are recorded into the Show-Control Cue List as they happen, along with the exact Time-Code of the Audio CD. The Show-Controller can then be put into playback mode and the entire show played back exactly as it was recorded. Once the complete structure of the show is in place, many hours are spent manually adjusting times in the Show-Control Cue List, or within the individual Cues and Effects, to achieve a perfect synchronization between light and sound. (For more information about Show-Control see Technology.)

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