You may not be aware that many of the pro LDs have basically taught themselves all of the various consoles they have encountered when touring and doing shows. It’s all too common to find yourself with just one obstacle standing between you and your lighting rig – a lighting controller you have never run.
Many shows don’t have the budget to carry a full stage lighting package. In many cases, the LD will travel with a minimal amount of fixtures, typically with a floor package of lights and maybe a few specialised pieces of gear that are integral to the performance. The rest of the lighting and controller will then either come from a local production company, or the show will make do using what the house has on hand. The LD must then retool their show to fit the equipment received. Of course, a smart LD will do the necessary work in advance, which involves contacting the upcoming venues and the in-house tech to ensure that they are aware of any needs and to discuss any changes or adaptations that might be needed. This is often when they will find out the console that will be used.
This is where our story begins, because now that we know which console we need to learn, we can begin preparing.
Preparation usually includes downloading a software version of this upcoming console. With this installed on your handy dandy mobile computing solution (often known as a laptop), you can begin exploring the items needed for setting the console up to run the event.
If this is an in-house system, you can likely rely on help from the house technician, but always push to be ahead of the curve because show sites are notorious for having schedules that end up being nothing but fantasy. You may arrive onsite to find your tech knee-deep in some type of major issue that could be the death of your event if not resolved. At that point, you are most certainly on your own and it’s crucial that you focus on your tasks and have faith that the issue will be fixed in time for your event.
You can see why preparation is your best defence against the nasty gremlins that love to populate shows and events. Make sure you know how to patch and/or repatch the desk while achieving a comfort level by arranging items accordingly. Having the ability to move cuelists between the various playbacks and pages is huge and a truly important ability, because you will quite possibly start the programming for your event by using much of what is already programmed on the desk. Knowing how to set up the desk so it’s ready for each song or section of your event is vital.
This is a good time to backup your work. Save and safe often. There is nothing worse than when in the heat of battle, perhaps at a venue filled with those aforementioned gremlins, you end up having hours of programming lost because of a crash or similar catastrophe.
Stay ahead of the curve and you will live a much less stressful life. With our console patched and somewhat arranged for our event, we are now ready to program anything that was not found to be useful. With our software on our laptop we can often do much of this work beforehand. I often suggest utilising visualisation software. Examples of this type of software are Wysiwyg, Vision, Capture, Show Designer and Ma3D. This software allows you to view your design in a 3D CAD environment, which we can then access with our console software
This option can be one of your most powerful and useful tools for show preparation. It can be expensive though, and fortunately, over the past few years, console manufacturers have built in their own visualiser solutions. These are often just a 2D representation of your fixtures, but this can still be extremely useful for programming items that we need to be show ready once on site.
Get to know these options and the best way to implement them in your preparation.
Other important tools and options to utilise when preparing for your events are online forums and manufacturer technical support contacts. You will want to know how to access these should you have questions or encounter issues with the new desk. You want to be able to quickly address any unknown or unforeseen problems and road blocks. Don’t hesitate to engage in forums and discuss problems with support techs. You will find almost all are ready and eager to help. You do not need to feel stupid for asking for help. We all do it and the best just don’t hesitate at all. We have better things to do than to sit on site pulling our hair out, trying to find one tiny option in a submenu.
The forums offer a wealth of helpful information and most often, you can just search the forum for your answers. If you don’t find help by searching, then simply submit your question and check back later for the answer. This is a great way to work with small needs and obstacles that aren’t really holding up your progress. If you find yourself dead in the water because of an issue, then now is when you need to engage with technical support. That way you can have your answer in minutes, or at the most perhaps a few hours.
Of course, you will also find the console manuals and tech notes extremely valuable. You may want to have these for the fixture types you have placed in your design and for the ones you may encounter as substitutes for your specified fixtures. These fixtures manuals will provide you access to important items like images of stock gobos as well as parameter arrangements for addressing the fixtures. Having quick access to these manuals can be crucial at times and I suggest having them already downloaded and placed on your laptop or tablet, or even have them on your phone to help you in a pinch.
Finally, you will want to find any and all training videos that are available online. Today, there are numerous support videos made by both the manufacturers and even users who just like to help others.
Many years ago I built what I like to call a YouTube type website specially geared for all those involved in stage lighting. The site is called LightingTrainer.COM and contains thousands of video links, files and other useful items related to the learning of stage lighting.
I have also been providing online webinars on the subject of Learning Lighting Consoles. They have been quite popular and if you want to learn more about what it takes to be able to teach yourself any desk you encounter you are welcome to sign up. We typically announce these from our main Facebook page.
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