That moment. Suddenly you are confronted with your design, live and projected onto real people a few feet away from you. Not the badly rendered computer simulation, nor the messy black box of an empty stage with light thrown at it where all you can see is how well black paint takes light; the actual real thing, fully three dimensional, animated, rendered on flesh and blood, moving before you very eyes. Yes, obviously, that was the plan. But the moment it’s suddenly real can be quite emotional. Reality is brutal – the answer to the hard work is instinctive and delivered in a hearbeat, positive or negative.

It took a while this year. I didn’t get that moment looking over the plot; mostly ok. I didn’t get that moment watching from the control room; mostly insulated from the show you can largely see your reflection¬† in the glass with a strong hint of blue working light, and you’re too focussed on checking everything works. But for three minutes I escaped to the circle and watched it out front. Live. Captivating. Spine-tingling, electric. It looked really pretty. The headache of rehearsal, the faff of programming hundreds of cues, the misery of the effects engine, the madness of making 29 things all look different to each other, the still fresh aches and bruises from the rig and focus, the tiredness… all melted away. No matter how briefly you are in the moment it wipes away the cost of the effort and the hard work. It doesn’t matter that I can’t explain to normal human beings why the quality of light and its evolution over time fascinates me; it’s enough I’ve got my theatre fix. Who knows, I might do this again sometime!

It’s also a privilege to work with some incredibly talented people, each of whom is worrying about whatever gives them their “moment”. I know enough to know that what they perform is way beyond my reach, and that what they do is as alien to my skill set as what I do is to theirs. But together we make a show.

It’s probably bedtime; I’ve discovered the flaw in blogs – there’s no time to actually write them while you’re busy doing what you blog about. But I’m watching the video from tonight’s dress. Tomorrow is back to the mundane – rehearsal notes, tweaking, getting ready. Tomorrow we open the show; tonight I relive the moment.

Obligatory plotting photo

It begins. Main screens left to right are Eos (cue sheet, magic sheet), rehearsal video, audio editor in spectral view. Eos connects to WYSIWYG which renders what it should look like onto the projection screen in the distance. Laptop in the foreground is running Show Cue System (sound files for the show and also timecode into the programming wing). Not shown is the spreadsheet of doom that knows everything. The pile of paper on the right has transitioned from a tidy word doc to one-page-per-piece scribbled-upon-in-rehearsal thing.

Tipping point

Today was the day that the sliding puzzle fixed itself. Hires booked; rig finalised, desk and WYSIWYG patched, some last minute faff about fixture modes, groups plotted, colour palettes sorted, magic sheet created, 29 empty timecode lists attached to 29 empty cue lists.

Yesterday was the first weekend run-through. Sadly almost no costume, so the video’s useful for spacing but not for colour. Going to be an odd week trying to get things plotted on the basis of what I have. But there might actually be time to get the effects right for the flashier bits. Time will tell.

Tomorrow… might actually have to try plotting something…


There isn’t really a word for it. I’m talking about the transition between procrastination (when the show is in the future and life is getting in the way of all those good intentions of starting earlier), and panic (when possibilities are bounded solely by the available time). That time when it’s definitely time to start making the show happen, but that the actual creative part of the process doesn’t quite want to start within your brain. The time to do all the getting started stuff that doesn’t really advance the design but somehow still needs doing. Time to do those things with a sense of urgency so that the thing that really needs doing is all that’s left.

Today was that day. So the show network was booted for the first time since July and Windows Update did its worst to the Eos box and the SCS laptop. Wysiwyg updated to version 40 on the media centre and desktop and the Eos box updated to 2.6.4. The show being a dance show meant the show spreadsheet was fettled; choreographers, titles, music, timecode start, number of performers, length, and rehearsal video links all collated. Music and SCS files sync’d with the sound designer. Plot desk assembled. Revision control applied and synchronised across all machines. Many many e-mails.

There is a reason days like this happen; it’s because the pieces haven’t yet fallen into place. Everything still depends on everything. The rig plan depends on the choreo requests (yet to arrive) but also on what the budget can afford. The generic budget is the remainder after the specials. But how to spend that depends on what the intended lighting plots have in common in order to get good use from it, and that hasn’t clicked into place yet, and also depends on what’s in the rest of the rig. And what to get for the budget depends on second guessing what hire companies will offer for the budget. Where to start.

Somehow though all the displacement activity helps … pieces of the show start to form in the mind… thoughts wrestle other thoughts and contend for budget and lanterns.

The rig is the obvious place to start. One of the advantages of having lit the previous year’s show in the same venue is that the nuts and bolts “just work”; no worrying about every angle of every last fixture just to cover off frontlight, backlight, sidelight, cyc. Instead it’s a case of what worked and what could be improved. A gripe of previous years was having the sidelight overhead (pipe-ends) – this arising because of the Great Hall’s upstage-downstage masking and lack of booms. This was always annoying because the general cover and the sidelight colours end up at nearly the same angle, so it looks less sculptural, and the cover washes out the sidelight. New plan: hanging booms. Low sidelight for strong colours, general cover from pipe-ends as before. Dancer-colision-proof. Looks a whole lot better in Wysiwyg… now to make it happen.

Sidelight is love-hate. Love looking at it, hate rigging it. And so it proves – a bazillion scaffolding bits are now essential to hire, and there’ll be more to do and fewer lights pre-rigged at the get-in. Monumental faff: masking the show, having entrances, hanging booms. Almost “choose any two”. I think I have a cunning plan.

The basics of the rig are in place; the black box can have coloured light from most angles and the odd bit of breakup. It’s a start but it’s not a show. What’s left is a small pile of profiles which provoked some furtling in the gobo collection. And that’s this week’s challenge – to second guess what’s needed for the show, add known specials, subtract anything expensive from the budget, marry up the leftovers with some ideas that are useable in multiple numbers but that might help each of the 29 numbers look different. The big unknown is any gobo purchases; without these there might be enough to get maybe a pair of wobblies – not a lot but would easily pick off all the over-stage soft specials (centre stage clumps etc). Although there are cheaper/smaller things (Spikie, LEDbeam) that could be used to good effect and might fit the budget – there’d need to be more of them though. And no, the budget hasn’t changed since last year.

It’s a start. Standby “CUTAZZ Elevate”….

Here we go again…

It feels like an eternity since I last had a show to think about – Priscilla was back in July and I’ve had an unusually empty diary since then. I’m off to watch the show recording tonight – as usual, dreading what the video recording will have done to the lighting design. But it’ll be nice to see the cast again and catch up with some friends.

But to the future – much like the proverbial No.11 bus, no shows, then three come along at once. All within a week. Two of them are probably firmly in the calendar, and one is very tempting, but who knows whether the rehearsal schedules will allow this. Last time I took on two shows that close together it nearly killed me.

But it’s a dance show that pre-occupies me today. And with it one of the attendant madnesses of lighting design. Budget. I want to work some moving lights into the show; it’s crying out for it and it would really enhance the show but the budget has never allowed it. I’ve poked the company and they’ve quite sensibly asked what I’d like to spend. Realistically they’re not going to add a zero onto last year’s budget but it might just reach the sort of price where I could get four to six movers and really make them earn their money. Some serendipity is required in terms of hire companies, how busy they are and what discounts they might offer. Which is the other madness – that of list price. Nobody pays list price; discounts of 30-60% are achievable. But it makes working out what you might get for your budget near impossible.

I’ve created the Wyg model. Ok, it’s the washes and boring bits from last years show minus all the specials and fun stuff, but that saves time and allows a quick bit of experimentation. So here I am, rushing to look at what movers might make sense, if my guesses about list price, discount and availability are correct, in order to generate a number that aligns with my guess about what the company can budget, in time for a meeting this week, all for a show I’ve yet to see a rehearsal for. This never feels like how shows should start, but shows have to start somewhere. I’ve put the extra days of programming time in my diary to plot with the movers; all I need to do now is convince the company they want to bring costume to rehearsal a week earlier otherwise it’s all for nought. As I said, serendipity required….

Still, I’ve crashed Wyg for the first time on this project, so it’s starting to feel like a show already….