The Light Plot, Section, and Support Paperwork Packet
of service, or the less troubleshooting time allowed in
the schedule, then the greater the need to acquire as
much contact, assembly, and troubleshooting infor-
mation as possible. Any equipment provided to the
lighting designer that includes the phrase “beta-test”
should set off alarm bells, signaling the amount of
caution with which it should be approached. The
old adage “if you want to be on the cutting edge,
you’d best be prepared to bleed a little” comes to
For these reasons, it’s wise to have manufactur-
ers’ cut sheets and a manual for every device whose
complexity or failure might become a time-consum-
ing problem. Instrument cut sheets were used when
the systems were constructed for the preliminary light
plot, but cut sheets for almost any device in a lighting
package is rarely a bad idea. Usually the sheet consists
of a single page of paper providing basic information
about a piece of equipment. While the page may not
provide complete details about the product, it often
includes contact names and numbers of people who
represent the equipment. While the sheets may not
be able to answer every question, they’re often min-
iature contact sheets, providing the names and num-
bers of people who can.
Sometimes folks go a little overboard with cut
sheets; it’s rare that a cut sheet for a c-clamp is going
to be required. Collecting a manual for any devices
used in the lighting package, on the other hand, is a
very smart idea. While they may never be used as a
reference, having the documents on hand allows new
gear to be more fully understood before high-pres-
sure situations have a chance to develop. With any
luck neither of these documents will be needed, but
they may provide the keys to finding a solution in
urgent moments.
If a manual exists for an unfamiliar electrical
device, many designers and production electricians
agree a copy of that manual should be on site wher-
ever the electrical device is going to be used. When the
console operator isn’t intimately familiar with the con-
sole, for example, a manual should be acquired with
the light board. Discovering that no one knows how
to program the suddenly needed software function at
2 A.M. can be the true test of friendship, since the sit-
uation may ultimately require waking up a colleague
to determine the programming sequence. If the shop
is kind enough to supply a console manual, the doc-
ument is returned as part of the rental. Keeping a
stock of manuals on hand can quickly become an
expensive and time- consuming proposition. When
the console manual doesn’t get returned with the
rental order, it’s becoming common to see its cost
added to the final invoice.
If it’s a new lighting console, gather whatever
preliminary manuals, notes, or information you
can. Ask for phone, text, Skype, email, or any other
contact numbers of anyone representing the new
console, and anyone who will admit to having used
the console. If the production is utilizing a new kind
of atmospheric generator, make sure that copies of
the Material Safety Data Sheet are on hand. They
may be requested at any time by the theatre’s man-
agement, the performer’s representative, or the fire
The case can be made that gathering this infor-
mation is the domain and responsibility of the
production electrician or the house electrician. That’s
all very well and good, but if the production electri-
cian’s time is being consumed getting the light pack-
age out of the rental shop, someone else had best get
the information. The lighting department must be a
team, and if time and personnel are short, the lighting
designer and production electrician need to check to
make sure that someone takes care of these innocent
chores. Otherwise problems can suddenly erupt at the
worst possible times, and if information is not close at
hand, lack of knowledge about the gear can quickly
become a parameter. Blamestorming at 11 P.M. on a
Friday night in front of the newly dead dimmer rack
does no one any good, and the lack of foresight and
documentation may delay, and ultimately jeopardize,
the lighting for the production.
Knowledge is the key that will ultimately allow
the best decisions to be made for the production in
times of human or equipment failure.
Once the light plot, section, and support paperwork
packet is created, attention can turn to the packet of
paperwork that will provide additional information
during the load-in.
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