The Load-In and Focus Packet
most “typical” audience view. From that location,
almost all directorial and design choices are made.
During the cue level setting sessions and the techni-
cal rehearsals, the tech table is usually considered the
domain of anyone who has a seat there. Usually that
includes the lighting designer, the stage manager, the
director, and other members of the production staff.
In thrust or arena theatres, it’s not uncommon for the
production table to be moved to different locations
during the tech period, allowing the design elements
of the show to be created and viewed from several
visual perspectives.
For the lighting designer, the production table
often becomes his or her office from the beginning
of the cue level setting session through the end of the
final rehearsal. Trying to simultaneously see the stage,
the monitors, and the paperwork while communicat-
ing on headset during rehearsals often means that the
lighting designer is essentially “tied” to the produc-
tion table. If the stage manager and light board opera-
tor aren’t present at the production table throughout
the entire rehearsal process, the most essential item
that must be present at the table is a headset. If
followspots are involved, that need is even greater.
Being able to communicate to the correct personnel,
while not having to listen to other departments, is one
reason to construct a headset layout diagram. Headset
systems are often equipped with more than one chan-
nel or line of communication. The headset layout dia-
gram attempts to provide the sound department with
the lighting designers desires and his or her preferences
as to who should be on which channel. Typically, the
lighting designer needs to communicate with the stage
manager (to listen and discuss cue placement and tim-
ings), the board operator (to make cue adjustments),
and any assistants (giving direction and listening for
information). The followspots are often assigned to a
different channel when they’re coordinated either by an
assistant or a stage manager. When the number of head-
set channels is limited, everyone usually works together
and shares a channel. But if there are at least two chan-
nels, electrics is often assigned to one of them. Why?
In most situations, other departments dont want to
listen to the numerous instructions made by the light-
ing designer to the console operator on headset. At the
same time, in the midst of a complex tech rehearsal, the
lighting designer doesn’t want to hear about anything
other than lighting over headset.
Figure 8.2 shows the preliminary headset and cue
light layout diagram for Hokey, assigned to a much more
comfortable 4-channel system. This non-scaled ground-
plan sketch details the location and channel assignments
for the different headset positions, along with the cue
light locations. Its laid out much like the light plot with
the production table in the house at the bottom of the
document, and the stage locations are at the top of the
page. Channel A is usually designated as the general
communication stage managers channel; other channels
are usually assigned by the general amount of predicted
chatter. In this layout, electrics is assigned to channel B,
the followspots are assigned to channel C, and sound is
assigned to channel D. In more complex productions,
carpentry, automation, projection, and any number of
other departments may need their own exclusive chan-
nel. If there’s a shortage, multiple departments may have
to share a channel, or walkie-talkies may be included as
well. This diagram also shows the cue light locations,
providing the production electrician with a general idea
about the circuitry that will be required for that system.
It is often heard that there’s no reason to program
anything into the light board until the focus is com-
plete. That statement may very well be accurate if the
light board in question is a manual light board. If the
light board for the show is a computer lighting con-
sole, however, prefocus programming can make the
console a much more efficient timesaving tool.
Every computer lighting console has memory com-
ponents, including the memories that are used to play
back light cues. A system that assigns memory block
partitions for specific tasks can be mapped out using a
disk master chart. Many current lighting consoles use
alphanumeric keyboards to label memories, but if the
keyboards are absent or broken, the memory’s num-
ber may be the only means of providing identifica-
tion. Cue information and identification systems can
be used to identify memory chunks and entire disks
filled with cues. Infrastructure cues are memories pro-
grammed to do much more than just play back cues
for a show. Programming memories onto physical and
electronic handles makes them simpler and faster to
use. Programming submasters on a lighting console
gives the operator physical handles to grasp, while
groups give the operator and the lighting designer a
more diverse selection of “electronic handles.”
The nature and design of today’s computer light-
ing consoles allow them to be much more than just
“channel activators.” Prior thought about the light
board contents can help expedite the entire techni-
cal process by speeding the load-in, facilitating the
focus, expediting cue construction, and rapidly per-
forming preshow checks. Pre-programming can also
provide an additional element of safety. In order to
take advantage and provide all of these features,
however, the lighting designer must first understand
how computer light board memory works.

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