sample consoles in their offices, which are often avail-
able for preprogramming. Use an off-line editing appli-
cation for the console, if such an application exists.
Manufacturers gladly provide the software required to
perform this function. If the house console is going to
be used, contact the performance facility and request
permission to program the console prior to the load-
in. If a rental console’s unavailable until just prior to
the load-in, arrange to transport the console to your
home, preprogram the console on the kitchen table,
and then transport the console directly to the load-in.
Presuming that none of those options is avail-
able, the lighting console should then be packed to
be one of the first items taken off the truck. The pro-
gramming can then take place while the instruments
are initially being hung. The two activities can occur
simultaneously until the instruments and circuits
need to be patched. If the patching or channels
being checked is extensive, that may conclude the
preprogramming portion of the program. Efforts to
continue preprogramming, while being interrupted
by constant onstage requests, will become frustrating
for the board operator, the lighting designer, and the
electrician checking the instruments.
Attempting to read the information and then key-
punch it into a console without assistance can require
intensive concentration and consume a lot of time. If
possible, an assistant should be assigned to the console
operator. The assistant reads the information out loud,
while the operator physically programs the informa-
tion into the console. Ideally, the assistant is familiar
with the documents. If he or she has never seen them
before being assigned the task, unfamiliarity with the
layout may slow the process.
Typically, a notebook is assembled that contains
current copies of all of the paperwork, a light plot,
and storage devices clearly identified with the name
of the show, the date, the type of lighting console, and
the system size. By labeling the disk in advance, the
lighting designer and the console operator will always
know its contents. Spare disks or storage media are
also included in order to provide the console opera-
tor with some amount of comfort zone. The note-
book should also contain board operator sheets, and
may include a preliminary copy of the cue master.
In most cases the production should not expect the
house to provide the disks or storage media. By pro-
viding the storage media, there will never be an issue
regarding how many copies of show information can
be afforded to the production when the show loads
out. By providing a storage location for the external
show backup media, there’s also less chance that any
disks or flash drives will be left on speakers, under
soft drinks, or underfoot, resulting in the possibility
of lost data.
If there is concern that the number of cues in the
show may be larger than allowed on a single disk
or storage device, the production can be segmented
between acts. When possible, though, it’s advised
to refrain from “splitting” the show between disks.
Although the original infrastructure cues, groups,
subs, and patch information can be duplicated on
each act disk, any updates to the softpatch or infra-
structure information will require careful monitoring
so that the changes will be reflected on each of the act
disks. Productions involving multiple repertory pieces
may not have the luxury of this choice.
Ideally, all of the show information should fit
into the one notebook that will be placed in the board
operator’s care. Not only will this make it simpler
to store for archival purposes, but many light booths
often contain extensive paperwork left over from dif-
ferent productions being presented in the facility. By
providing a single information repository, including
plastic sleeve jackets for the storage media, the possi-
bility of losing paperwork or backups will be reduced.
If there are disks from a previous incarnation of the
show, those disks can be used to initially load infor-
mation into the lighting console, but they should then
be removed from the booth, to prevent accidental
re-recording and loss of archival information.
Although many consoles are now being supplied
with hard drives, it is still prudent to save informa-
tion to a floppy disk or whatever storage medium
is available at the end of the calls. Like all comput-
ers, experience has shown that the possibility of hard
drive failure can occur at any time. It’s often suggested
that each segment of the show information should be
saved to three copies of storage media, floppy disk or
of recording the disks, to avoid loss of data during
technical rehearsals. Often, the magic number of three
means one can be used for off-line editing, leaving the
remaining two as backup for the on-site console.
Set up the System
Presuming that the show is an original production, the
first action that is usually taken is to define the sys-
tem size that will be used for the show. The memory is
flushed of all previous unnecessary information. This
ensures that, during the current production, there
will be no confusion with “left over” information
from prior shows on the console. Then the individ-
ual system settings for the console are reset for the
purposes of this show. The number of channels used
by the show is reset in order to reduce the number
of screens. The number of dimmers is also redefined.
Once that’s done, the system size settings are now
complete. The sequence used to program information

Get A Practical Guide to Stage Lighting, 2nd Edition now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.