The Light Cue Level Setting Session and Technical Rehearsals
another. Typically requires dexterity to “cross-
fade” between two colors in the boomerang
with one hand while following with the other.
escape the body of the followspot (light leaks)
and hit the glass or walls in the spot booth to
position the spot for difficult critical pickups.
Followspots are typically anchored and marks
show where the light leaks must be placed for
the spot to make the pickup.
the change in height; a rapid pan.
Followspots Before the First Technical
Meet with the followspot operators before the first
encounter on headset. One purpose of the meeting is
to allow the lighting designer to explain the numbering
and defaults being used and to identify the main per-
formers who will be picked up and any special pickups.
The meeting’s second purpose is to allow the lighting
designer the opportunity to attach faces to names and
establish a working relationship with the operators. With
larger shows, this meeting may be the opportunity to dis-
tribute the color. The spot operator then has the responsi-
bility to load the color into the boomerang correctly.
When calling followspots on a headset, the first
rule to remember is to be brief. The followspot director
should rehearse the semantics of his or her directions, so
that the largest amount of information can be conveyed
in the fewest possible words. The followspot director
who chatters away incessantly through a performance
may soon discover that he or she is alone on the chan-
nel. The operators have grown tired of the banter and
have taken off their headsets.
Before giving any instructions, confirm that all
operators are on headset and that they can hear the
spot director. Unless time is short, giving instructions
can wait until everyone is on, so that the instructions
only need to be given once. After confirming that all
involved know their individual label, ask for all of
the followspots to turn on, and cast their beams on
a common wall to match the focus and intensity of
the instruments. Make all of the spots the same size,
drop all color and diffusion, and focus all the spots as
best they can for an even field and a sharp beam edge.
Once the spots are focused, note the units that seem
brighter or darker for future work calls. Next, check
the mechanical elements of the instruments, confirm
that the colors are loaded in the correct sequence
(“run through the colors”), check the largest and
smallest iris sizes, and check that the dousers are fully
functional in both directions (faded out, faded up).
If people are on stage, drop one spot pickup a
person, and define any typical iris sizes that will be
used for the production, including full body, body,
waist, or head shot. Physically mark the iris control
position on that spot. Once the instrument has been
marked, have it rejoin the other light pools back up
on the wall, and mirror the iris sizes to the other spots.
That way the rest can mark their irises as well. After
all the instruments have been calibrated, explain the
location of typical entrances or other areas of the
stage where the spots will fade up (commonly known
as “pickup points”) to be used in the show. Typical
pickup points include “in 1” left and right, “in 4” left
and right, down center, and center-center. Providing
the spots with this location information and asking
each to go there also confirms that all of the follow-
spot beams can reach each of the pickup points.
If there are any special sequences, consider
rehearsing those sequences before the rehearsal
begins. Typical sequences may include a slow open-
ing or closing of the iris on a performer (“Tighten to a
head shot in 7 counts” or “Even spots open to a waist
shot in 10 counts”) or changing color in zero counts
(“Odd spots swap color to frame three in a bump”).
Other sequences may involve individual pickups made
in black (“Spot one in a pin spot on the glove down
center in three counts”), or swirling patterns on show
curtains (“Ballyhoo on the show drop”).
When inexperienced spot operators are being
thrown into a tech rehearsal, some designers try to
help by constructing a quick cheat sheet. Figure 13.5
includes a map of the stage from the followspot’s per-
spective on the left-hand side of the page, with labels
indicating “in 1 SR,” “in 2 SL,” and so on. Labels in
between indicate basic nomenclature including “prosce-
nium,” “border,” and “scenic stack.” Next to the stage
diagram is a quick reference quide for the colors and
their relative location in the boomerang, along with a
basic headset list of channels and “who’s who.” Under
that is a diagram showing how to use the basic knobs
to control the beam. Below that is a basic cast list, indi-
cating colors for the leads. Sometimes it pays off to
photocopy portions of the costume sketches to provide
identifying features of performers. At full size the text
of this document is oversized, making it easy to read
from a distance. That way it can be taped on the glass
or the wall of the spot booth as quick, easy- to-glance at
reference. Basically, any notes that might provide guid-
ance should be included on the document, in an effort
to provide clarity, eliminate some of the questions, and
reduce headset chatter.