A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO STAGE LIGHTING
to begin automatically without a second command.
A stage manager’s call book will list the called light
cues, but there may be many uncalled follow cues pro-
grammed “in the background” to initiate additional
lighting changes, preset moving light fixtures, activate
special effects, or control other devices. A follow cue
begins the instant that the first memory completes its
fade; the second cue is referred to as an “autofollow.”
Here are other names given to types of light cues:
•Apreset cue often refers to the lighting state
seen on stage prior to the beginning of a show,
or the opening of the main curtain.
•Afronts up cue typically adds only frontlight
to a preset cue. This term is often applied to the
first light cue called after the main curtain has
been removed to begin a performance.
•Afronts out cue typically subtracts only
frontlight from the previous cue. This term
is often applied to the final cue called before
the curtain flies in at the end of an act or a
•Abase cue is the name given to the first cue in
a scene, upon which other less substantial cue
changes within the same scene are made.
• Aneffect cue involves a programmed series
of actions typically involving a collection of
channels, which activate in a sequential pattern.
•Afade to black cue fades all of the lights
completely out, resulting in darkness.
•Ablackout is the same action as a fade to black
cue, but the fade typically happens in a zero
count (a bump).
• Abow cue is the look used during curtain call
when performers take their bows. Though it may
be a copy or modification of a cue seen earlier in
the show, its main intent is to make certain that
the faces of the performers can be seen.
•Abow preset cue is often used when a closed
main curtain prevents the audience from seeing
the performers move to their position onstage
prior to the bows. It’s usually the same as the
bow cue, but without any frontlight. When the
cue is active, no light is seen on the curtain.
•Abow ride cue adds frontlight to the bow
preset cue when the main curtain opens for
bows. It often consists of intensities loaded into
a submaster. Bringing the sub to full adds the
frontlight onto the bow preset cue. The sub’s
intensities can then be removed or added as the
curtain opens or closes. When the bow ride cue
is removed, the bow preset cue remains on stage.
•Arestore cue is a copy of a previously used cue.
One example may be seen during bow sequences
at the end of a show, when the stage quickly
fades to black, followed by the lights fading
back up and restoring to the same previous
•Apostset cue is the lighting state seen by the
audience as they leave the theatre after the bows.
This cue is often used when the main curtain
is not closed and the stage is exposed to the
There is also nomenclature for series of cues that
occur close in time to one another:
house lights fading to 50% (or half) and ends
with the lighting state that establishes the first
“look” in the show.
•Atransition sequence usually begins with the
final cue of the first scene, and ends with the
lighting state that establishes the second scene.
•Afinal sequence often begins with the first cue
changing the last established look in the show,
and ends with the bow preset cue.
•Abow sequence often begins when the curtain
is raised for the bows. This sequence is often a
combination of a fronts up cue and a series of
blackouts and restores.
Computer Lighting Console Syntax
For many computer lighting consoles, spoken words or
phrases are interpreted by a board operator and typed
into a keypad to achieve the desired result. On many
computer lighting consoles, a specific area of the com-
puter monitor, known as the command line, reflects
these programmed keystrokes as numerals or symbols
as they are typed in (or “entered”). The command line
provides a simple visual confirmation that the correct
programming sequence of instructions has been exe-
cuted. Although programming sequences, or command
structures, may vary wildly between lighting console
manufacturers to achieve the same result, many typo-
graphical symbols have been adopted as shorthand
for English words. Many lighting designers write their
notes and corrections using this shorthand, so that the
symbology of the written notes match the command
structure display to confirm accurate programming.
For example, the “>” and “@” characters are
often employed, respectively, to display the selection of
a continuous range of channels and their intensity acti-
vation. If channels 1 through 10 are simultaneously
activated, the command line displays “1 > 10.” If the
same channels are set to a matching intensity of 50%,
pressing the “at” “5” and “0” buttons can result in the
command line displaying “1 > 10 @ 50.” In another
example, the “+” symbol is often used in place of the