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Paging All Playbacks

by Brad Schiller • in Articles Feeding the MachinesDecember 2017 • Created: December 14, 2017
Paging All Playbacks

Automated lighting consoles have many great programming and playback features that provide many useful functions. One of the more clever functions has to do with expanding playback capabilities. Instead of being limited by the number of physical buttons and faders on a console, most make use of pages (or banks) to increase the playbacks immensely. The page functionality can be used for much more, such as organizing songs or scenes, adjusting playback styles, expanding capabilities and more. It is important for lighting programmers to understand the paging functionality of their console.

‡‡         Turn the Page

First, it is essential to define the basic functionality of pages on a lighting console. If your console has ten faders, then you might think you only have ten playbacks. It is true that you only have ten physical faders, but with each change of a page, you get a blank slate that can have all new playback abilities. Basically, a page is a set of playback devices (cuelists, stacks, sequences, faders) that are tied to the physical faders and buttons of the desk. Each and every page loads its own unique set of definitions for the playbacks.

Think of it as looking at the keys on a piano. Imagine you could only see ten keys at a time. As you slide along viewing only ten, each of these ten keys will have their own unique sound. Anytime you jump back to the first ten, you will get the same sounds as the first time you were there. It is the exact same regarding playback assignments and pages.

‡‡         Page per Song

The most common use of pages is with concert type events. Typically, a page will be used for each song. This allows for custom playbacks (cuelists, flash keys, faders, etc.) to be assigned specifically for each song. Plus, you can label the page with the song name, making it easy to select when the band is about to play the song. Once selected, all your specific playbacks will be at your fingertips ready to play.

So the first song may have a strobing look on fader #1, while the second song has a ballyhoo on fader #1. Using the pages feature allows unique playbacks to be available without having to fill up all the physical buttons for an entire show. The same concept can be used not only with songs, but also with scenes in a theatrical piece, or shots in a film, etc.

Most consoles allow you to re-arrange the order of the pages (they are typically stored in a directory or pool). This way you can put them in the same order as the show’s set-list before the show starts. Now, at the end of each song, you can simply hit “next page,” and the playbacks will change accordingly. Alternately, you can also just directly select pages from the touch screen, or with command line syntax. In addition, some programmers use macros to change, re-arrange pages, or even automate the changing of pages at the end of a song’s main cuelist.

‡‡         Watch your Behavior

Be careful when changing pages, as you need to know and understand the behavior of your console and its current settings. Different consoles perform in different manners, but most have similar options regarding what happens when you change a page. Some consoles will automatically release (or off) all active playbacks when you change to another page. This is very handy as it ensures that nothing from the previous song is still playing when you get to the new song. It would be terrible to go from a fast strobing song to a pretty ballad and still have your lights strobing.

Other consoles will leave everything playing as you change pages. This can be handy if you are busking, or simply using the pages to expand your playback surface virtually (remember the piano example). This means that if you turn on the sidelight cue on page #4 and then change to page #5, it will remain on. That is okay if that is what you wanted, but not so great if you thought it would turn off.

The default behavior of page changes is different on different brand consoles, but luckily they all have options that allow you to change the behavior to the style that you like. When setting up your show file, be sure to set the page change options to the style that best suits your show.

‡‡         Lock It Down

Often, you might want the same function on a fader or button throughout your entire show, regardless of what page you are on. For instance, the hazer cue, house lights or even that fun strobe cue are all key playbacks that you might want in the same place on every page. You could simply assign this same cuelist/sequence to each and every page, but most consoles provide a better method. You should be able to lock a playback definition so that it appears in the same spot on every page.

Some consoles provide this functionality via a template page. In this case, anything assigned on the template page will automatically appear on any other page (as long as there is not something stored in that location on that page). Think of this as a page that sits on the bottom of a stack. Then you stack the new page on top and if nothing is assigned in a particular playback, then the information from the template page (bottom of the stack) will be available.

Other consoles provide similar functionality by allowing you to lock a playback so that it appears on all pages. In either case, again you need to understand what will happen with template or locked playbacks when a page is changed. Typically they will remain active, as they are not considered affected by the page change.

‡‡         Changing Purpose with Pages

Another use of pages is to actually change the purpose of the playbacks on the page to change the console functionality. For example, one page might allow access to all the house light controls, while another is for the automated lighting playbacks and a third is for media server playback. Pages are a great tool to organize your show for different operators or styles of operation. Quite often, you can also assign a macro to trigger as a page is changed so that anything is possible with a page change. Imagine that as you change to a specific page all the screens and views change to match the new playback availability. Furthermore, a start-up macro can be used to force the console to a specific page when a show file is loaded. This ensures that the production always starts from the same point in the show file.

‡‡         The End of the Page

This article has reached the end of this page and now, it is time for you to change to the next page. Before you go, remember to read your console’s user manual or help file to ensure you fully understand all the defaults and options available concerning pages. Many consoles provide unique page abilities, and you might just learn something new that could be useful to your next show. Pages are a great tool for organizing your playbacks, customizing a console and more. Make sure you get the most out of your paging abilities.

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