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Gosh Darn That Fixture

by Nook Schoenfeld • in
  • Editor's Note
  • May 2018
• Created: May 14, 2018

For as long as I can remember in my design career, I’ve wondered why everyone that manufactures stage lighting fixtures doesn’t correspond with console manufacturers, CAD developers and previz companies to make life easier for me, the LD.

It looks like this long-held dream of mine may be turning into reality…finally. Robe has teamed up with Vectorworks and MA Lighting to come up with a solution to our age-old problem. They have invented the GDTF, which stands for General Device Type Format. The idea being that, on the date on which a new fixture is released, it will come with everything a designer needs to utilize said fixture. This includes a to-scale CAD symbol in 2D and 3D. A CAD symbol that will work with a visualizer such as ESP or MA 3D. And a fixture library for lighting desks that is correct, right off the bat.

‡‡         Good Day Turns Frustrating

These problems are real for many of us. Perhaps the best way to explain how the GDTF can help everyone is through an example of a show I recently programmed. On said tour, I spec’d a relatively new fixture and the trials and tribulations I went through to program a show before I had a rig of said fixtures in front of me was truly a drag.

The first thing I do with a new design is draw the 2D lighting plot with all the fixtures in place. LDs do this so a lighting company can easily figure out the cost of a bid. Last summer, three months after a company had released a strobe/wash blinder, there was no symbol for such a fixture in Vectorworks. I was able to go to the manufacturer’s site and they listed the VW symbol in 2D. I downloaded it and placed it in the drawing. Obviously, the manufacturer does not talk to the CAD company.

The next thing I do is make a 3D drawing of the plot so the techs see what I am really doing, as far as hanging trusses at different heights and placing lights on a 3D set I designed. I had to get all the dimensions of the fixture from the website and build my own to scale. Indeed, I pay the CAD company a yearly subscription to make symbols, but…. they got nothing for me.

Now I need to use this fixture in ESP, a visualizer program I will use for the previz work. I have the previz studio send a request for a new fixture to the same CAD company and wait for a reply. I walk into the studio a week later and the fixture library I have from the ESP folks does not work with the grandMA2 library I got from the MA fixture share program. Now this really sucks, because I am supposed to be programming now, but I have to stop my day to try out different grandMA profiles, none of which work with the fixture in ESP. But which one is wrong? ESP or MA Lighting?

‡‡         Got To Dial Friend

I was lucky enough that I knew my friend Jason Baeri had used such a fixture last week on another tour. I reached out to him and, five minutes later, had the correct working profile. But, of course, the ESP symbol was not working. We immediately reached out to them for an updated symbol.

The previz studio was helpful and obtained an actual fixture so we could program the whole show, imagining what the stage would look like bathed in color while a bright light sat at our feet simulating console commands. Five days later, I was driving home from consecutive long nights of programming when my phone pinged. I had an email from the previz company with the new fixture profile that would work. Five days too late.

The bottom line is that no designer should have to go through what I just did, yet we all do. We shouldn’t have to wait because either a manufacturer, a console library manufacturer or a CAD company, doesn’t have their act together. That’s when we yell, “Gosh Darn That Fixture, where’s my GDTF?”

If all goes well, this problem should be solved soon through the great minds of these three companies. Every reputable company in the business thinks this is a great idea. I spoke with many manufacturers at PL+S and they all back it fully. Everyone wants in. Thank you Robe, MA Lighting and Vectorworks, for taking the initiative to make the world a better place for all of us. I hope you come through.

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