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Feeding the Machines

Fifteen Resolution Suggestions for 2018

Brad Schiller • Current Issue Feeding the MachinesJanuary 2018 • January 11, 2018
Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping…into the future, and another New Year is upon us. (And yes, that song was from more than 40 years ago.) The beginning of the year is often a time of reflection and resolutions. While many will try to save more money, lose more weight and finish goals, there are many other things that we each can aim to improve upon in 2018. In no particular order, I present the following automated lighting programmer New Years resolutions. Read More...
Paging All Playbacks

Paging All Playbacks

Brad Schiller • Articles Feeding the MachinesDecember 2017 • December 14, 2017

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.


The Other Left

Brad Schiller • Feeding the MachinesNovember 2017 • November 9, 2017

Automated lighting programmers have many great tools at their disposal that aid in the programming of shows and the creation of cues. Some are more important than others, but all have their place. Taking the time to adjust parameters so that they work as expected is an essential secret of programmers. While the console’s fixture library should take care of most of these settings, they often fail or are not specific for your needs. Programmers should take the time to ensure that parameters (particularly pan/tilt) are behaving in the best method possible for each specific show.

A Programmer's Guide to Sushi

A Programmer’s Guide to Sushi

Brad Schiller • Feeding the MachinesOctober 2017 • October 12, 2017

Irasshaimase! Over the years, I have noticed that a majority of the automated lighting programmers I know also enjoy eating sushi. There are, of course, some exceptions, but I feel pretty confident in saying that most do. It actually makes sense if you think about it; there are many similarities between the raw fish cuisine and the craft of programming automated lighting. The skill of the chef, the varieties of available options, the creativity and more all align between the two very different topics. Since I personally love sushi and programming, I feel it is time to really compare the two.

Grand Master Fader

The Grandest Of Them All

Brad Schiller • Feeding the MachinesSeptember 2017 • September 9, 2017

Magic fader on the desk, who is the grandest of them all?

The absolute worst moment for anyone at a lighting console is when you have been stumped as to why your fixtures have no output, only to discover that the Grand Master is down. If this has not yet happened to you, then be on the lookout because it does happen at least once to everyone. Read More...

It's not always easy to take a 'bio break.' Photo of Hot 97 Summer Jam courtesy Stageline.

The Unmentionables

Brad Schiller • Feeding the MachinesAugust 2017 • August 11, 2017

The set of skills one must master to work as an automated lighting programmer range from lighting knowledge to console syntax to organization, and much more. Most people are aware of the common abilities that a programmer must become proficient with in order to provide a great programming experience.

Sample magic sheet

It’s Simply Data Entry

Brad Schiller • Feeding the Machines • July 7, 2017

Automated lighting programmers must be very skilled at programming for various types of productions and designers. In most cases, there is a great collaborative working relationship that allows the programmer to share in the creative vision along with the LD. However, there are some shows and LDs that require the programmer to simply enter data into the desk without regard to the end result on stage. In many cases this will occur in theatrical environments, but it could also occur as part of a programming session with any production. It is very important for programmers to be ready to switch to a working format that is purely data entry.

An exponential increase in granular control

Bits and Bobs: 8-Bit vs. 16-Bit DMX Control

Brad Schiller • Feeding the Machines • June 7, 2017

Automated lighting consoles are built around a basic infrastructure dependent on the DMX protocol (or map) of a fixture or device. Understanding how DMX values control specific parameters of a fixture is essential for any automated lighting programmer. However, modern consoles utilize complex pre-built libraries or profiles that alleviate the programmer from having to understand DMX functionality. One of the core concepts that should be understood is the difference between 8-bit and 16-bit DMX control.


Paying to Play

Brad Schiller • Feeding the Machines • May 12, 2017

A new trend has emerged in the concert touring world where opening acts are paying a main act to get on the bill and play at a concert. Gone are the days of a management team making deals to get a band as an opening act; now it is simply who has the cash to play.


Patching Prestidigitation

Brad Schiller • Feeding the Machines • April 13, 2017

Anyone who wants to learn about automated lighting programming must study and master one very important task: Patching. Without this ability, the data within the desk will not be able to communicate properly with the connected fixtures and other devices. Patching requires an understanding of a console’s specific methodologies, DMX fundamentals and intimate details of the lighting rig layout. No matter the show or the console, a programmer must properly patch the system to actually control lighting units.


The Hippie Hippie Shakes

Brad Schiller • Feeding the Machines • March 9, 2017

Automated lighting programmers have a multitude of functions available to them to modify lighting looks. From gobos to color, to movements, the options are nearly limitless. One of the underused concepts is shaking of various elements. This can add drama, frenetic energy, or even psychedelic displacement to an already existing lighting look or effect. There are several different types of shakes that programmers can encounter, and each provides a unique effect. Some are built into the fixtures while others must be created from the console. It is important for automated lighting programmers to understand the abilities and shake things up a bit when appropriate. Read More...

A Perfect View

Brad Schiller • Feeding the Machines • February 8, 2017

Back in 1990, I was working for a theatre complex that opened a brand new multi-million dollar venue with two state-of-the-art theatres. Each theatre was designed with a booth that included large windows and built-in desks for the consoles. We were all shocked to find that the nice, new tech booths did not allow a good view of either stage. It seemed that the architects did not understand the diagonal view that was required. We ended up building a raised floor into each booth so that our viewing angle of the stage was correct. Since that time, I have programmed and operated lighting consoles in a variety of locations with various types of views. It is very important when setting up your front of house location that you consider your view of the stage.


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