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Feeding the Machines

  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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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  • 15 Years of Change

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | January 13, 2017

    December 2001 marked the first article I wrote for my “Feeding the Machines” column. As I write this article 15 years later, I am thinking about how much our industry has changed, yet also stayed the same. The most popular console brand back then was different and LEDs were used as indicators, not sources. Many of the programming processes and procedures have not changed, though. I still find myself using much of the same syntax and methodology to create looks as I did long ago. It is amazing to look back and see what has changed and what has remained the same.

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  • The Multi-Facets of Prismatic Programming

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | December 12, 2016

    Automated lighting fixtures are filled with many different effects and mechanical abilities. In addition to gobos, colored glass, shutters and irises, many fixtures provide a prism effect. While similar to a gobo, inserting a prism into the optics of an automated light can have many different results. An automated lighting programmer should understand the reactions and controls when using prisms. Read More...

  • Author Brad Schiller chats with LD Trevor Ahlstrand at LDI. Photo by Debi Moen

    The Most Important Tool

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | November 10, 2016

    Automated lighting consoles are filled with a multitude of exciting and powerful features. They all help programmers to create amazing and complex light shows with relative ease. Some features will be used with every show, while others are rarely used. There is one tool, though, that is essential to the success of nearly every production. I am talking about palettes/presets. This amazing tool really becomes the basis for lighting programming construction and longevity.

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  • How Do You GO?

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | October 15, 2016

    Some people read palms, and others are into studying the structure of feet or bumps on a head to determine personality characteristics about others. I have discovered that lighting board operators each posses a unique style when it comes to pressing the GO button on a desk. The number and placement of fingers, method of pressing and other indicators point to psychological information about the operator. What follows is a guide detailing various methods of pressing the GO button and what they mean about the presser.

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  • Build Your Own Fixture Library

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | September 14, 2016

    Automated lighting consoles are extremely powerful tools with very complex software. No matter how many features a console provides, one of the most essential elements is its fixture library. The library contains unique profile information about fixtures used within our industry. This information becomes the interface between the programmer and the instructions for the light (or other devices). Without proper libraries, most desks will not communicate with fixtures and devices. In some cases, it is important for a programmer to understand the process to create new or modify existing libraries. The method of creating or editing fixture libraries differs greatly between console systems, but all require a basic understanding of how a fixture library functions.

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  • You’ve Been Overridden!

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | August 13, 2016

    Imagine the following scenario: An actor is on stage reciting a monologue. Suddenly, another actor steps in front of the first and begins speaking at a much louder rate, drowning out the first. Because the first actor is no longer contributing to what is happening on stage, he simply vanishes into thin air! This concept might sound crazy, but a similar situation plays out all the time on most automated lighting consoles. Some refer to this behavior as stomping or overriding, and it can be very confusing if not understood by the console programmer or operator. Read More...

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