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Feeding the Machines

  • Brad Schiller

    Live On Stage: The Real World

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | July 15, 2016

    Visualizers are wonderful tools that can be extremely useful to programmers and productions alike. When a show can be pre-programmed in a virtual world, countless dollars can be saved in labor, venue and equipment rental, and much more. Computer technology has allowed visualizer software applications to become very powerful and very realistic. However, there are always differences between the virtual world in the computer and the real world happening live on stage. A good programmer must understand the potential differences and how to best adapt or correct for them.

  • Brad Schiller

    Spinning in Circles

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | June 10, 2016

    The automated lighting industry has seen a new trend in lighting products over the last few years. We now have many creative LED products that are making use of continuous rotation of pan and tilt. This type of movement opens up some exciting new possibilities and designers are placing the fixtures all over their plots. The technology to endlessly rotate fixtures is not new, and in fact was used quite some time ago with standard discharge fixtures. However, the concept never really took off until it was applied to an LED panel. Now programmers and designers have many different tools that take advantage of continuously rotating pan and tilt.

  • Brad Schiller

    The Art of Negotiation

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | May 15, 2016

    Most automated lighting programmers work as freelancers meaning that they have to not only program shows, but also are responsible for negotiating the terms of their payment and services. Usually this negotiation is done with the production manager, producer, or lighting company. It is very important for lighting programmers to understand basic negotiation skills and to know when to make changes to their standard agreements.

  • “Ballyhoo GO!”

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | April 12, 2016

    According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, “Ballyhoo” is defined as “a noisy attention-getting demonstration or excited commotion.” Every automated lighting programmer has created ballyhoos for a production at some point in his or her career. In the lighting world, ballyhoos were first invented by asking followspot operators to swing the spots around in a figure eight motion on the stage or house curtain. Now, with automated lighting fixtures and consoles, ballyhoos can be as simple as the press of a button or complex programmed sequences. Although a ballyhoo might seem like a simple task, there are many things a programmer should take into consideration. Read More...

  • Getting Focused

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | March 11, 2016

    One of the key jobs of any automated lighting programmer or operator is to create and maintain the position of the moving lights. By utilizing console features such as palettes/presets these pre-stored positions are the basis of every look. Hopefully you know and understand the importance of palettes/presets already and know they should always be used in place of hard values for positions. Actually creating or updating these positions is an essential skill for any console programmer or operator.

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    Tracking 101

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | February 15, 2016

    Automated lighting programmers depend on many longstanding processes and procedures, but one of the most important concepts that must be mastered is called tracking. This concept is essential for programming multi-parameter fixtures and is also very useful for the most basic dimmer or desk channels. Without a good understanding of how tracking works, how it affects playback and how to maximize the usage, a programmer will have a tough time with automated lighting fixtures. I often describe tracking as the most difficult concept to understand, but also the most important to understand. Luckily, with some knowledge and practice, most any programmer can master tracking and make use of its benefits during every programming session.

  • Smoke Signals

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | January 14, 2016

    Typically, an automated lighting programmer is concerned only with programming the lighting elements. However, there are also often circumstances where we are tasked with programming control of various types of smoke effects. From hazers to blasts of fog or CO2, we must use caution when programming atmospheric effects. Depending on the production, there may also be strict guidelines that must be adhered to. As with any fixture on the desk, an automated lighting programmer needs to be informed and prepared to work with atmospheric effects.

  • End of the Rainbow

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | December 12, 2015

    A natural rainbow is a beautiful sight to behold. We have all marveled at the ethereal glow of colors arching across the sky. For as long as man has existed, the rainbow has triggered a sense of awe and inspiration. For centuries, humans tried to recreate the colors of the rainbow through various devices. Today’s modern automated lights and LED based products make recreating rainbow looks as simple as the press of a single button. But this magic comes at a cost. We are slowly losing our creativity and settling for simplicity as we accept rainbow chases into many facets of our lives. I am hereby calling for an end of the rainbow!

  • Avolites new Arena console was featured at LDI 2015

    Fabulous Faders

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | November 16, 2015

    For a very long time, lighting controllers have had faders as a key component of the front panel. This is because faders are a very useful tool to manually adjust the level of something. Automated lighting consoles required additional control-ability than conventional desks, and now there are many different things that your faders can do. From controlling intensity to adjusting rate, and even allowing programming, the faders on the front of your console are extremely powerful. Let’s look at some of the more common uses of faders.

  • An Attitude of Gratitude

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | October 14, 2015

    A career as an automated lighting programmer can be a wonderful, exciting and rewarding choice for many. We are privileged to have a job that pays us to have fun while being creative and technical at the same time. Recently I have spoken with a few people that seem to have forgotten just how wonderful a life we have. Most self-help programs endorse making a daily gratitude list to ensure that you see all the benefits that are a part of your life. Along these lines, I have many reasons to be grateful for my programming career and experiences and have shared some of them below. Read More...

  • A Little Prep Work

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | September 14, 2015

    Automated lighting programmers are responsible for much more than just entering values into a console.  We are usually also called upon to be a part of the creative team working alongside the lighting designer.  We suggest looks, offer advice on what features exist within fixtures and organize the show layout among many other duties.  One of the most important functions of a programmer is to complete the required programming within the allotted time.  Quite often, this requires great forethought and planning to ensure that the time on-site is used most effectively.  By preparing the patch, palettes/presets, cues and more, we can significantly reduce the work required once we enter the venue. Read More...

  • The Perfect Programmer Recipe

    Brad Schiller | Feeding the Machines | August 16, 2015

    Making the perfect programmer requires a host of carefully selected ingredients mixed together. When this recipe is followed, the result is a highly talented and creative individual capable of orchestrating his/her fingers over a lighting console to direct lighting and video elements into a carefully crafted piece of art. A perfect programmer requires much more than just knowledge of console commands, so it is essential to follow this recipe completely. Mixing the elements together to form a programmer necessitates careful selection of the correct quality ingredients. Let’s take a look at what it takes to make a perfect programmer: 

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