A Process for Designing Lighting for the Stage (Part 11): More on Schedules

Last time we looked at the first page of the Instrument Schedule.  We noticed that it organized all of the available important data about each fixture in the light plot by Position and by Instrument Number.

SAMPLE: first page of Prima Donna Instrument Schedule

This paperwork would be very useful to an Electrician trying to trouble-shoot the light plot.  Imagine that the designer notices that the seventh light from SR on the first beam position is not coming on.  The Electrician can then be directed to instrument number 31 on the First Beam (remember that the instruments are traditionally numbered from Stage Left).  There she will see from the Instrument Schedule that the Fixture should be a S4 14 degree fixture circuited to circuit/dimmer 33, controlled by channel   6, gelled with  362 and serving as a Stage Right Cool Fill and focussed into area F.

Another schedule that the Lighting Designer needs to be able to prepare is the Circuit/Dimmer Schedule.

SAMPLE: first page of Prima Donna Circuit/Dimmer Schedule

Notice that the Circuit/Dimmer Schedule is a reordering of the same information found in the Instrument Schedule.  In this case the information is put in order of Circuit/Dimmer assignment.    If you scan down the list to Circuit and Dimmer 33, you see all of the same information for that S4 14 degree fixture #31 on the First Beam position, controlled by Channel 6 and serving as the Stage Right Cool Fill for area F.  This ordering of the information might be useful to the electrician in troubleshooting problems from the direction of the dimmer or circuit. For example, perhaps circuit 33 or dimmer 33 fails for some reason.  Scanning down the list, we can easily determine that circuit 36 and 37 are not in use and could be used to connect instrument 31 instead.

A third formatting of the same information is the Channel Schedule.

SAMPLE: first page of Prima Donna Channel Schedule

This schedule organizes the same information by channel number.  Notice that the row of information for channel 6 (in the left column) once again references all of the same information on Instrument 31 on the 1st Beam position, connected to circuit and dimmer 33, and serving as Stage Right Cool Fill for area F.  Notice that this ordering of the information will be useful when patching channels to dimmers on the light board and when calling up lights by channel number.  Notice also that if the Lighting Designer has taken earlier advice and made channel assignments in a logical manner, consecutive blocks of channel numbers will serve the same function on adjacent areas of the stage (and that within each block of channels, a numerical commonality will connect each axis of lighting to each area of the stage).

Creating this paperwork was once a manual task done with pen (or pencil) and paper.  With the advent of computers, spreadsheet programs such as Excel can be used.  Even more conveniently,  CAD program such as Nemetschek’s VectorWorks Spotlight, can create these schedules from the information that the designer enters on the digital light plot.  However, many designers (myself included) are unhappy with the formatting options and presentation of the paperwork that Spotlight provides.  Furthermore, near the beginning of the digital age, a software product by John McKernon known as Lightwright became the industry standard.  Since Mr McKernon has continued to update Lightwright so that it can pull information from CAD files (and push information edited in it back to the CAD software), it continues to be the industry standard for lighting paperwork.  Available directly from  John McKernon Software   it is a very specialized program, and not a cheap one,  but  is so very much industry standard that any Lighting Designer contemplating working in the profession will need to consider when (not if) to begin using it.

With that said, the examples above are not directly generated by Spotlight or Lightwright.  Instead, the Lighting Designer copied data from the Spotlight-generated lighting worksheet and pasted it into an Excel worksheet and manipulated it for better readability and functionality.

That’s enough for now! Have fun!  Be safe!



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