A Process for Designing Lighting for the Stage (Part 12): Table-Style Magic Sheets

In and earlier post I mentioned that there are at least two different styles of Magic Sheet and went on to describe one of them.  The Diagrammatic Magic Sheet  is the first style of Magic Sheet that I ever used and is the one that I described earlier.  I have seen this style demonstrated to students by faculty and by mentors many times over the years.  This form of Magic Sheet has the advantage of being quick to generate (especially if drawn by hand on tablet paper).  On the other hand, because of its nature, Diagrammatic Magic Sheets such as the one demonstrated in an earlier blog usually runs to 2 or 3 or more pages.

I explained how to use this type of Magic Sheet as a step in the process of imagining and planning the placement of lighting fixtures (or symbols of fixtures) on the light plot.  However, most Designers use Magic Sheets mostly during cueing sessions and technical rehearsals to quickly look up channels when creating and modifying cues.   Being able to quickly call up the channel number of a lighting fixture from this type of shorthand document saves time and limits lighting-related delays.

I long found the Diagrammatic  Magic Sheet to  be somewhat cumbersome to use in these circumstances precisely because it tends to run to more than one page.  My experience is that I always seem to be flipping from one page to another and back and forth when using this type of magic sheet during cueing and cue adjusting sessions.  Instead, I sought a way to record all of the information on a single page.  One day, while reading an article on some well-known lighting designer (perhaps Jules Fischer) in a trade journal (maybe “Lighting Dimensions”, “Entertainment Design” or “TD&T”) in the late 1980s I saw a diagram that consisted of numbers and abstract symbols in a sort of table that was identified as a Magic Sheet for the production under discussion.  This served as the inspiration for the Table-Style Magic Sheet that I have used ever since and that is illustrated below.

A Table-Style Cheat Sheet for PRIMA DONNA

Notice that the same information that it took 3 letter-sized pages to illustrate in the Diagrammatic Magic Sheet form, only requires a single page.  The lettering on this page is all over 1/8″ tall (somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 point type).  Another benefit of this form is that if the designer takes the initiative to determine how the screen of the light board will display,  The  table (and therefore the channel assignments) can be laid out in the same pattern as the light board display.  In this case, the display screen would be 20 channels wide.  In order for this to work out, the designer needs to consider the light board screen layout very early in the design process.  Regardless of the nicities of screen layout, I think that it is clear that using this Table-Style Magic Sheet may serve to streamline the cueing and cue-editing process.

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

SJM

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