Stage Lighting Control

Trends in Busking : The Rise Of Executors

On Stage Lighting looks at the relatively modern phenomenon of Executors in busking stage lighting setups.

Coming up at Learn@OnStageLighting, I have the next group of learners taking part in my Introduction To Busking Stage Lighting online course . As an introduction to the basics of modern busking methods, we start with the use of a combination of ‘busking in the programmer’ via palettes, and using playback stacks for Intensities or FX. These techniques are the foundation of busking modern stage lighting systems and these building blocks can then lead on to the learner developing their own busking strategies. At the moment, there is a marked rise in the use of Executor based busking strategies and I’m going to take a look at some of the reasons why.

Image from Duncan Hull on Flickr

What is an Executor?

An executor is basically a trigger than can be a selection, palette, playback or macro. It’s not a base thing, it’s a layer up from those elements. The advantage of executors can be that they allow the use to create a highly customised and flexible busking interface. The disadvantage is that they often require additional steps to create. The rise of the executor in busking setup popularity is, I suggest, a result of that additional layer of work mattering less as consoles have developed.

The Busking Hierarchy Of Need

If we were to think of busking tools as a Maslow-esque ‘Hierarchy of Need’ then executors are arguably a long way from the base level. My Hierarchy starts with ‘I can busk with this if I have nothing else’ and builds up in terms of effort, time, and availability. The Hierarchy simplified version of pyramid looks something like:

–Fader Playbacks–

This assumes we have some level of lighting control desk and the argument for the Busking Hierarchy Of Need is as follows:
If I had nothing (and no time to program), I would use any preset faders/controls and also busk ‘in the programmer’ by calling up fixtures and adjusting their attributes by hand. (If I only had a two-preset manual desk with faders, this is the base point and pretty much all there is.)

If I had a little time, I would create Groups and Palettes for fixture and attribute selection. Intensities would be handled in the programmer, preset faders or maybe via Intensity palettes.

If I had more time, I would add Playbacks for Intensity and movement, ideally with dynamics (flashes and moves)

If I had a lot of time, I would create Executors and even Macros to create the most flexible and user friendly busking environment possible.

Why are Executor busking setups popular in 2017?

Creating an executor-based busking setup is a pre-production labour of love for many lighting control enthusiasts. It is time consuming to get all your ‘ducks in a row’, sort out icons and create a work-of-art show file ready to take on any busking challenge. The payoff is often a reduction in button presses during the show plus access to more lighting options with that single stab. I believe that there are a number of factors behind the rise of executor-based busking setups today and I don’t just mean the availability of executor-style playbacks.. It comes down to the way that pre-production work now happens and the resulting return on that investment.

Pre-Production Work

The basis of executor setups is pre-production effort. I don’t mean patching the desk and stabbing in a few playbacks just before doors as we would do 15-20 years ago (and still do), I mean the availability of software and tools to enable a lot of higher quality work to go into your show file before you get on site. Not that long ago (if you are as old as me), most prep work on a console involved patching the fixtures and maybe a few palettes IF you had time or access to a desk. If you were really organised, you had a stock of large rig show files built-up over time that would then be deployed and tweaked on the day. With any luck you had a show file that had the correct fixtures patched in, enough of them patched, palette-ised and programmed to cover your rig that day. You built that large rig file on another gig, because that’s the only time you had access to, er, a rig. You could sort out palettes and stuff with a couple of fixtures back in the warehouse, but that would only produced a limited file when it comes to prep.

In 2017, visualisation tools are readily available, along with the console software to use at home. Everyone is creating and refining show files wherever they are, access to a rig or not. This makes the option to do this work within reach of all.

But there is more to it. The ROI on the effort.

20 years ago, if you spent time creating a stock of base show files for a rig that you commonly encountered there was still a limit to how much this work would be repaid. You still had plenty to do on site to make this file useful (not least tape/mark up the desk) and this is without the issues of having a varying size of rig with different fixture types every day. Long story short, there was only so much time available to do show file prep work on most shows. And this work only gave us so much back.

Fast forward to 2017, why are these prep-heavy show files increasingly popular? Why is it more attractive to put all this work in your ‘ultimate’ busking setup?


With the tools now available to apply your existing programming to new fixture types (Morphing) and to expand your programming to new fixtures in the rig (Cloning), console prep work has a much higher ROI than in the past. Along with the capabilities that modern desks have to fit pre-existing FX to groups of fixtures that change in quantity every day, you can create your hand-crafted, time-consuming ideal busking setup laden with executors and that time is not largely lost when the gig is over.

Executors = On Trend.

While the most obvious answer to the rise in popularity of an executor-based busking setup would seem to be simply the availability the function, I submit that it is combination of a wider base of desk owner/operators, access to visualisation and the opportunity to easily re-use that prep work which are the key factors in contemporary stage lighting practice. This is interesting as in terms of the Hierarchy, many of the lower needs are more easily met and so we climb higher up the pyramid. Sharing of ideas online is also leading to a trend in particular busking setup solutions, for example the pretty looking Colour/Fixture Executor grid popularised by the YouTubings of Mr Christian Jackson.

But, there are still plenty of shows where turning up and stabbing a patch in before creating a few playbacks are the order of the day and the skills and knowledge based on the building blocks of busking in the programmer and using playbacks are still key.

Intermediate Busking Course: Coming in 2018

I still have a couple of places left on the successful Introduction To Busking Stage Lighting Course starting again on 17th November 2017. This is last run of this course this year.

In 2018, I will be rolling out a NEW Intermediate level Busking course (really need to think of a snappy name for it). This takes the learner on to the next level of mind-bending techniques for running stage lighting the fun way – live. Perhaps that sounds like something you’d like to be part of? I’ll be releasing more details of the course content over the next few months but there is a reason that I’m mentioning this now…

In order to make the Intermediate course work properly, I need to ensure that we are all on the same page as the course will be a continuation of the Introduction level course. It is difficult running such a course with a wide variety of prior experience, particularly with self-taught learners from all over the world. For this reason, the Intermediate level Busking Stage Lighting course will ONLY be available to those who have completed the Introduction level course. This ensures the best possible learning experience, completion rates and satisfaction for everyone.


You can join the Instant Start Introduction To Busking course by following the instructions at the bottom of the page HERE >>>>

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