In the second of our experiments in search of the Essential Busk Page, On Stage Lighting sets a new set of restrictions that give us a chance to explore further techniques used in busking concert lighting systems using pro level consoles.
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Palettes Only Busk Setup
- Open/Strobe OFF/Prism OFF
- Strobe ON
- Beam Splitter Gobo
- Gobo 2, or a Tight Iris Down.
- Prism Rotate Slow
- Prism Rotate Medium
- Up and Out
- Down and Out
If you joined me for the last experiment, you’ll remember that we were restricted to 10 fader playbacks only. The write-up goes into more detail about the outcome, but the starting point included a series of rules that excluded the use of Palettes for busking. In the real world, palettes became and continue to be, a popular method for firing attributes such as Colour, Beam and Position and building up a ‘look’ on stage. Concert Lighting Programming in 20 Minutes covered the practice of quickly building a few Intensity playbacks and getting together a series of palettes, all to be used together in creating a light show live on stage.
Because palettes are used in lighting programming to make certain attributes active in the ‘programmer’ of a lighting desk, this method of busking is often referred to as ‘busking in the programmer’. The method is different to the use of playbacks as the programmer just contains information which is then overwritten or cleared as part of the show – the purpose of the programmer for building cues is largely ignored and instead the ‘bucket’ of data is just used to hold temporary colours, beam looks etc. Firing attributes live using palettes works well for colour, beam and position and, in modern consoles, FX such as shutter chases and movement. This method works less well for intensity, although it’s not impossible.
For this experiment, I’m using the same Robe Demo Show available in the Demos folder in MagicQ PC. This show is a small rig with a couple of moving fixture types, generic PAR channels and an LED array upstage for playback of media and FX. It has a visualiser file already setup and is fairly typical rig for a small festival. If you are playing along with another desk, the setup is 4 Spots, 4 Washes, 4 Colours of PARs and a pixel-mapped LED array.
Palettes Only Busk Setup: The Rules
Why set any rules? Not being able to a lot of stuff is hopefully going to lead to more critical thought about the requirements of the rig for a flexible but usable palette busk page.
Our rules for the Essential Palettes Only Busk Page are:
- NO PLAYBACKS!!
- 6 Groups
- 6 palettes on Colour page.
- 6 palettes on Beam page.
- 6 palettes on Position page
- 6 palettes on FX page.
- The attribute mask may be altered to put non-native data into a palette (but avoiding complexity)
- No executors.
- Master and Flash/Sub Master are available, along with Crossfade fader.
- Keylight for the band and haze is assumed as a given and not included in the experiment.
- Operator must have proper control over the look on stage. No ‘insta-disco’ techniques where the whole look or show is ‘randomly’ generated. However, layered combinations and happy accidents are allowed.
- Further rules that are not yet considered can be added if they arise during the process.
The purpose of the restrictions is to focus on lighting a show using a fairly simple but flexible palette-based busk system and in the process to consider the methods involved and potential for real-world applications.
In the Playbacks Only experiment it was noted that when creating playbacks in practice, it is best practice to base a lot of the playback data on palettes. This is still the case but we won’t get too bogged down in nested palettes. Now we will be working with palettes right in our line of sight, it should be acknowledged that the restrictions of 6 palettes per window are to be available for playback – in reality, other palettes will usually exist already. We’ll just have 6 per attribute page available for running the show.
During the Playbacks Only experiment, the issues with cue stacking for busking becomes apparent. With potential for a large number of cues per stack, you still only have ten playbacks, meaning that access to something buried in a twenty cue stack is not intuitive or immediate. With stack busking, limiting the number of cues per stack helps with this and so, in reality, you have limited access to a limited number of things. The higher your cue count, the less immediate or intuitive getting to any of those things becomes.
With palettes, we benefit from ‘first level access’ to a lot more stuff for the outset. Each palette has a ‘button’ on screen and they are all laid out, all the time, ready for instant interaction along with our playbacks. Busking with palettes as attribute setting buttons allows for a more flat structure than with playbacks.
The idea of not using any fader playbacks would seem a bit like choosing to drive a car having removed the front wheels. Fader playbacks are a core function of a lighting desk, however in the spirit of experimentation we are going to try to work around the lack of playbacks yet keep the busk file simple and usable. The No Playbacks rule is going to throw up a few problems, particularly when it comes to controlling HTP intensities and maintaining a grip on the stage look.
The Robe Demo Show has generic PARs doing colour washes, kit with only HTP Intensity as a single attribute. One idea for dealing with these PARs in order to get them to take part in the ‘palette’ system which would move some of their control off playbacks and onto the palettes. The overall principle is to hack a group of PARs into an LTP fixture, with each PAR colour becoming an attribute. This would then mean that the ‘fixtures’ could be selected and colour palettes applied to it. Doing this would restrict the capability of two-colour PAR washes and actually take up a lot of time fiddling around with DMXs addresses and fixture profiles. The idea is too complex so I’m not going to take it further. However, there may be a simpler way to command PAR colours via palettes which we’ll look at next time.
We could also create complexity by piling up different attributes on a single palettes button with the hope that we’d remember to select particular bits of that palettes to playback, not all of it. I don’t want to have to think about this during a show, it can lead to mistakes. We’ll create palettes that can generally be applied to a whole groups of fixtures with no regard to having to ‘mask’ (or leave out) things recorded into the palette. This means that, for example, a Position palette that doubles up as a gobo selector is probably to be avoided.
We are going to have to put palettes for different fixture types into one slot, for example a Spot Gobo and a Wash Beam attribute. As the Spot and Wash don’t do the same thing, we’ll start to run into palette naming problems which might by confusing during the show. Especially as any Beam palette could potentially have a slightly different purpose for each fixture type: Spot, Wash, Media, LED, PARs. The solution is probably going to be to reduce scope to keep naming and playback of the palettes manageable.
Positions will need to be whole looks of all fixture types rather than a series of building blocks that need specific selections to build a final stage picture. We are busking this show, no one has time for that level of messing about just to get stuff in the right place.
Busking in the Programmer
There are a few ways to playback a show file that relies on the use of palettes to produce the looks on stage ‘live’. One of the basic workflows is to select a group of fixates and apply a palette to them, either while ‘in view’ of the audience or with the group’s Intensity master playback faded down. The second method allows a number of palettes to be applied before revealing the final output by fading the fixtures back in.
When applying a single palette such as a colour or position with the fixtures already lit, it is common practice to bring the palette in over a specific fade time so that the change of colour or position doesn’t crash into place in a snap. This works well for fading attributes but isn’t always ideal for gobo wheels, fixed colour wheels or any DMX channel (s) that bumps through a series of unwanted things before it gets to the final destination. The technique for applying a palette over time is similar on many pro lighting desks and in the case of the MagicQ you just select the Group or fixtures, hit a number of seconds on the keypad and then press the palette. The new palette look then comes in over that number of seconds, in the case of a position it takes that time to arrive at the new position. You can also do some cool stuff like setting a wait/delay that spreads out along a set of fixtures. Doing this makes them all move or whatever in turn, resulting in an orderly wave into place.
The downside of this method for changing the look on stage is that unless you are cunning with delay times and selections, the simplest version of this only changes one palette at a go. In reality, there are plenty of times during a show when you don’t mind this, maybe a big colour change and nothing else until a later position or the adding of an effect.
Limitations of No Playbacks while Programmer Busking
If you want to apply a whole lot of palette-based changes, similar to an entire look or cue, then a common method is to use the BLIND key. BLIND on a lighting desk makes changes to fixtures without showing them on stage to the audience and this function was originally designed to allow for updating future cues without it causing havoc with what the audience sees. When in BLIND mode, anything ‘in the programmer’, including palettes, aren’t shown on stage at that moment. When exiting BLIND mode, any contents of the programmer such a palettes we’ve applied, are revealed. In the playback method that reveals a whole new look based on palettes in the programmer, the look is built in BLIND mode and then revealed over time – this causes all the changes and timings to start to happen at once.
Busking a show with palettes usually uses both single palette changes and multiple reveals using BLIND and CLEAR, which involves CLEARing the programmer over a specified fade time. The results of this depend on desk settings and also any particular playbacks that are running ‘under’ the programmer – as a rule, the programmer has the highest priority of playback. Our problem is that with no playbacks or executors running, we risk having nothing to CLEAR to or having anything happening with we BLIND the programmer output. This is a real pain for smooth running and is likely result in a step-by-step style of show rather than large changes, simply because we are not really able to flip-flop between programmer and playback. There is no safety net and in this case the BLIND and CLEAR buttons become two more ways to accidentally hit DBO. If you accidentally hit CLEAR, UNDO will restore the programmer contents with a snap.
On the MagicQ, it is possible to set up the Sub/Playback Master to be a Programmer Master for intensity. This would be even more useful if we had the option of also using playbacks but, assuming that our key light and haze were also under desk control, we can still avoid the Grand Master and leave the haze running while fading the rig out. We also have the option of running Intensity from the Presets rather than the Programmer.
In the next update, we’ll look at the allocation of Groups and palettes on the Colour, Beam and Position page. We’ll also make a start thinking about the application of FX palettes.
Final Update and Conclusion
In the final update of this Playbacks Only exploration, we think through the pros and cons of what we have so far. We also look at how the playbacks might be set up and the potential effectiveness of our Playback Only busk page.
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