Last time I told you about our new lighting rig. Today, I thought I would answer the questions I’ve been getting about how we set up our lighting console. I’m going to do this in two parts—first the philosophy of why we set it up the way we did, and the second part on how we did it. It’s important to note that this is not the way to set up your console, or the way to build your cue lists. This is simply how we do it, along with the explanation as to why.
The Hog is Not That Intuitive
Actually, for a new user, no lighting console is all that intuitive. Except perhaps an old conventional console; push faders up, lights go on. But a modern console, be it a Hog, Vista, Grand MA, Avolights, ETC, Martin, whatever, is pretty daunting for a new user, especially one who has never done lighting before. So we need to find ways to make it as accessible as possible.
I worked at Coast Hills for about three and a half years before I really learned how to use the Hog. I’m still no expert, but now that I’ve spent a few hundred hours on it, I know my way around it pretty well. Now that I know it’s language, I can figure out new things fairly easily. But at first, it made no sense to me at all. In fact, I really hated it originally.
It turns out that it’s not all that hard to use, but without some basic instruction on how it works, it really makes no sense. I used the word language before, and that’s really what learning a lighting console is like; learning a new language.
Make it Accessible
Just like all the work I’ve put in to my SD8 audio console baseline, we put a lot of work into our Hog show file (and when I mean we, I really mean my LD, Thomas). I tweak it a little bit here and there, but the vast majority is his work.
We make extensive use of palates, cue lists and directories (color & position). Anything that can be standardized is, and anything that we do every time, we build into a single button as much as possible. Our goal in this is to make it easy to bring a newcomer into use of the console. With very little training, they can begin hitting Go at the right time and start to learn how we design, cue and manage our lighting.
We Do The Heavy Lifting
When a new volunteer starts with us, all they really have to do is hit Go at the right time. We pre-program the cue lists and put them in the right oder. As they start to get comfortable with the system and process, we have them start moving cue lists around. With more time, they are editing these cue lists, and eventually they are building their one cue lists.
It’s a little more work for us up front, and it does take some time during the week. But there are two sets of good results that come from that. First, it helps me stay in touch with our system and what is working and what is not. It also maintains a good level of consistency—even after they start programming, they tend to program more like we do.
Second, it makes it easy for people to get comfortable with the system. It’s not intimidating to come in as a new person, because they only need to know one button. As time goes on, we train them in small chunks which makes it easy for them to retain the process.
Finally, we find people will self-select. Some people will never make good lighting programmers. But that’s OK. They can still come in, line the cue lists up and fire cues at the right time. Those are all critical tasks, and it is easy for most people to do. Others who take to it naturally will be programming in no time.
The Set Up is Key
Next time, we’ll talk about how we set up the console so it’s fairly easy to use, despite the incredible power that lies beneath the hood.