Last time, we talked about using Directories for quickly selecting fixtures, colors and positions. Today, we’ll wrap this series up with the heart of how we’re programming services now—using Cue Lists to make lighting more like ProPresenter. 

Use Cue Lists

I saved this as a separate issue because it’s completely changed the way we program. Thomas and I were talking about how to make programming easier for new volunteers one day, and he suggested using cue lists to make lighting more like ProPresenter. As you probably know, ProPresenter stores all your songs in a library. Once you build the song once, you simply recall it next time. We thought it might be possible to do the same for lighting. Turns out it works pretty well.

What we’ve done is go through and program our songs, and save them as a cue list. The next time we do that song, we simply re-use that cue list. The process for this is pretty simple. 

Our playback wing has 10 masters on it. That means we can load 10 cue lists at a time and link them together using macros. In this case, we use the Change Master (CM) macro at the end of each cue list to advance to the next one. So on a given weekend, we might have a group of cue lists loaded onto the masters that look like this:

1: Walk In/Walk Out; 2: The Everlasting; 3: This is Amazing Grace; 4: No One Higher; 5: Verbals-Greeting; 6: 10,000 Reasons; 7: Message; 8: Communion. 

It’s pretty rare that we have more than 10 elements in a service, and if we do, there are ways around that. But that’s another post. Setting the service up is pretty easy; we simply clear the masters from last week (though we typically leave 1: Walk In/Walk Out alone), then move the song and other element cue lists over the masters in the order we need them. 

Once the cue lists are in order, we set the Go Scene (GS) macro to the appropriate scene on the first cue of each list, and update the Change Master (CM) macro to go to the next master. It’s just a few keystrokes and clicks to make all that happen, and it’s easy to train volunteers to do it. If needed, we can tweak the cue lists to accommodate slightly different musician positions, or musical arrangements. But most of the work is done.

Important Safety Tips

There are few things to be aware of when using this method of programming. First, you want to be sure each cue list releases when you leave it and go to to the next one. There are two things you have to do for this to happen. First, there is an option in the cue list that must be selected. In the Cue List, click on the “Options” button and in the upcoming window, click the “Reset on Release” check box. That will let the cue list go back to cue 1 after it’s released by the next cue list.  

Second, the first cue of every cue list must set a hard value for every parameter of every channel. If it doesn’t, the desk will continue tracking values from the previous cue list, and that cue list won’t release. Thankfully, this is pretty easy to do. We set up a Group called Song Cue Touch which is every desk channel used. With all fixtures selected, you click on the “Touch” button at the bottom of the screen.  This doesn’t change any values, but loads the current value of every parameter of every fixture into the programmer. Merge that into the first cue and you’re good to go. 

To make this easier (you had to know this was coming…), we built a cue list entitled Song Start. The first—and only—cue of this cue list is all values touched with the lights in the default look. When we start programming a new song, we copy and paste this cue list into a blank slot in the directory and build from there. That way, we know the previous cue list will release.

The Why Behind the Cue

Some might argue that re-using cue lists every time we do the same song is lazy and boring. And maybe it is. But then again, we don’t re-arrange the song every time we do it, and I don’t mix it completely differently, just to “keep it fresh.” It’s also super-easy to update the song as needed to tweak it for a given weekend, and we do that regularly. But doing it this way makes everything go a lot faster and it’s a lot easier for new volunteers. 

As I said at the beginning of this series, this is not prescriptive, but descriptive. It’s what we’re doing, and we do this because it works for us and our style of service. If your style demands fresh and creative looks every time, re-cycling cue lists may not be for you. That’s OK. Our church prefers consistency to out-of-the-box, so that’s what we do.

At the end of the day, once we get a good look and program for a song, it makes sense to keep it that way. When it looks good and isn’t distracting, we’ve done well. And the average person in the pew will never remember the programming for a song we did two hours ago let alone a month ago. 

Read the Manual

I can already hear the keyboards clacking as you’re writing questions about the specifics of how we do this or that. Before you send those e-mails and comments off, do yourself a favor and read the manual. It’s pretty amazing what you can learn when you read the documentation. I’ve taught myself a lot of this by just clicking “Help.” You can probably do 90%+ of this on any modern lighting console by true way. But please, don’t write and ask me how to do this on a Chamsys or Martin or any other console. I have no idea. 

Finally, I have to give props to my LD, Thomas Pendergrass. Most of the ideas contained in this series were either conceived or stolen from someone else by him. I’ve thrown out a few suggestions and tweaked the show file a little bit, but the bulk of the work is his. You should follow him on Twitter, he’s really smart. Now…go light something!

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