Moving Light Details

krypton-1We’ve got MAC 250 moving lights.  There are actually two types of MAC 250’s: Spot (Krypton) and Wash.  They have a tilt range of 257 degrees and pan range of 540 degrees.   You can tell the difference by the “lens” on each.  The spot (left) has a smaller lens set deeper in the front of the fixture.  The wash (right, below) has a wider lens set closer to the front of the fixture.

The spot provides the ability to create a sharp, defined edge on your light.  It also has a gobo wheel and prism effect.  It can rotate the gobos or prism effect.  And it’s color is provided by a single color wheel with 10 pre-set glass “gels.”  The wash can cover a large area with various diffusions of light and has a CMY (cyan, magenta, yellow) color mixing system.  It has no gobos or prisms.  Both can strobe in various ways.

The drawback to the spots is that color and gobos changes (typically) need to be done with the fixture shuttered.  Otherwise, you’ll see the wheel spin through the gobos colors between the one you’re on and the one you want.  The drawback to the washes is that they don’t do much except give you a wash.

mac250wash

We have 4 of each.  Two of the washes are on the front electric (in front of the stage).  There are two spots on the next electric, just above the DS (downstage) area.  The last four are on the next electric that’s about halfway between the US (upstage) and DS areas.   The washes are on the outside and the spots are in the middle (likely be right over the drummer).

I’ve patched the lights in pairs and inverted one of each pair.  So, when you grab a pair and pan them, they’ll move symetrically.  Of course, you can always grab an individual light and move it wherever you want.

While the movers give us a lot to play with, it’s easy to get wrapped up in all they can do.  I promise you, it won’t be that complicated… learning the tech will take some time, I’m sure, but it will happen soon enough and we’ll all feel confident on the board.  So, just remember, as we continue down this road, that lighting is as much art as tech.  This is particularly true with our movers: Our best lighting will be lighting that we feel as we let the music move us.  And, more importantly on an eternal scale, the lighting that you create as the music moves you will help move the hearts of others in the congregation.

–Oz

February 22, 2009 at 10:26 am 1 comment

Loops and click tracks

One of the awesome features of our new 16-channel monitoring system is … well, 16 channels! To date, our monitoring system (HearBack) has been limited to 6 channels plus a stereo house mix. As such, adding additional instruments or other sound sources has been very difficult. But with our 16 channel mixers, a whole new world has been opened to us.

Two sound sources that I want to begin employing in our new worship center are loops and click tracks. This will certainly be a learning curve for us all. If you’ve never played to a metronome before – start practicing now. I used to think that I had a really strong sense of time until I recorded myself playing along with a click track.

This will open up new possibilities in our worship services – like syncing to video elements or lighting cues. (Our lighting board can actually be programmed according to BPM – beats per minute). Some of you may recall a powerful worship service that we watched online from Newspring Church in Andersen, South Carolina. The service ended with their lead female vocalist, Rose-Angela, singing an incredible feature with scenes from the Passion Movie woven throughout the song. Creative elements like this are made possible by the use of a click track.

There is a song by Matt Redman and Paul Baloche that I hope to introduce soon called I Cling to the Cross. It has a very cool electronically produced percussion loop that plays throughout the duration of the song. It’s subtle but it adds an incredible texture to the song making it even more powerful and effective.

So – instrumentalists? Get out your metronomes. Our world is changing. And I promise that you will become a better musician for it. Gauranteed.

digital-metronome

cm

February 21, 2009 at 12:12 pm 3 comments

Advanced Cues

So, cues can get “dangerous” when the plan changes.  In the previous example given, perhaps we delay the start of a service by two minutes for some reason.  There are things you can do with cues to make them work in the context of a dynamic service.

In the case of delaying a service, you can simply pause one of the cues (or the delay in the link) for two minutes.  You can also take control of a cue and control it manually.  When you do this, it’s similar to having a sub-master programmed to a slider.  As you move the slider one way, the cue moves forward.  You basically take manual control of the t variable.  You can even take control of some of the other variables (intensity, non-intensity variables, etc.)

You can go backwards through a cue list and/or jump to a previous cue.  You can also skip forward to future cues.  Though skipping through cues poses its own issues… But, that’s the points of this… all of this control is what makes cues powerful as well as dangerous.

You must know what your cues are so that the correct lights turn on and off at the right times and at the right speed.  If you don’t, some lights might blink on or off.  The light board typically runs in Tracking mode.  This means that if a light is on in Cue A and does not receive a new command, it will stay on when you launch Cue B.  So, we have to be aware of this and learn to work within the concept of Tracking to produce excellent lights.  

But, with practice and good prep work, (and more practice and prep work :)) you can alleviate these concerns.

Before I wrap up cues, I want to say that I’ve defined cues conceptually for the sake of simplicity.  Cues on the ION are actually numbered (not lettered) and can even use decimal numbers (to insert cues in between other cues).  You can also record and run multiple cue sets (very advanced!).  Additionally, you actually program the cues slightly differently… You basically say where you want each light to end up, then set up the timings.  Though, with moving lights, sometimes you have to set another cue to get the lights into position.  There is a feature called “Mark” in the ION that does this automatically for us, but I’m not sure how well it works and how we’ll use it.  Often, it’s better to manually set a cue that sets your moving lights in the right position (so that you control when they move and they don’t make noise in a quiet, tender moment).  It may take a little getting used to, but it’s not that hard once you get the hang of it.

–Oz

February 16, 2009 at 10:26 am 1 comment

I’m so excited

I’ve spent the past few days helping the CPM light crew install and setup the lights.  I’ve also been able to see some of the video and audio elements come together as their crews worked on them.  I just have to tell you all, I’M SO EXCITED!!!

The audio sounds awesome!  The video screens in the tech suite are freakin’ sweet!  And, well, our lights will rock after a few hours of programming… The building, the room, the control, the tech… everything is just a huge blessing and I can’t wait to see what the talent of this team brings to the glory of God!

–Oz

February 15, 2009 at 1:20 pm Leave a comment

Basic Cues

New to the game of lighting are CUES.  They are not really that difficult, especially once you get on the board and have screens in front of you with text prompts, etc.  Still, one of the purposes of this blog is to help ease the learning curve, so some preliminary explanations should help us dive in a little easier.

A basic cue is: Light A from x% intensity to y% intensity over time t.  x and y are values between 0-100 and t is in seconds (or even tenths of a second!).
—  This brings up or fades a single light in a steady, controlled, constant speed over a specific amount of time.

The next step is: Lights A thru G from x% intensity to y% intensity over time t.
—  Obviously, this just fades multiple lights… i.e. – a scene.

When you add in moving lights, you only add some more variables.  In addition to intensity, you have a variable for color, gobo, shutter, and a few more for it’s different movement capabilities.

Ideally, instead of creating each scene on the fly, we’ll create each scene once in the form of a cue.  When you play your cues back to back, you end up with a show!  Really, it’s that simple!

Now, there are some pretty neat things you can do with cues, too.  You can link two cues together so that that they run one right after the other.  Or, you can add a delay on the link so that they have a specific, set time between the execution.

So, let me give an easy and likely example:
We start with house lights @ 100% for pre-service.
Cue A = House lights from 100% to 90% over 120 seconds.
Cue B = House lights 90% to 75% over 120 seconds.
Cue C = House lights 75% to 50% over 120 seconds.
Cue D = House lights 50% to 0% over 60 seconds.
Link A+B with 0  second delay.
Link B+C with 0  second delay.
Link C+D with 180 second delay.

Now, at the T minus 10 minute mark, you launch Cue A.  Over two minutes, the house lights only fade 10%.  After two minutes, the fade automatically speeds up a little bit.  Again, after two minutes, the fade speeds up a little more.  One minute into the fade, the 5 minute countdown appears on the screens.  But, at T-4 minutes, the fade stops.  The house remains at 50% for three minutes allowing the rest of the people to find their seats.  For those who have been there the whole time, it’s clearly darker, but they barely noticed it even happening.  At T-1 minute, the final fade begins.  It’s already started to settle down in the sanctuary and now the final rabble-rousers 🙂 find their seats and get ready to worship newhope style.  All ten minutes of this are completely automatic with the single push of a button. 

That’s the basics of cues.  Hopefully, you can see the convenience and power.  You may even see some of the potential problems.  I hope to explore more of this in the next post.

–Oz

February 14, 2009 at 10:26 am Leave a comment

Channel dynamics – Part 2 – Limiters, Expanders, and Gates

OK, peeps – let’s finish up dynamics (at least as much as I’m covering for now). If my last post on compression made sense, then extrapolating limiters, expanders, and gates should be pretty easy. Let’s start with limiters.

A limiter is nothing more than a compressor with an infinite ratio. Any signal level greater than threshold will be reduced to threshold; in effect, limiters govern the maximum amount of signal that can pass through them. Their main purpose is protection of your ears or equipment. If you’ve ever looked at our old Hear Back mixers, you’d notice they have a limiter. So do many iPod-like music players, and they’re often hiding along the output stages of large PA systems. You set the threshold to the maximum level your ears or the equipment can tolerate and that’s the level to which the limiter will limit. And unlike compressors, which may repeatedly compress a signal throughout a song, you rarely want to be engaging a limiter. If you are, you’re probably running something too hot.

Now let’s talk about expanders. These great devices expand dynamic range, but not by making a signal louder, as you might at first expect. They actually expand dynamic range by reducing the amount of signal (by a ratio) once it drops below threshold.

Expander Input/Output Characteristics

Expander Input/Output Characteristics

Make sense? If you can imagine a signal getting progressively quieter (i.e., reading right-to-left in the figure), an expander doesn’t do anything to the signal until it falls below threshold, at which point the expander gets busy and reduces the signal even more rapidly (per the ratio). As with compression, you can often set an attack and release time. The attack time refers to the time it takes the expander to stop expansion once the signal rises above threshold; the release time determines the duration until a falling signal is further decreased by the set ratio. At first, it may seem a little counter-intuitive, but think about it for a few minutes and hopefully it’ll make sense.

Just as a compressor with an infinite (or very high) ratio is called a limiter, an expander with a very high ratio has new name: a noise gate. Gates have numerous applications in live sound. For example, we’ve all run into the problem of audible noise from an instrument during moments of silence. This is usually easily remedied by inserting a gate and increasing threshold just until the gate kicks in when the performer isn’t playing (and, for miked instruments, when the rest of the room is relatively quiet, as well). I start with a fast attack, so the gate lets go as soon as the performer begins playing, and a relatively slow release, so it doesn’t chop off any intentional sustain.

Another gate application I’ve read about (but haven’t actually done, since we’ve had fake drums) is in shaping the kick drum sound. Think of a good kick sound – it has a fast attack followed by a fast decay. A common problem is a slow decay – if you’ve heard such a kick, you’d probably describe it as “muddy,” “flabby,” or “lacking punch.” It’s that long decay tail you’re hearing, and that’s where a gate can help. A fast attack is required to allow the gate to let go quickly when the beater strikes the head, but the important parameter is the release, which lets you shape the decay tail (i.e., a fast release chops off more of the decay tail than a slow release). I’ll try to dig up a picture that illustrates this over the next few days.

One final note about our dbx 166, which contains both compression and expansion in one unit – make sure you’re using only the feature (i.e., compression or expansion) that you want on an instrument. I’ve occasionally seen a gate inserted on a channel to reduce noise, but the compressor functions were also (and I suspect, inadvertently) in effect. It’s not inappropriate, per se, to use both compression and expansion simultaneously, but make sure it’s intentional.

Rob

February 13, 2009 at 6:33 am Leave a comment

Exposure, Focus & White Balance – Part Deux

OK, I am jealous at how many posts our awesome lighting director has been racking up!  Way to go Oz!

In my last post I discussed the basics behind what is needed to obtain a proper exposure and now I will jump into another important aspect of making a great image, Focus!

Focus as it pertains to us in the world of IMAG literally means the state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition.  As proficient camera operators we need to be able to obtain proper (or critical) focus of the subjects we are framing in our viewfinders.  Having a soft or blurry subject will distract from the overall quality of our work and leave the audience wondering whether or not they need to schedule an appointment at their local optomitrist the following Monday.

Now while most of us are familiar and very comfortable with the fancy Auto-Focus systems on our digital photo cameras (brace yourselves), we are not going to be using this wonderful technology.  We are kickin it old-school and we will be manually focusing our images. There are a few reasons behind this, two of which I will talk about here.  First off, we want the flexibility to be creative in our ministry and in doing so, our subjects will not always be in the center of the viewfinder.

Here is a for-instance:  In Auto-Focus mode when our key subject is framed off to one side in a nice creative composition, maybe with a vocalist in the background, the camera is going to try and focus on what is in the center of the viewfinder… So if elepahntsthe vocalist happens to be in the center of the viewfinder, our key subject will now be blurry and our background vocalist has now become the sharp focal point in our shot.  So by going to Manual Focus, we gain so much more control over our images.  Manual focus will also give us the ability to shift the focus as well from one subject to another, so say you wanted to shift focus from the key subject to the background vocalist, you can do that without ever moving the subject in the viewfinder.  The viewfinder screens on our new HD cameras are all very accurate, bright and easy to see.  If you are farsighted though, you may want to always wear your contacts or glasses so you can see them properly.

And secondly, the opposite side of sharp focus will be soft focus.  There will be times where you can exercise your creativity as an artist and get some cool out-of-focus blurry or “soft” images.  We of course need to limit this creativity to worship and use it sparingly but… some shots can be framed way out of focus and then slowly brought into focus (as im sure you have seen in movies before) for a very pleasing effect.  You can also go the other way and start with a nice sharp image and slowly fade to a blurry image.  These are just a few ways to bring a little creativness into our work.  Adding dynamic elements like this to your toolbox will make you a strong camera operator.

One quick note on how to obtain the sharpest focus of your subject.  These cameras we are using have powerful zoom lenses attached to them, you can use this zoom feature to make sure your subject is is perfect focus.  Start by zooming your camera lens ALL THE WAY IN on your subject.   Now twist the focus control on the camera until your subject in the viewfinder is in sharp focus.  Look at the subjects eyes if you can and make sure they are tack sharp.  Then zoom out and frame your shot, your image will always been tack sharp this way!  Once I demonstrate this during training, you will see how easy it is to get great in-focus shots.

Stay tuned for Part 3, White Balance!  Oz, our lighting director has posted about this subject already in regards to his lights and color temps.  If you can, read up on this post, specifically about color temps as it will make my white balance post make more sense.

Chris

February 12, 2009 at 3:01 pm 2 comments

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