You can contact me at:
nick [[at]] magmouse [[dot]] co [[dot]] uk
i was given a link to your site by Rob Sayer of onstage lighting, and after seeing your site i figure that this may interest you, there are two reasons for this email, one is to make the right people aware of the God rays Project and two to have people who are serious about lighting helping to shape the future of lighting software.
so let me give you a little background on myself and then see what you think.
i have been a lighting jock(i actually hate that term) for about 25 + years, i have worked in various nightclubs as well as some mobile disco’s, Lighting has always been a passion for me, i was taught some stuff by a guy called Carl Dodds, not sure if you know him, but he is quite well known, anyway slowly over the years my passion has been slowly eroded, mainly by frustration with computers and their part in lighting, the advance in computers should have meant that it is easier to get the most out of ‘intelligent’ lighting, but sadly the opposite has occurred and with the software available the creativity has been sacrificed for what i can only describe as programmer orientated software, basically what i have seen is software that is way to complex, takes to long to do anything of worth and frustrating to use, i give Martin’s Light jockey as an example, i had the misfortune to have to use it at a venue, for the first time i actually loathed doing lights, and looking around at what else was available lead me to the conclusion that if i want lighting software that is enjoyable to use and that allows me to be creative then i would have to design it myself, which is where i am now.
the concept is simple, take all the stuff that computers are brilliant at and hide it from the Operator, then leave the operator with the tools to make the lights become intelligent, i know that no light is intelligent or even aware of its own position relative to other lights on a rig, but i truly believe thats only because it hasn’t been programmed in, what i mean by this is that Lights move in 2 dimensions side to side or up and down, X and Y, computers handle X and Y perfectly, so by programming the software correctly the computer can make each light aware of all the other lights.
Other things that should be in lighting software is that ability to make lights react to one another based on color, Brightness or pattern, an example i gave to rob was called Magnet, basically this allows one light to act as a Magnet, and by using its brightness it can either attract or repel other lights, these properties can be switched to cause a plethora of effects such as pulsing its brightness to push the other lights away and attract them back as if they were breathing.
just by thinking in the right way and using computers properly it is possible to have lights appear as though they have an awareness, the software is in the design process at this point, but when the funding is raised it will then be developed into a Full blow Application that will allow the Lighting Operator to actually create sequences never seen before, eventually there will be two other versions, one for theatre lighting and one for live concert lighting, and it is with the stage lighting version that i will be seeking advice on features and other such things, so what i am wondering is when i get to that stage(no pun intended), would you be willing to answer various questions on what a Stage Lighting technician would require, from what i have seen on your site you would be a good asset to have.
finally i will say this, the software will reside on a touch screen and have no mouse or physical keyboard, all done on the touch screen. i hope i haven’t imposed on you Nick and i hope we can talk more at a later date.
Thanks for your message on my website – your project sounds really interesting. I very much like your ideas about lights acting as magnets so that they interact with each other – years ago, the old Flying Pig team, responsible for the Wholehog 1, 2 and 3 (before it was taken over by High End, and of course now Barco) had an idea for rules-based programming. You would be able to set up rules that said something like ‘the centre of the stage is always twice as bright as the edges’, and then as you panned a light around its brightness would vary depending on what part of the stage it was pointed at.
Actually, there are quite a few experimental performance art groups that make rules-based work, often involving complex interactions between performers, lighting, sound and projection systems, all connected together with sensors such as infra-red cameras to detect body motion, microphones, and so on. The control systems are set up with rules, so they create outputs in response to inputs, but with a little randomisation and variability built in. The result is a performance where no-one – performers or operators – quite knows what will happen. Troika Ranch is a good example of a company that works with some of these ideas, and Johannes Birringer at Brunel University does a lot of this kind of stuff, but there are quite a lot more.
Perhaps one day lighting controls will have dials on that allow the designer to set the lighting to be ‘spooky’, ‘crisp’, ‘tragic’, or even ‘Shakespearean’ – or perhaps just ‘funny’. OK, its a silly idea in a way – but the fact that it seems silly just shows how far lighting controls are from being designed around lighting as a part of an artistic or aesthetic experience for a spectator. As you point out, there has been a huge amount of attention given to offering a fantastic level of control to programmers, but very little real thought given to how best to support lighting designers – it just seems to be assumed that lighting designers know what they want and how they want to work, and none of that is open to question. In many ways the live performance industry is incredibly conservative, for all the stories it likes to tell itself about creativity and innovation.
Anyway, I’d be happy to talk more as your project develops – do keep me posted.
Just wanted to say what a good bloke you are keeping a Light Console alive (all those polarised relays and motorised stud dimmers), what fun! I spent one Xmas season (around 75) at the Palace Manchester. I was the sound engineer for the Black and White Minstrel Show and my equipment was set up right next to the Light Console. I had previously operated several different lighting boards (my first job was a 64 way Grand Master), so I was fascinated to see the Light Console in use. The operator was actually a professional organist and he made it look easy but the chief electrician Gill Binks told me that he was the only person he’d found in years that could actually work it on complex modern lighting plots.
Anyway, keep up the good work.
PS what about doing a Memocard?
Thanks for your message. Actually with Light Console I have (the ‘baby’ Bristol one) its only the console itself that is working – the polarised relays and the dimmers have been replaced with a system that captures the key presses on the console to MIDI, then takes that MIDI into a computer running some bespoke software to replicate the control logic of the original relays. The computer then sends DMX to conventional thyristor dimmers via a LanBox. Getting the replays and motorised dimmer bank working really would be a job of work!
Thanks too for the info about the Palace Theatre Light Console – Joe Aveline told me a similar story about the Bristol Light Console – it had the same operator for the whole of its working life, and when that person had to go into hospital for an operation, the theatre had to mount a very simple ‘lights up, lights down’ show that could be worked by throwing the main switch on the dimmers!
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