How can I improve my design skills as a programmer?

emanoncemanonc Registered User
edited March 2008 in HES Automated Lighting
I am still rather new to working professionally in this field and after the last few gigs that I did I was told that I need to work on my design skills and knowledge. I am looking for any advice and works of wisdom on how to improve on this. What are the good books, are there any classes that would help? How about exercises or anything that helped you. Thanks for your time.

Comments

  • cormacjackcormacjack Registered User, DL Beta
    edited July 2007
    1/Watch and learn,if you have time and the opportunity go and watch an experienced programmer do his or her thing.
    2/Program a show that you wouldn't normally..if you work in theatre go and program a rock'n'roll show and see how it varies and if you can pick up any new methods.
    3/if your using different consoles all the time make up some base show disks/files that contain some information that you know your going to need every time,colour pallettes,beam information etc so that you can use your limited time as effectiveley as possible.

    hope this is of some help.
    C
  • Zach PeletzZach Peletz Registered User, HES Alumni
    edited July 2007
    Joshua,
    A few books that I have read and recommend are the following:

    Concert Lighting - James Moody
    Theatrical Design and Production - J. Michael Gillette
    Automated Lighting - Richard Cadena
    Light on the Subject - David Hays
    From Page to Stage - Rosemary Ingham
    The Automated Lighting Programmer's Handbook - Brad Schiller
    Scene Design and Stage Lighting - Parker, Wolf, and Block

    I would also recomment Light Fantastic. I haven't read it yet but it is at the top of my list. I would HIGHLY ADVISE subscribing to PLSN, Live Design, and Light and Sound America. All of these are free and have great pictures, interviews, and columns. I have learned a ton just reading these magazines every month. Also, read manufacturer forums and especially the Light Network.

    Reading all this stuff will definitely get you into the game quickly, knowledgee-wise, but as everybody will tell you nothing subtitutes for getting out there and doing it. If you are in theater try to be an assistant or just hang out and ask questions. Some colleges and rental companies have light labs where you can hang up a few lights and play with different color and angles.

    Also, go to concerts, theater, and any other show you can. Pay attention to the colors and angles that are being used. Look up at the grid and see what fixtures are up there. Unfortunately, once you get into lighting you'll do this at every show! I know I do. If you don't have many shows in your area then rent DVDs of them.

    Just get out there and learn, learn, learn. Good luck.
  • EsotericEsoteric Registered User
    edited September 2007
    But you cant beat hands on experience... It is expensive, but well worth it... I learned the trade in an excellent UT program, but other schools offer programs that are good too... You will pick up design knowledge and hone your programming skills in an environment that is geared toward you learning and sharpening your skills and not making people money... There will still be pressure, but it is not the same kind! I owe where I am today to the UT program...

    Good luck!

    Mike
  • josh wabaunseejosh wabaunsee Registered User
    edited November 2007
    watch Princes Sign of the Times and Pink Floyds Pulse DVD's

    Everything that you need to know about moving light programming is there...


    and it was all done without modern lights or consoles(i still am amazed that i cant find a single varilite that goes down mid show in the Pulse DVD)
    josh
  • bradpepebradpepe Registered User, HES Alumni
    edited November 2007
    >>i still am amazed that i cant find a single varilite that goes down mid show in the Pulse DVD)

    If you look close there are several times you can see a fixture faded out and homed... I forget which songs, but it does happen on the DVD...
  • Marty PostmaMarty Postma Registered User, DL Beta, Hog Beta
    edited November 2007
    yep...look more closely, Brad is correct.

    The trick with those old rigs was that once you got a unit up and running NEVER EVER TURN OFF THE POWER OR DOUSE THE LAMP till the gig is done!!
  • josh wabaunseejosh wabaunsee Registered User
    edited November 2007
    i stand corrected...

    i needed a bigger tv

    josh
  • somethingbritesomethingbrite Registered User
    edited November 2007
    Where possible never, ever power down a moving light rig until the show is over....it still stands true today, with a number of fixtures that I can think of.
  • PuffyfishPuffyfish Registered User
    edited December 2007
    Marty Postma said:
    yep...look more closely, Brad is correct.

    The trick with those old rigs was that once you got a unit up and running NEVER EVER TURN OFF THE POWER OR DOUSE THE LAMP till the gig is done!!

    This goes for new rigs too. :D I dont care who makes them,SX#t happens.;)
  • Marty PostmaMarty Postma Registered User, DL Beta, Hog Beta
    edited December 2007
    Well not so much anymore actually....most rigs get powered down now if the gig isn't until the next day.
  • T-BoneT-Bone Registered User
    edited December 2007
    Joshua,
    With Hog 3PC and the ESP Visions demo software, you got yourself a free console and some movers to play with on one computer. Just load the demo file from ESP into Hog 3PC and you are good to go, its even already patched.
  • godprojectgodproject Registered User
    edited January 2008
    One of the things I see a lot of light guys missing is just that, basic design skills...you'd be surprised what you can pick up in basic design, color, shape, etc.. theory classes, and then apply it to almost anything....most colleges/jucos with art programs will offer classes, though the right teacher makes the difference...
  • TimMillerTimMiller Registered User
    edited January 2008
    I sometimes do freelance work with a video lighting company. It really gives me a totally different perspective and some interesting design ideas that i take into theatre and rock shows. It usually leaves the hands and other techs asking what in the heck is this thing :).
  • daraagdaraag Registered User
    edited February 2008
    Design skills vary from project to project, what I believed helped me out was going from running a million one off shows that no doubt I would say were extremely busy and the moving lights were doing exactly that moving all the time. This work gave me great experience with programming and understanding various consoles but the end output was no doubt a but mad. You realise after a while too much looks like crap, get some dvds amd go to few big shows designed by people who are innovators or well regarded in the industry, when you take a step back and look at these kind of peoples work you will see a lot of the design is simple yet intricate and very clean with little live movement. Also most of my work is in the touring rock sector and timing is everything, learn your clients songs inside out and you will go far. Keep it simple.
  • ellisdesignsellisdesigns Registered User
    edited March 2008
    honestly, if you have a rig that you have access to at any time, what has helped me the most is to run your rig with headphones on to your favorite music, drink a couple beers or whatever works for you and just experiment for yourself. once you start impressing yourself, it will carry over.
  • TimMillerTimMiller Registered User
    edited March 2008
    thats what i have done many times
  • muvmentmuvment Registered User
    edited March 2008
    agreed with just playing with your rig. On an unplanned evening, i bunker down in the lighting booth and just play (and drink). If I have a gig on site coming up, I set up the rig in advance and do all my programming before load in. That way, when I get to the venue, I just switch all my X and Y and I'm done. Its nice to have a couple hundred programs ready for whatever music you may run into. Programming take time and is hard to do 1 hour before the show starts (at least, i can't program a show in an hour)
  • JCS LightingJCS Lighting Registered User
    edited March 2008
    As has already been stated, check out others work. If theatre, go to a national tour or broadway level show and really analyze not just the equipment but the stage pictures and design decisions. I drove my son nuts when we went to see "Wicked" by constantly talking about all the intel used and how it wasn't always " wow, watch them lights move" but more subtle. Next concert, do the same and see what catches your attention and figure out how or why they did that. I do several dance concerts or recitals a year and find that alot of rock concert tricks will work with intels in a dance show if you fill the floor with enough sidelight to still see the performers.

    Also, ask for more specific feedback as to what is lacking for example is it that your stage pictures or cues may be fine but the placement or number may need changing - less or more- as well as pacing- how they fit the show or song.

    I remember something from college - "Basic illumination was the job of the electricians that wired the space, lighting design involves creating the atmosphere of the performance".

    "All the world is a stage sometimes we just need better lighting"

    Hope this helps,

    John
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