Cueing I: New Skool in an Old Skool World

It’s time for some meaty posts around here. So, Clifton and I are launching a new series of posts to “share” a little of the curriculum we’ve been developing for the upcoming book. For those of us who volunteer, help, hang out, serve or work on lighting rigs in worship environments, cueing is a big part of our role. At a basic level, cueing is the process where we record snapshots of the stage (looks) (aka cues). Cueing can take on a lot more.

So, what about the bunch of us church lighting dudes who don’t have access to full tracking desks. Or, what about those youth, children’s and auxiliary spaces with a few moving lights and a cue-only desk? Like ETC Express, Strand 200s, etc.

Here’s a few tried and true tricks for writing cues with new skool moving lights on an old skool desk:

  • Use subgroups to make focus points. If you’ve worked on a tracking desk (Whole Hogs, EOS series ETC stuff, Jands, etc.) you’re familiar with the concept of palettes. Palettes group presets for lights, sorted by type for easy access. “Focus Palettes” contain information about focus points–or locations where the lights are created. You can use submasters to make crude focus points. It’s nice to grab a submaster and focus all of the moving lights. Also makes busking (manually operating) a monthly worship service or small event easy.
  • Make a Home focus point. You might have moving lights placed in all kinds of places….at all kinds of angles. Set a common “home” (all instruments pointed down for example)
  • Record intensities on separate submasters. If you only record colors on some subs, positions on others, etc. then you are assured you can always move the fixtures on or off both. Preset a certain look during a break, then grab your intensity sub and fade them in.
  • Use submasters to make color and beam (gobo) palettes as well. You can save only the channels and levels that affect color on your moving lights in submasters, then have different combinations of colors all ready to go. Try doing 4-5 warm looks and 4-5 cool looks. You’ll find yourself not needing too many more during your event.
  • Have a “bailout” cue or submaster at the ready. Record position, color, gobos, everything – except intensity. If all else fails, and you need a look that works, have one sub or cue standing by that gets every mover into a position and color that just works. As long as you have intensity on another sub, you can pull all the others our, grab your bailout sub and then fade in the intensity and you’ve got a great look with 2 subs running.
  • Make use of submaster “pages.” Many desks will allow you to have multiple pages of submasters. If you find yourself running out of handles to grab, break up your event onto multiple pages of subs. Find a natural point you can change pages, and build your subs accordingly. A handy tip: Keep your groups of subs the same from page to page. That way your label on the desk isn’t messed up every time you change pages. The intensity subs should be the same on each page, the color subs, etc.
  • If you’re feeling adventurous, try saving some effects loops with position data for your movers. If you are careful about times and locations, you can make your own mini effects engine! Yes, it takes some patience, but it can be done. Try saving each location you want in the loop as a separate sub. Start with 2 locations, say all left and all right. Then record them as steps in your effect loop, adjust the times, and when you run that cue, *poof*! Automatic movement. Just remember – don’t save intensity channels in your loop! You want to manually be able to fade those guys in and out.
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