Tips to a Young Church Lighting Programmer

I worked with some young college students recently who are working hard to develop the skill set to become full-fledged church lighting designers. Both guys are super cool and are willing to let me build in to their knowledge. Throughout the process, I found a few points of guidance that proved beneficial. Perhaps some of these nuggets of wisdom will be helpful to other potential LDs:

  • Make a few really, really good focus points. If you’re fortunate enough to have a lighting console position located at the center rear of the space and elevated so that you can view the entire room, congratulations! For the rest of us, reality is a compromised position. Perhaps you don’t have a great view of the stage floor, or your position is far left or right of center. Maybe you’re church is portable and setup time is limited. For this reason, set a few focus points and dial them in. Walk the floor, stand on stage, check the focus from every seat in the house. Then, use these absolutely rock solid focus points as the base of any other focus shapes. You’ll be amazed how far a few solid focus points, and then some fanning trickery can do.
  • Work in big groups. I stole this tip from Brad Schiller’s book  “The Automated Lighting Programmer’s Handbook.” Even if you think your rig is small, develop the discipline of working in big groups first. Take a group of washes, pan the entire group to roughly the right position, then cycle through each individual fixture and fine tune. This is always faster.
  • Let the desk do the heavy lifting. Use the fanning and shape tools in your console. If you don’t know how to use them, take an afternoon and learn. Not only will you work faster, but the desk is way better at doing math than most of us. If you follow my guidance about solid focus points, then use fanning and shape tools to gain additional focus looks, your looks will be perfectly spaced.
  • You’ll never have enough time. Give an LD a week or an hour. He or she will never have enough time. It’s like editing video. In our artform, the designer is never really “done.” You eventually run out of time, make your peace and walk away. So, realize that you’ll never win the time game. Learn to work as efficiently as you can, leverage the tools in the desk to gain as much time as possible to tweak a look until it’s perfect…and then walk away.
  • Save early and save often. Most desks have undo functions and some good tools to erase an oops. Nothing beats good file discipline. Develop a routine of saving after each song, or elements of a service. Before walking away from the desk, save to an alternate drive (like a small thumb drive).
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