Ambulance Chaser

I was asked for an Ambulance effect this week on set. Though the programming was easy, the debate about how many colors there should be and in what order was lengthy.  I was ready with a white/red chase and the gaffer told me there was also yellow involved.  The BB told me the white shouldn’t flash, and the gaffer keyed back in that the yellow was too green.  We eventually got there, shot with the effect running for three hours and then two actual ambulances pulled up in front of the location (as called for by the story- no one was hurt) and the Gaffer, BB and I all stared at the Ambulance lights for a while, noticing the differences.

What I noticed was lots of white and red, two oranges and one lonely yellow.  Everything was flashing, but the pattern went from a steady tempo to suddenly doubling the tempo at the end of each loop.  I corrected the effect we rolled with and offer it here if it’s useful.  Be aware this is dependent on four color palettes: Red, Orange, Yellow and my favorite color palette for effects- Black.  (Black is a color palette with all LED emitters set to zero.  It creates more contrast in the effect.) 

The list of commands in the effect is pretty obvious, but don’t miss the grouping of 2.  I was only given one vortex to program on, so I used an Effect grouping of 2 across a selection of all the cells offset to be in pairs (1+2, 3+4, etc).  The grouping combo made the effect play across the left and right halves of the fixture.  This makes a clear effect where too many independent pixels make it so that none of the colors read clearly.

Mostly on set, I write intensity effects over and over.  But in my live entertainment days, I was writing all kinds of effects all the time.  Honestly, it was fun to create a color effect again.  Hopefully it is useful to some of you.  What effects did you thought would be simple but had a bunch of debate about how it should look and what it should include?  Hit me in the comments.


  1. Scott Templeton - Reply

    I’ve done something similar but taken advantage of the new “variable” feature in case the gaffer doesn’t like the blue or the red I’ve picked. The Black CP helps these effects out a lot.

    • admin - Reply

      Cool! I admit I’ve not played with the Variable feature much yet. Can you describe how you use it?

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *