Methods of Grouping- No, it’s Not Boring

I’m a console trainer for ETC, and I find it difficult to remember their groups.  This is because the system they use to number the groups is what I think of as “old school”.  It looks something like this:

Group 1           Frontlight                    Ch 1-10

Group 2           Downlight                   Ch 31-50

Group 3           Highsides- Left            Ch 51-62

Group 4           Highsides- Right         Ch 71-82

Group 5           FOH Movers                101-105

Group 7           OS Movers- Wash       121-128

Group 9           Side- Mids                   141-148

Group 10         Side- Scrollers             151-158

Group 20         Cyc Top                       301-312

Group 21         Cyc Bottom                 351-362

Group 22         All Cyc                          301-312 + 351-362

Group 30         Effect 1                        34, 31, 33, 35, 32

First- there is nothing wrong with this approach.  Many designers use this system very well.  I’m just not one of them.  My brain has trouble with the arbitrary relationship between the group number and the channel numbers.  Maybe if I always did only one form of lighting, I would be able to institute a numbering system I could always remember.  But I shift gigs constantly, moving between Musicals, Concerts, Dance, Aerial and Illusionists.  I can’t seem to come up with a grouping order in this system that works for me. Thankfully, I have a way that works better for my brain, thanks to my friend and fellow designer Michael Mazzola sharing a method with me.  Let me show you by redoing the list above.

Group 1           Frontlight                    Ch 1-10

Group 31         Downlight                   Ch 31-50

Group 51         Highsides- Left            Ch 51-62

Group 71         Highsides- Right         Ch 71-82

Group 101       Movers- FOH              Ch 101-105

Group 121       OS Movers- Wash       Ch 121-128

Group 141       Side- Mids                   Ch 141-148

Group 151       Side- Scrollers             151-158

Group 301       Cyc Top                       301-312

Group 351       Cyc Bottom                 351-362

Group 300       All Cyc                          301-312 + 351-362

Group 31.1      Effect 1                        34, 31, 33, 35, 32

The “argument” here is that the numbering of your channeling is something you spent a lot of time on, so that should inform your group numbering.  Any experience using either group or channels for a system, since each connects with the other, will imprint all the numbering into your mind faster.  This ties into an education theory called Generativity, where one concept informs and generates other connections. In this application, the group numbers get longer, but for me the good outweighs the bad.

Alternatively- what if numbering is the worst way for you to remember things?  This is where a Custom Direct Select or a Magic sheet comes in handy.  In this philosophy, the numbering doesn’t matter at all- it matters where you place the group select tile on the screen.  Most people I know that choose this method lay out a 10×10 view of tiles and arrange their groups from FOH to upstage.  Columns often have certain categories of fixture in them like profiles vs washes vs conventionals.  Here is a rough example, using a Custom Direct Select of how I might lay out the original groups graphically.

If the original group numbering display works for you- thank you for patiently reading to the end.  If it didn’t- I hope one of the other two approaches is helpful to you.  And hey- if you have a different method- tell me all about it in the comment section!  I’d love to hear your point of view and system.  

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