Old Programmer, New Medium

I’m a long-time live entertainment programmer, so I’ve never done much of any film or television until recently.  I’m now nearing the end of my first feature on the Main Unit and though I know I’m too new to have time-tested tips and tricks, I do have three good (or what I hope are good) examples of trying to adapt to a new form.  I share them in the hope that my problem solving and adapting might inspire some creative thought of your own, perhaps even better than mine.

Since I was booked after a long work drought and with 24 hours notice before I flew, I didn’t have time to prep how I would like and I didn’t really have a lot of disposable income to lob money at problems.  I reached out to friends with far more experience than I at film and they were very generous answering basic questions and providing advice, which was incredibly kind and helpful.  So armed with equal parts knowledge and ignorance, I got on the plane.  Here are the first few issues I hit and solutions I came up with.

Presets as Palettes

I’m used to needing hundreds of color palettes in my programming template, so when I found out I really only needed about a dozen to start, my impulse was to pick the first open 12 spaces in my (eclectically numbered) color palette list and go from there.  But I knew from my friends I might need to follow the Gaffer and/or DP around programming away from my desk.  With iRFR as my primary remote, I’ve never found a way to have the color palette Direct Selects remember a preferred number range to display.  So rather than take up time paging through my ton of color palettes, I recorded all my color palettes as Presets starting at 1.  Problem solved.

Cue Numbering

Though it’s obviously an option to start a new cue list each day of a shoot, I prefer to keep things in one cue stack (because I’m Way Too Theater).  It makes it easier for me to refer back to data if someone asks what color we used in the Vortex fixtures on Day 20 of the shoot, for example.  At first, I just numbered from 1 and labeled explicitly, but then it occurred to me there was a better way to number.  Start day 1 at 1, day 2 at 21, day 3 at 31, etc.  As I seldom write more than ten cues in a day (point cues for turnarounds and such can pick up spillover), it worked out great.

Rain Rain Go Away

This movie is a lot about the desert, so I’m typically shooting where there is no cover of any kind.  Surprising me (a thoroughly City Person), it rains in the desert!  Briefly, but often and without warning.  Though I know I should have a tent, I don’t for a myriad of reasons.  So when I see a single raindrop hit my desk, I throw a Bag It on top of the console (a very large clear plastic bag).  At first, I literally programmed through the Bag It, which was slow and stupid.  Eventually, I realized the better solution was to buy a water proof case for my iPad and use that to key in values when the weather threatens the life of my dear console.  

That’s the end of my list for now.  If you have better ideas, personal stories or anything to share go ahead and hit me in the comments!  


  1. Chris Steele - Reply

    Good advice. Were you using Eos system? What did you use for a cart or surface for your rig on outdoor locations? For cover outdoors, my plan is to buy a little 5×5′ popup shelter. Shawn the DIT guy has one.

    • admin - Reply

      Yeah, I’m on EOS. Seems to me that film needs are very in line with EOS principals, but I could be centric to the console I know best! I am on a cart, though not an ideal one. I need to do a little more obsessing and pick one that I like and then kit it out. Does your popup shelter have sides to it? Because the wind here IS SO REAL during rain and storms and blows the rain sideways.

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