Return to the Show File

When you return to a show file to recreate a show, it’s pretty easy and certainly very clear.  But there are times when you need to either replace half of the fixtures or replace half of the show.  Even with the cleanest show file (and wow is returning to a show file every year a great way to learn what your bad habits are), it can quickly get messy when you start making changes.  In no order and with probably many omissions I hope you will fill in, here is a list of a few things that can make this process easier.

The First Time

Terrible to be telling you things to have done in your past show files, but here I go anyway.

1. All Preset.  An All Preset captures all default parameters of a light.  You take all of the fixtures (before you start writing cues) and record a preset, which you record as your very first cue.  Since you record it first, it tracks values you aren’t directly controlling and is easy to update in the future.  This will save you from, off the top of my head, needing to chase strobing iris effects throughout a cue stack if you need to replace a bunch of Martin 2000 Profiles with some Mac 700 profiles, since the default iris value for a 2000 is strobing in a 700.

2. If you work with a template, make a space in your numbering where you always place show-specific color palettes, effects, beams palettes, etc.  Few things confuse me like working on an older version of my own template.  If you leave a number range in every category for show-specific elements, it makes merging much easier down the line.

Now and Future

1.  No All Preset?  Go through your cue stack and record new All-Beam pallets (or all-but-color-and-intensity Presets) for each key look in your show.  Then trade out lights.  This gives you much more control since you are capturing most of the richest variables in a show- the Beam category.

2.  Block the top of each section you wish to keep if you haven’t already.  This prevents you from altering the establishing look for each scene/song/whatever and makes it easier for you to make corrections than the far more common blocking of the end cue.  Especially important (to my brain) when you are erasing sections of the show to make room for the new sections.

3.  Keep your original cue stack- warts and all.  Copy your cue list and then edit the copy.  It’s amazing how many times I want to refer back to the original when I’m confused.  Having the info there is always a good idea.

4.  If you are working on a revue, concert, dance show or otherwise segmented show, copy the cues you are keeping into a new cue list, section by section to adjust numbering as you need.  

5.  Gobo loads are different between fixture types and it’s time consuming to reprogram a cue stack to choose the most similar gobos from the old fixtures to what is available in the new.  So instead of making linear (wheel 1/gobo 1, wheel 1/gobo 2) beam palettes, you may want to create a reference fixture for your new kind of mover and create gobo palettes that align the new gobo load with the original (example beam palette: Old light wheel 1, gobo 1- leaf breakup, New light wheel 2 slot three leaf breakup).  Then, when you tell the console to update the old fixture type to the new, the console will have references to show you similar gobos to the original without having to reprogram.

6.  When replacing a dimmer channel with a color mixing or automated fixture- don’t delete the lights, transform them.  Go to patch, capture the channels, click on Type (or whatever you console calls the fixture type) and tell the console the new light you are using.  This will retain your dimmer value which, even if you need to change it to balance, shows you when the light is supposed to play and when it should be out.

7.  If you are replacing two systems of conventionals with one of automation- be sure to merge your intensity values in cues where one system was out and the other was live.  Example- two hiside light systems being replaced by one moving light system.  

Returning to a show file can be far less painful the cleaner you program and the more you strategize how you plan to change your file.  Hopefully this list will get you headed in the right direction.  I’m certain the moment I share this list I will think of many things I forgot- but that’s why comments are so important.  What did I miss?  Add to the community (and me!) and tell me what tips and tricks you have found for returning to a show file.  

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