Lighting Visualization Software
With our schedule when it’s busy we’ll have one event backed up against another. Often this means that we end up programming lighting for shows at the last minute since we have to wait until the lights are set up to start programming. So now we’re programming lights ahead of time, before the lights are even set up.
To do this I’m using a pre-visualization program called Light Converse. Light Converse allows you to build your room in 3D (don’t worry it’s easy) and place all of your fixtures virtually. There are several options out there, WYSIWYG is an industry standard but is very expensive. Light Converse is reasonably priced, has a lot of features, and even offers a house of worship discount. There’s several versions that get more expensive as you add features so you can pick something that will work for what you need.
First you have to build the room in the software, you can keep it simple or get really elaborate. Once the room is built can try out different stage plots. Since everything is to scale you’ll know what will fit and not fit.
Now that you have a stage plot that works you can place all of your lighting fixtures and try out different ideas. I experimented with a lot of different lighting layouts before settling on what we used in our last show. That’s a huge time saver right there. When you’re under a time crunch you won’t get that kind of time to experiment.
With everything set in the software we connected it to our ETC Ion lighting console using ARTnet. You can use any console that outputs ARTnet and just connect your computer to the same network. If you’re not using ARTnet there’s some DMX options you can use but that adds some more cost.
Now that you’ve got the software and hardware set up you can start to program without even using the real lights! This saved me so much time and allowed us to get a lot more elaborate with the lighting cues. Stuff we never would have had the time to do otherwise.
This isn’t perfect though, you’ll still have some work to do when you get you’re lights running. You’ll have to double check your aim and focus. There will always be little differences in the software and the actual pan and tilt of the fixtures. The software can’t really estimate the focus so you’ll need to tweak that so gobos look how you want them to. These issues aren’t that big of a deal compared to the time you’re saving so it’s well worth it.
If you have a media server like a Green Hippo you can send the software the HippoNet feed and it will display that feed on the projectors in the software. How cool is that! Now not only are you previewing your lighting looks but you can add in your video looks too, all in real time!