Thursday, November 12, 2009

Trees - Light Programming

Jeff Atkisson sits for hours in a small room behind the main stage programming the lighting that will appear on the trees. He has 12 songs that he needs to program on a miniature model of the trees, and he started off with "Its the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." He used an audio editing program called DP6 and instead of editing the audio he uses the programs MIDI files to turn the lights on the trees on and off. When he stacks the bars in the program to look like a staircase in the timeline for instance the lights will sweep on diagonally up the tree. First he places what he calls a blind cue on the timeline which sets the color which will happen with the next fade in or sweep. Other effects he mentioned include pops and gleams. When the light programing is finished he can directly transfer everything right over to the full scale trees.
Huge black boxes called dimmer racks stand next to the tree model with hundreds of wires hanging out of them. Apparently one of these boxes had burnt out earlier that day but that problem was resolved by the time I came in to sketch. At one point the tree just would not light and Jeff was climbing all around in the snake pit of wiring. I don't know how he did it but after plugging in and unplugging a number of connections, everything started working again.
He took a quick break from the program sent a text message to the director to double check some notes that might be needed. He suspected the director might want less lighting action on the trees and he programmed the lights accordingly. The director called back and they they discussed the trees lighting briefly. After that conversation Jeff proceeded with quick certainty. He started telling me about the directors style which consists of pictures within pictures with very specific shifts of focus. When I thought back to the War of the Worlds, that directing style became very apparent. I also found out the Trees show has a theme which is "Reflections from the attic". I learn something new about this show every day I come in to do another sketch.

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