Arisia '13 Lighting

For Arisia '13 I was Lighting Designer, which is an Area Head position under the Technical Director. When I took on the job, I had no paid work set for around this time, and my next theater gig was a month off. Fortunately, I got paid work. Unfortunately, that ate a lot of the time that planning for Arisia's lighting really needed. Fortunately, *Hobbit*, Arisia's Lighting Designer Emeritus, stepped in and saved my butt.

There are three areas that got lit at Arisia '13: Main Tent, Dance Tent, and Small Tent. I used *Hobbit*'s design from Arisia '12, with some small modifications.

*Hobbit* has extensive write-ups of his experiences and observations for past Arisias, and I'm sure will soon have this one written up as well. His tend to follow a chronological time-line, but don't expect that here.

A lot of what I want from this is for me (or whomever is LD for Arisia next) to be able to look at it and be reminded of all the things we said "next year we should...", so I'm organizing this by topic in no particular order.


We use a pair of two-level work towers as follow-spot positions and to focus lights. Since scaffolding comes in a bewildering array of sizes, I should mention that with the trusses atop 16' crankups, a person on the top level needs to be able to focus lights that are from 15 to 18 feet above the ground.

When deployed in performance configuration, house right had audio control on a riser slid under the cross-bracing for the bottom level. Above that was a platform for the Masquerade Stage Manger. At the top was a follow-spot. The HR scaffold was set about halfway back in the room.

The house left scaffold was set in the far back corner. It had a follow-spot on the top and lighting control on the middle level. Lighting control didn't need to be quite so high, but there were limited options for setting planks with this style of scaffold, so this is what we did.

We weren't thinking ahead enough when the scaffolding was assembled, so the sides were not oriented well to make entry convenient on both sides of lighting control. (The type of scaffolding we got has larger openings on one side of each frame. The smart move would have been to orient the frames such that the larger openings on both ends were in the same direction. Then put the work table for lighting control such that it blocks the smaller openings, leaving easier access from both ends of the scaffold to that level. The same applies to the stage manager position.)

We need to run a focus check on all lights before the scoffolds are locked into place by chairs. This will likely be after the audio position is in place, so we should make sure that the other tower has four good wheels so it can easily be run about the room. (For Arisia '13, one out of our eight wheels did not swivel well, creating problems in moving that tower.)

If we are going to keep using the same sort of scaffolding we should probably make a set of written/illustrated directions that cover the right order to do things in and how to make orientation decisions like this one. (Comment from Sparr.)

I would have liked toe-boards on the lighting control level, but we didn't order any.

This year's scaffolding was again ordered from Lynn Ladder, but it cost much more than it did last year. Since it was ordered at the last minute, there was no opportunity to shop around for a better price. Next year we need to get bids from whatever scaffolding companies serve the Boston area. And we need to start the process soon enough to deal with that added complexity.

MC Light

Two Source Fours, one (from HR) with a 19-degree lens, the other (HL, further throw) with a 10-degree lens. Gelled with the same colors as the main wash. R302 from HL. R360 from HR. For top light, a fresnel with a pair of R26 cuts.

In response to feedback that the MC light was too dim for video at Arisia '12, I swapped in a 10 degree lens on the further (HL) throw. Perhaps I should have done that on both sides. Perhaps I should also get 750 watt lamps for those lights. Perhaps I should also throw in a 6x22 from each side.

The 10 degree lens costs two bucks more to rent than the 19 through 50 degree lenses. I expect that I can rent Source Fours with 750 watt lamps from ALPS, but I don't know for sure, or if there would be an extra charge. 6x22s are free - I think there are four in Arisia storage.


We had a pair of Altman Comet 360watt follow-spots. They don't compete well with the full stage lights, especially with saturate color filters in place. Next year we should go for something brighter. Unfortunately, the next step up costs about 2.7 times as much to rent. Perhaps try just one brighter unit in the further back location? Perhaps find a closer vantage point?

We regelled the follow-spots for our masquerade show with: R60, R31, R54, R24, R79, and R90. The darker colors were way too dark for these wimpy spots to punch through and have much effect. In case I want to cut these in advance, I should note that Comets take 6" diameter gels.

I cut my follow-spot gels with tabs to make it easy to pick out which are mine when it is time to pack up. I need to make sure that when installed in the boomerang, the tabs are oriented so that they are out of the light path.

Lighting Angles

The HR truss was so close to the stage and so far off to the side that light from the close end of it hit the stage at an angle that was more side than front lighting, such that it skimed the front of the lectern.

One solution considered is to move the HR truss further back, so that it spans the rear HR doors. This would give a better angle, but it would require an additional piece of truss and the lights would be further away from the stage, which means they would be dimmer. One simple answer to that might be to get lights lamped with HPL750s.

For the record and future draftsperson's info, the door architecture is 20'3" across the outside, 14'2" across the opening, and the whole thing begins 12'11" from the back-of-house wall. The diagonal distance between two adjacent leg-tips of the L16 crank-ups is 60 inches, and truss sticks are ten feet long. YDTM. (Comment by *Hobbit*.)

Another issue is that the front lights hit the cyc and wash out the lovely color we can put there. The answer to that is bring in lights from high & close enough that they light the stage and miss the the cyc. Unfortunately, getting lights into the Right Place needs either rigging provided through the hotel at fabulously high rates, or a much more elaborate truss structure than we have done previously.

Cyc Lights

We had a set of six ColorBlaze 72s from Carl Gruesz that do a great job of lighting up the cyc. Unfortunately, our front lights come in at too shallow an angle and tend to wash it out. See above comments under "Lighting Angles".

Shadow Killers

Because of the way that the drape line makes shadows on the cyc, we put lights on the stage-side booms to cast similarly colored lights on the cyc. *Hobbit*'s plot uses a couple of fresnels per side to match the wash colors. Getting the top of the shadow killers to match the top cut of the front lights would be greatly aided by the use of barn doors.

The shadow killers got knocked about during setup after they were focused. We need to run a focus check on all lights at the last minute when scaffolds are still available.

(For Balticon, we use a pair of focusable scoops that Larry provides. I don't remember how well those shadow killers match up to the front lights. I suspect that Larry would bring them to Arisia if asked. I have gels in various colors cut to 15" to fit them.)

We don't provide shadow killers to match all of the colors of front light, although there are enough spare circuits and fresnels to do so for the front colors in addition to the wash. Perhaps next year that should be tried. Trying to match the gobos at such a short range seems doomed to failure (and would require renting some very wide instruments) although throwing some similar color on the cyc might make the use of gobos look less lopsided.

If we could get front lights set in the right place, we wouldn't need shadow killers. See above comments under "Lighting Angles".


A whole lot of the audience was in a position to see into the wing on the far side of the stage and past the end of the cyc. Do we have enough pipe & drape to also drape the upstage side of the wings?

Lighting Control

We used an ETC Smartfade 24/96 in Main Tent. It is annoyingly modal and has way too many blinky lights. The modal nature of the board is an obstacle in speedily constructing looks during masquerade rehearsals. OTOH, it packs a lot of functionality into a relatively cheap rental cost.

*Hobbit* sez: "I had relatively little problem with it cuz I built *everything* off memory subs and never went back to channels mode so the only complexity was swapping pages." ... so perhaps I need to prep the board a bit more thoroughly.

I note that there is a DMX input for this board. If those DMX settings are included when memories are recorded then another board could be used as a fader wing during rehearsals. More research is indicated.


Main Tent had a 24x2.4kW Sensor pack. It was more power per channel than was needed except for the house light channels and we had three spare dimmer circuits. I would be tempted to go with a combination of smaller packs to save money, but I'm concerned that I would run into problems with differing power curves.

Distribution was via six-channel Socapex cables except for the trivial run from the dimmer pack up the adjacent SR boom.

Front Lights

All Source Four 19s.Two from each side for wash, color, and gobos. One from each side for center fill. Wash was R302 from HL and R360 from HR. Color was R69 from HL and R24 from HR. Gobos were breakups (different on each side) with R61 from HL and R321 from HR. Center fill had no gel.

General scheme from *Hobbit*. Color choices from me.

Side Lights

Most of our side lights had SeaChangers on them, which give us any color we might want. But eight of them make up the single largest-cost item in the rental order. Alternatives should be investigated.

The SeaChangers were installed in Source Fours with 26-degree lenses for the far throw and 36-degree lenses for the near throw and arranged in pairs so that each of upstage & downstage from each side had a single set of control channels.

There were also Source Four 50s with gobos (no gel) on each side.

House Lights

One Kliegl scoop and a couple of PAR 64 WFL from HL. Two Kliegl scoops and a PAR 64 WFL from HR. It was enough light. 500 watt lamps in all luminaires.

Lighting Support

In each side of the house, 20' of 12" box truss lifted up on a pair of L-16 crankups.

The 4 crank-ups we got were a mismatched set of two pairs. We did not match them up when assembling, so both trusses were tilted by a few inches because the pinned heights for the two styles weren't quite the same. More attention should be paid to this next year. (Comment by Sparr.)

Each side of the stage had a boom built out of three 12' 1.5" pipes with one vertical downstage of the wing and one upstage of the wing. The horizontal pipe spanned the wing and extended past the downstage vertical to hang lights in front of the curtains that mask the wings.

Dance Tent

*Hobbit* should comment on this. He took it over for me and while I looked in on it a couple of times, I really don't know how the details went.

Small Tent

In theory, Small Tent was just "lights on stage". In reality, there were events scheduled there that really needed different arrangements of lighting. The Belly Dance attracted too large a crowd for the room and really could have made use of the Main Tent lighting (and sound) setup.


The PDU in Main Tent could have used another couple of outlet pods. Did the projectors really need a separate circuit for each?

The Small Tent needed more outlets than Grand D/E had for the Saturday dance. We ran power from the wall outlet next to Main Tent's PDU and it would have been convenient to pull from multiple circuits at the same time.

It is really nice that the hotel includes feeder cable in the power package, but do they have lengths that are closer to what we need? (We ended up with a large stack of feeder cable in a corner.)


I'm kinda presuming that I'll run lights for Arisia '14. The alternatives would be to shove *Hobbit* back into the job (which I think he doesn't want) or to stick a brand-new TD with a new LD, neither of which seems like a good plan.

We had a really good crew for Arisia '13. Various people popped in for setup or teardown and both went fairly fast. One issue with setup crew was a tendency to finish not quite all of a task. That might have been a communication issue - something to work on next year.

During Masquerade rehearsals I had a rotating staff of lighting advisers: Larry, Abby, & *Hobbit*. It was quite useful and helped to speed things up. It would have been better if one of them had been able to stick around consistently.

For Masquerade, I had Daniel and Angela as follow-spot operators. Both did excellent jobs. They were also generally good staff. Angela put in a lot of work during build and Daniel has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. (I think it was Daniel that made the lighting control equipment move between the runtime and rehearsal setups as needed.)

Sparr was my ALD. I was able to delegate certain tasks to him, which was a great help, but I never got us to the point where we had the same set of information in our heads and could function as a team.

*Hobbit* made the comment that perhaps the Dance Tent needed its own dedicated LD. That's kind of how things ended up, except that we made that decision at the last moment and *Hobbit* had to kind of wing it based on previous years' designs.

I should have arranged to have the Small Tent have its own LD.

Also, each event that used lights should have had its own LD so that someone was looking out for its needs. Reconfiguring the lights in Small Tent for the Saturday dance ended up devolving on *Hobbit* and me and took too long. Considering that each of us had already put in a lot of time and that this would have been my one free evening, someone else should have been found to deal.

The Teseracte Players have their own lighting guy. James was perfectly happy with a simplified lighting board layout to use for their various shows.

Somewhen in there was a staged event (run by some group other than Teseracte?) that only wanted to use our follow-spots, not the rest of the lights.

(For Arisia '14, [presuming I'm LD] I want to plan Main Tent and supervise its build & teardown, design and run lighting for the Masquerade, and coordinate the lighting equipment for all areas. I should delegate ownership of lighting at other locations and the run of other events so that I can actually attend a small bit of Arisia '14. I don't mind doing the advance planning, but it would also be good if whoever is heading up lighting for other rooms is part of that planning.)