Techie Bits

Here you will find blog style posts from the absolutely faboulous amazing incredible techie team behind the light! We are obviously the best :P We are incredcable.... See what I did there ;)

[28/4/20] To produce the best shows, it sometimes means starting months of work again from scratch!

In the last blog post, I showed some blurred images and explained a brief overview of the process and where we where now. Well, after some thoughts I realised that our previous setup worked perfectly for a certain type of show, but it wasn’t the type we were going for. So, out of all things that could change this far into planning, a venue change is the worst… and that’s just what we did, twice. Yes, it means that the hours and hours of work that had been done is now useless (somethings can be adjusted but not many), but in the end it will mean a much better experience for the viewer, which is the thing we want, it’s the thing we spend our lives doing. You get some lazy ones, that wouldn’t bother to try change a venue after this amount of work had already been carried out, but the show is never going to be as good as it can, and although it may still look alright, I can’t deal with knowing that if I had just put some more work in it could be 10x better. With the new venue, the show is going to be really amazing this year.

So now that we have changed venue, if you hadn’t figured out before, our previous venue was the Soaperie Gardens. I can now also show you some of those images I showed last time, but not blurred:

These files are what we follow when it comes to actually putting everything in place once the lorries have dropped off the equipment. I'm still not going to show you all of them currently (I don’t want to give too many secrets away), but using the documents we know exactly where a fixture is going on site, what settings it needs to be in, its address, what power and DMX (DMX is a control protocol and cable type for lighting and other stage equipment) cables to plug into it, and what circuit it will be on. With 2 sheets of paper, sometimes even one, we can fully build a lighting rig, even if we have never seen it before. Sometimes however, when things aren’t planned well, or we run into issues, we have to go without the plans, and work it out in our heads, against the clock. We may as well follow the sleeping patterns of owls, as during setup we are normally running into the early hours of the morning (something never fails to go wrong, ever!) And once it’s all working, we need to program the lights, and when we are doing an outdoor light-show, we obviously need it to be dark. So we program from 6pm ish to 10pm then? No, because although it is dark then, we also don’t want to give away the surprise, so we program when its dark, and nobody is watching. We could be programming from 12am to 4am, then waking back up at 10am to sort out other venues and running other errands, whilst watching over the site and checking everything is ready, to then be programming to 4am again, then waking up at 9 ready for the first day of the show. So, we do apologise if all the shops are empty of energy drink, we require a lot :)

With a change of venue there are two ways that things can be affected. One, is that we have to start the process from scratch, or some things we can just change to suit. For example, the site plans and locations of fixtures and equipment needs to be planned from scratch, but things like budgets and hire lists might only need minor changes.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, the response I got last time was quite amazing. This page is not setup to be a blog, as the website does not have a blog feature built in, so I’m just making it work the ways I can, but it does mean that there are no buttons to like or leave comments. Nor am I a very good writer :) If you do wish to leave some feedback then visit our Facebook page, or if you have some questions or want to give me feedback directly then you can find my Facebook page here. Despite the change of venue I am still planning on offering a guided tour around the site during the day before the show, where I will take you round and show and explain how everything works, and finishing by starting up the generators and starting up the show, ready for the doors to open.
Many thanks,

[24/4/20] It may only be 4 days a year for you, but its 24/7 for us!

Kirkcudbright Festival of Light. You may hear about it every once in a while, and you will hear about it a fair bit near October, and then obviously you will see it over the four days. You might even see us working and doing stuff the few days before and after. But what nobody sees or hears about is the months and months that go into planning for the festival. The same goes for any event though! As I'm sure everyone is very aware, the normal schedules of everyday life have ground to a halt. The entertainment industry has been hit very hard, and the crews of large events, that you very rarely see, are the backbones of these events, without them it wouldn't happen. But we aren't letting it ruin our stride, we may struggling a bit, but if there's someone that will get through stress and work every last ounce of energy, its event crews. Try figure why speakers are screeching, you have no sound, and the lights are going mental, 30 minutes before doors and get it all fixed in time before anyone notices :)

But put that to the side for now. With all the spare time we now have, why not give you an insight into what goes on, the stuff you never see. At the current moment in time, the festival about 6 months away, so I'm not going to give away any secrets, or tell you exactly what's in the works for 2020.

So first off, we will meet with everyone working on the festival, as although the tech team have a major role in the festival, we aren't the only ones. We meet with the people responsible for finances, marketing (although in this case that is mostly us as well) and the general committee. We will plan the base line stuff that is required to begin the planning for everything else. For example the main theme, our budgets and our funding sources.

The next step is once our rough budgets are set, funding is applied for, and this is normally where we get a small break until we wait on some responses so we know what sort of money we are playing with. If you were wondering how much it costs, and why we sometimes have to ticket things and ask for donations, you were saving up to buy a new car but had to spend £5 on a ticket? We had enough money to buy a really nice sport car as well, but we spend all of it on putting on an event for you to enjoy!

We will then go through a long winded process of deciding and planning on what fixtures (lights) we are going to hire, along with fitting everything else into our tech budget (Which in the case of the festival, it is the highest budget). You might think this is just lights, but its not, if we add one light, it also means 4 more cables, which we have to figure out the correct lengths, the correct mounting hardware for rigging, the correct accessories to suit the light to our uses. We have to take into consideration how much power we will require, to figure out what size generators we will need, which means we also have to calculate how much fuel will be used over the time we need the generators running to figure out how much fuel we need. You get the point, its lots of hard and tedious work, and the worst bit, maths, we HATE maths!
At the time of writing this we are about here, we have most of that list done, and most of our rough budgets outlined. Here are some blurred images of some of the many spreadsheets containing our information we need, you wont be able to read what is in them, but you get the gist:

After this we get onto the fun stuff, we get to program the lights. But we don't have the lights, well not in real life. I wont go full techie here, but the show is ran by a thing called timecode. What it does is it syncs various different electronic devices together, down to the thousands of a second, in the case we are syncing a laptop to the lighting console so that the lights are in sync with the audio tracks, which are all custom made in house and tailored to our show, here's an example of one of the files:

Once we have the audio files and we have planned what lights we are having and where, we put them into a 3d model of the venue, and program them using special software (I will go indepth in a later post about this). But about a month or two before the show happens in real life, we have already programmed it, with only minor changes needing done later on. So although we love the sight of it happening in real life, and all of our hard work paying off, its actually about the 16,372th time we have seen the show. And if you think that its annoying the same audio tracks play every half an hour. We have heard those audio tracks the same amount of times as all of our ages added up times by 1000! Here is some pictures of those 3d models, I guess one secret which I'm going to give out today is the main venue this year, I'm not going to say but you will probably be able to figure it out:

That's all for now really, we will back shortly. Hopefully you have enjoyed this little insight into the backstage workings, however if you want a real backstage experience during the event, where I will take you on a tour of the stuff you can see, and even the stuff behind the fencing and in the control room that you can't normally see. Watch this space for more details nearer the time.
Hope you enjoyed,