Showing all posts tagged #lightingdesign:


a note to producers about the lighting cue sheet

Posted on August 30th, 2015


I've had multiple conversations with worship arts directors in the past few months where I've shared some of my thoughts on this subject. As a designer and live production artist, my personal preference loves to create "live," "Spirit led," and "in the moment." I usually do at least some amount of live busking when I operate; some shows more than others. For theatrical productions that repeat a linear story multiple shows I live in a single fully mapped timeline; a worship concert I am almost fully live. Regardless, I always have a road map sketched out (at least in napkin sketch format - see image below) if not fully built in Excel (see other image below) in some format or another. Even if I audible live, at least I'm making a change from something.

Anyway, the thoughts here were built from a copy/pasted note to one of the artistic producers I was consulting with recently. The thread had included his question of if a cue-to-cue would be something I'd recommend to their process. My answer to these questions are about finding best practices for being one in vision and trusting each other to bring the best thing we each can do to create a moving experience.

A cue-to-cue might prove to be beneficial to your process and your product. However, remember that without the context of the live music being played and the musicians on stage in their light, it’s very difficult for someone besides an experienced lighting designer to accurately know how to interpret what they see. I’ve experienced numerous cue-to-cues with producers where they make changes to what the LD designed and then later they ask for follow up changes during the dress rehearsal that end up very close to what was originally created. If doing a cue-to-cue, make sure you know what you're reviewing.

I suggest what is more beneficial is to spend the time making sure that you’re clear in the vision that you have for each moment of the service. Communicate that to the SM and LD. If they understand your vision, they’ll support/enhance the moment visually. Again, a cue-to-cue walk-through isn’t bad - the dialogue to check in and make sure you’re on the same page is really important. Simply heed my caution to not to make changes out of context. Make sense?

The greater importance is trusting each other to all be on the same page. Have you communicated vision for the story clearly? Does your LD have a plan for how to support and enhance? I suggest a meeting to talk through a cue sheet is the better use of everyone's energy. After knowing that you're on the same page, then you can each work on the tasks that you're best at.

Unless you see a specific vision for mapping out the details of an element, I don’t recommend going into detail of builds and changes in each song. Aside from the potential build (referenced with an ellipse) it simply shows the base cue guide for each moment. Feel in the room can and should lead to adjustment in each nuanced moment. Trust the LD to design beauty and magic that supports and enhances the experience.

At Kensington, we use Planning Center Online as our hub for every production we do. It’s great for scheduling teams and making sure that everyone is on the same page. I can give coaching in another post about how I suggest it might be a useful platform to incorporate into your process. Anyway, it’s a very useful tool for us in laying out the flow of elements in a service. As a PM, I love being able to think through what each discipline (Audio, Lighting, Multimedia, etc.) needs to be doing at each moment of the service.

In each cue the notes in the lighting column give the road map for what lights will be doing in the format of:
"SUBJECT LIGHT | SCENIC LIGHT | HOUSE LIGHT"
Subject - the communicators and artists on stage
Scenic - everything behind and around the people - soft goods, lights through haze, etc.
House - as simple as basic intensity, but often can include environmental lighting

As an LD, I map out the visual story pretty intentionally. Sometimes a show calls for a fully detailed cue sheet with specific intensities and focus patterns for each instrument along with fade times for each transition. A cue sheet can also be as simple as a napkin sketch. Having these notes shared with the Stage Manager is really important as they're the hub for helping everyone stay true to common vision. Again, I suggest using PCO (or another cloud based service) to make sure everyone can stay updated with any changes along the way...

Do these thoughts make sense? Do you have ideas grow in how you might evolve your process? Please let me know!


Danny Cox Album Release Concert

Posted on April 25th, 2015

It was such a privilege to be part of this event! My friend Danny released his recent album “Fighting for the Beauty" last night. I was honored to be asked to be Production Designer for it.

I reprised some of my favorite ingredients for this show:
  • Persian Rugs (various sizes and colors from (5’x7.5' all the way to 12’x23')
  • Gothic Chandeliers (custom made for Easter’15)
  • Gothic Lanterns (custom made for Easter’15) on the floor and atop our Iron Candle Stands (custom made many years ago for a Good Friday)
  • ADJ Z7s (LED zoom mover - I love the value of these instruments) atop our custom moving light cages (ask me about these cages sometime)
  • Black Tergalet and Silver Batiste (Rosebrand)
  • Elation 300s (profile mover) and 60s (LED wash mover)
  • And a very generous demo (thank you Advanced Lighting & Sound) of some ADJ beams

Here’s a phone pic of a nice moment near the end of the set. Hopefully I’ll add a few more from my real camera soon.

Create something beautiful today

Posted on March 27th, 2015

Create something beautiful today.
Whether a photograph, a spreadsheet, performance art, or leadership moment.
Make sure to care...

Thoughts to Remember When Creating a Space for Worship

Posted on September 30th, 2014

I rattled off a stream of thought in response to my friend asking me what things I think about when designing. He took that email and compiled it into this list; which his organization now uses this as part of their planing meetings. Perhaps it is a helpful guide for you to consider as well...


Thoughts to Remember When Creating a Space for Worship

  • The end goal of the services that happens in the space.
  • The vibe/feeling you want to help communicate.
  • Who is the target demographic?
  • Who in the audience will be reached regardless of the branding, environment, and artistry? These are not people to design for. Do not be influenced by them.
  • Who might only be opened up to the communication by the environment you present? This is who you must go after.
  • How might you use resources you already have available to support your vision?
  • What alternative ideas might convey such themes with increased beauty/power/depth?
  • What ideas might work well because of how clear the symbolism might be?
  • What of those ideas would be so cliché that it would actually turn off the artist in the audience?
  • What metaphors can you weave into the design to add depth of beauty (and meaning) ...even if only for you?
  • How long do you want to live in the look? A series? A season? A weekend? Indefinitely?
  • How will you light the set? How will you light the art and communication? Will the lighting on both feel unified?
  • Make sure to design scenic elements that will be enhanced with the lighting tools available. Also, design scenic with consideration of who is designing/operating lights. Try to play to their strengths.
  • It needs to look good in the room, to be certain. Are you broadcasting ever - stream, IMAG, record for later release?
  • Lighting for video requires thinking beyond what looks good to the naked eye; and lighting for both video and still having everything look good in the room requires some real finesse…
  • Think through positioning of each person who will be on stage. Where they stand/sit/dance should feel like it connects with the scenic elements and help visually connect the guests with the communication on stage. Break the 4th wall.
  • What scenic and/or lighting might be considered in the room? In the lobby? Before and after the event with advertising, social media, etc. How does the branding transcend the stage experience?
  • Think through everything that people might see. Certainly do not let anything be a distraction; also push into every opportunity to help enhance the story...

layers of lighting and texture

Posted on October 17th, 2013

I was sitting in the LD seat the other night. While I was operating that night, I was formulating a different blog post in my mind. The past few times I've designed/operated, I've been experimenting with challenging myself to not program a single cue. Instead I set up my profiles well so I can operate where I create each look entirely live… I'll blog further about this at some point, I'm sure. However, the response I received after the night about some of the moments caused me to compose the following:

First, for this set, I went with one of my old favorites - a 60' wide black scrim. It's pretty beat up, but I've learned that if it hangs with texture (5 tie-lines from the grid pulling up bunches of the fabric and letting the rest droop between) it can look pretty good. I went to my go-to bag-of-tricks for the purpose of letting my challenge of operating be my a touch easier:
  • Abstract line gobos strafing across the back traveler from SL and across the scrim from SR - used independently at some moments and together for others.
  • Also for moments of mood setting texture, some gothic window gobos on the back traveler
  • Saturation from LEDbricks lighting the scrim from the US side
  • Also for saturation: 5 of our LED movers placed at the base of each bunch, used at points to sconce the scrim bunches, and others to BL band or shine through haze at times with subtle movement to match the build of a song.
  • Our profile movers were hanging from T-pipes. Most of the night I put the frost-diffusion filter on them and used them as saturation backlight for the band. The final song, I had them switch to a gobo on the build and fan out through haze.
Additional layers light with our Rep Plot:
  • Saturated side-light on the band with LEDs.
  • Gobos back-lighting the band with additional bonus of the look through haze.
  • Our old 250s still living out the end of their life hanging from our apron grid gave me some additional builds with saturation, texture, and movement through haze
Because I was running all my looks live, I didn't really have the opportunity to snap good photos. Here are phone pics: First, the band reprising the walk-out (which except for taking out front-light is really the same look as the end of the final song). Also, a shot of the teaching look.


Gels and Gobos

Posted on July 20th, 2013

Don't ever settle for white functionals when hue and texture can enhance the storytelling. That said, often No Color is the correct choice. My point is, take some time to read the script, talk with your director, emotionally connect with each scene, and generally put thought to your craft.

This weekend, we helped create a scene taking place after school hours in an old elementary classroom. The first photo shows the gels and gobos. Next is a snapshot (I wish I had used my good camera as my phone hardly comes close to what the eye or video camera, for that matter saw) of the scene being rehearsed. Finally (for context) a shot of the whole stage during the teaching.

Some of my favorite gobos

Posted on July 17th, 2013

I love texture in lighting design!

The other day, I saw that our Lighting Director was organizing gobos. I pulled these 9 out onto our cutting board for this photo highlighting a few of my go-to picks. Some are best as texture on scenic; others for people or the floor beneath them; still others through haze. Some work best with nearly hard focus, others work best with the lens pulled or pushed completely soft. Some like to be complimented with a gel, others work best with NC in complement with saturation coming from another light source. A more exhaustive post is probably due at some point (with greater thought behind theory of when to consider using what and some example photos) but for now I'll leave this as an encouragement to start experimenting with what you like.

GAM 251 Spring Branches | Rosco B856 Gothic Window | GAM B709 Glass Block
Rosco 77703 Double Hung Window | Rosco 7903 Reflected Water 1 | Rosco 884 Snow Dots
Rosco 77594 Abstract Lines | Rosco 77785/238-285 Sharp Breakup Medium | Apollo 2133-BR Generic Breakup

First day of shooting for Project:Shine

Posted on July 16th, 2013

Here's a cryptic behind the scenes shot from my DP position behind the camera. It was a fun day spent quickly creating #productiondesign scenes on the fly with only a minimal bag of tricks to pull from; rocking some copy editing for the #teleprompter; shooting with #DSLR; meeting some new friends; and working with an old friend who's quite a good producer. Not shown are shots of and from within a vehicle I don't usually ride in.

The cue sheet (held in front of our walk-in look) that I sketched together this morning

Posted on June 9th, 2013

The cue sheet (held in front of our walk-in look) that I sketched together this morning to accomplish today’s #lightingdesign






Production Design Software

Posted on March 10th, 2013

I'm often asked what software I use, and am probably long overdue at sharing this post. I'm answering this question from the perspective of my primary job - Production Designer at Kensington Church. *See below for more context if you're interested.

I'm a fan of OmniGraffle (Mac or Microsoft Visio if on PC) It's great as a basic 2D CAD with layers and everything; and its drag and drop simplicity of putting icons for people and set pieces into place is pretty fantastic.

The price point is also great, especially for multiple users.

Vectorworks is awesome, but is more (both in cost and complexity) than our workflow requires - especially with multiple users; most of whom are not "designing" but rather just laying out a plot.

There are many other programs I might consider writing about, but I'll leave this post with the above two mentions for now. Connect with me and I can share my workflow if you're interested…


*I design for our main broadcast location. We have 4 other campuses each with a TD who is responsible for figuring out how to take the central designed service and make it work on their stage, with their team and resources, and with whatever might uniquely happen at their campus that weekend. We move fast. At our location, we have at least 2 completely different stage designs every week…see: http://egwolfe.tumblr.com/post/6144545367/we-change-our-stage-with-a-completely-unique

Eric Wolfe

Visual Artist and Leader. Production Designer and Consultant. Developer of Ideas. Maximizer of Resources. Strategic Thinker. Creative Innovator. Husband. Father. Philosopher. Photographer. Backpacker. Athlete. Cook. Artisan. He shares thoughts here about all of the above. He would love to connect to partner in coaching and revealing beauty to enhance story and experience. Please do reach out!