Production on the sitcom graciously allowed me two ‘prep’ days before the actual show starts on Wednesday.
Today was my first ‘prep’ day, and I used it to get the console set up – which required the assistance of the lot’s super amazing IT guy.
A few years ago, dimmer boards (or lighting consoles as they’re now known) had a technical revolution.
The boards used to be pretty simple. Plug in the DMX cable, turn on the power, and you were good to go.
Not so much anymore.
The newer consoles are much more powerful and flexible, but the downside is the networking.
I understand as much about networking as I understand about derivatives, so the appearance of the IT guy was the happiest I’ve been in weeks.
After about an hour of re-configuring and trying to explain what he was doing (which I pretended to understand but didn’t. I just hope my eyes didn’t glaze over), he had to go back to the shop to get something to make the whole damned mess work.
I used the time to go to the commissary and get a very large cup of iced coffee. I think I might have been shaking my head and muttering “subnet mask” to myself, but I’m not sure.
When he came back with whatever it was he needed (he told me what it was, but I can’t remember. Point and laugh if you want. I’m okay with it), there was some more configuring and a few re-boots, but then… magic.
My console was speaking to the dimmer packs, who were speaking to the lights.
Anything that went wrong from here on out was my fault.
I managed to get through my to-do list (build a few cues, build a few groups, duplicate what was on the old console) by using the manufacturer’s online forums and only making about 10,000 calls with stupid questions to my friend who has the patience of a saint.
The problem with the more powerful consoles is there’s always some programming thing that trips you up – that thing won’t be in the manual, it won’t be in the videos, it may or may not be in the forums, but whatever it is, it’s really, really simple and will fuck you six ways from Sunday if you don’t deal with it right away.
With this particular console, it’s tracking.
If you’re in concert lighting, tracking is the greatest thing in the world. If you’re in film/television lighting, tracking is the devil. On meth.
This particular console is a tracking console by default, so it didn’t behave the way it was supposed to and I ended up making a horrible mess of things until my friend told me to turn off the (default) tracking.
After that, everything was much easier than I’d expected and I got the to-do list done in time to sit on the freeway in traffic.
My second prep day is Tuesday, then the DP and gaffer come in to start lighting Wednesday.
Just hope I don’t do that thing where I forget basic things when I’m under pressure (“What’s your name?” (pause) “I don’t know!!”)