Live@Work - 22_KW30 - Failures, bad luck and mishaps... lessons learned

Although we have described in detail in our book how to prepare an event in terms of lighting technology, mistakes happen again and again due to time constraints and good nature ("jump in quickly"). This is what happened to me at an event I recently supervised myself. So that you don't fall into the same traps, I would like to share my experiences with you in the following and have noted them down in bullet points.

Incidentally, the event was a classical concert. This implied that the lighting would rather take a back seat, so the focus was on the musicians. A fancy light show was therefore not to be prepared. What was desired were primarily simple and static light scenes that would then pick up on the basic mood of the respective song.

But as already indicated at the beginning: Especially during the preparation of the project, not everything went directly as one would ideally imagine. Fortunately, all this was limited to the preparation itself. The actual show went off without any further problems.

Organizational mistakes

The planning of an event and the associated lighting concept usually requires a number of points to be taken into account. If you don't have the necessary experience, mistakes and problems are bound to happen. This was also the case with my event: there were plenty of organizational mistakes and problems, as became apparent during the debriefing.

  • No proper plan for the lamp arrangement and setup was made in advance. There was also a lack of consideration as to which lamp would be most effective in the room. This resulted in not creating a proper room lighting mood. For example, white areas were insufficiently illuminated and thus could not create the moods usually known from "church shows".
  • There were no proper arrangements with the conductor. The conductor simply had the overhead light "twisted" (in the absence of the lighting people). So, the spotlights then shone into the audience. The singers and the piano player could just about make out their sheet music because there was white-yellow sidelight, but the RGB pars on a truss running above the musicians missed their mark for the concert.
  • The whole show strategy must be discussed with the organizer in time. It became apparent shortly before the concert that, in principle, a cuelist would have been completely sufficient. The effort for the created softdesk would not have been necessary at all.
  • Since the last show, new equipment was purchased by the team for which there was no DDF in the DDFLib. Since in the rush the creation effort for the "right" DDFs should be saved, generic replacement DDFs were used. In the process, mistakes happened, such as that instead of an RGBW DDF, an RGB dimmer DDF was stored in the patch. This of course led to slight problems with the HAL. So, take care of the right DDFs in time!
  • It must also be clarified beforehand in which channel mode the devices are set. This was documented exemplary by the setup team (together with the start addresses), but also here the correct DDFs were partly missing because of the missing arrangement. Here the reverse way would have been possibly the better one: the associated project specifies which start addresses the devices receive and in which DMX mode they run.

As described in our book, proper planning is the be-all and end-all of the show. DMXControl 3 is very flexible, but above all it is not resistant to wrong DDFs.

Technical errors

Fortunately, there were hardly any of these.

  • Two spots did not work. After exchanging the feeding DMX cable, everything worked fine.
  • As an experience from the last show, an end resistor was installed right away. The missing end resistor had obviously caused signal errors before, which resulted in flickering of lamps. Therefore, thankfully, the flickering did not occur this time.

Mistakes in show programming

Here it shows that experience and practice are worth a lot, especially when a project is redesigned at very short notice. Although there are super videos about DMXControl 3, this factor must not be underestimated. As an untrained beginner or non-experienced user, some mistakes with smaller or larger effects happen in the heat of the moment due to the program that seems complex at the beginning:

  • In order to be able to react quickly, I wanted to be able to change all prepared lighting scenes at the push of a button. Since I now worked with several cuelists in this show, one should absolutely pay attention to the grouping function, the so-called cuelists groups. Because just if the buttons in the softdesk always only start a scene list, it becomes difficult without the scene list group to end the previously started cuelists again. And DMXControl 3 can execute any number of cuelists at the same time.
  • One should always check or make sure that really all desired properties are stored in the scenes (cues). For example, the value for the brightness was sometimes forgotten, which can have strange side effects. The spotlights sometimes simply went out when changing the scene lists - but this was because only the color was stored in the new scene lists, for example, and the dimmer was then set to 0 again.
  • The idea was to (also) flexibly select the color of the lighting scenes via a color bar. For this purpose, this was linked with the programmer. However, the programmer currently does not have the highest priority by default, so that its output is always overwritten by subsequently started scene lists. In addition, the selection of the color was always linked to a specific selection in the Stage View. Both points led in the sum to confusions. One wonders why values are in the Programmer, but these are not visible on the spotlights. Here it became a bit obvious why live control of fixtures via the Programmer is not such a good idea in the end.
  • It still needs some practice and experience with input assignment, especially if the wishes go beyond some standard functions. The professional finds the right connections in seconds, the beginner needs felt eternities. Here it had become apparent that on the part of the marketing team one or the other example for connection sets in the input assignment should still be described in the Wiki, such as the connection or the use of the color bar.


But the most important message is: make sure you have enough time to prepare the setup and the show! Avoiding hectic in advance will help to avoid especially careless mistakes.

Your Frank