Timecode in QLab

Recently the college was working on a show where a series of projections had to take place at specific times within an audio track, and so the adventure into timecode began. This idea started as a simple way to ensure that the show run correctly, which was especially important as the show would have no rehearsal time and very limited technical time.

We decided to use QLab, running on two separate iMac’s (One for Video, One for Sound) with the possibility of tying into the lighting desk (ETC Ion) if we had time and the lighting was ready. After a bit of searching we found that the theatre has several audio interfaces available for use. In the end, we used a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 USB interface for the video Mac, receiving timecode from a Focusrite Saffire LE Firewire device, which was also used as an audio interface for the system. We also experimented with an mBox 2, which we didn’t use due to it no longer being supported, however, after installing old drivers we did have it recognised in QLab and could get timecode out at times.

On the first Mac (Audio), I set up the timecode based songs using groups, with the audio track, timecode start and timecode stop all in the same group. This allowed everything to be triggered correctly at the right time. Each new timecode section started an hour later than the last. This ensure that there is plenty of time for each section and that we can pre-roll from the song if we needed to have set up cues, for example, with the lighting. It is also an easy way to organise the tracks. Below is an example set up for a song.

QLab Timecode Q-List Example

As the example shows, All of the sub cues are set to auto follow. This allows the entire group to be triggered as one and reduces the need for the operator to press go, it is also the only way to ensure that timecode starts at the correct time and that they are in sync. The stop cue is set to pre-wait longer than the actual length of the track. This ensures that the video Mac receives all of the timecode and has room for exit cues such as a fade out after the song, or returning to a previous projection. It was important to ensure that the timecode is stopped otherwise QLab may have tried to output multiple timecode blocks.

On the second Mac (Video), the projection tech imported and labelled all of the cues. After that, he sat and went through the cues specifying in each cue what the timecode trigger was. This is point in timecode that the cue should trigger and display the slide. This was the longest part of the entire set up process as each song had to be listened to numerous time to get the times and then it had to be tested.

The only problem that we had was when I first started trying to use stop cues on the audio Mac, this was due to the cues having a post-wait not a pre-wait meaning that the timecode never ran, as it was always stopped. After troubleshooting and correcting this problem, we didn’t experience any other problems with timecode, however the show was cancelled last minuet due to cast problems.

Sunshine on Leith 2015 – Get In Timelapse

The first musical of the season has started, below is the timelapse for the get in, rigging, focusing, programming and rehearsals of “Sunshine on Leith”. Along with the venue’s new stock of ETC ColourSource PAR’s, I have chosen to try the Mccandless style of facelight, and it does appear to be an improvement of the previous style that I have used.

The Ladykillers 2015 – Get In Timelapse

With a new season beginning, we had to put in, rig and focus all of the lighting for the first play of the year, “The Ladykillers”. To accompany this, the venue has recently purchased a new stock of ETC ColourSource PARS, all of which had a 45 degree diffuser. Below is the timelapse video of the plays get in, technicals and dress rehearsals.

Rigging Movers

For a performance at The Concordia Theatre, I needed to rig three moving washes (Mac 301’s) FOH, however, didn’t want different heights from one mover to the next. As such, I used a drop bar. The drop bar is a metal bar with couplers on either end. At the top I attached the coupler directly to the lighting bar, then on the bottom used a short bar tightened into the coupler.

Next, I ensured that the mover was ready to be rigged, this involved checking the omega brackets were correctly tightened, the C Clamps were correctly attached, that the safety cable was attached correctly and that the power cable wasn’t going to get caught. This ensured that I wasn’t going to run into any problems whilst lowering the mover onto the bar, which I had already checked was the correct size.

After lowering the mover onto the bar, I tightened the wing nuts and attached the safety cable to the lower bar. Below is a picture of the mover rigged on the dropped bar.

Drop Bar Mover Rigging

All of this was done without guidance, the only assistance was another technician carrying one of the three movers above FOH so I didn’t need to go back down.

From Stage & Screen Dance Show

Two local dance schools have recently finished their joint dance show. This show started slightly different as most of the production team were unable to attend the first day of get-in. This allowed for me to rig most of the lighting on my own before projection and stage arrived. This can be seen in the time-lapse below however, most of the lighting from the first day (Forst 15 Seconds) was side light and as such I am out of shot. This was followed with projection arriving the next day, whilst projection was rigging there projectors, I continued to rig a series of cyclorama floods on a hemp bar, however, these were latter moved back onto a motorised lighting bar to ensure that no shadows were cast from the projectors. After the projectors and cyc floods were ready, I worked to help projection rig the theatres white cyclorama as stage wasn’t present.

Following on from the get in, I programmed the show using multiple Cue Stacks on the venues Ion, a method that allowed me to separate each number clearly. This allowed the rehearsals to take place out of order as some cast were required to leave early due to exams the following morning. Whilst I programmed, two theatre technicians assisted by focusing stage lanterns using the bounce method. This required bringing the bars in focusing and then flying out. This was repeated until the desired focus was achieved. When the technicians moved to the Front of House lighting to focus specials, I called the focus from the auditorium and the stage.

As we wen’t through the technicals, I decided to cut several fixtures as they weren’t much use or would have taken too long to implement correctly and I didn’t have time. An example of this is the ground row of floods at the front of the stage for facelight, certain Gobos, and a breakup wash.

Below is the final version if the lighting plan, which is what was actually used.

Bekki Maddox Main LX Plan V2 - Web

To accompany this I also produced a colour call and Patch sheet (Both below).

From Stage & Screen Patch Sheet

To assist with the running of the show, I also created a Running list for the LX opperator, this was required as the theatres standard boot sequence would no longer have worked. I also created a document for the running order that included information about the multiple cue lists.


The musical theatre students have just finished performing there only show this year, Godspell. For the show, I worked as part of the stage team, working to ensure that the set and props where set before each show and that the confetti drop was prepared.

The confetti drop was a simple system where by a piece of cloth was suspended between two pieces of conduit. One of the conduits was secured to a lighting bar in the grid. The other was balanced onto a rope which was fed through a series of pulleys. When the rope was released, the second piece of conduit dropped, releasing the confetti. The diagram below shows how the confetti drop worked.

Godspell Confetti Drop

The confetti drop worked most of the time, however, it had a simple flaw. If the rope was pulled too tight, the knot would pass through the pulley due to the tail running up the rope making it twice as thick. This could also lead to the cloth being caught in the pulley. This fault did occur twice, once when testing the system, this required me to climb up to the drop and reset it, the second time was on the last performance resulting in the drop failing during the show. Luckily, we had loaded more confetti than usual which meant we were able to shake some out of the cloth.The rope was secured to a lighting bar on the side of the stage. This allowed for us to easily tie and untie the system. To secure the rope, I used an Italian Hitch around the bar. This is because the knot is easy to tie and untie. This allowed for us to easily drop the confetti without the risk of the knot getting stuck.

This method of the confetti drop was decided on after our original system proved too problematic. The original system worked on a system of washers and stage pins, the washers were held together by the stage pin and when the pin was pulled, the washer confetti dropped. In practice, the system didn’t work. We were unable to add enough washers to keep the confetti in. The system was also taking too long to rig, taking over a day to rig half of it. Therefore we changed to the newer system which offered a quick rig time and the reduced chance of a failure.

The show also featured a suspended washing line. This was suspended between two lighting bars. The first side used a Clove Hitch onto a vertical bar. The second side used an Italian hitch, allowing me to easily control the tension, and therefore the hight. It is also possible to tie an Italian Hitch using bight’s meaning that I only had to work with the length of washing line I needed.

During the final performance, the washing line had to be lowered for a goodbye video from the students to the director as it was there final year. To achieve this, I used a ladder to climb up and untie the washing line at the end of the show. When the washing line was let down, the other members of stage crew helped to ensure that the area was clear and safe for the line to be dropped. This was to ensure that the cast and any crew remained safe at all times.

During the show there were no cues. The entire set and all props were set from the very start and never left the stage. This meant that we simply monitored the show to ensure that everything ran smoothly. At one certain points through out the show I left to inform actors of there upcoming entrance through the auditorium.

For the show I also helped produce a series of wooden blocks, these where painted and the main piece of set in the entire show. This boxes are made of 6 MDF panels, screwed together in the corners.

In two of the panels I helped produce handles to allow the cast to move the boxes. To do this, two large holes where bored into the wood using a hole saw. Then I removed the wood between the two holes using a jigsaw. This gave the holes rounded corners which gave a better aesthetic. Then I sanded the edges of the cut down using sandpaper and files. This gave the handles a smooth edges which makes them easier and safer to lift.

Arts Festival 3: Lighting/Sound

For the last show of the Arts Festival I was the Lighting Operator and Programmer. The show also featured the final piece from Arts Fest. 2, which had been postponed due to the power cuts experienced on the show day. The piece was called ‘Compact Failure’ and was based around inmates in prison. The piece was simple, only requiring the lights to go up and down, moving between a few similar scenes.

Throughout the technicals, the house lights were set to never go lower than 40%. To do this I created a custom dimmer curve for the House Lights, pictured below.

Custom Dimmer Curve

This meant that when the the house lights were at 0% or out, the desk actually sent the value for 40% to the dimmers, therefore ensuring that there was always enough light for the tech team to work and for staff and other students to safely move around the auditorium if required. This also meant that the house lights would still respond to any control allowing us to see visibly when they had been altered, or if a scene required them, for example an actor make’s an entrance, the scene would still work.

The show also required that a special be rigged, this was due to the audience being seated on the stage. This meant that I rigged two Source Four Juniors with a sharp focus. They had a slightly unsharp focus to allow the two fixtures to blend, however we wanted them to be as sharp as possible. These were used as facelight for the scenes where the cast were at a visitation or cafeteria table.

The finale of the show was completely different to the rest of the show. This was due to a lot of colour and special effects as the director requested it be colourful and the lighting designer wasn’t present due to this being a last minuet addition to the show. The video below shows the finale that I designed based on what the directors present asked for.

This scene used the theatres Mac 700 Profiles with a rotating out of focus gobo and prism. The two front of house movers were static providing a wash of the cyclorama. The four movers on stage were in a move effect that allowed them to move around the cyclorama. Due to the masking and the angles involved, there was a sharp line across the top of the cyclorama where the movers couldn’t reach. To finish the wash, I used 6 Iris 1 floods across the back in green and blue, matching the colours of movers.

After Compact Failure, we changed department’s to finish the show that had been postponed due to the power cuts. For this, I changed back to sound. This part of the show was a simple part, everything was run off Qlab, with only a few changes to the sound levels for a few builds and an explosion.

Focusing Lights

When lighting a show, each fixture must be individually focused on where the light needs to be. In the process below, I focus a Source Four Zoom for the fundraising show “Blackadder II’.


The first step is to open the fixture up so that it is large and sharp as possible, with the centre of the light focused to the centre of the item/area being lit. This is also the time to adjust the field of the focus, so that the hotspot is in the centre of the beam with no/little dark spots.


The next step is to try and match the angle of the set with the shutter.


The Source Four has a rotating gate, which allows the shutters to be further rotated to match the angle of the set. This compensates for the limitations of the shutter but also the angles created from it’s rigging point.


Next we shutter the bottom, allowing us to define the area of the beam.


Next we shutter in the other side. Due to the fact that the left and right shutter share a layer, there is only so far you can shutter before the opposite side is pushed back out.


Next we shutter the top so that all sides are correctly shuttered.


Finally, we change how sharp the focus is, allowing the light to easily blend back into other face lights.

Arts Festival 2: Sound Operator

Another Arts Festival show, however, this time I was the Sound Operator. The show consisted of four individual shows, three of which were separated by an interval, with one (A series of monologues) taking place during the interval. The show included a dance piece with a heavy amount of projection. Due to this, several changes were being made which would have pushed us up until doors open, and we were on track to make these adjustments, until there was a power cut. This resulted in the building being evacuated and us being unable to make changes.

When the power was finally restored, crew returned and hurried to restore the systems required for show and finish the changes. Fortunately, the computers were unaffected by the power loss and sound was restored quickly. This was also due to the sound for all the shows being simple, consisting only of Qlab.

We were able to complete one of the shows and begin the first interval before the building suffered another power cut. This resulted in the monologues taking place outside and sound tech no longer being provided. Power was again restored shortly after the building had been evacuated and the teams were able to restore the show during the monologues.

At this time, it was decided that Lighting would run without moving lights, as the power fluctuations could have damaged them. We continued and run the second show before power was again lost resulting in the final show being postponed.

For the set up, the Sound computer was run through an isolator into the two stereo channels on the desk. These were sent straight to mix and were in mute group 1. This allowed me to easily mute the sound mac with a single button. The channels were also sent to auxiliaries’ 3 and 4, these being the monitors on stage for the actors.

The Video computer was run into two channels on the sound desk however, we unfortunately didn’t have another isolator which resulted in some interference. The interference wasn’t noticeable when the computer was playing the video and the channels were muted at other times. The channels were sent to mix and were part of mute group 2. These channels were also sent to auxiliaries 3 & 4 for the cast’s monitors.

The final device connected to the sound desk was a microphone for the DSM to make announcements pre-show and during the intervals. This was run into channel 1 on the desk, which was sent to mix and part of mute group 3. This channel wasn’t sent to the auxiliaries as there wouldn’t be anybody on stage at the time of the announcements and were not important for the cast to hear.

All of the other channels on the desk were in mute group 4, this allowed all of the unused channels to be muted with a single button.

Arts Festival 1: Stage Team

The Arts Festival, otherwise known as HE Festival has begun, starting with us working on the stage team. The first three shows have all taken place, one after the other. To assist with the scene changes, I created a running sheet that details all of the changes and gives a layout of everything. The show has three acts, with intervals between each.

Act 1

Arts Fest 1 - Act 1 Stage Plan
The first act, was also the most complex. It consisted of a full living room set. The set was designed to be run down as it is owned by a blind man who is incapable of looking after himself. As shown in the plan above, this is also the show that was using the lamp post, stage practical. As you can see this is set Stage Left, in front of the down stage tabs. This was only used briefly with the majority of the act taking place stage right.

Act 2

Arts Fest 1 - Act 2 Stage Plan
The second act was simpler than the first consisting of a centre stage kitchen. The kitchen had a oven in the centre, which the theatre already had. Either side of that was a piece of stackable rostra (2 High). Stage Left of the oven was a special rostra construction that housed a sink. On the rostra was a microwave and kettle. Finally there was a table and chair set, was covered and had four cups set on it.

Act 3

Arts Fest 1 - Act 3
The final act was the simplest, consisting only of rostra placed around the stage, which were moved through out the performance by the actors.

To assist with all of the changes, I created a running sheet with all of the changes that need to take place between the acts. This is pictured below.

Arts Fest 1 - Stage Running Order