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"No complicated finger technique similar to that of pianist or organist is needed. Any reasonable person can easily acquire the technique in a week. To ensure that lighting will progress, the console should be in the hands of an artist (not neccessarily an engineer) of imagination during rehearsals and initial performances."

Specification Point Y of the Strand Light Console (circa 1942-ish). Specification point A of FocalPoint!


FocalPoint is a 21st Century way for a programmer to connect with their rig. FocalPoint started development in it's current guise around January 2018, with the intention of it primarily becoming very much a programmer's tool. Rigs are getting more and more complicated these days what with all of the 'intelligent' fixtures, and whilst these fixtures may save time in the focus session, and on turnarounds and such like, as a programmer I've found that this time saving is, to a degree, being offset onto me. Whilst in the past a programmer may have just had to deal with two numbers, the channel and intensity, now we find ourselves having to focus the lights (only to find that what was upstage on the tilt encoder is now downstage), shape the beam, create a funky effect, and so on, all whilst you are the one person in the room holding the whole rehearsal. I pride myself on the fact that I will do my utmost to ensure that a rehearsal is not 'waiting on lighting', specifically programming, and with the complicated rigs getting bigger, I needed a way of getting that data into the console quicker.


When a painter is painting, or a sculpter creating, they will generally be holding the tools to do the job, in order to create the sort of nuances that can't be done through direction. Why should lighting design be any different? Without wishing to put myself out of a job, we have programmers because all this information needs to go into the computer, and having to deal with that computer would mean that the designer's focus (boom boom!) is being drawn from what they are looking at, or indeed creating. The designer knows where he or she wants the light to be, yet at the moment we have a conversation that has to happen; "Please can you put fixture 2 on the theatre cat upstage left. Down a bit. {light tilts up} Other down. Make it smaller. No, maybe a bit bigger..."; and so on. With FocalPoint, all of this 'creative' aspect could potentially be carried out by the designer themself, in a fraction of the time, especially if LeapMotion is used to good effect. The situation now is the designer could tap on the groundplan where they want the light, then using some quick, discreet gestures, achieve exactly what they want, whilst the programmer deals with the data.

Programmer - Designers

Many of those reading this will have been in the situation where they need to design, and program the board at the same time. Maybe due to budgets, maybe due to personal preference. It happens. I'm one of those who does it due to personal preference, usually with an assistant who can read me like a book because when designing, I like to have my hands on the equipment, or indeed, be holding the paintbrush. I know the console well enough to practically be able to touchtype on the facepanel, but then I need to use a moving light, and suddenly I find myself stuck back in the computer, paging through trying to find the right encoder, or wondering what value 'gobo shake' is at (who actually uses that??). Although as it stands at the moment, FocalPoint will just deal with postion, zoom and edge, there are plans in place to deal with many other parameters, certainly the common ones, so I won't need to worry about being stuck in the console in that respect.

I do, however, still need to know cue information, and maybe at-a-glance parameter information for what I'm currently dealing with. Cue smartglasses. Mention these, and many peoples thoughts will turn to the well-known, fairly gimicky options such as GoogleGlass, but there are more sensible options for this sort of application, such as the Epson Movario range, which puts a tablet overlay between you and the stage, transparent when required. By using a combination of Eos to manage the data, with FocalPoint to get the information into the console, and display key pieces of it right in front of my eyes, without me having to look away from the stage, I'm literally able to hold the rig in my hands.

Copyright © Ian Wilson 2018