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Oh The Joys of Cables….

(Not my sexiest post title ever, but there it is…)

Oh the things I do for theatre!  As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m lighting designer for Jekyll and Hyde the Musical, and in honour of this I have spent the last few weeks begging, borrowing, stealing, wheedling, coaxing, cajoling and in fact doing every illicit deed I could up to but not quite including indecent acts to try and get my hands on useful equipment.  It’s just one of the simple truths of the trade – as a lighting designer you might have dazzling ideas, brilliant insight, a borderline philosophical grasp of the nature of the piece you’re working on, but none of this don’t matter shit if you can’t get 240V to every lantern in the rig, and your lighting desk doesn’t want to turn on.  More than nearly every other department, lighting is limited by the technology available.  And yes, even as I write this I can hear the distant, lingering voice of the head of technical training from my time at RADA whispering in my ear… it’s not about the equipment you have, young Catherine… it’s about what you do with it… but be that as it may, when what you’ve got to do with it is light nearly thirty different locations, more than twenty different songs and create atmospheres which range from the scintillating to the suicidal, I dunno, a bit of decent equipment might help.


But then again…

“So yeah, you’ll need a demux to get your DMX to the PMX but you may have to re-wire your DINs because if they were going to Zero88 then the pin 1 and 2 will be reversed onto 7 and 8 so you’ll need to make converters if you ever wanna use that desk ever again.”

These words were spoken to me in all sincerity as part of my epic quest to get all the various bits of kit I’ve been blagging to talk to each other, and god help us, after several days of research I even understand what it means.  I had no idea I could spend this much time getting to know different cable protocols, or spend so long worrying about analogue/digital conversion.  I didn’t realise I could be so shameless in blagging favours off friends, colleagues and even complete strangers, or that something as simple as plugging a lighting desk into a dimmer rack could require such epic amounts of soldering or cost so much.  When lighting West Side Story, the challenge was keeping all the information I needed in my mind.  Between myself and my programmer, we kept track of over two hundred and fifty lanterns, each one with its own unique function, as well as a bundle of moving lights, a massive stage covered with massive pieces of scenery and so many cues that the longest I had between each one was about fifty five seconds, and that was considered a luxury.  With Jekyll and Hyde the task is almost completely different – not only will I know every one of of my limited lanterns intimately, I could probably invent names and life stories for every damn parcan.  No – the difficulty with this show is not keeping track of what I’ve got in the air, but making sure every single unit I have is rigged perfectly, one light doing the job of ten.  It is what I believe is known as ‘a challenge’.  But oddly enough, one which I think may well be worthwhile…