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  • Episode 27 – How Do I Program Moving Lights?

 July 31

by LearnStageLighting.com

This week on Episode 27 we dive in on how to program Moving Lights. So much has changed since I started working with moving lights and I want to share with you what I learned from the pros as well as some personal trial and error!

If you’re new here, I have a Quiz that will help me send you a customized Guide on getting started with Lighting: FREE Guide @ LearnStageLighting.com/quiz.

Lighting News! (0:27)

This week in Lighting News, I ran across a Press Release for a new app, ShadowMagic, in the trade magazine Lighting and Sound America.

ShadowMagic is available on iOS only and is a visualizer for the Theater. It’s only $15 and it helps you see how the lights look, shadows, etc. To check it out Read More Here.

Main Segment (3:08)

Back when I began with lighting, moving Lights were not the “norm” they were the exception. But today because of LED it has changed so much in the Lighting Industry.

The first thing I learned about moving lights is that they are very challenging to program and set up. With great power comes great responsibility. This week I want to share what I’ve learned over the years.

What is Striking and Dousing?

If you are working with arc Lamps (discharge lamp) Moving Lights there is something called striking and dousing. As LED’s will eventually take over there are some that still use the non-LED moving lights.

Striking and Dousing is simply turning on and off the lamp. This is common for the older and bigger moving lights. I always recommend doing this manually.

Always, Tilt First!

When you’re moving the light, the first thing that you want to do is turn it on so that you can see where it is pointing. Then, you want to grab Tilt (Pan/Tilt) first. This is important because if you Tilt first so you can point the light exactly where you want it to.

Most (Sensible) Consoles Default the Fixture to 50/50

Most consoles default to 50% Pan and 50% Tilt. If you’re looking to light a show you can change where the fixtures default too. This is good to use if you wipe out position or release everything you can have your lights focus on the stage or wherever you want them to default too.

Focus them from the center of the room or stage!

When using the moving lights you want to make sure you focus it on the center of the room or stage. This way everything will line up and be symmetrical. Use Touch OSC or a console remote on a PC if you have to!

Use your console’s groups and fan function to keep things symmetrical.

If you try to set up the lights individually you may get every one of them to line up symmetrically. But this is going to take you a long time to get your lights set up that way.

This is why I highly recommend using the Group and Fan function to save you time and keep it symmetrical. Use symmetrical looks unless you don’t want to! Remember, there are no rules in lighting, except “Be Safe”.

Programming Positions

Keep in mind the “path” between different positions – there are often 2 ways to get the same position with pan/tilt combinations!

Other Parameters – how will you change gobos and fixed colors?

You always want to have a smooth transition when using gobos or fixed colors. The easiest way to do this is to turn off the light, make the change, and turn the light back on.

Gobo morph!

With Gobos, you may have multiple wheels. There is a more advanced method called Gobo Morph. Let’s say you have a Gobo Wheel 1 and a Gobo Wheel 2. What happens is if you have Gobo Wheel 1 in focus and you can change the Gobo Wheel 2 and shift the focus.

I would test and play with this Gobo Morph method to see if how it looks on stage. Now, this is not the end all to Moving Lights. This is more to get you started. If you’re looking for more in-depth methods I highly recommend checking out: Richard Cadena’s Book –

“Automated Lighting: The Art and Science of Moving and Color-Changing Lights”

This is a great read and resource. Also, if you want to learn more about focus and moving lights check out this article: How Do I Focus Moving Lights?

Mailbag (19:35)

This is the part of the show that I received through my contact page.

If you’re looking for more In-Depth Training then I would highly recommend checking out Learn Stage Lighting Labs. We have a great group of professionals and individuals that are willing to assist and guide you in your lighting journey. We have a private members forum and video tutorials to get you started.

Steve (21:00): For someone wanting to become a lighting tech what do you think is the best way to get into the industry? Should I start as a stagehand and ask as many questions as possible? Do you have any videos on how to make a lighting plan? Also, what program do you think would knowing how to program make me more in demand Grand MA or Hog? Do you have any videos for intro to Grand MA and Hog?

I don’t have specific resources for what you need because my focus is more on Entry Level and Non-Professional. But I’ve made Lighting my career and I definitely want to point you in the right direction.

What most would do is start as a stagehand. It’s not about asking questions it’s about walking in every day and paying attention. Just focus on what needs to be done and show initiative.

I would recommend finding local production companies that you would like to work for in the future. Start talking to them, find out what they like to use, and ask if you can start working with them in the warehouse.

Attitude Matters!

Academy of Production Technology

Hog Tutorials

Grand MA Tutorials

Hugo (29:55): Hi, first of all, thanks for all the help that you give to us. I am starting in Martin M-Pc. All my fixtures colors are full as soon I start the program. I don’t know what to do. Can you help me, please?

What you need to do is redefine the Default Preset for those Fixtures. Here’s a Video that shows you how to do it: Default Preset Video

Mike (31:16): Hello! I have purchased the Chauvet DMX-AN. Do I still need to buy the 512 Xpress dongle to run show express? If so why should I purchase the DMX-AN? I watched the product video on the DMAX-AN and they said it is compatible with ShowExpress. I ended up using the light key but I have to renew the license every year and that gets expensive. So my question is… did I waste money buying the DMX-AN instead of buying the 512 dongle? Or will it work with show express? Or is there a different software out there that I can use with the DMX-AN for mac? Thanks in advance!

You’re on the right track. What it doesn’t do is unlock the output. If you want to use ShowExpress and try to return DMX-AN.

If you want to do something else, I would recommend checking out this post: Lighting for Mac

Biju and Alain (34:12): We are building a new church and I would like to get your advice on which Controller to go with? Do you have a preference in a lighting software? Seems like our console is pretty difficult to deal with and I think it is easier to use a computer-based software. We are a small church just starting to take the plunge.

Both wrote in separately but do have the same question. First,  am going to point you to an article to help you get started: How to Choose a Lighting Console for Your Church

You want to think about what software fits your needs first. Is it complicated, hard to use, or is it easy for volunteers to pick up? How easy will it be easy to program? The cost of the console? At first glance, you may not want to invest $400 in a console and decide to go with a cheaper option. But in a couple of years, you may realize you would have rather spent the $400 to meet the lighting needs.

I recommend checking this article as well to get you started: Church Lighting Q&A + Basic Gear


As always thank you so much for tuning in! Make sure you are subscribed for the latest episodes. Next week we have “What Should I Program on the Faders and Buttons of My Lighting Console?”.

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