Moving lights are wonderful tools that are becoming more and more commonplace in the lighting world every day. The ability to have multiple focuses and physical movement can really make a lighting show fun – especially when you have atmosphere in the air.
Like any tool in your toolbox, moving lights can take some getting used to when you’ve never used them before.
Having the ability to physically move the fixtures from your desk takes a mental shift if you’ve worked with non-moving lights before.
I still remember my first time programming moving lights. The show was very basic, but afterwards I spent weeks figuring out new ways to add new movement and fun into my show. (And how to make it all work from a programming perspective).
In this post, we’ve going to dive into how to:
- The 8 Moving Light Positions You Need
- Use Pallets/Presets to Make Changes Easily Down the Road.
The 8 Moving Light Positions You Need
The very first thing I do whenever I am programming my movers is to create my 8 moving light positions.
Now, these 8 positions are ideal when lighting a band, and you may not need them all for a different kind of show. However, if you’re new to lighting, I urge you to program them all anyways, to a) give you practice and b) be there in case you decide to use them!
These 8 positions are inspired by “The Ultimate Punt Page” from designer Nook Schoenfeld, but I have changed/added to them a little. Nook is a genius when it comes to designing lights for bands.
Watch the video below for an overview of these 8 positions and how to program them into your desk:
The cross stage position gives you beams of light fanning across the stage. As you can see, it is similar to the fan on both sides, but the emphasis lies on the beams of light that cross.
When programming this position, first select the left side of stage and setup the beams crossing the stage. Use fan to give it some dimension. Then, do the right side and record a pallet!
The key trick to program without the band on stage is to set out a few mic stands evenly across the front of the stage.
So, grab a measuring tape and place one center, and then 2 on the thirds, and 2 on the edges of how far the band members will go. Then, drape some hats or old t-shirts on the stands and program away!
Just like the letters look, the XXX pattern has all of your fixtures crossing with the one right next door to it.
To make this happen, select every other fixture and set it to slant across the stage. Then, grab the other half of the fixtures and position them opposite!
The band position highlights just the band. So, grab your fixtures 1 at a time, and position them on the band members, and nothing else. Don’t forget to hit the drummer!
If you have more fixtures than band members, then it’s your choice where the extras go. I would start with the lead singer and other front-line band members for double-lights.
It’s just very important to record every fixture into every position so that you don’t accidentally get “stray fixtures” shining into space in your cues later.
If you have a circumstance where you need to only use some of the fixtures in a cue later, you’ll simply only select the fixtures that you want to use.
Down Stage Center. This is basically a reverse-fan so that all of your fixtures point to the lead singer.
Sky (Program Tilt Only)
The sky pallet is just as it sounds – with a twist! When you’re programming this preset, make sure to only touch the “tilt” parameter for your moving lights.
This way, whether your fixtures are in a XXX, fan, cross or band position, going to the “sky” position will simply bring the fixtures into the air.
I like to give the fixtures as low of an angle as I can get away with, the key is that we want to not blind anyone in the audience and be over the heads on stage, so the exact angle you can use will vary by venue.
If you’ve got a set behind the band, a banner or even just big stacks of amps, drop your moving lights there for some extra variety during your show.
Experiment with crossing your fixtures vs. lighting the set straight on and see how it looks in your particular show.
It is also likely that your rear truss fixtures won’t be doing anything in this position, and that’s okay. It’s the one time I am okay with not recording some of your fixtures into your pallet.
Speaking of audience – that’s our next pallet! Depending on where your audience sits, the exact angles of light with vary, but the idea is the same. We want to light the audience/dance floor to make people feel included in the show but not blind them.
This is the perfect angle of lighting to use on a soft ballad, or when the band asks the audience to sing a slower song.
Last, but not least, we have the lovely, infamous blinder. Point all of your fixtures into your audiences eyes, and hit record.
Make sure you use this one sparingly! It makes a great impact when you don’t over-use it, and doesn’t always have to be in-your-face.
For example, during a slow song you can turn off your fixtures and move them into blinder position. Then, you can slowly open them up in blue to about 10% or 20% for a cool effect.
How to Use Pallets/Presets to Make Changes Easily Down the Road
When you’re setting up your console and initially programming your positions, it is very important to use the pallet function of your console.
This is a directory that allows you to record your positions into a position pallet and then press that pallet to get your position and record it into cues.
This is sometimes called a preset or focus position, depending on your console.
Pallets are also update-able, so that when updated, it updates all cues built from it- a very useful, time-saving feature!
The first step in building pallets is to grab your lights via the console, and to point them in a visually pleasing position, perhaps using the fan key to help you.
Once you are happy, record and name your position in the pallet directory, and move the lights to the next position. It your console setup automatic pallets of “menus” for you, you should have an open white or similar pallet available to restart the process from scratch.
When you press a pallet on the screen, either by touching it or using a mouse or keyboard, the lights will move to that pallet.
Using this method, you can quickly program a ton of great looks using your moving lights. It is important to note that you don’t have to use every fixture in every pallet, as you may desire to do the upstage and downstage fixtures separately, and/or the wash and spot fixtures.
After you’ve setup these pallets, your next step is to program cues for whatever looks you are planning to use.
When using pallets to record, you can select only some of the fixtures on one pallet, and some on another, creating a complex look really easily.
Keep in mind to always reference pallets in your cues in case something moves on stage- then you have a quick way to update all of your cues!