What Are Cues and Cuelists?

In a modern lighting console or software, cues are the basis of programming your show.

And while different lighting consoles can have slightly different terms and workflows, for the most part cues and cuelists are the fundamental building block that you will build your lighting “looks” in for your next show or service.

What is a Cue?

Simply put, a Cue is a single lighting look that is played out to the stage with a single trigger – usually a button press, fader raise, or an external software/device triggering it.

In most modern lighting consoles or software, cues contain only the information that was first selected and modified in the “programmer”.

Some older or simpler consoles would record the entire output of the console – items played back from faders or buttons as well as programmer data. Today, many professional lighting consoles can engage that option, but by default only record what was first brought into the programmer.

Cues are the basis of running a live show. Your particular control solution may give you on-screen buttons, physical button, faders, or any combination of these.

And, more often than not, you are able to stack cues into what is called a “Cuelist”.

What is a Cuelist?

A cuelist is a “stack” of multiple cues. I like to call it a stack because the order of which the cues are in the cue stack affects the result – more on that in a minute.

Some consoles offer this on every playback fader or button, while other consoles may only offer this functionality on a single “main” cuelist, as is popular for theatrical productions.

Cues are generally played in numerical order on a cuelist, though that can be overridden in most lighting consoles or software.

What is Tracking in a Cuelist?

Tracking refers to how the lighting console determines playback for lights that are turned on in one cue, and then not modified in the next cue.

While every console works with tracking in a slightly different way, the basic principle is this:

When I turn on a light (or modify another attribute of that light – such as color, movement, or gobo pattern), and then I don’t turn it off in a future cue, it stays on when there is tracking.

This is a HUGE time saver when you stay within a single cuelist and update cues later – any tracked values automatically track to future cues (unless you override that setting – which is sometimes what you ant to do).

Some consoles or software use tracking, some don’t. Professional consoles generally offer the ability to turn tracking on or off, as needed.

Whether you use a single cue or a full cuelist, I hope this article has helped you to better understand how to program lighting on your stage!

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