Design Journey, Part V – What is your “Pencil” for Drawing a Light Plot?



If you’re just joining us, I’m lighting a local performance of The Drowsy Chaperone. I’ve been blogging my thoughts and experiences as a professional lighting designer. Click here to read from the beginning!


Ahhh….  Drafting the good old Light Plot.  For those who are very new to this, a light plot is simply a schematic of where the lighting instruments will be in the theatre.  It also conveys different pieces of information about each unit.


When I first started designing a good forty years ago it was simply by hand.  Mechanical Drafting with perhaps a little to the artistic flair was the way to go and you made your lighting instruments by using a lighting instrument template much like you would do a circle. 

During the early 90’s computer aided drafting began to emerge.  While I was in graduate school there was a battle of whether that would be acceptable for school projects or not.  The faculty at that time shied away from it using the argument that you would not always go to a place where there was a printer big enough to print out your plot.  I argued against that but, alas, I was the student and not the teacher and lost the battle.

On my own I had a friend who used a version of generic CADD.  It was so simple and such a time saver.  To me it was simply a pencil but with a fancy mouse instead.  It really made the work go so much faster and repetitive tasks could be done with a push of a button.  At that time your paperwork (Channel Hook Up and such) was still separate.  Lightwright had become a norm and that was accepted by the teachers.

Sadly Generic CADD became discontinued.  I moved to full blown CADD and that had its own challenges.  Every time I was drawing a light plot I felt like it required me to have the ability to draw the Space Shuttle.  Over time I mastered the skills to be able to use it successfully.

Well, that was a good ten to twelve years ago for me.  As some of you may, know I took a break from designing to build the  I have recently started designing again with A Drowsy Chaperone at Jacksonville University.  I went to pull out my old CADD and it just did not work on my new computer, for two reasons.  The first is that it is a very old program and second – I have gone MAC!  So I decided to take the plunge and purchased myself VectorWorks SpotLight.Lighting Designer Louie at desk

OMG what a program.  I am not going to say that it isn’t complicated.  In my opinion, it combines pieces of Photoshop, Flash and CADD all in one.  Once you get it though (I’m still working on that), it is a huge time saver.  It can also create its own version of the paperwork or link to Lightwright.  I guess my point is, it’s all a tool.  The pencil of old has simply gotten more sophisticated and lets you do more faster.  I am so glad that I made the leap and moved forward with the rest of the world.


The journey continues in Part VI!







%d bloggers like this: