I flew into NYC last week to start assisting on an off-broadway show. It has been a very long week, but I have managed to keep my energy up for the most part. Today is my day off so I thought I would blog a little about being an assistant. I thought I would briefly go over a lot of the expectations of an assistant, but what I am really interested in talking about this time around is how to keep track of important information from the lighting console.
An assistant(s) helps the designer keep information straight in the world of lighting. The primary jobs include updating magic sheets, updating the plot, taking down work and focus notes, tracking presets for the moving lights, keeping a cue sheet, tracking the scroller colors, tracking the spots, going over work notes, and the always enjoyable fetching of coffee. The list really goes on and on, but you get the picture. There is not much downtime and you are always on edge trying to be one step ahead of the game. Having strategically laid out excel or similar program files on your computer is a must. Organization is the key to everything. The last thing you want is to not know the channel number of the unit that just got added earlier that morning. If you are lucky you can hopefully get your hands on spreadsheet for spots ops or tracking from another assistant or designer and then adapt it to your own personal style.
Now onto the ways to extract that information from the console: The most important thing as an assistant on this show has been accessing the board data to track it. One good way is to become really good friends with the programmer. The other is learning how the board works and using it to your advantage. This show is running on an EOS console which I must say has been amazing to work with. In my past experiences with the EOS, the venues have not utilized the board to its full potential; especially when it comes to helping out the assistants. This is certainly not the case this time around. One of the significant improvements has been that the monitor display for the assistants is set up to only show the moving light and scroller channels and cuelist. We are also able to easily expand and view the additional data with each channel easily. And on top of all of this, using the off-line editor has been incredibly! It has allowed me to go back and catch up on a missed cue at my leisure. That is actually what I have been up to most of today on my day-off. Plus this way you do not have to wait for the programmer to arrive in the morning to get yourself caught up. So if I had any advice to offer, I'd say programmers spend sometime with the assistants from the start showing them the basics of the console, it will save you time in the long run, and assistants starting reading up on whatever console the show is being run on so you can minimize your time to record needed information. It's time to go enjoy what is left of my day off.