View the Nemetschek Vectorworks Spotlight Review - Part 1
View the Nemetschek Vectorworks Spotlight Review - Part 3
View the Nemetschek Vectorworks Spotlight Review - Part 4

Starting the Plot
When starting a light plot, most of us usually go right to positions and trussing, but before that, a few advanced organizational considerations can influence the end result.

Since Spotlight can pre-visualize, it’s imperative you understand how to organize classes and layers. We set up classes that define where we are going to place elements of the plot and determine our line weights, colors, etc. Set up a class for your annotations, viewports, centerline, focus positions, cameras, and anything else you wish to organize on your drawing. Keep your lighting fixtures on the “none” class. Classes are not where we organize our lighting fixtures, at least not yet. Unfortunately, lighting symbols reside on the class where they were created, so unless you wish to change the classes for every instrument to suit the class structure of your drawing, you must use layers to organize your lighting instruments. It actually works out well because you can have layers for scenes, where each layer has a different scene change.

You can get as detailed as you want here, but a good rule of thumb is to place your rig fixtures on a different layer from your floor fixtures or any scenic-based fixtures. This way, you can separate your rig and floor viewports from your box boom and torm views when viewporting detail. You can also go as far as to have a different layer for each instrument type so you can work on one layer at a time, or you can do both fixture and position type. It makes sense to organize your lighting layers based on position because you will want to include them in viewports based on those same positions, especially with the new Plot and Model View feature. This doesn’t mean you need to make a layer for every position you have, just major spatial differences that will need to be illustrated so they don’t overlap each other in viewports. You can always crop a viewport to a particular position on a light plot.

With classes and layers, you can get pretty detailed, and you can sometimes get disorganized with it all. One tip is to organize your classes and layers into main and subcategories using the hyphen. When you hyphenate a class or layer, it will make a main menu for the left side of the hyphen and a group of sub-classes or sub-layers for the right side of the hyphenated word. For instance, “lights-floor,” and “lights-rig,” would show up as lights in your layers, and, when you hover over lights, you will see the sub-categories, floor and rig. This makes organizing many classes or layers much more streamlined and practical.

Once you’ve started with some structure in your design, it’s time to start drawing. Something you eventually get used to is always checking the class or layer you would like to be active prior to drawing each element. If you don’t remember to change, which I frequently forget to do myself, it is quite simple to select the fixtures and re-class them through the object info palette.

Trussing And Pipes
Probably among the most cherished abilities of Spotlight are the trussing tools. Being able to create dynamic trussing objects in 3D so quickly facilitates efficient truss layout. You simply need to select the trussing tool and draw a line in the direction of your truss to the length you wish it to be. A truss is drawn and ready to be edited to the correct trussing parameters you wish to use. You can change truss details such as profile, connection interval, type, and many more. It is one of the most useful hybrid objects available. You can get quite accurate resemblance of real trusses. If exact dimension detail of a truss is required, I recommend building a model of the exact trussing segment and using that instead of the trussing tool, but for standard lighting plots, this will usually do. Once you’ve made all of your adjustments to your trussing and pipes, you can start converting to lighting positions.

Lighting Positions
Lighting positions can be converted from a truss, pipe, or any object. They are converted into a hanging position that can be documented by categorizing your fixtures by position. It also helps that, when you move an entire position, all its fixtures will move with it. Insert positions makes creating positions fast. Vectorworks with Lightwright live exchange updates all position attributes along with lights on those hanging positions. If you like to sort your paperwork by position, it’s a smart idea to use lighting positions. As all things are scalable in Vectorworks, this is one of them. For a professional lighting plot, lighting positions should be used and named. Every lighting instrument should hang off a lighting position. In the past, I admit that I haven’t used positions because I always saw them as an extra step for no particular purpose, but back then, setting up the infrastructure to make the whole paperwork side work was not really worth it. It was less time-consuming to let your gaffer do the paperwork based on the plot. Now it is completely worth it, especially with Lightwright 5.

Instruments
Spotlight comes with hundreds of lighting instruments and thousands of other objects such as truss blocks, furniture, plants, speakers, and many other resources—all updated regularly. Fixtures come with a full set of attributes, many of which are filled in, such as wattage, weight, field angle, and the name of the fixture. They come mostly as hybrid instruments, meaning they have 3D and 2D representations of the same object. This makes it possible to view them as 2D plan view symbols, not as heavy with detail as the 3D objects. Each instrument can have a variety of data detail associated with it, such as unit, universe, channel, and loads of other attributes, all of which are able to be piped through to databases and lighting software, such as the Spotlight paperwork generator, Microsoft Excel, or, again, Lightwright 5.

Spotlight lighting instruments can also be edited, if, for instance, you want to add color fill into them, as they come in black and white. It’s always good to have color fill separating the type of instruments on your plot so vendors and tech crew can make better sense of it all.

It’s important to point out that Spotlight instruments are basically unaware fixtures. They are simply drawings with attributes. They do not know how many slots there are in a gobo or color wheel, nor do they know the extents of pan and tilt degrees on a moving head. Spotlight is not a pre-visualization package as capable as Wysiwyg or ESP Vision. While you can present ideas and renderings, even movies and walkthroughs, you cannot program a show on it…yet. The instruments do not know how fast they move, how to edge, or have the abundance of other functions that lighting pre-viz packages have. Having said that, it is still a fantastic way to create a plot and quickly present a rendering along with all of your slick paperwork. Light cones are easily shown with proper degree of instrument field angle, which saves a lot of calculation.

To insert a fixture, go to the Spotlight tool tab, and click on instrument insertion. Then, select an instrument in one of your object libraries. You can insert in many different ways. The align and distribute tool is valuable and makes it simple to create evenly spaced fixtures. Another good way to do this is to use interval snapping. Then you can insert every 18", for instance. Interval snapping can be configured to divide a truss into sections, by percentage for even distribution, or by distance.

For the full review, check out the May issue of Live Design.

Christian Choi is an entertainment visual designer who leverages 3D technologies to conceive and engineer his designs. He has been designing lighting since the early 1990s and video since 2003. His latest foray into scenic design has been powered by Vectorworks' Parasolid technology. Christian is a tango enthusiast, and an avid writer/musician. You can follow him on www.twitter.com/ChristianChoi.