The Tony award winning musical, Spring Awakening, started out on the road for its first national tour with an opening in San Francisco in September 2008. The original Broadway production used two consoles; a Strand Lighting 550i for the moving lights and an Obsession for the conventional lighting. For the tour, the production team decided to run the entire production on a single console.

Now the lighting team of myself as programmer and Aaron Sporer, the associate lighting designer for Kevin Adams, the lighting designer, had the job of converting the 500 series show file with all automated fixtures and 150 cells of LEDs, converting the Obsession show file and getting them onto the LightPalette desk on a single cue list.

The first step was to transfer the 500 series show file into the LightPalette console’s software. The Palette OS software (version 10) natively imports all 500 series show files and converts all automated fixtures to the Universal Attribute Control. This means that pan and tilt 50/50 on the 500 series will now be represented by pan and tilt 0 degrees and all position palettes converted to degrees. Color mixing parameters will be represented with the actual color of the light in the color bubbles on the channel grid and all other parameters get the benefit of a similar conversion.


On the 500 series console, all LEDs were programmed as standard channels because there is no intelligence in the desk to add intensity to an RGB fixture. So 101 was red, 102 was green and 103 was blue for the first LED cell. This numbering scheme continued for all 150 cells of Color Kinetics’ Color Blast units that wrapped the inside of the set walls: That was 450 channels of control. The PaletteOS creates a phantom intensity channel for all LED fixtures so that they can be treated and programmed like regular fixtures that color mix. This created a challenge, as there was no separate intensity channel on the 500.

When it was imported, the color mixing was there but there was no intensity. Fortunately, when a 500 show file is imported, the PaletteOS creates a conversion text file. In this file, the programmer has the opportunity to map from one fixture type to another or, in our case, map from intensity channels to attribute channels. So channel 101 was mapped to channel 601 Red and channel 102 was mapped to channel 601 Green and so on. The conversion information for the LEDs was actually created in an Excel document and then pasted back into the conversion text file. We were dealing with hundreds of channels and it was easier to create the document using a spreadsheet program.

Since the LightPalette has an intensity attribute for any RGB fixture, and the 500 series did not, the intensity attribute had to be added and provided with appropriate values in the cues. For example, if you have R 100% G 0% and B 0%, the imported show file converted this to intensity at 100% - R 100% G 0% and B 0% based on the translation information that was provided in the conversion text file. But if you have R 50% G 0% and B 0%, after the conversion you get intensity at 50% - R 100% G 0% and B 0%.

This way, if you want more intensity after it’s converted, you just add intensity. You don’t have to worry about the red parameter’s value. This also worked if you have R 50% G 0% and B 25%. The conversion extended the same idea into the other colors so the conversion gave us intensity at 50% R 100% G 0% and B 50%. So the LED channels were moved from 101 thru 550 to RGB fixtures 601 thru 748. This kept the color consistent, moved all channels to appropriate fixture numbers and gave us what we wanted.


Aaron moved some channels around using Obsession offline so that we didn’t have any overlapping channels from the Obsession file onto the 500 series file. We decided to leave the moving lights as fixtures 1 thru 50. Move the first 50 channels from the Obsession up into the 400s and the LEDs were moved above all conventional channels as described in the previous paragraph. The Obsession file via ASCII was imported into the LightPalette show file. The PaletteOS can accommodate multiple cue lists but I wanted everything on one cue list for the tour so on import, the option exists to make a copy (creating an additional cue list) or not. Unselecting this option will import the cues’ data onto the main cue list thus merging the two cue lists.

A user can import a file and then import another on top of it. You’ll get the timing information from the second file since it is being imported over the first. If you need timing info from the first file for only part of the show, then you can re-import the first file but only bring over a range of cues. With Spring Awakening, we chose to start w/ the 500 file and then import the Obsession cue list on top as the PaletteOS has more sophisticated timing options for the moving lights so this gave us all the cue timings from the Obsession file. This also included all part cues.

The last step was to convert the show file from VL1000 tungsten units that were used on Broadway to the Mac 2000 Performances used on the tour. For some consoles, this is a big process of cloning. But with the PaletteOS and the Universal Attribute Control, the only step is to change the fixtures in patch and you are done. Since pan and tilt are in degrees, the console knows where the light is pointing; it only needs to know what fixtures you are using. This provided a great place for us to start working in San Diego at the newly renovated Balboa Theatre where we did production for the tour. From here, we added some new effects, used CTO to adjust for the difference of the arc source of the MAC2ks and made changes to respond to the director’s and the designer’s needs.

Editor’s note: Bobby Harrell will be teaching basic and advanced programming for the Strand LightPalette (also used by LD Richard Pilbrow on the new Broadway musical, A Tale Of Two Cities) in the LDInstitute at LDI2008. Click here for information on all the courses in the LDInstitute and register today.