The Spotlights fall on More Information Learning Technology!

Wednesday 12 November 2008, 18:30


The evening was in two sessions, each session having two topics to choose from:

  • Session One: Introduction to WYSIWYG with Nick Schneider and Dominic or Online Assessment with Blackboard with Richard Hind
  • Session Two: Technology of WYSIWYG with Nick and Dominic or Creating video tutorials with Graham Hollingsworth

I attended the two sessions on WYSIWYG, which is software to aid with the planning, 3D design and implementation of lighting effects. The use of software in this way was an “eye-opener” although it is difficult to convey in words what we saw on the screen, the lighting desk and the effect on the room as the lighting changed.

Session One: Introduction to WYSIWYG, by CAST Software

Nick and Dominic used a studio setting with an interviewer and 2 interviewees as an example. You can have e.g. pieces of furniture, people in different poses, different coloured backgrounds etc. They had planned the studio and lighting rig then rendered it to give a 3D model of how the various lighting effects would look. By altering the position of the lights on the plan they were able to show the effects of these changes.

The software is used because it can reduce production lead time by 2 months, it’s easier and the design can be uploaded to the lighting desk. You start with a plan view (i.e. from above) and create the virtual lighting rig, placing the lamps in their positions. You then render it to see what it will look like in side view plans and 3D model. Once finished the design is uploaded onto the lighting desks.

The digital light desk contains 2 laptop cpus, floppy, modem, DMX cable (to the lights) and can control lots more lights than an analogue desk. You can pre-program special effects e.g. red is a pre-programmed combination of cyan, yellow and magenta. Physical changes made on the lighting control desk are reflected in WYSIWYG representation.

Conversely changes in WYSIWYG are passed to the desk and the lighting alters. It was amazing how much could be done with just one light! And equally amazing how easily a plan of the lighting could be rendered and then adjusted to meet the needs of the client.

Session Two: Technology of WYSIWYG

Dominic took us through the process from starting a plan to controlling the lamp from the lighting desk and from the software. Some problems occurred which meant we learnt more - including the fact that you can hard reboot a lamp! Some of the steps involved were:

  • Cabling between the lamp and the light desk using DMX cable. The base of the lamp has an encoder which accepts DMX (language that controls lamps).
  • Enabled Ethernet connection and set up the software to communicate with the instruments.
  • Set up IP address for the lamp! Connect it to network and console and bind the new light to a channel
  • Send data from WYSIWYG to light control desk (as a patch) The monitor has grey buttons that control each aspect of the light.

The lighting engineer can take manual control if something unexpected happens on stage. One processor does DMX light language and the other does “proper” PC work. (Windows is embedded on the PCs.)

This means that if the pc dies you can still use it as a lighting desk - or if the desk dies you can use the virtual version to control the lights. Some lamps have WiFi boards and you can run the software on an iPod. Dominic demonstrated control of the lamp from his phone which is useful if you’re in the rigging!


The evening introduced lots of new concepts - lights with encoders, a language (DMX) and an IP address!! Where will computers go next?