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    Towards a New Paradigm for Intuitive Theatrical Lighting Control

    Schwarz, David, Cunningham, Stuart ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5348-7700 and Smith, Rebecca Woodford (2019) Towards a New Paradigm for Intuitive Theatrical Lighting Control. In: Proceedings of EVA London 2019, 08 July 2019 - 11 July 2019, London, UK.

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    A simplified model of a lighting process applied in theatrical productions is one that involves two key players. The first is that of the lighting designer, to produce a set of intentions and plans for the scenes that define the show. The second, the lighting technician, has the job of translating these designs into practice using control equipment, luminaires, and other technical instruments. The lighting design often becomes a ‘working document’ subject to change and adaptation as the physical reality of the design becomes apparent, and the input of other stakeholders is considered. This process can be a valuable creative tool, and also a difficult technical hurdle to overcome, depending on a varied number of factors. A common frustration with this process is that either the complexity of the task, or difficulty in communication can make it difficult for the final creative vision to be effectively realised. Strains may also arise in the case of small, often touring, theatre companies where the lighting designer and technician may be the same person, and frequently one of the performers as well. Considering the design aspect, there can be challenges in ensuring efficacy of lighting plans between venues in touring productions, with 2D lighting sketches or even 3D computer simulations confined to the paper or screen. From a technical perspective, the role of the lighting technician in theatres and performance situations has included the operation of lighting control equipment during shows. The equipment has evolved over time but has, until recently, been grounded upon the basis of faders and the mixing desk. It is argued that this paradigm has failed to keep pace with the change in other interactive technologies. The on-going research described in this paper explores existing and upcoming technologies in the field, whilst also seeking to understand the roles and communication workflows of those involved in theatrical lighting to find the best areas to seek improvement, adopting principles of user-centred design. The intention of this research is to develop a new paradigm, and manifestation of it, using a control method for lighting or projection that allows a more intuitive form of operation in theatre productions, which will be scalable and flexible.

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