What Are Cues and Cuelists? – Learn Stage Lighting .com

What Are Cues and Cuelists?

Yesterday I told a story of a venue I worked at that had no ideas of the capabilities of their lighting console- they thought that they only had 8 looks per page, when really they could record hundreds.  When I told them this they were surprised.  However, it’s not always the best way to program!  I really like using playbacks and submasters to create my looks for live music and corporate events, but sometimes, that’s just not what you need.

Image from rocksee on Flickr

For example:

If you only need to bring up simple, whole looks up, one at a time. Perhaps you want a sermon look, a walk-in look and a few music looks, and you want to be able to fade between them nice and evenly.

  • Or maybe you’re thinking about how to program the lights for your Christmas, Easter or children’s theatrical show- a type of show that you will always do in order, and you want to playback some complex looks easily at the press of a button.

If you’re in these types of situations, using the cuelist on your console is your best bet. So what are cues?  Well, cues are recorded looks that you can play back via the cue stack on your lighting console. These cues are then easily played back in order, or played back out of order with just a little work, depending on your console. Cues are typically recorded just like submasters, except you are recording to a number or a cue stack on the console. So, you’d typically hit “record”, and then hit the select next to the cue stack or press “cue” and a number that you want to assign it to.

Building Cues

Let’s talk about building cues. The best way to build cues for a theatrical production or church service is to first have your ideas thought out well in your head. Know what you want your cues to look like before you stand behind the console. This will help break “lighters block” during programming. Then, label the channels on the console that you’ve focused using console tape, or P-Touch labels if they’re fairly permanent.

Your next step is to build submasters for all of the elements of the lighting rig you’re going to use a lot.  This will speed up the cue building process as you can quickly grab the faders you want and get it looking right while the actors get into position, without it taking too much extra time for rehearsal. You don’t need a submaster for everything- a label for individual specials will suffice to save valuable submasters for groups of lights.  Then, use the record button after you create each look you need, building the cues of your show- be sure to write down what cue is what in a spreadsheet or the columns of your script(in pencil), if you’re working a theatrical-style show.

LTP Consoles

Now, thus far we’ve dealt with cues on an HTP, conventional, or theatrical style console. When using an LTP console, or a moving light console, there are a few new concepts to keep in mind.

  • Tracking: This means un-edited items from the last cue will track, or move into the next cue. You need to turn lights to zero in the programmer in order for them to turn off- this is really important! The nice thing about this is that you don’t have to record each light into each cue, just the changes from the last cue, so you can have the last cue up while you set your current cue, just recording the changes. This makes it easy if you need to change the color or gobo in a moving light for a string of cues- just change it on the first one!
  • Maintain State: You need to make sure this is on in your console.  It is the consoles way of keeping up with its own tracking, so that cues look right even if you jump right to them, instead of going through the list normally.  This is in case someone skips a scene or you jump around in rehearsals.

If you’re running your LTP console with cuelists, you also need to be sure you keep everything to one cuelist.  You also don’t want to accidently bring up another cuelist during your show- and have wrong lights to come up all of a sudden!  Release extra cuelists when running a theatrical style show!

With that said, cuelists are a great way to run a show for a lot of circumstances. You are able to quickly step through a bunch of complex cues really simply- and get the same results every time. Keep in mind the differences between HTP and LTP consoles if that applies to you, and you’re on your way to a great show!


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