Author Topic: TECH: Thoughts on paper tech  (Read 4104 times)

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vbskeeby

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TECH: Thoughts on paper tech
« on: Feb 13, 2013, 02:56 pm »
I'm very curious to hear the thoughts of the fine folks on this board re: the usefulness of paper tech.  While I have always been on "Team Paper Tech", I'm running into more and more people who view paper tech as a waste of time and a somewhat immature way of doing things.  The argument being that "everything is going to change anyway" once we get into the space.  I'm in the off-loop Chicago community, where it's common to not even get on set until first tech.  I see it as a time saver - and a way to get everyone on the same page without wasting the time of the actors, but only really useful for shows with complicated sequences.  And even if things do change in tech (which they will), at least we started from the same goal.  For a simple lights up/lights down show, I wouldn't bother.

Thoughts?  Do you folks in larger venues still do paper techs?

Edited to add title tag. - Maribeth
« Last Edit: Feb 13, 2013, 03:26 pm by Maribeth »

Maribeth

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Re: Thoughts on paper tech
« Reply #1 on: Feb 13, 2013, 03:24 pm »
I find paper tech sometimes, but not always, useful. Most of the shows I work on don't require one but if there are lots of moving pieces of scenery, complicated sequences, or an element like projections that really affects how sequences go together, paper tech can be a big help. Or, as your mentioned, if you don't have a lot of time onstage, paper tech can be a really productive way to be prepared.

I think it's also helpful in some situations where the director and designers haven't worked together before. I find that sometimes it takes a couple hours of tech for everyone to get into the same groove when working together for the first time- some of that can be worked out during a paper tech.

I've often had a meeting focusing on something like projections/video that really ends up being a form of paper tech. I've also worked places where the SM team has met prior to tech and gone through the run list or WWW line by line in preparation for tech- sort of a paper tech among ourselves.

When all is said and done, I rarely have a scheduled "paper tech" these days.

NomieRae

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Re: TECH: Thoughts on paper tech
« Reply #2 on: Feb 13, 2013, 04:00 pm »
Depends on the show, in certain instances (like a festival show) I ALWAYS do paper tech because there is such limited time to tech and work on things, and if worse comes to worse I know I can plow forward and at least get the show up on it's feet in our limited time.

I also agree if you're dealing with projections or fly rail or scenic pieces it helps to have that penciled in ahead of time so you can start to understand the flow of the show. Will things change? Most likely. Sometimes designers can give you their paperwork and you can plug things in yourself to be ahead of the game. (Knowing a projection has a 5 second fade up gives you a heads up on when it should be called...etc) Also if you have a complicated shift/change such as a wardrobe quick change that happens onstage during a light cue, with a sound effect, and a projection, it's something that the timing can be done in rehearsal and save lots of aggravation in tech.

I usually take the cue off of the director whether or not we will be doing paper tech - many times it can be very helpful to know what and how the director and designers collaborate before you're in a room under a ticking clock. Some directors always want a sequence followed for continuity, as in Slide-lights-sound so the scenes start in a similar way. Little info like that can save you minutes of catch up while at the tech table. 
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MatthewShiner

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Re: TECH: Thoughts on paper tech
« Reply #3 on: Feb 13, 2013, 04:33 pm »
A paper tech with the director and all the designers - simply not going to happen until production elements FORCE it to happen.

On the other hand, me and my team will ALWAYS paper tech a show (go into tech with a run book done).  I have cues written into my book ahead of time - I know where most of the plot drive sound cues go, I know where projections will start . . .

But at the end, the team needs to be in the room and riff off each other.  Plus, most of the time, I am luckily to see lighting designer or sound designer before a designer run anyway . . .

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Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

leastlikely

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Re: TECH: Thoughts on paper tech
« Reply #4 on: Feb 13, 2013, 05:43 pm »
I think paper tech can be very useful, but it really has to be planned on a case-by-case basis. On some productions it just really isn't practical. Sometimes maybe Sound is prepared to paper tech, but Lights wants to write cues on the fly so they really have no information to give you before they write it. Other times maybe you already have comprehensive q sheets and you're expected to book them yourself, and then tweak in tech if needed. Other times, the only reasonable expectation of what can be gotten out of paper tech is a framework of deck/rail Qs. Who knows.

So in general - I like paper tech, I think it's a good thing, but I also think it's not always practical, so it doesn't make sense to force the designers in to a paper tech if they won't have anything to do there. So check in with the director and designers, get a feel for the environment, and then decide.

In an ideal world, you could book everything before tech. But in the real world... I get what I can done. Which definitely includes deck/rail, and at least an idea of where sound/projections will be. But I put my Qs on stickers so I can move them with no erasing... because I will have to change them.

MatthewShiner

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Re: TECH: Thoughts on paper tech
« Reply #5 on: Feb 13, 2013, 06:36 pm »
Also, you maybe able to "paper tech" by department.  Sound will often be able to give you a cue sheet ahead of time. You maybe able to meet with scenic and discuss transition (especially if there is automation).  You maybe able to then pre-tech all of these elements ahead of time . . . to be as ready for tech as you can.
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missliz

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Re: TECH: Thoughts on paper tech
« Reply #6 on: Feb 13, 2013, 10:32 pm »
I insist on paper techs for tech-heavy shows. I find they make the actual tech run so much smoother, even if things are changing once you're in the room. It's just another way to make sure everyone is generally on the same page.

Now, on a show with lights up lights down, a couple basic SQs (doorbell, phone ring)...I think they're less necessary.
I personally would like to bring a tortoise onto the stage, turn it into a racehorse, then into a hat, a song, a dragon and a fountain of water. One can dare anything in the theatre and it is the place where one dares the least. -Ionesco

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Jessie_K

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Re: TECH: Thoughts on paper tech
« Reply #7 on: Feb 14, 2013, 02:58 am »
I find a paper tech can be supremely useful for events.  When doing events with various special guest performers and/or speakers, one rarely gets to do a full tech-run or dress-run with all players and all elements in order.

Talking through the show with the director and designers can be invaluable for calling and running transitions and each act during an event.

As for paper tech on a show, I find that it normally happens by department rather than a formal full-team paper tech.  And as I now work primarily on circus-style shows with huge amounts of automation-- a paper tech for automated scenery and lifts is necessary given programming time. 

BARussell

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Re: TECH: Thoughts on paper tech
« Reply #8 on: Feb 14, 2013, 02:37 pm »
I find paper techs impossible to organize, designers are very slippery. I like to be able to paper tech with each department if possible but at the end of the day if they just give me their cues ahead of time I can work it out in my book before tech and sort it out with my team so we come as prepared as possible.
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Scott (formerly Digga)

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Re: TECH: Thoughts on paper tech
« Reply #9 on: Feb 14, 2013, 02:43 pm »
For the most part, I haven't worked with a Lighting Designer that had the show cued before we got into actual tech.  Maybe I'm just unlucky.  I do often get sound cues ahead of time and can get them in my book early.

Otherwise, I haven't seen the need for paper techs.  Most directors I've worked with don't want them and as mentioned above, designers can be even more difficult to nail down.

Knowing where deck shifts and what not ahead of time is important though.  As long as I have that dealt with ahead of time, getting the other cues written during tech seems to work for me.

pyromnt

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Re: TECH: Thoughts on paper tech
« Reply #10 on: Feb 14, 2013, 08:41 pm »
I think it is very helpful

I actually plan them after the process begins and a set design is done

That way we can figure out everything that needs to be figured out and just get them done

I think they work
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MatthewShiner

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Re: TECH: Thoughts on paper tech
« Reply #11 on: Feb 14, 2013, 09:38 pm »
I think that perhaps we are working with different definitions of "Paper Tech"

If we are taking about a fully participating "Paper Tech", where the director, all the designers and stage managers sit down and go beat by beat through the show - I think this could be very helpful on a very complicated show, but if the show is huge, you might have a hard time pinning down everyone for the amount of time needed to make this meeting useful.

If you are talking about a department by department "Paper Tech", where stage management meets with each designer independently to get cues from them and book them, I still see some use in this, and you may have more of a fighting chance in making this happen.  (But again, you may have trouble pinning them down.)

There is also the paper tech that stage management can do on their own - which is basically doing the run sheets ahead of time.  Where you take everything you know based on rehearsal and lay out, to the best of your knowledge, based on what you have learned in rehearsal, and document your "Game Boarding" on the show. 

I have to say at the level I work at, unless the director requested it, I would never push for a paper tech - it's not something that is typically done (and often, in the US, smacks of Educational Theater - which is negative stereotype for something that would be immensely useful for stage management.)  I just don't have the time that final week when everyone is in town to sit down for a couple of hours (And very few producers want to pay the SM overtime that would be required.)

I often find that paper techs turn into design conversations and a lot of time is wasted. 

The way I work with my team, is from pre-production, we starting working on the run sheets, automation sheets, quick change plots, sound cue lists, and update them daily as learn the show (for example, if in the rehearsal room, we want a scene change to take 20 seconds, then we start looking at the automation sheets how it can happen in that time.)  So, we start our tech process from the first day we on are contract.

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Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

loebtmc

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Re: TECH: Thoughts on paper tech
« Reply #12 on: Feb 15, 2013, 01:14 am »
I find paper techs = the form that is my sitting w the lighting or sound designer (on a complex show) very useful. Sometimes it helps to have the director there, sometimes it helps to do it completely apart from the director (esp some directors). But always useful.

Bwoodbury

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Re: TECH: Thoughts on paper tech
« Reply #13 on: Feb 17, 2013, 11:07 pm »
I prefer to cue on my own and come back with questions. Often I will prep a cuing document based on the notes in the rehearsal report that lists all the things the director has requested and send it over before the design run.

I have found that experienced directors almost never want to cue to cue, but the last couple newer directors I've worked with were worried for me when I expressed that I didn't need a papertech unless they did.

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Re: TECH: Thoughts on paper tech
« Reply #14 on: Feb 18, 2013, 05:21 pm »
I have found that experienced directors almost never want to cue to cue, but the last couple newer directors I've worked with were worried for me when I expressed that I didn't need a papertech unless they did.

I recently SMed a college show (local college without much of a tech program to have student SMs or designers) and in the first production meeting, going over the tech schedule, the TD said "so then Friday afternoon, we'll do a paper tech for Becky-" and when I tried to tell them that I didn't need a paper tech it created a whole huge issue! I was very clear that since all of the designers and I were professionals, that a paper tech was only necessary if the director or one of the designers felt it was necessary, but if the only reason was for me to get cues in my book then we didn't need to have one. It was like I suggested cancelling tech altogether. I kept saying "I'm happy to be there if you need it, but I don't need one just for me," and it turned the whole production meeting into a big argument. I was SHOCKED. Eventually I discovered that the reason everyone was freaking out because they were saying paper tech but really were talking about a cue to cue (which was a whole nother can of worms).
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