Author Topic: Talk to me about tech...  (Read 4024 times)

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mkristinect

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Talk to me about tech...
« on: Sep 24, 2014, 02:42 am »
Specifically technical knowledge necessary for an SM.  I am self-taught, with good people and management skills, but zero technical knowledge.  Luckily I've been able to skate by in the few shows I have so far managed because they were grassroots companies with few design needs and/or companies with really, really good designers.  Once I ran lights for a production of Romeo and Juliet.  It consisted of a single spot with no sight and no stand so I had to point it manually and nearly caught my shirt on fire.  Another time I ran sound for Woman in Black.  It consisted of a laptop running WMP.  Super high tech.

Anyway, I'm mostly wondering if you lovely folks can point in the direction of some good resources (paper or web-based) that might help me overcome my handicap.  Thanks in advance!

Tempest

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Re: Talk to me about tech...
« Reply #1 on: Sep 24, 2014, 11:00 am »
Whew, but that's a big question. Without knowing more about your situation, it's hard to know what to tell you.

In theory, an SM with NO technical knowledge can run tech pretty well, since the designers should be doing all that tech "heavy lifting." In practice it helps a lot to know what goes into "adjusting levels," "repatching," "focusing," "EQing," "linking Qs in Qlab," etc., etc. so that you can estimate how long those tasks are going to take, and if another department can be working on something else at the same time, or if you should call a break for the actors.

Unfortunately, a lot of that knowledge comes from previous SM experience, or having worked in those departments, before. There's no way you're going to pick up what you're looking for in book learning before tech.

I'd suggest being honest with the design team going in. "I don't really know or understand a lot about your department, but I want to learn while making sure tech goes as smoothly as possible. Can you help me out by letting me know what you're doing when we stop, and how long you think it will take?"

Good luck!
Jessica: "Of course I have a metric size 4 dinglehopper in my kit!  Who do you think I am?"

ejsmith3130

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Re: Talk to me about tech...
« Reply #2 on: Sep 24, 2014, 01:18 pm »
I second Tempest... I learned a lot of tech through my university program, but it isn't really relavant to tech as much as what I have learned just by watching, and asking questions (when not working- you will find the right times to ask)

I have had to run a lot of sound, and troubleshooting problems in a small space has pushed me beyond my limit of knowledge, so during tech, or previews when we had a little more time, and I had a designer at my disposal, I would ask questions about the equipment, programs, and how's and why's that gave me a fuller view of the technical side of things.

Jonas_A

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Re: Talk to me about tech...
« Reply #3 on: Sep 24, 2014, 10:02 pm »
I'd recommend seeking out some good books on the subjects you're interested in (or feel the need to be educated about); Drew Cambell's "Technical Theatre for Non-Technical People" is actually great for SMs because it will give you enough terminology and understanding to be able to respond when your LD says "Oh, so it turns out we can't keep the DMX cables for the movers on the 3rd electric because the arbor can't hold any more weights and the extra power runs have made it bar-heavy." Similarly, his book Digital Theatre for Non-Technical People is also good when you start working with more complicated technology (or people who can't find better words to describe what they're doing.)

Definitely ask questions. Ask them over a beer, ask them during down-time, ask any time someone looks really happy with the solution they're just engineered. People love working with an SM who speaks their language and understands their issues and will work hard to get on the same page if you show you're willing.

(My secret? I call a friend. It's not uncommon for me to leave a production meeting, or a tech, and then quietly call a mate to ask "So, the Head Flyman said the tormentors were catching on something. What on earth is he talking about?!")

Maribeth

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Re: Talk to me about tech...
« Reply #4 on: Sep 25, 2014, 12:21 pm »
I agree with what's been said about experience being the best teacher. If you want to get some hands-on experience, go on an electrics call or offer to run a sound board. Or, you could ask someone to give you a quick primer on how a light or sound board works the next time you're at the theatre.

If it were me, I would try to learn by asking questions (as has been mentioned, only at appropriate/not disruptive times) and observing what's happening around you. You can learn a little bit of the lingo/basic context from a book- something like The Backstage Handbook. If you're looking for a basic foundation for understanding the technical side of things, that's not a bad way to go.

I am constantly asking designers or tech people to explain how things work to me- and I have a technical background. Technology changes and the only way to keep up is to keep learning about it.

mkristinect

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Re: Talk to me about tech...
« Reply #5 on: Sep 27, 2014, 11:35 am »
Yeah, I'm good at asking questions.  I just need to give myself some context in order to understand the answers.  Those resources sound great, though...thank you!!

 

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