Tech Topic: To Timecode, or Not To Timecode?

Posted on Monday, May 30th, 2016

By Chris Lose

Whether “Tis Nobler” Is Not the Question. Here’s a Roundtable Discussion of When It’s the Answer.

For some, timecode is the auto tune of lighting designers — a lazy choice. Others insist that timecode is doing the job of the operator, freeing him or her up from being chained to just punching the “go” button for each and every cue. But the truth is that when properly implemented, it can be used for a show’s greater good.

I recently had the pleasure of working on two major rock tours that were large and required precision cueing. The major difference between the two was timecode. I manually executed 600 cues each night on a Fleetwood Mac tour. Later, I filled in for LD Matt Mills for a week on Mötley Crüe; where 97 percent of the cues were fired by timecode. This allowed me to focus on tending to four buttons, two faders, and call spots (plus make sure that Tommy Lee and his drums were bathed in a smoky haze thick enough to make Shanghai call the air pollution hotline).

I assembled a virtual roundtable of some of the best designers in the business — Mark Butts (Shania Twain), Baz Halpin (Katy Perry), Nick Whitehouse (Justin Timberlake) and Rob Sinclair (Queen with Adam Lambert) to discuss the pros and cons of timecoding.

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