Gettin’ Focused

Focus Buddy

Focusing lighting instruments can be a long and tedious task for a small group, but especially cumbersome if you have to accomplish the task alone. So when this idea of a “Focus Buddy” dawned on me last year, it drastically sped up the time I had to spend focusing lights when I had to tackle the job by myself.

The Problem

To understand my dilemma let me first tell you a little bit about my space. I have an 1,000 seat proscenium house. The proscenium opening is 40′ wide by 18′ tall. From plaster line to the cyc is 25′ deep and there is a 13′ apron with an additional 12′ of covered pit. Obviously a large space which requires the focusing of many fixtures.

For my lighting positions there are 5 flyable electrics in the flyspace, two tormenter positions about halfway back in our house, and a front of house position in a catwalk. To go with those, my lighting console is at the back of the theatre up a flight of stairs in a booth, and as to date, I do not have wireless control of the system. Unfortunately, we have not been able to upgrade to a newer console yet. I do however, have a remote focus unit that must be leashed to the outlet on the wall, so this does help to an extent.

With all these facts in mind, you can see how working alone it can be a large task to get my instruments focused.  Obviously, I needed some way to make the job a little easier.

The Solution

Photo May 30, 2 11 51 PMAs I was preparing to teach my Advanced Stagecraft class about focusing lights, I realized I needed to figure out a way to speed up the process so that we could better use our short amount of valuable time.  To do this I figured the easiest way to decrease the time it took would be to have more of them focusing lights at once, but If each person had to have one other person to focus the light on, we would be at an impasse. I needed a way to free up bodies so they could work on focusing the fixtures so I began to walk and look around my theatre for something that may be of use.  Then I walked by a mic stand and the idea dawned.

Mic stands are made sturdy to stand on their own and I can raise it to a height that is similar to the height of my actors.  If I used a boom mic stand I would be able to get it even taller.  But to work right, I still needed something bigger that could be the “actors head” for the light to actually focus on. In my office I had some left over paper plates from feeding some of my crew pizza one night. So, I grabbed some plates and masking tape. I taped the plate to the stand, and voila–I had a “head” to focus on!

The plate ended up working better than I had anticipated.  The white surface of the plate made it much easier to tell when the hot spot of the light was reflecting off of it, thus making it easier for the students to learn how to focus a light.  This process worked great for my class, but has also proved very effective for those times that I’ve had to work alone in the theatre. The great thing is you can create as many of these to use at one time as you have mic stands at your disposal! Saving you time So if you have 5-10 at your school, this really saves you a lot of running back and forth because you can place one in the middle of as many lighting areas as you have stands! But even if you only have 1 or 2, this will still be very useful and save you time.  It is so simple, yet effective. Dirt cheap, yet useful. So if you find yourself having to work alone, give this cheap yet effective solution a try!

Have you found another method that worked for you? Tell us about it in the comment section below!

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