CAST Software Slams R25 Down Onto the Design and Visualization Software Table

Writing reviews of products is a hard thing.  It is one of the hardest things about being a writer, contrary to popular opinion.

It’s no secret that I am a fan of the wysiwyg Lighting Design suite, I’ve been using it for years.  Pretty much every show I’ve designed over the last five years has been done in a version of wysiwyg.  I design them, print out the plot and paperwork, make pretty renderings for the client of what the show’s gonna look like down to the texture on the carpet on the camera riser if they want, and spend some time in virtual reality programming my palettes and positions to write the show totally offline.

I got to beta test R25 when it was being run through the paces.  I designed a show in R25 beta that I executed this last week in Tampa – corporate show, medium sized rig in 3 ballrooms, maybe 2500 people.  I was behind the Hog III driving my lighting spaceship to give the client a good show.  Everything was programmed offline with updates on site, all through wysiwyg Perform Unlimited.  Epic success prevailed.  Looks are accurate, as are the photometrics.  I’ll put my renders up against renders from Dialux, AutoCAD, or VectorWorks any day, any time.  When I walk on site, I have confidence that the hard work I put into designing each show comes with me in that little purple dongle.

To first be critical – for my experience as a user, wysiwyg R25 solved my issues in the CAD department.  The addition of a toolbar to deal with text solved a long time personal annoyance with the product.  Such a simple addition, but so important.  It’s a fine detail point – R25 has a lot of very fine detail hones, and some major implementation of other new features.  One such feature is the ability to export fixture point-of-view images to the third party lighting control app we all love, Luminair for iPhone and iPod.  On a side note, Ryan Hisey from Synthe FX (the Luminair people) is also working on the interface for the iPad.  I can’t WAIT for that!  I would buy an iPad JUST for that purpose – to take around with me on shows.

Let’s get into R25 a bit and look at the individual components – R25 has a lot of enhancements.  In addition to not needing to render live shots (because the shaded view is so damned good that you can just screengrab), the enhancements and improvements in some of the basar functions of the suite make it faster to use.  Why is this important?  It’s important because if you’re a working designer with plots flying around the office like hotcakes, you need to be able to use your design suite with the speed of a ninja and still have the artistic stroke of Rembrandt.  R25 made it happen.

CAD Mode – had lots of enhancements here, by no means an exhaustive list, I’m just capturing some of my faves:

  • Font Styles – they’re all over the place now, I love it.  Love it, love it, love it.  Seriously, such a simple little addition and it made a huge difference in the way that you interact with the program.  The text toolbar makes such an improvement over the interface.  I wonder how many more times I can mention it, get the point?
  • Positioning tools – send to back, bring to front, and tools for alignment.  Big deals here – speeds up the interaction time within CAD.
  • Visual Truss Assembly Indicators that show you how your truss is assembled (you know, “M”s and “W”s and all) with the foresight to know what’s happening before you add a bunch of lights and realize you screwed up the truss when you were putting it together.  In addition, the right click menu options for truss assembly are much more robust.
  • Cycle – for those of you who might not know what this is, it is an invaluable CAD tool.  When you have objects stacked on top of one another in 2D space, you can click one time and “cycle” through all objects in that space without having to switch views and all of that other stuff.
  • A quick Polygon tool for making exact polygons

Text and Alignment toolbars!

Truss positioning tools in action:

DESIGN Mode – more cool enhancements and features:

  • Pan and Tilt Locking in the Focus Designer Tool – when you’re just building looks without a console in the Design mode, you can lock pan, tilt, or pan AND tilt to get those looks you want, easier.
  • Library items all appear smooth, which is extremely great
  • There are some new Camera features too that have been added – I tend to group these in with the Design and Live modes, since this is what I use most often to make client renderings.  Camera views are now lockable, which is great, along with being able to save a new shaded view as a new camera.  Hotkeys to switch between cameras is in place, which makes bouncing around during pre-viz a snap – and not like just a finger snap, like a real-time Blaine and Antoine from In Living Color “Around the World and Back” Snap.  Yeah, that’s right.

Camera lock – when you’re trying to move around a locked camera view, you get this to remind you it’s locked:

Turning a new shaded view into a new camera, lickity split:

Presentation Mode Features and Enhancements:

  • Objects in Layouts can be locked into place
  • Text Toolbar and Alignment Tools – WOOHOO!
  • Modifiable corners on rounded rectangles in Presentation Mode
  • We can now make perfect circles, 45 degree angles, and rectangles in Presentation Mode.  Simple?  Yes.  Awesome?  Yes.
  • The New Plots feature has been optimized for speed and stability
  • Worksheets are now SO MUCH EASIER to work with – column and row options, alignment options.

LED Walls and Video got a lot more awesome in R25 too – Gil Densham told me that people were calling R25 “video WYG” at ProLight+Sound in Germany this year!

  • Video can now be displayed on LED Walls and split into sub sources!  WTH!  That is awesome.
  • LED Walls now have a tab in their properties that allows modification of image/video sources and intensity
  • LED Walls are now selectable in Design Mode, which is a huge time saver
  • A generic video projector was added to the library
  • LED Walls are up to four times brighter in shaded view

Here’s a quick video of R25 in action – pre-viz and design:

Another pretty great feature of R25 is the connectivity with Synthe FX’s Luminair 2.0 app for iPhone and iPod Touch.  The wysiwyg/Luminair connectivity allows you to export fixture point-of-view images into the program.  I have been getting some questions about this and why it is useful, and frankly the best explanation I can come up with is an example.  Let’s say that your electricians are up in lifts trying to focus a large array of fixtures to specific shutter cuts, which can be a very difficult thing to call from the deck.  Instead of trying to give them pieces of paper or focus charts, wysiwyg can export selected fixture points of view to iPhones or iPod Touch handhelds with Luminair installed, allowing your electricians to have an exact image of what their cuts and focus are supposed to be.

In my opinion, this is a revolutionary idea.  wysiwyg and Luminair are essentially and potentially changing the way that we work, for both speed, accuracy, and general lack of confusion.  I think that is pretty cool.

When I design, I use wysiwyg.  In my head, lighting design is spatial, intangible, and ethereal in most cases.  I use it to design scenery, too.  If you’re using something else, at least try R25. I think your creative lighting muscles are begging for it.

Super Bowl Halftime Show – Starring The Who, and THE LIGHTING!

I just heard on NPR last night that 106.5 million plus people watched the Super Bowl on Sunday – more people than any other event on TV in the history of the world.  The last thing that had that kind of viewers was the final episode of M*A*S*H*, back in 1983 – 105.97 million.

(for those of you kids who have no idea what M*A*S*H* is, it was a show about surgeons in a war zone)

One of the things that is still getting some major press is the big spectacle half time show, starring The Who:

For those of you who are like me, I paid more attention to the lighting design for the Super Bowl half time show than I did The Who – I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think they rock.  They did at least when they were younger.  Who did rock this time was the lighting design team and suppliers for one of the biggest shows of the year – and the rumor is that the entire rig had a total of six minutes to get on the field and working.

Oh – and pre-viz/lighting design for the Super Bowl Half Time Show?  It was done in Cast Software’s wysiwyg Suite!  OH YEAH!  (That’s right, I love it, you love it, and it is the epic awesome.)

The Super Bowl XLIV Lighting Team – definitely not an exhaustive list, and my apologies for the hundreds of people who got left off the list:

Lighting Designers:  Al Gurdon
Designer:  Bruce Rodgers of Tribe
Lighting Directors:  Bob Barnhart and David Grill of Full Flood
Programmers:  Mike “Oz” Owen, rocking the Vari*Lite Virtuoso, and Pete Radice
Rental Company:  PRG USA and PRG Europe
Lighting Crew Chief/Gaffer:  Richie Gorrod
Media Programmer:  Jason Rudolph

An update from Jason Rudolph himself – thanks a lot, Jason!

Lee Lodge was the creative producer handling content, which was made by Loyal Kaspar out of NYC.
XL video was the video vendor. The stage was made of 3000+ MiStrips, driven by 2 HD hippos provided by VER, Matt Waters was the server tech.

From XL Video, Ken Gay and Bob McGee were the project managers. Mike Spencer was the system engineer. Luke Pilato was the head system tech. Led techs were Rodrigo Azuriz, Trace Deroy, Douglas Eldredge, David Imlau, Fernando Gutierrez Llama, Curtis Luxton, Stephen Otten, Eric Petty, Rod Silhanek and Don Stevens.

An update from Margaret, who sends the URL of Loyal Kaspar, the company who did the video content – http://www.loyalkaspar.com

Update - Jason Rudolph writes back (Feb 11, 2010) [Thanks, Jason!]

I can tell you this, the LED fixtures in the rig were Color Blocks, most of the fixtures were VL3500 wash units with the clear lens installed, on the stage were Color Blasts, and Iwhite color blasts.  Atomic strobes all over, and a few lightning strikes for good measure.  There were also a few Alpha Beam 1500s in the rig, but I’m not sure where they were.

Oz programmed on a Virtuoso VX, I was on a DX2.

We had 2 HD hippos, and one HippoCritter for pixelmapping the Color blocks, which we only used for one song, its output was merged with the console output so that we had both as an option.

If you know any people who worked the crew, give them a shout out in the comments – what a terrific job they did!

I am expecting an equipment list soon – I will update this post as soon as I get it from my source.  But for those of you who didn’t get to see this amazing lighting feat, below are two videos, part one and part two, of the half time show.  Enjoy!

(Thanks, Times Online, for the image of The Who!)

Jim Hutchison Joins the CAST Software Team!

I am really excited to announce that I’m now working for CAST Software!

castlogo-300px

I approached Gil and Bruce from CAST Software at LDI 2009 about CAST’s role in social media, and that I wanted to help in any way I could.  After talks and strategizing for a while since the convention, they’ve decided to bring me on as their Social Media and Area Sales Manager!

This is just awesome for me.  I have A) been using WYSIWYG for a long, long time, B) really believed in what they’re doing up there, C) wanted to be a part of the CAST team, and D) I love talking to people about WYSIWYG!  This is like epic win for me right now.  So as of a few days ago, I’m playing on the CAST team of developers, experts, and really fun people.

In addition to my full-time roll with JimOnLight.com, I’m also going to help CAST branch out into the worlds of Twitter, Facebook, and other various social media streams.  YEEHAA!  I’m still gonna write about WYSIWYG stuff here, because I am a fan and a user!

In the mean time, follow CAST Software on Twitter and Facebook!

CAST Software on Facebook:  facebook.com/CASTsoftware
CAST Software on Twitter:  http://twitter.com/CASTsoftware

WOOHOO!

So, please resume your normal JimOnLight.com reading, sorry to interrupt!

urawesome

ATTENTION LIGHTING STUDENTS: WYSIWYG Now Has A Student “Perform” Version

random-wysiwyg-jimonlight

I had a great conversation with Gil Densham from Cast Lighting yesterday.  We’ve been talking about the upcoming release of WYSIWYG R25 and some of the new features that will be implemented in R25, as well as all kinds of developments that the Black Box system is having.  Gil also informed me about a new Cast Software offering – a limited time WYSIWYG student version.  Normally the student versions of software are fairly limited, whether it is in features or a big watermark somewhere on the drawing or something equally as pervasive.  However, the student versions usually have a reduced price tag too, so the balance finds its way in there somehow.

The student pricing, also called Cast’s “Perform SSE,” is a full version of the Perform suite with visualization.  You will get a dongle which is your property – the dongle will come authorized for the student version of the suite, which includes everything but tech support and updates.  What I understand the details to be is as follows:

  • it’s the full version of Perform.  Viz, console connectivity, the works.
  • the student WYSIWYG suite is $499
  • the $499 that you pay as a student is fully applicable to a full version when you’ve graduated – essentially you’re getting the program for nothing if you plan on upgrading at the end of school.
  • you get a dongle that you can travel with, and you’re not limited to using a student version in the computer lab.
  • you do have to prove that you’re a student currently enrolled and taking classes.
  • It’s essentially a full version of R22, which has all of the great viz and beam stuff.
  • the student WYSIWYG will have a 1000 channel limit.

I love my WYSIWYG.  After my eyes, it is my number one lighting design tool.  If you’re a student, and you want to get in on this, email [email protected] and give them the hey-what’s-up.  If you ever have questions about WYSIWYG, please don’t hesitate to contact me through the JimOnLight contact form, just put WYSIWYG somewhere in the subject.

Cast also has some cool student pricing on a specially packaged student version of WYSIWYG Design, and their Event Planning and conceptual design package, Vivien.  I haven’t ever talked about Vivien much, but it is a cool product.  I’ll talk a bit more about this in the near future, but for $199 and a $30 “initiation fee” you get one year of the software as long as you’re a student.  The cool part of that money is that if you were to buy four years at $199 a year, at your graduation they will credit you every dime of that money towards upgrading to the full version.

You’re going to use a lot of software in your lives to design lighting – some of it is cool, some of it is a waste of your time.  WYSIWYG has taught me more, saved me more time, and saved my rear end more times than I can count.  That’s why I write these posts.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Light Plot Deconstructed – The Continuing Contest!

isquint_jimonlight-lp-deconstructed

iSquint just finished the first part of the Greg Hillmar contest for Light Plot Deconstructed, Greg’s new book about light plots and the process of making one.  Now that iSquint has passed the torch, JimOnLight.com is going to host the second part of the contest for one of two signed copies of Greg’s book!  iSquint will be announcing the winner of the first signed Greg Hillmar book soon.

First, thanks Greg for providing us the books so we could give them away to the JimOnLight and iSquint communities!

As in all contests on JimOnLight, this one is just as easy – to be entered into the completely random drawing for the last signed copy of Greg’s book, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post.  Leave your name, email address (which will of course not be published or shared with anyone), and if you’re feeling generous, leave me a note!  I LOVE your notes!

I will be running this section of the contest from right now until October 30, 2009 at midnight central time.  Once the contest is closed, I’ll just stop allowing comments on this post.  Good luck, and thank you so much for reading JimOnLight and iSquint!

Greg Hillmar is also selling copies of his book for $40 on the Light Plot Deconstructed website.  Check it out!

JimOnLight.com and iSquint.net- A “Light Plot Deconstructed” Contest!

isquint_jol-lp-deconstructed

Great things happen when people work together!

My good pal iSquint and I are running a contest for two of Greg Hillmar’s book, Light Plot Deconstructed, which retails for $40.  Greg’s book deals with Vectorworks Spotlight, a popular program on the market of CAD software.  Greg has graciously donated two copies of his book, SIGNED, for the contest!

We’re conducting this contest in two parts – iSquint is rocking the first two weeks of October, and I will be rolling the last two weeks of October.  iSquint is holding the first part of the contest from October 1 and ending it on October 18; I will take over on JimOnLight.com and run it from October 19 and end of October 30.

Entering is just as easy as any other JimOnLight or iSquint contest – for the first half, hop on over to iSquint’s contest page for the Greg Hillmar book and leave your name, email (which is as always private), and a note – notes are awesome!  I’ll post a contest page when it’s my turn.

What are you waiting for?

WYSIWYG Wins A PLASA 2009 Award for Innovation!

plasa-wyg-innovation

Our beloved WYSIWYG won a PLASA Award for Innovation at Earl’s Court in London this last weekend – a well-deserved win for both Cast Lighting (and everyone who busts their rears there) and all of us WYSIWYG users.  WYSIWYG Release 24 has amazing real-time viz.  Amazing.  Render-quality amazing.  I am a fan after all, but I’ve used so many software suites over the years (from MiniCAD to Vectorworks to AutoCAD to SoftPlot to AGI32 to DiaLUX to Sketchup to you name it, I think I’ve used it), and as a lighting designer in no matter what genre of lighting, I still love my WYSIWYG.

From the PLASA Show website:

Cast Group of Companies, for the WYSIWYG R24. The plethora of LED display technology caused Cast to re-evaluate its design and visualisation software which has led to a significant redesign of the graphics engine and fixture attributes. It now allows the full visualisation of modern display technology including video and LED screens and their content.

From Entertainment Technology News:

From among 62 products entered, last night CAST Software walked away with a coveted PLASA09 Award for Innovation at Earls Court in London. The Award “recognises products which advance the industry by demonstrating a new style of thinking, improving technical practice, or taking a key step forward in terms of safety,” according to the Professional Lighting And Sound Association.

The Award was presented by Adam Afriyie MP, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Universities and Skills and was judged by a panel of eight independent judges drawn from across the industry. In making the Award, the judges explained: “the plethora of LED display technology caused CAST to re-evaluate its design and visualisation software which has led to a significant redesign of the graphics engine and fixture attributes. It now allows the full visualisation of modern display technology including video and LED screens and their content.”

Bruce Freeman, chairman of CAST Software and Gil Densham, president, accepted the Award at which time Freeman said, “WYSIWYG R24 is a total bottom-up rethink that delivers advances so revolutionary that they are ahead of the leading-edge! To assure that the system demands of the new features and visualisation in R24 are met with the same WYSIWYG speed and dependability, CAST designed and built a brand new proprietary engine. Now production professionals can model all the hottest new LED fixtures on a per diode basis and display them running in realtime. R24’s new visualisation incorporates the inverse square law feature and volumetric beams so WYSIWYG’s realtime Shaded View is really virtually real!”

Congratulations, Cast!

WYSIWYG Release 24: Virtual Lighting Designer Heaven

WYG-title

Over the last few weeks I have been testing out Cast Lighting’s new release for WYSIWYG – Release 24.  In the last year, R22 and R23 have revolutionized the way that we’ve been thinking about viz software, and R24 is the crown jewel of the improvements in R22 and R23.  The real-time rendering engine in R24 is so full of awesome that there is next to no need to sit and wait for a rendering of the look.

The interesting movement in R24 is that the processing feels like it has been allocated in the most efficient way – meaning graphic properties seem to be moved to the GPU, and numeric functions have been retained into the CPU.  I could be totally off here, but I have used the program on a very, very slow machine and on my laptop, which is configured to be a desktop replacement.  Nothing lags, nothing drags, and I have not crashed it yet.  Believe me, I have been trying!

There are some excellent new features in Release 24 that everyone should know about – from the ability to snap a pic of your instrument’s focus and send it up to the electrician in the cherry picker for focus, to live beam-in video for digital lights across a network:

  • LED: R24’s LED models use a point source to better represent a diode for LED fixtures and LED walls that look better and enhance overall efficiency and performance when dealing with all LEDs. New LED light sources and LED flare capability offer better representation in Shaded Views for better presentation.
  • Colour temperature: Information from WYG libraries includes lamp wattages that more accurately display photometrics.
  • Hot Spots: Hot spots add another aspect of realism to looks – fixture footprints are based on photometric data.
  • R24 introduces a time-of-day capability in Shaded Views. Use climatic or environmental conditions specific to the time, place and even weather, specific to an event’s geographical location anywhere around the world to test ideas and demonstrate work.
  • Geometry Smoothing in OpenGL: This new shading technique delivers better-looking sets and people, plus a performance boost.
  • Inverse Square Law: A new upgrade in R24, it calculates accurate beam drop-off in visualization calculations.  Hot spots have also been integrated into the Shaded View, giving a lot more realism to the visualizations.
  • CITP Protocol for Video, which allows consoles supporting this protocol to stream video content across a network into wysiwyg to be displayed on a video screen or a digital light fixture.

Time of Day information is one of the coolest features relevant to me right now – I have been experimenting with different structures, times of day, and locations in the new release.  Using just the included file of an outdoor venue I put myself into Stockholm, Sweden at 9:45pm:

wysiwyg-timeofday

Time of Day Options dialogue:

viewoptions_timeofday

Color Temperature is another great feature that WYSIWYG R24 has implemented.  With a large database of photometry to work from, WYSIWYG R24 has integrated lamp color temperature variations into the program.  Lamps going through amber drift has been in WYG for ages – which is a very important function when dimming in a rendering.

Low Color Temperature and intensity:

wysiwyg-r24-color-temperature

Lamps post-amber drift at full intensity:

colortemp2

Before I get too far with this, did I mention that the Library Browser is SEARCHABLE?!  (Oh thank you thank you thank you thank you!)

wysiwyg-library-broswer

A few additional features worth noting – making focus charts, new color picker in Design mode, new font interaction, and animated atmopsherics.  Starting with the atmospheric animation (smoke or haze to the layperson), WYSIWYG Release 24 gives you the ability to alter direction and speed for X, Y, and Z coordinates.  Take a look at the control dialogue for this:

viewoptions-wysiwyg-animated-smoke

In Design mode, WYSIWYG also has new features in the color picker for fixtures.  In addition to having the option to use RGB, CMY, or HSI mixing (HSI means Hue, Saturation, and Intensity), you can enter in hex values for the colors across the three variables and pick from a picker:

colorpicker

Last but not least in this review is the ability to make focus charts for your fixtures.  Imagine having an electrician in a lift in a situation where you need to get something focused, but communication is almost impossible – or you’re not on site for some reason and something needs to be focused.  You can look at the stage, architecture, or whatever else you’re lighting from the view of the fixture and get fixture information, channel and dimmer info, and the patch.  Snap a pic of that and send it up to the electrician in the basket on his or her iPhone – done.  I love it:

wysiwyg-r24-focus

I use WYSIWYG for everything I do in lighting design.  Release 24 is amazing, and performs beautifully.  Thanks for a great product, Cast.

Check out some screenshots of the live visualization feature – and get your own copy of WYSIWYG R24 here.

render-wysiwyg-r24

wysiwyg-r24-render

wysiwyg-r24-render

WYSIWYG R24 COMES OUT NEXT WEEK!!!!

wysiwyg r24

The makers of my favorite lighting design software, WYSIWYG, are releasing a new build to members this coming Tuesday, August 4, 2009.  If you’ve never tried WYSIWYG for anything, I highly recommend just giving it a go for a week.  Richard Cadena, who we all know and love, says that R24’s new features are “amazingly responsive.”  Hell, R23’s features are still amazingly responsive!

Some notes on the new features that are included in R24:

  • LED: New LED models use a point source to better represent a diode for LED fixtures and LED walls that look better and enhance overall efficiency and performance when dealing with all LEDs. New LED light sources and LED flare capability offer better representation in Shaded Views.
  • Improvements in visualization: including enhanced beams, improved beam footprints and shadows.
  • Inverse Square Law: A new upgrade in R24, it calculates accurate beam drop-off in visualization calculations.
  • Colour temperature: Information from wysiwyg Libraries includes different bulb wattages to more accurately display the photometrics of different bulbs.
  • Hot Spots: Hot spots add another aspect of realism to wysiwyg visualization. Formerly, uniform footprints are now distributed based on the photometric data of the fixture.
  • For outdoor events: R24 introduces a time-of-day capability in Shaded Views. Use climatic or environmental conditions specific to the time, place and even weather, specific to an event’s geographical location anywhere around the world to test ideas and demonstrate work.
  • Geometry Smoothing in OpenGL: This new shading technique delivers better-looking sets and people, plus a performance boost.
  • CITP Protocol for Video: The new feature allows consoles supporting this protocol to stream video content across a network into wysiwyg to be displayed on a video screen or DL fixture.
  • R24 also has more intuitive and logical Design Tools and an Improved Dongle Security System.

wysiwyg r24

Go check out WYSIWYG Release 23, and read up on R24 as well.  You won’t be disappointed.  It’s been one of the best things that’s ever happened to my pre-viz work, ever.