Running Without a Backup Is a Disaster in the Making

by Justin Lang
 Sure, you back up your show file—but do you back up your console? Photo credit: A creative commons image from flickr user On Stage Lighting
Sure, you back up your show file—but do you back up your console? Photo credit: A creative commons image from flickr user On Stage Lighting

[While I’m on vacation, I’ve asked a few friends to keep www.stage-directions.com lively with some guest posts. Today’s post comes from Justin Lang Justin is a lighting designer and programmer in the Washington, DC area.  He is also the editor of our sister publication, Projection Lights and Staging News, (PLSN.com).]

In the theatre world, we do something that is kind of crazy when you think about it. We run a show with out a backup. Sure, we have backups of our show files on disk or on the internet somewhere. If you don’t, read this. Having multiple backups of a show file is our first line of defense. But what happens when our lighting control takes a dive in the middle of a show? A backup is no good if you don’t have a console.

Most educational and community theatres only run a single lighting controller. This could be a headache waiting to happen. Regardless of how stable a modern lighting controller may seem, they are all based on computers. From time to time, computers fail. Having a second desk on the lighting network running as a tracking backup is a sure way to keep the show going in the event of a failure. When the primary or master console fails, the tracking backup desk takes over. We may scramble in the booth trying to figure out the problem, but the show goes on thanks to our tracking backup.

Of course, having a tracking backup console is not always an option for some spaces. Just upgrading to a new desk is an expensive investment. Adding an additional console just for a backup seems totally out of the question. Sure, most of us have lived with running on a single desk, but how many times has it failed you in the middle of a show? If never, then you are in the minority.

I encourage you to investigate the options when talking about a backup console. Make a plan, talk to your vendors and to the manufacturers. Having a failure and going dark in the middle of a show is a possibility that should not be overlooked.