Hog Programming: Cuelists vs. Palettes

I’ve always programmed the Hog 1000 lighting console using cue lists.  Why?  My prior lighting experience involved HogPC, which is essentially the same software running on a standard Windows PC.  The HogPC software emulates the hardware of the Hog console with graphical buttons and wheels on the computer monitor, which can be manipulated with the mouse.  This works, but it is much more awkward than having a physical console with real buttons.  Using HogPC, it makes sense to pre-program as much as possible, because doing complicated things “live” is difficult using only a mouse (especially on a smaller monitor.)  When I moved to the Hog 1000,  I continued to rely on cue lists, mostly because I didn’t feel comfortable enough with the console to do things “live.”  As I’ve grown more familiar with the console, I have begun to experiment with running moving lights off of palettes, rather than pre-programming cue lists.

Cue lists have a couple of problems.  On the Hog, a cue list can have either “latest takes precedence” (LTP) or “highest takes precedence” (HTP) as the priority scheme.  HTP makes sense for conventional dimming-onlyfixtures (desk channels) and LTP makes sense for movers.  Things get tricky when you mix desk channels and movers on one cue list.  Another obvious problem is flexibility–when you have a pre-programmed list of cues and something changes at the last minute, you have to do some fast editing and hope you didn’t screw up something later in the cue list.

Palettes offer the flexibility of running “on-the-fly”: choose fixture(s), color,  position, and hit ENTER.  That’s great when you don’t know what to expect.  One disadantage is complexity–you have to hit a lot of buttons quickly, and do it again for every transition.  It’s easy to mess up.  Another difficulty is adjusting the rate of the transition–it’s hard to make two movers do a slow sweep across the stage while eight others snap into position.  This is also a problem for smooth color fades on LED fixtures.

So far, the best strategy I’ve found is to mix the methods.  Program cue lists for rehearsed shows with known, fixed programs.  For a more fluid situation, program cue lists with only position and fade time for moving lights.  Use the cue list(s)  for position (and maybe focus) and manually set color and gobo on the fly using palettes.  Keep movers and desk channels on separate cue lists.  That’s my best practice so far…but I’m always learning and open to ideas.

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