Review: Nemetschek Vectorworks Spotlight 2009, Part 3

View the Nemetschek Vectorworks Spotlight Review - Part 1
View the Nemetschek Vectorworks Spotlight Review - Part 2
View the Nemetschek Vectorworks Spotlight Review - Part 4

View the Nemetschek Vectorworks Spotlight Review - Part 2

Instruments can have accessories such as barn doors, C-clamps, or any other extra line items that need to be documented into your plot for your vendor to include. The more detail you provide, the easier it is for a vendor to supply gear and for your crew to build your design. Accessories are simple to add by selecting the add accessory tool, choosing the accessory you wish to add to the fixture, and then clicking where you would like to add it. It’s a good idea to get this step piped into your system so you are never short C-clamps, floor mounts, gels, or special lenses.

Label Legend Manager
The label legend manager is where you define what data shows up on your instrumentation, as well as where it will show up relative to the instrument. You can control every text attribute and even enclose text in traditional lighting channel shapes. For any instrument, you can include a staggering amount of data to be displayed on the plot. You can create a legend for various fixture types, orientations, and even text sizes. It can rotate or not. Label legends make their own classes based on the type of label, so you can turn off aspects of the legend. This makes it possible to display a variable amount of data, on the same instrument, for different viewports.

Assign Legend To Instrument
Once you work out your label legends for your instruments, you then assign them to the instruments on your plot. You may wish to have several label legends for various situations. It’s a good idea to have smaller text versions for tight spots or legends with different parameters included in them.

Create Plot And Model View
Without this feature, I would be perpetually frustrated whenever I tried working in 3D while drafting a lighting plot. Vectorworks has not yet quite merged 2D with 3D; they’ve kept it fairly discrete. In some ways this is good and, in others, frustrating. You cannot rotate a hybrid lighting fixture or any hybrid object around any plane other than in plan view. This makes it impossible to turn instruments on their sides or even turn them upside down. There are ways around all of this, and new in Spotlight 2009 is the ability to create plot and model view.
Plot and model view takes a selected position, or all positions, and sets up three layers for them to be viewed: a plot layer, where all your positions in plan view stay the same yet are referenced to viewports; a model layer, where you can rotate lighting positions any way you wish; and a reference layer containing all the original geometry for further editing. Finally, you are able to now show hybrid instruments and trussing in viewports at rotated angles. However, architectural geometry, such as walls, cannot be rotated in model view.
I speculate that, for Spotlight users who regularly draw in 3D, this is one of the most important improvements. Prior to this version, you had to draw 2D and 3D separately or vertical trussing twice. This feature decreases your workload by a factor of two.

Focus Points And Focus Instruments
Focus points are points on the stage where you can focus a light. Lights snap to them when told to focus to those points. You must place a focus point in order to focus the fixture, which is a tad time-consuming when you have many fixtures with many focuses. For pre-viz, you must have focus points, and they can exist anywhere in 3D space. This makes it possible to have a focus point at head height. If you are in a big hurry, you can just select the focus tool and focus each instrument with a new focus point anywhere you would like to draw one. Once your focus points are defined, you can use the focus instruments tool to focus your drawn fixtures toward the focus points.

Number Instruments/Key To Instrumentation
The new manual numbering system makes numbering a plot a breeze. You can number up to seven attributes of a fixture with a prefix, suffix, in custom increments, as well as use the number of channels in the fixture to increment. Numbering can be done automatically, based on position, or manually based on the order in which you click. It’s incredibly convenient to number large plots this way.
You can also create an instrument key to display the types of fixtures you are using and the current inventory of hung and un-hung fixtures. What is fantastic about this is it also displays inventory, and you can change the name of the fixtures in case you used a different fixture type than what was available in your palette.

What Other Users Have to Say

Jeff Ravitz, lighting designer
Visual Terrain
I find the Spotlight product—for drawing, documenting, organizing and visualizing lighting designs—to be an invaluable and indispensable tool. I can quickly create trial scenarios to get past the blank page syndrome. As writing students are taught to just get something on paper to kick-start your imagination, it’s the same for designers. Once the actual light plot is being produced, the database capability allows me to automate the process of extracting information so the shop can execute the design accurately. I work in 3D as much as I can, so I can study the space from all angles until I really understand what I am working with. Changes are then easier and options can be explored and rendered presentations are extremely professional looking.

For the full review, check out the May issue of Live Design.

Christian Choi is an entertainment visual designer who leverages 3D technologies to conceive and engineer his designs. He has been designing lighting since the early 1990s and video since 2003. His latest foray into scenic design has been powered by Vectorworks' Parasolid technology. Christian is a tango enthusiast, and an avid writer/musician. You can follow him on

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