A member of the Software Support Team at ACT Entertainment in Burbank, CA, Amanda Gougelmann is one of the instructors for the sold-out grandMA classes at LDI 2023. Live Design chats with her on topics from her college studies to jumping from MA2 to MA3 and the use of artificial intelligence.
Live Design: How did your college degree in theatre design and technology prepare you for your career? Do you also design as well as program?
Amanda Gougelmann: I would say that my college degree gave me foundational knowledge to explore the industry. Getting to explore a variety of roles on a production team not only allowed me to narrow down what I wanted to do, but also gave me insight on each role's contribution to a production. Besides just theoretical and practical work, I really appreciated how much networking a college degree can give you. Personally, I think the biggest take away from college was the networking opportunities we had. Meeting people from the school as well as industry professionals who came to speak with us really allowed me to grasp what type of career I wanted. Through networking, I was able to find opportunities both on and off campus that gave me insight into what was to come and experience that I would not have gotten otherwise.
I do design as well as program throughout the entertainment industry. Both programming and design roles are so unique, but intertwine so beautifully. It is fascinating to listen to a designer and programmer talk to one another so quickly (or what might seem like gibberish to others), but produce something magnificent. I love taking on both roles because of the different skill sets you have to bring and the challenge of changing your mindset for each production.
LD: What does the Software Support Team at ACT do—what are your day-to-day responsibilities?
AG: It is hard to put into words what we, the Software Support Team, do at ACT on a daily basis. Our job ranges from supporting customers with any issues that occur to creating educational material to providing onsite support. Each day we have to come in with an open mind and the willingness to adapt to the situation our customers find themselves in.
LD: Which courses are you teaching at LDI this year?
AG: This year I will be teaching both of the grandMA3 beginner courses!
LD: What are the challenges in evolving from grandMA2 to 3 for a programmer?
AG: Jumping into a new software is always a challenge! Going from MA2 to MA3, there are a few new concepts such as phasers and recipes that challenge programmers to look at the building blocks of their showfiles differently. Although there are new concepts, the core MA values and workflow has continued into the 3 software. The hardware has also changed, so approaching the console might be a bit jarring at first. Luckily the MA3 software allows you to boot into Mode 2 giving programmers the opportunity to learn MA3 hardware while using software they are familiar with.
LD: Outside of the grandMA, what other hardware or software interests or inspires you?
AG: I would say that Vectorworks is a software that I am interested in because to me it is such a powerful drafting tool. I love the idea of designers and developers being able to take their vision and begin laying out how their idea could come to life. Drafting always challenges me and Vectorworks has given me the tools to maneuver and manipulate the area I am working with.
LD: What do you think of artificial intelligence and how might it impact lighting and lighting consoles?
AG: Artificial Intelligence is fascinating in how quickly you can get an ‘answer’ based off of a few words. I honestly do not know how artificial intelligence will impact lighting and lighting consoles, but it's definitely interesting to see the use of it already. Designers using AI to develop research images and even programmers looking for syntax. With every software having their own ‘syntax rules,’ I am unsure if AI will be able to accurately keep up with each software. I am curious about how AI could be of assistance when creating light plots and other paperwork, but how does this impact the artistic integrity of the design team? Which leads to the issue of AI utilizing other works for an outcome. Because of this, some could argue that AI negates the originality or creativity of a design. On the other hand, AI could potentially help people, such as programmers, build their showfiles faster, develop complex macros, and help with integration with other aspects of the production like sound, video, and automation. In the end, I think it is too early to tell how AI will impact not only lighting and lighting consoles, but the industry as a whole.