Ballet & AutoCAD ?
I never made a connection between the two until I received the latest "Design your world"- Autodesk magazine and found an interesting article by Richard Zethof.
Because I can't find it on AutoCAD's English website, I'll try to shed a light on this intriguing combination with a mix of translation and my own words.
Maybe this subject will sound very familiar to the backstage-technicians among us (hello !?please reply ), but it's always a nice look 'behind the curtains'.
The black&white picture of Jiri Kylian's "Petite mort" attracted my attention.
I couldn't believe my eyes : an article on dance in this magazine ?
Today the "Nederlands Dans Theater" (NDT) -based in The Hague- has about 50 dancers, divided over the wellknown NDT I, II and III.
All three of the companies have there own technical group - a total of 35 people (!) - who are responsable ,among lots of other things, for building up the scenery and the lighting.
The technicians are using the AutoCAD LT-software for making scenery-designs, lighting plans, queue-lists and so on. (AutoCAD LT is the 'light' version of AutoCAD, the wellknown drawing-software).
Indeed, one need a lot of drawings for the lighting only :
The 'light-plan' mentions all the places where lights have to be fixed, the color they have, which dimmer they are connected with.
Another plan (sorry, I don't know the right English technical term for this plan) contains -besides the placement of the light- all info on the places where the light-beams are supposed to focus on stage. This is not without importance because even a little move can spoil all effects.
The queue-lists are containing all info on the position and posing of the dancers at the moment when an alteration occurs-for instance- when the light-intensity has to increase of diminish.
Beside these, staging a ballet demands scenery-plans, stage-drawings and lots of working- drawings.
As perfection is the target of all companies, at NDT they needed good "tools" who provided the
possibility to make quick changes to drawings and a software that was easy to work with.
The option to make extensive data-libraries create the chance to build up drawings very fast.
Back to the real thing now.
Every ballet has is own set of drawings, which contains all info about the lighting , the scenery-plans, sometimes scenery designs and others.
All these elements are placed on a different layer, which has his own color and line-style.
You have to imagine a 'layer' as a transparent paper, with the drawing on it, in his own layer-bound color and line-type. If all transparent papers (layers) are placed on top of each other, one
becomes a complex total-view. All interacting elements can be seen at once and 'critic' places
are spotted immediately. By setting layers on or off you obtain the perfect 'working-plans' to distribute among f.i.the light-technicians.
So, where ever the dancecompany is performing, the technicians can dispose over a place-related drawing in which the existing drawings are copied. If one have to made some alterations on the lighting-placement (as it happens often !) an adapted plan is made without spoiling the original one.
I also learned from the article that in The Netherlands there exist a "Stichting tekening" =
some kind of Trust who stocks all theater-plans. All subscribing companies can dispose over all these plans so there are far less surprises when the technical group arrives on site.
I suppose this exists in all other countries too ?
When touring abroad the company needs to adjust light- and stage-plans very often so the technicians are taking AutoCAD LT with them on their notebooks.
Ruud Pleeging of NDT must be an extremely passionate responsable for the automatisation in the company : they are searching now to link spreadsheets into the drawings.
These spreadsheets are containing a summary of the lighting for all different ballets and makes it possible to distil automatically lighting-plans.
So NDT is searching to simplify the system, to make it more flexible in their aim to diminish errors.
I learned that I know so very little about all things that are happening "back stage".
If there is someone who can add interesting aspects to this......I'm looking forward to it !