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CUE
TIPS

There are More Methods to Organising
Cues Than You May have Previously Thought


Working out a cue sheet might appear simple and straight
forward, but there are methods that make it simpler and
more easily understood. This section of the AIEL website
will help to develop a workable technique that will foster
better understanding and intuitiveness of cues for a given
production or act. Use these techniques as a foundation upon
which to build your own style of cue making and implementation.

The Tips    Theatre Cue Sheet    Music Cue Sheet

Cue Words


THE FOLLOWING MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED
WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR ©


 

  The Tips



 

Suggested Cue Sheet
for Theatrical Shows

Production:
Show Dates:
Lighting Designer:
Lighting Director:


 Cue   Memory    Reference         Cue                Notes
  #      #         Point        Transition
 --------------------------------------------------------------------
      |      |               |                | 
      |      |               |                | 
      |      |               |                | 
      |      |               |                | 
 ...

    The Cue Number column is for the script's cue points. These are places where a change of lighting will be noted as required. It will usually (and should) match every one else's cue number: director, music director, choreographer, actors, stage crew, props crew, audio, etc. Having Cue Numbers that match means everyone involved with a production is synchronised; that is, at the same place in the script, at the same time. So when any person is speaking of a given action or dialogue and has provided its Cue Number, everyone knows which point is being referenced.

    This column may also be used to reference pre-performance or pre-intermission introductions, advertisements or credits, instructions to the audience, and so on. Intermission and post-performance cues might appear here also. Sometimes, these will not have Cue Numbers of the usual type. They might be shown as minus numbers, letters, "Cue Zero" numbers (0-1, 0-2...), or have no actual numbers or letters at all. Post-performance numbers might have a plus (+) sign in front of them (+1, +2...)

    The Memory Number is the position on the lighting board where the look for that cue is stored. If there is no memory or matrix scene capability, the channel numbers and levels would be listed here. In the latter's case, before each cue, each channel number and level would have to be set manually.

    If Cue and Memory Numbers match,
     this column can be eliminated.

    The Reference Point is an indicator in the script just before where the cue is to occur. It might be a snippet of dialogue, a stage direction, an entrance/exit point of an actor, or a voice-over or music start/change/stop. Anything that informs you that a cue is imminent, can be placed in this column.

    The Cue Transition tells the lighting board operator how the cue is to be implemented. Is it a blackout, then the next look? Is it a crossfade? if so, how long is that fade to take? Is it an addition look? That is, one to be added to the current one? It might be a subtraction look -- one to be removed from the current look.

    Even if the cues are automated, one can use notes in this column to assure the operator that the cue listed is the one actually happening live on stage.

    Finally, the Notes section is for points to remember about the given cue or about concurrent action or dialogue.

    You may wish to add a column for Cue Contents. It would show the channel numbers and levels of each cue. This might be used as a mechanical backup in case the board's memory failed, or simply as yet another assurance to the operator as to what was coming up or was active at a given moment.

Remember to draw lines between cues and to leave space
on the paper copy in which to place updates or changes.



 

Suggested Cue Sheet
for Musical Acts

Artist:
Show Dates:
Lighting Designer:
Lighting Director:


     Song      Song      Song      Memory     Cue          Notes
     Name      Tempo    Layout       #     Transition
 ---------------------------------------------------------------------
             |      |            |       |            |
             |      |            |       |            |
             |      |            |       |            |
             |      |            |       |            |
 ...

    The Song Name column is for the title of the number being performed. This column may also be used to reference little interludes, between-song dialogue, musicians' introductions, etc.

    The Song Tempo is handy for a board operator that may be unfamiliar with a given number. Knowing if a song is fast, medium, slow is a help. As well, some will note the song genre here as an additional clue: "Blues, Slow", "Jazz, Fast", etc.

    The Song Layout lists each segment of the song. It can consist of divisions such as the ones following. Beside each might be a lighting cue.

Intro
Verse
Verse
Chorus
Keyboard Break
Verse
Guitar Break
Chorus
Outro

    The Memory Number is the position on the lighting board where the look for a song's segment is stored. If there is no memory or matrix scene capability, the channel numbers and levels would be listed here. In the latter's case, before each cue is executed, the channel number and level would have to be set manually.

    Also found here might be cues for chases or for a special effects implementation such as flash pots, moving-light sweep, strobe lights, and so on. These might be controlled from a board or switch panel separate from the lighting console.

    As with the Theatre Sheet, the Cue Transition tells the lighting board operator how the cue is to be implemented. Is it a fast change to the next look? Is it a slower crossfade? if so, how long is that fade to take? Is it an addition look? That is, one to be added to the current one? It might be a subtraction look -- one to be removed from the current look.

    Finally, the Notes section is for points to remember about the given cue. Some fill in a musician's name here if there are two or more that might play a guitar break or provide lead vocals. Perhaps an extended verse might occur before the last chorus, or other oddities compared to earlier in the song.

    You may wish to add a column for Cue Contents. This would show the channel numbers and levels of each cue, if they are not already shown in the Memory Number column.

Detailed cue sheets are valuable during a show's run and as
references at later dates. They are invaluable for a substitute
lighting person to quickly come up to speed for a given show
or act. Don't ignore their usefulness by skipping their creation.



 

  Cue Words

    Below are common words used in a script's directive notes to interpret cue action(s) at each cue point in a production. They are used to precisely tell the stage manager and/or board operator when and how to execute that cue. Some of these may seem to be too similar and to be splitting hairs, but since many productions demand precision, the subtle differences will become apparent when that situation arises in some future show.

    A few of the cue examples given below might be broken into two or more separate points by some stage managers. If so, a series of precise Cue Words, such as `At' or `On', will be substituted for ongoing directives such as `Wherever' or `With'.


...and now, the words:

Action
A word used when a cue hinges on some motion such as a hand-clap, a light switch being flicked, or a door closing. It does not base its execution point on dialogue or a sound effect. Run Cue #5 on the action of the actor placing his foot on the shoeshine box. (See also `Visual'.)

After
This designates that a cue is to happen after a specific action, dialogue, or happenstance. So perhaps after a flash of lightning, `n' seconds later an audio track of thunder is to be played. Another example might be after a witch waves her hands and then points, a dramatic lighting change is to occur after the finger point.

As
A cue which has an execution point that varies a bit. It may incorporate a longer fade time: Execute Cue #22 as the actor begins his long climb of the stairs. Here, the cue might start on the first, second, or third stair depending on the actor's feeling and action speed in that particular performance. It might incorporate a crossfade to a night look as he gets higher up the staircase.

At
Similar to "On", but more variable: Execute Cue #11 at the point in the show where a spectator is brought from the audience up onto the stage. This action might happen at a different point each night in the show, and also depending on the anount of time taken to choose that audience member, and on the length of the path from the audience's down-house edge to the first point that person is fully on stage.

Based On
Typically used when an action on stage is variable. For a magic show, perhaps it might be stated as: Execute either Cue #14 or Cue #15 based on the volunteer's chosen position. The board operator would watch the proceedings and run the appropriate cue once the person goes to one of two predesignated spots.

Based Upon
As above.

Dialogue
A `dialogue' cue does not base its execution point on action or a sound effect. It is one that hinges on a certain word or phrase. On the word "No!", execute Cue #70. or After the phrase "...and I am not responsible!", execute Cue #71.

During
An ongoing cue with a variable end time. This might happen during the time a performer enters the audience and moves about -- perhaps while selecting a volunteer for a mentalism demonstration: Run Cue #25 during the time the performer is in the audience. So this would start when the mentalist enters the house, and would not end until he returns to the stage. The time would vary with each show.

If
A conditional cue: If the performer brings an audience member to the stage during the encore, execute Cue #48. This action may not happen at every show.

On
A very specific point, usually coinciding with a certain word, sound or action. Cues here are to be executed on say, the word "Go!", a gun shot, or perhaps the moment a portcullis hits the ground. Such cues often demand a fast, dramatic lighting change or a sound effect.

Phrase
See `Dialogue'.

Upon
Similar to `On', but usually referring to a longer action. This might be: Upon the downstage door opening, and actor entering and removing her coat, commence a crossfade of `n' seconds.

Visual
Similar to `Action', but covers any thing that changes visually which would indicate a cue point. This can (but not necessarily) include actor action. Execute Cue #101 after the platform has been lowered from the fly space and stops. So with this example, the cue is a visual one that occurs at the point the platform comes to rest.

When
This is used for actions that do not happen at exactly the same time each performance. So perhaps an object must drop from a height, but only when it hits the stage floor are a crash sound and lighting effect to happen: A chosen object is knocked off its perch; when it strikes the floor, run Cue #33. This would vary depending on which object is used in that show, and from what height it must fall.

Whenever
This represents an ongoing series of actions. Perhaps whenever an actor snaps her fingers, an effect representing a lightning flash is to occur. In this example, after the stage manager has called the start point, the board operator then often takes each of these finger-snapping cues from the action of the actor herself.

Wherever
This might be incorporated to direct light to a location wherever an object or person ends up during a show: Execute Cue #18, #19, or #20 corresponding to wherever the Mystery Box is placed by the volunteer. In this example, out of three choices, an audience volunteer makes a decision as to where a box is to be placed. The board operator must be prepared to light that location via one of three board cues.

Regarding variable performances such as magic shows, each location lighting look in the above example might be assigned to its own submaster as opposed to being programmed to a numbered board cue. For this alternate example, the directive might read: Execute Cue #17 when the volunteer picks up the Mystery Box. Then add Submaster #1, #2, or #3 corresponding to wherever the Mystery Box is placed by the volunteer.

With
Used to designate a lighting change or effect that happens in concert with an action or sound: Run Cue #100 with the bandleader's (named) melody. This cue would start with the melody and continue until perhaps it might dim with the lowering of the music's volume, and then go back up again; and/or fade to zero as the bandleader tapers off the music to silence.

Word
See `Dialogue'.



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