FocusTrack is a tool for documenting show lighting.

In its original conception, it was created with an emphasis on documenting the lighting - particularly the moving lights - once the show was done. The showfile would be imported into FocusTrack, which would then detail which lights were used in which positions and in which cues. Those focuses could then be recorded by having FocusTrack control the console to turn on each light in each position in turn to give a complete record of the ‘building blocks’ of each cue.

This approach works very well for finally documenting the show. However, some people still want to ’track’ their moving lights as they work to make the show.

You could do this in FocusTrack by manually adding focuses then filling in the focus details - and later, if you imported the console data, FocusTrack would fill in other information about those focuses. However, it wasn’t a very elegant process - mainly because at this point of the process everyone is thinking of the cue state rather than as lots of individual focuses.

Now we offer a way of documenting shows as you make them: QuickFocus. As a bonus, if you don’t document your show until it’s done, QuickFocus will still be useful to you since it can quickly create a cue-by-cue ‘overview’ of what each light is doing that will be invaluable to those running the show.

(Note that if you’re using an earlier version of FocusTrack, you’ll find a ‘placeholder’ prototype of QuickFocus in the Cue List; that version didn’t do much and you should really download and try the new version!)

Tracking As You Go
Placing LIghts On The Grid
Go to FocusTrack’s Cue List, then click on the ‘QuickFocus’ button.
You will see some cue information at the top of the screen, and a blank area below. If you’ve imported a show into FocusTrack you will see your cues; if not, click on the ’New Cue’ button at the right of the screen to create a new cue.

Cue Information

You can enter information about the cue (text, time) at the top; the ‘Cue Made’ checkbox is there to allow you to check off cues you’ve actually made on stage if you’re pre-created cues in Cue List.

Picture Insert Buttons
The blank area of the screen is a ‘grid’ into which you can import an image for the cue (storyboard, model photo or cue photograph). To do that, click on the ‘<‘ button to the right of the image, then pick a suitable file (any of the usual graphic formats should work).

With the picture in place, click somewhere on the grid. A dialogue box will appear.
Grid Dialogue Box

Enter a channel number, or several channel numbers separated by commas. At the same time you can - if you want - enter a brief description of what the light is lighting, and a focus palette number (which can be either just a number or a palette type and number - ‘PR99’). Click OK. If you’ve never used that focus palette before, you’ll be asked for its name.

Lights on girl
The light or lights will then appear in that grid in that position, along with the focus description. You can see which lights are in which palette in the cue in the list to the bottom-right of the image. Alternatively if you hold down the shift key and click in the grid, you’ll get a quick overview of what the lights in that grid square are doing. Release shift and the overview will disappear.

QuickFocus Focus List
Next to the ‘Chans In This Cue’ list is a ‘QuickFocus Position List’, listing all of the palettes you’ve defined anywhere in QuickFocus. You can use the ‘+’ button next to this to add and name palettes you haven’t used yet, to save you having to specify the names the first time you set a light to that palette in the grid. You can also use the ‘+’ button to name palettes you have used but didn’t name when you created them. You can use the ‘-‘ button next to each entry to remove an entry from the list if that palette is removed from the show.

Note that no ‘error-checking’ of channel numbers happens - FocusTrack assumes you might not have entered any information about the lights into RigTrack yet.

To move a light, click somewhere else on the grid and specify the same channel number. To remove a light, use the ‘-’ key: ‘-6’. To clear a whole grid square, including it’s description, press the ‘clear’ key in the dialogue box. Alternatively you can clear all the channels in a cue’s grid using the ‘Clear Channels’ key, and all the focus descriptions using the ‘Clear Descriptions’ key.

QuickFocus Grid Control Buttons
If it’s hard to see the channels for a particular cue because of it’s background colour, try using the ‘light text’ or ‘dark text’ buttons instead of the default ‘mid text’. You can also temporarily hide the picture to see the channels more easily using the ‘Hide Picture’ button.

When you move to the next cue, or create another new cue, you’ll start from an empty grid. You can either pick a new image for this cue, or you can use the other buttons at the top-right of the grid to use the cue picture you’ve already assigned to this cue (using the ‘Q’ button), or the image you used for the grid in the previous cue (the ‘=‘ button). You can also pull the lights in the grid from the previous cue (using ‘Copy Prev Cue Grid’), or from any other cue you specify (using the ‘Copy Other Cue Grid’ button).

Transferring Grids To FocusTrack
At any point, you can transfer an individual cue’s grid to FocusTrack: press the ‘Transfer this Cue Grid to FocusTrack’. If FocusTrack is empty, this will create an entry for each light in that cue, in the appropriate palette if you’ve given the light a palette, and with any description of the focus you added to the grid in FocusTrack’s ’Use’ field. The cue’s grid picture will appear in the FocusTrack grid for that light, with a blob marking the same position in the grid. If the light is on in the previous cue in the same position (ie. it has tracked into this cue) and it is already in FocusTrack, it will not be added again since FocusTrack already knows about it.
FocusTrack Grid

Alternatively, you can wait until you’ve completed a sequence of cues then transfer the whole lot to FocusTrack using the ’Transfer Cue Range to FocusTrack’, tucked safely out of the way at the bottom of the screen. This will ask you for a cue range then make entries for all of the lights in all of the positions they’re used in in FocusTrack, updating any matching entries that already exist if necessary.

Note that if you’re doing a simple show and don’t need full, in-depth, detailed records of each light in each focus, the QuickFocus grid might give you enough information without having to do any more work in FocusTrack, or without even importing the console showfile into FocusTrack, making it a useful tool even if you’re using a console that FocusTrack can’t import from. If you can import from the console that’s still useful as it’ll let you cross-check that you’ve got the right lights and focuses in the right cues.

Moving Lights In The Grid
The last two buttons to the right of the grid, ‘Move In All Cues’ and ‘Move In FocusTrack’, govern what happens when you move a light to a new position in the grid but keep it in the same preset focus (ie. when you adjust the position a light is used in on stage, rather than creating a new position for it).

If ‘Move In All Cues’ is on, that light in that focus will move to the new grid position in every cue it’s used in. That’s probably what you want to happen most of the time. Where you might not want it to happen is if you’re using dramatically different grid pictures (different viewpoint, different scale) in different cues - perhaps a front view on one cue, a side view in another, an overhead view in another. Then the light might appear in different grid positions in different cues even though it’s actually in the same focus palette - and in that case you don’t want the light to move in all of the cues if you move it in one.

If ‘Move In FocusTrack’ is on, the FocusTrack grid for a lamp-focus will be updated if you move that light in that palette in a cue. Again, you might not want this to happen if you’re using different images in the cue grid and the FocusTrack grid. If you have this turned off you can always update FocusTrack once you’ve finished editing a cue using the ’Transfer this Cue Grid to FocusTrack’ button.

FocusTrack to Cue List
FocusTrack Big Picture
The alternative approach, better suited for those who don’t track as they’re going but instead pull in the information from the console once they’re nearly done, is to use the grid in the FocusTrack Big Picture display to tag where a light is lighting in each focus.

You can add background images in exactly the same way as in the Cue List.
FocusTrack Transfer Buttons
Alternatively, if you want to use the same image for many lamp focuses, select the lamp focuses you want, add the grid background image to one, then go to Main Menu > Utilities and use the ‘Copy Grid Picture’ button to copy that picture to all of the selected lamp-focuses.
FocusTrack Grid No Checkmark
You can then click on the image to ‘mark’ where the light’s beam lands on stage - this shows up as a blue blob. As in Cue List you can toggle the picture on or off to make it easier to see the blob.

Once you’ve tagged your focuses, you can transfer that information to Cue List. Go FocusTrack Main Menu > Utilities and click ‘Grids to QuickFocus’. FocusTrack will warn you that doing this will REPLACE any grids already in the Cue List; if you agree every time a light is on in a cue (as worked out from the console import), it will be marked in that cue in Cue List. If you check ’Transfer picture if cue has no pictures’, the photograph for that focus will also be transferred to the CueList QuickFocus grid if there isn’t already a picture there. This will quickly give you a cue-by-cue overview of what the lights are doing in each moment in the show in Cue List, giving a great ‘easy-to-read’ reference for anyone running or maintaining the show. The more detailed entry for each lamp-focus in FocusTrack then backs this up with a precise focus description and photograph.

Once you’ve done this, if you move a light on the grid in a particular lamp-focus, you can up date that position in Cue List using the ‘Update CueList’ button in FocusTrack. The ‘From CueList’ box beneath this indicates the most recent source of the grid information - if it is checked, the grid information has come from CueList, if not, from FocusTrack.

Picture Choice
Note that this all works best if the images you use to back the grids are consistent in their scale and point of view - ie. so that the same point in the grid always represents a beam of light falling at the same point on stage.

FocusTrack does not enforce this because there are plenty of times when you will need different views (a front view vs an overhead view, for example) or will only have different views available, but beware of this issue, particularly when moving grids between Cue List and FocusTrack.

Also, be aware that in FocusTrack there might be lots of images corresponding to a particular cue (because you’ve used different images for different lights in different focuses, but all of those lights get used in cue 1, say). When transferring the grid from FocusTrack to CueList, the first image will be used. Again, if you’re using images of different viewpoints or scales, check the image used makes sense for all of the lights in that cue. You can also not transfer any images from FocusTrack by unchecking ’Transfer picture if cue has no picture.’

In an ideal world, if using the QuickFocus grid when first making a show, you’d be using storyboard images or equivalent for each cue, with all at the same scale. When making a final version, you could keep these or replace them with photographs of each cue - making sure these were scaled to match the original storyboard images.

Using The Grid
Once the show is running, you can use the QuickFocus grid as an on-screen reference. If you use FocusTrack’s ability to list lights cue by cue as you run a show, Cue List and its grid will follow along with this so letting you see an overall view of what the lights are doing, or a detailed view of each light.

You can also use the QuickFocus grid to create a printed reference to the show - go to Cue List Tools, then Print QuickFocus, which will print to landscape-oriented paper, or Print QF for iPhone, which will print a PDF file formatted to be viewable when transferred to an iPhone.

Give It A Go
The easiest way to find out how this can be useful for you is to give it a go.

Because this is a new feature in FocusTrack, we’d love your feedback on how you use it and what we can do to improve it (or if we’ve messed any of it up!) - please do get in touch and let us know.