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General theatre question:

I'm revising a drawing of the black box that I work in that I drafted several years ago. I've known for awhile that the drawing was in serious need of reorganization...so today I jumped off of the deep end and began trying to figure out the best way to organize a drawing that I use both to create lighting plots as well as working drawings of scenic designs for our shop to build from (small regional, many hats).

So...wondering how everyone else organizes their drawings.

Do you use more layers and fewer classes? The other way around? How do you deal with symbols that might be living in one class but comprised of objects that live in other classes? If you hatch lighting instruments that live on the floor, do you duplicate the symbol and hatch the copy or is there some uber-sexy way of pulling it off with classes and layers that I haven't figured out yet?

For me, I've started moving towards fewer layers. Right now my only layers are:

-Theatre floorplan


-catwalks (so I can turn the opacity down to 20%)

-light plot

-the odd layer link or two for presentation

Everything else is in classes. I find these particularly useful when I need to create a viewport of a piece of scenery so that I can make a working drawing from it. I've also begun to make liberal use of the "lock" function to keep permanent architecture from being accidentally moved around.

If you have something that works, I'd love to hear it!

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Nate -

You might be interested in reading http://techboard.vectorworks.net/ubbthreads/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showthreaded&Number=86857 or http://www.lightnetwork.com//?msg=24755.1 . Both threads discuss the question you're asking.

In a nutshell...I'm fully in the "Single Layer But Many Classes" camp. (I tend to work on a single Layer with 100+ Classes.) With few exceptions, I've yet to see compelling reasons to work a different way. In fact, for most entertainment applications, I find the "Multiple-Layer" approach to add comlexity that is unneeded and makes drawing much more difficult than it should be.

Please forgive me if I sound a bit dogmatic. This is my opinion - is what works best for me - and is what I believe would be a much easier approach to learn.

As to your question about symbols containing multiple Classes, most of mine take advantage of that:

- Truss Symbols are created with both complex and simple geometry - as well as rigging guides - each in different Classes. Different Class visibilities can be set depending on what I'm wanting to see in a given instance. Am I creating a rigging plot? Am I placing fixtures? Am I needing a quick/simple structure layout at a tiny scale? Etc.

- Some fixture Symbols have both complex and simple geometry and all have the different data elements in separate Classes, giving me different visibility options based on a particular need.

- All of my Symbols contain loci in their own Class, allowing me to display or hide reference points using a simple toggle script.

My $.02...somebody else's turn...

Regards -

Edited by C. Andrew Dunning
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I think it's a matter of personal taste.

I used to share your opinion because it makes it easy to switch to other views if all or most of the drawing is in one layer.

But now I enjoy having a few more layers and a lot of classes. You can't set the stacking order of classes. If I go back and add a new piece of scenery or masking I don't want it to float above the lights in plan view. And I don't want to spent time sending objects backwards and forwards. Layers allows you to control what gets drawn on top of what in plan view.

The Stack Layers command makes it easy to keep all the layers in the same view.

That being said, I also use a lot of classes, for pretty much the same reasons you state. I do a variation of your loci class trick. And for shows that have moving scenery, I like to put each move in a different class. -But I have scenery on it's own layer so I can control it's stacking order in the drawing. I find having symbols with elements made of multiple classes a very powerful tool.

That's probably only $.01's worth...


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Very cool. I might be with you on abandoning layers altogether were it not for the opacity setting and overall z height available on layers but not in classes. I find it quite pleasing to give my catwalks and overhead architecture a texture in plan mode so that they're easier to distinguish from everything else...but I still need to be able to see through them to what's underneath. So I put those in their own layer and crank the opacity down to 20%...

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kneightx, the approach you're already using sounds perfect. As someone else said in one of these forums, "Layers for where it is, Classes for what it is." There are some things that Layers can do but Classes can't, and I believe Layers should be used for those purposes and not for anything else.

Personally, I like to use as few as possible of each. I've never used more than about 15 or 20 classes. But I know most people use a lot more.

The single layer approach is something to consider if you're sharing the drawing back and forth with Autocad people, since they don't have layers. When you export to DWG it'll all be on one layer.

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A few thoughts:

Michael is quite right; it is a matter of taste. He is also right in that stacking order is much easier using Layers.

A curiousity question, Michael: How do you handle lighting a model and rendering? Do you use Layer Linking?

As to opacity, in 2008, individual objects now have an opacity setting in the Attributes palette.

As to "Z" values, in my approach that is on an object-by-object basis. It is extremely rare for me to have a design in which all of the flown elements are at the same height and the floor elements at the same height.

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hmmm...seems to be yet another reason to update to 2008.

I actually do agree on z height...it seems useful but as I review my drawings of various spaces I've only used it in a very few instances.

As I work on this problem this morning, I have nailed down one of my primary issues: multiple 2D views of the same symbol. I do this quite a bit (shaded instruments on the floor, unshaded overhead, or if I'm modifying a house plot, black for instruments already hung, blue for stuff I'm adding). I've accomplished this in the past by duplicating the symbol and hatching the copy...but this makes it more complicated to keep track of inventory. For coloring "added" instruments I've dumped them into their own layer and turned on layer colors...but then I lose object specific coloring information because layer coloring overides *all* coloring, not just for one type of object. Classes seem like the way to go, but I can't figure out how to get the base of the symbol to live in multiple classes (the ETC S4 body symbol as opposed to the ETC 26, 36 symbols which simply reference the body symbol) so that the body hatches instead of just the text.

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Nate -

Using multiple Symbols for the same fixture, though requiring more work at the front-end, can actually make your drawing/designing process much easier. For example, see the attached graphic. The Loci are at the insertion points of the PARs. The 2D and 3D parts of the fixtures are drawn relative to those Loci so that when the symbol is placed, and they not only "look" correct in 2D, but "hang" oriented correctly, as well. Also, "Z" values are relative to those Loci. If a fixture has a "Z" value of 24' and is placed on a piece of truss, also with a "Z" value of 24', the fixture will hang as it should.

Regards -

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Back in the day I used to do a lot of layer linking. Remember version 10?

But now if I'm doing a rendering for my own edification or a screen shot to email an idea to someone I just use the Stack Layer command.

If the rendering is for real, I use a viewport.

I sometimes use a version of your multiple symbol trick (I really like your 2D PAR symbol) for the same reason - to get the instruments to render in the correct orientation.

How do you deal with the inventory counts? I assume that you don't use the Key to Instrumentation tool.

Before we leave the discussion of layers I should say this: In theatre projects I never give layers a z level. With so much stuff being flown, I want to know that the position of every object in the drawing is set relative to a 0,0,0 position. (Center Line, Plaster Line, Stage Deck) Having layers with their own zero z seems like asking for trouble.

And since the performance space is almost always one open volume of space anyway, the need to use layer z levels the way they would be used in architectural projects doesn't seem to apply.

Ok. There's my other $.01...


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Michael -

Layer Linking... The reason I asked about that was to try to figure out how you dealt with light sources working across Layers. Though many other folks have the opposite experience, I have never seen that work.

Inventory... I don't use the "Key" tool. For getting counts I have VW check the "Type" field which, in the example I posted yesterday, is the same for every fixture, regardless of orientation. (FWIW, I'm using the AutoPlot data structure.)


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I'm sure that's true. His chain hoist tool is a real time saver.

And back at 'cha with VideoScreen. Great tool.

I'm working on developing my own much less ambitious, but blindingly obvious tool for Spotlight users. But lack of time and rusty college Pascal skills are slowing down the process.


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The loci trick...I like it, but I'm wondering how you build it. In the example of your lighting tower, do you start by placing the 2D portion or the 3D? I started to play around with it a bit and it seemed like a tremendous pain in the a**. If I'm indicating a boom, I have to create the boom as symbol with the 3D offset from the 2D, then create each lighting symbol with a 3D offset in a similar fashion, then I have to offset the record information to match the 2D portion...am I missing something? That seems like a lot of work to draw a boom.

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Nate -

I'll take a stab at what I think you're asking...

Creating Symbols:

I typically create the 2D part first, making sure that the insertion point (0,0) matches a hanging point or, if a given fixture uses multiple clamps, a logical half-way point. I then place a 3D Locus at the insertion point. I then edit the 3D portion, either creating geometry from scratch or pasting in geometry. When doing that I make sure the geometry gets placed properly relative to the 3D Locus I had previously placed. (I'll usually also double-check that that 3D Locus is still @ 0,0,0.)

As to Booms:

I use a combination of "dumb" (no data) symbols in-place and "smart" symbols (with all data) to the side.

Also, stop by http://www.vectordepot.com/drawings/ . Chris Dopher has posted a drawing demonstrating his approach.

Did that help??

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i sort of figured it out after posting last night...what i had been dong was mostly right, were it not that he hybrid symbol i was using was not a base symbol, but rather a grouped symbol referencing a base symbol...that created some headaches...I think the drawing of the boom may be very helpful...but it looks like it's VW 2008 and my 12.5.3 doesn't know how to open it...anyone know where to find a compatible version?

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