Clear and consistent communication is key to creating a safe working environment when using automated scenery.
An operator at the desk should never be in any doubt as to when it is safe to move something, and people on stage should never be in any doubt as to when something is about to move.
We strongly recommend using the following protocol to communicate between an onstage spotter and the operator when moving scenery:
Always standby your operator first. For example say:
Standby for the Centre Track Downstage
Wait for the operator to confirm that they are standing by and ready to move. For example say:
Standing-by on the Centre Track Downstage
Give an unambiguous clear.
The operator should only ever move something when they hear the word clear, as we tend to use words like “okay” and “good” all the time, and taking those words as a cue could inadvertently cause movement at an unexpected time - potentially causing injury. For example say:
Centre Track is Clear
The operator should say that the axis is about to move, so that the spotter onstage knows that they have been heard.
Centre Track Moving Downstage
Using this protocol means that the operator is always ready to move as soon as the spotter on stage gives the clear.
In a theatre, circumstances can change quickly, so it is important to always be in control at all times.
It is always safest when the time between the clear and the movement is as short as possible.
Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre
Operating an automation desk is no different to operating a piece of heavy machinery, and should always be done with care. This is why we recommend following a mirror, signal, manoeuvre procedure. Something you might recognise from learning to drive a car.
Always look first. What can you see in real life and by using any cameras you have? Check that everything looks clear to move.
Also, look and check the move you are about to run is definitely going to do what you expect it to do. If in doubt, do not run the move.
Ideally you will be able to check all you “mirrors” in advance of the next step. Anticipation is key.
The signal can be a cue point or a verbal clear. If you are happy that everything looks good in your “mirrors” run the move.
This is why it’s important to check your mirrors in advance of the signal, you always want to be able to confidently press the start button when you are given the go or a clear.
This is while the move is running. Just like when you are in your car, you should continually be checking your all your mirrors to ensure that things are still clear throughout the manoeuvre.
Make sure you check what you can see in real life, on your cameras, and on your screen to make sure that everything is behaving as expected.
It can be all too easy to fixate on only the desk, but remember that your moves are happening in the real world. So make sure you are keeping an eye on everything, virtually and in real life.