SoftPlot 3D and the "Tedious Hour"
By Nick McCord

If there is one part of the lighting design process that is most dreaded, it would have to be the paperwork process. In this special showcase, lighting designer, Nick McCord, explains how his use of SoftPlot 3D helps alleviate some of the pain and torture involved in "The Tedious Hour."

SoftPlot 3D has been a real time saver and stress reducer when it comes to what I like to call “The Tedious Hour” of lighting design -- that being the paperwork portion. I used to do all of my plots on AutoCad and then open up Lightwright for my paperwork portion of channel hook-ups and instrument schedules and so on. I dreaded punching in numbers, cutting and pasting, copying and dragging and then having to double check everything to make sure it was all correct before I print.

So tedious, I thought, and most of all time consuming. Out of the whole creative process that goes into lighting design, doing paperwork has to be the most uncreative portion. It really takes the fun out of the whole process. I needed to find a program that could label lights as I go and could be able to do the brunt of the work. SoftPlot was the way to go.

When I heard about SoftPlot and how simple and easy it was to use I immediately jumped on it. I was amazed on how everything was already there for me and ready to go. I didn’t have to go download lighting icons or scenery drawings. The library has a ton of symbols and even a symbol creator in case the light I’m looking for isn’t there. The best part has to be that I can edit things so quickly. I recently used SoftPlot 3D on a production of Troubadour Theatre Company’s production of Hamlet the Artist Formerly Known as Prince of Denmark. (see attached photos.)

I took a CAD file of their theatre and plopped it on to SoftPlot without any problems and in a few minutes I was plotting lights in no time. I was even able to create a 3D rendering of the theatre to show the director spacing and site lines. The electricians were impressed on how accurate the paperwork and the plot came out. They hardly had any questions and were able to take the plot and follow what was on it. My paperwork was accurate and clean, the plot was in scale, and best of all it took half the time it would of taken me to do on AutoCad and Lightwright! SoftPlot has given me more time to design. I can now spend more time picking color, reconsider instrument positioning, and being able to do last minute additions or subtractions without the headache of re-labeling or re-patching a bunch of paperwork.

I think lighting designers like myself who aren’t experts in AD programs and just want something that is simple to use and able to produce great results should go with SoftPlot. It’s easy enough to figure out and it does a lot of the work for you. It produces accurate paperwork and it looks very professional, which I love. I will never use another CAD program ever again. SoftPlot is the best investment I’ve made in my career.