Strictly Come Dancing 2021

Strictly Programmer: Tom Young takes us through their workflow

Strictly Come Dancing, lit by David Bishop, returned to BBC1 last year but had some hidden changes on the lighting front up its sleeve. The lighting platform running the bulk of the lighting rig doing the ‘effects lighting’, programmed by Tom Young, was moved over from MA2 to MA3 software, the console doing keylights controlled by Darren Lovell was also moved over to new MA3 hardware and software having previously been on a Compulite Vector, and at the heart of it CuePoints was making sure all the lighting and video cues were able to be executed at exactly the right time.

“I first became aware of CuePoints back in July 2020” recalls Tom Young, lighting programmer on Strictly, “Morgan gave me a quick online demo of it when we were still in a semi-lockdown and I remember thinking at the time that this could revolutionise the way I approach my shows.”

Since then, Tom has been using and testing various versions of CuePoints and when it came to last year’s Strictly, he knew it was time to make the jump and replace existing workflow tools.

“Like many others in our industry, I’ve been using either Inqscribe or Reaper to break down and import cues into the console” says Tom, “and whilst these are both useful tools, and Reaper is particularly powerful, neither has been designed specifically for our industry. The great thing about CuePoints is that it’s a piece of software designed by industry professionals for industry professionals, so has been designed with total knowledge of what we do across a variety of genres. This means you can use it for very quick and simple cue breakdowns, if you just need a basic cue structure, or you can really go to town when doing a timecode show and break down every last detail and import it all as a separate event.”

In the case of Strictly, Tom receives copies of the tracks at the beginning of the week which are going to be in the week ahead’s show, which he then imports into CuePoints to do his cue breakdowns. With his breakdowns done, he can export the information straight out of CuePoints and into the console with all cue names, timecode points and timecode tracks pre-created.

The powerful features in CuePoints mean it’s easy to apply offsets to tracks, to make sure when working with timecode that all tracks start at the correct time. However sometimes things change – in this case it is also possible to select only certain events within a track and either move these by a determined time or move them to a new start point entirely.

Whilst 2/3 of the operators on Strictly are on MA3 hardware/software, the video programmer, Matt Lee is on a Hog 4 console. Unlike any other piece of cueing software, CuePoints can export to multiple console platforms within one piece of software including MA3, MA2, EOS, Hog4, Chamsys & other exports including Reaper, Adobe CC and CSV.

This means that Matt can easily take Tom’s cue breakdowns and import them into his console, ensuring all programmers are working to the same cue structure and timecode points. When asked about his experience with CuePoints, Matt had the following to say:

“CuePoints intuitive and efficient interface really aids a quick workflow, in particular when working with multiple complex tracks. The ability to export in a format customised for your console and workflow, makes for a really integrated solution.”

CuePoints prides itself on having an easy-to-use yet powerful interface, with lots of features specifically tailored for our industry. When asked about his favourite features, Tom had the following to say:

“There are just too many to list! The ability to have multiple tracks within the same document is brilliant – gone are the days of having a separate document for each song! I also love the ability to have different cue point types and import either all of them, or just some of them, into the console either as a single list or separate lists – this makes CuePoints a truly versatile platform. For example, when doing a theatre show, you could have different cue point types per department, which you can either combine into a single cue list or have separate cue lists. But when doing a rock and roll or TV show, you can use the different cue point types to represent different parts within the track.”

This isn’t the first show Tom has used CuePoints on, having put it through its paces on productions such as; The BBC1 show “BBC Musicals: The Greatest Show”, the recent Gary Barlow arena tour “All The Hits Live” and the ITV show “All Star Musicals”.

Throughout all these productions, and since that summer of 2020, Tom has enjoyed a close working relationship with the team at CuePoints as they continually tweak and improve the software. “I have to extend a huge thanks to both Matt and Morgan over at CuePoints for their excellent support; taking time to listen to any problems I’ve had (either technical or with workflow) as well as listening to any requests and implementing lots of new features based on feedback!”

Strictly Come Dancing Lighting Team:
Lighting Designer: David Bishop
Lighting Programmers: Tom Young & Darren Lovell
Video Programmer: Matt Lee
Lighting Crew Chief: Mark Newell