Book Review – Light Plot Deconstructed

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August 22, 2009

Book Review – Light Plot Deconstructed

VW2009_spotlight_tut#1EEB8BFull disclosure; Gregg Hilmar has been my friend in that late 20th/early 21st Century way of email and bulletin boards form many years. We have never met. I think we may have spoken on the phone. Not sure.

That said, for a long time I have heard about Gregg’s hugely successful and inspiring talks at many  entertainment industry trade shows and conventions. Like his book, these lecture/demonstrations are entitled “Light Plot Deconstructed.”

Unfortunately, I’ve not been to the shows where Gregg has presented.

Fortunately, Gregg wrote a book!

And he wrote the book in the conversational tone that I can now assume he uses when he delivers live and in person. That tone is key. Gregg takes some pretty technical information, that can be intimidating to a new user, and goes through the process in a well illustrated, step by step manner. Following his process a young lighting designer (or an experienced lighting designer new to Vectorworks Spotlight) can be up and running in a short amount of time.

As always, mastering an application as complex and diverse as Vectorworks will take a considerable investment of time and dedication. However I would think that a day spent with Gregg’s book would allow a user to be creating documents they could use for production. That certainly justifies the minimal $40 investment.

As a teacher of Vectorworks to undergraduates and as a scenic designer who has needed to have a mastery of Spotlight for lighting designers, I was pleased to find that Gregg’s methodology does not sharply differ from my own. I have, however learned a few new tips and tricks that I will employ when I lecture on creating a light plot this coming semester. I do doubt that I will match Gregg’s folksy manner.

For me, the Vectorworks Spotlight module has always been a very useful rendering tool when combined with the Renderworks module. Plotting has always been secondary. In the case of ‘Light Plot Deconstructed,” the reverse is true.

Gregg’s approach uses a drafting table and sheets of vellum metaphor that experienced drafters will find useful in adopting computer aided drafting. To younger users who have less experience with pencil and paper, this information will reinforce what they know and provide a useful process history.

For my experienced colleagues moving or considering moving from less functional CAD software to Vectorworks Spotlight, this is your pathway. Illustrated and explained.

I love books. Books are our friends. For my students and colleagues, “Light Plot Deconstructed’ is the perfect desk companion. For those of you who have heard Gregg present this material, this is a great take-away. All the notes in the world cannot capture each step. The book does and allows readers to go back for easy and quick reference.

Buy this book. Follow Gregg on Twitter.

Book reviews are new here, but I hope they will be a regular feature. Next up – “3D Modeling in Vectorworks 2009″ by another Vectorworks Guru and Twitterer Jonathan Pickup of Archoncad, New Zealand.


  1. Kevin, thanks for kind words- I hope people find LIGHT PLOT DECONSTRUCTED useful!

    I enjoyed your definition of our friendship. it is an interesting point that we’ve not met and still consider each other as friends. And yes, we’ve talked on the phone…

    I, too, just finished Jonathan Pickup’s 3D MODELING… book. I look forward to reading more reviews.

    gregg hillmar
    scenic & lighting design

    “I believe that every human mind feels pleasure in doing good to another.”
    -Thomas Jefferson