Software

AutoCad is considered the standard of the architectural and engineering worlds. There are several renditions of the base program, as well as several sets of macros available that are designed specifically for entertainment lighting. AutoCAD is much more expensive than VectorWorks, but it is also free for students and teachers to use on their own computers. Also, because of the software's use in a wide range of fields, it is more likely that students will find AutoCAD installed in university computer labs.

http://students.autodesk.com/

Gimp. A free, open-source alternative to Photoshop. GIMP can do most of the things that Photoshop does, certainly enough to create a simple rendering.

http://www.gimp.org

GrandMA 3D visualization software. Similar to WYSIWYG, this program shows you what your lights will look like on your virtual stage using your Windows computer. This software is specifically designed to be an emulator for the GrandMA lighting control board. The manufacturer supplies the software for free and hopes you'll like it so much that you will purchase their board.

http://www.actlighting.com/downloads.html

Lightwright. The demo version of Lightwright is exactly the same as the regular version except that it has a maximum capacity of seventy-five lights instead of the usual 30,000, it will hold only fifty entries in each text category instead of the usual 6,000, and users are not required to register the program with John McKernon Software. For readers of Dramatics, the demo version will likely suffice. For those with larger production needs, a student license is available that is valid for three years.

LXSeries lighting software has a lot of the same functions as the other packages but with less polish. The interface is a bit clunky, but with a price tag of less than $100 it may well be the go-to choice for many aspiring lighting designers.

http://lx.claudeheintzdesign.com/

PhotoShop is the industry-standard when it comes to manipulating photographs. It has a full set of painting tools that allows one to create very effective color renderings. For students and teachers, Adobe offers an educational version for just under $300.

http://www.adobe.com/

QCAD 2D drafting software is one of the least expensive CAD programs out there. It's currently selling for about $42. It doesn't have any lighting tools built-in, but the resourcefukl user can construct their own lighting symbols from scratch.

http://www.qcad.org/qcad.html

SoftPlot 3D is another Windows-only software program that allows you to create paperwork and see a virtual representation of what your lighting will do.

http://www.stageresearch.com/

WYSIWYG. The name stands for "what you see is what you get." It is a lighting visualization program that allows you to see what light will do. Among its many features: you can connect to a lighting control board and use the board to control the simulations. Additionally, WYSIWYG will simulate moving lights in real-time. There is a student version available for around $300. This student license expires after one year.

http://www.castlighting.com/

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