Castle lit with magic

Date Posted: 10/29/2015

Lighting designer Martin Weeks

Written by Marshall Bissett

Programmer Martin Weeks' ETC Gio® console still looks brand new. You would never guess it had seen action on a few hundred episodes of the ABC hit series Castle . "I love my Gio, but most of the time I turn it on in the morning and off at the end of the day. The real work is done by the Magic Sheets, which have dramatically changed my workflow," explains Weeks. The Magic Sheets allow the operator to create a separate touchscreen showing all the fixtures and their levels without using the faders or submasters on the main console. 

Now in its eighth season, Castle is shot on two standing sets on stages 11 and 12 at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. Their level of scenic detail is masterful. Using ETC Net3 Gateway , Weeks has fingertip control of light levels in the New York City police precinct and Castle's loft apartment. "The sets are big - 75 feet by 25 feet - so it took some time to scale the Magic Sheets to a usable size, but now they are a lifesaver. When you're dealing with up to 100 setups a day and 22 episodes a season, every minute counts," says Weeks. 

Castle television show set

He got his start as a technical director in Los Angeles, working at the Falcon, Tiffany and Coronet theaters, and broke into television as a gaffer for a telenovela. After a few seasons on Brothers and Sisters , he joined Castle in season three for one episode, and never left. Apart from an early encounter with a Colortran Scene Master 60, the ETC console line - starting with Expression® - has become his stock in trade: "When I first joined Castle, the show had been shot on film and - as was the tradition in the studios - did not use a lighting console. It was definitely old school." By season three, they had made the switch to digital and started using an ETC Expression 3, and an Ion® by season four.

With the exception of a few practical lights on satellite packs, the show is still not run on dimmers. The traditional tungsten fixtures are controlled by relays. "At first I was worried about creating custom curves for all that relay control, but on the Gio it turned out to be a snap. I was able to copy and paste very quickly," says Weeks. 

In years of programming shows on ETC consoles, Weeks has had few hardware failures and does not run a backup console. The ETC Gio drives a Net3 Gateway that breaks out to about 700 DMX channels. 

Castle Magic Sheet

In Hollywood, it is common to be an owner/operator and Weeks is no exception. He owns a Gio, an Ion and several Net3 Gateways, and is a big fan of the Selador® Desire® D22 fixtures . For a recent episode, he used these exclusively to light a church interior and was able to pick the precise GAM color using the Selador Color Picker on his ETC iPhone application.

Above all, Weeks feels at home within a very supportive family of ETC users: "The quarterly programmer meetings at ETC West are amazing. I have learned so much from other programmers who really helped me when I started out with the Magic Sheets. On top of that, I always get answers from ETC's Facebook page and the tech forum. I have called Wisconsin at 11:00pm on a Sunday night and spoken to tech support. I can't say enough about how reassuring that is! One day I want to get out to the factory for a CUE conference."

On the top of Weeks' wish list is the latest Eos Ti® console . With vocabulary more suited to desserts, supercars or supermodels, Weeks adds: "That is one luscious console."