Software Documentation

Software Documentation


Pro Last updated: June 23, 2024

22 Re-arrange effects in adjustable angle racks to avoid collisions

It is obvious just from looking at them that racks with adjustable tube angles must not be configured with their tubes angling at each other.   Since the addressing operation in Finale 3D assigns effects to rack tubes, it is the addressing operation itself that ultimately determines the angles of the tubes of adjustable angle racks, by virtue of the effect angles assigned to them.  Thus, if you are using adjustable tube angle racks you must take care in the addressing operation to ensure the angles will not collide.

Figure 1 – Before and after rearrangement.  The bottom image has no collisions.


If you check the “Re-arrange effects in adjustable angle racks to avoid collisions” checkbox on the addressing dialog shown in Figure 2, then after the tubes are assigned in the original phase of the addressing operation, a second phase will re-arrange the effects within each adjustable angle rack to avoid collisions.   Since the re-arrangements only occur within the confines of the racks, they will not violate any of the addressing constraints in the addressing dialog.  For example, if you restrict racks to a single module, the re-arrangements within any rack wouldn’t have any effect on that. 

The re-arrangement will take into consideration any tube angles or tube angle ranges that are set in the definition of the rack.  For example, if you’ve defined a rack to have the rack structure “Single-shot rack, adjustable fan angles of tubes within each row”, and if you’ve specified some of the tube angles or tube angle ranges in the rows (see Tube angle range constraints), then the rearrangement will only move effects to tubes permitting the angles of the effects.


Figure 2 – The “Re-arrange effects” checkbox is the easiest way to avoid collisions.  Just check the box, that’s all you need to do.



In addition to eliminating tube collisions, which is a guarantee, the “Re-arrange effects function optimizes the re-arrangement for symmetry, balance, aesthetics, and ease of loading efficiency.  These secondary optimizations are not guarantees, but they are a nice fringe benefit of the function.  The considerations being optimized are,

  • Creating symmetry for each row, by arranging oppositely aiming tubes at the ends of the row shooting outward
  • Avoiding shooting over the rack, by arranging tubes to fire outward if possible and shifting the angles to the correct ends of the row
  • Grouping like-tubes together, by arranging all tubes in the row to be justified to one end if no tubes are firing in the other direction
  • Keeping same-size and identical effect part numbers nearby each other, by sorting them together and zig-zagging up and down alternating rows
  • Keeping same-pin or sequential pin assignments nearby each other if all other considerations are equal, by sorting them together and zig-zagging up and down alternating rows

Obviously it is impossible to optimize all of these considerations fully at the same time since there is some give and take between them, but by optimizing for their combined virtue the “Re-arrange effects function is able to lay out the tubes in a reliably efficient manner for the crew to set up, in addition to eliminating the tube collisions.  The function also often relieves the show designer of the burden of having “Angle” in the addressing sort criteria since it is no longer required for purpose avoid collisions.



The “Re-arrange effects option only works on racks of these three rack structures:

  1. Fully adjustable tube angles
  2. Adjustable tilt angle of each row
  3. Adjustable fan angles of tubes in each row

The rack structure is part of the rack definition dialog accessed by right clicking a rack and choosing, “Edit this rack VDL…”  All single-shot racks created as “Easy Racks” have “Fully adjustable tube angles”, which means just what it says — any tube can point in any direction.  The “Adjustable tilt angle of each row” racks contain rows that tilt from side to side, while the tubes within each row have a fixed angle relative to the row.  Ladder racks (Ladder racks) are a common example of such racks.  The most common type of adjustable angle single-shot rack is the  “Adjustable fan angles of tubes in each row” structure of rack, for which tubes adjust independently of each other but only on one axis.  Some limitations depend on the rack structure as follows:

  • If the rack structure is “Fully adjustable tube angles”, the “Rack row length” constraint (see Variable tube size racks with row length constraint) curtails some optimizations by limiting the optimizations to be within each individual row, and not between rows. In other words, effects can be re-arranged within a row, but not moved from one row to another. WARNING: if a fully adjustable tube angle rack is situated in the rows vertical orientation, and if the required shot angles are side to side, then the “Row length constraint” causes “Re-arrange effects” not to work at all, since it would need to move effects between rows to avoid collisions.  Rotate the rack 90 degrees after inserting it to avoid this problem.
  • If the rack structure is “Adjustable fan angles of tubes in each row”, the “Rack row length” constraint curtails some optimizations by limiting the optimizations to be within each individual row.  Similarly, if rows have different numbers of tubes or different sizes, then optimizations are limited to be within each row.
  • If the rack structure is “Adjustable tilt angle of each row”, then the optimizations are limited to sorting the entire rows relative to each other by angle.  Whatever the set of row angles were before the optimizations are applied, the rows after optimizations will have the same set of angles; the only difference will be that the row angles may be in a different order.  Since the optimizations for racks of this structure do not change the set of row angles, it is still necessary — even with the optimizations turned on — to assign effects sorted by tilt and with the tube loading order in the rack’s definition of “By rows, left to right”.  Doing so fills the left-most rows first, moving to the right with increasing angles while filling rows efficiently.  Without these precautions it is possible that the first few assigned effects may set multiple rows to the same angle even if there are not enough effects to fill a single row of the angle.
  • If the rack structure is “Adjustable tilt angle for each row” and if the rack has a “Pre-wired pins” constraint other than “Sequential for each row” (see Racks with pre-wired pins), then the “Re-arrange effects function will not apply.

Other limitations apply to all rack structures:

  • The “Re-arrange effects function is limited to optimizations within each row if (1) the rows have different numbers of tubes, or (2) the rows are restricted to different size effects.
  • The “Re-arrange effects function is disabled for the “Racks > Load effects with firing system addresses into racks” and “Load into racks” commands for racks that have a “Pre-wired pins” constraint (see Racks with pre-wired pins), because re-arranging effects into pre-wired pin tubes would require changing the pin numbers which the user may not want if loading effects with pre-existing addresses into racks.
  • If a rack has multiple effects on the same pin, as a chain or as multiple e-matches, and the rack uses pre-wired pins, then rearrangement is disabled.  You can address the show allowing multiple e-matches per pin in general while restricting single-shots to one e-match per pin by adding the addressing constraint in the addressing dialog: “Each PIN is restricted to a single EVENT (If SINGLE-SHOT)”.
  • If the rack contains any locked address, then rearrangement is disabled.

The rearrangement function avoids moving any effect to a taboo tube relating to pre-wired pins.  A taboo tube is a tube that,

  • Has a pre-wired pin number outside of the module’s pin range.
  • Has a pre-wired pin number that is part of a module for which none of the pre-wired pin numbers in the rack have been assigned effects.  This circumstance can arise if the rack has pre-wired pins for multiple modules, e.g., half and half, and one of the modules isn’t needed.
  • Has a pre-wired pin number that is assigned to an effect in a different rack.  For example, if using the ‘One Single-Shot Rack’ constraint, a module serving a pre-wired pins single-shot rack can also serve cake racks with the extra pins.

If the rearrangement function faces a rack with a large proportion of taboo tubes, the rearrangement function uses the algorithm that rearranges within each row instead of globally because global rearrangement can result in confusing patterns when many taboo tubes must be avoided.


Order of modules in the module list

In the rack layout diagrams, the list of modules for a rack is in the order they are encountered when traversing the tubes in the loading order, taking into account the reverse loading order option if set from the rack’s context menu in the rack layout view.


Figure 3 – The two modules A0 and A1 used in this rack are listed with A0 first since it is the first to occur in the loading order.


The 30 tube rack in Figure 3 uses the first 15 pins of two modules.  You can tell from the colors of the numbers that the pins in the upper left 0, 1, 2, … are associated with module A0, but if the colors are too close to tell apart you rely on the logic that the first module in the list (A0 in this case) is the first module encountered in the loading order.