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Rack layoutDocumentation

Intermediate Last updated: August 16, 2020

14 Fan row racks

Racks like the Craig Co Racks and the PyroDigiT rack shown in Figure 1 have tube angles that are adjustable in one axis, in the plane of the row.  We call these fan row racks because the tubes in each row can be fanned out, as are a few of the rows shown in Figure 1.  The tubes can obviously also be straight up or all angled in the same direction, as are a few of the other rows shown in Figure 1.

The word “row” is a bit ambiguous, since you could consider either axis to be a row of tubes.  For purpose of these instructions, the “rows” are the lines of tubes that could be splayed out into fans.  In Figure 1, the rows are thus parallel to the red and black pin rails because that’s only axis with the degree of freedom in the hardware that allows tubes to be splayed out as fans.


Figure 1 – Pre-configured fan row racks like the PyroDigiT PLS30E/45P+ have rows of tubes that can be angled in the plane of the row.


If you decide the tube angle configuration of the racks before adding the racks to the rack layout in Finale 3D, then the racks are said to be “pre-configured”.  When Finale 3D assigns shots to rack tubes with the “Addressing > Address show…” command, it fills the pre-configured rack tubes with shots of matching angles.  By contrast, if you left the racks unconfigured, as “adjustable fan row” racks (also called “adjustable pitch angle” racks), then the “Addressing > Address show…” command would fill any fan row shot into any tube, on the assumption that you would be able to configure the rack to match the requirements.

Racks like the one shown in Figure 1 are often “pre-configured”.  To use them in their pre-configured state you need to know how to define racks in Finale 3D for whatever angle configurations you want.  You will make rack definitions for the configurations you want to use, and you will save the rack definitions to your inventory / effects list.


Pre-configured racks in your inventory

The effects window contains various collections of effects like My Effects, Generic Effects, supplier catalogs, and possibly your company inventory in a single collection or spread out into multiple effects files (FDB files).   You choose between different collections with the blue selector in the upper right of the effects window.  The effects collections can contain racks, along with shells and other pyrotechnic devices.  Every item in the effects list has a unique part number, which is the reference used when the effect is inserted into the show or when the rack is inserted into the rack layout.

When you make a rack configuration of one of your racks to add to the show as a pre-configured rack, you need to add the new rack definition representing the pre-configured rack as as item in one of your effects collections.  That means you need to assign it a unique part number.  Let’s say you use racks like the one shown in Figure 1.  If you use 10 different configurations of this rack, then you would have 10 different items in your effects collection, representing the variations.  Each one would need its own part number, but they are related since they are all configurations of the same physical hardware, so you might make a part number scheme for your variations that has a common stem, like PLS30-A, PLS30-B, PLS30-C, for three different configurations, or maybe PLS30-FAN, PLS-30-STRAIGHT, PLS-30-ANGLES, if part numbers like that are more recognizable.

Once you define your rack configurations, you can add them to the show in the rack layout, either manually by clicking on them or automatically with the “Racks > Add racks for show” command.  The methods of adding racks for the show are covered in Rack layout basic instructions (Pro version).  This section covers making the definitions of the pre-configured racks.


Configuring the fan angles

Figure 2 shows a possible configuration of the rack in Figure 1.  The actual configuration in Figure 1 is somewhat different, but the physical hardware is compatible.  Let’s use Figure 2 as the basis for an example of defining a rack with pre-configured fan angles.


Figure 2 – A diagram showing six rows with the tube angles and pin ranges for each row.


The corresponding rack configuration in Finale 3D is shown in Figure 3.  You can invoke this dialog with the command “Racks > Create rack…”.  The salient input fields are circled in red.  The first indicated field defines the rack structure — “Single-shot rack, fixed tube angles”.  The reason this is the correct selection, rather than any of the adjustable tube options, is that we are “pre-configuring” the rack.  From the perspective of Finale 3D, none of the angles are adjustable!

Figure 3 – Rack definition in Finale 3D corresponding to the specifications in Figure 2.


The pre-wired pins field, showing the selection “Sequential by rows, right to left”, requires knowing what the row definitions in the third red circle correspond to.  Figure 4 shows this rack in the identity orientation.  The “rows” that the rack configuration in Figure 3 defines are vertical if you are looking at the rack in a top-down view as in the rack diagrams.  The reason for this is that a simple wooden rack with one “row” is naturally oriented vertically in the top-down view, so if a rack definition had multiple rows, the additional rows would also be vertically oriented, stacking to right like a picket fence in the top-down view.  Thus in the identity orientation the first row is the left-most vertical row of tubes; the second row is one over to the right, and so on.


Figure 4 – “Rows” in Finale 3D rack definitions are vertical rows of tubes, starting on the left.


The rows in the specifications in Figure 2 are horizontal, so to match it with the rack defined in Finale 3D we need to rotate the Finale 3D rack 90 degrees after inserting it into the rack layout.  If you use the “Racks > Add racks for show” function, Finale 3D will automatically insert the rack in the correctly rotated orientation to accommodate the shot angles in the  show.  After rotating the Finale 3D rack 90 degrees counter-clockwise, it looks as shown in Figure 5.


Figure 5 – After rotating a Finale 3D rack 90 degrees counter-clockwise, the first row is on the bottom.


Finally, comparing Figure 5 to Figure 2, we can see that row 1 of the Finale 3D rack definition corresponds to the bottom row of the specifications shown in Figure 2.  We could have rotated the rack 90 degrees clockwise instead of counter-clockwise, which would have put the first row on the top, but doing that would make the order of tubes represented by the red arrow go right to left, and the pin numbers in the specifications of Figure 2 all go left to right.  That’s important, because the specifications of Figure 2 indicate the specific pins for all the tubes in the rack.


Figure 6 – The pre-configured rack after addressing has pin numbers corresponding to the specifications of Figure 2.


CHOOSE: Use a “pre-wired pins” option, or not

Depending on your physical hardware, your pre-configured fan row racks may or may not require firing system pins to be associated with specific rack tubes.  Some types of racks built with i-shot or Evolved hardware have firing system pins wired into the base plates of the tubes.  For those types of racks you have no choice — the tubes are literally pre-wired to firing system pins!  For other types of racks you can choose whether you want require the firing system pins to be associated with specific rack tubes.  Adding this “pre-wired pins” requirement can make the rack easier to set up, but it also may leave firing system pins unused if the pre-wiring criteria bind firing system pins to tubes of unused angles.

The pre-wired pins input field in the second red circle of Figure 3 indicates whether you want to use pre-wired pins, and in what configuration.  For this example, you have two good choices:

  1. None.  –> No pre-wired pins requirement.
  2. Sequential by rows, right to left. –> Pre-wired pins requirement matching the pin ranges shown in Figure 2.

If you choose option 1, select that choice for the second red circle input field, and you are done creating your rack configuration!

If you choose option 2, select that choice, and continue reading for the explanation of why that choice matches Figure 2.


OPTIONAL: Configuring the “pre-wired pins” option

The specifications in Figure 2 indicate the top row should have pins 1-5, from left to right; the next row down has pins 6-10, and so on, up to the bottom row having pins 26-30.  You can see from Figure 6 that the result of assigning addresses with “Addressing > Address show…” puts the correct pin numbers into the correct tubes, but a little more explanation is required to understand why.  Recall the second red circle of Figure 3 specified the “pre-wired pins” were “Sequential by rows, right to left”.  The meaning of that selection is that the tube numbers are sorted sequentially, beginning with tubes 1-5 in the last row (the right-most row in the identity orientation of Figure 4), continuing on with tubes 6-10 in the next to last row, and so on, up to tubes 26-30 in the first row (the left-most row in Figure 4, which is the bottom row in Figure 5 and Figure 6).  The “pre-wired pins” condition requires that the pin numbers correspond to the tubes in this order.  Thus the “Addressing > Address show…” function has no choice but to fill the pins in the tubes exactly as shown in Figure 6.

It is important to note that pin assignments to the rack are 100% independent of the addressing order of assignment.  Pin 2 can only go in one place — the tube near the top left corner of Figure 6.  And that tube has a pre-configured angle of -41 degrees, as defined by the tube angles in the third red circle of Figure 3 (row 6), matching the top row angles of the Figure 2 specifications.  You might wonder, “What would happen if pin 2 were assigned to an effect at a different angle, not -41 degrees?”  The answer is, that can’t happen!  The “Addressing > Address show…” function takes into consideration rack constraints when it assigns the pin addresses to the effects.  It would never assign pin 2 to an effect with any other angle than -41 degrees if the available racks in the effect’s position were configured as in this example.

The pre-wired pins option, “Sequential by rows, right to left”, is one of a few available options.  If your rack used two modules with 15 pins each instead of a single module with 30 pins, then you would use the “Sequential by rows, right to left, half and half” option to create two pin ranges of 1-15 along the rows instead of a single pin range of 1-30.  If you wanted pin sorting different from the specifications in Figure 2, you might choose to use the “left to right” options for pins, or maybe rotate the racks 90 degrees clockwise instead of counter-clockwise.  It’s up to you.  Using the various options, you can define racks to match the suitable configurations for your racks, your firing system, and whatever wiring conventions you want to use.