Umphrey’s McGee at House of Blues Dallas – Video from the Lighting Position

Back at the beginning of June I spent a day with Jeff Waful of Umphrey’s McGee at House of Blues in Dallas.  I helped load in, took some pics, shot some video, and generally just had a fantastic day.  I got so much content from my day that I am just now getting to it.

I just cut this video up for the web – top of set two, “Miss Tinkle’s Overture.”  If you listen closely at the end, you can hear my enthusiasm for the amazing work Jeff Waful pulled off for that tune.  You do realize that he busks a lot of the shows, yes?  The man has some excellent timing.

Check out the video – pardon the terribly overexposed blues, the Flip HD absolutely sucks at saturated colors, much to my chagrin:

Umphrey’s McGee at House of Blues Dallas – Miss Tinkle’s Overture from Jim Hutchison on Vimeo.

Jax’s Link-O-Rama: Goldfish Edition

Hello JimOnLight-ers!  This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship: me, you, and a whole lot of links about light.  Let’s get right down to business, because there’s fish involved here.

Fish installation for Quiet Ensemble

Image from Quiet Ensemble, through Yatzer.

How Do You Feel When You Drive A Lighting Rig?

I have been driving a fair amount of rigs lately, which has made me incredibly happy.  I mean, compared to some of you, I work very few shows!  It’s been pretty amazing to take shows I want to work on – and I’ve made some amazing new friends across the country.  There is nothing better than that.

So, I’ve been wondering…  How do you feel when you’re driving a rig?  Whether it’s right before that first general session meeting when you’ve stayed up until 4am making looks and transitions that will drive the client’s show to amazing status, or if it’s right as the band steps onstage and the blues are up.  How do you feel?  Do you feel like a racecar driver?  Do you feel lighting a lighting designer?  I always see the rig as my spaceship – and I love my spaceship!

Hey, send me an email through the contact form and tell me about your feelings on this topic, wouldja?  I am compiling for a post on the topic, and I’d like to include as many of you as possible!

High End Systems Shows JimOnLight.com the Intellaspot XT-1

Friday was an amazing day.  I have had a bunch of those lately, and life has never been better.  Folks, we are making the future better!  GO US!


(and HEY!  Richard Belliveau still has his JimOnLight.com shirt from LDI 2009!)

A trusted American lighting company is also changing the future.  Friday was an amazing day because I got to hang out with the family of outstanding folks at High End Systems in Austin, and I got to finally set my hands on the new Richard Belliveau baby that will soon become a full-grown bad mamma jamma – the Intellaspot XT-1 from High End Systems.

That’s right, I went there.

The Intellaspot XT-1 got some press on JimOnLight.com a few weeks ago when High End posted the video with Brad Schiller and Richard Belliveau talking about the Intellaspot XT-1.  It’s bright, it’s got a sexy mechanical look, it’s got usability at its root purpose, and – it’s bright.  What is absolutely unbelievable about the fixture is that not only is it bright, but it’s 20,000 lumens bright, on a lamp that sips on 850 watts.  Did I mention that the Intellaspot XT-1 is variable from 100V to 240V?

(For those of you just tuning in, the Intellaspot XT-1 is putting out 20,000 lumens on a lamp that consumes 850 watts, even when you plug it into the wall.)

Okay, holy cow.  Never mind the features of the Intellaspot XT-1 for a moment – when I taught in Texas, our main venue didn’t even have as much as a 208V company switch to use moving lights or motors.  I constantly dreamed about the days when that might show up in the venue.  Now there’s a moving light that is bright, feature packed, and I can switch out a few of the Sensor dimmer modules and stick in a few constant current modules for moving lights, without as much as the smell of three-phase circuits.  How’s that taste, world?  You can thank Richard Belliveau and his team of High End Systems rockstars for that meal.

I got a demo this last Friday when I was at the High End Systems facility in Austin – I got one of Brad Schiller’s outstanding demos to music with the fixture, then Brad stepped me through the different features of the Intellaspot XT-1.  When you first see the fixture, you’re going to notice the big 8″ aperture slamming a beautiful beam of light through the atmosphere.  The objective set itself is pretty hot in general – a static front lens, bumpers in front of it for those times when you accidentally drag the thing on the ground at 3am loadouts, and the condensing lens has the fixture name inside on the lens carriage.  It looks pretty tight.  Generally, the fixture has a sleek, mechanical look to it – I can see it playing well on broadcast television events too.  It just looks good.  You know, like a Corvette just looks good?

Intellaspot guts – Intellaspot XT-1 has 14 rotating gobos, all glass.  The stock gobos are a pretty cool range too – including a rockin’ skull, great aerials, litho patterns, and foliage breakups.  The gamut is covered, it almost has to be in the case of a moving light today being competitive.  A gobo animation system is also included in the Intellaspot XT-1 – this is the same gobo animation system that High End has patented, and that we saw first in the Showgun.  It is visually stunning – Brad had a few just unreal looks programmed with the gobos and animations playing together.  He had walls melting, water running, and the whole studio visually on fire with the gobo animation system.  Intellaspot XT-1 also has a four-facet prism that itself creates some pretty stunning looks – my complaint with prisms normally is that they’re never terribly specular (at least to my eye), and they always have some type of abberation (also, to my eye).  Not this time – the prism in the XT-1 is clear, seems optically sound, and makes some nice effects tied with gobo rotation and animation.

Intellaspot XT-1’s color wheels are one fixed with five spots and open, full CMY mixing, and variable CTO.  The color wheels are fast – with that big eight inch aperture, rolling color effects with the wheels are out of this world in my eyes.  When Richard had the fixture open, I saw the static color wheel and how easy their system of usability with respect to the static color wheel was – the chips pull directly out and snap right back into place like it was just meant to happen that way.  I’ll expunge more about usability here shortly, but there are more features I have to talk about first!

Iris, pan/tilt, strobe, zoom, optics, and the actual mechanics of the fixture are all standard features of moving lights today to stay competitive, but there is that extra bump of R&D on the Intellaspot XT-1 that pushes it to a level of professionality and grace that I expect when I’m designing.  Intellaspot XT-1’s iris is clean, and when it narrows down to a pencil-thin beam slamming through that front aperture, it’s like a laser beam from that old movie Real Genius with Val Kilmer.  Zoom and optics?  Fluid, with 5:1 zoom.  Scott Blair from High End was there at the demo as well (and gave me an excellent tour afterwards where we talked nerd), and he and Richard explained about the lens system that Intellaspot XT-1 uses – the lenses are sealed with an o-ring between them to keep the environment clean and specular, because we know what happens to optics when dirt and haze fluid gets into the light field.

Intellaspot XT-1 also has both types of strobing – electronic (via the ballast) and actual physical, mechanical strobing within the light field.

Pan and tilt and the general movement of the fixture is fast and smooth, and this is attributed to the excellent weight balance that the XT-1 has – it looks like a large fixture until it moves around, then it reminds me of the stealthy movements of a VL6 from back in the day in spirit.  When a fixture is unbalanced, even a little, (and maybe I’m the only weirdo to notice this) but when it gets to around 75% tilt and is panning, and you try to snap the tilt back around, there is a slightly noticeable disconnect between the physics of the pan motion and the physical motion of the tilt.  Does that make any sense?  It almost look like a person was running and they immediately turned around and tried to go the other way without calculating the second or two it takes to stop their forward motion.  A handful of the larger moving heads in our industry seem to exhibit this trait – Intellaspot XT-1 does not – its pan and tilt motor acuity seems very in sync.  Pan and tilt movements are fluid and smooth, and between the front and back ends of the head itself, balance seemed to be perfectly achieved.

(I really, really hope some of that last paragraph made sense.)

Something that I believe in within our industry is usability.  If you make the best fixture in the world, brighter than anything else, and it makes cappuccinos for the rest of the moving lights on the truss, it is only as good as the access it gives to the people who need to interface with it.  Remember, moving lights are really just little robot people waiting on you to give them instructions to execute.  If your techs and designers cannot use the fixture because you have not thought about the best way to have a human interface your fixture, you have failed at making that fixture.  In the case of Intellaspot XT-1, this is the exact opposite.  High End Systems has had a fixture in shows all over the globe on the road for decades – their wealth of experience in build and repair is extensive to say the least.  Intellaspot XT-1 not only has amazing features, but working on those features should they ever need fixing (which everything does at some point) is easy and painless.  The only way I can think of to tell about some of these features is a bulleted list – I hope that will suffice:

  • Body covers.  Intellaspot XT-1’s body covers (upper enclosure lids, head covers, arm covers) all have captive screws embedded in the covers so you don’t bounce one off of the ground 60 feet down while you’re on the truss.  They’re also all tabbed so that you can fit them in place and they stay in place without a deviation from being aligned.
  • Access to inside.  Not only does the fixture have some room to get to components inside, but you can open the upper enclosure of the fixture via two panels on the top, and two panels on the sides of the upper enclosure.  This is monumental.  (For those of you who keep asking what the hell I mean by “upper enclosure,” it’s the part of a moving light on the other side of the head – imagine the fixture upside down – the upper enclosure is where the power, status lights, DMX or ethernet, and all that stuff lives.)
  • Modularity.  Pull two screws, you pull out the gobo wheels from the bulkhead.  Pull two more screws, you pull out the color wheel.  Power supplies in the upper enclosure?  They pull right out in their sleds.  Everything is accessible, and with ease.  Richard says, and I’m paraphrasing, “We know how it is.  We have to pull the stuff out too!”  I can’t wait until JimOnLight.com readers get to take one of these apart.  It is beautiful.  David at High End had all of the covers off in under a minute, I secretly timed him!  The best part?  He used one screwdriver bit.  For everything.
  • Balance in handling.  This is a major item for me – a lot of people who read JimOnLight.com are out there working, designing, loading in and loading out daily.  To date, I have had my hands on every new “large aperture” moving light on the market.  I’ve flipped each of them over and put them into their custom-designed cases, both in showrooms and in production situations.  I asked to flip the Intellaspot XT-1 with Richard at the demo, and by far, it is the most weight balanced moving light I’ve touched.  After doing it once, I asked Richard:  “Can I do that again?”  I had to be sure.  We flipped it back up onto the table.  We flipped it to the case.  We flipped it out of the case and onto the floor, and then from the floor to the table, and back to the case.  I had to be sure.  I’m sure – its handles are smooth, thick, and easy to grasp – and the handles embedded in the yoke arms not only retract flush, but they are at the balance sweet spot.  Intellaspot XT-1’s case has a design with ease of use in mind – the fixtures can come right off the truss and slide right into the case, one motion.  I did not scrape my knuckles once handling the XT-1.  I had a pretty rough knuckles experience with 12 other industry fixtures recently, and the XT-1’s handling is fast, effortless, and smooth.
  • Price point.  Intellaspot XT-1 is going to have an MSRP of $12,650.  This is MSRP, not your dealer price, which will always be more awesome.  What this means is that Intellaspot XT-1 is priced to be competitive; it’s on par with most of the current pricing out there, and way better than some of the industry-standard heads.
  • Address with no power.  How many times have you needed to get your FOH truss units addressed before they flew?  How many times have you needed to get things set up with no power, and time was of the essence?  Yeah, every time.  Intellaspot XT-1 has a battery power unit for the display and “brain” that stores DMX addresses and setup functionality.  The cooler thing is that if you lose the battery power, the fixture still works.  This isn’t the case with some industry fixtures.  In XT-1, if the battery does die, all you do is take off the front cover and replace the three AA rechargables with whatever AA batteries you got, and pow – addressing time again.

Folks, Intellaspot XT-1 is coming.  Listen up – I’ll post new info as soon as I get it.  I’m so grateful to have seen this fixture.

Robe Lighting and Inner Circle Distribution News

Update:  August 6, 2010:

I got an email from Harry von den Stemmen, the Sales Director from Robe with an update on the US side of the business:

We have just signed the lease for a new fully air conditioned warehouse nearby the old location in Fort Lauderdale. To achieve this, we had to negotiate a termination of the current lease agreement, which has probably sparked some ideas that we may disappear.

The crew remains the same, but we will keep our stocks as low as possible for the time being. In order to compensate the lead time, the factory will treat US orders with highest priority.  We ensure to always provide the latest brand new equipment. Lead times should be no longer than 2-3 weeks. A reasonably small demo stock will be kept in the new facility.

Robe Lighting Inc. will exhibit at LDI as every year, this time it will be both 2324 at the LVCC in Las Vegas. This will follow the annual Plasa exhibition, where we will present  a series of new products – which will also be shown at LDI. Moreover, we will have our usual demo room for a detailed presentation of the novelties.

We believe that this decision is good for our customers as well as for ourselves. Continuity is important, and we trust that the customer will understand, that saving on expenses is vital and guarantees that we can keep our prices reasonable.
We have just received some new orders, which may already indicate a positive change in buying trends.

Also:

I was just emailed a link to this article at LSI – the breaking news on some of this isn’t so breaking, but some of it is, so I don’t feel like too terrible of a moron!  ICD is going to be joining with Martin.  Hell, I’m thrilled to see that ICD gets to keep on truckin’!  Frankly, I’m proud to have missed this article, because now I get to report that ICD gets to keep on truckin’.

From the article:

USA – Martin Professional has confirmed that a deal has been reached between Inner Circle Distribution (ICD) and Martin Professional, Inc. (MP) that sees industry veterans and ICD owners Nick Freed, Noel Duncan and Gary Mass trading in their circle for a yellow triangle and rejoining the Martin US team.

During their time at Inner Circle Distribution, Freed, Duncan and Mass, all of whom have previous work experience at Martin US, emerged as key players in the US rental market.

Inner Circle Distribution has been involved in the entertainment industry since 2005 as a distributor of primarily moving head lights throughout the USA, Canada and the Caribbean.

“Through this agreement, a circle has been closed (no pun intended) as all three owners have worked for Martin in the past, effectively earning their stripes here,” stated Brian Friborg, president of Martin Professional’s Florida-based US subsidiary. “We are very happy that we have succeeded in concluding this deal, but are even more ecstatic at the prospects it entails. Combining such well-connected and knowledgeable guys with the best and broadest product portfolio in the market, I think it’s safe to say we have a winner.”

UPDATE YET AGAIN – July 12, 2010:

Just got an email back from Harry von den Stemmen about the health of the company, and Robe is officially doing fine.  There is a US factory in Sawgrass that is still being staffed, but like all other companies in the US, times suck.  I have been assured that the company is doing fine, which is great news to hear!

Original post:

BREAKING NEWS from the JimOnLight.com News Desk (otherwise known as my office) just now – I have it on good authority from a source close to the situation that Robe Lighting and Inner Circle Distribution (ICD) are in trouble. Actually, Inner Circle Distribution has folded according to my source, and Robe is on the brink. This leaves lighting company Coemar unrepresented in the United States, and Robe’s US interests are now gone.

More on the situation as it develops. It’s a shame, Robe just developed the ROBIN series LIFI plasma moving head.

UPDATE:
Robe US is folding, not Robe CZ. Regardless, this still sucks.

UPDATE AGAIN:

News on the other two as it develops.  I hope it’s not bad news.  Quite frankly, I hate bad news so much that I’d rather write stories about puppies who carry flashlights around in their mouths or something equally less sucky.


I Just Finished Lighting A Show in Phoenix.

I do a decent amount of corporate work as a lighting designer.  I very much enjoy being able to bring art and design to a corporate function, and I also enjoy being able to play with moving lights and make pretty stuff.  I mean, who doesn’t?

This last show I finished here in Phoenix is different though – I have to say that they were the most amazing, kind, and passionate group of people I’ve had the pleasure of lighting in quite some time.  You see, this conference was about nurses and doctors who deal with patient wounds, and making sure people heal.  Let me tell you, they were passionate about their jobs.  I got to listen to a nurse from the US Air Force talk about treating battlefield wounds in Afghanistan, a nurse who volunteered in Hurricane Katrina treating wounds, a nurse who treated patients in China after the monster earthquake they had last year, and many others.  This show touched my heart.

I also got to work with a ridiculously talented group of people – a production manager who kept his stuff together and took no crap, a great video director who made the dissolves look amazing, absolutely delightful camera ops, graphics folks who knew their gig well, and an audio lead (and his amazing A2) who made the show sound crystal clear.  Sometimes I wonder how I get so lucky working with good people!  It’s so fulfilling to work on a great team.

I do have a very post-event hilarious story…

The story goes that in my plot I designed ten Vari*Lite VL3000’s on top of varying heights of 20.5″ truss, as you see in the pictures.  What I actually got were Mac 2000 Profile II electronic ballast heads, which was fine with me, as I like using them.  I was setting up FOH and getting the console patched (which was another story that involved a Hog II operating firmware that hadn’t been updated since 2006) while my electricians were placing the Profiles atop of the truss towers.  Of the ten units on top of towers, there were three Profiles that were just being mean to me – they were all doing the exact same thing, being unresponsive to pan and tilt.  A call to 4Wall later and three new units come to the Convention Center along with a 4Wall tech.  Before he got there, my guys had checked data cables, DMX addresses, and myriad other things that I was wracking my brain to try to solve.  I checked the patch, I checked the console output, everything.  I’m stressing because we have rehearsal in an hour, I have a megaton of heads and LED units on this show, and I want to make sure the client is happy.

Lo and behold, when the 4Wall tech arrived onsite to bring me new gear, I scurried up the truss tower to check out a few things (I’ve been at FOH this whole time), and on my way up the truss tower I realized that the three units that weren’t working because they weren’t Mac 2000 Profile II units.  It turns out that some of the gear I got from the production company (NOT 4Wall – we did some 4Wall rentals and some existing gear) were mislabeled when the stagehands installed them – three of the heads were Mac 2000 Performance units stuck in Profile II cases.  Boy, don’t I feel like an ass.

Another day, another city, another show.  Now I have another story to put in my book.

Check out some pictures of the show – it really turned out beautifully (in my humble opinion of course), and better yet, the people who needed to be happy were happy.

The Repair of The Cirque du Soleil Stage with “Rigging Riley”

I’m a little behind the times on this, but after meeting Erik, Fox, and Jeff from KÀ, pretty much any time I see news on that deck it totally gives me goosebumps!  Watch the video below of KÀ’s monster gantry crane being operated on with Rigging Riley from NatGeo.  You just have to see this, whether it’s lighting centric or not.

(I must say – I hope Riley enjoyed his little cameo…  I know that there’s no way that Erik needed anybody’s help to figure out that fix!  He’s a freaking brilliant guy!)

Colin Rich is My Weather Balloon Photographer Hero

I just ran across this amazing video by a guy named Colin Rich – Colin has a great, cheap little weather balloon camera rig that he has launched twice now.  Colin’s rig, the Pacific Star, is a small box made of light material using two Canon point and shoots – one for stills and another for video.  The work is quite amazing – Colin was able to capture light from 125,000 feet above the surface of the Earth.

Beautiful.  Check out these two videos of the Pacific Star’s two launches – last one first:

Pacific Star II from Colin Rich on Vimeo.

Pacific Star I from Colin Rich on Vimeo.

Nokero’s Solar Light Bulb – Light Sources for 1.6 Billion People

A company called Nokero has developed a very interesting product – a solar powered light bulb that is low cost, lasts for two years, is rainproof, and is made for outdoor usage and impoverished areas.  Charging it in the sun gives you about 4 hours of light – the idea behind the N-100 solar lamp is to replace the toxic and expensive uses of kerosene lamps in poor areas.  This is a very useful little light bulb – imagine having these in places like Haiti or Indonesia after the tsunami.

Check out this video, some images of the lamp, and some data – I am excited to hear more from this company!

About the N100 bulb:

  • Diameter: 70mm (2.76 inches)
  • Height: 125mm (4.92 inches)
  • Bulb Type: LEDs (5 count)
  • Power Source: Solar Panels
  • Battery: Replaceable NiMH
  • Battery Capacity: B45mAh
  • Battery Voltage: 1.2
  • Battery Life: about 2 years
  • Weather Resistant: Rainproof
  • Fully-Charged usage: more than 4 hours
  • Usage per 1 charge: more than 2 hours
  • Attachment: Safety Clip

Tony Awards for Lighting Design in 2010 – Some Detail On the Designers

I have to admit that apparently since I didn’t watch the Tony Awards last night, I am apparently a bad theatre person.  Or so I’m told.  You see, I’m actually lighting a show and making a paycheck right now, so I didn’t have a chance to sit and watch the Tony Awards show.  Did you watch, or are you baaaad like me?

The big lighting design awards last night were Best Lighting Design for a Play, and Best Lighting Design for a Musical.  In the PLAY category, the Tony was awarded to Neil Austin for Red by John Logan; in the MUSICAL category, the Tony was awarded to Kevin Adams for American Idiot by Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day and Michael Mayer.

Best Lighting Design for a Play: Red (Golden Theatre) by John Logan, lighting design by Neil Austin

Neil Austin – the LD behind the show:

Production images of Red:

(All images from Johan Persson, from the Neil Austin website)

About Red (from the Tony Award website):

Master American expressionist Mark Rothko (Alfred Molina) has just landed the biggest commission in the history of modern art. But when his young assistant (Eddie Redmayne) gains the confidence to challenge him, Rothko faces the agonizing possibility that his crowning achievement could also become his undoing. John Logan’s play is a searing portrait of an artist’s ambition and vulnerability as he tries to create a definitive work for an extraordinary setting.

Producers: Arielle Tepper Madover, Stephanie P. McClelland, Matthew Byam Shaw, Neal Street, Fox Theatricals, Ruth Hendel/Barbara Whitman, Philip Hagemann/Murray Rosenthal, The Donmar Warehouse

The images from the show are amazing.  From a few people who emailed me today to tell me about the show, it was also apparently equally amazing, and Austin’s work is stellar.

Best Lighting Design for a Musical: American Idiot (Berkeley Rep) by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer, Lighting Design by Kevin Adams

Kevin Adams, LD behind American Idiot:

Production images from American Idiot, from Kevin Adams’ website:

From the Tony Awards website about American Idiot:

American Idiot tells the exhilarating story of a new generation of young Americans as they struggle to find meaning in a post-9/11 world, in a journey borne along by songs of the band Green Day. The musical follows working-class characters from the suburbs to the city to the Middle East, as they seek redemption in a world filled with frustration. The cast of 19 is led by past Tony Award-winner John Gallagher, Jr.

Producers: Tom Hulce & Ira Pittelman, Ruth and Steven Hendel, Vivek J. Tiwary and Gary Kaplan, Aged in Wood and Burnt Umber, Scott Delman, Latitude Link, HOP Theatricals and Jeffrey Finn, Larry Welk, Bensinger Filerman and Moellenberg Taylor, Allan S. Gordon/Élan V. McAllister, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Awaken Entertainment, John Pinckard and John Domo

You’ve probably heard of Kevin Adams, if not Neil Austin too.  Kevin Adams got some press on JimOnLight.com last year for his design for Passing Strange (which has become one of my favorite designs ever).  I ran across an article in Live Design that asked Kevin five questions – this was my favorite two – students and people wanting to break into the lighting design industry, pay attention:

Live Design:  What is the best career advice you’ve ever been given?

Kevin Adams:  I was never really interested in a “career,” so I never really asked for career advice. I realized early on that employment as a freelancer was always going to be up and down, so I’ve tried to make every day less about working and more about making things that, at the end of the day, satisfy me. And if other people respond to the work I make, then great.

Live Design:  And what’s the worst?

Kevin Adams: Probably telling myself that a “career” doesn’t matter.

Amazing.  I hope this gives a little bit of insight into the Best Lighting Design category of the Tony Awards.  It is so important to me that people know more than just who won the award!