You Need A Steve Shelley In Your Library

Obviously, if you work in lighting, you have read this book.

Steve Shelley wrote a great text a while ago that has had three excellent revisions, called A Practical Guide to Stage Lighting.  If you’ve studied Theatrical Lighting in a collegiate (and hopefully high school) program, you’ve either taken a class from that book, or read that book as an assignment for another class, or maybe you just wanted to be best at what we do, so you went ahead and read as many things as you could get in between flying, gigging, classes, USITT, that show you have a plot due for, you know — all that.


AND I KNOWWWWW you’ve met Steve Shelley.  He is not the Steve Shelley from Sonic Youth, but I know for a fact that he rocks as hard as the other said Shelley.  Funny guy, big bright green freaking jacket that reflects the light from the planet formerly known as Pluto, like my skull.  Come on, does everyone in the world not have a Field Template?!  What do you do when your macbook decides that it has to update something when you need to be drafting or you previz your video card right out of your laptop?!


The point — have you read Steve’s A Practical Guide to Stage Lighting?  It’s the Third Edition; you need the book.  Get the book.  It’s really not even a difficult choice, it’s as important a book to read in our industry as Richard Cadena’s Electricity for the Entertainment Electrician and Technician.  Which, also you need to read.  Like, you know how you needed to read the rules on drivers’ ed when you took that?  Steve and Richard write content of that importance.

aaaaaaaand, consequently, because you need to read this:

PS:  Nobody paid me to write this, I believe this sh*t down to my very bones.  Be better, be safer, learn the most that you can.

LIFE SKILL: Soldering Workshop, ENTTEC, #USITT2016

Happy Thursday friends and neighbors, I’m here in Salt Lake City for the 2016 USITT conference.

If you’re here, and if you don’t know how to already — you need to sign up for ENTTEC’s free workshop here at the Expo floor.  Jeremy, Crystal, and the awesome folks at ENTTEC are doing what this conference needs more vendors to do, which is training people for free on a life skill.  USITT is the place where you come to learn how to be better in this industry.

Serious claps to you, ENTTEC.  USITT folks, go sign up for learning how to solder for free.  I cannot stress enough how much you need this skill.



Are You Teaching Relevant Lighting?

Teaching is not just fundamental, it’s imperative to our industry.
If you get pissed off reading this, it’s meant for you.
What your anger means is that you’re guilty.
This can be fixed though, you CAN be an efficient modern lighting teaching instrument.  You just have to want it.

I spend a lot of time on the road, as is obvious from my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.  When I am on the road talking to people, I often ask them a few questions, especially the younger guys and gals — I just met a super cool girl named Victoria that has no collegiate schooling at all; she was working Merchandise on the road before making her inrow as a lighting intern.  I asked her these questions:

  1. “Where did you go to school/Who did you study with?”
  2. “Was there anything that you found you learned better on the job?”
  3. “If you had the option, what would you rather have learned in the school setting?”

Now obviously she didn’t go to college, so a few of those didn’t qualify for her.  But one thing that is a constant throb in my f*cking head is the fact that a lot of teachers I speak to, especially the tenured ones, have pretty much the same tired ass fundamental excuse for why their kids don’t know about things that are very relevant in today’s working industry:

“But college is about teaching the fundamentals, not showing them about technology.”


I'm a water surfing elephant, bitch

Of COURSE teaching lighting fundamentals is important.  OF COURSE learning how to draft by hand is important, I teach it that way too.  In order for a student to know what the task is like on a computer means showing them how to do it when their computer is dead as shit.  To that effect, also important is operating a two-to-five scene preset desk so that they understand just what a blessing it is to have access to write a stack playlist somewhere, maybe trigger OTHER playlists from that single stack.  All modern console companies allow for this, it’s your responsibility to learn it well enough to teach it back to your kids.

College isn’t cheap.  At all.  For anyone.  Your old out-of-date lectures aren’t going to cut it anymore, and it makes your institution look lazy.

If you were on quarters for example and had ten weeks per class for four years, your excuse still blows, but at least you have a somewhat terrible excuse for your tenure review committee.  If you’re on semesters and have lighting students for four years, it’s time to start servicing the industry today.  USITT wants you to do it, I want you to do it, PLASA wants you to do it, LDI offers classes SO you can do it and the rest of the people in the industry who have to deal with your mediocre teaching methods want you to do it too.

Tenure Review Committees, pay attention.  You need to start judging your people harder.  Shouldn’t tenure mean more than “hell, I put up with this shit for four years and kissed enough asses?”  This industry is so chock full of technical equipment and necessary know-how that you need to start being a bit more hard on your lighting design professors and their success rate at placing kids in gigs in the real world industry.  Having a BA or BFA student leave your place without having at least SOME know-how on how to set up a lighting network, or how to operate something newer than your Express 250 or Strand 520i, is imperative.

Since so many people in this business get their panties in an uproar whenever their shit is mentioned, understand this — those two desks just referenced are absolutely awesome desks, and frankly I would play on one if they were still spec’d in the industry on the kinds of shows your students are going to find themselves in, especially if they journey outside of community theatre.  As a matter of fact, I’ve probably forgotten more about those two desks than a lot of you will be able to teach your students, and this is a problem.

I can't be bothered to learn more, I HAVE my degree!

Let’s take a look at some of the professor excuses I get to these comments:

  • “I have a lot of University meetings I am required to attend.”
  • “I just got into the Union!  That helps my students.”
  • “I’m preparing for my Tenure Committee review.”
  • “My students had rehearsal last night so I didn’t want to push them that hard.”
  • “Half of these students have NO future in our industry.”  [REALLY?!]
  • “These are [actors/dancers/singers] who have no interest in what I’m teaching.”  [WTMF?!!!]

Well, GUESS WHAT!  That’s all more bullshit that you can save your kids from by applying yourself.  I used to teach three courses of dancers in an intro lighting course.  What came out of my mouth frequently is that “this is relevant information for those times when you’re in between companies or auditions, so you can make rent.  And, this is WAY more fun than waiting tables.”

Was I a perfect teacher?  Most definitely not, I tried to maintain my career while I was teaching.  That causes a lot of jealousy and anger among non-supportive colleagues.  But I gave a shit about giving my students relevant, useful, and pertinent information they at least could use while they started their first gigs out there.  Perhaps my colleagues didn’t like me, but most of the students I taught are working, in their chosen field.  Suck on that.


“Oh but why aren’t you teaching anymore, Jim?  Can’t you handle it?”
Nope.  I got outta Shawshank.  In most places, the pay sucks — the administration either A) could give a shit about your little ‘Thee-Ate-‘Er plays’, B) has no money ever allocated to the furthering of your craft, or C) has no plans to allocate any more money than the couple of thousand a year Lighting gets for “lamps and gel.”  Besides, playing nice with people who feel like it’s their god-given right to be crusty and shitty is not my idea of a nurturing environment for professors.  I can’t even IMAGINE what the High School market is like.  I feel that I can frankly more effectively spread information across a wider group of people doing what I do right now than I ever could as a professor.  As a matter of fact, just recently an acquaintance of mine lost her job because the Tenured Boys Club at her specific institution didn’t think she fit in, regardless of the fact that she was a great prof and had more info for the students in the crack of her ass than most of them had combined.  It’s a crying shame that happens every day across the world.

Here’s a good place to start upping your game in the lighting classroom — if you can learn about these things, you will help your students all place in jobs and graduate schools once they leave your stead.  Do you understand how important this is?  Give your students the ability to actually speak and understand today’s lighting language.  Here’s eleven places to start, with another several thousand available:

  1. Artnet, Streaming ACN, and delivering DMX over something other than your stock 5-pin DMX cable, or even worse, your 3-pin MIC cable that is fed into some shitty 3-pin to 5-pin adaptor at your “tech booth.”  These things are what is running larger format shows anymore, and frankly, most shows in general.  Artnet is not quite as good as sACN, but you’ll learn why when you apply yourself.  I know money’s tight.  Rent something to expose the students to the same old DMX, but sent and received in a new way.  It really does blow minds.
  2. Get yourself in front of the budget committees, Dean, Provost, and anyone else who will listen about some kind of “rental budget.”  Maybe VL3500 spots are out of your price range to buy, but don’t you understand the importance of students just getting to take them out of the case and plug them in?  Patch them?  Learn why you TILT first and never PAN first?  Allow them to PLAY so that when they’re in the real world with people expecting them to deliver, they make good choices because you gave them the ability to play first.
  3. I understand you already have an ETC Express 24/48 or an Express 250, or maybe even something as lovely as a Leprechon LP-612.  Why not rent in a Hog 4, MA2 lite, Avolites Tiger Touch 2, or something larger format so that your students can understand why in the real world we use more than one playback for a reason?  While we’re on that subject, familiarize yourself with things like what TRACKING is and how to use it…  what a PART CUE is…  How to use Spreadsheet on an ETC desk you may have in your theatre… what split timings are…  inhibitive submasters and why they’re useful…installing profiles for multi-channel fixtures…  ALL of that stuff is included in your stack desk, it’s all basic programming.  All this costs you is time, and if you don’t have time for your students, you don’t deserve to be anywhere near them.  Sorry, that’s our industrial reality.
  4. Have you any idea how many free resources there are out there to get you at least somewhat more intelligent for your students than you are now?!  How about Control Booth, The Light Network, ESTA, Jim On Light, ProLightingSpace, and USITT just to name a few?  What the hell are you waiting for?
  5. Electrical — teach your kids how to read a meter.  Teach them about continuity checks, they’re not always gonna have a GamChek at their disposal.  Teach them how to meter power coming from a distro, SAFELY, and show them how it is to not get dead when doing something like that.  Ever handed a young stagehand a meter and watch them struggle to even plug their leads in?  Terrifying.  Teach them which holes NOT TO STICK THE PROBES IN, too.  Holy shit.
  6. Pay Richard Cadena to come to your school.  Take your happy ass over to the chair of your department and ask him or her to ask HIS or HER boss to find the small amount of money to do just that.  When he leaves, your students will know more about electricity than you’ve ever imagined.
  7. Start studying for the ETCP test, the NCQLP test, and anything that will help you have more learned information in your LD bag of tricks.  You don’t have to actually take or pass the tests if you’re not feeling confident, but just studying those exam prep guides will show you just what you DON’T know.
  8. Get your kids involved with USITT, ESTA, PLASA, and anything else that exposes them to people like me, like Richard Cadena, like Brad White, like Richard Belliveau, Berenice and Albert Chauvet, Ford Sellers, Matthias Hinricks, Rick Hutton, Eric Loader, and working LDs like Patrick Dierson, Sooner Routhier, Josh Schultz, BudRock, Benny Kirkham, Peter Morse, Anne McMills, Tharon Musser, Kevin Adams, Natasha Katz, Don Holder, Neil Austin, Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhower, Chris Ackerlind, and the other thousand and a half names that didn’t just pop in my head.  Get your kids around working people like Laura Frank, Sean Cagney, Loren Barton…  people who know what the f*ck they’re doing so that your students have positive role models.
  9. Have your students study modern lighting history.  Learning about 360Q’s and Strand Century 6X12’s is no longer applicable in today’s society of lighting, because they’re going to run into a Source Four ERS or Ovation LED ERS before they’re going to see a rental gig with 360Q’s on it.  Please do this.  It is so embarrassing for a student to ask how to run the barrel on a source four, for me, you, AND them…  because you bet your ass that information is going to get to someone you know that you don’t want to have know that your student had no clue.
  10. Do you know what RDM is?  Well, that’s a shame if you said no.  I’d learn it if you want students to be prepared.  OF COURSE they need to know what they are and where they came from, it’s our SM-58, essentially — they are used all over the world still.  But that’s also like saying that if you know how to use a hand saw, you’re good with a plasma cutter.
  11. Last but not least…  download some of the free MEDIA SERVER software available out there for use and abuse.  Teach your kids that we have these little computers that allow you to send console commands to them and play videos and images on video walls.  Can you believe that?!  If you’d have been keeping yourself relevant, you could.

One more thing:  getting “tenure” doesn’t excuse you from doing your job.  At all.  If anything, it SHOULD mean that you’re trustworthy of doing something GOOD and being better at it than the others in your faculty.  I yet to see a place like that.  Tenure in today’s society means that you have a harder time getting a tenured prof terminated.

Ok, I’m done here.  Pissed off?  Good.  Start making yourself a better teacher.  You’re sending out kids into a very complicated and dangerous world unprepared.  It’s time to put on those adult lighting undies and start kicking ass.  I’m counting on you, so are the rest of us.  Remember this:  we are all ineffective if we all don’t give a shit.  This may not be rocket surgery as Kirby Roberts always says, but to us, it’s our life and love and most favorite thing to do.

Now go get ’em, tiger.


What If I’m Attacked at Work? A Crew Primer, Part 1

Heads up folks, this post contains graphic imagery of death.

This is a multi-part series on on what to do if someone comes into your gig shooting at you.  This is by no means the answer, or even an answer.  Every situation is different, everything that can go wrong will go wrong (as we all know in Entertainment alone), and the information and interviews here are meant solely to help you be less unprepared.  Very few of us out there in the field have the kind of training that it actually takes to combat people who are hell bent on killing us.  This article series is just meant to give you things to think about in order to put your head in the game.  Use this information at your own risk and with steadfast understanding that if you’re attacked at a gig, it is you who will be responsible for you.


Many people in our business are asking this very question right this minute at their gigs after the Friday the 13th terror attacks in Paris:
What if I’m attacked at work???  What do we do if somebody comes into our gig shooting?  What if they have a bomb?

This is what happened at last Friday’s Daesh ISIS coward rampage:


In Paris last Friday, 13 November 2015, a few jihadi cowards stormed into Le Bataclan and murdered scores of people with AK-47’s.  At FOH, the house lighting tech, Nathalie Jardin, took rounds and died form her injuries.  Merchandiser Nick Alexander died from his gunshots onsite.  They were just at work, doing what they loved, making the almighty dollar, but mostly digging the journey that we call Entertainment.

When it really comes down to it, can you actually be prepared at work AND do your job to the extent you need to do it?  Can you be banging on playbacks and running your rate master on that cool effect, or watching that the bass player doesn’t loudly hoark into his mic again, or making sure that everyone has the right monitor mix, or that the media servers are happy…  all the while looking out for someone or a group of someones who look out of the ordinary and preparing yourself for what to do in the event that the shit hits the fan?

I cannot.  I cannot do both of those things, admittedly, and I do not want to try.  I don’t have military training.  I occasionally carry a sidearm onto gigs with me when I have to do something like walk the Fort Lauderdale docks alone at night with a $12,000 console, but really that is the extent of my need to carry at the gig.  I want to go to work and know that I can provide the client with the best possible creative services I can provide, as I’m being paid to do that — I chose this field because it’s fun, mostly safe fun!  But what can we do to protect ourselves in the event that some crazy bastards decide that we’re all going to pay for someone else’s sins so they can placate their need to murder in the name of an ideology?  What do you do at work?  Where do you hide?  How can you get out?

The reality is, folks…  we’re dealing with people who want nothing more beyond the moment of your death to happen, and they are prepared not to live beyond the moment of your death if they have to just to make sure you don’t go on living.  Imagine how much time we put in on a production, from design to prep to pack to tour, and instead of spending that time and money on the show, imagine how proficient you could become at killing human beings in the name of an ideology if that’s all you spent your time doing.  That’s what these people are doing — they’re spending their time and money to learn how to kill you.

But… We live in America, right?  There are certainly some states that allow us to carry guns to protect ourselves.  I personally take full advantage of that constitutional right on many occasions around the country legally, as I am a concealed carry permit holder in my state with reciprocity in other states.  I can also handle myself, I’m a hell of a consistently accurate shooter (at man-shaped paper, on a range) and I have some firearms training that I felt was necessary to maintain my concealed carry permit.  The reason I mention those little facts about myself is that I asked myself the same question when I was writing the initial reports of our brothers and sisters being attacked that night.  What would I be doing if someone came into the gig shooting?  Would I be carrying my pistol?  Should I be carrying my pistol at work?  What the hell makes me think now that I’d try to be some kind of hero then?

The reality of 13 November 2015 at Le Bataclan was that the scene went from a full-on show with people having fun rocking to Eagles of Death Metal, the hall probably looked a lot like this below — here’s a shot of the inside of Le Bataclan, packed with people jamming:


This is the aftermath of the shooting, and I apologize but it’s gonna be hard to look at, it’s horrifying.


That is a theatre.  That is one of OUR places, you’re supposed to be able to let go inside there.  These poor souls were stolen there, and all they wanted to do was rock.

Let’s be realistic — can you prepare yourself for that to happen?  What are the first and second things you think you would do if someone came in shooting?  It is a fucking terrifying noise, gunfire — and it’s even worse when you’re not expecting it.  I for one have never had the experience of being shot at, or being startled by gunfire because I have never been in an uncontrolled environment where gunfire occurred suddenly.

Listen to this footage — watch the drummer dive for cover, this is from close to the stage at Le Bataclan right as the shooting started happening:

Ok, sorry but that is terrifying.  The sound of 7.62×39 rounds, which are AK-47 rounds, are distinct, powerful, and frightening.  These terrorist pieces of garbage came in with fully automatic firing assault rifles, which means when they hold in the trigger, the full-metal jacketed bullets come flying out of the gun until they let go of that trigger.  Here’s what they look like unfired — I have an AK, but mine is a semi-automatic WASR model made in Bulgaria, like many of these automatic variants — these are surplus military rounds:

7.62x39mm ammunition for the AK-47s used in the murders at Le Bataclan

JimOnLight’s 7.62x39mm ammunition for the AK-47…  the automatic version of this weapon was used in the murders at Le Bataclan

What would you do if chunks of steel and lead were snapping into equipment and people around you while the band was playing and you were working on the show?  Do you have a clue what you think you might do?  I like to fool myself into thinking I have a few ideas about what I would do, but I reached out to some of our industry brothers who have combat experience in various areas of operation across the world.  What they’ve done and where they’ve been is, in their words, unimportant; what is important to these three individuals is that they are Entertainment Industry people, production and lighting designers, all who have had shots fired at them in anger.  I reached out to these three people because they know what it feels like to be in a scary situation, and they have the important training that it takes to survive some really bad scenarios like the one in Paris.

What I think you will be interested, maybe even thrilled to find out, is that each of these three former professional hitters all say the same thing:
GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT OF THERE, GET OUT OF THERE.  GET THE FUCK OUT OF THERE — and take as many people with you as you can.

When trained fighters tell you that they would leave a situation like this as quickly as possible while trying to also get as many people around them out as fast as possible, perhaps we all need to take heed.  I’m going to let you be the judge.  I asked three very direct questions to Patrick Dierson, a great, popular production designer with some OGA experience early in his military career (and an even more impressive Entertainment career, frankly); Matt Hazard, a lighting designer and hell of a huge hearted (and footed) man who was in Marine Intel during the reign of Milosevic in Serbia and Croatia; Rick Reeves, a great friend and talented designer who was in Navy Security, having been a member of CENTCOM and MNF-I in his military career; and Brendon Grimes, everybody knows him as Grimey, he owns TSC Productions in Florida.  Grimey was a Combat Mission Load Master for two decades, and brings a lot of those experiences to our industry.

  1. If you were at a show at FOH in a venue like that of Le Bataclan and attackers burst in with automatic weapons, what are the first and second things that would be going through a trained mind like yours?  Now imagine that question with AND without a sidearm, and how you would react differently.

  2. Considering our environment and the various things we have to use as cover and concealment, can you recommend what to use and what not to use?  Obviously a rolling dimmer rack would probably provide more protection than a wardrobe case, for example…  What would you go for?

  3. What are your thoughts generally on protection inside of venues by crew personnel?  Do you think that our own protection is something that we need to take on at this point in our industry?  How do you feel about arming ourselves at gigs?

I asked what I thought were pretty straightforward questions that I hoped to address safety issues in a venue if the bullets start flying…  the answers I got were not what I expected, but they are what I need to be expecting, and I think they’re what you need to be expecting.

“Everyone in this business has some tales of harrowing experiences to share,” says Patrick Dierson.  “Some are simply left for a good story while others tell of downright life threatening situations.  Personally, I’ve encountered all sorts of potentially life threatening issues around the globe from being pistol whipped with the rifle butt of a Kalashnikov rifle in West Africa to listening to small arms fire hit the side of our aircraft in South America while landing during a rebel uprising.  In it’s most extreme case I found myself stepping between the chest of my team’s local Nigerian driver and the muzzle of an 18 year old’s AK-47 in an attempt to keep the driver from getting shot and ultimately denying us exit from the country.  For the record, I do not condone the latter course of action despite the fact that it worked.  And, it stands to be noted that each of these situations happened while under the employ of the entertainment business as a lighting or production designer.”

Video of the people who escaped from the rear exit door of Le Bataclan — heads up, this is gunfire:

“Now, truth be told, what’s required here is not much more than what should normally be expected of an everyday citizen living in a major metropolitan city when we’re discussing situational awareness,” Dierson continued.  “We’re just discussing it here in the sense of sensational acts of terrorism instead of what would normally be considered street crime.  Your level of awareness and self-preparedness shouldn’t have been any less prior to recent events.”

First and foremost, the average citizen should not be feeling as though they need to live in a state of fear.  However, they should always be alert to their surroundings particularly in large crowds.  The military term of keeping your head on swivel isn’t out of line.  You don’t need to be walking around the mall in a serpentine pattern just to get yourself to the next Foot Locker but you should at least know what’s going on around you and your loved ones as well as having the basic directional ability to know where the closest exits are.  In short, get you head out of your cell phone and know what the heck is going on around you.”

You have to admit, Patrick is right.  Whether it’s the airport or the grocery store, we’re literally all staring down at our boobs looking at our phones in an attempt to escape boredom and pass time.  But do you know what is going on around you while you’re schooling a game of Plague, Inc?  We all must have some situational awareness — a good example of a lack of this would be standing in the way of a bunch of people while you’re staring down at your phone and the line you’re in has moved forward several spaces.  We’re kind of all siting targets unless we pick up our heads and pay attention a little bit.

Patrick Dierson, keeping up with his training

Patrick Dierson, keeping up with his training

“What do you think about vigilance on the job site?  How prepared do we need to make ourselves?”

Patrick Dierson:
“For the most part, the jobs that we do in the live entertainment industry do not come with the inherent dangers that one would normally find within a combat zone but every once in a while a very unfortunate situation can present itself.  You could easily be forgiven for considering any talk of this nature to be that of an alarmist prepper but the basic fact of the matter is that the world that we live in has changed dramatically over the past decade and, regardless of your political or philosophical views as to why things are the way they are, global citizens that could once consider themselves extremely safe need to err on the side of caution and be much more aware of their surroundings.”

“Let’s talk about the second question…  can you give me some examples of how your thought processes would be, armed and unarmed, at a gig?”

Patrick Dierson:
“I’ll clearly state that my actions in the past, whether I’m carrying a firearm or not, have always been the same.  The second you hear weapons being fired in ANY situation your immediate reaction should be to get to cover.  You are not active duty military in a uniform tasked with being offensive protection of the public and therefore you have no legal duty to act otherwise.  Get to cover immediately so that you can ascertain what your next course of action should be.”

“What about cover and concealment and all of those terms that not many people understand — can you make sense of that for the readers?”

Patrick Dierson:
“Understand that there is a huge difference between what is considered ‘cover’ versus what is considered ‘concealment.’  Cover offers some level of protection from foreign objects while concealment merely hides you as a target.  You want to move to cover immediately and then start assessing what your exit options are.  You are not concerned with combating an attacker unless the threat is imminently upon your physical being and threatening lethal force.  Your primary concern is to remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible.”

“There are a million and one variables that come into this scenario and I am not about to suggest that anyone, armed or not, should entertain inserting themselves deeper into an active shooter situation particularly if you have never had appropriate training in how to handle that type of situation.  Remember that holding a guitar does not make you a guitarist.  The same goes for firearms.  Even if you have undergone extensive training in how to utilize a weapon offensively you still stand a chance of making a bad situation worse by trying to intervene.  The best course of action is to always move yourself and anyone else you can safely assist along to cover followed by a safe exit and then only count on utilizing a weapon as a last attempt to protect your life or that of someone in your immediate vicinity.”

“There is also a very real issue that must be discussed here and that is one of potentially mistaken identity.  If you brandish a weapon in a public situation with the most heroic of possible intentions you may unwittingly make yourself out to be a target for the next “hero” that’s going to try and save the day.  Don’t be that guy.”

Considering our environment and the various things we have to use as cover and concealment, can you recommend what to use and what not to use?  Obviously a rolling dimmer rack would probably provide more protection than a wardrobe case, for example…  What would you go for?

Patrick Dierson:
“I’m going for the exit and taking as many innocent people as I can with me.  Any other talk to this simply opens up a ton of speculation on ballistics and what can stop what.  Common sense rules the day.  You’re going to leap frog from the largest and heaviest object that you can find to the next so that you can make your way to an exit and remove yourself from the threat.  Sure a dimmer rack is a great start.  I don’t specify very many conventionals these days so if we’re talking about what my personal situation may be then I’ve probably already put us in jeopardy by the nature of my design style.  The audio boys still like to use heavy stuff so maybe get behind their kit.  In all seriousness, in an arena venue situation, the concrete walls are most likely your safest object to get behind and those walls tend to lead to exits.  There’s not an object on stage that I can rightly imagine being what I would want to seek cover behind to be perfectly honest.  When you know what a 7.62 round can go through you quickly start reassessing what you previously thought could offer you safe haven.  So, once again, get the hell out of the area.”

The sound of an AK-47 firing full-auto:

What are your thoughts generally on protection inside of venues by crew personnel?  Do you think that our own protection is something that we need to take on at this point in our industry?  How do you feel about arming ourselves at gigs?

Patrick Dierson:
“Personally, I am very much against crew being armed at gigs.  I’ve got at least one guy on every show that can’t seem to climb a truss without dropping a wrench.  I sure as hell don’t believe that him carrying a firearm is going to help matters on a daily basis.  I would much rather see crew properly trained in CPR, basic first aid, & advanced situational awareness before seeing any of them onsite with a firearm.  If you want to run around a job site with the authority and responsibility that comes along with carrying a firearm then simply shift career paths and go into the security sector.  There’s nothing wrong with that decision in the entertainment industry.  Otherwise, arm yourself with a wrench or console and get back to doing some good, fun work in this fantastic business that we’re in.”

“In any adverse situation, your best defense is your mind.  I’ve existed for many years in what military jargon calls NPEs or Non-Permissive Environments.  These are areas where you are not permitted to have a weapon and being caught with one would hold various levels of both mission failure and punishment from local authorities.  You’re trained to utilized improvised weapons if one is actually needed but 99% of the time all you really need is your mind.  Keep your wits about you, learn how to handle unexpectedly chaotic situations, and keep yourself focused on staying safe.  Be alert to your surroundings.  If you see something suspicious then absolutely say something to the appropriate people in charge and let them handle it.  You’re a specialist in what you do and you’re trusted to do that job.  Trust in those that are trained to handle the other stuff and concentrate on removing yourself from harms way.”

Patrick, thanks brother.  I seriously appreciate you, we all do here at  Keep making that good light.

Situational Awareness — we’re going to close Part 1 of this primer and move onto Part 2, with Matt Hazard and Rick Reeves…  I bet you won’t believe that they’re going to have similar themes for us to follow.

Before you head on to part two, just read this little PDF from the Coast Guard about situational awareness.  Do you know where your head is in the game when the game is on?  This isn’t about being at some ready state of war and battle and all of that stuff most of us have no idea about but think you do because you play Call of Duty, this is just about keeping your head out of your phone and up a little bit to make sure you know what’s going on around you.  Situational Awareness is the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to the team with regards to the mission. More simply, it’s knowing what is going on around you.

Situational Awareness…  we’ll talk more about this in Part 2.

MOVE ON to Part 2 of
What If I’m Attacked at Work? A Crew Primer

Focus Palettes Part 2 – Lighting Insights with Jim Hutchison

Another month, another video, hopefully another bunch of more-informed people making good light!

Check it out, Part Two of 2015’s Focus Palettes, in Lighting Insights from CHAUVET Professional.

In case you missed it…  here’s Part One!

Lighting Insights January – Jim Talks FOCUS PALETTES

FOCUS PALETTES!  Let’s start out another year of educational lighting and lighting design videos at CHAUVET Professional

This month’s video is a basic primer on Focus Palettes — the why, who, when, what, where, OH YEAH!  You know, why write cues with your fixtures just pointing somewhere random, right?

Let’s talk focus palettes!

Lighting Insights – Mastering Color, Part 2

Another video in the Lighting Insights series I shoot for CHAUVET Professional, Part 2 of Mastering Color!

In case you missed Part 1, check it out:

Audience Blinders!



Anybody wanna talk Audience Blinders?  Check out a video we just put out through CHAUVET Professional!

How to Make the Electric Pickle Experiment


A long-desired experiment in many Intro-to-Lighting lectures, the famed Electric Pickle Experiment is something that many older lighting teachers have shown to their classes over the years.  Ever seen this done?

Also, this:

And one more, for posterity — what’s hilarious at the end of this video is the comment “I wonder what other fruits will glow?” followed by the hot dog…

The Electric Pickle is an interesting experiment that literally burns out the idea of a non-ohmic resistor.  Think light emitting diode — dependent on voltage in order to work.  What happens in the Electric Pickle Experiment is that once a voltage (120V) is placed across the pickle, there are Sodium anodes (Na+, electron expelling) and Chloride cathodes (Cl-, electron grabbing) that are excited to outside orbital levels of the atom.  Just like a sodium vapor lamp, once the electric field charges the pickle, sodium atoms let go of an electron, causing a photon to be released once the haul tail back to lower energy levels in the atom.  The result?  Pickle light!



  • The most salty pickles are the ones that work the beat for this experiment.
  • MAKE SURE that you’re working with some kind of circuit-breaking device in line, like a 15A power strip or a custom-built breaker system in line for this experiment.
  • KEEP THE STUDENTS and OTHER OBSERVERS AWAY FROM THE EQUIPMENT!!!!!!!!!  If possible, get some kind of a blast shield or Plexiglas panel between the pickle and the observers.
  • Get some air to the place you’ll be doing the Electric Pickle Experiment, this thing stinks like none other, seriously.
  • REFRAIN from EATING THE COOKED PICKLE!  It tastes like roasted refried shit!


  • two (2) large nails
  • some kind of circuit breaking device in line with your “pickle circuit”
  • a length (let’s say 3 feet for posterity) of 12 gauge, INSULATED 2-conductor lamp cable or a white insulated and black insulated 12 gauge lead
  • obviously, a male Edison plug (which is a redundant statement, five extra credit points for WHY)
  • a glass container that is JUST larger than the pickles you’re using
  • two 20A alligator clamps WITH RUBBER SAFETY SHIELDS on them


  1. install your lamp cable or single lead runs into the Edison plug
  2. install the alligator clamps to the other ends of the lamp cable or single leads — ONE CLAMP PER LEAD!
  3. insert a nail into either side of the pickle
  4. place the pickle onto the glass jar, allowing the nails to rest on the glass jar, suspending the pickle
  5. plug your circuit breaking device into the power source with the DEVICE IN THE OFF POSITION
  6. attach the alligator clamps to the nails, one per nail, to complete the circuit once the pickle is plugged in
  9. Have someone standing by at the light switch in the room
  10. Plug in the pickle in to the power, then switch the breaker ON
  11. shut off the room lights, observe the pickle light!

Lots of care and caution need to go into this experiment.  Why?  Because I said so, and because this is putting 120V, 15-20A through a PICKLE.  It’s DANGEROUS!

Items of Note:

  • You can use a dimmer or rheostat to achieve this experiment successfully, too — just make sure you kill the power when the pickle quits doing its light bulb trick.
  • Make SURE you have some air to your room, this is a stinky experiment!
  • Once you have done the experiment, make sure that you either remove the “pickle probe” from student pervue for safety.  You never know, even in University settings.  Hide that thing.
  • If the pickle weren’t already green, you’d be seeing light in the 588-590nm wavelength range.  Crazy, huh?



BONUS NERDERY:  Here’s Vladimir Bulovic to tell the world about how OLEDs and the glowing pickle have SO many things in common!

Thanks to PopSci and S3 for the pickle-images!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson!



What the what?!  That’s William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, the guy who invented the Kinetoscope, among other completely awesome stuff!  Today is Billy Boy’s birthday!  Happy Birthday, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson!

Dickson was one of Edison’s “muckers,” the guys who did all of Edison’s work for him.  What a d-bag he was, that Edison!

Check out the Happy Birthday, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson Official Birthday Post!