Getting to Know the LED Ellipsoidal Generation – A JimOnLight Series Introduction


I’ve done a lot of shows in my career so far. I’m lucky as hell, don’t get me wrong – but because of it, I feel like I have a real “bond” with incandescent and high-intensity discharge lamps (HIDs) that we use in this industry. It’s almost creepy sometimes – in my head, I know how a good ol’ no-color Source Four looks in a dark theatre. I know how an Altman 360Q looks in a theatre sitting next to it, too – and how it looks sitting with a Shakespeare, also uncorrected, next to a Source Four. As I close my eyes to write this, I can see how an old Strand 30-degree feels inside of a theatre or outside during an outdoor performance, and how a tried-and-true PAR64 can burns so beautifully bright and amber when it’s going through red shift during a nice slow fade-up during a song in an arena. Even awesome old Kliegl 6×8’s have a good beam still, as long as the optics are changed from those miserable step lenses!

As a side note, I listened to Vesa Honkonen tell a story when I was attending graduate study in Sweden about “trusting” the light from a certain type of reflector, and how that trust cost him time and money on a project.  So as a bit of an aside, with every statement is an equal anti-statement!

I have gotten to know the fixtures in our industry very well because I’ve been fortunate to use them in a real variety of performance situations and installations. When you get to know something like an ellipsoidal fixture with an incandescent lamp in it and you use it over and over and over again, you get to trust the fixture.  I can say with ease that I trust the light that comes from the business end of a Source Four; at the same time, I trust the light that comes out of an Altman 360Q as well, whether it has an HX601 lamp in it or an old FEL lamp.  As a designer, as an artist — I know what that light from an incandescent lamp in one of the “typical” variety of ellipsoidals is going to do for me in a scene on actors of any skin tone, or on a presenter during, or on film and video, and whether it has a chunk of R26 or L181HT in it.  I know that kind of light.  I trust that light.

In the world we live in now, incandescent lamps are slowly becoming forcefully shunned by a growing portion of the lighting industries as a whole (and politicians, sadly), with LED replacements becoming the forced norm by pretty much all of the companies that at one time were pushing an incandescent based fixture.  These companies are all now driving quickly on the road of a really good trend: to produce a fixture that provides the same kind of light or better than that of an incandescent lamp based fixture with a lot less power consumption and without losing any light quality.  Sounds easy enough, right?

There is a strange, edgy, “new car smell” feeling towards the new strains of LED fixtures making their births into the industry.  We are inundated with them at the trade shows in our business, just like we were with the incandescent conventionals.  Manufacturers, this is perfectly acceptable, and I think that it’s one of your biggest assets in this industry.  It’s your job to make us trust your fixtures, through hands-on videos and “shoot-outs” between incandescent and LED fixtures out there.  My informal surveying of conference attendees over the last three years has seen many responses like “TOO MANY LEDS” and “If I see another crappy wannabe LED fixture at another trade show, I’m going to die.”  Believe it or not, this is a really good thing — it provides an opportunity for the exceptional equipment to rise to the top of the Diode Ocean, as I like to call it.  Lately, these exceptions are overcoming their inferior rivals, much to my happiness.

Users, we have a job to do, too — we have to give the manufacturers the chance to trust LED light.  We have to learn how it is different than its incandescent counterparts.  We’ve had all of these decades to learn how to work with incandescent light (and HID light too, for what it’s worth), and we know it.  We trust it, and we love it.  But why is that?  It’s because it’s what we know, and it really is that simple.  Once we give the LED ellipsoidal generation a chance, you know we’re going to trust that too.  This isn’t to say that LEDs are done developing, this obviously isn’t true.  But I am noticing some unbelievably incredible advances in LED engines and output technology lately, especially after LDI in October 2012, and I have to say that I am finally ready to learn to trust LED conventional ellipsoidals.  It’s hard not to at this point to see that LED ellipsoidals are becoming the obvious choice, with the color temperature tuning we see now and the low power requirement that they provide — and to argue against energy consumption and power conservation is just not in my DNA.

Over the next 2 weeks I’m going to be comparing the LED conventional ellipsoidals we see in Entertainment to their incandescent counterparts over the next month, starting with ETC’s new Source Four LED line first, followed by Robert Juliat’s Zep and Tibo ranges, then moving on to the RevEAL Profile from Prism Projection, and so on.  In the mean time, let’s take a look at the characteristics I’ll be examining that I find important to applying trust, at least on paper – you can argue that there are more to see, but for the sake of argument, let’s start with:

  • Cost Comparison:
    What kinds of costs are we looking at over the course of an LED Ellipsoidal lifetime?  How different is it, really?
  • Light Output, or Perceived Brightness:
    How does it compare to a comparable incandescent conventional?
  • Spectral Analysis:
    What is the white light in the beam comprised of with respect to wavelength?
  • Power Consumption:
    When you put an LED ellipsoidal up against an incandescent lamp at 575W, how does it perform?
  • Weight:
    I have to stick these in a truck and on a truss at some point, so what is the difference I need to know?
  • Controllable Properties:
    Obviously I have only a few with an incandescent fixture, so what comes stock in an LED ellipsoidal that makes a difference?

Let’s go on this journey together.  When we work on something together as an industry, we get to make it how we want it to be, and manufacturers listen.  Once we started to get involved with the ways that incandescent lamps were developed and lighting designers started demanding better control over design and engineering of incandescent lamps, they improved.  All we have to do now is learn what the LED Ellipsoidal generation can do for us, and we can really make a difference.


Green is A Number – A Creative Stage Lighting Webinar


I just found this on the Creative Stage Lighting Blog, and this is about an hour and 20 minutes’ worth of your time that will come in handy in the future.  From Kevin Loretto’s Creative Stage Lighting Blog (bolding is mine for emphasis):

How do you measure the environmental impact of a light fixture? There are many ways to look at it, starting with the light output compared to the energy input. But that’s just the beginning. Take a quick trip through the green valley of sustainable lighting including best practices for lessening the environmental impact of your lighting designs.

About The Presenters:

Richard Cadena

Richard Cadena is the author of several books for the production professional, including Electricity for the Entertainment Electrician & Technician, Automated Lighting: The Art and Science of Moving Light, Lighting Design for Modern Houses of Worship, Focus on Lighting Technology. He is a 24 year veteran of the entertainment lighting industry and he has a background in electronics and electrical engineering.

His work experience includes stints with two of the world’s largest automated lighting manufacturers and he has designed lighting systems for tours, theatre, and permanent installations. He is also the technical editor for PLASA Media, an Authorized WYSIWYG Trainer, and freelance lighting designer. He is proficient in WYSIWYG, LD Assistant, and Vectorworks and he teaches classes in lighting, electricity, and control systems. His training seminars and webinars are renowned for their humor and creativity and are among the most popular in the industry.

James Bedell

James Bedell is a lighting designer based in New York City. Bedell has lit productions for Pace University, Off and Off-Off Broadway theater and dance companies, and has earned a SpotlightOn award for best lighting design.

Today Bedell is focused on lighting architectural spaces including corporate headquarters, restaurants and retail locations. He is the founder of Build2Sustain, a consultancy dedicated to making the business case for sustainable design in commercial spaces.

Bedell is the owner and principal designer of JPB Lighting.

James and Richard are awesome brains. You need to watch this webinar if for some reason you haven’t already!

How to Fold A Drawing Plate or Light Plot for Easy Shipping and Storage!

Whoa! It’s pre-tattoos JimOnLight!


When I first started up the JimOnLight YouTube Channel, I posted a video on how to fold a drawing — when I was in grad school, my mentor Mary Tarantino taught me perhaps one of the coolest skills in all of the world when dealing with paper plots and scenic or lighting drawings.  Check it out for yourself, you’ll never go back to shipping shit in a mailer tube again!

(unless of course you would rather spend the extra money, or you have a plate set that is more than 20 pages and you don’t want to fold them all…)

This method works on any type and any size of plate up to ARCH E, ANSI E, and A0, and will get your drawing small enough to fit in a manilla envelope or folder for transport and shipping!

The JimOnLight Guide to Christmas Lights, Parts 1 to 5

It’s that time of year again, albeit maybe a little early…  there are lots of Canadians who are already rocking the Christmas lights, and by rocking I do mean there are lots of strands of LED Christmas lights all over the place in Toronto.

This is why it’s ABOUT TIME to publish the JimOnLight Guide to Christmas Lights again, by popular demand!!!


Part One is geared towards sharing where Christmas Lighting got its start, including going WAY back to talk a bit about what actually happens in the sky around Christmas time (or Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Flying Spaghetti Monster time, or whatever flavor of religion you pick for the Holidays)and how we’ve been dealing with it for a few thousand years.


Part Two takes some of the most basic information about Christmas lighting – the light sources– and breaks them down for the reader to make it easy to understand and identify different kinds of Christmas Lights.  You know, for that moment when you have to pull the ball of lights out of the box in the garage and actually NOT burn your house down.


Rain lights, curtain strands, cascades, and all kinds of other terms that mean something about the different arrays that Christmas lighting come in – Part Three of the’s Guide to Christmas Lighting is all about telling those arrays apart so you can get back inside and drink some Wassail!


This is an important one – Part Four talks about how NOT to get yourself dead while doing all of that Christmas light installation!


…not last, not least, and definitely not the end of the series, but perhaps one of my favorites!  A quick overview of some of the basic and important electrical equations that can help you make a little more sense out of the task of hanging Holiday Illumination!

Ok world, let’s be safe and sound out there, and I would say let’s not be tacky, but we all know that it will never ever happen at Christmas time!

Worship Lighting Should Be Correct… Right?

I have done a fair amount of consulting for houses of worship in my time, mostly new church openings, worship volunteer lighting tech training, and helping houses of worship to “tune up” their existing system, lighting console, and dimming.  There is an amazing amount of entertainment lighting and structure in most modern houses of worship; the art of lighting services for worship is something that has come a very, very long way since…  well, since the Quem Quaeritis, right?

Editor’s Note:  For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, the Quem Quaeritis is basically the first piece of theatre that we have record for, and it’s a simple one.  The gist of it is that it’s an Easter liturgy thing — and paraphrasing, it’s basically like this:

Person 1:  Hey, who are you looking for?
Person 2:  Ah, we’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth!
Person 1:  Oh.  Well, he has risen.  Go tell somebody!

Yeah, I’ve paraphrased, but the gist is there:

Question [by the Angels]: Whom do ye seek in the sepulcher, O followers of Christ?
Answer [by the Marys]: Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified, O heavenly ones.
The Angels: He is not here; he is risen, just as he foretold. Go, announce that he is risen from the sepulchre.

—John Gassner, editor, Medieval and Tudor Drama.

Yeah. Something like that.  Quem Quaeritis?  Check!

Ok, that little bit of history lesson from the way distant past is over.

So — the entire point of this whole post was to address something I found in a magazine called Technologies for Worship Magazine (or TFWM) about lighting for worship video.  Kevin Rogers Cobus wrote an article about lighting for video or lighting for the audience that was pretty intriguing, quoting Tony Hansen from Techni-Lux, Inc. about some basic fundamentals of lighting for video.  There are some really notable quotes in there, but there is one quote that sticks by me:

“I can’t tell you how many churches I go into that tell me, ‘We’re putting in a half-million dollar video system and we have twelve par cans,’” says Hansen. The intention is there, but you are setting yourself up for failure. You’ll be capturing superior quality video of a lackluster stage.

On the other hand, if your goal is to have an adequate look for your lighting on stage as well as a decent capture of that stage look on video (notice how the word “pristine” is not used) then that is an attainable goal. It requires balance, and compromise.

You have to start with your vision and work the technology in, as opposed to purchasing technology because you think it will solve problems for you. It won’t. It’s great to dream big and have a lot of vision, but you have to be realistic about the limitations.

This is a really, really unfortunate course of events in our industry that takes on form after form in front of my eyes — the absence of a trained lighting designer in houses of worship.  Now this is not the whole, as there are many outstanding LDs out there working in worship, like lighting designer Jon Griffin at Saddleback Church in California.  But there are many houses of worship out there with volunteer people “designing” the lighting for their internationally televised and recorded worship  broadcast, which means that a lot of times they get to record and broadcast some pretty repugnant lighting.  Now why, if a church is going to spend a half-million on a new video system, would said church never hire a professional quality lighting designer to give that half-million dollar video system the food it needs to make good video?  Would you hire someone unqualified to repair the HVAC in the building?

A professional quality lighting designer with some solid background and reputable shows under their belt is not hard to come by these days, especially one who will work Sunday and Wednesday services plus all of the programming and installation that goes along with those shows.  Now why wouldn’t a house of worship that has a half-million dollar video system (or more, more than likely) spring for a pro lighting designer to make an interesting and evenly focused stage for the broadcasts?  It escapes my mind, too.  This is not to say that a person with no training and no lighting design education can never design a production, quite the opposite, actually.  But when you’re pouring money by the hundreds of thousands of your congregation’s donations into a new video system, shouldn’t you have a professional come in and give you their best hypothesis on what your house of worship needs with respect to lighting your broadcast videos?

Kevin writes in his article, Myth:  Your Video Will Look Just Like Your Live Stage:

Hansen uses audio as a comparison—something lighting people seem to do a lot when they need to simplify an explanation. “You can have the best sound system in the world with the best microphones, but if the singer is garbage, the output is garbage. There is no such thing as auto-tune for video.”

This is an outstanding comparison, because it’s right on with lighting.  If you don’t have an evenly lit stage, video won’t fill in the dark gaps.  Quite the opposite — the camera sees the darkness and expands upon it.  Darkness will be found by the camera’s eye, even if the audience can be fooled by it.  If you have a hole in your front light, the camera will find it.  If you have a ill-focused backlight, the camera will find it.  If you have a fixture that is about to pop its lamp (meaning that it’s super bright onstage…  THE CAMERA.  WILL  FIND.  THAT  SPOT.  Is this really news to anyone?

Kevin raises some ideas of note in his article that I’d love to address.  Kevin calls them Rules.  Kevin’s Rules from the article:

  • Use Top Light
  • Don’t Use Too Much Light
  • Don’t Light the Audience

This is where I have to ask the JimOnLight readership for your opinion.  Don’t these “rules” seem a bit — well, off?  Let’s look at these Rules.  Keep in mind, I am not slamming Kevin Cobus’ article, but there was something that just did not sit well with me when I read the magazine.  Also to be fair, Kevin subtitled his article, “A Lighting Designer Offers His Opinion.”  That’s pretty much what I do.   For example:

Rule #1:  Use Top Light.
Jim’s Rule #1:  Use Back light. 

Does this make any sense to you?  I have been wracking my brain trying to make this one make sense, but all I can come up with is what my mentor Mary Tarantino told me once while lighting one of my first grad school productions – and I have to paraphrase because I’ve slept since then:

“Watch a dancer under top light.  The top pushes them into the floor, but if you pop their form with backlight, you literally push them away from the background.”

I have been lighting like this for years, and I had to find some examples of worship lighting that help support my theory.  My dad likes that Joel Osteen guy, even though he’s one of those multi-kabrillionaire pastors that definitely doesn’t need my help for people to flock to his website.  Here’s Joel Osteen with some backlight:

Backlight.  Pushing Joel Osteen away from the background.

More backlight.  Do you see how it allows for a really nice sculptural look?

Check out the backlight.  Consequently, check out the poorly colored Joel Osteen on the Stage Right screen, too.  The backlight in the image above is also focused in pairs of backlight; a downstage focus and an upstage focus.  Keep in mind, this is MY opinion.  I think backlight is a superior angle to toplight for film.  Again, my opinion.

Rule #2:  Don’t Use Too Much Light.
Jim’s Rule #2:  Use Enough Light. 

What IS too much light, exactly?  Does it mean to balance out the fronts from the backs from the sides?  Does it mean to watch the program feed to make sure that you’re not washing out your faces and blooming the colors on screen?  To me, it means to balance to four and a third for the camera, and make sure not to wash out everything on the camera.  My guess is that in a lot of occasions the guy shading the cameras is also a volunteer, too – why make his or her job more difficult?

Here’s some examples of “enough” light being used instead of “too much.”  What do you think?

Here’s another:

Now who is to say this is “right” lighting?  There is one thing that I have learned in my career that will always live with me — the client AND the audience will never think your dark, moody lighting is as good as seeing smiles and teeth.  Learn this, young LDs, it is something you’re going to get pissed off about for many years unless you learn it right up front.  It’s not to say that you can’t add in a nice color-rich look or a great looking aerial, but make sure that you can see those teeth.  It’s always better to dial back the intensity rather than to tell the producer or worship director that you don’t have any more intensity to give.

Rule #3:  Don’t Light the Audience.
Jim’s Rule #3:  LIGHT THE AUDIENCE if you’re going to be broadcasting.  LIGHT THE AUDIENCE if you want to see them.

This was a hard one for me to swallow, mostly because the audience shots are often the things that tie the message together.  if your Pastor or worship leader says “It is wrong to lie to your spouse, God doesn’t want you to do that,” and you reinforce it with some worshippers agreeing with nodding heads, you have just allowed the people at home to relate to the people listening to the Pastor.  If you have the same message followed by just more of the Pastor’s face, do you think you’ve effectively reached your audience?

Here’s some image research to support this hypothesis:

and from Richard Cadena’s book of the same idea:

Keep in mind that these are just my opinions.  Light is not an easy thing, it gives most of us who study it a lifetime of excitement and wonder.  Bad lighting on video is as bad as bad video.

Please check out Kevin Rogers Cobus’ article — it’s a great read and a great article, even if I disagree with it — probably especially because I disagree with it!  Please check it out and support a fellow professional.

Thank to the following sites for photo links:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 

Five Minute Film School — Green Screen Movie

Alright, alright, hold on, check this out.  By the way, GOOD MORNING!  Yes, Jim got up early this morning, apparently instead of the coffee *I THOUGHT I DRANK* I had a big cup of completely crazy, and I’ve done about a day’s work already.  In this time I determined that I was going to teach myself how to use chroma-key green screens, and I found a few clever videos that should make you either go “hmm!” or maybe just give you a belly laugh.  This should be an excellent way to start your day!

Household Hackers do a green screen:

and THIS?  This – is just awesome.  Green screen tech in action:

Rosco sells Chroma Key blue and green – check it out.  FilmTools also sells Chroma Key stuff like tape and paint, and flooring.  Yeah, I had no idea either.

(Image credit from a cool article on photoshop chroma-keying from techWOW.  Check it out!)

After-Image Woman – Check It Out!

Alright, alright, this is the last optical illusion for a few days.  Otherwise, Brad Schiller is gonna be breaking down my door with a baseball bat!  [love you, sugar Brad!]

Ok – stare at the red dot on this woman’s schnoz for about a half a minute as hard as you can.  Once the 30 or so seconds are up, stare at something white.  Allow the flippage to ensue.  The longer you stare, the longer your vision has a chance to burn in, and the closer you stare at that red dot the better – try to get your eyes around 12″ away.

Is that not just totally f*cking trippy or WHAT?!  It’s called an afterimage.  it’s what happens when we over-stimulate our cones – they essentially go on break, and the cones around them, which aren’t overstimulated, kick into gear, allowing the brain to interpret the exact opposite of the image.