Things I’ve Learned in Lighting

Sometimes our lighting world feels like this — task lists and spreadsheets and travel schedules and light plots, oh my!


I’ve been traveling a lot.  A lot, a lot.  I seem to never be able to keep up with my #1 dude Brad White (he’s an effing machine, folks, I learn a lot from him pretty much every day AND he’s not a douche), but I most definitely have been making the rounds more than I ever have in my life.  Right now, for example, my body is in three time zones, so sleeping is a joke.  It doesn’t matter anyway because I’m flying back to another time zone where I can wait for a whole day to get some sleep, have no time to go to the firing range (my hobby is shooting as a lot of you know), or even have a break from the go-go-go.  I’m not sure why, but I really like it that way.  This is perfectly OK, fully acceptable, and a major part of the business.  It’s a bit masochistic, methinks.  I live and die to help people have a good show, even if it’s be going to a job site and putting my hands on someone’s shoulder and telling them how killer that look they just wrote was.

An old friend asked me recently about living in light and how it differs from his life, this very energetic and powerful industry full of powerful people…  and I really didn’t know how to answer because I don’t really know any other way, this is the life I live.  So…  I suppose just writing down some of the things I’ve learned because of lighting and the lighting industry might be a useful post.  I’ll be the first to tell you that I have learned a lot of things by smashing my face into them until I could either no longer feel my face or a I figured out a different way to accomplish a task, but I think that if you’re about to get out of school, if you’re switching careers and trying to get into lighting somehow, or just looking for another path — allow me to impart some of the hard-knock wisdom I’ve learned in my life.

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Here’s an unordered list of things that I’ve been thinking about in hotel rooms and airplanes as I’ve been spreading the photon love across our beautiful Earth.

  • Be a good person.  No one wants you on their crew if you’re unable to smile and at least make other people feel like you want them around.  This is so important, especially if you’re an impressionable new tech/designer/manager/hand in our awesome industry.  If you follow this rule, I promise you will go far.
  • Always bring your tools.  Have you ever shown up to a call without a C-wrench or some other piece of gear that actually makes you useful?  I’ve yet to meet a woman or man who can tighten bolts of various sizes tight enough with their hands to make a difference, so don’t look like you came to work without your brain.  Also, it gets real old really quickly to have to provide someone with a wrench who is probably going to walk off the job with MY wrench, so bring your own shit.
  • Everyone is tired.  You’re not the exception.  That guy over there?  He’s probably been on the job just as long as you, and all your whining wants to make people do is staple gun your lips closed, and never call you again for a gig.  We’re all guilty of this, me included.  It’s really up to you to keep it to yourself as much as possible.  There’s certainly a time and place, but usually during the gig isn’t either of those.
  • You’re not as good as everybody doing what you do.  This is particularly true when it comes to recently graduated students, people who have huge egos, and people without talent.  There anywhere from 5 to 5,000 Stevie Ray Vaughans in Nashville right this moment, for example, who didn’t have the “right place at the right time” scenario like SRV did, and the same thing goes for lighting designers and programmers.  There’s one Peter Morse, there is one Patrick Dierson, there’s one Benny Kirkham, there’s one Sean Cagney.  Be humble, be real.  Be yourself and do your own stuff.
  • Your resume is for getting jobs, not talking about ON a job.  If you think the rule above didn’t apply to you, try this one.  No one cares how many shows you did when it comes to the professional industry — we’ve all done lots of shows.  You obviously wouldn’t be on a show if you were completely worthless (well, your mileage may vary) but the general idea is do your job and prove to me that you can by doing that job without me having to go back and do it again.
  • Relationships are sometimes hard.  I’m divorcing right now.  It happens.  Not all relationships last, and not all people are meant to be together.  It’s just life.  Get a helmet.  Don’t let it ruin your life, move on and find happiness.  It’s not the end of the world.  Here’s an idea:  make sure that your significant other knows exactly what you do, how long it takes for you to do it, and  if you travel, make sure that it’s not a surprise.  Do all of this before you set out on that first leg of the tour.
  • Don’t be deadly.  When you do things on the job site that endanger your fellow hands and staff…  you’re deadly.  We work in what’s typically classified as a hazardous environment.  It takes one moment to forget to do something, and that one thing could cause a chain reaction of failure that could and will eventually take the lives of those who are just working to support themselves and their families just like you.  Don’t be deadly.  This is just entertainment.  No matter how much a show costs, it’s never worth a funeral.  We play for a living.
  • Be expert at what you do before you give advice to others.  So often on a job site, people are quick to give advice to other seasoned professionals in order to look like an expert at their job and make whomever is doing that job right now look less qualified.  That makes you a douchebag.  Don’t be a douchebag.  You would be surprised how much nicer the workplace is when everyone isn’t pissed off.  Seriously!
  • The client is usually right.  Sorry folks, this is true.  Who do you think is paying the rent?  However…  you’re a seasoned professional.  If you think the client is wrong, it’s your responsibility to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you have a better idea to make their show even more awesome than they think they’ve made it.  But — can you do it without telling them that you’re right and they’re wrong?  THIS is what makes a REAL seasoned professional.  Just make sure that you’re doing what is best for the show.
  • There is a time and place to be wasted.  That time is never, ever during work hours or show call, and never, ever at the show site.  Some people may disagree with me here, but I’d rather we all disagree a little than me having to write another post about people dying at work.  Cokehead riggers, methed out carpet kickers, baked loaders, drunk focusers…  I feel like I’ve seen at least a little bit of all of it, and it still scares the crap out of me.  A whole lot of us like to party in this industry — let’s do it at the party or after the party we’re working.  I need my crew at their top performance, and so does everyone else.  You may think that you can work while you’re blasted.  You cannot.
  • Politics is always a bad discussion topic at work.  We all talk about it, we all get offended when someone tells us that we’re wrong, and you can barely ever make an inroad with someone who doesn’t want to connect your opinion with their political beliefs.  Hey, this is our future we’re talking about here!  At least in lighting, which is where I’ve lived my life, there is a major polarization of the two party system, and even a greater separation within each party.  Plus, we in lighting tend to be very passionate about the things we like and dislike, and the last thing you want to do is get into a political debate when people want you to string multi.  Save it for break, and even then, be human.11705114_10153192765669930_6129062547362133458_n
  • Find a hobby.  You need something to do outside of working.  I can’t stress this enough.  Find something other than light that you like doing, and do it when you want outside of working.  My hobby is shooting and firearms, and it’s something I enjoy that relieves the stress of life’s foibles.  In my particular case, my hobby and the time I’ve spent on it gives me a way to protect myself from some of the crazies out there in the world.  Speaking of…
  • Crazies are everywhere.  There is a staggering amount of completely unreasonable people in the world, from lighting to marketing to production, and everywhere in between.  There are people out there who will stalk you, drive by your house, try to hack your email, and they make it their life’s work to ruin yours.  Be smart; get an attorney.  Slander is Slander, Libel is Libel, and Stalking is Stalking, even digitally, and it’s all against the law.  Protect yourself, don’t let someone intimidate you because they’re miserable with who and what they’ve become.  If the law won’t help you, make sure you can shoot center mass if they breach your perimeter and decide they want to hurt you.  Some people don’t know when to quit, and make it their life’s mission to cause you pain and injury.
  • Take care of your body.  I’m trying to work on this the older I get, and the older I get, the more important it gets.  When you put garbage into your system, you get garbage out of your system.  This industry does not favor a lack of energy, and the more sluggish you are at work, the more sluggish you’re going to find your pay to be.  Plus, that 45-minute dump you had planned during the call is really screwing up my workflow.  Also, if you’re overweight, lose some of that weight and see how much better you feel.  I have another 30 pounds before I’m “satisfied” with what I am, and every five pounds feels like five more happy years on my life.
  • Get really good at networking.  Learn how to manipulate TCP/IP networks.  Get really good at it and become familiar with the equipment, methods, and structure of said networks.  Everything (almost) in lighting has become a network device, and everything (almost) is talking DMX wrapped in a header of some kind over an ethernet line.  Welcome to the future.  Also, please don’t rely on that 25 dollar hub or switch to be your network highway when you’ve spent several hundreds of thousands of dollars on control, fixtures, and other equipment.  Please don’t do that for your show’s sake!
  • Learn how to solder.  Just do it.  This should be as important as wiping your own ass in this industry.
  • Be nice to those who may appear to have the least impact on your life.  This is a pretty easy one, actually.  It’s evident when you go out with colleagues or other professionals…  watch how people treat wait staff, restaurant workers, janitors, drive through order takers, and anyone you run across in your day.  It absolutely drives me to fury when I’m with someone I respect and I see them shit on someone like that, I instantly lose some of my respect for them.  Be nice to people, you never know what kind of war they might be fighting today.  Besides, who the hell do you think you are?  We’re all humans.  Spread some kindness.

That’s enough for now.  I’ll update this as I go, but I think you all know what I mean.  If you have extra guidelines for lighting life, please post in the comments.  You’re always welcome here.


David Bowie Has Now Become StarMan. RIP

There’s a starman waiting in the sky;
He’d like to come and meet us,
But he thinks he’d blow our minds.
There’s a starman waiting in the sky;
He’s told us not to blow it
‘Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile.
He told me:
Let the children lose it;
Let the children use it.
Let all the children boogie!
This news sucked to me almost as much as Robin Williams’ passing did.  Different idols, I guess.
David Bowie has passed on from Earth this morning.  I know everyone knows already, but I wanted to give my sympathies the best way I know how.
In case you haven’t seen it…  Lazarus, the last video he published, just shortly before his death, is fucking beautiful.  Dark, as one would expect we’d all feel at that time knowing the news he probably knew at that time, but it is just amazing.  Take a peek:

From the BBC article:

Singer David Bowie, one of the most influential musicians of his era, has died of cancer at the age of 69.

A statement was issued on his social media accounts, saying he “died peacefully, surrounded by his family” after an “18-month battle with cancer”.

Tributes have been paid from around the world to the “extraordinary artist” whose last album was released days ago.

Sir Paul McCartney described him as a “great star” who “played a very strong part in British musical history”.

Bowie’s son Duncan Jones, who is a Bafta-winning film director, wrote on Twitter: “Very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all.”

Ah, shit.  I’m sorry to David Bowie’s family.  I hope more people use his passing to learn more about the music he wrote that literally changes lives.  It’s that good.

Some links:

Al Jazeera:


General Twitter trending:

The Independent:


UK Daily Mail:

USA Today:

The Guardian:

The Hollywood Reporter:

New York Times, an AWESOME slideshow:


Holidays Aren’t Happy for Everybody


Brothers and Sisters of Light — Lighting Designers, Lighting Directors, AV Teams, Touring Techs, Shop Techs, Students, Teachers, Projection Designers, Production Designers, Lighting Industry Sales Force personnel, Product Managers and Product Leads, Electricians, Engineers, Physicists, Photonics Scientists, Lighting Industry Writers, Lighting Marketers, and anyone else I’ve left out accidentally:

We know a lot of people this year who had it kinda rough.  We’ve all been on some kind of edge this year, granted there were some pretty fucked up things that happened.  No need to go into detail, I think we’ve all lived that enough.

I wanted to write this post to say that this season, some of our brothers and sisters out there need an extra hug, or that simple inclusion in a conversation at catering, or maybe just a pat on the back to say “hey human, I think you’re cool.”  Maybe thank someone for something they normally don’t get thanks for, ever.  Maybe one among your group has been hitting the sauce a little hard, distancing themselves from the group, being kinda not with everyone else’s wave in the group all of the sudden; that person needs some attention, even just a small bit.  You might just save their miserable life and make it not miserable for them.

All kinds of shit happens at the Holidays.  While we’re all out there celebrating or working, both are equal most of the time to me, some folks are doing the same in their minds remembering something mind breaking they go through every year.  Also, we live in an industry where you have to pretty much maintain a constant level of crazy just to get by, so there’s that.

If you know someone hurting, I’ve posted some resources below.  If you’re hurting, call these people.  You know why you should bother calling these people, none of whom you know?  Because they take these jobs because they give a shit about you.  Do you know how much fucked up shit they hear on a regular basis, and come back the next day?  The people at these places are there because they give a shit about YOU.  As trippy as it sounds, please believe me if you’ve ever believed anything I’ve ever written here before, these people want to help you be happy, even just long enough to take a breath.

One last thing before I post something else that is way happier than this is right now…

I have done a shit ton of traveling over this last six months with Avolites.  People of the world…  You gotta be nicer to your servers, people who check you into your hotels, and airline personnel.  I know some of them really should be doing other work, but you have no idea what value a smile and a polite demeanor has to someone who deals with trash all the live long day.  Try making 2016 a year where your order doesn’t actually make someone want to strike you with a cleaver.  Seriously, folks, they’re humans too.  Don’t be the last asshole who ever talked to them like that.


The National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
You can call these people 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they are there and ready.

The Samaritans:
(212) 673-3000

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1 (800) 273-8255
Please call these people if you need a hand and can’t seem to reach out.  Happy Holidays, everybody, make sure to do something nice out there.  It costs nothing, and it might save a life.

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



HEY!  Whatcha doing between 11am and 4pm today at any point?  Avolites is here at the Heart of Omnia, and we’re doing a fun open house and Titan Effects Workshop with the awesome AVOLITES training team!!!

JimOnLight and THE Brad White are gonna be there, but that’s nothing — Rosie Haigh and Annalisa Terranova, Avolites programmers and trainers extraordinaire, along with JB Toby (the brain of Avolites), Oliver Waits (code master and awesome dude), Koy Neminathan (Sales Director), Aziz Adilkhodjaev (Sales Engineer Extraordinaire), Steve Warren (come on, everyone knows Steve Warren), and Elson Lucas Gallardo, Javier Moreno, and our team of awesomeness!!!

Come by any time between 11am and 4pm today and learn how easy it is to rock and roll on Titan… we’ve got some Arena consoles, the Quartz, Ai EX8 media servers, the venerable Sapphire Touch and some of our signaling gear — the Titan Net Processor, the Titan Network Switch, and we are ready for you to learn about Avo for LIFE!

If You Have A Few Bucks, Please Help Heidi


When I was at Oklahoma City University, I had a master electrician named Heidi Hamilton.  Heidi is an industry veteran who has worked more tour load-ins and load-outs than most people who tour.  As a local IA electrician in OKC, she has worked on every kind of show you can imagine, and her knowledge base is a gift that every student that comes in contact with her gets for free.

Heidi needs our help.  She had a work accident about two years ago, she’s been unable to work, and her bills are piling up.  If you have a few extra bucks this season — and I mean anything and everything from a dollar to ten dollars to whatever dollars — can you help my friend?

Heidi Hamilton’s GOFUNDME:

Thank you, Lighting Industry.


JimOnLight Interviews Psyberpixie


One of the cooler interviews I’ve done — she is so much fun to watch making the video art while she’s making it!  Ladies and gentlemen, meet Psyberpixie!  She’s the world’s leading VJ.

I did this interview for the Lighting Insights newsletter, but I wanted to give this some play to the audience.  many of you dig ‘Pixie’s work, thank you for the links you send!!!  Keep them coming!

Demfys Fyssicopulos, You Left Us Too Soon


The industry is mourning the passing of Demfys Fyssicopulos, favorite programmer/LD to many high profile acts, from Prince to Black Eyed Peas, Tupac’s hologram at Coachella, and Maroon 5, just to name a few.  Demfys was a hilarious guy, very friendly, always had time for me at trade shows, and was one hell of a lighting artist.

The news from Facebook is that Demfys passed away in a surfing accident.  We’re so sorry to hear of this, you will certainly be missed.


Photos courtesy of Demfys’ company page.  Feel free to leave a comment here in memory of Demfys, or check out his Facebook page — the sympathy is swelling, this is a major loss for our industry.  You’ll be missed, good sir.

Ten Reasons Why It Sucks to Be Fat in the Lighting Industry


Hello, friends and neighbors of light!  I hope this morning finds you happy and healthy, and brimming with enthusiasm to just go out there and kick today’s ass!

I write this post to talk about something that we don’t talk about frequently:  how our physical health affects our work in the lighting industries.  From Research Science and Photonics to Rock and Roll production, if you work in light and you have extra bacon around the midsection like me, you probably feel the pain that the surplus chub brings to the table.

I’ve struggled with my weight pretty much my entire adult life, and in 2014 I am going to win against the forces of fat.  Over the last three years, I have lost 80-something pounds of pizza from my belt line, and by the end of this year I plan to have gotten considerably closer to my goal weight of 200 pounds.   Usually when I need to overcome a challenge, I will collect information like someone with major OCD about that specific subject and then make a plan of action.  Right now, the plan is to talk about how being fat in lighting sucks in order to bring the subject to light, per se, wocka wocka.


So getting on with it:  

  • do you have a few extra butter rolls sitting on your belt line?
  • Is your headset belt pack padded over top by a layer of old cheesecake?
  • Have a hard time not getting that second (or third) serving in the Craft Services line?
  • Does the container you carry your tools in fit inside the container you bring your lunch in?

Then you too can commiserate about this topic!  I’m sure there are many, many more I haven’t even considered or probably have forgotten about in my days, but here are ten things that BLOW about having extra bacon around the midsection in the lighting industry!

#10:  GIG BUTT/Chub Rub


Come on, don’t pretend, you know exactly what the hell it is I’m talking about. Gig Butt happens when you’re outside, in the summer, loading in shows somewhere where it is hotter than hell, and you might not have showered in a day — not getting to shower every day happens on tour sometimes, ask anybody.  It’s when your thighs get red and irritated from your clothes and sweat and bacteria constantly rubbing together. It sucks the monkeys ass, And if you have worked and lighting, you have experienced this unpleasantness. However, when you’re fat, multiply this unpleasantness into something with a magnitude of volcano and fire/Brimstone, all that.  I lost enough weight at one point that I did an entire summer of shows, and the number of times I got gig assed was zero. Friends, it is totally worth losing weight simply for this single aspect.

#9:  Clothes Wear Out Faster

Frayed and torn old jeans

It might not seem like a very big deal, Or maybe something you don’t really think about, But when you have extra weight you actually put strain on your clothes as well.  And we people of size can really f*ck up some gear, can’t we people!  Big ol’ sweat salt rings around our collars; splitting the asses of our pants from time to time when they might catch a certain way when we’re kneeling down to straighten some cable or plug something into the desk; the random tear in a shirt that some of our chub caught on something as we walked by; all of these are symptoms of the condition of overweightitude.

#8:  Injuries


You know, it’s not hard to understand why having extra weight can cause a fat body to get injured by doing normal tasks in the lighting industry — we perform all kinds of sometimes unbelievable tasks, from hanging lighting from a ladder to climbing up inside lighting truss at height.  For a person of normal size and in good health/in shape, these tasks aren’t usually much of a bother.  But if you’re a person of pie, like me, just the everyday average task can really screw up one’s will to live if you happen to come down wrong off of something, or extra weight just bounced you off of something in the way, which does happen, people.  Fat is just unpredictable!

#7:  Balance and Flexibility


Let’s face it, lighting people – if you once were relatively thin, like I was once, things like climbing truss ladders and walking 20.5″ truss was a cake walk.  Now it’s really a cake walk, with me looking like the cake when I’m up somewhere off of level ground working.  It’s difficult sometimes when you carry extra weight to do the things that need to be done in the business simply because we no longer have great flexibility and balance like a person without some butt luggage to carry around everywhere we go.  Know what I’m saying?

#6:  Your Appearance (and Your Assumptions of Other People’s Assumptions of Your Appearance)


Friends, it is an unfortunate truth of our industry that the better you look, the better you feel,And the better you are perceived in our business. Disagree with me if you want, that is completely within your rights. But whether you’re in FOH calling the shots or coiling feeder in Dimmer Beach,  the way you look can play hell on your psyche.  When you are a person “of size,” like me, you are constantly wondering if people perceive you a certain way.  It’s called human nature.  Our industry is absolutely chock full of people who not only take excellent care of themselves, but look like they take excellent care of themselves.  Sometimes not being one of those people in a crowd of those people can seriously play tricks on our fat subconscious.  Or, maybe you’re one of those people who could give not a crap about how they look and feel, and if so, more power to you.  I never learned that skill.

#5:  PPE Issues


People, let’s face it.  They do not make PPE (which means Personal Protective Equipment — harnesses, etc) in sizes above Thick Cut Bacon.  What does this mean for us people with extra bacon around the midsection?  it means that either A) you’re climbing that f*cking access ladder in a harness that looks like you’re baking bread with rope wrapped around it, or you’re simply just not going to where it is required to wear said PPE.  You catch-a my drift?

I remember watching an episode of The Biggest Loser a few years ago in which Bob put on a harness with something like 200 extra pounds on it to simulate the pressure of someone who weighed 400 pounds on the show.  It looked like he was strapped with 25 pound sand bags and rolls of socapex.  This is how I imagine the extra weight on our bodies to feel like when we’re carrying around coils of 4/0 or rolls of socapex.

#4:  Location Limitations


Unfortunately, sometimes as a person with surplus love you just can’t go certain places that are required to work in lighting.  Sometimes this is up inside of the rig, sometimes this is inside of a theatre where you have to be Kate Hudson to fit anyway, and sometimes it’s just some cramped place you have to get to do something.  When you can’t see your feet, there are just places people like us won’t fit.

#3:  Exhaustion


Let’s face it, people — being fat is absolutely effing exhausting.  When you double up the kinds of work that need to take place in our industry and add that to having a couple extra rolls around the midsection, the result is just purely crappy.  Being overweight and having to work the schedule that we often have to work here in lighting can just completely break your will to do anything, including move.  It’s a fact!

#2:  Working in Hot Climates


Ok, this is one I hate almost as much as #1…

Being fat and doing shows where it is hot S-U-C-K-S.  SUCKS. It sucks sucks sucks to be fat and be COVERED in sweat after doing something as stupidly easy as unstacking cases.  It sucks to have sweaty white salt rings around the collars, back, and armpits of your black t-shirt because Mother Nature decided you needed to load in on a 100 degree day into a convention center than doesn’t have the AC on until show time.  It sucks to be fat and be sweaty on a show site where your pants just stick to you like white on rice and a glass of milk on a paper plate in a snowstorm.  So generally, as a rule of thumb, HOT DAYS + FAT GUY + SWEATY EVERYTHING = SUCKS.

#1:  TRAVEL Planes, Trains, and Automobiles


Now your mileage may vary on this one, but the number one thing that I despise about my size is traveling.  Economy seats are too small for people with wide asses.  Train seats in Economy are too small for people with wide asses.  If you’re still young and doing work where a handful of people travel in one car… well, as you can imagine, nothing good can come of stuffing one of us into a vehicle for long trips.  Being fat and traveling is like an exercise in patience — how long can I sit crammed in this seat with my knees halfway down my throat and my dough stuffed between each armrest, sweating, and miserable?


Wish me luck, everybody.  If you too want to get less fat, shoot me an email, let’s do it together.  A single twig is weak, but a bundle of twigs is strong.

LDI 2013 in Photos

A fun show happened this year in Las Vegas — lots of beams, lots of friends, and I met my goal to share hug karma with 20 new people!

I’ve heard a few people now call LDI something like “LED-I.”  After making me giggle like a dumbass like I’m known to do, it’s not like it’s far off the mark — the industry is dominated with LED wash fixtures, LED pixel mappers, LED moving head spot AND wash fixtures, and all kinds of other diode-powered light makers.  Strobes, too — LED strobes are intensely appropriate, but they deliver a different kind of stab than a Xenon strobe.  They’re not better or worse, just different!  The industry still has the gamut of discharge, incandescent, and other non-LED sources as well, but there is less push generally on these types of fixtures.

I find that such an interesting paradigm at the LDI show – lots of companies have non-LED stuff and they show it, but there is  definitely a large LED offering in our industry (as is the case in most industries of light right now).  Sometimes I wonder if there are less non-LED beams bouncing around because that’s what the industry wants or if it’s because of the cost savings of NOT having those non-LED sources en masse.  Power is expensive stuff at these shows, and so is drayage on all of the heavy gack that goes along with larger draw 208 gear and dimming.  Most LEDs anymore allow you greater flexibility with 208V power too, making the power linking possibilities even better.  I only had one 48-way PD for the CHAUVET Professional booth, and that powered everything I had designed into the rig, video panels and all.

I programmed the booth I designed on the Avolites Sapphire Touch, which has become my new favorite desk.  I finally found an interface that was designed the way that my brain wants to program.  This has been a joyous time in my programmer life!  It’s nothing like the old Avolites way, they’ve made the flow so unbelievably amazing that it is literally a joy to program.  I just had it again on the Concert Lighting Master Classes this last week, but I’ll be writing a separate post about that this week.

Check out some photos from the show, and I was glad to see you if I saw you at this year’s show!  If I didn’t see you, I’m sorry — we’ll see each other next go round or soon, you know how this business goes!  I was bummed that I didn’t get to see the Fox family.  This show kept me busy, I barely made it out of the booth except for about an hour to walk the floor.

Click on any photo below for the larger images in an *awesome* light box!