Interview with Jason Scoppa and Micah Otano of The Sayers Club

This was one of the most fun interviews I’ve ever done, I had to share.  Meet Jason Scoppa, creator of The Sayers Club LA and Las Vegas (at SLS Las Vegas) and Micah Otano, the technical ninja that makes Jason’s work all happen!  Check it out!

Also, make sure to check out The Sayers Club Las Vegas, and The Sayers Club LA if you’re gonna be on the road and in those locations.  Definitely worth the trip, they are two chill clubs.  Leather couches everywhere!!

Jeff Waful +1 Episode 3 is OUT!

If you’re a fan of the band My Morning Jacket, if you appreciate Tour Managers, or you feel that you need to know why you need to appreciate Tour Managers, then watch Jeff Waful +1 Episode 3.  No, seriously.  My Morning Jacket at Madison Square Garden happened mostly because of the Tour Manager Eric Mayers had his sh*t together.  Check our the “intrepid reporter” for another excellent episode of Jeff Waful +1!

Here we go!

Jeff Waful +1 — My Morning Jacket [A Teaser]

Whoa.

Have you seen any of the Jeff Waful +1 episodes out there?  I just got an email from the man himself, and he’s about ready to release another awesome episode of his excellent show that’s sweeping interest in what we do and how we do it from all kinds of demographics across the world.  This time?  He interviews the tour manager from My Morning Jacket, Eric Mayers.  Check it out:

Awesome, Jeff. We’re looking forward to this one, too!

Jeff Waful, Huey Lewis, and “The Umphreys” – Jeff Waful +1 Episode 2

Oh please – stop doing whatever it is you’re doing and watch this video.  Jeff Waful, the lighting designer for Umphrey’s McGee (and a f*cking cool guy, taboot) has another episode of his stellar concert industry interview show Jeff Waful +1 on the Relix Magazine website, and after Warren Haynes on the first episode, he has raised the bar that extra bit that gives creed to what we’re all doing out here – living the dream.

Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse, Five Dead. Now What?

Sorry folks, this video is the harsh reality of what happened in Indiana on Saturday at the Sugarland concert.  Just be forewarned, it shows the rig collapsing onto people, and it’s pretty real.  What cannot, cannot, cannot be overlooked at the end of the video is the bunch of hands that came running to lift that structure, regardless of whether or not they could.

WARNING:  This is a pretty graphic video of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse:

Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse from Christopher Netanyahu on Vimeo.

That video made me cry, I am dead serious.  We lost a member of the local crew of IATSE Local 30 in this disaster, too.  Brother, rest in peace.  Nathan Byrd, also apparently known as “Save The Show” Nathan, leaves behind two teenagers.  Nathan was in the truss at the time of its collapse.  The gear belongs to Mid-America Sound out of Greenfield, Indiana.  If you’ve done corporate or concerts in the midwest, chances are you’ve probably run into their gear, that’re a widely used production company.

Four people and one stagehand are dead and at least forty others are injured because something our industry put together to have a show collapsed in weather.  What happened?  Is this weather?  Were all of the proper safety features installed properly and working?  I’m not placing blame, that’s not even remotely the point right now.  The point is that this has happened, it seems to be happening a fair amount lately in roughly this size of production, and now what are we going to do to mitigate this from happening?  I have heard more than one person after these events say something along the lines of “it happens, thank God no one was hurt” or “it happens, these people were just unlucky.”

Bullsh*t.  

Also, Governor Daniels, STOP SAYING that this was “a freakish accident,” because that is a lie.  This could have been avoided if your promoters would have had a bit more importance placed on concertgoer safety.  This should have been shut down until the weather passed, or shut down altogether WAY in advance of the ten minutes you people have been reporting as the only warning you had for this wind event.  Stop diluting this by calling it a freakish accident.  It’s further from the truth than anything else you’ve said about the collapse.

I had to get ahold of my go-to safety guru, Erich Friend from Teqniqal Systems for this one, I’m no safety expert.  Erich and I work together here and there on projects, but more than anything, Erich is a brilliant safety guy who writes for TheatreFace, has a safety and consulting firm, and writes the Theatre Safety Blog.

JimOnLight.com: Erich, you’re the best safety consultant I know, can you make some sense of this mess? What the hell is going on that this keeps happening? Indiana State Fair’s roof structure, the collapse in July at the Cheap Trick show in Toronto, Peter Frampton in Germany last year, what on earth is going on?

Erich Friend: Jim, you just touched the surface on the number of well documented events like this that have happened. In fact, this is the third one in three weeks. This most recent event is the most tragic in terms of body count – 45 injured, five dead – and is certainly one of the most visible due to the press coverage.

JOL: I think there are fingers to point here, but right now what is most important is to be solving the freaking problem. People died on Saturday. People died because an entertainment structure collapsed. Where do we go here? How do we stop this? Is ETCP the answer, or is there something else that we should be trying to implement or change?

EF: For starter’s, there will be a serious investigation of this by the Indiana State Police and OSHA to assess this event. Some of this will be a look at the structural integrity of the concert rig, some will look at the weather conditions, and another part will be to look at the venues’ management of the crowd and crew in clearing the area around the structure. Although the attachments for these structure may have been executed by ETCP certified riggers, this really only indicates that the connections may have been performed properly and that sufficient safety cables may have been attached to keep the lighting and sound equipment from separating from the canopy structure. The use of ETCP certified riggers may not have a large bearing on the structural decisions made during the design and set-up of the truss and support towers. Given the unique circumstances involved in outdoor events under portable canopies, there may be a clear need for ETCP to develop a third category of rigging certification that specifically addresses this segment of the entertainment industry.

JOL: There has to be blowbacks for this. Can you explain to a reader who doesn’t really understand what is going to now, what needs to happen because of this disaster? What ramifications will there be for this?

EF: With so many of these accidents happening recently, I would hope that the insurance carriers would begin to demand that a more robust system of structures, weather monitoring, fast track decision making authority, and crowd management planning be implemented. The structures that are used for these events certainly require closer scrutiny, as the covers for them act like huge sails in the wind and drag these canopies over too easily. This is an international problem, so to be effective, an international consortium of manufacturers’ designers, safety experts, meteorologists, and building code officials will have to ‘get on the same page’ so they can develop acceptable standards for the consideration of weather conditions. They will also have to develop clear criteria about when to ‘call a show’ and evacuate the venue. Apparently ‘common sense’ isn’t enough.

JOL: This is obviously not directly related to medium sized rigs like the one in Indiana – the U2 tower collapse, the Madonna collapse, obviously back in the day the monster Justin Timberlake/Christina Aguillera concert collapse in New Jersey come to mind as well as several others. Do you see this as impacting a certain size of production where safety is somehow lax or just non-existent? Make all of this make sense to me, I’ve never been on a show where anything drastic like this has happened. Is this the sheer force of nature, or something a little more deliberate?

EF: The Modonna tour stage canopy collapse and the Justin Timberlake/Christina Aguillera truss collapse were different than the weather related failures in that they were the outcome of equipment failures and failure to closely monitor rigging loads. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. The weather related collapses are strongly influenced by humans being in denial that the weather can bulldoze a stage structure in just seconds. Although there was only 10 minutes between the National Weather Service (NWS) issuance of a Severe Weather Warning and the collapse of the stage in Indiana, the weather front that triggered this warning was clearly visible and tracked for hours, if not days, in advance. When there are hundreds of thousands of pounds of equipment in the air over a stage, the potential for damage inside the ‘crash radius’ of the structure is significant. The structure must be assembled to minimize the surface area that the wind can blow upon (break-away canopy tarps, vent flaps, etc.) and the structure must be secured to withstand the forces expected to be imposed upon it under severe weather conditions. A proper weather emergency plan would have included the precaution of lowering the canopy to stage level, too, so that the wind could not exert forces near the top of the structure.

The shear force of nature is significant and should NEVER be underestimated. As mother nature would say (after she’s knocked back a few) “Don’t %$#@ with Mother Nature!” You can’t win. HUGE forces are involved. The key is that we KNOW this, therefore we can expect this. All the quotations you read and hear on the news after these tragedies that say “It just came out of nowhere”, “We just didn’t see it coming”, “We didn’t think it would get this bad”, or Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels saying “I’m not clear how anyone could have foreseen a sudden, highly localized blast of wind” are unbelievably ill thought-out statements. We have the technology to monitor wind and weather in real-time, we know how fast it is travelling, which way it is going, and where it is. What it takes is someone in a position of authority with enough common sense and large enough ‘nads to call the show and clear the venue will a sufficient margin of error to ensure that no one is put in harm’s way. The outdoor concert industry needs a serious reality check if they think that these accidents can be marked-up to voodoo weather or ‘freak’ occurrences. There was absolutely nothing about this that was unpredictable or unforeseeable. Like with most things, the body count has to get high enough to be noticed.

JOL:  Thanks a lot, dude.  This is a really bad situation from all angles.  This is bad, very bad.

One begins to wonder when you work in this industry AND see something like this go down AND people lose their lives.  I worked in a place once where a supervisor said to me – “we’ll get it fixed, but I think the funding will only arrive once someone falls out of the ceiling to show them it’s dangerous.”  That kind of attitude makes me want to punch someone right in the mouth.  What really sucks is that it’s probably closer to the truth than not.  I think that there should be some serious ramifications to this horrific situation with respect to jail time and reprimand of a serious degree.

If you’ve not been following the news and you’re in the industry, well, that’s why I’m here, to help you with that.  The frequency of these roof or stage collapses over the summer has not been ZERO where it should be; in fact, this makes THREE in the last three weeks.  That is wholly unacceptable.  This time, the little bit of comfort that these roof structures provide cost five people their lives, not to mention the trauma it doled out for others not killed in the collapse.  I spoke with Scott Blair about this too – Scott used to work for High End Systems as the Director of Digital Light Development before BARCO decided otherwise.  Scott’s also behind PlugFest, and does a ton fo work with Remote Device Management development.  Scott’s a pretty vocal guy like I am, and he and I get along well in part due to that fact!

JimOnLight.com: Scott, what happened in Indianapolis? Don’t people follow the ANSI regulations with this kind of a scenario when people’s lives are at risk? There were several tens of thousands of pounds of gear hanging from that roof structure, where are the checks and balances?

Scott Blair: First off, let me state that I’m not an expert in rigging and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night either (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wm-h7YR_410). Most of my life has been spent on the Lighting side of the industry and in developing ANSI standards for control protocols. I spent a lot of my early formative years working on a Summer outdoor production in an area known for sudden and unpredictable wind and weather (and poor planning) which is where I gained a strong appreciation for what mother nature can dish out! With the disclaimers out of the way, what people need to realize is that while there are ANSI Standards for construction and use of portable stages developed by ESTA (now PLASA), but these are *voluntary* standards. There is no REQUIRMENT that anyone follow them and I see that as a serious issue. Reputable manufacturer’s (such as the one for this structure) are likely going to follow the standards out of good practice and common sense. Engineers from many of these manufacturer’s are typically the ones involved in writing them. There is a big disconnect when it comes to the guys out in the field erecting and using these stages though. The same goes for using ETCP certified riggers. Some venues may require them, but there are no government regulations I’m aware of anywhere that require this. One point I raised a couple years ago on this when discussing another one of these failures and what can be done to change the safety climate is that the Insurance carriers for all these outdoor stages and productions should be requiring that the standards are followed and certified riggers are used, in addition to requiring a Professional Engineer sign-off each time the stage is erected and failure to do so would void the insurance. In the absence of cohesive government regulations, the Insurance companies are in the best position to require and enforce the checks and balances occur. At the end of the day it is about the money with everyone, so the Insurance companies have a lot of pull. With the increasing number of failures in recent years, I hope that is something that may already be happening out there. Frankly, carnival rides get more scrutiny for safety than these large stages do and that is something that MUST change!

JOL: There are myriad issues with this entire horrific event that just need to be made outwardly obvious. Besides the obvious factor of an approaching major weather event, can you tell me what the most significant factors that could have been mitigated?

SB: There are lots! We’ve been discussing this a lot over at LightNetwork in the last 24 hours and sadly it took us as an industry stacking up bodies before people really take notice. Outdoor stage failures have become so commonplace in recent years that there isn’t even much reaction to them other than “Oh look, another one.” I said over 2 years ago it was only a matter of time before people started getting killed from these. Frankly, we’ve had an incredible run of luck that it took this long even though there were a lot of close calls. That is the FIRST thing that should have been noticed and mitigated! With the frequency of failures, no one thought it could happen to them and they’ve kept building these things bigger and adding more weight and more sails to them. Rather than being more cautious, it appears that the limits keep getting pushed farther! Everyone is trying to do their full arena show on an outdoor portable stage!

The SECOND and one of the most troublesome practices for me is the use of these tarp roofs and backdrops and side wind-walls. These all act as huge sails and exert ENORMOUS forces on a rig, particularly lateral forces where structures are the MOST vulnerable and where there is the most variability in terms of how the stage is erected with guy wires, ballast, and cross bracing to reduce them. Some of these roofs are designed for people to release them in high winds (i.e. cut away) and lots of speculation about how that could be made better and if the roof was cut loose sooner than this might not have happened. I see that discussion in the same vein as saying, ‘if the Titanic only had more buckets to bail water they would have been fine!’ I see all the tarp roofs and backdrops as serious safety factors. Even if in high winds you do manage to cut the roof tarp away before it brings the stage down, there is a serious amount of mass that and size that is now airborne and can likely kill or do serious harm wherever it lands! There are a lot people that believe cutting slits in the backdrops ‘allows the air to pass through.’ Yes, in very small quantities. A sail with holes in it is still a sail! I once worked with large 2 story store front set pieces that were constructed out of screen door material and scenic painted. Since it was fine mesh screen material the wind should just pass through them right? Wrong, these things made fantastic sails and more than one night the entire crew was trying to stop these things from blowing away.

Hanging PA also must stop. These things are enormously heavy, catch a lot of wind, and if not tied down will create a very nasty swinging wrecking ball. They also frequently prevent the roof from being lowered in bad weather, something that is a necessity.

The THIRD biggest issue appears to have been management. It is clear there was a serious lack of communication and decision making occurring there. The one thing I hear over and over in our industry is that people are too afraid to be the one that “cancelled the show” or being seen as crying wolf. Or even if they do try to make the call they are overruled by the Promoters. I sleep a lot better being unemployed or being disliked than I do being responsible for manslaughter. That’s what this is. It was not a freakish unforeseen weather event, it was a large storm line with hours of warning preceding it and no action taken to 1. actually evacuate people nearby, 2. lower the stage. 3. cut the roof free (at least not until way too late) or 4. even call the Spot Op’s down from the roof that should never have been up there to begin with! I don’t know how else to describe this gross negligence than being manslaughter. Besides being a well formed evacuation and weather plan for any outdoor event, there needs to be someone in charge that is fully empowered to overrule the money interests (Promoters/Band) and pull the plug. Furthermore, they need to be held legally responsible for doing that! So that the failure not to act has legal liability attached to it! When it is their ass on the line they won’t be as quick to defer to the Promoter or other money interests and they will be doing what is safest.

JOL: Why is it, do you think, that a decision to evacuate was made so late in the process? That is one thing that I just cannot quite wrap my head around – with a rig that large on a standing superstructure roof (and a BIG roof at that) and with such a front approaching that there were stagehands inside the roof structure at all? Why did they wait so long?

SB: No one wants to be the one to cancel the show (and also be responsible for refunding the money!) The natural reaction is to wait just a -little- bit longer to see if maybe it won’t be that bad. There was a wealth of information staring them in the face not the least of which is weather alerts of the National Weather Service of a severe storm line baring down on them. (See www.controlgeek.net for the weather analysis). Anyone who watches a thunderstorm roll-in knows that just because it is fairly calm right now doesn’t mean that in less than 5 minutes you won’t be getting the crap beat out of you by the winds and rain! I’ve seen several reports that the authorities made the decision to cancel but a minute or two later an announcer said they hoped to continue the show shortly. They were alerted where to go if an evacuation was called, but it was never called. The people who were cited in being responsible for making the call, which was the Emergency Personnel and the Fair Manager, would likely have had very little understanding about the very real dangers that stage posed. What has been noticeably missing are any reports from those who should have known how vulnerable that stage was with the unnecessary amount of gak hanging on it for that show. The official timeline which has just been released is sickening in the amount of clear and present danger that storm posed and the length of time they knew it. http://media2.wane.com/_local/site/PDFs/News/State%20Fair%20Incident%20Time%20Line.pdf Someone with the Production or staging company should have made the call themselves, at least to their own Spot Ops. The investigation around that aspect is going to be very interesting.

JOL: Where do you feel the blame lies at this point, legally? I guess the part B for that question is where to place the blame – is this a human error, where and with whom does it lie, and how do we go about making sure that these kinds of horrific occurrences stop happening?

SB: That is a tough call. I personally wouldn’t feel bad if there was jail time for someone for this (not a long time, but some..) There were so many irresponsible things I can point to, and that is just from the sidelines, when testimony starts coming out about the chaos and the finger pointing it will get very difficult to tell. I don’t believe it was equipment failure. I say that in the sense that I’m certain it will come out that the system lasted well beyond it’s design constraints. Personally, I believe the design constraints our industry accepts with regards to wind is too low! You didn’t see any of the carnival rides at that fair toppling over! Our industry accepts far too low of a wind rating, these things need to be much more durable and not have the limits pushed the way they are constantly. My prediction is that there will be fault found with the amount and types of load present in that roof and that there were probably was improper erection with ballast and guy wires and such. The fact the roof covering didn’t fully release and how long it took to start releasing will likely be a focal point as well.  However, I believe there is a lot of blame to go around with the management and technical personnel responsible for that stage in terms of not cancelling the show and recognizing the severity of danger.

How to stop them? Here’s my view on what needs to happen:

  • There are stronger, certainly more conservative standards in place for outdoor stages, with a wide safety margin and full respect for the volatility of the weather. These standards MUST be mandatory and not voluntary as they are now with the ESTA/PLASA standards.
  • Restrictions against use of backdrops, roofs, hanging PA. The rig must be required to be able to lower immediately at any time.
  • There needs to be a SEPARATE Outdoor Rigging ETCP certification that is mandatory. I don’t believe the nature of the Arena and Theatre rigging certifications are likely adequate to prepare for what to expect outdoors.
  • There needs to be Engineering analysis/certification each time a rig is put up that deals with the specifics of the rig being used, the soil/environment it is being used in, the weather conditions that may occur, etc…
  • There needs to be a clear safety/evacuation plan including the details of thresholds where decisions are automatic and not discretionary, i.e. sustained wind speeds/gusts, weather forecasts, pending severe weather watches/warnings.
  • There needs to be someone designated that bears the full weight and responsibility for stopping the show. This means they not only have the full authority to suspend/cancel a show which overrules band/promoter management, but also the legal responsibility to do so. In other words, their ass is legally on the line if they fail to act.

I don’t believe without these serious steps being taken we will see anything more than the status quo out there. This creates an equal and safer playing field for all and reduces the “if I don’t give in then someone else will do it anyway or do it cheaper” mentality that too many of these staging companies fall into.

JOL:  Scott, thanks so much for all of the insight.


From the Indianapolis Star about the victims:

The four who died at the scene are Tammy Vandam, 42, Wanatah, Ind.; Glenn Goodrich, 49, Indianapolis; Alina Bigjohny, 23 Fort Wayne; Christina Santiago, 29, Chicago. Nathan Byrd, 51, Indianapolis, died at Methodist Hospital earlier today.

There’s still a possibility of further fatalities, State Police 1st Sgt. Dave Bursten said.

In the conference that began at about 10 a.m. at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, Gov. Mitch Daniels was joined by State Fair Director Cindy Hoye and Bursten.

Gov. Daniels was choked up as he began talking about emergency response. 

“What you saw last night was a display of best qualities, both public and private, of Hoosiers,” Daniels said.

Bursten updated previous injury numbers that 45 people were taken to the hospital last night. He said the early indication is it was an “isolated significant wind gust” and the midway and other areas on the ground weren’t damaged as severely.  

JimOnLight.com sends out its deepest sympathy to the victims, both dead and surviving, of this horrible accident.

Thanks to CBS News, Indianapolis Star, and we’re so very sorry to hear that a member of IATSE Local 30 Indianapolis was killed in the accident.  Our hearts also go out to Nathan Byrd and his family, both IA brothers and sisters and blood.

SOME UPDATES:

An account of a stagehand working on the truss rig when it blew down (WTHR)

WTHR’s original story on the collapse

Crazy Friday Science: Mini-Interview with Sonja Franke-Arnold on Rotary Photon Drag

I wrote an article about a paper I read in the journal Science a few weeks ago – the article was about Rotary Photon Drag Enhanced by A Slow Light Medium.  I got two handfuls of emails about the article, so I got in contact with one of the original paper’s editors, Sonja Franke-Arnold.  When you have questions, it’s best to go to the source!

JimOnLight.com:  Hi Sonja, welcome to JimOnLight.com! I’m very interested in your research, and we’ve gotten a lot of interesting response to the post I wrote on your paper, “Rotary Photon Drag Enhanced by a Slow-Light Medium.”  Can you take a moment and give us a bare-bones layperson’s look at what you and your team has discovered? What exactly has happened here in your experiment?

Sonja Franke-Arnold:  We were wondering how the world looks like through a spinning window!  About 200 years ago Augustin-Jean Fresnel predicted that light can be dragged if it travels through a moving medium. If you were to spin a window faster and faster, the image would actually be slightly rotated as the light is dragged along with the window. However, this effect is normally only some millionth of a degree and imperceptible to the eye.

We managed to increase the image rotation by a factor of about a million to an easily noticeable rotation of up to 5 degrees. This happened by slowing the light down to roughly the speed of sound during its passage through the “window” (in fact a ruby crystal). The light therefore spent a longer time in the ruby rod and could be dragged far enough to result in an observable image rotation.

JimOnLight.com:  Can you explain the significance of the wavelength of light you used? Why was 532nm (green) used for the experiment?

Sonja Franke-Arnold:  This wavelength excites a transition within the ruby crystal (the same that is also used in ruby lasers). Light at 532nm is absorbed and excites an atomic level with a very long (20 millisecond) lifetime. This allows to “store” the energy of the photon as an internal excitation of the rotating ruby crystal – generating slow light.

JimOnLight.com:  Tell me about the significance of the shape of the coherent beam in the experiment – was the shaped beam simply to observe a change in the image, or was a different purpose considered?

Sonja Franke-Arnold:  We used an elliptical light beam for two reasons, one of these is to define the image rotation angle as you suggested. The elliptical beam travelling through the spinning ruby rod however also plays an important part in making the slow light itself: At any particular position of the ruby, the elliptical light – spinning with respect to the ruby – looks like an intensity modulation. The varying intensity produces a large refractive index of about one million which slows the light down from the speed of light to roughly the speed of sound – a method pioneered by our co-worker Robert Boyd.

JimOnLight.com:  Could you give a few examples of uses for this discovery? How can the general populous relate to what this discovery really means for light and photonics?

Sonja Franke-Arnold:  For me, the main highlight was that we managed to observe a 200 year old puzzle – that images are indeed dragged along with rotating windows. We are now working on possible applications in quantum information processing: our image rotation preserves not only the intensity but also the phase of the light and could therefore be used to store and rotate quantum images. Access to the angle of an image could allow a new form of image coding protocol.

Thanks so much, Sonja!  Very cool paper for those of us nerds out here!

Part L of the Building Regulations Code in the United Kingdom – A Mini EISA Scenario?

Here at JimOnLight.com, sense is trying to be made of the current labyrinth (movie starring Jennifer Connolly and David Bowie) that is the Energy Independence and Safety Act (EISA).  As we dig deeper and deeper into a piece of legislation that could actually do some good if it wasn’t so heavily balanced on income, news of some changes in a similar-but-not-same legislation in another country has some interesting components that need discussing.  it’s called PART L of the Building Regulations in the United Kingdom.  Ever heard of it?

PART L is a bit of legislation in England and Wales that generally tries to legislate the consumption of fuel and power in buildings.  Obviously there is a lot to this document; and in a document that has a lot, it’s bound to have flaws.  How many of these flaws will be allowed to get through?  A lot of people think time will tell, but the time to act to change some of the absurdity is running out to affect a change to get implemented any time soon.  The next opportunity to make a change?  2016.

If you’re interested in checking out the actual verbage of PART L, here’s a link directly to it.  Here’s the latest changes to the PART L document, too.

Basically, PART L is broken up into four parts.  L1 pertains to dwellings, L2 pertains to non-dwellings:

  • L1A:  New dwellings
  • L1B:  Existing Dwellings
  • L2A:  New Buildings other than Dwellings
  • L2B:  Existing Buildings other than dwellings

From what I understand, one large portion of the hullaballoo with PART L right now is in the way it deals with “energy efficiency.”  Generally, the issue is in the way that said energy efficiency is actually legislated.  Right now, PART L deals with a luminaire’s efficacy, and people involved in wanting to improve the legislation want to move to a lighting systems-based efficacy.  Doesn’t that kinda make more sense?  It does seem like we should be done with relying on the good ol’ toggle light switch, it is 2011 after all.

I had a quick conversation with lighting designer and Twitter persona Liz Peck about this PART L business – to get more information on it from someone who’s right in the middle of it.  Liz gave an excellent PowerPoint presentation on the PART L Regulations, and has been published in LUX Magazine.  Liz is also principal at LPA Lighting, her lighting design firm.

The interview:

JOL:  Liz, can you fill me in on what PART L means for people living where PART L would be implemented? What would an outside observer to PART L need to know?

Liz Peck:  Part L of the Building Regulations governs the “conservation of fuel and power” and it applies to all new and refurbished buildings in England & Wales. Scotland & Northern Ireland have different building regulations but in essence they all follow the same pattern. It’s divided into domestic and non-domestic buildings, but for both, compliance with Part L is based almost entirely on luminaire or lamp efficacy. This means that the application of lighting is often lost, especially in projects where specialist lighting designers are not involved – the principle is that as long as the luminaire complies, then it’s an energy efficient scheme.

As a lighting engineer, what does PART L mean?
It means very little as it’s so easy to comply with. I don’t think it really influences how we approach the lighting of buildings; most lighting designers would comply with Part L without even trying.

PART L seems a little like the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) here in the United States.  EISA has a lot of very confusing aspects to it, and people in the US generally have no idea what it means.  Is PART L a lot like that with respect to its complex nature? What could be done to alleviate confusion?
From what I know of it, the ambitions of the EISA are a little greater, though they certainly have some similarities in the use of energy efficient light sources. The confusion in Part L lies predominantly with its flaws, of which there are many. For instance, in non-domestic buildings, it allows an efficient luminaire to be left on in an empty building because there is no need for controls beyond a manual on/off switch. How can that ever be thought of as efficient? Equally, for some areas in the building, the targets remain on lamp efficacy with no regard to luminaire performance, so in theory you could have a ‘black box’ luminaire with zero light output but if it contained T5 lamps, it would be compliant! In domestic buildings, it’s not much better: the requirement is for 75% of “light fixtures” to be energy efficient (40 l/w) but there is no requirement for the fixtures to be dedicated, so the reality is that the plans get approved with either CFL or LED lamps specified in traditional lampholders and then as soon as the occupants move in, they switch the lamps to less efficient sources that they prefer!

Are there cons to PART L with respect to the way it legislates luminaires instead of systems?
I think it’s the lack of need for controls which is its biggest flaw; we’re a decade into the 21st Century and the ‘recommended’ controls strategy is a manual switch. We really need to move on; the controls aspect is so out of date, it’s almost unbelievable. To have a situation in 2010 when absence and daylight sensors are considered advanced lighting controls for new buildings is a joke. These are basic controls which no new building should be without unless they have very good reason. The old adage of the most efficient luminaire is the one which is switched off when it’s not needed doesn’t apply to Part L. Things have to change.

What else should people know?
Trying to get most people to understand lumens per watt is fruitless; most people running a building, whether it’s their own home or a commercial office understand only two metrics: energy and money. Metering is becoming more prevalent in commercial buildings and is being introduced into the domestic market – maybe when people can see just how much energy they are using through lighting, they will start to think about improving it, but all the time the Building Regulations only require the use of efficient sources and not their application, we will (sadly) continue to see inefficient lighting schemes being installed. We must move to a systems-based approach, with targets on energy consumption, if we are to really make a difference in the future.

I also did some digging and found an interesting article at LUX Magazine on this subject, written by Iain Carlile of DPA Lighting Design.  Iain’s article, entitled “Why We Must Fight for PART L,” had some very direct commentary on PART L legislation.  In reference to why PART L needs changing:

Part L is correct in its requirement to reduce energy consumption, but the metrics used for lighting are quite crude and predominantly only cover the efficacy of the luminaire — not the total energy consumption of the lighting system.

This leaves us in a ludicrous situation. The lighting scheme can comply with the requirements of Part L but still waste energy through the unnecessary lighting of unoccupied or daylit areas.

For example, look at many commercial properties where all of the lighting is on throughout the night when the space is unoccupied. These installations can have efficient luminaires and lamps, achieving low installed electrical load per unit area and high luminaire efficacies. But the absence of simple occupancy controls means the lighting can remain on for more than twice the required operational hours, wasting a huge amount of energy.

The installation may meet the requirements of Part L, yet in fact the installation can be quite wasteful of energy because the lighting is not switched off when it is not required.
Recent advances in technology make it possible to specify LEDs for ambient lighting that emit an excellent quality of light across the visual spectrum, with a colour temperature and colour rendering properties that compare favourably with tungsten lamps.

Iain’s resolution to PART L?

For this situation to be resolved, future revisions of Part L must change the metric used for measuring the energy efficiency of a lighting installation.

We must as an industry challenge the existing legislation and push for a suitable metric that considers not just the efficacies of lamps and luminaires but also includes factors such as lighting controls, dimming levels, hours of operation, daylight linking and presence detection.

Only then will we have legislation that allows the intelligent application of the ‘right light, right place, right time’ philosophy.

Personally, I am glad to see that the Society of Light and Lighting is pushing for a move to systems-based targets in the next revision of Part L.

If you’re looking for a quick five-minute overview on PART L, check out this video below:

Do you think that the public would feel good about PART L if they had someone explain it to them so that it made sense?  As far as EISA goes, that seems to be a lot of the problem.  Perhaps if more people knew about the legislation that the government was trying to put in place they could make a more informed decision.  It’s nice to know that at least America isn’t the only country in the world in which its people have to actually TRY to find out the real truth about things in which its government is involved.

Something I found pertinent and relevant from the LUX Mag article was a quote from Martin Valentine, a lighting expert in Abu Dhabi City.  He talks about the way we need to go forward:

‘We need to be looking at controls and overall limits as well as luminaire efficiency. But we also need to not lose sight of light quality. The four things work hand in hand.’

Valentine warned that the danger with complicated legislation is that nobody really knows what is going on. He believes Part L is a good thing but needs to move with the times, rather be caught behind.

He said: ‘It needs to evolve and it needs to be clear cut. People need to know what’s going on and benchmarks need to be in place.’

Thanks to LUX Mag, Liz Peck, iRed, and Wikipedia!

The Actual Life of a Rockstar Lighting Designer

I’ve written about a friend of mine, a good writer and an even better lighting designer – Jeff Waful – a bunch on JimOnLight.com.  I’ve written about Jeff’s work with Umphrey’s McGee, I’ve written about Jeff’s television show, Jeff Waful +1, and I’ve written about just talking with Jeff about life, light, and design in general.  Jeff just had an amazing interview with a lighting designer that both Jeff and I think very highly of in general, Chris Kuroda.  You have to check it out.

What makes this interview different is that Jeff talks with Chris about life and light, but mostly about living on the road as a lighting designer.  This is an interview that Jeff should be very proud of, because I think he nailed it.

Read PART ONE of Jeff Waful’s interview with Phish lighting designer Chris Kuroda
Read PART TWO of Jeff Waful’s interview with Phish lighting designer Chris Kuroda 

From the Archives: JimOnLight.com Interviews Jeff Ravitz

EXCITING!

I just got ahold of the videos made of the SeaChanger booth at the 2010 NAB Show in Las Vegas – I had the pleasure of interviewing a bunch of influential lighting industry people at the 2010 NAB Show, which was an absolute blast!

Check out this first video made at the 2010 NAB Show – JimOnLight.com interviews JEFF RAVITZ!

From the Archives: JimOnLight.com Interviews Jeff Ravitz, NAB Show 2010 from Jim Hutchison on Vimeo.

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

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


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

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

That’s right, I went there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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