Vintage Power and Light: The Coolest Thing to Happen to Tungsten Since Edison!

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If you’ve been to an architectural lighting, entertainment lighting, or decorative lighting trade show lately, you should notice an interesting trend:  the lack of attention to incandescent light sources.  The light emitting diode has overtaken the world, and like myself, I miss the days of the warm tungsten filament in a room, bathing everything in its reach with a wider spectrum of color than its LED counterparts.  Tungsten filaments, at least decoratively, have become the fine wine of our lighting generation – only those with the intelligence and artistic knowledge in using tungsten and other incandescent sources have continued to do so.  The rest of the world is convinced, at the behest of excellent marketing and often regardless of price, that LED illumination is not only the way of the future but also today’s only way to appropriately design lighting.

It’s a fact that in many applications, including modern high bay methodologies and architectural applications, LED light sources are winning hearts and minds over their higher-energy-consuming incandescent cousins.  Sooner than later we’re going to see higher output automated fixtures giving their HID counterparts a run for their money, too.  ETC’s LED Source Four ellipsoidal, Chauvet’s Ovation LED ellipsoidal, Altman Lighting’s ME3 ellipsoidal, and Robert Juliat’s Tibo and Zep LED profiles have taken the market by storm – and have begun pushing back on the use of tungsten-halogen sources, arc sources, and even halogen sources!

On the whole, energy costs when dealing with a large facility or venue are where LED and non-incandescent sources make a monster difference in energy costs.  But what about where energy costs are negligible, like in your home?  If saving comparatively a few dollars here and there in your home is less important than the feeling and artistic appreciation that something like an incandescent lamp brings to you, can you put a price on your happiness?  I’ve owned many a compact fluorescent lamp-based fixture in my home, and frankly I replace every single CFL with its halogen or incandescent counterpart.  It’s my decision, and I do what makes my eyes and my brain happy.

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On that thought, I introduce to you the work of Vintage Power and Light out of Austin, Texas – creator Lowell Fowler (of High End Systems fame) has started a new hobby art venture based on utilizing the beauty and intrigue of vintage lighting and electrical equipment tied with the warm glow of incandescent sources.  Even better than just the sexiness of a glowing filament structure, Vintage Power and Light takes the beauty of an Edison filament wrap source and melds it to gorgeous finished old-world wood components, then adds stunning copper and brass connections and controls.  My favorite parts of Vintage Power and Light’s work are their use of Consolidated Design glass insulators – there is nothing quite like a multi-petticoat glass insulator on a fixture with an artistic incandescent filament turning that glass into a mystical piece of glowing jewelry.  GAH!  This stuff is amazing!!!

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Lowell and York Fowler have put an interesting new spin on the idea of Steampunk-esque design by bringing old-world components and combining them with early 20th century incandescence.  The result is a stunning and refreshing take on using incandescence as not only an artistic statement, but a comfortable, familiar, and heartwarming addition to your house, office, or anywhere else that LEDs just don’t cut it.

Check out a series of gallery images below, click on any image for a light box of that gallery for your perusal!
Just make sure that you give credit where credit is due, and all of these photos are courtesy of Vintage Power and Light with photography by Tim Grivas.

First things first, Vintage Power and Light’s Table Lamps:

Vintage Power and Light’s Chandelier and Pendant series:

Got a Steampunk jones?  Vintage Power and Light does that too!

Last but not least, a gorgeous offering of sconces for your collection:

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JimOnLight says HELL YES to Vintage Power and LightAwesome offerings, guys!  We hope that the whole world sees your work and loves it as much as we do!

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The Daily Lamp – Hourglass Lamp, Which Needs NO ELECTRICITY, for the People of Moore, OK

Today’s Daily Lamp comes in the aftermath of the horrible tornado tragedy from Moore, Oklahoma — the EF 5 tornado was 1.3 miles wide as it tore through houses, killing at least 24 people, including 9 children.  A very sad time in Oklahoma.

When these kinds of things happen and power goes out, people should be prepared to experience days — if not several days — before they get light and power back after tragedies like these.  That’s why I picked this Daily Lamp to represent today.  Meet Danielle Trofe’s Hourglass Lamp, in both Table and Floor varieties.  From Danielle’s website on Hourglass Lamp:

The Hourglass Floor Lamp is powered by kinetic energy generated from the falling of sand. This off-the-grid lighting solution illuminates interior environments using LEDs. The four foot tall, lean hourglass is suspended and rotates on a hinge so that it can be flipped with ease to extend the life of the light. This creates a user connection and a greater awareness of the value and finite source of light energy.

Dim: 5 W x 6 D x 55 H “

Materials: Handblown Glass, Hand Turned Sustainable Wood, Sand from Recycled Glass, Welded Steel Stand, LED’s

Options: Dark Wood with Black Stand or Light Wood with White Stand

Kinetic energy – this means that YOU DON’T NEED POWER for this fixture to provide light.  If you’re in a place with weather that frequently if not at least infrequently kills power to your home, look into getting something that allows you to have light without having power.

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My thoughts go out to the people of Moore, Oklahoma in this time of terrible tragedy.  Mother Nature always wins.

Friday Facts – 20 Really Awesome Facts about LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) Everyone Should Know

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20 facts on LEDs?!  Jim, are you CRAZY?  I just might be!  With the new Daily Lamp series and the upcoming JimOnLightTV, I’m all about having regular series spots on JimOnLight!  Let’s call it Friday Facts!

Happy Friday everyone — I am going absolutely LED nuts around here lately, as I’ve replaced most of the incandescent lamps in our house with their LED A-lamp equivalents.  Surprisingly enough, I haven’t lost my hair, found the need to eat bugs, or lost any sleep because of screwed-up circadian rhythms, as some claim are side-effects of LED A-lamps.  Ask my wife, it really annoys me when people claim false facts, like Fox News.  Oh, that burns me brighter than an Alpha 18K in Dallas in the summer!

Friday Facts time!  25 Really Awesome Facts about LEDs, or Light-Emitting Diodes!

  1. When LED light is used in delicatessen displays and in places with fresh food, it has been proven to breed significantly less bacteria than their halogen or fluorescent counterparts.  Consider that next time you’re getting stuff for sandwiches!  I would say that significantly NO bacteria is the right amount for my sandwiches!
  2. Remember the name Nick Holonyak, Jr. – he is the father of the visible light LED.  Nick invented the LED while working for General Electric in 1962.  This “new thing” that’s come onto the retail market over the last 5 years has been around since the mid-1960s!
  3. Next time you see a blue LED, think of Shuji Nakamura, the inventor of the blue LED, back in 1994.  Nakamura, who was working for Nichia Corporation at the time, got a $200 bonus for his discovery – while Nichia made more money than is in Scrooge McDuck’s swimming pool!  Nakamura never signed a non-disclosure for Nichia, and in 2001 he sued  for $189 million.  The Japanese courts awarded him more money than any other Japanese company ever had to pay in court:  $8.1 million.  So the inventor of the blue LED got $8,100,200 for his invention that we all use everywhere!
  4. Most blue and green LEDs use a mixture of Gallium Nitride and Indium Nitride to get the blue, called Indium Gallium Nitride (InGaN).  By varying the amount of Indium in the mix, the color of blue varies.
  5. Most red, orange, and yellow LEDs use variants of Gallium Phosphide (GaP) Gallium Arsenide Phosphide (GaAsP) to get their hues.
  6. White LEDs work quite like fluorescent lamps work with respect to color; a blue or ultraviolet LED is coated with a phosphor that emits photons from the ultraviolet frequencies when the LED is energized.
  7. The Monsanto Corporation was the first company to mass-produce red LEDs for the industry, mostly as replacement lights for indicators and seven-segment displays.
  8. An incandescent lamp converts about 9-10% of the energy fed to it into light, whereas LEDs convert nearly 100% of the energy they consume as light.
  9. The lighting industries as a whole are pushing LEDs to replace incandescent sources in a variety of applications, but the first time that LEDs actually did displace incandescent lamps was in vehicle brake lights, signal lights, and traffic lightsback in 1987!
  10. If the entire United States would replace only 50% of the existing incandescent Christmas lights around the holidays, the potential energy cost savings starts around $17.2 billion dollars.
  11. Heat generated by an LED source is a real enemy to the quality of that LED source.  LEDs are subject to the cooling method designed into the lamp or fixture — if the cooling is good, the LED will maintain a decent output over its lamp life.  If the cooling is poor, the lamp is subject to considerably higher lumen depreciation over its lifetime, or even total failure over time.
  12. If you’ve ever had a porch, you’ve had a porch light, and you’ve had bugs all over that porch light.  Switch to LED in the porch light and you’ll notice considerably fewer bugs, if not a complete decrease in your porch bug population!  Why, do you ask?  It’s because incandescent lamps and CFLs produce copious amounts of ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) radiation, which bugs love more than Kim Kardashian loves mascara!
  13. LED headlights might be one of the most annoying, blinding things on the road, but they’re actually quite safe for driving – LED headlights render colors you see in their beams better, which gives you better awareness of your surroundings on the road.  They’re totally worth it!
  14. Due to the physics involved, LED lamps have what we call Instant On — unlike their incandescent and compact fluorescent (CFL) counterparts.  What this means is that you can switch an LED lamp on and you get the full brightness of that light instantly.  Think about this next time you need to place a lamp in a part of your house or office that gets turned on and off frequently — incandescent lamps and CFLs experience significantly less lamp life from being switched on and off frequently, and CFLs in particular can experience greatly reduced lamp life if they are switched off and back on within 15 minutes of heating up!
  15. Most LED A-lamp replacement bulbs are relatively cool to the touch, whereas their incandescent and halogen counterparts will most definitely leave you with a first or second degree burn.  Maximum operating temperature for most residential A-lamp type bulbs is around 135-140 degrees Fahrenheit, where halogen lamps run around 600-700 F to the touch and their incandescent cousins run around 375-400 F to the touchOUCH!
  16. If you think about incandescent lamp life (around 1000 hours) and compact fluorescent lamp life (around 10,000 hours),  It’s not hard to see how LEDs are making the grade in retail markets.  A majority of residential/commercial LED A-lamp manufacturers claim a whopping 50,000 hours lamp life on average, with newer models claiming up to 100,000 hours.  If this sounds impressive, it is!  Consider your usage on just the 50,000 hour varieties:
    If you use your LED bulb for 24 hours a day, every day, that bulb is rated to last 6 solid years!
    If you use your LED bulb for 8 hours a day, every day, that bulb is rated to last 17 years!!
    If you use your LED bulb for only 4 hours per day, that bulb is rated to last 17 years!!!
  17. LEDs contain NO MERCURY at all — and over 95% of an LED is recyclable.  Compare this to the wasteful design of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which not only contain Mercury, but also create a large portion of electronic waste due to their design — the fluorescent tube portion of a CFL ceases to work long before the ballast inside the CFL or its other electronic components are ready to die.  This alone creates tons of waste every month.
  18. LED lamps on average are not subject to serious damage from external shock – which translates into “oops, I dropped my LED lamp onto the floor while I was changing it!”  If you try this with an incandescent lamp, you’re going to be cleaning up glass at least — and if it’s a CFL, not only will it break, but you will also need to follow Mercury decontamination procedures recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.  Yikes!
  19. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the widespread adoption of LEDs in residential and commercial applications over the next 20 years will save about $265 billion, prevent the need for constructing 40 new power plants, and reduce the electricity demand of lighting by 33 percent.
  20. Ever wonder why non-chip form LEDs have that little plastic bubble (or lens) around them, like in the picture at the top of the post?  It actually has three distinct functions, and the process of adding the diode to the plastic is called potting:
    * The plastic protects the tiny wires and components that make up the diode from physical damage, and protects the diode from open air
    * The plastic makes mounting the LED inside of devices and equipment considerably easier
    * That plastic lens allows the light from the LED to have a variety of properties, like different beam angles and diffusions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Come See Jim at PLASA Focus Stamford, November 11-12, 2012

Hey, are you in Stamford, Connecticut – or anywhere near?

Are you a fan of light and lighting?

Do you love going around to trade shows seeing what’s new and hip in the world of light?

Then hop the albatross and get to PLASA Focus Stamford!!!  It’s today and tomorrow, November 11-12, 2012.  I’ll be in the CAST Group booth for this show, come get a free hug while you can!  I’ll be in Booth 121 — or as soon as you come into the conference room, just look for the big CAST stand!

I’m also going to be giving my presentation called The Birth, The Childhood, and The Apparent Adolescence of Lighting Design Technology at 1:30pm Monday and 12:30pm Tuesday.  Come check it out, it’s free!  It’s also not a sales pitch, I really hate that at these shows.  PLASA Focus shows are all about the manufacturer and maker NOT hiding behind their huge Vegas-sized booths and have to actually answer questions and talk to people.  The room is tiny, and it is 10000% worth it.  Come check it out!

I also HIGHLY recommend checking out the following seminars, all available at PLASA Focus Stamford’s Seminar Schedule site:

MONDAY:

  • John Huntington’s What Is A Network, and Why Should I Care? — 1pm Monday
  •  Richard Pilbrow’s Architecture and the Art of TheatreDesign — 5pm Monday
     PS, he’s also signing his book then too — and that book is AWE-SOME.
  • Wendall Harrington’s Is Video Killing Theatre? 9am Monday
  • Don Holder’s Lighting Design:  The Past, Present, and Future — 10am Monday
  • Bill Sapsis‘ Heads Up!1pm Monday

TUESDAY:

  • TMB’s The Art of Wireless Control by Lumen Radio — 1030am Tuesday
  • The Tribe’s Visual Design for Live Performance — 11am Tuesday
  • Steve Shelley’s A Practical Guide to Starting A Career in Technical Theatre — 1pm Tuesday

This is going to be a great show!

Baotou Halts Making Rare-Earths to Spike Prices. WTF!

To quote the dance performance students in my 8am Stage Lighting class, this is “jank.”  (I’m pretty sure that means that it’s f%$#ed up.)

Well, that it is.  This whole thing is certainly jank.  The “this” that I’m referring to is the fact that a Chinese government-linked company named Baotou Steel has been halting production of its rare earth elements since October 20 in order to “balance the market and stabilize supply and demand.”  I think that’s Mandarin for drive up the prices of rare earth elements, because Baotou supplies more rare earth elements than any other company in the world.  China as a whole produces 95% of the world’s rare earth element supply, so really other than a price driving measure, this is pointless.

From a Reuters article on the shutdown and the China state reaction, which seems to be actually driving this MCF:

China has resolved to streamline the chaotic rare earth sector by encouraging consolidation and cracking down on illegal private production, cited as the key reason for the decline in prices over the past few months.  It has imposed a national output cap of 93,800 tonnes for 2011, and has vowed to crack down on producers that exceed their quotas.

It launched a four-month inspection campaign at the beginning of August to ensure that production quotas, pollution standards and consolidation targets were being met.

The industry ministry said in a statement posted on its website last Friday that it planned to “strengthen monitoring and inspections” in the coming months, saying that it would pay particular attention to punishing traders and processors that receive illegally-mined rare earth products.

The region of Inner Mongolia in China’s northeast, the source of most of the country’s light rare earths, has forced a number of small firms to merge with Baotou Rare-Earth , and has also been cutting off electricity supplies to private producers to force them to shut down, local media reported.

With incentives high for private producers, China has traditionally struggled to impose its will on the sector. Total output exceeded the production quota by around 40,000 tonnes last year, and traders also resorted to smuggling in order to get round a strict export cap.

What does this mean, really, and why am I reporting on this on JimOnLight.com?  Well, have you ever purchased an MSR arc lamp or bought anything lighting that has neodymium in it?  Philips’ Reveal lamps are made with neodymium inside the envelope, for example, to get that great high color temperature and whiter light.  Also to be fair, there are tons of other manufacturers who make neodymium light bulbs, and they’re great for people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Yeah.  So the prices for those things and thousands of other things both in our industry and outside of it that use rare earth minerals (oxides, typically) are going to go up.  Great.  Fans of rare-earth magnets as well will be well frustrated by this little market making exercise.

I had to know what kind of rare earths this company produces – I found a JPEG list of their product line on their pretty pitifully designed website (they aren’t web developers, obviously, they’re rare earth miners and steel makers), here’s the Rare Earths section:

Yep, Neodymium Oxide is on there, and it’s a primary ingredient in doping glass for lighting.  It’s technically Neodymium (III) Oxide (for all you Chemical Abstract Society readers out there), and it’s used all over the place.  Get ready for the price to go up.  Neodymium is used to make lasers (it’s a pretty great gain medium around the IR wavelengths (1054-1064)), as well as tons of other stuff that’s now going to get more expensive.

That image shows some of the National Ignition Facility laser filters – all doped with Neodymium.  I’m interested but not excited to see what this does to prices across the lighting and photonics industries.

Neodymium is pretty interesting when in glass doping for lamps – from an article at Wikipedia on Neodymium (a cool read, please do):

A neodymium glass light bulb, with the base and inner coating removed, under two different types of light: incandescent on the right, and fluorescent on the left. This demonstrates the difference in color of neodymium glass under different lighting conditions. These two photos were taken with identical white balance and coloration and no post-processing, except for cropping. (ISO, shutter speed and aperture were changed between the shots, but this changes only exposure and has basically no effect on the color of the pictures.) The only difference is the type of illumination: fluorescent or incandescent.

Ah, capitalism.

Thanks to LightNOW (which is an awesome blog, btw), IndustryWeek, Wikipedia, and the NIF

GE is Entering the L-Prize with A Cree-Driven 60W LED Incandescent Replacement Lamp

If you follow the L-Prize competition, you would have noticed an interesting entry that GE is going to be making – and is currently in development.  GE (General Electric, NYSE:GE) is entering a 60W LED replacement lamp using Cree LED emitters as the light source.  This is pretty awesome, if I do say so myself – I’m a fan of Cree (NASDAQ:CREE), and it’s nice to see a company like GE reach across the aisle and ask help from a company that is making some pretty impressive strides in light-emitting diodes.  I was extremely impressed seeing their LMR-4 at LightFair, and in reading of the news of the TrueWhite technology kinda blows the mind when you look at LED research and development to date.

Check out an example of Cree’s TrueWhite Technology – it’s a short video, 1:55 – totally worth your time:

Cree and I disagree a little on the death of incandescents, but disagreement is what drives innovation.  I also disagree with my bestie Greg about throwing things off of balconies.  Innovation.

Ok – now think of what GE could possibly be coming up with using some rocking Cree LEDs?  Will it be another one of those “multi-fingered hand grasping at a blob of milk” lamps?  WHO KNOWS!  At least the light coming from it will look good.  Let’s see what GE does about heat dissipation this time.

Oh – as of right now (Tuesday, July 5, 2011), the L-Prize website is broken.  That’s a little concerning, huh – I mean, being that it’s supposed to be a really important honor and all.

You might be asking yourself – self, what exactly IS the L-Prize?  Well, it’s a competition that is basically driven to “spur lighting manufacturers to develop high-quality, high-efficiency solid-state lighting products to replace the common light bulb.”  Ok, fair enough.  The Department of Energy runs this contest, and the prize for the best 60W incandescent replacement lamp is about ten million buckaroos.  For a PAR38 replacement?  Only five million bones.  Only.

There are requirements for entries into the L-Prize – from the wikipedia article on the L-Prize, since the site ain’t workin':

More on the L-Prize soon, I’m waiting to hear back from them.

Here’s the initial GE press release about their entry into the L-Prize (also located here):

EAST CLEVELAND, OH (June 30, 2011) : GE Lighting engineers and scientists are developing a 60-watt replacement LED bulb that meets the specifications for the Department of Energy’s Bright Tomorrow Lighting (L Prize) competition. GE recently submitted a Letter of Intent to the Department of Energy to enter the competition.

“The objective of our product research and development is simple,” says Steve Briggs, vice president of marketing and product management, GE Lighting Solutions, LLC. “We exist to create advanced lighting solutions based on customer needs and expectations. Our L Prize journey is inspired by the challenge to deliver advanced technology in a form factor that delivers on consumer expectations. We won’t be the first to submit an L Prize candidate but we believe our solution will more closely match consumer preference for an incandescent look and feel.”

GE has collaborated with Cree to accept the stringent L Prize challenge yet deliver a lamp without remote phosphor, which appears yellow in an unlit state. Cree has designed a custom LED component that features Cree TrueWhite® Technology to deliver superior efficacy and light quality. GE lamp designers incorporated the component into an advanced thermal, optical and electrical system to achieve L Prize performance.

The L Prize is the first government-sponsored technology competition designed to spur lighting manufacturers to develop high-quality, high-efficiency solid-state lighting products to replace the most widely used light bulb in America, the 60-watt incandescent bulb. To learn more about the L Prize competition, visit www.lightingprize.org.

The Switch LED A-Lamp – Definitely the Most Unique LED A-Lamp I’ve Seen!

You know, for the most part, I’ve been pretty unimpressed with the designs of the A-lamp “replacement” LED lamps.  I’m not shooting my mouth off saying I have a much better design, but there is something about that diffused white globe atop the heat sink, which looks like a handful of fins.  I actually kinda like the heat sink design, the fins are neat.  If you’ve held one of those suckers when it’s been on for a while, that heat sink is HOT!  Not Jennifer Lopez hot, we’re talking George Bush’s ears while telling the nation that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction hot.  That is HOT!

I just turned onto a new design for the LED A-lamp from a company called the Switch Bulb Company – they are promoting an LED replacement A-lamp with a high CRI, a warm feel, and a pretty decent output.  The difference?  A lens-type “ball” atop the heat sink that shows each element and the heat dissipation gear inside.  It’s actually quite a beautiful design!  Check it out:

Pretty interesting design, huh!  Switch is offering three models right now – the Switch40, Switch60 (PDF spec link), and Switch75 (PDF spec link).  As you can probably guess, these 40, 60, 75 ratings are the replacement quantity of light per power consumption hint-hint to sell the “incandescent replacement” idea.  The Switch40 doesn’t have specifications online yet, but the Switch60 claims 830 lumens at 13 watts, and the Switch75 claims 1150 lumens at 16 watts.  Pretty decent!  That 830 lumens figure is pretty close to an 850 lumen incandescent at 60 watts in terms of efficacy – if you look at an 850 lumen 60W incandescent, the efficacy is about 14.2 lm/W, but the Switch lamp is putting out nearly the same output at 13W, giving a near 64% efficacy!

Switch is showing two general colors – a “warm” at around 2750 Kelvin, and a “Neutral” colored lamp, more than likely a bit higher in color temperature. I’ve requested to get my hands on one of these, let’s see if that happens or not!  I would love to see one up close!

Check out this quick little video:

The Technical Evolution of Automated Lighting – High End Systems’ Intellaspot XT-1 and PRG’s Bad Boy

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about technical evolution – perhaps it’s just a desire to slimline my life and conglomerate all of the technology I use into some kind of a tight suite of autonomous gadgets that all speak some common language.  Or not.  Who knows.

Something I find interesting is the progression of automated lighting technology over the last decade.  If you look at the progression of fixtures and systems over that period, you might notice that comparatively there is not a lot of major evolution that has taken place in the last ten years.  A lot of people will probably disagree with that statement, and that’s fine (as I welcome it), but the general functioning of the moving light hasn’t really changed.  There has been a very significant amount of improvements and enhancements over the last bunch of years – motors have improved, speed has increased, output has grown in strength, and zoom optics have improved, and we’ve also had some technological advances in power supplies.  We haven’t really revolutionized the way that moving lights work.  Am I forgetting some things, or omitting them?  Probably.  It’s not the point, though.

I’ve talked a lot with my buddy Rick from InLight Gobos about the evolution of automated lighting (being that he was one of the original engineers of moving lights) and I’ve had a few conversations with Jim Bornhorst from PRG (and recipient of the 2010 Parnelli Lighting Visionary Award) about the history of automated fixtures.  It is excellent to hear from the sources of the history you’re writing about regarding the very thing in question.  My conclusion is that the renaissance of moving lights was with them, in their day, when developing the fixtures was important.  Nowadays it seems like most companies drive themselves to develop and research just to increase the bottom line.

I think there are two very large exceptions to this statement:  High End Systems’ Intellaspot XT-1, and PRG’s Bad Boy luminaire.  I think that these two fixtures are my two favorites that came out of the last handful of years.  More than anything, I feel that these two fixtures are on the top of the research and development ladder – something that I am a HUGE proponent of, especially when it comes to advancing the way that our industry revolves and breathes.

Let’s look at the Intellaspot XT-1:

The unit has some interesting features – two wheels of rotating dichroic gobos is a big plus, as is the prism effect that splits the beam into two functioning beams.  Oh, and let’s not forget the 850W lamp that puts out 20,000 lumens on 120V.  I mean, it is an impressive fixture, both functionally and aesthetically.  What blows my mind about the unit is the increase in usability that Richard Belliveau and his team of awesome geeks have put into the Intellaspot XT-1.  USABILITY.  Say it with me, everybody:

USABILITY!

What the hell am I talking about here with the Intellaspot XT-1 and usability?  Well, for starters, the fixture is BALANCED.  When you go grab it off of a lighting position and get ready to stick it in the case, it is amazingly easy to manipulate.  Richard Belliveau and I had a great session before the fixture was released where we just took the unit out of the case and put it back in several times.  It was exhilarating.    There are a LOT of major market fixtures that are a NIGHTMARE to get in and out of their cases.  Not the Intellaspot XT-1.

IT’S MODULAR!  Power supply go bad?  You pull it out and replace it.  Color wheel stop working?  You take the bulkhead out and replace it.  MODULAR.  Screws in the fixture lids are captive, so that when you’re dangling by your bunk sock on a piece of truss trying to repair a fixture, and inevitably every unit goes down, you can do so without bouncing screws and hardware off of the stage floor.  There are bumpers on the front of the head so that when a stagehand or electrician drags the fixture across the floor, the lens and optics don’t get all screwed up.  The handles on the sides are comfortable and not shaped like hand breakers that just smash your phalanges when you put the weight of the unit on your hand.

Doesn’t it seem like all of this stuff should be a great idea?  High End thinks so.

Let’s look at PRG’s Bad Boy:

PRG’s Bad Boy is my other favorite fixture right now – besides the 48,000 lumens coming from its 1200W lamp, it’s a massive bright beast that is fast, steady, has some amazing – no, stunning – features (like split beamgobo morphing and tri-split colors).  If you’ve seen it, you know how beautiful its photons really are.

What tickles me about the fixture is again in the realm of usability.  Bad Boy’s lenses (all eleventeen of them) have a subroutine in the brain of the unit that opens up the lens train, lens at a time, so that they can be cleaned.  GO FIGURE.  The fixture has a big ol’ bright LED that tells you whether the unit has communication (green LED) or no data (red LED).  Have you seen the interface for the unit?  It’s like HAL from 2001 – I’m sorry Dave, but YES THE FIXTURE CAN REMEMBER WHAT WENT WRONG.  Reports, error logs, test sequences, and all kinds of other user-driven tidbits come from PRG’s excellent user experience.  I know the kinds of folks working over at PRG – one of the guys I know and am fond of, Adam DeWitt, is a smart freaking cookie – when you have people like that working on a fixture, then it gets done right.

Research and Development time and money is worth it, lighting companies across the world.  Please believe me.  Stop putting out crap when you could put out something respectable like the two units above.

I think this is a general message for the future of moving light technology in general.  Lighting companies – when you make something, make it so that it is usable.  Not just usable to designers, but usable to the people who keep the show looking as amazing as you envisioned it when you first developed the cool visual features that the fixture can make.  Follow Richard Belliveau and Jim Bornhorst’s leads when you’re in the research room – the people who work on your gear want it to be an awesome experience.

My Rockstars. Who are YOUR Rockstars?

This is perhaps one of my favorite times of year.

This is a time where students and student designers (especially LIGHTING designers) are getting back into the swing of things in the University environment, and concepts are grabbing hold.  Brains are being developed.  The next generation of rockstar lighting people are being trained.  This is all very exciting to me.

Something that I find relatively disturbing is the answer to the following question that I have asked many high school and college age people:

Who do you look up to in lighting?  Who are your “rockstars?”

I have always been a nerd on the Nth degree – I looked up to people like Westinghouse and Edison, Niels Bohr and Robert Oppenheimer.  Yeah, I am a nerd.  Nerd is the new “passionate.”  But when you look at the things that Michael Faraday, Georg Ohm, Alessandro Volta, Francis Robbins Upton, and people like them of their times accomplished and discovered, it’s hard to call people like Brittany Spears and Taylor Swift “rockstars.”

At least to me.

The people who are getting into light and lighting now are the people who are going to lead the technological development of it tomorrow.  It’s so important to me that we not forget the work that the rockstars of today are doing (and STILL doing) to keep our industry progressing at a rapid, uncontrolled pace.  When politics and money get in the way of technological process, it still, to this day, blows my mind.  Our world LIGHT problems, like creating sustainable energy, figuring out how to better utilize incandescent light and arc sources, integrating dichroic glass into the world outside of entertainment, and the like are not problems solvable by policy and politics.  These are technological issues.  We need more technically interested people, and not policy makers to solve the issues.  Jacques Fresco, a social designer and engineer, said that we don’t need more law, we need more technological solutions.  If you’re driving down the road drunk, your car needs some sort of a system that feels the car oscillate and brings it to the side of the road to a stop – not a law that people constantly ignore, which causes death and destruction.

I found an article a while ago that sparked my feelings on this subject – Wired Magazine had an article about how the lack of nerds and geeks in our midst from the emerging young population is a national security risk.  Whereas you all know how I feel about military uses of light, I tend to agree with this assessment of the shortage of people passionate about their future.  Has the emerging population on average lost sight of the drive associated with work ethic?  Is studying for a math exam less important nowadays than seeing what’s up on Facebook?

It certainly seems like it, doesn’t it.

I had the absolute pleasure over the Memorial Day weekend to meet a man named John Covington while I was hanging out with Rick Hutton from InLight Gobos over that weekend.  John Covington is a guy who, along with Rick, was one of the initial ShowCo/Vari*Lite people from back in the 70’s and 80’s who developed a lot of the things we use in the lighting industry today, as well as, you know, the FIRST MOVING LIGHTS.  John Covington works for PRG now – he’s the guru of all things analog.

I am in Nerd Heaven when I have those excellent conversations with Rick and John about things like lasers, laser ablation (which Rick was the first to do for gobos in our industry, which is why his gobos are so damned good), the first digital programmable ballast and power supply (which, by the way, JOHN was the first to invent, like two decades ago), and other amazing technological discussions.  Hearing stories about the development of the VL1 and VL2 series, the VL5, laser gobo etching, and all that kind of stuff really, really makes me excited to be in this industry.

I look up to people all over the industries, because our industries are full of very rich and interesting history.  You also learn a thing or two when you observe a master at work.  Hell, I learned more about dance lighting design from Steve Shelley than I ever would have on my own.  I also learned ridiculous amounts of things from Richard Cadena, who is just a smart fella full of excellent insight and information.  I learned how to program a Hog from Benny Kirkham, who is one of the coolest cats I’ve ever met.  The first programming book I ever read?  A manual on lighting programming by Brad Schiller.  I saw several Metallica shows as well – products of Brad Schiller’s creativity and prowess behind the desk.  I learned from Richard Belliveau as well – I have spent more time inside of Intellabeams, Studio Spots, and Studio Colors studying the systems and figuring out what made them tick than I’d like to remember!

(Brad also helps me become more diverse when I write boring stories and post things that don’t necessarily interest the common good – thank you Brad!)

The list goes on and on.  What is important is that each and every one of these people who I look up to as a lighting professional are out there doing what they do because they love it.

You have to have heroes – rockstars – people you look up to, people that you learn from, people that you value.  When you realize that your career is more than just a job, I think that you are able to then figure out who really are your rockstars.  Most of them are very humble, and have done what they have done in the industry because, well, it is their career.  They don’t think they’re better than anyone, and they don’t have something to prove – they love their work.  Dedication to furthering a career is something that no one can give you.  You either have it or not.  I highly encourage you to find out about the people who have done the developing of your particular industry and get to know them.  You’re going to realize that you all have the same questions – and perhaps they have an answer or guidance that you would have never before realized.

If this is your industry, have respect – work hard at it.  Become a nerd about it.  It’s the only way to become the best.  The people who are currently the best want you to be the best, too.

I want to say thank you to the industry, and all of the people associated with the industry who get it.  Thank you for doing what you do, and being so damned great at it.