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PLOT TWIST in NC Stage Collapse – Promoter Convicted Previously for Extortion and Wire Fraud

from WCNC Charlotte - Shelby stage collapse photos

from WCNC Charlotte – Shelby stage collapse photos

I’ve been covering every bit of information I have gotten on the stage collapse that happened – I thank each and every production tech, every audience member, and every industry vet who has weighed in on the accident.  I was lucky enough to have a large pool of on-hand folks to call on to comment on this mess.  Unfortunately, the mainstream media publications don’t have this pool of information, and once again, the major funded publications have printed information that just isn’t accurate.  Print and TV publications like the Charlotte Observer, WCNC Charlotte, WSOC-TV, et al have published comments by the promoter, Bobby McLamb, whose attitude is just short of being criminally negligent when it comes to the safety of the people he’s promoting concerts for — and comments by the production company’s owner, James Little, who made claim in the last article published by the Charlotte Observer, for example, stating that there were 12 towers holding up the roof when it was blown over.

That comment made me go back and look at the first images of the collapsed stage.  Let’s do it together — and check my math here, but I count FOUR TOWERS holding that stage up, not twelve.  There are TWO towers that appear as if they used to hold up the FOH “truss,” and another TWO towers that appear to have held up the upstage “truss.”  Count with me here — there are not even 12 towers IN these photos.

the L&N Productions stage

I see a total of FOUR towers in this shot.

L&N Productions' "Safe stage"

Let’s play COUNT THE TOWERS HOLDING UP THE ROOF.  I count 4, not 12.  Where oh where did the other 8 go?

This kind of crap just sickens me.  As one of my anonymous sources on the road with one of the bands involved in this near fatal accident said, “you can count on this guy using this truss again and again.”  Sadly, this is probably true.

I did some research into Bobby Mclamb‘s past, and I found some very troubling information.  Mclamb was convicted of extortion and conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud in a Federal RICO (that means Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) case back in 2004 that stemmed from good ol’ Bobby exerting his influence over state fair decision making.  Mclamb ran for North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner and lost to a woman named Meg Scott Phipps; once he lost, he joined her campaign as an aide, then all of the f*ckery began.

I wonder why no major news outlet put two and two together on this? 

From the Lexington Dispatch, March 19, 2003, via Google Newspapers:

lexington-dispatch-3-19-2003

Here’s just a little more information on this case — it sort of reads like TiVO programming instructions until you understand that Mclamb served time for influencing entertainment decisions at the state level.  From a 2003 article in the Carolina Journal:

RALEIGH — A federal grand jury has indicted two former aides to Agricultural Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps, a U.S. attorney said at a press conference Tuesday.

The charges against Linda Johnson Saunders, of Louisburg, and Bobby C. McLamb, of Raleigh, include conspiracy, extortion, wire fraud, and mail fraud, said Frank Whitney, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

The charges are related to the 2000 Meg Scott Phipps Campaign for Commissioner of Agriculture. Saunders was treasurer of the campaign. She was appointed special assistant to the commissioner as a paid employee of the Department of Agriculture after Phipps took office. Saunders resigned for health reasons Dec. 1, 2002.

She is charged with five counts of mail fraud and four counts of wire fraud in connection with post-election fund-raising to pay off the campaign debt of McLamb, who was Phipps’s Democratic primary opponent.

She is also charged with money laundering and structuring transactions to avoid federal currency reporting requirements including the handling of $26,000 in cash from a Phipps fund-raiser.

One scheme detailed in the indictment included post-election contributions solicited and received by the Phipps campaign that were diverted to pay McLamb’s $75,000 Centura Bank Loan and $25,000 BB&T bank loan. Saunders concealed the diversion of the funds by filing false reports with the state Board of Elections, according to the indictment.

McLamb joined Phipps’s campaign after he lost to her in the primary. Phipps appointed McLamb assistant commissioner of agriculture after she won the general election. Phipps fired McLamb on Jan. 31, 2002.

Phipps and McLamb both had significant input into the operation of the State Fair, according to the indictment. Both are charged with violating the Hobbs Act, a federal statute that prohibits state officials from using their official power to extort money from people who have dealings with the state.

Shortly after Phipps was inaugurated in January 2001 news reports raised questions about her fund-raising. In June 2002 the State Board of Elections held a three-day hearing and fined the Phipps campaign $130,000 for campaign finance violations. Law-enforcement officials then took interest.

If you check out Bobby Mclamb’s website, he is indeed a comedian, and a motivational speaker.  I ran a background check on him, he is indeed the owner of Artists and Attractions, the papers and the TV news has already put that forth:

bobby-c-mclambWhat is scary is that he’s already been convicted of doing shady business deals once in the entertainment industry.  Do you think that perhaps allowing L&N Productions to construct rigs for him for 20 some odd years has put anyone else in danger of collapse or misinstalled equipment?  Mclamb was quoted in the Daily journal:  “…Bobby McLamb says he’s confident that L&N Productions of Hickory did a good job of putting the stage together…  McLamb is with Artists & Attractions of Raleigh and says he had never seen a roof collapse over a stage.  McLamb says he’s used L&N for more than 20 years and will continue to do so.”

Something else that Mclamb said was posted in the Charlotte Observer on August 18:

Some blamed L&N Productions Inc. of Hickory for shoddy construction of the stage. Others accused concert officials of not monitoring weather conditions.

McLamb has heard the rumors, but discounts negative comments from “people who look at online pictures and were not there at the fairgrounds when this happened.”

He stands by L&N, a firm he’s used at shows for more than 20 years and plans to keep using.

“They’re very professional,” McLamb said.

Well, Mr. Mclamb, we are an industry of experts and trailblazers, with chumps who do dangerous work mixed in — you choose to use a contractor who puts your eventgoers’ lives in danger.  Many of us have been doing this long enough to know when we see photos of accidents that better decisions have been made; you don’t have the experience that we do to make those decisions.  You shouldn’t dismiss our intelligence so quickly.  What you do when you pick people like L&N Productions to do the work for you while you stuff more money in your pockets is drive up ticket prices for future events, skyrocket insurance prices for other promoters, and give our industry a really bad name with YOUR sneaky backwards behavior.

Here’s some examples AGAIN of what Bobby Mclamb feels is professional, giving our entire industry a punch right in the throat.  Remember:  Bobby Mclamb thinks this is “very professional.”

It’s come down to this — since no one is going to do anything about this and no one is going to stop L&N Productions and Bobby Mclamb from doing shows that are equally as unsafe as this, below you will find the phone numbers and email addresses of L&N Productions, publicly posted from their website.  Give them a call and drop them an email, tell them to not only get their shit together, but to start acting responsibly in the face of the Entertainment Production industry that we all call our own.  This world is way too small for people like this to give the rest of us a bad name.  The media isn’t going to do anything for us, we must take care of this ourselves.  Tell your fellow production and touring friends to be careful around any gigs associated with L&N Productions.  The photos speak for themselves.

L&N Productions828-328-3235

James Little (Owner): james@landninc.com
John Little: john@landninc.com

Also, since Bobby McLamb, the promoter, has stated in the Charlotte Observer that he “has used L&N Productions for 20 years and will continue to do so,” give him a call and let him know that he should reconsider L&N Productions until they decide to do their work with a little more safety and security.  Here’s his contact information, he’s the president of Artists and Attractions in Lillington, North Carolina:

Artists and Attractions (also answering to this phone number is B+R Management, another Entertainer/Amusement Park management company Mclamb is involved with somehow)
Phone:  919-845-8378
artistsanda@aol.com
http://www.artistsandattractions.com

For more on Bobby Mclamb’s corrupt entertainment industry decision making (from http://www.crime-research.org/news/2003/03/Mess2201.html)

RALEIGH, N.C. – An offer by a winning politician to a vanquished candidate to help repay campaign debts has resulted in federal fraud, extortion, money laundering and conspiracy charges.

Charges against two former aides of Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps were related to fund raising during and after Phipps’ 2000 campaign, a federal prosecutor announced Tuesday.

Former campaign treasurer Linda J. Saunders was charged with 17 counts. Former commissioner candidate and assistant commissioner Bobby McLamb was charged with two counts – extortion by a public official and conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Frank Whitney said.

Phipps was not charged. During a hearing before the state Board of Elections last year, Phipps repeatedly denied knowing about her campaign’s payments toward McLamb’s loans.

But the indictment said Phipps called and wrote to Centura Bank, where McLamb owed $75,000, asking that the loan be extended.

“My husband Robert and I are holding a series of fundraisers now and after the election in November to assist Bobby in retiring this debt and feel we should have no trouble raising the money to satisfy his debt to Centura Bank,” Phipps wrote in an October 2000 letter to the bank.

During the elections board hearing, Phipps said she and her husband talked with McLamb and a campaign contributor about helping McLamb. But she said she never agreed to use her campaign money to pay off McLamb’s debt.

“I would have been terribly upset had I known that,” Phipps said in June. “My husband and I have much more of an amount of campaign debt and it should have gone to us first.”

According to the 42-page indictment, the alleged crimes began after Phipps’ campaign told McLamb the campaign would help repay his debt. McLamb received the assurance May 2, 2000, the night of the primary after McLamb offered to support Phipps in the general election.

The indictment said the Phipps’ campaign diverted at least $86,000 in contributions to repayment of McLamb’s $100,000 debt. McLamb had separate $75,000 and $25,000 bank loans and Phipps called at least one bank asking that the loan be extended while her campaign raised money for it.

An attorney for McLamb said he hadn’t seen the indictment and couldn’t comment on the charges. An attorney for Saunders didn’t return a telephone call and numbers for Saunders in Raleigh and Louisburg weren’t answered.

McLamb’s first court hearing is scheduled for March 24, according to the court clerk’s office. No hearing had been scheduled for Saunders.

Federal prosecutors said McLamb was issued a summons to appear for his hearing, while an arrest warrant was issued for Saunders. The summons gives the defendant a chance to come to court voluntarily, while the warrant tells marshals to detain the defendant.

“I’m not surprised that the indictments came down,” said David Long, McLamb’s attorney. “My client has been interviewed.”

Whitney said the U.S. Justice Department has made official corruption a priority, right behind terrorism and cybercrime, and that the charges weren’t what he normally sees.

“In my 12 years in the Justice Department, I am not aware of any charges like this in North Carolina … two senior state officials indicted for allegations of extortion,” Whitney said.

Saunders, a longtime assistant to Phipps, and McLamb were accused of soliciting money they said would go toward retiring Phipps’ campaign debt. But state campaign finance reports filed by the campaign didn’t disclose the payments to McLamb.

The indictment also said after Phipps was elected in 2000, Saunders told fair midway companies they would have to contribute to help Phipps repay debts to be considered for a contract for the 2002 fair. Phipps replaced the longtime provider of midway shows with a new company.

Saunders, 43, also was accused of accepting two cashier’s checks totaling $14,500 from unidentified donors who wanted to influence the awarding of the midway contact for the North Carolina State Fair, according to the charges. McLamb, 42, also received a $20,000 check from someone seeking a vendor contract at the fair, the indictment said.

The indictment said Saunders funneled $22,000 in cash “through a complicated structure of financial transactions” to avoid a bank currency transaction report.

McLamb had received a $75,000 loan from Amusements of America, the New Jersey-based midway operator that won the midway contract for the 2002 North Carolina State Fair, the indictment said. One of the bank loans was to repay that loan, which was funneled through the owner of a private county fair. The repayments were sent back through the same route, the indictment said.

Whitney said the indictments resulted from a nine-month investigation by state and federal law enforcement. Whitney also said the investigation is continuing and declined to say if more people would be charged.

The counts against Saunders carry a maximum prison sentence of 175 years and fines totaling $5 million. McLamb faces maximum penalties of 25 years in prison and fines of $500,000. Whitney said neither defendant, if convicted, would get the maximum sentence.

It wasn’t the first investigation of Phipps’ campaign. Last year, the state Board of Elections fined her campaign $130,000. The board said the campaign had taken $84,202 in cash from donors it could not identify and more than $14,000 in illegal corporate contributions.

Phipps, 47, is the daughter of former Gov. Bob Scott and granddaughter of Kerr Scott, who served as governor and U.S. senator. She declined to comment on the indictments, citing the ongoing investigation, but said “I have faith in our system of justice ….”

Also, here’s the original indictment, in PDF:
http://www.masstort.org/Downloads/StratesLawsuit.pdf

More:
http://www.carolinajournal.com/articles/display_story.html?id=413

From the State Attorney’s Office:
http://www.justice.gov/usao/nce/press/2004/2004-Mar-03.html

http://www.justice.gov/usao/nce/press/2004/2004-Oct-19.html

And a little bit more on Phipps, who started all of this mess in the first place – Star News, October 23, 2003:

star-news-10-23-2003

Another Structure Falls – Stage Roof Made from Genie Towers Collapses in North Carolina

from WCNC Charlotte - Shelby stage collapse photos

from WCNC Charlotte – Shelby stage collapse photos (click for larger view)

UPDATE, Tuesday, August 13, 2013:
I have received some information that directly contradicts what the promoters of the American Legion event have publicly stated, which was covered in the news yesterday.  What I think sucks is that no outlets of mainstream identity will pick up the other side of this story, which is that professionals in the field who have years of experience and training have contradictory information that negates their weather claims.  Here’s what the promoters have stated – from an article at the Charlotte Observer, posted Sunday, August 11, 2013 – bolding is mine for informational emphasis:

The weather, not faulty construction, caused a stage to collapse at the Cleveland County fairgrounds on Saturday, an official with the American Legion, which was sponsoring the event, said Sunday.

MercyMe, a popular Christian band, was expected to perform in front of more than 10,000 fans Saturday night as part of American Legion’s World Series concerts, which lead up to the tournament that runs Aug. 16-20 in Shelby.

But the temporary stage collapsed about 4 p.m. during the band’s sound check. The audience had not begun to arrive, and no one was injured, said Eddie Holbrook, co-chair of the local American Legion World Series committee.

“We knew we were going to get what looked like scattered showers and nothing real bad,” Holbrook said. “Then all of a sudden, within a five-minute span, the winds shifted and immediately there was a severe weather storm alert.”

He added that the company that built the stage, L&N Productions, is “extremely reputable” and has worked on concerts for national artists across the Southeast.

“We didn’t have any concern whether these people had taken any shortcuts,” he said. “We’re attributing it all to the weather.”

Fans were not inside the fairgrounds at the time of the collapse because the gate and ticket sales office weren’t scheduled to open for another 30 minutes.

from WCNC Charlotte - Shelby stage collapse photos

from WCNC Charlotte – Shelby stage collapse photos (click for larger view)

It should be painfully obvious in looking at those photos that weather was a minor (if not a negligable factor) in that stage coming down.

From an official who spoke with JimOnLight.com and was not authorized to speak publicly on the collapse, a touring professional involved with production and NOT associated with L&N Productions:

“The stage was down well before those alleged ’70 mph winds’ hit.  It didn’t take much to knock that thing over.  The roof was picked with spansets…not properly.  The up and down stage double hung was with what looked like truck straps.  The genies didn’t have outriggers – but just the stabilizers.  And the straps they had ‘holding it down’ didn’t make sense.  And, for the record, the seats they had set up were for about 2000-2500 tops. Not the 10,000 the news was reporting.”

The news will never tell you that the stage should never have been built outside with Genie towers.  The news will also never tell you that L&N Productions IS STILL DOING SHOWS, and has another one “just down the road from Shelby.”  Somehow I hope the entire production world learns to stay away from this company’s shows.  They have proven they have no respect for the safety of the crews, musical acts, and audience members.

Please, share the heck out of this, it’s important to get this contradicting information out there to counter the information being put out there.  The promoter may believe that L&N is “reputable,” but they are simply lucky that this hasn’t happened before if this is the rig they are using outside for events.  Genie towers should never be used like this.

I took some screenshots from the video posted from the local NBC affiliate, WCNC — watch the video, then look through the screenshots gallery below it.  Notice the spansets holding the roof structure onto the Genie towers, then ask yourself — WHERE are the outriggers on those towers?  Then maybe ask yourself — WHERE ARE THE OUTRIGGERS ON THOSE GENIE TOWERS?!!  Are those SPANSETS holding the roof to the towers?!  Are those ratchet straps holding the roof down?  If you’re inquisitive like me, ask yourself one more question — were those ratchet straps holding those audio cabinets down on top of the scaffolding?


UPDATE, Monday, August 12, 2013:
The production company who believed this rig was safe was L&N Productions out of Hickory, NC – their website, http://www.landninc.com/, does not work.  Here’s their Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/landninc


theafters-stage-collapse

That’s right, sports fans, there’s news of another structure collapse in the JimOnLight headlines this morning. No one was hurt at this religious concert festival at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds in North Carolina, but this just goes to show you that not even God can help your production company when you use genie towers and ratchet straps outside to support the rig. If anyone knows who the production company was for this event, please let us know so that I can make sure that people know of their work.

From an article at WSOCTV:

CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. —

A stage collapsed at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds on Saturday night.

No one was hurt in the collapse at the fairgrounds, but the accident is forcing organizers to make some big changes.

Just hours before a concert was set to start at the Cleveland County Fairground, a gust of wind ripped through, toppling a stage.

An organizer said it happened when the stands were still empty, and no one was hurt.

More than 10,000 people were expected to show up for the American Legion World Series concerts. Saturday’s lineup featured Christian artists, Mercy Me, Aaron Shust and the Afters. The show was cancelled Saturday.

Organizers said they did not want to take any chances with safety.

The wind ripped down part of the stage that held the overhead lighting and there was too much damage to fix before showtime.

The Afters tweeted a picture of the stage saying, “Scary moment today. The stage collapsed as we were sound checking. Thankful to God that we are all ok.”

Holy moly. From WISTV, a video of the newscast:

wistv.com – Columbia, South Carolina |

Looks like it’s painfully obvious that the production company (still unknown at this point) didn’t read the first frigging page of the Genie Tower Safety Manual, I underlined the key components for you:

Do not operate the machine in strong or gusty winds. Increasing the load surface area will decrease machine stability in windy conditions. Do not leave a load raised when windy conditions may occur unless the machine(s) are properly guy-wired.

genie-tower-wind-safety

WHY OH WHY do people not understand BASIC PHYSICS?! When you add A SAIL to an already not strong structure, said structure IS COMING DOWN. More reason why we need to strengthen the rules in this industry — if for no other reason than to STOP the shitty companies from doing things that make us all look bad. This looks bad.

stage-collapse-after

More on this if and when it develops. No one was hurt, THIS time. The event was the American Legion World Series, featuring a bunch of Christian acts. So much for that. I guess not even God can keep up improperly installed equipment.

cleveland-co-christian-concert-collapse

stage-collapse-north-carolina

Fox Sports’ Overhead Camera Accident at NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

charlotte-motor-speedway-accident

I’m not trying to be tardy to the party with this one, I was actually waiting on Fox Sports to announce what exactly happened at the Coca-Cola 600 on May 26, 2013.  However, as of the weekend it seems like no answer has gone public.

On May 26 during the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Fox Sports’ “overhead flying camera” lost a drive rope or cable, causing that drive rope or cable to come whipping through the stands.  There were reports of around 10 people being treated for wounds and cuts from the cable, as well as a few burns from that drive rope or cable being retracted suddenly.  Something to keep in mind, and it looks as though most news agencies got it wrong — but the rig that fell DID NOT ORIGINATE FROM THE COMPANY SKYCAM. It came from a company called CAMCAT from Austria.

From Yahoo News:

Fox Sports said on Monday it still had not determined why an overhead TV camera cable snapped during the Coca-Cola 600.

The network says a full investigation is under way and use of the camera is suspended indefinitely. Earlier, NASCAR said it would wait for Fox Sports to conclude its review before deciding if such technology would be used in the future.

Charlotte Motor Speedway said 10 people were injured when part of the drive rope landed in the grandstand; three were taken to hospitals. All were checked out and released soon after.

In a statement, Fox said it was “relieved and thankful to know that the injuries to fans caused then CAMCAT malfunctioned at Charlotte Motor Speedway were minor.”

The network again apologized for the disruption.  Several drivers, including then-leader Kyle Busch, reported damage to their cars from the rope.

NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp told The Associated Press on Monday that there were no plans to use the system at upcoming races “so we’ll have ample time to review.”

The network said the system was provided by Austrian company CAMCAT. The rope that failed was certified for a breaking strength of 9,300 pounds and was only bearing less than 900 pounds of force during the race, according to Fox Sports.

This isn’t the first time that this has happened, but it’s not an everyday thing – once back in 2011 at the Insight College Bowl Game, an overhead camera system fell onto the field as well, missing everyone this time but still interrupting gameplay (obviously).  Watch:

Looks like in the place it fell, it barely missed some players and officials on the field. I’m really grateful for that! In Charlotte, however, a bunch of people were treated for minor to medium severity injuries due to the camera system.

insight-bowl-skycam

In Charlotte, it looks as though the system was manufactured by CAMCAT out of Austria.  CAMCAT has some amazing systems, one of which sports an 80 mile per hour camera head!  From the CAMCAT website:

Developed in the Nineties and continuously improved the CAMCAT® System provides unique and stunning images from otherwise unobtainable perspectives, indoors and outdoors. Over the years its reliability and high quality have been proved on many occasions in sports, entertainment and documentary as one can learn from our references.  The CAMCAT® System is a fully remote controlled cable camera system which achieves precise camera motion over distances up to 1000m at any conceivable angle and at speeds up to 130km/h with maximum stability and smoothness. Since the CAMCAT® System is based on a modular construction it can be adapted to a wide range of shooting situations.

The camera buggy runs on two independent guide ropes made of heavy duty synthetic material and can accept a range of payloads from open platform stabilised mounts fitted with film cameras, to HD stabilised mounts with integrated camera and lens.

The latest RF technology is utilised for picture transmission, camera and head control data to and from the camera buggy with an onboard battery providing seamless operation.  The computerised remote controlled system is backed by an especially developed software that enables the two operating CAMCAT® technicians to pilot the CAMCAT® System either manually or in a preprogrammed automatic control mode.

As safety is a top priority the CAMCAT® System complies with highest standards and is certified by German based TUV Health and Safety Group, one of the strictest industrial safety authorities in the world.

It certainly could be theorized that perhaps poor maintenance played a part in the failure; I’m not making a claim that there was any kind of malfeasance, but with the schedules that these races are under, like anything else in entertainment, equipment does take its wear and tear.  Something that was posted on the Associated Press caught my eye though:

The network said it’s reviewing with CAMCAT equipment maintenance records, history and installation information and plans to share its findings with NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The network said the system was used successfully at the Daytona 500 and was set up and working at last week’s Sprint All-Star race in Charlotte. Fox’s final NASCAR telecast this year comes Sunday at Dover International Speedway.

Tharp said NASCAR would let the network determine what went wrong.

“We’ll sync up with them on what they have learned this week and go from there,” he said.

The network explained how the drive rope moves the camera back and forth and failed near its turn one connection. The camera, it said in a statement, did not come down “because the guide ropes acted as designed.”

The rope, Fox said, was made of Dyneema, which it described as “an ultra-strong synthetic that has the same approximate strength of a steel wire with the same diameter.” It said the rope was less than a year old, had been factory-tested by its manufacturer and its breaking strength was certified before shipment. The rope was also inspected by CAMCAT when it was received last June.

According to OnlineRopes.com, Dyneema has the “highest strength-to-weight ratio of any manmade material in the world. On weight-to-weight base, it is up to 15 times stronger than steel.”

The pictures such cameras provide can be extraordinary. But in this case, the failure brought confusion and chaos to the racers and the fans.

You know what, it’s all fine and good that a year ago the rope was inspected.  It’s even better that the rope they use, Dyneema, is the same strength as steel in the same diameter.  But still — why did this thing fall?

skycam_gantry

One of the SkyCam gantry configurations — typically there would be four of these on a SkyCam rig

skycam_reel

One of the reels that Skycam uses in their system — doesn’t it remind you of a huge fishing reel?

As far as our industry goes, CAMCAT’s rig isn’t terribly complex as far as rigging goes — it’s an XYZ position camera that is fed by an X-axis winch, a Y-axis winch, and a Z-axis winch, all of which feed through the camera to stabilization points around the arena.  Check out the diagram below, even though this particular rig shows a CineFlex camera.  After Skycam‘s patents ran out, exactly what you thought would happen happened — everyone else came out with their own rigs!  Does that sound familiar with the history of automated lighting?

cablecam_diagram

Not thinking about the fans who were hurt just for a second — can you imagine the hell that this must have caused the drivers of those cars just below the camera’s guy-wires?!  From the AP:

Coca-Cola 600 winner Kevin Harvick thought he was imagining things when he noticed the black rope on the track. He was among the lucky ones who escaped without damage. Busch said he heard a “thunk” when he ran over it and knew he’d have problems.

Busch used a cellphone to take a picture of the mangled metal around his front, right-side wheel so his team could figure out how to repair the damage.

Marcos Ambrose dragged a piece of the rope that got caught up in his car behind him on the track. Mark Martin also reported problems after driving over the rope.

I can only imagine that the rope falling caused less damage than it had the potential to cause, and I’m pretty grateful for that.  All of this aside, this camera system is pretty darned cool.  Check this out — a quick video on how an stabilized overhead camera system like this works:

Well, one thing is for sure — Fox News won’t be using their rig on the next gig.

800px-Skycam_Husky_Stadium

Thanks to Fox Sports, ESPN, Yahoo! News, That’s Racin!, SB Nation, F-StoppersThe Daily Apple, Wikipedia, and a HUGE thanks to Digital Producer for the SkyCam parts photos!

The Hebrew Hammer’s JimOnLight.com USITT Review. Outstanding!

I am proud to have a smart young guy like Aron Altmark on the JimOnLight.com Team – Aron is a lighting designer/programmer in the Vegas area, and if you’ve been around to LDI or USITT in the last few years, you’ve met Aron.  We very affectionately refer to him as the Hebrew Hammer, because, well, Aron’s awesome.

I’m bummed I was unable to get Jax out to the USITT show this year, but you can count on seeing her at LDI in Orlando in all of her beautiful tattooed glory!  I was only able to be at the conference this year to give my session, and let me just say that I am bummed on all I missed by having to leave early!  This is our lives though, and we all know and do it.

I want you to give a big ol’ JimOnLight.com Community welcome to Aron – and his awesome USITT Wrap-up!

Aron?


Good day all of you out in the creating and entertainment world!

Some of you may know me from past JimOnLight appearances, such as Laser Graffiti and the random tweetup run-ins Jim and I tend to have. I just got back to Las Vegas—my home base for the past year—from a fantastic, fun, and enlightening conference known as USITT (the United States Institute of Theatre Technology, for those of you who don’t already know). I was there walking the floor, attending sessions, and talking to everyone I could for a solid four days in the lovely Deep South city of Charlotte, North Carolina. Here’s what you missed if you weren’t able to go, and if you were there here’s what you may not remember after the nighttime festivities…

USITT is first and foremost geared toward students. Even though most of my time in Vegas has been taken up by working nightclubs and programming, I am still in school part-time at both UNLV in Las Vegas and another school online, so I can definitely appreciate things from a student’s perspective. At the closing ceremony, it was reported that over 4,000 people attended the conference, not including exhibitors. I’d be willing to bet that at least half to two-thirds of these were students, judging by the amount of young faces on the floor. This conference’s biggest advantages, in my opinion: how close and hands-on students from all over the country can get to industry-leading technologies,, the wealth of learning opportunities through sessions, and the ridiculous amount of networking possible.

Students everywhere, if you don’t already practice it, get on this networking train. It’s THE MOST VALUABLE skill to have in our industry now, as touted by every single industry pro I’ve come in contact with at LDI and USITT in the past few years. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn are all such valuable tools to use, especially in such a technologically saturated world. Case in point: while interviewing an exhibitor about a product, Richard Cadena walked up to me and said hello. He remembered me from last few conferences, and perhaps from our brief exchanges on Facebook—if you don’t know who Richard Cadena is, GOOGLE NOW. The connections you form at these things can be kept going for years, and it may only take so much as a tweet every now and then. You never know where it’ll get you.

As far as sessions go, I have been somewhat less than satisfied with those offered at past USITT and LDI shows, as they seem to be rather hit-or-miss with which are amazing and which aren’t worth the time. Many presenters, from what I’ve been told by other attendees, weren’t prepared well enough and based their entire time on Q&A. Some sessions are purely life stories, which can be nice, but I am a big proponent of teaching practical trade skills at conferences. After a few sessions in a row of life stories, I tend to be begging to learn a console or a new method of using color. Don’t get me wrong—learning from the successes and mistakes of those before me is a fantastic thing, and I do love it. It’s just that I think that at a conference where students have access to more technology at one time than most universities will be able to afford in four years of budget, shouldn’t students get some hands-on time with the expensive toys?

Speaking of expensive toys, here’s a brief run-down of some of my favorite—some new, some updated—products found on the show floor at USITT:

Desire LED by Electronic Theatre Controls:
This brand-new fixture from ETC is the next iteration of their extremely-popular Selador LED fixtures. It is a wash-light that uses the Selador’s X7 color system to provide beautiful color palettes hard to attain with standard RGB LED fixtures. I spoke with Novella, the creator of the Desire, who told me that it sports three different models—the D40 and D40 XT (outdoor), as well as the D60, the bigger and brighter version. You can order your Desire in six different styles: Vivid for amazing color rendering, Lustr for more theatrical punch, Fire/Ice for extremely hot reds and cool blues, and three Studio models for TV/Film applications. The Desire sports a 30-40% increase in brightness over Selador, dimming curves to match incandescent or other LEDs, adjustable output frequency, and they use a whopping 125W per fixture AT FULL. Also, get this: the Desire has an Amber Drift function built in, so your colors will stay consistent with those of your tungsten fixtures. Definitely on my wish list.

Reveal LED Studio Fresnel by Prism Projection:
LEDs are all the rage now, especially with the green revolution we’re undergoing all over the world (and which I’m a huge supporter of). Prism Projection won awards for their LED Profile (that can use construction paper gobos) at LDI 2010 in Las Vegas, and are following it up with this beautiful Film and TV-aimed LED Fresnel. The good people over at Prism hand-picked their LEDs for wattage and color to create the best color rendering possible. The LED Studio Fresnel spits out 7600 lumens with a tunable CCT of 2700-8000K, 20-70 degree zoom, silky smooth 0-100% dimming, and features plus/minus green/magenta for calibrating to other craptastic light sources. It sips power at 180W on full white, and has a hi-amperage DC connector on the side that allows you to run the light off of existing camera (or 9-Volt) batteries. One user ran it for two hours using a belt pack battery.

PL1 & PL3 LED by Philips:
Last LED I’ll feature, I promise. These amazing fixtures use the light engines from the industry-changing VLX LED moving light that Vari*Lite released a few years back. The PL3, aimed at replacing a 1.2kW Fresnel, uses three VLX light engines, while the PL1 uses only one. The PL1 is aimed at museums and galleries, with pre-programmed color and color temperature presets. The RGBW source is beautiful in its color rendering, and the addition of white into the LED engine makes it possible to use very saturated colors while still maintaining the integrity of the artwork on display. The coolest thing I found about this fixture was that museums are attempting to discover what time of day, month, and year paintings were done so that they can use these fixtures to replicate the EXACT light the painter had when creating it. Essentially, you could one day soon see the Mona Lisa as Da Vinci did.

DMX Goodies by Enttec:
Enttec probably had one of my favorite booths this year. I spent a good hour each day playing with DMX toys and talking with Jeremy, Enttec’s sales rep for the show. Enttec is making the world of lighting control really affordable, with their DMX to USB and DMX to Ethernet interfaces. These run from a “You’ve got to be kidding me, that doesn’t even pay for parts” $60 DMXàUSB  dongle to the “Okay, seriously, does Fleenor know you’re doing this?” $90 4-Port DMX Opto-Splitter. These things are great quality and priced JUST RIGHT FOR STUDENTS. HINT HINT. Just think, you could spend under 100 bucks, download Chamsys’ MagicQ console software, buy a $50 dongle, and you have a lighting console on your PC. Just like that. Jeremy was also showing me their new DMXIS software, which is a really nice piece of software that is aimed at being a very simple but powerful lighting laptop-based lighting controller. It’s loaded with features, and I can almost promise you’ll see more about it from me very soon. Enttec also has a new DataGate, which is an 8-port DMX opto-iso that supports RDM, Art-Net, and uses a web browser interface…which means you can use its wealth of features from ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. Again, I’m sure you’ll see more on this from me soon. Enttec is a great company to get to know, they’re in it to win it.

Green Hippo Hippotizer by TMB:
My friend Loren from TMB was showing me the highlight reel they had running at the show, and includes some ridiculous gigs. You may have seen the Academy Awards recently, which used a total of 53 Green Hippo Hippotizers. That’s right, that’s over 74 HD outputs. The cool thing about TMB’s media server platform is how flexible it is. The UberPan system they have now allows for easy manipulation of content across multiple displays, while VideoMapper allows for crazy mapping onto LED screens, as seen in last year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show with The Who’s performance.

Pandora’s Box by Coolux, Ltd:
While we’re on the media server soap box, I went by the Coolux booth to take a look at their powerhouse media platform, and it has some stupid neat stuff going on as well. The coolest thing about Pandora’s Box, in my opinion, is the Widget Designer feature. As someone who is on the verge of lighting, video, and interactive applications, I’m always looking for more ways to incorporate external inputs and sources into media. The Widget Designer has 700-800 widgets currently available, and being a node-based platform makes it easy to incorporate many widgets into a project. Pandora’s Box does amazing projection mapping as well via the Warper, which allows for 10,000 individual nodes (points) per video output to map to. This allows you to set up a projector and do live warping to you subject. See their website for some ridiculous highlight reels.

Avolites Titan OS:
Alright, you knew I couldn’t stay away from consoles for long. I’m a programmer. Give me a break. I haven’t been a big Avo fan for a while, but I saw their new consoles getting some great press and decided to take a look at the new Titan OS lineup…I was extremely impressed. They were showing off a prototype Sapphire Touch, a large console with 45 motorized faders and two internal touchscreens meant to rival the grandMA2 Light. It wasn’t quite up to functioning yet, but it did have some pretty face-panel features such as tri-color LEDs under the trackball and encoders to help you determine what attributes you’re currently affecting, as well as color changing to match CMY and RGB fixtures. They also implemented a “Saturn’s Ring” encoder around the trackball which I really loved the feel of for zoom/iris. The Tiger Touch, already in production, was extremely impressive. It is a very capable, well-made compact console with a whole lot of power. The large internal touchscreen allows for drawing of legends so you can label your fixtures, groups, and presets as you would like instead of being restricted to typing names. The Titan Mobile, a four-DMX port, ultra-portable version of the Tiger Touch, is perfect for on-the-go shows. It is powered off of a laptop and can support up to 12 universes via Art-Net. All of the Titan OS consoles can freely exchange show information, and all feature ITC Thumbnail exchange for media servers. I’m going to get my hands on one of these pronto.

V476 by PRG:
This is another prototype console on the show floor, but this one is run on something a bit unheard of in the past few years of console development: Mac OS X. This was a VERY nicely laid-out, well-constructed console. It seems to have been thought about from the programmers’ standpoint, which I definitely appreciate. The console uses a left-hand bias for the keypad, which I was a bit unsure of at first, but I’ve gotten used to stranger things before. For user friendliness and ease of programming, this seems like a good busking console. I’m looking forward to some hands-on time with the Vegas shop.

grandMA2 v2.2 by MA Lighting:
The grandMA2 is a phenomenal console (not that I’m biased…I run two of them in Vegas) with enough capabilities for the most gargantuan of shows—up to 256 universes of DMX and 10,000 possible sequences, presets, and groups. The version 2.2 software came out recently and sports some awesome new features that cater the theatre world specifically, making A.C.T’s USITT appearance a nice treat. There are two blind modes: one that allows for blind edits of cues currently playing, and another that gives you a completely blind programmer for quick programming of looks, groups, and more without live output. Partial show read has been implemented, as well as import/export, allowing you to use sequences, presets, groups, and patch from various shows selectively. RDM and Art-Net in have been implemented, and there is a nifty new iPhone/iPad remote that can speak to both grandMA series 1 and grandMA2 consoles. Layout views, a powerful tool for creating a custom user interface for your show, can take snapshots of your 3-D Stage View for ease of creation of many variations of layout views quickly. The two new features that are my favorite: the DMX Tester, which pops up when you open the DMX Sheet—allowing for live adjustment/testing of individual DMX addresses, as well as quick patching and troubleshooting; and the new Modes for sequences, which introduce two modes of Assert (like an Allfade) and Break (like a Block cue). The grandMA2 is quickly moving from a ridiculously overpowered live/busking console to one that can easily make its home in the house of traditional proscenium theatres.

Check out the photo spread from my USITT experience this year, and thanks for having me, everybody!

Bye, #USITT! See You Next Year!

As quickly as it began, USITT 2011 is over for me – I’m sitting in the airport right now at 6am EST waiting to board my flight to ORD, then on to OKC.  So many O’s, and none of them enjoyable.

Our conference session went really well – lots of audience, good questions, and great conversation!  I found it quite hilarious to hear the comment “it’s so great when someone actually prepares for their USITT Panel session.”  From what I understand there were a handful of people who didn’t bother to prepare for their panel session for presentation, and that is just irresponsible, especially when students are coming to see you speak about what they love the most.

I’ll be missing the USITT Stage Expo show floor this year, but I had a chance to walk around the Expo during load-in yesterday.  Make sure that you go around and talk to people, everybody!  Remember – conversations are your endless doorways to opportunity.  After all, this IS the Entertainment Business!

Just a quick travel note for those of you flying out of Charlotte this weekend – make sure that you have all of your stuff together when you travel through security at Charlotte-Douglas Airport.  Charlotte TSA has no sense of humor, no patience for pretty much anything, and they are very condescending to all.  If you want to get to your flight on time after standing in the very long lines at CLT, then make sure you act like an expert traveler.  Otherwise you’re gonna get called stupid, like I heard Charlotte TSA call an elderly traveler this morning!  Where are we, Germany in 1942?

BE SAFE EVERYBODY!  It was so amazing to see you all again!  Wednesday night’s 2011 #USITT #Tweetup was outstanding this year!  It was AWESOME to see everybody out last night!

Joe Cox’s Color Wall Needs Its Switch Turned On

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You know, it isn’t often when you see something that is a “shame.”  You know, like “aww, man – it’s a shame that 21 million people have no health coverage,” or “aww, man – they tore down that stem cell research drive through clinic and put up a Taco Shack, that’s a shame.”  You know, one of those really sorrowful that actually makes you think about the future.

This isn’t quite that bad, but it sucks in its own right.  On a comparative scale, this obviously doesn’t compete with health insurance and our disregard for stem cell research.  However, it is a shame that money and art seem to live so closely together, which is why this story is a shame.

In Raleigh, NC there is a light art installation that was born in 1972 called The Color Wall – the product of an artist named Joe Cox at North Carolina State University.  It’s a 12 foot by 36 foot panel that has colored light shining on it, changing by means of a mechanical system that the artist designed himself, all mechanical.  The Color Wall’s system changed the lights about 32 times every 2 minutes.  It’s been called the most significant work of public art in Raleigh.

Unfortunately, the system that Cox had designed has died a few times over the last few years, and finally took the final bow sometime in 2007 after two decades of mediocre if not failing operation.  There is a proposal into the school to change its control system to something more modern (ETC’s Smart Switch Relay) and, well, functioning, so that the Color Wall can keep inspiring the public and, well, actually lighting up and functioning like the artist initially designed.  What sucks about that is the system is about $6200 bucks (as of the last quote), and they are halfway there.

Feeling generous?  You can certainly donate to the cause of keeping this long-lived piece of light art alive.  Some Raleigh bloggers have also started a site all about the wall, and tracking the progress of restoration.  It’s not stem cell research or health coverage, but it is enrichment, which is also important.

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