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Happy Birthday, George Izenour!

Who’s that guy?!  Wait — is that George C. Izenour?  HEY!  Happy Birthday, George Izenour!  Today is the celebration of George’s 101st birthday!

george-izenour-portrait

 

If you don’t know who this man is and the legacy he left behind in 2007 when he passed away (July 24, 1912 – March 24, 2007), you need to do some research.  George Izenour is one of our industry’s most prolific inventor/designers, and we have many theatres and theatre complexes across the country because of that man’s brain.  George here was the winner of the 2004 Wally Russell Lifetime Achievement Award for his life’s work; the industry considers him one of the most important people in our business, and many consider him the Father of Modern Stage Lighting.  He’s earned the title!

Mr. Izenour recalled, back in his living days:  “I was born in a little town in the Beaver valley of Pennsylvania about 30 miles west of Pittsburgh; New Brighton. My father was a small electrical contractor. We moved in the third year of World War I to Ambridge, a company town closer to Pittsburgh adjacent to the Conway railway yards in 1917. In 1918, the last year of the war my father moved us to Mansfield, Ohio. I was six years old at the time and I started my formal schooling there.”

From an article at Live Design Online:

One of the most important figures in the lighting industry, George C. Izenour wrote his Master’s thesis on what was to become his first invention: the electronic lighting control system for theatre. His first job was as lighting director for the Los Angeles Federal Theatre Project. When that was dissolved in 1939, he was made a fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation with the mandate to establish a laboratory dedicated to the advancement of theatre technology. This was established at Yale University and became the home base for Izenour’s long career as inventor, consultant, acoustician, professor, and author (Theatre Design 1977, Theater Technology 1988, Roofed Theaters of Classical Antiquity 1992).

His most important invention was the inverse polarized rectifier circuit for dimming and switching. After working in a war research laboratory during WWII, he completed a lighting system that was patented by Century Lighting, ushering in the modern era of stage and television lighting. In the late 1950s he consulted on Harvard’s Loeb Drama Center, the first of over 100 performing arts venues in his prolific theatre consulting career. He has been a member of numerous professional organizations and received numerous awards during the 65 years of his ongoing career.

Mr. Izenour has several patents on file with the United States Patent Office — many of these are monumental changes to the way things were done at the time, including one of my favorites, a Filtered Thyratron Control circuit:

izenour-thyratron-circuit

 

An interesting turn in his career, Izenour also worked as a government scientist in World War II, creating proximity fuses for the military in a laboratory on Long Island:

MK53_fuze

 

I find it exemplary that Izenour worked at the time for the US government; it’s a shame that it was making weapons.  He certainly made up for that in the remainder of his life, creating some unbelievably beautiful and functional theatre buildings and complexes.  From an article at Penn State, where several of Izenour’s blueprints and mylars are currently kept:

In the laboratory, Izenour focused on developing a practical, moderately priced, remote electronic stage lighting intensity control system; he succeeded with an electronic console system for stage lighting (the world’s first practical all-electronic switching and dimming circuit) in 1947. In May 1949 he was granted patents that protected both the electronic circuitry of the system and the mechanical design of the controls. Rather than selling the patents, he negotiated an exclusive commercial license to build and exploit commercially the electronic lighting intensity control system with Century Lighting Inc. and its executive vice president Ed Kook. Izenour became Century’s field engineer as well as its systems designer. Black-and-white network television opened up opportunities for expansion in 1951 and Century negotiated for the Century-Izenour (C-I) system to be the approved method of lighting control for CBS and NBC productions. During the winter and early spring of 1948 Izenour designed and fabricated the first working scale model of the synchronous winch system, patented in 1959.

By the end of the 1950s Izenour added theater design and engineering consultant to his credentials. He participated as theater design-engineering and/or acoustical consultant in more than 100 buildings. He designed and built stage machinery for the Dallas, Texas theater center, 1959; Loeb Drama Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1960; drama center, University of South Florida, Tampa, 1961; and other multiple-use theater buildings.Izenour has published three books, Theater Design (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1977; reprint, Yale University Press, 1996), Theater Technology (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1988; reprint, Yale University Press, 1996), and Roofed Theaters of Classical Antiquity (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992).

To explain complex spatial relationships, Izenour and his draftsmen/graphic artists decided upon the longitudinal perspective section to capture the ambience of both stage and auditorium during performance, and orthographic isometric for structure and machinery. The Izenour Drawings of the Theater, an organized collection, came to the attention of the U.S. Information Service (USIS), the cultural branch of the Department of State. The USIS assembled a traveling exhibition of 100 of the drawings for showing throughout the world; the world premiere was held at the American Academy in Rome on 22 April 1977.

Happy Birthday, George!  Thanks for contributing such an immense amount of brainpower to our industry to make it as awesome as it is today.

Check out some of George Izenour’s texts — I highly recommend it, you’ll come away from the books having seen inside the brain of a true technological genius!

Theater Design: Second Edition- George C. Izenour

theatre-design-george-izenour

Theater Technology: Second Edition – George Izenour

theatre-technology-george-izenour

Roofed Theaters of Classical Antiquity — George Izenour

roofed-theatres-of-classical-antiquity

Innovations in Stage and Theatre Design — George Izenour

innovative-stage-design-george-izenour

Something else that is pretty cool to check out is some of George Izenour’s patents, from Google Patents (which is an AMAZING time waster if you’re bored!).  I highly recommend it!

Happy 101st birthday, Georgie!

Vigilante Cell-Phone-in-a-Theatre Justice – Kevin Williamson vs Rude Cell Phone Talker

You wouldn’t have your cell phone stuck to your face when you’re screwing, right?!  THEN TURN IT OFF IN THE THEATRE!

CELL-PHONE-JAMMER

I have an extensive background in Theatre, and any time I see an article that mentions some douche with a cell phone ruining the experience of Live Theatre for everyone around them, I have to read it.  Anyone who knows me knows I have my freaking iPhone plastered to my face or 6 inches in front of my near-sighted eyes (and I DO wonder if my arms will ever get short enough for my vision), but when you’re in the theater for some Theatre, put your damned cell phone away!

I often wonder why more theatre companies dont just invest in a cheap DIY cell phone jammer that can be enabled and disabled with the flip of its switch.  Consequently, here’s an awesome article on Hacked Gadgets on Cell Phone Jamming for those interested.  If you can solder a DMX cable together, you can make a cell jammer.  Make sure, however, that the thing is legal in your jurusdiction — you’d hate to give the theatre cell idiots any more reason to be annoying.  Just imagine the morons with their iPhones who keep trying to get service — they’ll either put them away or leave, both of which are true theatre WINS!

Back on point:  Theatre reviewer Kevin Williamson and his date went to see Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 at Kazino in NYC; long story short…  oh, I’ll just let Kevin tell it:

I had a genuinely new experience at the theater tonight: I was thrown out.

The show was Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, which was quite good and which I recommend. The audience, on the other hand, was horrible — talking, using their phones, and making a general nuisance of themselves. It was bad enough that I seriously considered leaving during the intermission, something I’ve not done before. The main offenders were two parties of women of a certain age, the sad sort with too much makeup and too-high heels, and insufficient attention span for following a two-hour musical. But my date spoke with the theater management during the intermission, and they apologetically assured us that the situation would be remedied.

It was not. The lady seated to my immediate right (very close quarters on bench seating) was fairly insistent about using her phone. I asked her to turn it off. She answered: “So don’t look.” I asked her whether I had missed something during the very pointed announcements to please turn off your phones, perhaps a special exemption granted for her. She suggested that I should mind my own business.

So I minded my own business by utilizing my famously feline agility to deftly snatch the phone out of her hand and toss it across the room, where it would do no more damage. She slapped me and stormed away to seek managerial succor. Eventually, I was visited by a black-suited agent of order, who asked whether he might have a word.

In a civilized world, I would have received a commendation of some sort. To the theater-going public of New York — nay, the the world – I say: “You’re welcome.”

There is talk of criminal charges. I will keep you updated.

Well Kevin, I can’t say I blame you, and it might not have been a great move to toss the moron’s cell…  but I probably would have done the same thing had my wife let me get away with something so vigilante.  I salute you.  Let’s hope you don’t get arrested for property damage.

kazinonyc

Here’s something awesome from the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin to their talking and texting patrons during their movies, it’s well worth the watch!

Thanks to The Gothamist for more info on the story!

Let’s Be Safer, At Least in the Entertainment Industry

Update:  the image below is for free use, please download away and print to post in any place that you need to warn riggers to clip in.  Right click here and choose “Save As” to grab the image.
RIGGERS-NOT-SKYDIVERS

I was sitting on the couch yesterday with Laura, and I was writing some posts.  I remember turning to her and saying “babe, I hate writing about people dying.”

I was looking back at the posts I’ve written about our brothers and sisters dying on the job or at a show, and those posts have more traffic than anything I’ve ever posted on JimOnLight.com – the world’s thirst for death and blood never ceases to amaze me.

People outside the Entertainment industry have amazing reactions to the kinds of accidents we have in this business — a man falling 100 feet?  A roof structure falling onto a handful of people at a concert?  An LED video panel crashing to the deck onto people working below it?  These are serious accidents that attract the attention of people worldwide – and considering the number of productions and events that occurs every day compared to the number of accidents that end in bodily harm or death within our productions, we’re doing quite well.  Maybe not airline odds, but we’re doing OK as far as the stats are concerned.  But here’s the thing — what exactly is ok when it comes to the injury and death of our production and design professional brothers and sisters, wives and husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends, sons and daughters?

This lighting designer submits that zero is the number that is acceptable.

But:  as the government is responsible for making the rules and laws that we depend on “to keep us safe” on the job, it’s our responsibility to do what is necessary to remain safe at the gig, on the job site, and while the show is going on.  It is our responsibility to make sure that we can keep working safely just as well as it is the people who make the rules.  It is our responsibility as an active and involved industry to make sure that our people are safe on the job, and that they go home at the end of every day and night.

Collectively, we’re really bad at being 100% safe in our business, and you know what I mean.  I have been just as guilty in my life as the next man or woman in this business, where opening night is just as important a deadline to satisfy as a wedding day or Christmas.  When I say you know what I mean, I’m talking about the standing on the top step of a ladder, climbing truss to “just focus that one spot” without a harness, maybe climbing an AP boom to focus without being hooked up to fall arrest.  Also in this category falls the common Entertainment industry trends of removing the legs from man lifts, moving people around in man lifts with them fully extended, and on and on and on and on.  When I was young and still climbed trusses, I’m sure I’m guilty at one point.  It took me learning what my life was really worth to make me start remembering that safety is way more important than some stupid show, some deadline.  It’s something that I am reminded of every time I have to write about another Nathan Byrd, another Dean Williams.

Young production professionals and students of Entertainment Production and Design programs across the world, listen up:
While it’s important to work hard and get the show or event done and ready on time, it is not important to jeopardize your safety to get something on a work list done at the expense of risking your safety.  Quite frankly, that last sentence should read “YOUR SAFETY IS NEVER EVER TO BE JEOPARDIZED FOR A SHOW.”  Just because that top hat is kind-of in there and you can only reach it by stepping off of the lift for just a second doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea.  You must think of what can happen if you fall – who takes care of you?  What happens if you’re paralyzed if you’re “lucky” enough not to die?  How will you work and take care of yourself and family?  Just because you’ve done it before and you’ve succeeded in being fast at your job because you cut corners instead of coming down to re-position the lift or ladder does not make you “good at your job.”  It makes you a dumbass.  That’s right — it makes you a dumb ass.

How do you tell a kid learning how to do this kind of work that it’s so very urgent to get it done by the deadline and at the same time tell them that you can’t cut corners for their own safety to get it done?  I used to say this to students, and it always seemed to be a real eye-opener:
What do you think is going to happen in most cases if you fall in some theatre or working for, let’s say, a production company doing a concert or event?  If you hurt yourself, the money to take care of you has to come from somewhere, right?  Taking care of someone who can’t urinate on their own anymore, let alone eat or walk, is really expensive – in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars a month.  What’s going to happen first and foremost in most cases in most situations, the company that controls the place you fell (if you’re lucky enough to have lived) is going to make sure it’s your fault, somehow.  We’re talking about a lot of money here, kids, they’re not going to just pay out without a vicious, nasty fight.  However, the chances are that you’ve already signed a waiver of holding the company responsible for damages you sustain on the site.  So once you fall and hurt yourself forever, you’re screwed.  This also means your parents are screwed; your wife or husband, if they stick around, is screwed.  Your kids, if you have them?  Screwed.  Your career?  Well, it’s screwed because you obviously didn’t care about it anyway to be careful enough to continue doing it.

In chatting with a friend about this exact subject, the observation was brought up that the people hurt or killed in the accidents we’ve been having lately have been seasoned professionals, people who knew their job and did it frequently.  That’s all fine and good, but one thing is certain – if the seasoned professionals who have died were doing exactly the right thing, the chances are better that they would have survived.  Questions pop up in the most recent case of Dean Williams, who fell from the primary steel at the AT&T Center in San Antonio — why did Dean fall?  According to the news stories, [Dean Williams] had been wearing a harness connected to a safety line, Berry said, but he disconnected it to step around a beam, where he intended to reconnect to another safety line on the other side.”  Was Dean not wearing a double lanyard?  Why was he completely disconnected from the safety at any time up there working?  Do you see what happens now when even the most seasoned of professionals slips up, even for one second?  I bring up this accident in hopes that some young tech out there owning the road will see that you’re not going to win against time and risk.  I hope that maybe this also hits some older, more seasoned guys who are cutting corners with their future.

If you were hurt on the job because something happened and you were hurt without breaking a rule, that’s something completely different.  I am not talking about that here.  This post is for the know-it-all kids out there with the eagerness of a puppy and a fear level lower than a Navy Seal who can scale vertical structures with the speed of Spidey and can climb out on a beam with no tremble whatsoever.  Let Dean Williams be your example of what can happen when you let down your guard for one hundredth of a second.  By all accounts, Dean was a pro.  He let his guard slip for a half a heartbeat, we all do it.  Let’s all quit letting down our guard together, as an industry.

We’re awesome, we can do anything we want to do, as long as we do it together.  Please share this with your friends and family on all sides of the industry, let’s get this in everyone’s ears and eyes.

Jim Hutchison Leaves CAST Software, Opens Lumen Buddha Studios – A Lighting Industries Think Tank and Design Studio

lumenbuddha

I have the most amazing news to share, and I’ve had to hold it in for the last month…  Fortunately this isn’t an April Fools’ joke!

After four years with my extended CAST Group family, I’m very excited to tell the world that I am leaving CAST Group as the Product Manager for the industry lighting design suite wysiwyg and the Events and Meetings industry design product Vivien Event Designer to open a lighting industries think tank, design studio, and industry relations consulting firm!  World, please welcome Lumen Buddha Studios to the world of light!  The timing is right, the industry is right, and all of my cards have come together to make this happen.  We’ll be moving back to Dallas, Texas soon to begin this adventure!

My goal with Lumen Buddha Studios is three-fold, and I am making three definite divisions in the company:

  1. INDUSTRY THINK TANK:
    Lumen Buddha Studios will provide a resource for lighting industries companies that allows them access to the wealth of knowledge and understanding of the Lighting Industries, including consulting services for a number of industry subsets — Social Media, Research and Development, historical Industry trends, and Industry Intelligence to name a few.
  2. LIGHTING INDUSTRIES MEDIA OUTREACH:
    Lumen Buddha Studios will provide the most excellent services for Lighting Industries businesses to reach out into the Social Media world — many companies struggle to get real results from their Social Media outreach, and Lumen Buddha Studios  strives to provide that edge that the Lighting Industries need to survive!
  3. LIGHTING DESIGN, CONTENT, AND PRODUCTION STUDIO:
    Lumen Buddha Studios
    brings two designers with three decades of experience creating stunning designs for clients worldwide — myself, Jim Hutchison, Lighting Designer, consultant, and creator of JimOnLight.com, and Tupac Martir, Visual Designer, Light Magician, and creator of Satore Studio in London.  Tupac is bringing his entire studio team’s expertise to projects with Lumen Buddha Studios here in the United States.  I’m so very excited to have another unbelievably creative organization on board!  Lumen Buddha Studios will be offering Lighting Design and Production services to the Events Industry, Concert Production, Corporate Entertainment, Theatre, Dance, Opera, and most experimentally, grand scale Light Art!

This is the first in a few very large events happening in my career right now, and every single bit of it is due to this unbelievably excellent industry we all call home.  There’s some additional big news coming, but you have to wait for that one, just like me!  In the mean time, in addition to @JimOnLight on Twitter, please follow @LumenBuddha for news and information about the opening of this exciting event!  Make sure to also follow @TMartir (Tupac Martir) and @SatoreStudio to keep up with the exciting projects of our UK studio partner!

A message of thanks:
Thank you for all of the support and readership that you have all given me over the last six years.  JimOnLight.com is still going full-speed, and is showing no signs of stopping!  I’ll quit when you quit, and you have all been unbelievable in your support for this site everyday.  Thank you so very much for coming here to read about light every single wonderful day.  David and I wish it were in our power to personally thank each and every pair of eyes that comes here to learn about our favorite thing every single day, but obviously that would be impossible.

Thank you, Light Lovers of Planet Earth.

El Molino Burlesque’s Beautiful Video Facade — Barcelona, Spain

I was in Barcelona back in November of 2012; I posted some photos of that very busy trip, but I didn’t really have time to go out and do some sightseeing because of the show schedule.

There is one thing I did get though, I filmed it on the last night I was there.  We were staying at a hotel called Hotel Barcelona Universal, and from my room, I had a great view across the Paral Lel, the street out in front.  Across the street was this beautiful building facade, all made of video, that had a big windmill attached to the front of it.  The name?  El Molino, or “the Mill.”   Check it out:

el-molino-facade

Not really much to look at from the outside, right?  I mean, it’s fun and all, and obviously there is something happening of fun inside of the building.  However, El Molino has an enormous video wall outside that is pretty beautiful, and there is some very fun content that is displayed on the video wall.  It’s huge in comparison of the other parts of the facade!

el-molino-1

This building underwent a major renovation after a 1997 closing of the theatre, which from what I found was the first time it was ever actually closed.  The venue has a pretty interesting history; from the El Molino website, translated from Catalan:

The story of the Mill began in 1898, when the owner of the task The Aviary, a modest cabin located in Vila Vila Rosal corner, sold his business to 100 pesetas. The new owner will change its name to The Aviary Catalan and mount a small empostissat. After three years with a musical program stable, the local had already found its place in the world of entertainment Parallel.

After a brief flirtation with the movies under the name Grand Salon Siglo XX, in 1908 there was another change of owner and renamed Petit Moulin Rouge, in imitation of the famous Moulin Rouge in the Montmartre district of Paris.The new business is designed to bring the nightly entertainment cabarets of Paris “in Spanish”. It is the time of the Music Hall, which appropriates the same time, he sees as his fame avenue that the highest number of shows in Europe grows.

el-molino-under-construction

So the entire point of this post was to show the video I recorded of the video content of the video wall outside of El Molino.  Check it out, this is some fun architainment!

A Short LDI Walkthrough

Happy Tuesday morning, everyone!

I put together this short LDI walkthrough for those who weren’t there – it’s only 3 minutes and it’s not all-inclusive, but I think you’ll dig it anyway.  There’s nothing political, nothing about war, nothing about the Presidential election — it’s just pure light enjoyment!  Check it out!

Icewolf’s Guide to Photography for Theatre

I gotta thank charlesDcharles on Twitter for sending this my way – if you read Icewolf’s blog, then you’ve already seen this, but it’s worthy of another mention!

icewolfblog

Icewolf has posted a pretty excellent and comprehensive guide to shooting for theatre – from camera basics to composition basics, to light meters and image processing in post.  It’s an excellent article, you should definitely check it out!

Really, that’s it for this post.  Go get a coffee now, that’s what I’m gonna do.

Pilobolus – SHADOWLAND

shadowland-pilobolus

The performance group Pilobolus is premiering a new work called Shadowland in Madrid tonight, September 18.  Before I say anything else, watch this video, it’s just a few minutes.

I got chills on my neck from that!  Pilobolus’ work has always been amazing – this work in particular, a collaboration with David Poe (American music icon) and Steven Banks (Spongebob Squarepants Lead Writer).  From the Youtube page:

Part dance, part shadow act, part circus, and part concert, SHADOWLAND is a surreal story of a young girls sensational world as she comes of age, created in collaboration with lead writer of SpongeBob SquarePants Steven Banks and the American musician, producer, and film composer David Poe, whose poetic work for SHADOWLAND ranges from ballads to hard-driving rock numbers that lift the audience out of its seats!

I *think* the lighting designer for this is Neil Peter Jamopolis. Am I wrong on this? I have been looking, and I’ll certainly correct the post if I am wrong.

Looking Glass Theatre Company Extends Arabian Nights – Again!

Looking Glass Theatre Company in Chicago, IL has just extended the run of The Arabian Nights, directed by Mary Zimmerman.  This show is getting a heck of a lot of great reviews – Mary Zimmerman is a pretty amazing director, and the lighting designer for the show is TJ Gerckens, the managing director at the Contemporary Theatre Company in Columbus, OH.  If you’re in or around Chicago, you should most definitey try to get tickets for the show.  I’m a huge fan of TJ’s work – his Metamorphoses lighting with the huge pool gave some of the coolest looks my eyes have ever seen.  TJ sees light and lighting like a man born for the purpose – I always wonder what the color of the sky in his world is.

Check out some images, and go see the show!

arabian nights looking glass

arabian nights looking glass

arabian nights looking glass

Brady Darnell is One Big Bad Wolf

One Big Bad Wolf is a blog by Brady Darnell – Brady is an actor, director, and writer in the Denver area, and he writes mostly about the Denver theatre scene.  Brady had a great article  recently about Joe Dowling, the AD at the Guthrie, and his very ‘awesome’ salary.

As someone who lives in Denver and works in and around the area as a lighting designer and consultant, I can certainly tell you that work is hard to come by lately – me being very new to this area doesn’t help, no matter what my resume or portfolio looks like.  If you’re in the profession, it’s good to be completely up-to-date on what’s playing, who’s working, what’s working, and which theatres are hiring.  Professional theatres are folding all over the country; most recently, the long time Carousel Dinner Theatre in Akron, OH (not to be confused with the Carousel Dinner Theatre in Fort Collins, CO, which is doing okay).

It’s a designer-eat-designer economy right now.