Happy Memorial Day – Go Kiss Your Veteran

It’s Memorial Day, everybody.  Like you didn’t know that – if you’re in the USA, you’re probably having a day off work, drinking some cold something-or-others and grilling something that used to be alive.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with believing in your homeland.  I believe in mine, and I am an American.  I don’t necessarily buy all of the BS that’s going on right now with the United States, but that is neither here nor there, as they say.  We have a lot of men, women, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, lovers, and friends in places across the world.  A lot of people have died as a result of protecting the freedom we have in the United States.

Take a moment today to thank a veteran.  Remember someone who has died fighting for the USA regardless of your beliefs in this case.

Thanks, Dad, for fighting for me.  I am who I am because you were such a good father, and a good sailor.

JimOnLight.com Sticker Sighting: Sayulita, Mexico!

HA!  Check this out – a sticker sighting in Sayulita, Mexico!  Totally random post, but I thought it was pretty awesome.  Thanks be to my good friends Carla and Christine for sending these!

JimOnLight.com stickers in Sayulita, Mexico

JimOnLight.com stickers in Sayulita, Mexico

Sunday JimOnLight.com Flickr Pool

Another Sunday, another great round of JimOnLight.com Flickr Group photos!  Amazing photographers have been contacting me lately via email, sending tons of work my way that showcases light.  If you’re a light lover too, send me an email so I can share your work with the world of people who also need their lux loving!

exercise n. 1

Scaff #2 after the fireworks

solo performance

With roots above

Sunset in Buffalo



Pix2o Video Wall Demo

Check this out – my man Scott Renick (@sdrenick on Twitter) sent a link to this pretty interesting video wall demo by Pix2o – it’s a rollable video wall!

Thanks, Scott!

Let’s Play CHECK IN with JimOnLight.com in Canada!

I’m in Toronto right now.  Next week I’ll be in Phoenix for a week long show run.  The week after that?  I have no idea.  Let me check my calendar.

So, for those of you who were at the Broadway Lighting Master Classes this year, sorry I missed you!  I wasn’t able to attend this year because of a gig I have in Toronto right now, but I hear I missed some fun partying in the Big Apple!

Let’s see:

I’m lighting up the inside of an excellent space in downtown Toronto this week for the Centre for Social Innovation, who just bought a building!  I’m partnered in a company with everybody’s favorite lumen hunter, Amanda Lynne Ballard, called LX Injected – we’ve started up this venture to bring light art on a large scale to the world.  One of our upcoming projects is the Centre’s new building – LX Injected is lighting up the inside of one of the floors for a gathering this evening, and we’re happy with the product we made last night!  I’ll post lots of pictures after the event is over this weekend.  We’re extremely excited to help out the Centre for Social Innovation and bring some lovely lux to their new digs!

Most of all, I just wanted to check in with the world.  I hope everyone is having an excellent week, a wonderful summer and end to the school year, and enjoyable production and design experiences!  Get out there and light up the darkness!

Patrick Woodroffe’s WYNN Hotel Lighting Design Photos

Peeps, I have so much content from LightFair 2010 that I am now getting to for your visual excitement – show floor, product reviews, interviews, photography, and general awesomesauce that’s up and coming in the next few days.  Las Vegas provides SO much good content!  Wait, is that an oxymoron?

This afternoon I have an excellent eye opener for you – hopefully that will blast you off into the day artistically! Here’s some photos of the Wynn outdoor lighting garden attraction designed by the absolutely outstanding Patrick Woodroffe and his team.  Enjoy!

A few favorites first, then an image gallery.  We got the image gallery set up so that you can comment on individual pictures now!

Thanks, Amanda Lynne.
(Written in May 2010)

All photos on this page are protected under an Attribution-NonCommercial-No-Derivitives license.  You can repost the photos and content as long as you give attribution to JimOnLight.com. All rights reserved by JimOnLight.com, no changes to be made to the photos.  Email for permission through the contact form. Photographer credit, unless otherwise noted, is Amanda Lynne Ballard.

Cirque du Soleil’s KÀ with JimOnLight.com, Part Deux

After that first post today, I had a bunch of images that Amanda Lynne had taken of the KÀ backstage tour, and the Fabulous Mister Fox put me in touch with some images from the technical rehearsal period of the show!  It is absolutely outstanding to see these images with the consoles and monitors lighting up the camera’s view, right as the art is being born!

One aspect of KÀ that I felt I needed to break up into a new post is the projection system that has been implemented.  At several times during KÀ you are exposed to large scale projections that move the largest mountains and swirl the world’s oceans, quite figuratively.  Projections interact with the performers on several occasions, making the surface where they are performing have its own pulse.  Rocks fall from performers’ footsteps; projected water reacts with where a performer is standing.  People take running slides down the side of a mountain texture, and they leave an imprint.  That is called precise attention to detail!  An army of infrared sensors, position data from the scenic automation encoders, direct tracking of performers, and a system of inductive tiles on the Sand Cliff Deck  track the projections and calculate them in real time.

Let me say that again:  the video in KÀ is generated in real time along with the human interactions in the show.

The induction tile system is also quite amazing – there are 18,000 3X3 inch induction points, all which get their data sent directly to the projection computers via wireless.  Also, during the show, since there are more than one type of surface being projected on, alternate projector settings are loaded during the show, and played through the three Barco R18 projectors shooting from FOH.  This system is amazing to me – mostly because this is the payoff.  This scene is the Sand Cliff Deck with projections interacting with the performers.  This is quite possibly one of the most amazing moments in the show.  It is ethereal, magic, and that 80,000 pound platform has performers on it, sideways, and fighting!

Battle, photo by Tomas Muscionico; Costume credit: Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt

The induction tile system – a sample tile:

There are so many random facts that I wanted to add in the other article but I couldn’t fit them in and still meet my format!  Such as:

  • KÀ was the first Cirque du Soleil show to encompass a cohesive storyline
  • KÀ is the Egyptian meaning of the spirit of duality and the Japanese word for fire
  • The language in the show is of Cirque du Soleil’s creation, breaking the language barriers for the multiple nationalities that comprise our audiences
  • The harp in the main lobby is a real instrument created by Bill Close who performed the lobby music for the Grand Premiere
  • Every seat in the KÀ Theatre has two speakers built into its headrest which allows sound effects to be targeted, manipulated and customized to any of 16 seating zones.

The music in KÀ is performed live – in a recording studio – and with a few live performers onstage, every night!  The conductor and musicians are in the lower levels of the theatre in soundproofed studio rooms, with percussion separated into their own quiet room:

This shot is one of my favorites – a view through the bags protecting the spiral lifts to the post and beams.  Amanda Lynne freaking rocks.

Lighting Production Shots!

Fox sent me the images below – I organized them into a gallery for you, and to make the page load faster!  These shots are rehearsal photos – check out the tech tables all over that place!

More KÀ facts (thanks, Fox!):

  • Seventy specialists worked more than 35,000 hours to produce the first full set of KÀ costumes at the Cirque du Soleil headquarters in Montreal.
  • The stage can tilt through 100 degrees and rotate a continuous 360 degrees while artists are performing.
  • One Forest hat takes 40 hours to make.
  • Many artists glue Austrian crystals to their faces as part of their make-up.
  • During the pre-show, approximately 120 fireballs are discharged.
    These fireballs measure 30 feet in height and reach temperatures of 1200° Fahrenheit.
  • 119 pyrotechnic devices are fired throughout the show.
  • The Props and Puppet Department is responsible for more than 500 individual props, 10 larger-than-life puppets, 21 mini puppets, and six butterflies.
  • The Stick Bug puppet is over 16 feet long and is operated by two artists.
  • The Snake is over 80 feet long.
  • An estimated 1,300 hours went into making one crab puppet.
  • Over 110 live arrows are shot through the air at each performance. The artists spent many hours in training to learn proper archery techniques.
  • There are more than 160 harnesses for the artists, comprised of 21 different types.
  • Each harness is hand-fitted to the individual artist and is inspected daily.
  • For the Wash-up on the Shore scene, the beach is created using 350 cubic feet of granular cork from Portugal.
  • Airbag training is held to teach artists the proper method to fall into air bags from different heights. Air bags (not visible to the audience) are used for falls over 20 feet.

A view of the flags from all nationalities working on KA, in their specially designed green room/dressing room/all kinds of other stuff building (that’s the technical term, you see):

All photos on this page, including the unmarked images owned by Cirque du Soleil, unless specifically noted otherwise, are protected under an Attribution-NonCommercial-No-Derivitives license.  You can repost the photos and content as long as you give attribution to JimOnLight.com.  Photographer credit, unless otherwise noted, is Amanda Lynne Ballard.

Cirque du Soleil’s KÀ Melts JimOnLight.com’s Mind

When was the last time you were inspired?  When was the last time you had your artistic senses shaken?

I was lucky enough during LightFair 2010 to get an amazing opportunity – I got a backstage tour of Cirque du Soleil’s KÀ at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  It started out well enough – exciting information from KÀ ‘s technical director, Erik Walstad and day crew lighting technician David Fox (or just Fox, as we affectionately refer to him).  The tour then rounded an amazing corner and turned into an experience that will be impossible for me to forget, ever, as long as I have control of my mind.

Here’s the hard fact about KÀ:
If you’re a lighting designer, projection designer, scenic designer, engineer, actor, performer, gymnast, technical director, rigger, painter, electrician, student, teacher, mentor, artist, human being, or sentient non-human entity, you owe it to your soul to see KÀ.  Hands down, no bluffing, and no exaggeration.  KÀ changed my mind about what I do, and I’ve been a working lighting designer for 15 years.  I also have no one’s bread to butter up here with this post – I am writing from my heart, just like I do for every JimOnLight.com post that I publish for you all.  The truth is that my mind got a bit blown by this amazing experience.

David Fox (KÀ day crew lighting technician), Jim Hutchison (JimOnLight), and Erik Walstad (KÀ Technical Director):

I was so grateful to be able to get a tour and information about a show I knew nothing about before I saw the evening performance – you would think that someone like myself, someone who has designed hundreds of shows and done tours across the globe would be at home in a venue of any kind.  When it comes to KÀ, you’d be so completely wrong about any pre-conceived notion you have about a performance.  Even though I saw a lot of the backstage aspect of the production (and Erik gave us the most friendly, personable, and informative backstage tour of my career), nothing he or Fox could have said would have prepared me for what I was going to experience at the show.

As we waited for Erik in the KÀ lobby with Fox, the experience started for me, and it started strong.  Amanda Lynne was getting amazing shots of the Lobby Harp (which you’ll see below in the post), and I was very much digging the vibe of the lobby itself.  When you queue up for the show, you stare at as massive wooden representation of what I could only tie with a section of a massive wooden ship’s hull.  The lighting designer in me was in awe of the combination of colors chosen to illuminate the lobby.  The foreshadowing of how open my mind was going to get blown during the show was ever present, and the attention to detail of the design, in all areas, was – well, it was just unbelievable.  Even walking into the venue for KÀ, you pass through a “curtain” of deep congo fiber-optic light that just washes you, cleaning your body and mind of all preconceived notions of what you might think you are going to experience.

Then, you walk into this:

Post and Beam, photo by Tomas Muscionico; Costume credit: Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt

Yeah.  That’s kinda in your face.  When you get to your seat, hang on tight, because it blasts off into another galaxy.  Here’s the venue without the production lighting, just the works:

Before I get off too far on a waxing artistic mindset about the lighting in KÀ, let’s talk about the amazing technical achievements of the KÀ team and production.  The technical aspects of the production and the attention to safety and continuity blew my mind as much as the artistic achievements did – and not because it surprises me that a production could be so in control of itself, because that’s how all of our work should be produced.  It was more along the lines of the production being so in touch with itself that it is a role model for achievement.

First and foremost, do you know what a gantry crane is?  Think of a harbor crane – the kind used to pick up containers and move them in a harbor onto and off of ships.  In KÀ, attached to a gantry crane turned on its side, is a show deck called the Sand Cliff Deck.  Immediately your mind should try to place a gantry crane on its side and rig a rotating platform that can go from flat to 110 degrees – and, you know, rotate continuously in either direction.  Check this out – this image below is the gantry crane, Tatami Deck, and Sand Cliff Deck, all deployed:

and another image of the decks deployed, looking into the house from the Tatami Deck:

Looming!  The largest “kitchen drawer” on earth, the Tatami Deck!

Five 250 horsepower pumps and a 3500 gallon oil reservoir power the gantry crane and Sand Cliff deck, and the crane is lifted by four 75 foot cylinders (which are among the largest ever manufactured).  This Sand Cliff Deck is no regular show deck by any means – first, it’s 80,000 pounds.  It rotates.  It’s 25 feet by 50 feet, 6 feet deep, attached to a crane on its side lifted by four of the largest cylinders on the planet.  What kind of show deck did you work on today?

The Sand Cliff Deck also happens to act as a sand covered beach/cliff/platform of hilarity and excitement several times during the show too.  The sand in the show is not sand, but cork!  One ton of cork is used on the Sand Cliff Deck for each performance.  This cork is recycled, but when I say recycled, I mean brought from a clean state through a performance and back to a completely clean and safe state.  It passes through magnets, filters, and maybe even little garden gnomes that drop kick any debris out of the cork for the safety of the performers.  It is amazing – I think I recall Erik saying it was the loudest process in the entire backstage area.

The gantry crane’s cylinder heads are actually hooked up into the roof of the KÀ Theatre.  Take a look at this Google Earth image of the top of the venue – notice the two “doghouses?”

The stage space itself is not like any stage you’ve ever seen.  It’s a big pit.  Really!  This “void” has several massive moving stage pieces that move through it, and it takes the audience to a level of imagination that is just interstellar.  Inside of this stage space is another show deck called the Tatami Deck, named for some Tatami mats that were originally on the deck.  (For those of you asking yourself well, what’s a Tatami Mat?, it’s a traditional Japanese floor mat, and Tatami means “folded and piled.”)  What makes this Tatami deck amazing is that it’s like a monster kitchen drawer – the deck is 75,000 pounds, 30 feet by 30 feet, and it extends to cantilever 46 feet over the open stage space.

KÀ also has five stage lifts that are organized into the show in various fashions, move props and performers, and have a long travel.  The crazy thing about the lifts is their speed.  The lifts are all spiral lifts, and four of them can travel four inches per second, with the last lift traveling at one foot per second.


This is still JimOnLight.com, and yes I saw a ton of lighting in KÀ.  What was absolutely stunning about the rig was its spread – a lot of instrumentation actually lives down in the pit, because there is so much that happens inside of the void.  The void is huge, you have to understand!  To give an idea of the amount of power in the show, KÀ has about 14,150 kVA available for its use, with 8 separate transformers fed direct from the utility feed, discretely.  All of the systems in KÀ are on a battery backup that will let them run for a minimum of 90 minutes.  This is all from UPS modules the size of copy machines.

Some lighting in the pit:
(and Jason Hamblen, member of the KÀ lighting crew, doing one of many, many daily inspections)

Something that actually shocked me about the lighting was the small number of automated fixtures in KÀ.  It is very well lit, appropriately, amazingly, and at times unbelievably, but without utilizing a lot of moving heads.  KÀ has 22 VL3000 Wash, 13 VL3000 Spots, 2 VL3500Q Profiles, and 14 Clay Paky Stage Profile Plus SV units (plus a few spares).  For a show this size, it’s beautiful to see that every fixture was designed into the system and not just added to have in the plot.

Please note: I didn’t even touch on the projections yet.  That’s for Part Deux of the article, which comes out later today.

Control systems for KÀ are also designed to be redundant and backed up, checked, double checked, and life safe.  Moving lights and conventionals both have their own discreet networks – I mean, there are over 3300 fixtures in KÀ, 24 Strand SLD96 dimmer racks for performance and one test rack, 2 CD80 packs in the Sand Cliff Deck, and 64 DMX nodes all over that venue.  It’s no small rig.  Wholehog II desks are used for moving lights, Strand 550i desks are used for conventional lighting, and Strand 520 desks control special effect cues.  Lighting in the architecture, all cue lights, and lobby lighting is run from a system of Strand 510 desks.  All of these systems are connected, controlled, watched over, and monitored so in the event of an issue of whatever size, problems can be tracked, traced, and solved.  Haze, fog, atmospherics, and the building’s HVAC are also controlled and monitored to produce the most optimal venue conditions for the performance.

KÀ has a lot of “specialty” lighting in the plot.  Some of the most excellent examples of this are in the form of modified wash fixtures, 9-Lite units, and the big mamas, two custom Mole-Mag panels with 192 PAR lamps, each.  In the scene which these bad puppies play, they just come down and microwave the action.  They are absolutely amazing, and provide such a look!  Check out this picture (c/o KÀ lighting department head Nils Becker) of the LPD’s, or “luminous panels of doom,” as they are lovingly called:

Here’s a good side view of the LPDs in action – MASSIVE!

They’re the two angled panels on either side of the wheel of death thing there.  192 PARs each.  Another modification of note are the moonbox-type lightboxes that reside up in the scenery of KÀ.  The best way to understand them is just to see them – you can see several circles of light in the image above, yes?  Here’s one of those lightboxes:

The lighting environment for KÀ is complex, and filled with little touches like this lightbox.  You have to just go see it.  It is very precise, very intense, and extremely moving.  Without giving plot and show secrets away, that’s really what I feel I can say about it!  I’ll be posting another set of photos of just the lighting during the initial tech rehearsal period.  Amazing looks!

Here’s a few shots of the tour with Erik Walstad and David Fox – one of several spotlight positions:

Doug Fleenor, KÀ loves you!

Erik Walstad talking about the safety nets and airbag systems:

Some of the 160 custom harnesses used in the show:

Rigging and safety are obviously a number one priority in KÀ.  For falls under 20 feet, performers fall into an acrobatic safety net which is checked, checked again, rechecked, and then double checked for accuracy and safety.  The same systems of checks goes into the performers’ harnesses.  For any falls over 20 feet, KÀ has a really unique system of collapsible airbags atop the fall nets that have the ability to deflate and re-inflate very rapidly – and that whole re-inflate system has its own battery backup for power failures, too.  A system of 18 winches controls the safety nets, which have several different configurations for the performers during the show.

Main fall net:

A view of the airbag system being checked, against a view of a crane cylinder:

It’s hard for me to explain what the show did for me – it inspired, it shocked, it awed, it just changed the way I see production.  My lighting designer brain was just left in disbelief so many times at the simple design solutions employed so many times in the show, and blown wide open by the complex looks created by Luc Lafortune and the Cirque team.  A good example of a simple design solution would be the two handfuls of PAR 64’s used to toplight a scene on the sand platform – elegant, true to feel and temperature, and just stunning.  Or maybe the intimate scene that took place on the lip of the stage deck with two performers, one light source carried on by those two performers, and a few minutes of unbelievably beautiful and complex shadow puppets.  A complex moment in the show with lighting?  How about discovering the magic forest, complete with sunlight coming through the trees and the male flying forest nymph?  What about all the sudden being in the middle of the briny deep?  I’ll leave that one to your experience, but let me tell you – if you’re not on the edge of your seat with amazement at the beauty of the work when you see it, you might need to go see your doctor because you aren’t experiencing life.

You just have to see it yourself.  There are so many places in the show I found myself clutching at my own body trying to find a place to hold on during the experience.  Can I be metaphoric for a moment?  Of course I can, it’s my blog.  Watching KÀ made me feel like I was watching the universe being born – or viewing the beginning of time – or some other unbelievable moment in time that I just couldn’t believe I was seeing.

Honestly, my mind is still blown.  I had nothing to say after the show.  Actually, I had a hard time finding words after my KÀ experience.  I hope that your night with Cirque du Solei’s KÀ is as powerful and life-changing as mine was.  A major thank you, deep from inside my heart, to Erik Walstad, David Fox, and KÀ publicist Jeff Lovari for the opportunity to see both inside and out of the amazing work of art that is KÀ.

I have so much more material to post about KÀ that I am going to be doing a second post with images and some other bits that the KÀ team has graciously shared with me.  Seriously, thanks a lot!

All photos on this page, including the unmarked images owned by Cirque du Soleil, unless specifically noted otherwise, are protected under an Attribution-NonCommercial-No-Derivitives license.  You can repost the photos and content as long as you give attribution to JimOnLight.com.  Photographer credit, unless otherwise noted, is Amanda Lynne Ballard.


I know that a lot of young (and not young) lighting professionals are leaving the University environment to join the ranks of the lighting industries across the world.  Whether you’re getting a Bachelors, Master’s, or a Doctorate degree in a lighting field, we here at JimOnLight.com want to welcome you to real life with open arms!

There’s a really cool old Maori proverb about looking forward that I want to share with you:

Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.

So, while you embark on summer adventures, as you leave old friends behind and make new friends across the planet as you move forward, just remember to do your best, be true to yourself, and find a smile every day.

Congratulations, graduates!

Sunday JimOnLight.com Flickr Pool Post

Wow.  The JimOnLight.com Flickr Group is kinda exploding lately!  Lots of really amazing photographers are posting their light captures in the pool – get your tush on over there and check it out!

So many amazing images this week – definitely more than five.  Make sure to check out the rest of the pool, and give these photographers some traffic!


Christmas at DePaul

on the wings of a bird

peak lighting


VL3000 for IOC Lighting

Amanda Durbin Shoot


Amazing!  It is no wonder why I love light so freaking much.