In Canada, We Work On American Thanksgiving!

For the first time in my life, Thanksgiving Day did not consist of turkey, stuffing, cranberry whatever, and pumpkin pie.  Know why?  American Thanksgiving 2012 is on Thursday, November 22, 2012; Canadian Thanksgiving was on October 8, 2012!  Ah, the sweet buzz of tryptophan.  Good times.

For those of you who had to work today too, let’s have a laugh!

Happy Thanksgiving, America!  I hope it was awesome!

Image credit:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

The Best Use of Light and Shadow is Love

Fabrizio Corneli made a shadow and a reflection into a light statement of love.  Meet AMA, which means love in italiano:

Is that not just awesome or what?!  Shadow propagation and reflections all calculated so that they spell the word love.  I think that’s the best use of light and shadow together I’ve seen lately.

Check out Fabrizio’s website, he’s got fun work there!

Late Night Carl Sagan

My fiancee shares awesome stuff with me.  It’s from I Fucking Love Science‘s facebook page.  I highly recommend it.

The JimOnLight Guide to Christmas Lights, Parts 1 to 5

It’s that time of year again, albeit maybe a little early…  there are lots of Canadians who are already rocking the Christmas lights, and by rocking I do mean there are lots of strands of LED Christmas lights all over the place in Toronto.

This is why it’s ABOUT TIME to publish the JimOnLight Guide to Christmas Lights again, by popular demand!!!

Part One:  CHRISTMAS LIGHTING HISTORY

Part One is geared towards sharing where Christmas Lighting got its start, including going WAY back to talk a bit about what actually happens in the sky around Christmas time (or Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Flying Spaghetti Monster time, or whatever flavor of religion you pick for the Holidays)and how we’ve been dealing with it for a few thousand years.

Part Two:  MODERN LAMP TYPES AND SIZES

Part Two takes some of the most basic information about Christmas lighting – the light sources– and breaks them down for the reader to make it easy to understand and identify different kinds of Christmas Lights.  You know, for that moment when you have to pull the ball of lights out of the box in the garage and actually NOT burn your house down.

Part Three:  FORM FACTORS of CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

Rain lights, curtain strands, cascades, and all kinds of other terms that mean something about the different arrays that Christmas lighting come in – Part Three of the JimOnLight.com’s Guide to Christmas Lighting is all about telling those arrays apart so you can get back inside and drink some Wassail!

Part Four:  CHRISTMAS LIGHT POWER AND SAFETY

This is an important one – Part Four talks about how NOT to get yourself dead while doing all of that Christmas light installation!

Part Five:  CHRISTMAS LIGHTING MATH

…not last, not least, and definitely not the end of the series, but perhaps one of my favorites!  A quick overview of some of the basic and important electrical equations that can help you make a little more sense out of the task of hanging Holiday Illumination!

Ok world, let’s be safe and sound out there, and I would say let’s not be tacky, but we all know that it will never ever happen at Christmas time!

Worship Lighting Should Be Correct… Right?

I have done a fair amount of consulting for houses of worship in my time, mostly new church openings, worship volunteer lighting tech training, and helping houses of worship to “tune up” their existing system, lighting console, and dimming.  There is an amazing amount of entertainment lighting and structure in most modern houses of worship; the art of lighting services for worship is something that has come a very, very long way since…  well, since the Quem Quaeritis, right?

Editor’s Note:  For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, the Quem Quaeritis is basically the first piece of theatre that we have record for, and it’s a simple one.  The gist of it is that it’s an Easter liturgy thing — and paraphrasing, it’s basically like this:

Person 1:  Hey, who are you looking for?
Person 2:  Ah, we’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth!
Person 1:  Oh.  Well, he has risen.  Go tell somebody!

Yeah, I’ve paraphrased, but the gist is there:

Question [by the Angels]: Whom do ye seek in the sepulcher, O followers of Christ?
Answer [by the Marys]: Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified, O heavenly ones.
The Angels: He is not here; he is risen, just as he foretold. Go, announce that he is risen from the sepulchre.

—John Gassner, editor, Medieval and Tudor Drama.

Yeah. Something like that.  Quem Quaeritis?  Check!

Ok, that little bit of history lesson from the way distant past is over.

So — the entire point of this whole post was to address something I found in a magazine called Technologies for Worship Magazine (or TFWM) about lighting for worship video.  Kevin Rogers Cobus wrote an article about lighting for video or lighting for the audience that was pretty intriguing, quoting Tony Hansen from Techni-Lux, Inc. about some basic fundamentals of lighting for video.  There are some really notable quotes in there, but there is one quote that sticks by me:

“I can’t tell you how many churches I go into that tell me, ‘We’re putting in a half-million dollar video system and we have twelve par cans,’” says Hansen. The intention is there, but you are setting yourself up for failure. You’ll be capturing superior quality video of a lackluster stage.

On the other hand, if your goal is to have an adequate look for your lighting on stage as well as a decent capture of that stage look on video (notice how the word “pristine” is not used) then that is an attainable goal. It requires balance, and compromise.

You have to start with your vision and work the technology in, as opposed to purchasing technology because you think it will solve problems for you. It won’t. It’s great to dream big and have a lot of vision, but you have to be realistic about the limitations.

This is a really, really unfortunate course of events in our industry that takes on form after form in front of my eyes — the absence of a trained lighting designer in houses of worship.  Now this is not the whole, as there are many outstanding LDs out there working in worship, like lighting designer Jon Griffin at Saddleback Church in California.  But there are many houses of worship out there with volunteer people “designing” the lighting for their internationally televised and recorded worship  broadcast, which means that a lot of times they get to record and broadcast some pretty repugnant lighting.  Now why, if a church is going to spend a half-million on a new video system, would said church never hire a professional quality lighting designer to give that half-million dollar video system the food it needs to make good video?  Would you hire someone unqualified to repair the HVAC in the building?

A professional quality lighting designer with some solid background and reputable shows under their belt is not hard to come by these days, especially one who will work Sunday and Wednesday services plus all of the programming and installation that goes along with those shows.  Now why wouldn’t a house of worship that has a half-million dollar video system (or more, more than likely) spring for a pro lighting designer to make an interesting and evenly focused stage for the broadcasts?  It escapes my mind, too.  This is not to say that a person with no training and no lighting design education can never design a production, quite the opposite, actually.  But when you’re pouring money by the hundreds of thousands of your congregation’s donations into a new video system, shouldn’t you have a professional come in and give you their best hypothesis on what your house of worship needs with respect to lighting your broadcast videos?

Kevin writes in his article, Myth:  Your Video Will Look Just Like Your Live Stage:

Hansen uses audio as a comparison—something lighting people seem to do a lot when they need to simplify an explanation. “You can have the best sound system in the world with the best microphones, but if the singer is garbage, the output is garbage. There is no such thing as auto-tune for video.”

This is an outstanding comparison, because it’s right on with lighting.  If you don’t have an evenly lit stage, video won’t fill in the dark gaps.  Quite the opposite — the camera sees the darkness and expands upon it.  Darkness will be found by the camera’s eye, even if the audience can be fooled by it.  If you have a hole in your front light, the camera will find it.  If you have a ill-focused backlight, the camera will find it.  If you have a fixture that is about to pop its lamp (meaning that it’s super bright onstage…  THE CAMERA.  WILL  FIND.  THAT  SPOT.  Is this really news to anyone?

Kevin raises some ideas of note in his article that I’d love to address.  Kevin calls them Rules.  Kevin’s Rules from the article:

  • Use Top Light
  • Don’t Use Too Much Light
  • Don’t Light the Audience

This is where I have to ask the JimOnLight readership for your opinion.  Don’t these “rules” seem a bit — well, off?  Let’s look at these Rules.  Keep in mind, I am not slamming Kevin Cobus’ article, but there was something that just did not sit well with me when I read the magazine.  Also to be fair, Kevin subtitled his article, “A Lighting Designer Offers His Opinion.”  That’s pretty much what I do.   For example:

Rule #1:  Use Top Light.
Jim’s Rule #1:  Use Back light. 

Does this make any sense to you?  I have been wracking my brain trying to make this one make sense, but all I can come up with is what my mentor Mary Tarantino told me once while lighting one of my first grad school productions – and I have to paraphrase because I’ve slept since then:

“Watch a dancer under top light.  The top pushes them into the floor, but if you pop their form with backlight, you literally push them away from the background.”

I have been lighting like this for years, and I had to find some examples of worship lighting that help support my theory.  My dad likes that Joel Osteen guy, even though he’s one of those multi-kabrillionaire pastors that definitely doesn’t need my help for people to flock to his website.  Here’s Joel Osteen with some backlight:

Backlight.  Pushing Joel Osteen away from the background.

More backlight.  Do you see how it allows for a really nice sculptural look?

Check out the backlight.  Consequently, check out the poorly colored Joel Osteen on the Stage Right screen, too.  The backlight in the image above is also focused in pairs of backlight; a downstage focus and an upstage focus.  Keep in mind, this is MY opinion.  I think backlight is a superior angle to toplight for film.  Again, my opinion.

Rule #2:  Don’t Use Too Much Light.
Jim’s Rule #2:  Use Enough Light. 

What IS too much light, exactly?  Does it mean to balance out the fronts from the backs from the sides?  Does it mean to watch the program feed to make sure that you’re not washing out your faces and blooming the colors on screen?  To me, it means to balance to four and a third for the camera, and make sure not to wash out everything on the camera.  My guess is that in a lot of occasions the guy shading the cameras is also a volunteer, too – why make his or her job more difficult?

Here’s some examples of “enough” light being used instead of “too much.”  What do you think?

Here’s another:

Now who is to say this is “right” lighting?  There is one thing that I have learned in my career that will always live with me — the client AND the audience will never think your dark, moody lighting is as good as seeing smiles and teeth.  Learn this, young LDs, it is something you’re going to get pissed off about for many years unless you learn it right up front.  It’s not to say that you can’t add in a nice color-rich look or a great looking aerial, but make sure that you can see those teeth.  It’s always better to dial back the intensity rather than to tell the producer or worship director that you don’t have any more intensity to give.

Rule #3:  Don’t Light the Audience.
Jim’s Rule #3:  LIGHT THE AUDIENCE if you’re going to be broadcasting.  LIGHT THE AUDIENCE if you want to see them.

This was a hard one for me to swallow, mostly because the audience shots are often the things that tie the message together.  if your Pastor or worship leader says “It is wrong to lie to your spouse, God doesn’t want you to do that,” and you reinforce it with some worshippers agreeing with nodding heads, you have just allowed the people at home to relate to the people listening to the Pastor.  If you have the same message followed by just more of the Pastor’s face, do you think you’ve effectively reached your audience?

Here’s some image research to support this hypothesis:

and from Richard Cadena’s book of the same idea:

Keep in mind that these are just my opinions.  Light is not an easy thing, it gives most of us who study it a lifetime of excitement and wonder.  Bad lighting on video is as bad as bad video.

Please check out Kevin Rogers Cobus’ article — it’s a great read and a great article, even if I disagree with it — probably especially because I disagree with it!  Please check it out and support a fellow professional.

Thank to the following sites for photo links:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 

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

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

Are you a fan of light and lighting?

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

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

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

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

MONDAY:

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

TUESDAY:

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

This is going to be a great show!

JOL Sunday Flickr

it’s another Sunday, everyone!  I’m in Stamford, Connecticut this week for PLASA Focus Stamford, one of the smaller PLASA shows that are gaining a lot of popularity.  I have to admit that these PLASA Focus shows are pretty awesome — smaller booths, smaller rooms, and the knowledge of the people attending that a manufacturer or lighting company can’t hide behind their huge LDI-sized booths at these smaller shows.  Things are right out in the open, and we as lighting technology and equipment makers are under a tighter scrutiny to perform without the glitz and flare.  I absolutely love it.  It’s like putting up or shutting up for two solid days.

This week’s JOL Sunday Flickr is pretty beautiful — I dug down deep for this one!

IMG_4340

Pocket Universe

Rocca Calascio

LightMen Above Manhattan

Chicago

Lollapalooza 2011

Tap Kids! 2011 Showcase

Glorious Morning Startrail

IMG_4876

Sarah

Ploumanach Phare

World's Largest Disco 2010

Chicago Airport - 1

E = m c²  [Explored]

Have an excellent week, everybody!

Hurricane Sandy – New York and New Jersey Blackout Satellite Images

This is really unfortunate and pretty telling as to the power and fury of Mother Nature – the Earth Observatory at NASA has published images, both before and after, of the East Coast where Sandy came ashore.  You have to see this, it is unbelievable.

So here is the coast before Sandy hit:

and here is the ensuring blackout and chaos post-Sandy:

From the Earth Observatory page on Hurricane Sandy:

This pair of images shows New Jersey, New York, and eastern Pennsylvania as viewed at night by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite. The top image was taken at 2:52 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (06:52 Universal Time) on November 1, 2012. For comparison, the lower image was taken at 2:14 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (06:14 UTC) on August 31, 2012, when conditions in the area were normal.

Both images were captured by the VIIRS “day-night band,” which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe signals such as gas flares, city lights, and reflected moonlight. In the top image, lingering clouds from Hurricane Sandy are lit by moonlight and obscure much of New York’s Hudson Valley, northwestern New Jersey, and northeastern Pennsylvania. (For a wider view, download the large image beneath each web image.)

Turn on the “view image comparison” button to see the difference in city lighting before and after the blackout. In Manhattan, the lower third of the island is dark on November 1, while Rockaway Beach, much of Long Island, and nearly all of central New Jersey are significantly dimmer. The barrier islands along the New Jersey coast, which are heavily developed with tourist businesses and year-round residents, are just barely visible in moonlight after the blackout.

Along with the scattered electric lights, there is a bright point along the shore south of Mantoloking, New Jersey, that could be fires fueled by severed natural gas lines. Note: It is not clear if the fires reported on October 31were still burning on November 1.

For more views of the storm, visit our Hurricane Sandy event page.

The Earth Observatory has this applet on the website that allows you to move a slider across both images overlaid together, showing a humbling differentiation between the before and after shots:

In order to get this view, go to the Earth Observatory Blackout in New Jersey page and click the “View Image Comparison” button.  It’s crazy how the blackout just spidered across the coast.

Late Night Excellent: Rain Room at The Barbican, 2012

This is absolutely great.  Before I say sh*t, watch this:

Rain Room at the Barbican, 2012 from rAndom International on Vimeo.

OK, no, wait, watch another video, it’s late anyway:

GAH!  This is too awesome!

First and foremost, THIS IS STILL GOING ON at the Barbican Gallery, and WILL BE until MARCH 3, 2013.  SO, this means you need to get out there and see it!  If you live in the London metro or are going to be there between now and March 3, 2013, you need to check this out.  Go to the Barbican Gallery visitor’s page and get some info on the what, when, where, how, by clicking here!

Rain Room was created by rAndom International –

From the Barbican Gallery’s page on rAndom International‘s Rain Room exhibit:

Random International invites you to experience what it’s like to control the rain. Visitors can choose to simply watch the spectacle or find their way carefully through the rain, putting their trust in the work to the test.

More than the technical virtuosity necessary for its success, the piece relies on a sculptural rigour, with the entire Curve transformed by the monumental proportions of this carefully choreographed downpour and the sound of water.

Random International are known for their distinctive approach to digital-based contemporary art. Their experimental artworks come alive through audience interaction and staged performance.

Random International are represented by Carpenters Workshop Gallery, London and Paris.

In order for visitors to enjoy the sensory experience of Rain Room, there is a limited capacity of 5 people at a time in the rain.

Please be aware that due to the popularity of Rain Room, the queue time currently stands at around two hours, at peak times including evenings and weekends up to three hours.

We advise visitors to arrive as early in the day as possible, a minimum of two hours before closing time. Entry to the queue is subject to the number of visitors already waiting. Anyone arriving later may not be allowed to join the queue as we are unable to admit visitors after the gallery closes. Thank you for your patience.

Sun 18 Nov, 2 Dec, 20 Jan, 24 Feb
12-5pm, The Curve
Wayne McGregor Random Dance, with a score by Max Richter

Experience a unique fusion of art and movement on four Sundays during the exhibition as dancers respond to Rain Room.

Admission is free and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis from the queue. Please arrive early to allow for long queues due to a very limited capacity inside the Curve.

I also think this text from rAndom International’s website on Rain Room is pretty awesome too — but please check out the rAndom International website, it is absolutely a eye-stroking experience!

Water, injection moulded tiles, solenoid valves, pressure regulators, custom software, 3D tracking cameras, wooden frames, steel beams, hydraulic management system, grated floor 

Rain Room has been made possible through the generous support of the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation for Art.

Video by Gramafilm, music by Max Richter

Rain Room is a hundred square metre field of falling water through which it is possible to walk, trusting that a path can be navigated, without being drenched in the process.

As you progress through The Curve, the sound of water and a suggestion of moisture fill the air, before you are confronted by this carefully choreographed downpour that responds to your movements and presence.

* PS I LOVE THIS! 

All of these images are directly from the rAndom International website, and I thank them for it!

Random Wednesday Thought: Switch Salt and Pepper Shaker

Ok, this is random, this is funny, but just check it out and then get on with your day.  Meet the Switch Salt and Pepper Shaker from The Fancy user Guelchen:

Come on, that’s hilarious!  Hell yes I want to pepper my baked potato with a switch that decides if it’s pepper or salt!

Get your Switch Salt and Pepper Shaker HERE!