Ask Us (Almost) Anything


Swiggity swooty!  Welcome to the first JimOnLight Ask Us (Almost) Anything!  Well, almost anything, we’re mostly skilled in the secrets of working with light!  Join us Sunday, July 26, 2015 at 10am Eastern, 7am Pacific!

If you’re in the various industries of Light, from Research to Entertainment, we’re here to help YOU!  Is it early on a Sunday and are you probably hung over if you’re in North or South America?  Perhaps.  Is it always a good time to take advantage of the world’s premiere nerd blog on the industries of light?  You bet your lumens it is!

Drop in below, ask us a question, and if you click on the “Advanced Options” option and enter your name and email, you’ll be part of the conversation!  Of course if you wish to remain a nonny-moose, that’s cool too.

Things we definitely DO NOT know the answers to:

  • We’ve no idea how to make your genitals any different than they are now, larger or smaller
  • No idea how to save your marriage, at all
  • No clue what the next money making thing is, or we’d be in it

Anything else is a GO!  And remember:


Can you make any money doing theater lighting anymore? career, theatre, work - 27. July 2015

Well…  what is it exactly that you want to do in Theatre?  Are you a designer?  Are you an electrician?

FYI:  THEATER is a building.  THEATRE is the genre of entertainment that takes place often inside a venue.

Frankly, unless you’re just that good and you can get into the top design spots at all of the regional theatres as a USA829 lighting designer being paid the USA829 lighting designer fees, you’ll do fine.  But you’re not that person, neither am I.  Right now, the state of “professional” theatre has been relegated to either working for a director who has an amazing reputation for working the Regional theatres, or you will struggle to try to design as many theatre shows as you can to make the kind of money you need to pay rent.  Mixed in with all that, you also need to be taking some programming gigs, working some Corporate or Concert gigs as a hand to get some additional income, and if you’re still not quite getting enough gigs, do what many of us do who are addicted to doing theatre on a non-Regional theatre level and have a job outside of it all.

Truth of the matter is this — Theatre is dying hard, and it’s because the people who make all the money pass next to none of it down the chain.  When the major promoters take on the major Theatre shows, guess who is going to collecting those profits?  Right.  NOT the crew, designers, and hands.

Besides being a designer, what’s a few of the cooler gigs to have on a tour as a lighting person? career, jobs, touring - 27. July 2015

Well, frankly, if you’re suited for the touring lifestyle, there are all kinds of awesome lighting crew gigs out there!  Here’s a few non-programmer-non-LD gigs out there on shows:

  • Dimmer tech:
    Obviously people are still using dimmers, but along that line of thought goes distro, data distribution, and being an important member of the crew
  • Moving light tech:
    They certainly do break now and then, and there must be someone out there to fix the shit that breaks!
  • Crew Electricians:
    Load the show in and out every show date, hang lights, run cable, and keep that show working!  Everyone usually gets assigned their own piece of the rig to assemble, so there’s always a challenge!
  • Media Server technicians:
    Obviously the Media Server techs work in Wardrobe, so there’s that.  I’m kidding.  You run, tech, and love the Media Servers!
  • Video crew:
    Working with any video on the show, you’re responsible for making sure there’s no gaps in the panels, and many other wonderful tasks

Get out there, make money, and work in a fast-paced environment.  Welcome to TOURING!

Are you ever going to bring back The Daily Lamp? That was one of your best articles, I loved it every day. from Alicia Voss daily lamp - 26. July 2015

Thank you. We’ll try. Stay tuned.

What is the best way to wire a cam lock to DMX adapter? stupid question - 26. July 2015


Do you have advice for a person wanting to get out of this lighting crap? advice - 26. July 2015

What kind of advice do you need to get out?

Quit cold turkey. How hard is that? Other than you might not have a backup plan, money to hold you over, skills to get you to the next thing, etc.

I don’t think there are any support groups. Should we start one?

Hi. We’re Fox and Jim and we’re lighting addicts.

How hard is it (or worth it) to completely rebuild old Robe moving fixtures? Step motors mostly moving lights, repair - 26. July 2015

Unless you want to buy new and have the means to do so, it’s pretty easy to rebuild. Though, you generally don’t rebuild stepper motors. The usual problem with stepper motors, assuming that it’s actually the motor, is the windings. Sometimes it’s the driver for the motor though.

You should be able to pull the motor and find the specs on it to find a direct replacement. You probably won’t be able to get them through Robe directly, you’ll have to go through a local/regional supplier like PRG or 4Wall. There’s a chance you can find them from a general supplier like Mouser.

Hope that helps!

David Fox, what’s it like to work for Disney? Cirque du Soleil, Disney - 26. July 2015

Direct, aren’t we? Who asked this? Mickey, is that you?

Do you want my experience specifically or a generality of everyone I worked with?

Well, my experience was shorter lived than I expected. But it got me to where I am now with Cirque du Soleil.

For me, the days were long when I wasn’t running a track at a resident show. I wanted to and was lucky enough to be involved in most special events that occurred at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I occasionally made it to Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom for events too. The most known events were ESPN The Weekend, Super Soap Weekend, Star Wars Weekends, One Mighty Party, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Grad Nights, and Night of Joy.

I learned tracks at Playhouse Disney Live on Stage, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and Fantasmic. I generally was involved in lighting but sometimes made it to audio, show control, and pyrotechnics.

My greatest achievement was working with a team of 3 other technicians to learn, install, transfer, run, and teach the operations of a proprietary control system for Disney, known as DECS, and the Block Party Bash parade to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It was a great 3 months in total, which included a stint at 32 days straight of a minimum of 16 hour days. It wasn’t about the money though. It was truly a great experience with 3 highly talented technicians.

Roughly 6 months later I separated from the company and moved to hot Las Vegas to work on KÀ. That brought the one thing I needed in my life at the time…a set schedule. I miss the amount of people I got to work with as well as the people. I don’t miss the uncertainty of what I was going to do the next day but I miss the things I got to do.

Want more? Send me an email with questions to fox[at]jimonlight[dot]com.

Who is top rock and roll lighter please? designers, lighting - 26. July 2015

Jim here!  Well, since English isn’t your first language, and I’m sure you don’t mean this

Pin that shit,

…I’m guessing you’re talking about rock and roll lighting designers!  Well, here are some of the people that I consider this day and age’s highly skilled concert people, with respect to lighting and vision — this is not an all-inclusive list:

That’s just a handful.  There are dozens, if not two dozen dozens, of other top people who I did not mention, for brevity’s sake.

What would be your advise to someone who wants to work in the industry? Where should you start, university courses or a foot in the door job? career, jobs - 26. July 2015

Fox here.

Personally, I did both at the same time.

I went to college for technical theatre which afforded me the opportunity to get book smart and put my hands into everything I wanted to check out without real world consequence. During summer break and sometimes during winter break, I worked at a local theme park in the entertainment department. This gave me real world experience and validation of what I did in college.

In both cases, I built my network of businesses and individuals. Truly when you hear the term that entertainment is a small world, this is no lie. It’s like 6 degrees of separation but it tends to be much less. The network you build will follow you everywhere and is what validates you more than a resume.

I’m amazed at how many people I run into and/or work with that had their start at a theme park. Believe it or not, it’s not that bad of a place to start. We can’t all just fall into our dream gig.

While still in college, I was offered the opportunities of going on tour with a production company a few times, setting sail on a cruise ship twice, and working overhire for a local IATSE. I only accepted one of those. I wanted to stay in school. Should I have? I don’t know, but I’m happy with my path.

Jim answered another question or two here today that gives some more details on what to do. Check those out too.


Why can’t we pass dmx over Ethernet through an Ethernet switch DMX, Ethernet, protocols - 26. July 2015

I’m interpreting this question as: “Can I wire an adaptor for DMX to plug it into a switch?”

Basically without getting into specifics and technical mumbo-jumbo, no, it comes down to protocols. A switch is built to deal with certain protocols and DMX isn’t one of them. A switch might seem like a dumb device but it’s not. A hub is dumber than a switch but it’s still smart enough.

Another way to look at it is, would you create DMX two-fers? The answer is no. If you do do that, stop it, it’s wrong. You’d use an opto-isolator. Why? Because it’s meant to deal with the intricacies of DMX.

You can pass DMX over Ethernet if you put it into a protocol that speaks Ethernet like ACN.

I hope that’s not confusing.

Is there any sort if cue list file storage on the GrandMA2? I feel like I saw something like that on the hog 3 once. I just have so many faders with preprogrammed songs and would like to clean that up while keeping the songs. 26. July 2015

Alas, we are not that savvy on the GrandMA 2. But we know someone who really is!

If you aren’t aware of who Cat West is, you should be. Among other things, she’s responsible for the Console Trainer website. She’s got a ton of videos there for numerous consoles, including the MA 2. Check it out and look her up on Twitter and Facebook.

Is there a rule of thumb for how long a strobe cue can last before it becomes obnoxious? design tricks, strobes - 26. July 2015

Given the human propensity for intensity fatigue in the eye and general perception issues with brain communication between the eye, the brain, and strobe lights, I would say “just as long as it has to be” is a good answer!

On a 1k par64 how long does it take to cook bacon bacon, cooking - 26. July 2015

Well, we don’t know right this second but we will soon!  We’ll come back around and answer this question!

How do you keep up on technology? self help, technology - 26. July 2015

By reading.  Reading and reading and reading and literally keeping ourselves up on the technology.  And talking to people.  Lots and lots of talking to people.  Then we get to have hands on the technology sometimes, and we use those experiences to then know what to look for next time we read about the technology.  It’s a vicious cycle.

For the following roles, what skills do you think are important to list on a resume? Lighting designer, projection designer, production electrician, electrician? career, resumes, skills - 26. July 2015

I think for any of these skills, the most important things to have are experiential details in your knowledge of these skills..

Have you had gigs in these skills?  Any particular training?  Have you finished a degree which covers several or all of these skills?  Think of your resume as your crowning achievement document.  If you’ve never done one of these, you have no real world skill in it yet, even if you’re just out of college.  This means also that if you’ve never been an electrician on a show, you’re not qualified to be a master electrician.  Make sense?

Lighting Designers, Projection Designers, Production Electricians, all of us:

  • Should have credits in the field segment you want to work
  • Must be familiar with consoles and cueing, or consoles and making lights come up
  • Must have experience or training, or some skills practiced somewhere somehow

Here’s the hard part:  You have to be able to back up those skills.

Which moving lights should I buy for my band? band lighting, moving lights - 26. July 2015

This one depends on so many variables.

What’s your budget? Who’s going to take care of them? What kind of power is going to be at the venues you visit? That’s just a few.

Send an email with some more details to jim[at]jimonlight[dot]com and we’ll try and help you out!

What is your top ten list of things to remember for young people starting out? advice, starting out, tours - 26. July 2015

Hmm…  it’s more of a top eleventy billion list, but let’s start with ten…

  1. Learn as many control surfaces as you can.  The more you know, the better you can pick the right desk for you for each application.
  2. You don’t know enough yet when you’re starting out, so don’t pretend that you have any clue about anything.  It’s best to smile and learn and be a good helper right now.
  3. If you don’t like #2, or you think you can’t be a good helper while you’re learning, or you think that you are owed the top spot on the biggest show this week, you might want to start seeing what else you like to do outside of lighting, because there are way too many people older than you who have paid their dues way longer than you.
  4. There are people out there who have made it in this business and have little to no give-a-fuck left for the business.  Don’t let those people ruin it for you, they will get theirs.
  5. Never, ever, ever shit on a tour bus.
  6. Never, ever, ever leave anything behind in the venue that belongs to the show, because then it rides in your bunk with you to the next venue.
  7. It’s generally a bad idea to have sex with people you’re immediately on tour with, for your sanity, their sanity, and that sanity of everyone around you.  YMMV.
  8. Stay away from cocaine.  Someone close to me said this:  “Cocaine makes you a brand new person, but the problem then becomes that the brand new person wants some cocaine.”
  9. Don’t fucking lie to people, and definitely don’t go behind their backs slandering them.  Be a true good person and not a lying sack of shit in this industry.
  10. You’re never too good to sweep the floor or vacuum the carpet.  Ever.

I hope that’s a good starting out point!  Let us know if we can help you along!

What is ohms law current, electricity, ohm's law, resistance, voltage - 26. July 2015

Ohm’s Law is made from 3 mathematical equations that shows the relationship between electric voltage, current and resistance. Knowing any two of the values of a circuit, one can determine by calculation the third, using Ohm’s Law.

V is voltage measured in volts.
I is current measured in amperes.
R is resistance measured in ohms.

V = I x R (Voltage = Current multiplied by Resistance)

R = V / I (Resistance = Voltage divided by Current)

I = V / R (Current = Voltage Divided by Resistance)

The guys over at MAKE have a pretty good video to explain. Check it out.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your 20-year-old self? advice, life - 26. July 2015

This is an easy one for me:

  • Always carry a smile at gigs, no matter what.  Nothing is so bad that you have to ruin your workday with it, and everyone else’s, too.
  • Take it easy on the drinking when you’re in your 20’s.  The crazy thing is that there will be just that much to drink tomorrow, why not save some of it, and some cash, until then?
  • Learn as much, as often, as you can, about everything.  It helps later in life.
  • Never get involved with people who aren’t happy with themselves, or people who tell lies about their situation.  If you get lied to in a situation like that and find out, get yourself permanently OUT of that situation, with no exceptions.
  • Always look behind you to see where we’ve come from, and remember to turn back around to look to the future.

More on this in an upcoming post, funny enough!

I’m 14 years old and have been doing lots of school theatre as a LD and Programmer/Op. I really want to do community theatre but the companies I’ve reached out to have turned me down. What would you sugges I do to get into Community Theatre? career, industry - 26. July 2015

Hi there!  That’s a great question.

First and foremost, what you want to do is to appear eager and ready to do anything.  Right now, in American society, if you’re not at least pretending to have interest in something, you’re going to get overlooked.  Now, you must actually want to actually do anything to be involved, because what you have to do when you work in our field is everything.  We all have come to terms with it; there is no job that is too small or too stupid, especially when you’re a 14-year old kid who will do anything.  We want to see that kind of enthusiasm.

If you can email me at jim [at] jimonlight dotcom and let me know where you are in the world (I don’t want your address, just give me a city) then I will update this AskMe with some places you can call to go and learn about getting into the business.  I highly recommend calling lighting rental companies and production houses in your area, a kid with enthusiasm will get further than someone who needs a paycheck right now and health insurance.  You’re going to learn a lot being 14 and in this business around people who work in this business, so just keep yourself ready to learn how to do anything!

why are chickens so goddamned delicious? 26. July 2015

You got me!  They sure are goddamned delicious though, aren’t they???

We think it’s also part of the marketing of chicken that helps a lot.  Also, Raisin’ Canes chicken fingers?  Oh, I would kiss your mama for those!

How many is a googleplex? math, numbers - 26. July 2015

How many what is a who did how many?  Thanks!

Well, THE Googleplex is the Google Mountain View, CA headquarters thing.  It’s here:,-122.0840575,15z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x6c296c66619367e0

A Googol is 10 to the 100th power (1 followed by 100 zeros).  A googol is larger than the number of all of the elementary particles in the universe, only 10 to the 80th power.

That word was invented by the 9-year nephew of mathematician Edward Kasner, who had asked his nephew Milton Sirotta what he thought that crazy large number should be called.  Milton thought that shit was so silly, he apparently replied after a short thought, saying it could only be called something as silly as a “googol.”

I hope that helps!