The Challenge of Lighting America’s Ballroom Challenge


A great article from Lighting and Sound America on the show America’s Ballroom Challenge, written by LD Chas Norton.  Most definitely read this great article — PDF link below.


PDF link:

Gaffers and Grips – DIY Gaff Tape Key Fob


Today must be DIY in my brain, all I can think of is making something!  Ah, I miss having a workspace.

I saw this great project on Strobist — it’s a blog geared towards photography and studio lighting, but if you’re a grip or gaffer on a smaller project, this is an awesome thing to have on you at all times!  If you work in Entertainment Lighting or Film Production, you already know this thing would have to be the thickness of your thigh to contain enough gaff tape to really make a difference.  Still, this is a wicked little tool for anybody in Lighting!

For this project, all you need is some rigid wire, a pencil, and some gaff tape — but I’ll let the great folks at Strobist do the talking.  Check out how to DIY your own Gaff Tape Key Fob!



A Nitrate Noctourne from the Turconi Collection

I had no idea what the hell the Turconi Collection even was, I had to research it!

This database is a record of the 35mm nitrate film frame clippings collected by Italian film historian Davide Turconi (1911-2005) from the Josef Joye Collection in Switzerland and from other unidentified sources. The collection consists of 23,491 clippings in total (usually two to three frames each). The vast majority of the frames cover the early years of cinema (from ca. 1897 to 1915); however, some items in the collection represent films produced as late as 1944.

Upon inspection, Turconi found many of the prints to be in advanced stages of decomposition. He arranged for some of the Italian films to be duplicated on safety film stock in Italy, and approached a number of other archives to preserve the rest of the collection. However, given the expenses involved with a large number of prints, no institution could undertake such a project at the time. Finding no means of saving the collection as a whole, Turconi resorted to a desperate step: he cut frames from the films and carefully organized them in envelopes by title and date (when identifiable) in order to preserve in fragments what he feared would soon disappear. Fortunately, many of the remaining prints did survive, and in 1976 — at the instigation of British filmmaker David Mingay — the remainder of the Joye Collection was rescued by David Francis, then Curator of the National Film Archive at the British Film Institute in London.

The gist of this is the images below — strips from the Turconi library’s nitrate film selection in various stages of decay:





















I never really new of nitrate film to be so beautiful.

Thanks, 50 Watts!

Must Watch Short: Luminaris

Juan Pablo Zaramella’s stop motion short Luminaris has won my heart! The film effortlessly dives you in to a world controlled by light, and one man’s big ideas about that.

It is absolutely wondrous.

Below is the trailer. There are also two behind the scenes videos online showing the tests Zaramella performed with light and stop motion, but please watch the film first! If you won’t heed my spoiler warning, though… click here.

LUMINARIS (Trailer) from Juan Pablo Zaramella on Vimeo.

Five Minute Film School — Green Screen Movie

Alright, alright, hold on, check this out.  By the way, GOOD MORNING!  Yes, Jim got up early this morning, apparently instead of the coffee *I THOUGHT I DRANK* I had a big cup of completely crazy, and I’ve done about a day’s work already.  In this time I determined that I was going to teach myself how to use chroma-key green screens, and I found a few clever videos that should make you either go “hmm!” or maybe just give you a belly laugh.  This should be an excellent way to start your day!

Household Hackers do a green screen:

and THIS?  This – is just awesome.  Green screen tech in action:

Rosco sells Chroma Key blue and green – check it out.  FilmTools also sells Chroma Key stuff like tape and paint, and flooring.  Yeah, I had no idea either.

(Image credit from a cool article on photoshop chroma-keying from techWOW.  Check it out!)

Happy Birthday, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson!


This guy William Kennedy Laurie Dickson (what a long name, dude!) is an important guy in our history – one of the many underappreciated peeps that I keep digging up and trying to give my little bit of credit on their birthdays.  Dickson was someone that got hired by Thomas Edison when he realized how talented the man was, and Billy-Boy here was set to working for Edison’s many business ventures.

It’s funny – the more I read into the detailed history of Thomas Alva Edison, the more I am starting not to like him very much.  It’s okay though, I can appreciate the man’s work and brain without liking him very much!

What William’s part in the Edison legacy was has to do with the development of something called a Kinetoscope.  Ever heard of the Kinetoscope?

It’s the first motion picture equipment!  Thomas Edison made the Kinetophone, which we’ve all seen or heard at one point in our lives, but a bit later he filed a patent for an idea he had about a device that would be “for the eye as the phonograph does for the ear.”  So after Edison got his Caveat, he hired William Kennedy Dickson to make the dream a reality – a moving film machine that was powered by an Edison electric light.

Dickson has several credits to his name, including 35mm celluloid film (for the Kinetoscope), the Kinetograph (the first motion picture camera, which Edison took the patent on), the first movie studio (called the “Black Maria”) as well as being an avid photographer on his own.  My research suggests that, in the development of the Kinetoscope, Dickson tried and tried to coat the drum type design from Edison’s Kinetophone (assumed to be at the behest of Tommy Boy Edison himself), with much epic fail.  It was only when Dickson discovered a roll of celluloid film did the process of inventing the Kinetoscope become a reality.  That goes to show you that Edison wasn’t always right, which is why he hired people all over the place to fix his errors and take their credit.

The Kinetograph – a machine known for not being very portable:

I obviously wasn’t there for this, but the word on the street is that after a while, Dickson got tired of Edison’s BS and left Edisonville for his own pastures, creating the American Mutoscope Company with three other guys.  The Mutoscope was another single-person viewer kind of deal – but people were getting sick of the novelty of the one-person peep show.  They wanted something that more than one person could see at a time – I mean, how lame is it to take a date to a one-at-a-time movie?

The Mutoscope – the most famous Mutoscope film was called “What the Butler Saw,” and it was a view through a keyhole of a woman getting partially undressed:

BUT OH HO HO, I found out – Dickson had been secretly collaborating with two guys, Otway and Gray Latham, who were part of the American Kinetoscope Company, a competitor of Edison Co.  Dickson was working on a projecting Kinetoscope, and what was developed was called the Eidoloscope.

So many scopes!  HOW on EARTH did they keep track of them all?!

Check out a few of Dickson’s movies – these are among the first movies, ever.

Record of a Sneeze:

This one below is called “Dickson’s Experimental Sound Film,” because it was a Dickson/Edison collaboration to make a movie with sound:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson!

Thanks IMDb, Victorian Cinema, The Edison Film, Essential Films, and Wikipedia!

Jim’s On the Way Home from NAB 2010

I am sitting in the Vegas airport waiting for my flight to board, thinking of all the absolutely awesome times I had over the last 72 hours.  The NAB Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center was a HIT for me – lots of people, lots of interviews, and tons of fun.  A word to the wise though – Phil’s Steakhouse at Treasure Island gave me food poisoning, so I spent Monday afternoon and night holed up in my room puking my guts out.

<start Google Sarcasm tracking>Thanks a lot for the day of vomit, Phil’s Steakhouse.</sarcasm>

Tuesday was an unbelievable day – not only did I get to interview two of my favorite lighting designers (Jefferson Waful from Umphrey’s McGee and TJ Gerckens from – well, everywhere), but I also got to talk to Jeff Ravitz, John Gates, Jon Griffin from Saddleback Church, and many other great pros.  A major thanks to Tom Stanziano and Phil Buchsbaum from SeaChanger/Ocean Thin Films for flying me out and allowing me to have outstanding conversations with outstanding people on film.  What an amazing few days.  Amazing.

Videos coming soon – stay tuned!

Phish in 3D in Selected US Theatres, April 30, 2010

Phish, as you all know, is loved by  So when I see something that says “Phish to Debut 3D Movie in April 2010,” I zheet my drawers.

So hey – did you all hear that Phish is doing a 3D movie of their Festival 8 show in Indio, CA from October?  Check out a trailer for the movie.  I’m pretty excited:

PHISH 3D – IN THEATERS APRIL 30TH from Phish on Vimeo.

And, in true pot reference fashion, a pre-view performance is going to take place in 9 cities on April 20 (or 420 to those of you who are still not getting the reference).  None of them are DALLAS, though.  GAA!

Boston – Showcase Cinemas Revere – Tickets
Burlington, VT – Majestic 10 Williston – Tickets
Chicago – Muvico Rosemont 18 Theatre – Tickets on sale 3/31
Denver – Location TBD (we’ll update you soon)
Houston – Studio Movie Grill Center City – Tickets
Los Angeles – Rave Motion Pictures 18 (formerly The Bridge) – Tickets
New York – Pavilion Theatre Brooklyn – Tickets
Raleigh/Durham, NC – Wynnsong 15 – Tickets
Washington, D.C./Fairfax, VA – Fairfax Corner 14 – Tickets

iPhone Lighting Software: ZinmanCo’s PocketLD and Synthe FX’s Luminair v2

As far as iPhone software goes, “there’s an app for that,” right?  How about an app for MAKING ME A PIZZA RIGHT NOW AAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

<deep breath>

Okay, I feel better.  But seriously, there are tons of apps out there for every single thing you can imagine.  The other day I downloaded an app from the iTunes store that played these crazy soundscapes to help you fall asleep.  Awesome.  As far as lighting goes, there are tons of apps out there for that, too.  But I think it takes more than the skill of coding an app to make an iPhone app – hell, there are programs out there that generate iPhone apps out of a website feed or a podcast stream, and apps that really do nothing at all.  You have to have an understanding of the basis of what you’re doing in order to make a useful iPhone app.

Two such iPhone app developers are Ryan Hisey from Synthe FX (makers of Luminair) and Mike Zinman of Zinman Software (makers of PocketLD and many others).  Both are pushing updates this week to their popular iPhone suites.  What these two guys do forges the way.  End of story.

First, Zinman Software’s PocketLD – a program that International Cinematographer’s Guild Magazine called one of the top five apps for filmmakers and cinematographers:

PocketLD V2.0 Now Available on the iTunes App Store

LONG BEACH, CA — ZINMAN SOFTWARE, makers of the popular lighting related iPhone apps, announces the release of PocketLD v2.0. PocketLD allows lighting professionals in theatre, film and TV to calculate the FC/LUX and Beam/Field Diameters for over 2000 fixtures and lamps.

V2.0 adds the functionality for users to edit the existing library, create their own fixtures and organize these fixtures into an improved Favorites List. New fixtures included in the library include Dedolight, K5600 and Kobold.

Developer Michael Zinman says “This is our most ambitious update for PocketLD since it was released two years ago. I’m so happy with these changes and I’m confident our world-wide user base will find the new functions a great add.”

Recently, PocketLD was featured in ICG Magazine (International Cinematographers Guild) as one of the top five apps for filmmakers and cinematographers.

For more information, visit

Direct download of PocketLD v2.0 on the App Store is available by following the link below.
About Zinman Software.

Zinman Software is a technology leader in applications for the event production industry. Among their products are a number of iPhone apps including Genielux, ML Finder, Pocket LD, Gel Calc, iSwitch DMX and TCP/IP Remote. For more information visit

Ryan Hisey and Synthe FX’s Luminair v2 – a lighting control suite that turns your iPhone into an amazing lighting tool for programmers, designers, lighting directors, and lighting technicians in all trades.  I mean, 36+ hours on batteries?!  Fuhgeddabadit.  Luminair v2 is being developed to do some amazing things in CAST Software’s wysiwyg, Release 25. More on that later, but be sure that it will rock!

Synthe FX release Luminair v2.0 for iPhone & iPod touch
Cincinnati, OH, February 25, 2010 – Synthe FX have released Luminair 2.0, a major upgrade to the wireless multi-touch DMX control app for iPhone and iPod touch. Luminair is revolutionary wireless lighting control software, which uses the Art-Net protocol to control
compatible lighting equipment and media servers via the iPhone and iPod touch’s internal Wi-Fi hardware.

Among the new features in v2.0 is “Stacks”, which is a cue-list playback system designed to make it very easy to put together shows for a wide variety of uses. Cues can be programmed directly within Luminair, and also recorded as snapshots from an external console or any other DMX control source. Standard playback life using the device’s internal battery can run up to
3.5 hours, and can be extended to over 36 hours using a 3rd-party external battery pack. Playback will run indefinitely when the device is plugged into a power source.

Another major new feature in Luminair 2.0 is the ability to assign images as visual references to cues, using the iPhone’s built-in camera, photo library, or transferred via Luminair’s internal web server. Users can browse and trigger Quick-Touch cues using a CoverFlow view, which renders the assigned images in breathtaking OpenGL 3D. Also dependent on the new image
reference support in version 2.0, is the ability to export “Fixture POV” images and data directly over Wi-Fi from Cast Software’s next release of WYSIWYG R25.

Other notable new features in 2.0 include full group support, cut/copy/paste capabilities, accelerometer support for XY controls, plus extensive additions and refinements to the existing feature-set. Company founder and lead product developer Ryan Hisey says “The ability to program and playback shows directly from an iPhone or iPod, for periods lasting greater than 36 hours on batteries is really amazing. We’re really excited to see how our customers push the boundaries of automated lighting control.”

“In this release, we also took advantage of a lot of the great features that are built-in to the iPhone and iPod touch, such as the accelerometer, camera, and photo library. The images in CoverFlow look absolutely amazing, and users can easily add their own custom images and icons via multiple convenient methods. Additionally, we are very excited to be working with
Cast Software, who is a highly respected industry leader, on such a groundbreaking new feature for lighting pros.”

Luminair 2.0 is available for download now, exclusively from Apple’s iTunes App Store. For all existing customers, version 2.0 is a free upgrade. Full product details, videos, and screenshots can be seen at

Keep up the excellent developing, dudes.

Lady GaGa’s Brit Awards Performance

Okay, to be honest, I’ve not really heard much of her music until I saw this video.  Lady GaGa performed her tunes “Telephone” and “Dance in the Dark” at the Brit Awards recently.  It’s the one where she gave thanks to Alexander McQueen, the fashion designer who just passed away.

Al Gurdon (Super Bowl LD) designed the lighting for that performance, and Miguel Ribiero from PRG created the wysiwyg for the performance.  Gentlemen, what a kick-ass job you did.  Congratulations on that work.

Check this out: