Light Artist Jay Shinn is up for a CODAWORX Award!

Our industry’s own bad ass gobo maker InLight Gobos supplied gobos for light artist Jay Shinn, whose work is up for a CODAWORX award for the install in Terminal D at Houston’s George W. Bush International Airport.  This is one of the coolest constantly changing geometric projection installs that I have ever seen.  Go vote for our people at the CODAWORX website, Barbizon was involved in this, InLight Gobos, TAG Electrical, the Houston Art Alliance, et al.  If you’ve never met Jay Shinn or seen any of his work, STOP, and go here first:

Video of the project — cool stuff!!  This is from the CODAWORX website on the project:

Details from the CODAWORX Project website:

Project:  City of Houston, 2016 — Houston, TX United States
Artwork Budget: $600,000
Project Team:

ARTIST:  Jay Shinn
INDUSTRY RESOURCE:  InLight Gobos, Dallas, TX
CLIENT:  Houston Airport Services

Inkjet International, Dallas TX
Barbizon Lighting Company, Dallas, TX
Blumenthal Sheet Metal, Houston, TX
TAG Electric Company, Houston, TX
More Simple, Dallas TX

Houston Art’s Alliance – City of Houston
“Celestial Candyland” 15’ x 150’ and “Candyland Landing” 15’ x 45’ are two site-specific illuminated large-scale murals located 28’ above the International ticketing areas of Terminal D at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston, TX. 13 LED projectors superimpose a constant image upon a stationary geometric form. A choreographed changing color sequence provides a changing image to passengers below. The light image is altered by custom geometric images via glass gobos. A stationary form on digitally printed cloth as part of the terminal’s metal gridded wall. The image metamorphosis in line and atmospheric space as the changes occur.

The two murals were designed to become part of the Terminal’s existing architecture. The art had to be fresh yet able to coexist within the givens of the space. Light, color and scale were key in conceptualizing the art for this 60’ x 400’ dark, gray and dated space. A given was the rectangular grid that could not be ignored. I made several trips to the terminal observing passengers and how the space was used. I knew by incorporating color through light that I could create a work that would activate this space. The wall itself was a blank canvas needing interest and to be activated. Architecture, geometry and scale are critical elements that have influenced my work for a long time. I strive to make living pieces with their own presence that incorporates the givens of a space. The living element of “Candyland” installation is enhanced by the 4-minute slowly evolving color sequence, which also provides an entertaining element to passengers waiting below. I chose this language of color and geometry due to its universal appeal and ability to relate to a diverse audience. “Candyland” provides a sense of repose during the hectic pace of international travel.

The concept evolved by drawing in the terminal and in my studio. I always begin with hand drawings on graph and trace paper, in this case, for many days before moving the drawings to a computer. After concept was on sure ground, the collaborations began in order to visualize details thru animations, still digital experimentation and exploration. With the size and logistics of this project, approvals and permitting were necessary as I was working thru issues with the airport, City of Houston, and electrical and structural engineers. Many tests were done with the digital printed material and balancing the color and light intensity of the projections. Adjustments with the gobo images to correct key stoning were also details that needed to be resolved before final installation at the terminal. Eight weeks of after hour installations in which I, the artist, had to coordinate with contractors including electrical, metal fabricators, and other trades to bring this project to realization.

Now, GO VOTE FOR JAY!  UNITY IN LIGHT!  Great work Jay, InLight Gobos, Barbizon, and everyone!


Ok, so do you?  Do you know Rick Hutton?

Rick is one of the fathers of our current generation of lighting equipment, fixtures, and color systems — Rick is one of the fathers from the Vari*Lite days, adding his knowledge of optics, lasers, laser ablation, dichroic glass, and light to awesome products like the VL5, VL4, VL7, et al.  Rick has helped to give us a lot of the technology that we use today.

JimOnLight is proud to announce that Rick is one of Lighting and Sound America’s PEOPLE WORTH KNOWING in June 2017!  Well deserved too — his company InLight Gobos was started in 2002, and makes the best glass full-color and black & white gobos on the market, hands down.

Check him out!  Rick’s boss and awesome wife Adriana Hutton is VP of Operations at InLight Gobos, and she’s the one to call when you need them to work for you!

We’re proud as hell of you, brother!  WELL DESERVED!

Help Our Angels of Mercy, BEHIND THE SCENES – We’re Giving 25%

Hiya, world.  Considering the amount of times I’ve been in ATL this year, I can see it’s gonna be a busy one for all of us.

It’s been a crazy fall and an even more insane beginning of 2017.  If I’ve seen you at a show or a training or a tour stop or something like those places, I’m glad I had that minute to spend with you, I’ve learned to cherish each little minute I get to stop moving forward in this industry.

There’s something I want to write about and I always find myself being “too busy” to stop and do so.  Screw that.  Now’s the time for my brothers and sisters of lighting and entertainment, right now.  I’m sorry, friends, that I’ve not done this before and with more fervor.  Our people are hurting, as are so many other industry’s people.  No one is coming to help, we have to help our own. Right now, with the world in one of the craziest places politically that at least I’ve ever seen in my lifetime, our industry’s people need to have someone with their back.


There’s one organization that has our back when something happens to us.  Let’s say you get cancer or some kind of illness where you’re just unable to work — I hate even thinking that for you, cancer SUCKS and IT MUST DIE, but if that were to happen, Behind the Scenes comes in, and they help you figure out how to live while you can’t work.  Behind the Scenes brings help and hope to individuals in our industry in times of great need. Individuals, organizations, and businesses in the industry continue to help us help our own by donating funds to the charity, but in addition to those generous contributions we’re looking for something else.

I’m announcing today that is going to be donating 25% of all future advertising proceeds to the Behind the Scenes Charity until further notice.  Our people need help.  I challenge my fellow lighting bloggers and journalists/publishers who make income from advertising to also make a commitment.  

Contact me if you’re interested in advertising with us here on, we will make all donations in our name and yours.

Check this out:

BTS is always looking for photos to help them spread the word.  From the office:

We want to better tell the story of who Behind the Scenes helps, so we are looking for engaging imagery, taken either backstage, on set, or in our shops showing everyday entertainment technology tasks. Think over the shoulder shots or close-ups of hands doing work. These images will be incorporated into ads and posters for Behind the Scenes reminding people that help is available if they, or someone they know, are seriously ill or injured. Please make sure you have written permission to let us use the photo, from the production and from anyone in the picture. The higher the resolution the better.

You can email photos or address any questions you have to: or

Also, check out the Behind the Scenes website,, and the BTS Facebook page, at — this is a good thing for our industry, friends.  Please help if you can, I know I do.

If we love what we do, we must help those who make these shows so incredible.  We need to be able to pick our people up if they fall down.  The more and more I watch the news, the more evident this becomes to me.  I never expected to make money from JimOnLight; I’ve never made operating costs for anything and even then I still owe for the money I’ve put into it and advertising it, but I have spoken across the world because of it and I have been able to help people advance in this industry that we all love so freaking much.

If you want to help Behind the Scenes, and consequently our professionals and industry players, go here:

Everything helps.  Consider spending some of your donation money here at home, I can assure you it is needed.

Thanks for reading, brothers and sisters.  Your support is greatly appreciated, and without it, I’d be worthless.

Jim Hutchison

Things I’ve Learned in Lighting

Sometimes our lighting world feels like this — task lists and spreadsheets and travel schedules and light plots, oh my!


I’ve been traveling a lot.

A lot, a lot.

Try keeping up with Brad White (he’s an effing machine, folks, I learn a lot from him pretty much every day AND he’s not a d-bag about it), but I most definitely have been making the rounds more than I ever have in my life. Right now, for example, my body is in three time zones, so sleeping is a joke. It doesn’t matter anyway because I’m flying back to another time zone where I can wait for a whole day to get some sleep, have no time to go to the firing range (my hobby is shooting as a lot of you know), or even have a break from the go-go-go. I’m not sure why, but I really like it that way. This is perfectly OK, fully acceptable, and a major part of the business. It’s a bit masochistic, methinks. I live and die to help people have a good show, even if it’s be going to a job site and putting my hands on someone’s shoulder and telling them how killer that look they just wrote was.

An old friend asked me recently about living in light and how it differs from his life, this very energetic and powerful industry full of powerful people… and I really didn’t know how to answer because I don’t really know any other way, this is the life I live.  So…  I suppose just writing down some of the things I’ve learned because of lighting and the lighting industry might be a useful post. I’ll be the first to tell you that I have learned a lot of things by smashing my face into them until I could either no longer feel my face or a I figured out a different way to accomplish a task, but I think that if you’re about to get out of school, if you’re switching careers and trying to get into lighting somehow, or just looking for another path — allow me to impart some of the hard-knock wisdom I’ve learned in my life.

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Here’s an unordered list of things that I’ve been thinking about in hotel rooms and airplanes as I’ve been spreading the photon love across our beautiful Earth.

  • Be a good person.  No one wants you on their crew if you’re unable to smile and at least make other people feel like you want them around.  This is so important, especially if you’re an impressionable new tech/designer/manager/hand in our awesome industry.  If you follow this rule, I promise you will go far.
  • Always bring your tools.Have you ever shown up to a call without a C-wrench or some other piece of gear that actually makes you useful?  I’ve yet to meet a woman or man who can tighten bolts of various sizes tight enough with their hands to make a difference, so don’t look like you came to work without your brain.  Also, it gets real old really quickly to have to provide someone with a wrench who is probably going to walk off the job with MY wrench, so bring your own shit.
  • Everyone is tired.  You’re not the exception.  That guy over there?  He’s probably been on the job just as long as you, and all your whining wants to make people do is staple gun your lips closed, and never call you again for a gig.  We’re all guilty of this, me included.  It’s really up to you to keep it to yourself as much as possible.  There’s certainly a time and place, but usually during the gig isn’t either of those.
  • You’re not as good as everybody doing what you do.  This is particularly true when it comes to recently graduated students, people who have huge egos, and people without talent.  There are anywhere from 5 to 5,000 Stevie Ray Vaughans in Nashville right this moment, for example, who didn’t have the “right place at the right time” scenario like SRV did, and the same thing goes for lighting designers and programmers. There’s one Peter Morse, there is one Patrick Dierson, there’s one Benny Kirkham, there’s one Sean Cagney. Be humble, be real. Be yourself and do your own stuff.
  • Your resume is for getting jobs, not talking about ON a job. If you think the rule above didn’t apply to you, try this one. No one cares how many shows you did when it comes to the professional industry — we’ve all done lots of shows. You obviously wouldn’t be on a show if you were completely worthless (well, your mileage may vary) but the general idea is do your job and prove to me that you can by doing that job without me having to go back and do it again.
  • Relationships are sometimes hard. I’m divorcing right now. It happens. Not all relationships last, and not all people are meant to be together. It’s just life. Get a helmet. Don’t let it ruin your life, move on and find happiness. It’s not the end of the world. Here’s an idea: make sure that your significant other knows exactly what you do, how long it takes for you to do it, and if you travel, make sure that it’s not a surprise. Do all of this before you set out on that first leg of the tour.
  • Don’t be deadly.  When you do things on the job site that endanger your fellow hands and staff…  you’re deadly.  We work in what’s typically classified as a hazardous environment.  It takes one moment to forget to do something, and that one thing could cause a chain reaction of failure that could and will eventually take the lives of those who are just working to support themselves and their families just like you.  Don’t be deadly.  This is just entertainment.  No matter how much a show costs, it’s never worth a funeral.  We play for a living.
  • Be expert at what you do before you give advice to others.  So often on a job site, people are quick to give advice to other seasoned professionals in order to look like an expert at their job and make whomever is doing that job right now look less qualified.  That makes you a douchebag.  Don’t be a douchebag.  You would be surprised how much nicer the workplace is when everyone isn’t pissed off.  Seriously!
  • The client is usually right.  Sorry folks, this is true.  Who do you think is paying the rent?  However…  you’re a seasoned professional.  If you think the client is wrong, it’s your responsibility to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you have a better idea to make their show even more awesome than they think they’ve made it.  But — can you do it without telling them that you’re right and they’re wrong?  THIS is what makes a REAL seasoned professional.  Just make sure that you’re doing what is best for the show.
  • There is a time and place to be wasted.  That time is never, ever during work hours or show call, and never, ever at the show site.  Some people may disagree with me here, but I’d rather we all disagree a little than me having to write another post about people dying at work.  Cokehead riggers, methed out carpet kickers, baked loaders, drunk focusers…  I feel like I’ve seen at least a little bit of all of it, and it still scares the crap out of me.  A whole lot of us like to party in this industry — let’s do it at the party or after the party we’re working.  I need my crew at their top performance, and so does everyone else.  You may think that you can work while you’re blasted.  You cannot.
  • Politics is always a bad discussion topic at work.  We all talk about it, we all get offended when someone tells us that we’re wrong, and you can barely ever make an inroad with someone who doesn’t want to connect your opinion with their political beliefs.  Hey, this is our future we’re talking about here!  At least in lighting, which is where I’ve lived my life, there is a major polarization of the two party system, and even a greater separation within each party.  Plus, we in lighting tend to be very passionate about the things we like and dislike, and the last thing you want to do is get into a political debate when people want you to string multi.  Save it for break, and even then, be human.11705114_10153192765669930_6129062547362133458_n
  • Find a hobby.  You need something to do outside of working.  I can’t stress this enough.  Find something other than light that you like doing, and do it when you want outside of working.  My hobby is shooting and firearms, and it’s something I enjoy that relieves the stress of life’s foibles.  In my particular case, my hobby and the time I’ve spent on it gives me a way to protect myself from some of the crazies out there in the world.  Speaking of…
  • Crazies are everywhere.  There is a staggering amount of completely unreasonable people in the world, from lighting to marketing to production, and everywhere in between.  There are people out there who will stalk you, drive by your house, try to hack your email, and they make it their life’s work to ruin yours.  Be smart; get an attorney.  Slander is Slander, Libel is Libel, and Stalking is Stalking, even digitally, and it’s all against the law.  Protect yourself, don’t let someone intimidate you because they’re miserable with who and what they’ve become.  If the law won’t help you, make sure you can shoot center mass if they breach your perimeter and decide they want to hurt you.  Some people don’t know when to quit, and make it their life’s mission to cause you pain and injury.
  • Take care of your body.  I’m trying to work on this the older I get, and the older I get, the more important it gets.  When you put garbage into your system, you get garbage out of your system.  This industry does not favor a lack of energy, and the more sluggish you are at work, the more sluggish you’re going to find your pay to be.  Plus, that 45-minute dump you had planned during the call is really screwing up my workflow.  Also, if you’re overweight, lose some of that weight and see how much better you feel.  I have another 30 pounds before I’m “satisfied” with what I am, and every five pounds feels like five more happy years on my life.
  • Get really good at networking.  Learn how to manipulate TCP/IP networks.  Get really good at it and become familiar with the equipment, methods, and structure of said networks.  Everything (almost) in lighting has become a network device, and everything (almost) is talking DMX wrapped in a header of some kind over an ethernet line.  Welcome to the future.  Also, please don’t rely on that 25 dollar hub or switch to be your network highway when you’ve spent several hundreds of thousands of dollars on control, fixtures, and other equipment.  Please don’t do that for your show’s sake!
  • Learn how to solder.  Just do it.  This should be as important as wiping your own ass in this industry.
  • Be nice to those who may appear to have the least impact on your life.  This is a pretty easy one, actually.  It’s evident when you go out with colleagues or other professionals…  watch how people treat wait staff, restaurant workers, janitors, drive through order takers, and anyone you run across in your day.  It absolutely drives me to fury when I’m with someone I respect and I see them shit on someone like that, I instantly lose some of my respect for them.  Be nice to people, you never know what kind of war they might be fighting today.  Besides, who the hell do you think you are?  We’re all humans.  Spread some kindness.

That’s enough for now.  I’ll update this as I go, but I think you all know what I mean.  If you have extra guidelines for lighting life, please post in the comments.  You’re always welcome here.


David Bowie Has Now Become StarMan. RIP

There’s a starman waiting in the sky;
He’d like to come and meet us,
But he thinks he’d blow our minds.
There’s a starman waiting in the sky;
He’s told us not to blow it
‘Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile.
He told me:
Let the children lose it;
Let the children use it.
Let all the children boogie!
This news sucked to me almost as much as Robin Williams’ passing did.  Different idols, I guess.
David Bowie has passed on from Earth this morning.  I know everyone knows already, but I wanted to give my sympathies the best way I know how.
In case you haven’t seen it…  Lazarus, the last video he published, just shortly before his death, is fucking beautiful.  Dark, as one would expect we’d all feel at that time knowing the news he probably knew at that time, but it is just amazing.  Take a peek:

From the BBC article:

Singer David Bowie, one of the most influential musicians of his era, has died of cancer at the age of 69.

A statement was issued on his social media accounts, saying he “died peacefully, surrounded by his family” after an “18-month battle with cancer”.

Tributes have been paid from around the world to the “extraordinary artist” whose last album was released days ago.

Sir Paul McCartney described him as a “great star” who “played a very strong part in British musical history”.

Bowie’s son Duncan Jones, who is a Bafta-winning film director, wrote on Twitter: “Very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all.”

Ah, shit.  I’m sorry to David Bowie’s family.  I hope more people use his passing to learn more about the music he wrote that literally changes lives.  It’s that good.

Some links:

Al Jazeera:


General Twitter trending:

The Independent:


UK Daily Mail:

USA Today:

The Guardian:

The Hollywood Reporter:

New York Times, an AWESOME slideshow:


Holidays Aren’t Happy for Everybody


Brothers and Sisters of Light — Lighting Designers, Lighting Directors, AV Teams, Touring Techs, Shop Techs, Students, Teachers, Projection Designers, Production Designers, Lighting Industry Sales Force personnel, Product Managers and Product Leads, Electricians, Engineers, Physicists, Photonics Scientists, Lighting Industry Writers, Lighting Marketers, and anyone else I’ve left out accidentally:

We know a lot of people this year who had it kinda rough.  We’ve all been on some kind of edge this year, granted there were some pretty fucked up things that happened.  No need to go into detail, I think we’ve all lived that enough.

I wanted to write this post to say that this season, some of our brothers and sisters out there need an extra hug, or that simple inclusion in a conversation at catering, or maybe just a pat on the back to say “hey human, I think you’re cool.”  Maybe thank someone for something they normally don’t get thanks for, ever.  Maybe one among your group has been hitting the sauce a little hard, distancing themselves from the group, being kinda not with everyone else’s wave in the group all of the sudden; that person needs some attention, even just a small bit.  You might just save their miserable life and make it not miserable for them.

All kinds of shit happens at the Holidays.  While we’re all out there celebrating or working, both are equal most of the time to me, some folks are doing the same in their minds remembering something mind breaking they go through every year.  Also, we live in an industry where you have to pretty much maintain a constant level of crazy just to get by, so there’s that.

If you know someone hurting, I’ve posted some resources below.  If you’re hurting, call these people.  You know why you should bother calling these people, none of whom you know?  Because they take these jobs because they give a shit about you.  Do you know how much fucked up shit they hear on a regular basis, and come back the next day?  The people at these places are there because they give a shit about YOU.  As trippy as it sounds, please believe me if you’ve ever believed anything I’ve ever written here before, these people want to help you be happy, even just long enough to take a breath.

One last thing before I post something else that is way happier than this is right now…

I have done a shit ton of traveling over this last six months with Avolites.  People of the world…  You gotta be nicer to your servers, people who check you into your hotels, and airline personnel.  I know some of them really should be doing other work, but you have no idea what value a smile and a polite demeanor has to someone who deals with trash all the live long day.  Try making 2016 a year where your order doesn’t actually make someone want to strike you with a cleaver.  Seriously, folks, they’re humans too.  Don’t be the last asshole who ever talked to them like that.


The National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
You can call these people 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they are there and ready.

The Samaritans:
(212) 673-3000

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1 (800) 273-8255
Please call these people if you need a hand and can’t seem to reach out.  Happy Holidays, everybody, make sure to do something nice out there.  It costs nothing, and it might save a life.

What If I’m Attacked at Work? A Crew Primer, Part 1

Heads up folks, this post contains graphic imagery of death.

This is a multi-part series on on what to do if someone comes into your gig shooting at you.  This is by no means the answer, or even an answer.  Every situation is different, everything that can go wrong will go wrong (as we all know in Entertainment alone), and the information and interviews here are meant solely to help you be less unprepared.  Very few of us out there in the field have the kind of training that it actually takes to combat people who are hell bent on killing us.  This article series is just meant to give you things to think about in order to put your head in the game.  Use this information at your own risk and with steadfast understanding that if you’re attacked at a gig, it is you who will be responsible for you.


Many people in our business are asking this very question right this minute at their gigs after the Friday the 13th terror attacks in Paris:
What if I’m attacked at work???  What do we do if somebody comes into our gig shooting?  What if they have a bomb?

This is what happened at last Friday’s Daesh ISIS coward rampage:


In Paris last Friday, 13 November 2015, a few jihadi cowards stormed into Le Bataclan and murdered scores of people with AK-47’s.  At FOH, the house lighting tech, Nathalie Jardin, took rounds and died form her injuries.  Merchandiser Nick Alexander died from his gunshots onsite.  They were just at work, doing what they loved, making the almighty dollar, but mostly digging the journey that we call Entertainment.

When it really comes down to it, can you actually be prepared at work AND do your job to the extent you need to do it?  Can you be banging on playbacks and running your rate master on that cool effect, or watching that the bass player doesn’t loudly hoark into his mic again, or making sure that everyone has the right monitor mix, or that the media servers are happy…  all the while looking out for someone or a group of someones who look out of the ordinary and preparing yourself for what to do in the event that the shit hits the fan?

I cannot.  I cannot do both of those things, admittedly, and I do not want to try.  I don’t have military training.  I occasionally carry a sidearm onto gigs with me when I have to do something like walk the Fort Lauderdale docks alone at night with a $12,000 console, but really that is the extent of my need to carry at the gig.  I want to go to work and know that I can provide the client with the best possible creative services I can provide, as I’m being paid to do that — I chose this field because it’s fun, mostly safe fun!  But what can we do to protect ourselves in the event that some crazy bastards decide that we’re all going to pay for someone else’s sins so they can placate their need to murder in the name of an ideology?  What do you do at work?  Where do you hide?  How can you get out?

The reality is, folks…  we’re dealing with people who want nothing more beyond the moment of your death to happen, and they are prepared not to live beyond the moment of your death if they have to just to make sure you don’t go on living.  Imagine how much time we put in on a production, from design to prep to pack to tour, and instead of spending that time and money on the show, imagine how proficient you could become at killing human beings in the name of an ideology if that’s all you spent your time doing.  That’s what these people are doing — they’re spending their time and money to learn how to kill you.

But… We live in America, right?  There are certainly some states that allow us to carry guns to protect ourselves.  I personally take full advantage of that constitutional right on many occasions around the country legally, as I am a concealed carry permit holder in my state with reciprocity in other states.  I can also handle myself, I’m a hell of a consistently accurate shooter (at man-shaped paper, on a range) and I have some firearms training that I felt was necessary to maintain my concealed carry permit.  The reason I mention those little facts about myself is that I asked myself the same question when I was writing the initial reports of our brothers and sisters being attacked that night.  What would I be doing if someone came into the gig shooting?  Would I be carrying my pistol?  Should I be carrying my pistol at work?  What the hell makes me think now that I’d try to be some kind of hero then?

The reality of 13 November 2015 at Le Bataclan was that the scene went from a full-on show with people having fun rocking to Eagles of Death Metal, the hall probably looked a lot like this below — here’s a shot of the inside of Le Bataclan, packed with people jamming:


This is the aftermath of the shooting, and I apologize but it’s gonna be hard to look at, it’s horrifying.


That is a theatre.  That is one of OUR places, you’re supposed to be able to let go inside there.  These poor souls were stolen there, and all they wanted to do was rock.

Let’s be realistic — can you prepare yourself for that to happen?  What are the first and second things you think you would do if someone came in shooting?  It is a fucking terrifying noise, gunfire — and it’s even worse when you’re not expecting it.  I for one have never had the experience of being shot at, or being startled by gunfire because I have never been in an uncontrolled environment where gunfire occurred suddenly.

Listen to this footage — watch the drummer dive for cover, this is from close to the stage at Le Bataclan right as the shooting started happening:

Ok, sorry but that is terrifying.  The sound of 7.62×39 rounds, which are AK-47 rounds, are distinct, powerful, and frightening.  These terrorist pieces of garbage came in with fully automatic firing assault rifles, which means when they hold in the trigger, the full-metal jacketed bullets come flying out of the gun until they let go of that trigger.  Here’s what they look like unfired — I have an AK, but mine is a semi-automatic WASR model made in Bulgaria, like many of these automatic variants — these are surplus military rounds:

7.62x39mm ammunition for the AK-47s used in the murders at Le Bataclan

JimOnLight’s 7.62x39mm ammunition for the AK-47…  the automatic version of this weapon was used in the murders at Le Bataclan

What would you do if chunks of steel and lead were snapping into equipment and people around you while the band was playing and you were working on the show?  Do you have a clue what you think you might do?  I like to fool myself into thinking I have a few ideas about what I would do, but I reached out to some of our industry brothers who have combat experience in various areas of operation across the world.  What they’ve done and where they’ve been is, in their words, unimportant; what is important to these three individuals is that they are Entertainment Industry people, production and lighting designers, all who have had shots fired at them in anger.  I reached out to these three people because they know what it feels like to be in a scary situation, and they have the important training that it takes to survive some really bad scenarios like the one in Paris.

What I think you will be interested, maybe even thrilled to find out, is that each of these three former professional hitters all say the same thing:
GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT OF THERE, GET OUT OF THERE.  GET THE FUCK OUT OF THERE — and take as many people with you as you can.

When trained fighters tell you that they would leave a situation like this as quickly as possible while trying to also get as many people around them out as fast as possible, perhaps we all need to take heed.  I’m going to let you be the judge.  I asked three very direct questions to Patrick Dierson, a great, popular production designer with some OGA experience early in his military career (and an even more impressive Entertainment career, frankly); Matt Hazard, a lighting designer and hell of a huge hearted (and footed) man who was in Marine Intel during the reign of Milosevic in Serbia and Croatia; Rick Reeves, a great friend and talented designer who was in Navy Security, having been a member of CENTCOM and MNF-I in his military career; and Brendon Grimes, everybody knows him as Grimey, he owns TSC Productions in Florida. Grimey, a Combat Mission Load Master for two decades, and brings a lot of those experiences to our industry.

  1. If you were at a show at FOH in a venue like that of Le Bataclan and attackers burst in with automatic weapons, what are the first and second things that would be going through a trained mind like yours?  Now imagine that question with AND without a sidearm, and how you would react differently.

  2. Considering our environment and the various things we have to use as cover and concealment, can you recommend what to use and what not to use?  Obviously a rolling dimmer rack would probably provide more protection than a wardrobe case, for example.  What would you go for?

  3. What are your thoughts generally on protection inside of venues by crew personnel?  Do you think that our own protection is something that we need to take on at this point in our industry?  How do you feel about arming ourselves at gigs?

I asked what I thought were pretty straightforward questions that I hoped to address safety issues in a venue if the bullets start flying…  the answers I got were not what I expected, but they are what I need to be expecting, and I think they’re what you need to be expecting.

“Everyone in this business has some tales of harrowing experiences to share,” says Patrick Dierson.  “Some are simply left for a good story while others tell of downright life threatening situations.  Personally, I’ve encountered all sorts of potentially life threatening issues around the globe from being pistol whipped with the rifle butt of a Kalashnikov rifle in West Africa to listening to small arms fire hit the side of our aircraft in South America while landing during a rebel uprising.  In its most extreme case I found myself stepping between the chest of my team’s local Nigerian driver and the muzzle of an 18 year old’s AK-47 in an attempt to keep the driver from getting shot and ultimately denying us exit from the country.  For the record, I do not condone the latter course of action despite the fact that it worked.  And, it stands to be noted that each of these situations happened while under the employ of the entertainment business as a lighting or production designer.”

Video of the people who escaped from the rear exit door of Le Bataclan — heads up, this is gunfire:

“Now, truth be told, what’s required here is not much more than what should normally be expected of an everyday citizen living in a major metropolitan city when we’re discussing situational awareness,” Dierson continued.  “We’re just discussing it here in the sense of sensational acts of terrorism instead of what would normally be considered street crime.  Your level of awareness and self-preparedness shouldn’t have been any less prior to recent events.”

First and foremost, the average citizen should not be feeling as though they need to live in a state of fear.  However, they should always be alert to their surroundings particularly in large crowds.  The military term of keeping your head on swivel isn’t out of line.  You don’t need to be walking around the mall in a serpentine pattern just to get yourself to the next Foot Locker but you should at least know what’s going on around you and your loved ones as well as having the basic directional ability to know where the closest exits are.  In short, get you head out of your cell phone and know what the heck is going on around you.”

You have to admit, Patrick is right.  Whether it’s the airport or the grocery store, we’re literally all staring down at our boobs looking at our phones in an attempt to escape boredom and pass time.  But do you know what is going on around you while you’re schooling a game of Plague, Inc?  We all must have some situational awareness — a good example of a lack of this would be standing in the way of a bunch of people while you’re staring down at your phone and the line you’re in has moved forward several spaces.  We’re kind of all siting targets unless we pick up our heads and pay attention a little bit.

Patrick Dierson, keeping up with his training

Patrick Dierson, keeping up with his training

“What do you think about vigilance on the job site?  How prepared do we need to make ourselves?”

Patrick Dierson:
“For the most part, the jobs that we do in the live entertainment industry do not come with the inherent dangers that one would normally find within a combat zone but every once in a while a very unfortunate situation can present itself.  You could easily be forgiven for considering any talk of this nature to be that of an alarmist prepper but the basic fact of the matter is that the world that we live in has changed dramatically over the past decade and, regardless of your political or philosophical views as to why things are the way they are, global citizens that could once consider themselves extremely safe need to err on the side of caution and be much more aware of their surroundings.”

“Let’s talk about the second question…  can you give me some examples of how your thought processes would be, armed and unarmed, at a gig?”

Patrick Dierson:
“I’ll clearly state that my actions in the past, whether I’m carrying a firearm or not, have always been the same.  The second you hear weapons being fired in ANY situation your immediate reaction should be to get to cover.  You are not active duty military in a uniform tasked with being offensive protection of the public and therefore you have no legal duty to act otherwise.  Get to cover immediately so that you can ascertain what your next course of action should be.”

“What about cover and concealment and all of those terms that not many people understand — can you make sense of that for the readers?”

Patrick Dierson:
“Understand that there is a huge difference between what is considered ‘cover’ versus what is considered ‘concealment.’  Cover offers some level of protection from foreign objects while concealment merely hides you as a target.  You want to move to cover immediately and then start assessing what your exit options are.  You are not concerned with combating an attacker unless the threat is imminently upon your physical being and threatening lethal force.  Your primary concern is to remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible.”

“There are a million and one variables that come into this scenario and I am not about to suggest that anyone, armed or not, should entertain inserting themselves deeper into an active shooter situation particularly if you have never had appropriate training in how to handle that type of situation.  Remember that holding a guitar does not make you a guitarist.  The same goes for firearms.  Even if you have undergone extensive training in how to utilize a weapon offensively you still stand a chance of making a bad situation worse by trying to intervene.  The best course of action is to always move yourself and anyone else you can safely assist along to cover followed by a safe exit and then only count on utilizing a weapon as a last attempt to protect your life or that of someone in your immediate vicinity.”

“There is also a very real issue that must be discussed here and that is one of potentially mistaken identity.  If you brandish a weapon in a public situation with the most heroic of possible intentions you may unwittingly make yourself out to be a target for the next ‘hero’ that’s going to try and save the day.  Don’t be that guy.”

Considering our environment and the various things we have to use as cover and concealment, can you recommend what to use and what not to use?  Obviously a rolling dimmer rack would probably provide more protection than a wardrobe case, for example.  What would you go for?

Patrick Dierson:
“I’m going for the exit and taking as many innocent people as I can with me.  Any other talk to this simply opens up a ton of speculation on ballistics and what can stop what.  Common sense rules the day.  You’re going to leap frog from the largest and heaviest object that you can find to the next so that you can make your way to an exit and remove yourself from the threat.  Sure a dimmer rack is a great start.  I don’t specify very many conventionals these days so if we’re talking about what my personal situation may be then I’ve probably already put us in jeopardy by the nature of my design style.  The audio boys still like to use heavy stuff so maybe get behind their kit.  In all seriousness, in an arena venue situation, the concrete walls are most likely your safest object to get behind and those walls tend to lead to exits.  There’s not an object on stage that I can rightly imagine being what I would want to seek cover behind to be perfectly honest.  When you know what a 7.62 round can go through you quickly start reassessing what you previously thought could offer you safe haven.  So, once again, get the hell out of the area.”

The sound of an AK-47 firing full-auto:

What are your thoughts generally on protection inside of venues by crew personnel?  Do you think that our own protection is something that we need to take on at this point in our industry?  How do you feel about arming ourselves at gigs?

Patrick Dierson:
“Personally, I am very much against crew being armed at gigs.  I’ve got at least one guy on every show that can’t seem to climb a truss without dropping a wrench.  I sure as hell don’t believe that him carrying a firearm is going to help matters on a daily basis.  I would much rather see crew properly trained in CPR, basic first aid, & advanced situational awareness before seeing any of them onsite with a firearm.  If you want to run around a job site with the authority and responsibility that comes along with carrying a firearm then simply shift career paths and go into the security sector.  There’s nothing wrong with that decision in the entertainment industry.  Otherwise, arm yourself with a wrench or console and get back to doing some good, fun work in this fantastic business that we’re in.”

“In any adverse situation, your best defense is your mind.  I’ve existed for many years in what military jargon calls NPEs or Non-Permissive Environments.  These are areas where you are not permitted to have a weapon and being caught with one would hold various levels of both mission failure and punishment from local authorities.  You’re trained to utilized improvised weapons if one is actually needed but 99% of the time all you really need is your mind.  Keep your wits about you, learn how to handle unexpectedly chaotic situations, and keep yourself focused on staying safe.  Be alert to your surroundings.  If you see something suspicious then absolutely say something to the appropriate people in charge and let them handle it.  You’re a specialist in what you do and you’re trusted to do that job.  Trust in those that are trained to handle the other stuff and concentrate on removing yourself from harms way.”

Patrick, thanks brother.  I seriously appreciate you, we all do here at  Keep making that good light.

Situational Awareness — we’re going to close Part 1 of this primer and move onto Part 2, with Matt Hazard and Rick Reeves…  I bet you won’t believe that they’re going to have similar themes for us to follow.

Before you head on to part two, just read this little PDF from the Coast Guard about situational awareness.  Do you know where your head is in the game when the game is on?  This isn’t about being at some ready state of war and battle and all of that stuff most of us have no idea about but think you do because you play Call of Duty, this is just about keeping your head out of your phone and up a little bit to make sure you know what’s going on around you.  Situational Awareness is the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to the team with regards to the mission. More simply, it’s knowing what is going on around you.

Situational Awareness…  we’ll talk more about this in Part 2.

MOVE ON to Part 2 of
What If I’m Attacked at Work? A Crew Primer



HEY!  Whatcha doing between 11am and 4pm today at any point?  Avolites is here at the Heart of Omnia, and we’re doing a fun open house and Titan Effects Workshop with the awesome AVOLITES training team!!!

JimOnLight and THE Brad White are gonna be there, but that’s nothing — Rosie Haigh and Annalisa Terranova, Avolites programmers and trainers extraordinaire, along with JB Toby (the brain of Avolites), Oliver Waits (code master and awesome dude), Koy Neminathan (Sales Director), Aziz Adilkhodjaev (Sales Engineer Extraordinaire), Steve Warren (come on, everyone knows Steve Warren), and Elson Lucas Gallardo, Javier Moreno, and our team of awesomeness!!!

Come by any time between 11am and 4pm today and learn how easy it is to rock and roll on Titan… we’ve got some Arena consoles, the Quartz, Ai EX8 media servers, the venerable Sapphire Touch and some of our signaling gear — the Titan Net Processor, the Titan Network Switch, and we are ready for you to learn about Avo for LIFE!

If You Have A Few Bucks, Please Help Heidi


When I was at Oklahoma City University, I had a master electrician named Heidi Hamilton.  Heidi is an industry veteran who has worked more tour load-ins and load-outs than most people who tour.  As a local IA electrician in OKC, she has worked on every kind of show you can imagine, and her knowledge base is a gift that every student that comes in contact with her gets for free.

Heidi needs our help.  She had a work accident about two years ago, she’s been unable to work, and her bills are piling up.  If you have a few extra bucks this season — and I mean anything and everything from a dollar to ten dollars to whatever dollars — can you help my friend?

Heidi Hamilton’s GOFUNDME:

Thank you, Lighting Industry.


JimOnLight Interviews Psyberpixie


One of the cooler interviews I’ve done — she is so much fun to watch making the video art while she’s making it!  Ladies and gentlemen, meet Psyberpixie!  She’s the world’s leading VJ.

I did this interview for the Lighting Insights newsletter, but I wanted to give this some play to the audience.  many of you dig ‘Pixie’s work, thank you for the links you send!!!  Keep them coming!