Tech Topics

“The Great One” and Stage Lighting

Posted on Friday, June 23rd, 2017

By Chris Lose

A good LD lights where the guitarist is supposed to be. A great LD lights where the guitarist is going to be.

I recently moved from Las Vegas to Canada for a number of reasons. One reason for moving is the current political climate in the U.S. Canada has proven to be very polite and rather pleasant. I moved to a small community where my services as a concert lighting director might not be in high demand. Belle River does not have any casinos, convention centers, ballrooms or arenas. But it does have hockey rinks — lots of them.

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Be Kind to Your Friends in the Shop

Posted on Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

By Chris Lose

I’m a firm believer that people who have spent time in the shop have a better understanding of the lighting business than those who have not. I am lucky enough to have spent four knuckle-busting years in the shops of Vari*Lite, Morpheus and Cinelease. I was there to receive hand written shop orders, assemble gear, tech lights and repair rain-drenched VL6s and Mac 2Ks that came back from multiple Olympics from around the globe.

The knowledge that came from those years has made me a better programmer and a more patient director. The shop is where theater people and non-theater people alike, work together to compile the necessary tools to make entertainment happen. Sometimes, those people have an idea of what happens to the gear after it leaves the dock, but some do not.

In this article, I would like to impart some knowledge from both sides of the dock door onto you. By reading this dissertation, you will be able to go forth and help the team of hard working, underappreciated men and women in the shop to help you ………..

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Tech Topic: Patching Prestidigitation

Posted on Monday, May 1st, 2017

by Brad Schiller

Anyone who wants to learn about automated lighting programming must study and master one very important task: Patching. Without this ability, the data within the desk will not be able to communicate properly with the connected fixtures and other devices. Patching requires an understanding of a console’s specific methodologies, DMX fundamentals and intimate details of the lighting rig layout. No matter the show or the console, a programmer must properly patch the system to actually control lighting units.

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The Politics of Colour Selection

Posted on Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

by Chris Lose

I heard about a tragedy the other day. A designer lost a tour based solely on color selection. A particular band that chooses a different color for each album cover hired this person to do their tour. During a televised promotion for their upcoming tour, the production manager mentioned to the designer/programmer that they would like the color of their album to be in every single song. The designer chose to go against the band’s wishes.

Instead of incorporating white into every song, this individual made the unfortunate decision of choosing pink and green. The designer was not asked back for the tour. The band could never tell the designer that they were fired over something as simple as a color preference, but that’s what happened. They found someone new who could more acceptingly follow their suggestions and paid handsomely for it. Reading this entire article will help you avoid the same fate.

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Light Bytes 1st edition now on sale

Posted on Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Wayne Howell, CEO of Artistic Licence and inventor of Art-Net, is pleased to announce the publication of the 1st edition of his book “Light Bytes – Inside Art-Net and sACN”.

The book – a practical reference on the Art-Net and sACN lighting protocols – was launched recently in preview edition at the 2016 PLASA London show. Already enjoying strong sales, the book has now been updated to cover the latest version of sACN (E1.31-2016), and includes a foreword by Iain Ruxton, Design Associate at Speirs + Major.

Given the increasing industry-wide use of ethernet as a means for transporting DMX512, this timely reference manual is a must-have for anyone seeking to increase their knowledge of Art-Net or sACN.

Light Bytes – Inside Art-Net and sACN

While the Art-Net and sACN protocol definition documents are available to all, they do not seek to address real world implementation issues or developer FAQs.

Written with practicality in mind, this book provides the missing link. Starting with a networking primer, it moves onto the detailed packet structures and definitions used in each protocol. Following the theoretical groundwork, readers are led through the problems that are often encountered in real-world applications, with tips on how to avoid them.

The book strives for a balanced approach, comparing and contrasting Art-Net and sACN, while explaining how each protocol is evolving to meet the needs of a changing marketplace. There is a handy chapter on freely available software diagnostics tools, along with useful code examples for both Art-Net and sACN developers.

Purchase here


The Not-So-Lonely Road

Posted on Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

by Chris Lose

Keeping the Lonesome Road from Dragging You Down

On a long and lonesome highway, east of Omaha… No, I’m not going to read into that Seger song. Karaoke doesn’t start until 8 p.m.

I’m sitting on a bus thinking about my family and loved ones back at home. I’m thinking about how all “puppies and rainbows” it would be if they were out here traipsing the continent by my side. Bringing my four-year-olds twins, wife Sharon and Kala the black lab might be a little cost prohibitive for the tour (if not completely annoying to the guy who cleans the bus). I can only imagine that it helps to ease the pain when you’re ridin’ sixteen hours and there’s nothin’ there to do. I talked to a few couples about their experience of traveling and working with their spouses out there in the spotlight.

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Tech Topic: 15 Years of Change

Posted on Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

by Brad Schiller

December 2001 marked the first article I wrote for my “Feeding the Machines” column. As I write this article 15 years later, I am thinking about how much our industry has changed, yet also stayed the same. The most popular console brand back then was different and LEDs were used as indicators, not sources. Many of the programming processes and procedures have not changed, though. I still find myself using much of the same syntax and methodology to create looks as I did long ago. It is amazing to look back and see what has changed and what has remained the same.

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Tech Topic: The Multi-Facets of Prismatic Programming

Posted on Monday, January 16th, 2017

by Brad Schiller

Automated lighting fixtures are filled with many different effects and mechanical abilities. In addition to gobos, colored glass, shutters and irises, many fixtures provide a prism effect. While similar to a gobo, inserting a prism into the optics of an automated light can have many different results. An automated lighting programmer should understand the reactions and controls when using prisms.

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Tech Topic: Dear Festival Lighting Designer

Posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

By Chris Lose

I am well aware that you are more than capable of designing, operating, teching, programming and facilitating every single show that comes through your fine festival grounds. But today, you are my festival lighting designer. I only need a few things from you and I need them done to the best of your ability. I need a patch, a plot and a functional rig. A smile would be nice, but not necessary. I don’t need your résumé nor do I need your sob story. After checking in with a handful of my favorite programmers and directors, I have come up with a comprehensive list of tips on how to help me help you to make our time together as de-light-ful as possible.

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Tech Topic: From DMX to TCP/IP

Posted on Monday, November 14th, 2016

0-net-switchby Michael Graham

A Look at the Growing Complexity of Fixture Functions and Control Systems

Over the years, the complexity of intelligent lighting fixtures has finally gotten to the point where our own intelligence level has to rise up exponentially just to operate the gear we are using. Take a look around at what the shows we see now differ to the shows that we saw just a few years ago. Now take a moment to think about what we will be seeing in a few years from now. That’s right, those are chills running down your spine.

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Tech Topic: Theater Builders of Tomorrow – Listen Up!

Posted on Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

by Chris Lose

While touring the world, I have spent far too many hours sitting at FOH, wondering who in the world designs some of these venues. I decided that I should put my two cents in writing instead of stewing in my own disgust of poor forethought. Here are a few remarks that I would like to make to anyone who is considering designing an entertainment venue.

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Tech Topic: Build Your Own Fixture Library

Posted on Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

By Brad Schiller

Automated lighting consoles are extremely powerful tools with very complex software. No matter how many features a console provides, one of the most essential elements is its fixture library. The library contains unique profile information about fixtures used within our industry. This information becomes the interface between the programmer and the instructions for the light (or other devices). Without proper libraries, most desks will not communicate with fixtures and devices. In some cases, it is important for a programmer to understand the process to create new or modify existing libraries. The method of creating or editing fixture libraries differs greatly between console systems, but all require a basic understanding of how a fixture library functions.

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Tech Topic: Ten Top Priorities when Building a Punt Show

Posted on Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

punt fadersBy Chris Lose

Having completed years as a house lighting designer and working at several festivals around the globe, I have become streamlined when building punt shows. Rock ‘n’ Roll rarely sticks to a cue stack, so I decided to put together my 10 top priorities for a punt show.

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Tech Topic: Lighting Console and Media Server Convergence

Posted on Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

0-USE THIS ONE ChamSys Pixel Map Image 1By Vickie Claiborne

As media servers continue to develop features geared toward working with LED fixtures, lighting consoles are beginning to add in tools that address the unique challenges that programmers encounter while programming both lighting and video. As this convergence of lighting and video continues to evolve, the toolsets continue to evolve as well. Here’s a look at some of those tools……

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Tech Topic: The Matrix is Now: Four Tips to Help Wash Down That Red Pill

Posted on Friday, July 22nd, 2016

By Chris Lose

In science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke’s famed “Three Laws,” written in Profiles of the Future, a book-length collection of essays that was first published in 1962, the third law stated: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

He must have foreseen today’s dizzying array of live event gear advancements, because the lighting rigs that I have been working on as of late have been reinforcing this law on a daily basis. We have entered the days of fully immersive lighting environments, 200-plus universe rigs, wireless DMX, instant downloads and truss spots that aren’t on the truss. We have clearly taken the red pill and fallen down the rabbit hole of technology. Like Neo, we need to embrace this world and prepare for the next level.

Here are four tips to making yourself at home in today’s lighting design matrix.

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Tech Topic: Spinning in Circles

Posted on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

By Brad Schiller

The automated lighting industry has seen a new trend in lighting products over the last few years. We now have many creative LED products that are making use of continuous rotation of pan and tilt. This type of movement opens up some exciting new possibilities and designers are placing the fixtures all over their plots. The technology to endlessly rotate fixtures is not new, and in fact was used quite some time ago with standard discharge fixtures. However, the concept never really took off until it was applied to an LED panel. Now programmers and designers have many different tools that take advantage of continuously rotating pan and tilt.

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“Dear Mr. LD:” A Spotlight Operator Pens an Open Memo to Lighting Designers

Posted on Friday, June 10th, 2016

1-That's me in the cornerby Bob Ursdevenicz

To: All Lighting Designers
From: Your local spotlight operator
Re: Calling the spotlights at a large arena show

Hi, I’m your local spotlight operator. You might not know my name, but I’d like to request that you please don’t use profane language if things don’t go exactly as planned during your performance. We try our best, honest. We want to make your act shine. So I’d like to take a minute to explain a few things from our side of the intercom line if you got a sec.

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Tech Topic: To Timecode, or Not To Timecode?

Posted on Monday, May 30th, 2016

By Chris Lose

Whether “Tis Nobler” Is Not the Question. Here’s a Roundtable Discussion of When It’s the Answer.

For some, timecode is the auto tune of lighting designers — a lazy choice. Others insist that timecode is doing the job of the operator, freeing him or her up from being chained to just punching the “go” button for each and every cue. But the truth is that when properly implemented, it can be used for a show’s greater good.

I recently had the pleasure of working on two major rock tours that were large and required precision cueing. The major difference between the two was timecode. I manually executed 600 cues each night on a Fleetwood Mac tour. Later, I filled in for LD Matt Mills for a week on Mötley Crüe; where 97 percent of the cues were fired by timecode. This allowed me to focus on tending to four buttons, two faders, and call spots (plus make sure that Tommy Lee and his drums were bathed in a smoky haze thick enough to make Shanghai call the air pollution hotline).

I assembled a virtual roundtable of some of the best designers in the business — Mark Butts (Shania Twain), Baz Halpin (Katy Perry), Nick Whitehouse (Justin Timberlake) and Rob Sinclair (Queen with Adam Lambert) to discuss the pros and cons of timecoding.

Read the full article at:,-or-not-to-timecode.html


Rules for Free Labor: Okay vs. Not Okay

Posted on Monday, May 9th, 2016

Written by Chris Lose

Your boss heard that you really love the theater and would appreciate some extra hours on show site, so he offers you the chance of a lifetime to come and work on his next show for no money, as an intern of sorts. You jump at the chance to gain experience. The next gig comes along, and he asks you do it for no money again. Now you realize that you have no way to get to the show site because your gas tank is empty.


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Seven Rules of a Successful Touring Lighting Director

Posted on Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

By Chris Lose

Q: What’s the difference between a Lighting Designer and a Lighting Director?

A: About $20,000…

As a touring lighting director, I get asked this a lot — and the reality is few people outside the industry really understand it. The roles are similar, but the responsibilities are vastly different. The lighting designer is responsible for pitching, selling, and securing their visual concept for the show to their client. The lighting director is responsible for implementing the design and making sure its vision remains intact for the duration of the tour.

We all know what it takes to be a successful lighting designer — imaginative brilliance and business savvy. But what does it take to be a successful — and always working — touring lighting director? I have outlined my seven most successful tips below.

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Tech Topic: Smoke Signals

Posted on Friday, January 29th, 2016

hqdefaultby Brad Schiller

Typically, an automated lighting programmer is concerned only with programming the lighting elements. However, there are also often circumstances where we are tasked with programming control of various types of smoke effects. From hazers to blasts of fog or CO2, we must use caution when programming atmospheric effects. Depending on the production, there may also be strict guidelines that must be adhered to. As with any fixture on the desk, an automated lighting programmer needs to be informed and prepared to work with atmospheric effects.

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Tech Topic: Talking Photometry

Posted on Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

LED Array Uniformity

Talking Photometry is a technical blog from Photometric & Optical Testing Services in the UK  that helps you keep up to date with developments in LEDs, solid state lighting and the world of photometric measurements.
If you’re interested in the technical aspects of light sources and light measurements this blog is well worth a visit.

Included among recent postings are topics such as:
What is “Flicker” and why is a problem with SSL?
Measuring colour uniformity of LED arrays
LED colour zoning
Colour difference metrics
Are halogens history?
Understanding photometric data files
Claimed vs. actual CCT
Useful lumens and Energy Efficiency Index (EEI)
Guide to colour rendering
Guide to Correlated Colour Temperature (CCT)


Tech Topic: Fabulous Faders

Posted on Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Avolites Arena consoleBy Brad Schiller

For a very long time, lighting controllers have had faders as a key component of the front panel. This is because faders are a very useful tool to manually adjust the level of something. Automated lighting consoles required additional control-ability than conventional desks, and now there are many different things that your faders can do. From controlling intensity to adjusting rate, and even allowing programming, the faders on the front of your console are extremely powerful. Let’s look at some of the more common uses of faders.

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Tech Topic: Advancing the Rig

Posted on Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

Written by: Nook Schoenfeld

So I’m rapping on the phone with my buddy Scott Plummer. He owns the finest little mom and pop lighting company down in Tucson, Arizona called Total Lighting Support. One of my acts is coming to his local casino, as they do every year, and it gives us a chance to catch up. Of course the main reason I’m calling is to advance my gig and make sure he has all my lighting plots and I have his. But somewhere along the way he stops me and asks a question.

“Hey I just want to know something. Is it my gig to find out who you are and what you require, lighting-wise, when you come to my town? Or are you the one who’s supposed to call me?” Scott asks, in all sincerity. I reply that by all means it is MY gig as the traveling representative with the act, to make sure that I can simulate the light fixtures, truss structures, hang points, smoke, backdrops etc. that I require for my scenery. I also advance the video with each place. Scott’s simple reply made me sad. “Well, I wish you would let all these other LD’s know this, cause I’m really tired of having to hunt down these people and do their gig.”

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TLCI – a useful measure of colour rendering for LED fixtures

Posted on Monday, November 2nd, 2015

by Andy Ciddor

It’s pretty widely acknowledged that the once-adequate Colour Rendering Index (CRI – published in 1965) that told us about the colour accuracy of fluorescent, arc and metal halide light sources is pretty hopeless as a measure for our modern LED, laser/phosphor and related light sources.

Whilst the CIE (Commission Internationale de l’Eclairage) is grinding its way inexorably to developing an internationally-ratified standard that improves on its old method, the colour experts at the European Broadcasting Union (yes they do stuff in addition to broadcasting the Eurovision Song Contest) set about developing a new measurement.

The new version of their Television Lighting Consistency Index (TLCI) is designed to look at how light sources render images for modern colour television cameras with CCD and CMOS pickup chips, rather than the way things look to human eyes. However as TV cameras tend to be way more sensitive to colour inconsistencies than we are, this metric will give you a pretty good idea how your displays, sets, costumes and makeup are going to look both on camera and to the audience’s eyes.

Like the CRI, TLCI is an index – so a candle, a tungsten fixture and sunlight all come out at 100 for perfect colour rendering, and most other sources come out at something less. The closer to 100 the measurement is, the more accurately the colours of illuminated objects will be seen. The results of the test don’t only produce a number (see the accompanying image), they include a rendering of a standard film colour reference chart as it would appear on camera when illuminated by the source under test, together with a correlated colour temperature (CCT) for the source, a graph comparing the source with either a blackbody radiator or daylight, and some advice for colourists on how much of what type of correction is required to achieve an adequate white balance.

There’s more information about this on the UK Guild of Television Cameramen site at and a list of how some luminaires faired in the test at

Technical details of the TLCI methodology and how such things as the test chips and the camera response curves were developed are available on the EBU web site at If you have a decent-quality spectrophotometer you can download a program to assess the TLCI of your own luminaires from this site too.