10 December 2015

DMX DAY, ANOTHER STANDARDS WAR?

Some bright spark came up with the idea of International DMX Day – 5/12. Funny, but it also made me think about this old faithful standard, in use since 1992 and still going strong. Or is it?

I am seeing more and more Art-Net devices, Streaming ACN (sACN) and IP being used. Art-Net and sACN basically are ways to distribute DMX over EtherNet

Whilst each of these is starting to carve out its own niche, I am a little bit worried that we may be heading for another “Standards War”.

Do you remember when every lighting console manufacturer went “digital” with their own, proprietary, control protocol and nothing talked to anything else? Thank heavens that DMX came out on top and was universally implemented.

Each of the “new” protocols brings something else to the party, advancing DMX, or at least, expanding the scope.

DMX is certainly going to be around for a long time yet, but the complexity of shows is slowly forcing the adoption of new standards, I just hope that the industry decides on one soon and we can get on and use it.

I would be interested to know which way you are leaning.

02 December 2015

WHEN TECHNOLOGY BECOMES THE REASON…

Lately I’ve been seeing a trend, especially in lighting, where it would seem that technology has become the reason and not the solution.

As a self-confessed technophile, I am somewhat ambivalent about this – if the technology exists, use it. Then I see it being used for no other reason than the fact that it exists and I get a bit worried.

I have always seen technology as the solution to a specific problem, take moving heads for example: A stunning solution to a lot of problems, one being the one-fixture-replaces-many in respect of colour, gobo, beam size, etc.

Lately I see a lot of lights moving, but not adding anything apart from making pretty pictures – they don’t actually light anything.

It may be argued that this is a new style of lighting, granted, maybe I am just old school, but I still believe lighting is there to light something, be it performers or sets, just light something.

I grew up in an environment where the LD looked at the problem: Where is the action, what needs to be lit? He, or she, then positioned lights to solve those problems. Careful planning and allocation of fixtures and colours were the rule.

These days it often seems as if placement of fixtures to create symmetrical beam patterns is the first and most important step, if it actually lights something, it is a happy accident.

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen shows lately that were beautifully lit, some I’ve seen only at times, at other times, just stunning beam patterns.


Is it time for Lighting Designers to revisit the reason why they exist, or should we redefine the role of the LD?

26 November 2015

MUST HAVE BOOK

It has been a while since my last blog here, not for lack of having anything to say, more a lack of time in which to say it, but I am going to get back to regular blogs.

Firstly, I have been somewhat amiss in mentioning one of my favourite technology books - John Huntington's "Show Networks & Control Systems".

We all know that everything is going over to networks and the ability to "speak" IP has become essential, but how does all of this fit together and what talks to what? Mr Huntington addresses these and other very complex issues in the book - best of all in a language that anyone can understand.

I find myself reaching (ok, opening the e-book) for it whenever I wonder about a new protocol or how do I make this work with that.

He covers just about any protocol currently known, lighting, audio, video, you name it, it is there.

An absolutely essential part of any technician's toolkit! Get it!  

13 September 2014

NEWLY IDENTIFIED MALE HORMONES

Recent scientific research has shown that males have a large number of previously unidentified hormones that only manifest under certain circumstances. Scientists are baffled by this phenomenon as no hormones have previously been discovered that are triggered by social situations.

We all know the guy that will never drink anything pink, refuse to hold his wife’s handbag in public and under no circumstances will he wear anything with pink flowers. Once this same guy becomes a father he is happy to drag pink or flowery bags and suitcases through every airport in the world. This is the result of a newly discovered hormone called “parentis hormonis” and scientists believe it is awakened in the male by the smell of babies’ nappies.

Then there is the man who refuses to shed a tear even when Bambi’s mother dies, absolutely never cries, no matter how sad the chic flic he was forced to watch is. Watch him when his team loses in the final…tears may now be shed. This hormone is called “sportis hormonis” and apparently sets in after thirty when the male stops playing any sport except golf.

There is also a certain type of man that refuses to cook anything, cooking being the women’s domain. Light a fire and he suddenly is the world’s expert in the preparation of meat. Add a black cast iron pot and he is better at vegetables and seasoning than Ina Paarman. This is the “manus braaius” hormone. It only needs naked flames to kick in and is apparently latent in all men.

Scientists have identified a number of other weird behaviours that they now attribute to these social hormones, most have no official names yet. There is the “appliance hormone” which generally manifests when a new washing machine, dryer or dishwasher has to be purchased. In a certain class of men, these appliances are never to be touched by a male, unless it is in the shop when they somehow become absolute experts and will inspect every hinge, screw and drawer and then proclaim on the inferiority of the particular brand. Generally it has been found that the more dials and displays an appliance has, the more appealing it is to this class of male. An adjunct to this phenomenon has been found, but so far not scientifically proven, it appears that the appeal of the sales lady also influences male appliance decisions.

Obviously appliances that emit music and/or visual material has always been the domain of the male and it has now been found that there is a hormone influencing their decisions here as well – the “cable hormone”. Basically it causes the male to gravitate towards appliances that require many cables that cannot be installed neatly. It has to be mentioned that some scientists in this field does not acknowledge that this in fact a hormone, but ascribe it the male innate sense of chaos. This does please chaos theorists immensely, a field dominated by men.

It has been further found that no male will admit that any female has any expert knowledge on anything that has to be plugged in to work. This is, however, not attributed to any hormone, but only to a general deficiency of confidence in the male.


Unfortunately the sources for the above cannot yet be revealed, as it has not been published in any respectable journal. Let me know if you have identified any other male hormones that explain behaviour.

29 July 2014

OUR INDUSTRY or WHO/WHAT ARE WE? – A GENERAL RANT

We so often refer to “our industry”, but what do we actually mean and what is included in that broad description?

Let’s face it, we are made up of a lot of different components, Theatre, Corporate, Concerts, Events, Weddings, Conferences and more, and even under these there are sub-divisions. It seems like it has come down to individual definitions based on your own background with widely different inclusions.

I maintain that if there is a person performing, it is a Live Event, be that person a singer, actor, speaker or the groom, they are performing live to an audience! Can we please agree on a single term, “The Live Events Industry”?  I come from Theatre, with a lot of Corporate experience, even some Concert work, I deem myself to be part of the Live Events Industry.

So what are the differences? Why do some people feel adamant that they are only part of one section? Why do some, not all, look down on people from other parts? Really, is the guy doing sound for a conference less than the guy on the big concert? Yes, it may involve different skill levels, but the basics are the same.

All Live events require some technical assistance and of the same quality – I don’t care what part of the industry it is, if you are going to do a job, you have to do it with the total commitment and give it your best. The next person that says to me, “Oh, it is just a small show…” is so going to be smacked over the head with a piece of 3X1! (You do know what 3X1 is, don’t you?)

Please explain to me what the difference is in what a Wedding Planner and a Production Manager does? Focusing two lights for a speech is no more technically taxing than focusing 500 for a concert, it just take more time – it should be done to the same high standard, shouldn’t it?

Times are tough for our industry as a whole, anybody that claims to be getting rich at the moment is either deluded or satisfying his creditors – most are merely turning over money and often working at a loss. We all know about shrinking budgets and expanding expectations.

I remember years ago a leading producer of corporate shows’ first question to a client was what the budget is. If it was under a million rand, he was just not interested. Those days are long gone - nowadays you are just too happy to be approached and you make the show fit into the budget, however minute, and you smile because you are working.

Let’s all pull together and recognise that we are all working towards the same goals, pleasing the audience and making a living.

If your job description includes the words technical or production, you are probably part of the Live Events Industry and providing some sort of service to an event where there are performers and an audience – A Live Event.

It really does not matter exactly what you do or how big your event is, you deserve respect for the job you are doing and you should respect what you are doing by giving your all at the highest standard possible – no exceptions!

/End Rant.