LED Lights and Theatre

Most of my experience in doing lighting design for theatre was drawing a sketch of what I needed and handing it to a talented technician who actually knew what to do to make it happen.

The systems I worked with were good but old school. You know, strip lights, parcans, colored gels, fresnels, and ellipsoidals. All that stuff did the trick and I was, in conjunction with those talented technicians, able to create some pretty cool lighting landscapes for shows over the years.

I got my first taste of LEDs a few years back in a small venue. I was not impressed. These were obviously cheap LED lights. Some of the lighting nodules stopped working after a while. We had a terrible system for controlling them, and I kept thinking: give me a parcan any day over a LED. At least I can blast the stage with reliable light!

I have now switched my opinion about LED lights in theatre because of the brand new auditorium I’m now working in which installed the Source 4 LED. Wow! And double wow!

Our auditorium is equipped with 20 of the Source 4 Lustre units – 10 of them having the ellipsoidal zoom lens and 10 of the them having the Fresnel adapter. We also have 20 of the Source 4 LED Par lights and four of the magic dot.

Forty-four lights for theatre is not a lot. Probably will need another 20 at some point, BUT what these lights can do is impressive. I’ve been spending all of my free time learning the ETC Element console for controlling these bad boys. It’s a little overwhelming but also really fun.

Here’s what sticks out to me about the Source 4 LED. Brightness. These babies are bright and the zoom lens creates crisp outlines. The Fresnel lens creates beautiful soft light, which when coupled with the barn door attachment, can be directed in a myriad of ways.

Next. COLOR. Oh my goodness. The color that comes out of these LEDs is unparalleled. I wowed my students the other day but doing a color wash of the stage from a deep blue  to a vibrant green to a hot red to every combination in between. All with a click of a mouse. No more changing gels!

This is impressive stuff, and I feel fortunate to be able to work with this system into the future.

Source 4 LEDs give theatre so many new options never before available to lighting designers. Imagination is the limit, so I hope my imagination will take-off and do something really special in this venue.

I know I’m going to enjoy the ride.

Texting and Driving: Redux

I originally posted this a year ago, but it recently came up again in my classroom and thought it might be timely to post again. I asked my students how many of them have been in a moving car while someone was texting? 39/52 said they were. Wow! How incredible it is that parents value their children so little. You think that comment is too harsh, well it isn’t. Texting and driving is 17 times more dangerous than driving drunk at the legal limit. 17 times!!!! That’s crazy. The post below will give you the particulars. I told my students that they should grab the phone and throw it out the window. After all, a broken phone is much better than a dead child. Here we go: 

 

This feels like a public service announcement. Here goes …

I had a long interesting discussion with some of my students today. First I asked them how many of them had been in a car while the driver was texting. The answers were overwhelming. Our of 46 people surveyed, 38 indicated that they had been a passenger when the driver was doing something even more dangerous than drunk driving.

More dangerous you ask? I can’t be serious, can I?

Car and Driver Magazine did a study by rigging a redlight to a car and having a driver drive unimpaired at 70mph on a desert track. When the redlight was flashed, it took him .54 seconds to hit the brake.

Next, it was a person who was legally drunk (.08) and it took that person .54 seconds plus 4 feet to hit the brake.

Next, they tested a person who was reading a text or email while driving. It took that person .54 seconds plus 36 feet.

Next, it was a person who was writing a text while driving. It took that person .54 seconds plus 70 feet.

Can anyone see the problem here? People commonly, day in and day out, are using their phones while driving and endangering everyone around them – and they think they have it all under control.  But they don’t.

I’m pretty sure parents lecture their kids on drinking and driving, but perhaps have overlooked something even more dangerous that happens all the time.

As I told my students, each car has this unique device called a brake in which one can stop, pull off the road, and read their text message if it is that important to them.

There is also something called not answering the phone. We have become so conditioned to immediately reaching for our phone when we hear the ding or feel the buzz. It’s as if we are expecting breaking news or a word from God himself. In reality, 99 percent of the text messages we receive are so mundane that we could wait days to read them without ever altering the orbit of the earth around the sun. You can be confident that there is nothing earth-shattering in that text that can’t wait a day, let alone ten minutes.

I hope everyone will think seriously about this. Put down your phones. Stop endangering those who are riding with you and who are driving around you. You just might save a life.

 

In Praise of Audacity

If you’ve never used AUDACITY, it’s an awesome program that is fantastic for sound editing – and it’s a free program. What’s not to like? I just wanted to briefly outline how I use it in case you might find it useful for yourself. Here’s a sample view of what it looks like:

audacity capture

Here’s the layout of the program. In this project, I had an MP3 musical track in which I needed to add some vocals to. I opened Audacity, dragged and dropped the MP3 file which not allows me to manipulate it – trim, mute, increase decibels, etc… I decided to sing, so I sung some lyrics in the second track below, exported as a MP3 and I have a new song file with vocals.

When writing musicals with my students, I find this program invaluable for editing songs and creating samples. The interface is super easy, and it’s really a powerful program for all types of audio manipulation.

Need a portion of a song for an intro to a drama? No problem. Cut and fade it where you want it.

Need to mash together two song files? No problem.

Need to record vocals over a sample track. Piece of cake.

I have found lots of practical uses. A quick Google search will get you a free, powerful audio editing program in the matter of seconds.

I hope you find it as useful as I do.