I've spent my life (since I was 6-ish) on and around stage. About the time I was 21, a series of "I know a guy who knew a guy" put me in a positron to make a little side money as a hand on call. I nailed the gig, impressed the right guy, got on full time for a little lighting company in a hick farm town. Learned the advanced skills there by persistently asking the right questions and being the guy who wanted to learn. That led to meeting a good friend who got me on Ringling Bros circus as a rigger/electrician/lighting tech. Left them after 9 months on tour, to freelance and job hunt. I landed a gig on a cruise line as the head of lighting. I jumped ship to hang with a non-profit circus in Florida. After that, I bummed around a bit, made some questionable choices, then hopped on a different cruise line. After that, I came to Las Vegas. Did I little on call work, another season with the non-profit circus, and wound up running lights and a little audio for a night club on the las Vegas strip. And now, I'm the lighting lead for a little production company staffed by big fish.

My Proof: me focusing par cans(old school lighting) my view from the console

Comments: 131 • Responses: 61  • Date: 

lenswipe6 karma

Have you see this?

the3rdoption2 karma

I have now! That was bloody golden.thank you!

ChiefLaughingGrass5 karma

How would you tackle the feat of making a 12" replica Stonehenge?

the3rdoption2 karma

12 inch? I don't work at that scale normally. And I'm not a carpenter. But I guess I'd use foam blocks and that spray paint designed to make things look like granite (eh, look for 5 minutes in the paint isle, you'll find it). If you're talking about 12 foot... same thing, bigger blocks, more paint, maybe gluing smaller blocks together. If you have a budget, I'd go over the foam with fiberglass to give them some durability.

Herp_derpelson1 karma

So you're saying that if you made one, it wouldn't be in danger of being crushed by a dwarf?

the3rdoption1 karma

Right. The strong majority of what I do is full size stage. But really, I'm more likely to stand truss towers than build set pieces. If it's actually 12 inch, you may want to ask a model maker. My mom dated a guy in the early 70s that did that. Cool job.

DestroyerOfHam5 karma

Hey! I'm a graduate in theatrical design, about to move to another part of the UK, but I'm having trouble generating any leads in the industry. I know the 'know a guy who knows a guy' way the events industry works, but I have no contacts what-so-ever in the area I'll be moving to. Do you have any advice on meeting folk or getting a foot in the door with production companies? I'm not a naturally outgoing person, and it's tough to stand out amongst the droves of unemployed creative types! EDIT: Follow up question, no safety chains on pars? :P

the3rdoption10 karma

Alright... I pretty much restarted my contact list when I moved to Vegas. To be honest, I came here to move in as a roommate with a woman I met on Ringling Bros. She's also a lighting lady... But let's be honest: I kinda maybe might have had a thing for her. But also respected her professionally.

Either way, she's a good woman to know. Just not THE woman to know. So, I sort of stagnated here for a bit. Until I just really needed something real, and it was time to get moving.

So, first company I liked that gave me an offer, I offered myself at an introductory rate. The bottom end of what I was willing to accept, and just a little too good for them to pass up. I kicked ass and made things happen in the first month to secure the gig. They made the things I needed happen, so I'm still here... But that wasn't honestly part of the plan. The plan was to do whatever it takes to be a full timer, so I could be seen by the clients, and competitors.

I've also bluffed my way onto sets and just started working. Do not do this on union or IATSE sets. Doesn't play out well. But anywhere you know there will be an unfamiliar crew with minimal supervision, you can play. Coil some cables, be seen, then disappear into the woodwork. When you're seen later, you'll be a familiar face.

Also, go out and see concerts at shitty venues. Help the band out after. Even better if it's a shitty venue with a tech crew. They may want the help, and likely know people who are hiring.

Finally, community theatre. It's never anything amazing... But it's an easy way to get your name on paper. And occasionally in a local rag. Proof that you were there is always a good thing.

DestroyerOfHam3 karma

Thanks for the advice! I'll have a look into local groups and kick some ass, leave a couple of cards and see how it goes :) Best of luck with your lighting lady, something mysterious and sensual about a woman who knows how to plug up a distro or program a desk!

the3rdoption5 karma

Oh, no... since lighting lady, I met my permanent girlfriend and we're training a little lighting lady. Didn't get the one I thought I wanted, but found the life I'm proud of anyway.

And oh yes, did I forget? Make cool business cards. Mine were my basic contact info on the back... But the front was a "hello my name is" with my name done up to look hand written. I'd hand them out with the face up, of course. Most people give it an odd look before turning it over to realize that it's actually a business card. Humor and peculiarity is easily remembered. Use that to your advantage. Feel free to steal that idea, as I've already moved on to another.

StNic543 karma

Nice - 'permanent girlfriend'. So how would you go about popping the big question? Would you make a custom gobo?

the3rdoption1 karma

No. I suck. I discussed it with her as a purely business arrangement. At a certain point, it's an issue of being a single income household with me paying taxes as if I were single. That's all there is to it. Otherwise, I like knowing she can easily walk away when I'm being stupid... And I can do the same.

gabriel33743 karma

What was the heaviest load a rig had to support above the performers when you were working?

the3rdoption2 karma

Well, easiest answer is that the total rig weight for Ringling Bros was about 150,000 lbs (68000 kilos-ish). And that was one big interconnected rig, designed to fit in basketball arenas.

But so far as single pieces, a video wall for Brooks & Dunn weighed in at 4,000 lbs. We were told it was within 2000, which was fine, because our roof was within 3000 of the load limit. Needless to say, there was a call in on Monday to their HQ.

ADH-Kydex3 karma

As a touring rigger: What is one thing local riggers do that you love, and one thing that you hate?

the3rdoption5 karma

I love riggers that take the time to meet before going up. I want to get a feel for who's hanging my shit. I just don't have the same confidence in the guy that's just there to do the gig, and go home. Of course, I understand that 70 something points can be daunting. Particularly in places like the arena in Pittsburgh, where it was done by boom lift to clip bridles to the ceiling. But please, take the 5 minutes to Bullshit with me over how the trip was and how my last load out sucked.

Things I hate: don't try to redo my math and insist that I'm wrong. Odds are, mine was done by an engineer before being checked by load cells and read by a second engineer before leaving rehearsals. If you do see something wrong, please politely ask about it. Don't come up to me as a high school drop out with a harness and insist that I'm wrong. I might be wrong... But I'm not interested in some chump bitching about 2135lbs on a CM 1 ton (seriously. Took me 10 minutes to explain that it's a metric ton).

Also, if you own your own rope and harness, keep your gear in good condition. Self check before you approach me, please. If I catch you off guard, it's generally cool to let me know you're going to check your gear before you climb and ask me to give you a quick moment. Do not let me see that the back of your harness is frayed, or drop a rope to me that's chewed up. Because if my gear falls because your rope fails, I've got to deal with it. And if you die because your harness fails, my show is getting mentioned in the news. I hate having to chew that guy a new one, because I hate being put in a position with a higher than average chance of failure.

Oh, one thing I do love: let me know where the good booze is around the venue. If you know the guy who has substances of interest, let it be known in general that you may have the connect. And yes, yes I would like to meet your neighbor with the huge rack and questionable morals.

subcinco3 karma

great answer

the3rdoption2 karma

Thank you!

ADH-Kydex3 karma

I'll have to make more effort to chat with the tour guys now. I'm a bit too quiet in the mornings anyways, some nice conversation would help everyone.

BTW (not that it matters) but the convention center is rigged from a lift into hard points in the halls, consol center (the arena) is rigged from the beams 123' up. Daunting in its own way.

the3rdoption2 karma

Hopefully you have some better ins as a result. Also, if you could point me to the nearest Starbucks... or better yet, grab the runner right off the bat and let me know he's ready for a coffee run...

trothfeld2 karma

Have you gotten electrocuted?

the3rdoption1 karma

No, oddly enough. Not this week. Did it deliberately between 2 fingers last week to test a low amperage cable. And I have been zapped between a fixture in one hand, and truss in the other hand. Leaves a nice metallic taste that lets you know you're really alive. Never been zapped enough to knock me out. Just really fucking hurt.

trothfeld2 karma

Oh wow!! I'm glad it's not deadly.

the3rdoption1 karma

Yeah. So, the way it works in general, voltage determines how much it's going to hurt. Amperage determines how fatal it will be. It's pretty rare to see someone get hit with the amperage necessary. We usually keep people who don't know what's up away from feeder, which is pretty much guaranteed fatal, so that helps.

beamingontheinside2 karma

What is the name of the software you use to control the light system?

Also does repeated cycling of power to make lights flash wear the bulbs out faster?

the3rdoption5 karma

Well... I use lighting consoles, which are basically computers built into a box, specifically geared with ask the hardware, inputs and outputs to control a lighting rig... So, basically, I wouldn't advise using a PC based system to run a lighting show. But, I also understand that some people and some venues don't really have the budget for consoles that go for $5k used. So consider the following with that in mind.

I personally like the Hog series. The shop I work for owns a couple RoadHog4s, as well as a WholeHog 3, and a RoadHog3. They each come with an OS designed specifically for the console. But there's also Hog4PC, which is a Windows based facsimile of a Hog console. And if you're willing to pay like $1500, you can get a little box that allows that software to control your lights.

There's also GrandMAs. Same deal, expensive console, tailored OS. But, as I've heard, their PC based software will accept other manufacturer's dongles (USB to DMX, which is the standard data cable for lighting).

So far as surging lights, it kinda depends. I mean, if you're trying to strobe conventional fixtures (old style incandescent), please stop. They just aren't designed to handle that, and you'll blow your budget on replacing them. But, if you fade them in (ETC Sensor racks handle this automatically by default), you'll get more life out of them. With at least 0.5 second [smooth] fades, the added wear off turning them on and off should be negligible.

Of course, you'll find that knowledge is soon to be pretty useless trivia. Everything is moving towards LED. We just got some Martin Quantums in that are every bit as bright as any mercury vapor lamped wash. And we've got some LED pars on order that can reasonably replace conventional pars 3 cans to 1 new unit. And we're only paying about $140/unit for a light that can strobe, requires no gel, chews less power, doesn't cook the stage, and is good for around 50,000 lamp hours (with minor repairs somewhere in there). So, before you invest further in conventional lights, consider that a bit.

When_Ducks_Attack3 karma

doesn't cook the stage

That's huge. I'm a failed LD/ME (kicked out of grad school, got bitter towards the whole thing) from the '80s and early '90s. When you've got 150-200 1000w FEL lamps going, it could make a stage quite warm.

And give you a sunburn, but that's another story.

Thanks for doing this!

the3rdoption2 karma

Thank you! And yeah, at this point, I hate pars. There's nothing a par can do that an LED can't do better. In fairness, LEDs are just now getting to the point of surpassing pars. But they are very much at that point.

And I will not miss gel frames in the least. A 120k rig can cost 2 hours easily for a full regel.

And I don't consider you a drop out. A lot of us don't have a degree at all. I took a semester of college... before realizing that I was paying full price to be a teacher's assistant, because I already knew what was being taught.

When_Ducks_Attack2 karma

And I don't consider you a drop out.

You're very kind to say that... alas, after the Bad Experience in grad school, I pretty much stopped doing theatre of any sort. Oh, my old HS theatre teacher had me design a couple of shows for his school (one of which won a state award... trust me, it isn't anywhere near as prestigious as it sounds), but that was nearly 20 years ago now.

Nowadays, all I do with my lighting degree is use it to help me create fun photographs of rubber ducks. So it wasn't a total waste.

But every now and again, I see something on TV that makes me go "I could do better." I'd be wrong, like as not, but I still think it.

the3rdoption2 karma

That photo is pretty awesome. And you have a grasp of the finite details and techniques. If you get automated consoles, wouldn't be surprised if you could do better.

When_Ducks_Attack1 karma

That photo is pretty awesome.

Heh... thank you. "See, ma, my degree was good for somethin'!"

If you get automated consoles...

They're probably both a helluva lot more complex AND a lot easier to use than the things I cut my teeth on. My first computerized board was a Strand MiniLightPallette. Yes, with a 5-1/4" floppy drive.

God, I loved that beast.

the3rdoption2 karma

Wow. That's old school. Most things don't even have a CD drive anymore. The basic principles are still the same. Just combine that with Microsoft excel, and that scene in Minority Report with the computer, and you're all caught up.

When_Ducks_Attack2 karma

The MLP had only been around for two years when I started using it.

Hell, my graduate advisor, who worked with both McCandless and RE Jones back in the day, told me that he "helped design and build" the very first computerized board. Allegedly. I never found proof that he did, and I couldn't prove that he didn't. So who knows?

Yeah, I'm old school... mostly because I'm old.

the3rdoption2 karma

In my experience with techs, they don't get old. They just move slower but more efficiently.

beamingontheinside2 karma


Thank you for the reply.

One other question (if you don't mind) for shows that have fireworks/flame bursts, are they different systems controlled by the light operator/light system?

the3rdoption5 karma

Nope. Anything to do with fire, or sparks, or sudden pneumatic bursts (some confetti canons, or launchers), and even some water effects generally fall under pyro. It's strongly advisable to hire another technician to handle that. Reason being that before the burst, the pyro tech needs to be 100% certain that everything is clear, and the burst will occur within the guidelines of the law. There's a pretty lengthy set of laws on pyrotechnic displays, involving who can be near it, what safety measures must be in place, how close to the audience it can be (circumstance dependant, as close as 15 feet), etc. So, basically, it's a bad idea to make the guy who's watching the light show also fire the pyro.

Needless to say, pyro is never done on time code. It's always a manual operation. Pyro consoles generally work on a key and a big red button of doom.

Also, fun stuff to know: if you aren't cleared by federal/state gov to transport pyro, you can't do it. So on Ringling Bros, it would be shipped to us ahead of our arrival in the next city. We'd always get a little extra, to cover for damage or visible defects, or... But if we didn't use it for the show, we couldn't take it with us, and we weren't cleared to ship it anywhere, and you can't just throw it away... So, the law says we had to blow stuff up.

robodanjal1 karma

MA onPC only outputs DMX when MA onPC hardware is attached.

the3rdoption1 karma

Tragic! They changed it! Guess it's just Chamsis now.

AdmiralPellaeon2 karma

When we are loading a production truck in the UK & on the rare occasion we need to turn a flight case upside down while double stacking (Wheels up) we call it "Belgium" as in "Let's Belgium this case lads" does this have a set name in the US?

My second question is what desk are you currently using? seems to be a lot of Love for GrandMA2 & HOG4 currently.

the3rdoption1 karma

We "stack inverted" or "go wheels to the sky". Alternately "wheels to the wall" for side stacking.

And I'm on a RoadHog 4. MA is also acceptable. The company I with for is a Martin dealer, but we don't use their boards. After they dropped Maxxyz, it's like they stopped trying.

quyla2 karma

Hey, I'm happy to see something related to my work for once!

My question is, how long have you been interested in doing lighting? Was it a passion, or just a random opportunity? Right now I work for the theatre department at my university and I've been doing stage lighting for 4 years now, starting in high school.

the3rdoption2 karma

I started messing around with lighting and carpentry when I was in high school. But I didn't really get that I could make a real living at it until I was 21. I've always had a passion for the stage. Just didn't know that I could be what I am.

Also, word of advice, since I see so many college grads that don't know shit:

Volunteer after the volunteering is done. Let the instructor know that you want to know how to patch a dimmer rack, and repair a fixture, and properly coil a cable (both clockwise and over-under), and bench focus a light, and run feeder, and wrap a span set, and calculate a load, and...

Kacet2 karma

Fellow ex-ringling show electrician here!!! Crazy man, it's like we've had the same career but missed each other at the gsoe.

Glad you're staying busy! I'm struggling to find solid gigs lately.

Any good contacts in Florida? Also, which cruise did you lead tech for? I've been searching for lighting spots with Royal and Norwegian but so far no success.

the3rdoption3 karma

Bizarre, mate! But otherwise, nothing in Florida. I mean, I'm still cool with Circus Sarasota. But they're seasonal.

And so far as cruise lines, I did Celebrity (subsidiary of Royal) and Norwegian. I would do Norwegian again. I would not touch celebrity.

Kacet1 karma

Good to know, and thanks for the reply. Any good channels you know of to get their attention?

the3rdoption1 karma

For Sarasota? Henry is a good guy. Be strait and square with him, and the rewards will come back 3 fold.

For Norwegian, I applied directly to their talent website. For celebrity, it was a recruitment agency called Just Cruisin'

SuaveMF1 karma

A few questions please: (1) Is this a job for a married man or a single guy? I assume you meet a lot of broads in this business. (2) Do work a single venue or travel with the artists? (3) Any funny stories of riggers falling from great heights, getting electrocuted, etc.? (4) What do you think of the Moody Blues? (5) Do any performers come up to you after the show and tip you? (6) How hectic is your timetable once you have to start rigging stuff? What if you are running super behind but you have to make stool very bad? (7) Are a lot of riggers slobs with long hair and blue jeans, smoking reefers? (8) What's a common mistake for a rookie? For a pro? (9) Are you Union? (10) Worst part of the job? Best part of the job? - Thanks!!

the3rdoption3 karma

Let me kill your dreams a little: 1) touring is a game best for single men. You're gonna be away from home a lot. There are some artists who are family people. They like to tour for a few weeks, then take a week off with their family, which means you can go home too. But those are rare exceptions. Otherwise, you're going to be in the road for months at a time. On the cruise lines, it's a 6 month contract, 7 days a week, 70 hour weeks are common, and you might get a couple hours off the ship in port. No days off unless you are provably too sick to get out of bed. Ringling Bros was a little more forgiving on days off... But the tour is constant. Only scheduled time off is in transit, and a day per week in annual rehearsals.

So far as women, by the time I'm done working, they're gone. It does occasionally happen, but usually it's not all that tempting.

2) with the cruise lines, I was in charge of that one theatre, and was support for the other nightclubs. With Ringling, it was a new arena every week (except for very large cities where we stayed for 2+ weeks). Now, I work for a company that handles 2 venues in Laughlin, NV, as well as a ton of one-offs in various casinos.

3) funny stories of falling? Nope. I've never slipped or made use of my harness for anything other than carrying more shackles and rapelling, thankfully. I hope my luck holds out. A harness will save your ass, but as I understand, hitting the rip-stop on your lanyard hurts. Sudden spinal compression kinda thing. But I do know of several people who've died.

So far as being zapped? All the time. So, the big one was a lighting guy on Ringling. We ran our feeder strait to the truss, and broke it out from there. So, 5 200 amp cables running up. On a load out, they somehow got cut on the aluminum of the bleachers. The lighting guy, not at all aware of this. Walked up and leaned over the bleachers. BOOM, and he's laid out flat about 10 feet back. The lead said something asking the lines of "keep pushing. doesn't matter if he's dead, we've still gotta load out." He was fine, of course. And within a month or so, was the new lead.

4) the moody blues are cool. Their jams show a lot of technical skill and general talent... But for the most part, my playlist is depressing metal (Eths, Mushroomhead, Dry Kill Logic, etc).

5) it's rare for a band to tip me. But you know who's an awesome tipper? Bigg from Bigg & Rich. He's a big redneck hick from homestead country... But when you do something for him, he will be sure that you know it's appreciated. He just requests respect.

Also, good nightclub DJs are pretty good about tipping. You provide the support they need to have nothing in their mind but a good mix, and they will let you know how much they appreciate it.

6) go before you climb. Period. Once we start rigging, everything is waiting on us. Audio, video, lighting, and that producer watching his bank account get smaller by the minute. No one wants to wait for you. And everyone is glad to get in your ear about it. All day.

7)Ouch. I'm a long hair. But I'm always in blacks. And I don't get high. But some riggers are a little coarse. Others are engineers with an adrenaline addiction.

8) a really common rookie mistake is touching things they don't understand, without either asking or being told. Trust me, I want to tell you allll about everything. I want you too learn, so you're easier to work with next time. But I need to see that you can follow instructions first. Also, rookies mistake my casual demeanor for this actually being a casual task. I have come to terms with knowing that my mistakes can kill real people with lives and families and dogs who like to wave to their neighbors in Saturday mornings and love spending time with their kids. Rookies haven't even begun to understand that.

So far as pros, the common mistake is forgetting that they're actions can have fatal consequences. Stacking the rig to the limit. Or just getting cocky and letting little errors slip. Not being on top of feedback for audio. For lighting, programming a dull show, cause no one cares about this shitty opening act DJ (I'm guilty of this)

9) fuck IA. Union guys wanna bitch about us non-union guys taking food out of their mouths... while the union hires people who aren't full time, knowledgeable techs to work shows.

10) worst part: repairing fixtures that sucked to start with. Also, dealing with clients that have no idea what they want... But whatever you just did was not it.

The best part is that rare moment when you hit just the right look at just the right time, and the audio is crisp and clear, and the artist his his rockstar pose, and the crowd goes wild, and for a fleeting second, you know that this is truly art and you are the master of it.

SuaveMF2 karma

Wow these are very informative answers thanks!!

the3rdoption2 karma

Thank you!

flexedUP1 karma

Is it true that the broadway lighting engineers make over $1MM+ in salary per year?

StNic542 karma

Designers might make that much over the course of several (very large) shows, but odds are an engineer won't. Be interested what Op has to say.

the3rdoption1 karma

I replied, that basically a handful of Broadway designers make that much. But making that much is a combo of talent and connections.

the3rdoption1 karma

Some Broadway designers can make that much. But those guys are rare. Don't get your hopes up of reaching that level. Part of it is talent, a lot of it is just knowing the right people.

Shadix371 karma

Hey! So I have a chance to work with Ringling Bros. What should I know before doing that?

the3rdoption0 karma

You will likely start out in a 4'x8' room with a shitty cushion for a bed. Train runs can last 5 days, without showers or laundry. You can wash clothes in your sink. Or, I should say, please, wash clothes in your sink. The drier will be open. If you're on Red Unit, tell Big John in the pie car hi. If you become buddies with him, you'll find that he actually can cook when he's got the time. Do not even think about getting laid for the first week. Figure out the dynamics and hear dune if the rumors first. Then decide if you'd just rather run down one nighters in town or if you wanna date someone in the show. Bring a laptop. Have a stockpile of porn, music, and movies. Pack in light, and bring cash. You will leave with way more than you came with, don't forget to buy bags along the way. Don't be afraid to be social. 300 General acquaintances, or 300 family members, your choice. And respect the floor crew. They work hard and get paid shit for it. There was a time not long ago when lighting was minimal, and audio was basic. There was never a time before floor crew.

Shadix372 karma

You are awesome! I've actually been helping my dad with Ringling for years now. They use him as the license for the Pyro. I might just do that bs job or actually do something like lighting and sound. I'm not sure when I want to go do it, but likely soon!

the3rdoption1 karma

Pyro pays... But there's far more lighting jobs to actually be had. Tough call. Why not both?

Shadix371 karma

I have to still think about it. I would like to travel the world and I figured why not get paid to do it by going through the circus? Overall, do you feel it was worth it?

the3rdoption1 karma

Ringling? No. There was a lot of bs associated with that gig. But touring in general? Yes.

Shadix372 karma

Thank you so much for helping me! I think I'll give it a chance and go for it. I want to travel, but I don't have the money. Have a good one

the3rdoption1 karma

In another comment, there was someone who has a chance to work with them. I listed all the things I wish I'd been told before hand.

Matsi8831 karma

Hello. I'm still in grade school, but am able to work on the light board in our school's theatre a little bit. Do you have any tips for me?

the3rdoption1 karma

Depends. Give me some details on what kind of console it is and what kind of lights you have. Otherwise, ask about how to hook up power (feeder), and data, and how to repair the lights. Ask all about "what if?"

Matsi8831 karma

The board is something like this: http://imgur.com/Z992Q3z

I have no idea about and no access to the lights

the3rdoption2 karma

Oh. I know the express. Do you know how to patch it? Learn. Get a good feel for that. Then learn how to patch it with the screen off. Do you know how to record submasters? Learn that. Then how to use those to set a base look that leaves you space to play with lights on top of it. Like, if you have red, green, blue, yellow, magenta, no-color, and Amber lights... use Amber and red together to make a good look on a sub master then you can use green, blue, yellow and magenta to play around on top of that, and if you pull the handles on those down, you still have a good look.

Also, learn how to use the cue stack. Good practice is to pick a song. Program cues to change with the music.

Matsi8832 karma

Thank you so much!

the3rdoption1 karma

You're very welcome! Also, don't make my mistake: video and photo as much as possible. The stuff you think is no big deal now will be cool to someone in the future. I've got years of memories of awesome shows, and minimal proof it ever happened.

StNic541 karma

Lee or Rosco?

the3rdoption1 karma

GAM. no, just kidding. Please don't give me gam.

But really, I use both pretty equally. Lee exclusively for making sets look good with heavy saturation, Rosco for making people look good with softer colors.

But as much as possible, I use LED now.

Trooper19111 karma

Is this your official anthem? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwRO74Bp4aM

the3rdoption1 karma

No. Actually. No it's not. Sorry. We use the lyrics to Anthony Braxton's Composition 101.

Dilut3d1 karma

In concerts, do you improvise the light choices by the rhythm of the music or do you hear the set list and plan the lights?

the3rdoption6 karma

That's actually pretty circumstantial. A lot of the time I don't get a set list for the artist. So, I pre-program a bunch of looks, and pick & choose through them based on the feel of the song... And wind up building more stuff as the show goes. The automated lighting consoles (the fancy ones) have a "blind" button on them. When that's activated, I can program stuff without the audience seeing it, then introduce the new looks when I think they'll look good (hopefully. Bear in mind,I can't really see it either. Just educated guesses).

Other times, I get a set list AND a full rehearsal. That was the standard on the cruise lines. The MO there was to program the entire show into one cue list, and just press play at the right time.

My preference, though, is just too have a set list, or list of greatest hits the night before. Then, I can YouTube the songs, and build a basic cue list for each song. During the show, I can run through the cue list, and make up stuff to go on top of it on-the-fly.

So far as big budget shows, it's pretty common to time code everything. Like for Madonna, they have an audio track for the music that's linked to a midi signal. It feeds the lighting console the info to automatically trigger cues at exactly the right time.

Dilut3d1 karma

That's pretty cool, what concerts have you assisted in?

the3rdoption2 karma

Like, the whole list? Cause I've done several hundred individual shows.

Big names include master electrician for Joan Jett w/ Part Benetar & Berlin, lighting operator for Buddy Guy (at 70 something, mother fucker could still rock), master electrician for Johnny Winter, Lighting operator and master electrician for Soul Asylum & Everclear (better in concert than on album), Spotlight operator and master electrician for George Carlin (awesome live, a few months before he passed), master electrician for Poison w/ quiet riot (my boys may have killed the lead singer.sorry) Ratt and Sponge, lighting hand for The Rolling Stones (bigger bang tour), lighting hand for Trans-Siberian Orchestra, lighting hand and spotlight operator for the bike build off between West Coast Choppers and Orange County Choppers w/Bush (so, Bush was supposed to play one song after the show and the house band would play out for 20 minutes. Bush just kept playing for an hour. Was kinda awesome).

Edit: oh, forgot, we just did Lit for American Independence Day on a roof top pool in downtown Las Vegas. It was thankfully only 100°f (around 37°C) at sunset. But the pool put the humidity in brutal ranges.

Lobin1 karma

Is Brian Hartley still running lights for TSO? I used to love watching him run the board.

Edited to make tenses match reality.

the3rdoption2 karma

I honestly don't know. Sorry. I worked their show was back in 2007

Dilut3d1 karma

Holy shit man that is fucking awesome

the3rdoption3 karma

Thank you! The job has it's moments. But every awesome gig represents 10 totally lame corporate type gigs or bitchy artists, and hours of repairing Chinese lighting fixtures made up of parts from old printers (God, I wish that was a joke).

Dilut3d2 karma

No problem man, kinda sucks how you didn't get that many questions. You should check out the light guy for Meshuggah, the band you might not like but he is known for his insane light shows

the3rdoption1 karma

I haven't personally met their LD, but I have seen pics of his work. And they aren't in my regular playlist, but I do like them.

baldmullet1 karma

What is your opinion on the increasing use of laser projectors in production as they become more affordable? Do you feel they are becoming easier to integrate into a typical control setup, or are they still cumbersome and a pain in the ass? If you feel they are still cumbersome, is the effect generally worth it?

the3rdoption2 karma

They aren't all that cumbersome. Not any more than a Mac Viper (moving head wash/spot). But they are limited to effects. Which isn't that big of a deal... Sharpys only do effects as well and are a moving head light.

But they are expensive. A really good unit can run $60k. That's a lot of money for something you can only point in one direction with a little over a 90° beam spread.

But, the other side to that is lasers look cool, and the only thing that looks like a laser is a laser. So, I welcome anything that's an easy button for cool.

mehher1 karma

What's the funnest part of your job? And the worst?

the3rdoption3 karma

Funnest part is between climbing (and rapelling down), and playing with the lights while programming. Worst is fixing lights that were designed to be expendable. Also, dealing with clients who have a vision in their head, but no means of expressing it... or understanding the limits of physics. Like, with a spotlight, from a near dead on angle, I can't not light the backdrop. But that's an oddly common request. They want to see the person on stage, but not the light on the backdrop, and they refuse to even consider why that can't be done.

yyuugghh1 karma

What's your opinion on trigger clamps?

the3rdoption2 karma

You mean Mega Claws? Because surely, no one would actual offer me something that wasn't a Mega Claw.

yyuugghh1 karma

You truss monkeys are all the same.

the3rdoption1 karma

But really, I'm not much for triggers. I feel mega claws are just more secure

BartMaster12341 karma

What do you think of the old ETC Express lighting console? Seems like it was very common in the late 80's, early 90's. My theatre still uses it, the light presets are stored on FLOPPY disks!

the3rdoption1 karma

I learned on the express. For a conventional console, there is nothing superior, outside of the expression. But even at that, it's just an issue of scale. Otherwise, I could patch blind at the shop, show up on site, and know I got it right. I still use an expression in Laughlin. We have a par rig augmented with movers. The hog pilots the movers, and I use the expression to set a base look and bump pars. Even if I clear out the movers and crash the board, I still have a base look.

stuck_in_the_mid1 karma

I worked for a tiny lighting company back in the late 70's and have been wondering lately about current follow spot technology. I used to run a Trooper (never a SuperTrooper) that was an arc light. Do they still use arc lights for follow spots or is there a new technology?

the3rdoption2 karma

We use the same stuff. There's dime fancy ones with dmx dimmers and color control. But aside from that, and a few small LED units, it's all the same spots.

bigpipes841 karma

Do you call each other riggers? Like "What up ma rigga'!"?

Then when someone who isn't a rigger uses that word you're like "Hey! That's our word!"

the3rdoption3 karma

No. That joke is played out. But we call each other monkeys and mock what we do. And we'll call out stagehands who think they can mock us.

thepilotboy1 karma

I used to work as a stagehand for a local arena. I have to say, working theater/entertainment is probably the most fun I've ever had as far as work goes. I remember after one show a rigger fell to his death while they were breaking everything down(I was not working that night) .Have you ever had any close calls while working?

the3rdoption1 karma

Personally? No. If I had to guess why I've been so lucky, I'd say it's because I'm crazy. I like to jump off (free rapell), so a lot of what I do is in preparation for surviving that. And I work with a lot of people who are very concerned with their own safety...And don't want to file an accident report for my death.

derpaherpa1 karma

How do you feel when people of other professions call you the R-word?

the3rdoption2 karma

Better than they feel when I climb in a kilt.

Derezzed_Iben1 karma

Hey thanks so much for doing this AMA. I'm currently entering the second of six years in my army contract, and when I get out I would love to break into the club lighting/live production industry. I did a little bit of it at my church in high school. My question is once I get out, how do I start from square one, having so connections whatsoever?

the3rdoption2 karma

That's a tough one. Depends on exactly how much you know. If you know a little bit, hit up some night clubs and local theaters. If you know a fair amount, hit up production rental houses. If you realize you don't know anything, look up IATSE or Rhino Staging. Plan on giving away massive amounts of time, and learning the basics on YouTube. https://youtu.be/gjdYpyGh3zM

Derezzed_Iben2 karma

Thanks. That's exactly how I learned to DJ. My ideal reality would be to split my time between both.

the3rdoption3 karma

Oh. So, how do you feel about dreaming big?

The guy I work for has been a DJ pretty much his whole life. Little bit of small radio stuff, joined the army in his 20s, got out, a bit of DJing for weddings and stuff, and then he got his ass in gear and started a mobile DJ company. He bought some basic gear. If he made $10, he bought $8 of gear and put $2 away. Nothing wrong with buying used gear. And just kept working hard, and selling himself to anyone who'd pay, and making himself available to any budget. That was about 20 years ago.

Now, this was taken from the entry of our 17,000 sq.ft. warehouse yesterday. In the last year, we've bought around $300k in lighting. Another half million in audio. JBL (the people who make the speakers we bought) borrowed our gear to do EDC. We own enough staging to build a 40'x60' stage, with a drum riser, keys riser, guitar riser, and still handle other staging rentals. We have enough backline (musical instruments) to fully supply a 4 band show, and still handle any other calls. A very slow week for us is 10 completely separate gigs.

The owner wasn't notably business wise. Didn't start with financial backing. Just hard work and a good attitude. Following his lead is very possible.

When_Ducks_Attack2 karma

Now, this was taken from the entry of our 17,000 sq.ft. warehouse yesterday.

Stop. I can only get so erect.

the3rdoption2 karma

And in reality, we've outgrown it. But moving means finding somewhere more expensive with less centralized location, in a worse area.

Derezzed_Iben2 karma

Wow. That's incredible. Honestly in the back of my mind I always felt it was sort of a pipe dream, but seeing this as an example I can honestly say is really inspiring. Thank you so much.

the3rdoption2 karma

Not a problem. And if you start feeling discouraged, remember this: we're in Las Vegas. There was never a hole in the market for production gear. PRG (biggest production rental company in the world) has a warehouse here. Morpheous, and 4Wall (also big players) are here too. There was always plenty of gear to rent.

But what was lacking was the guy willing to really work with the client on a personal level. Not just as a rentor, but as someone who personally cares about each and every gig like it's their own gig. And my boss has surrounded himself with people who share that passion. We regularly get complements for our version of half-assing things. Because our version of half-assing is giving the client whatever it is they need to make their dream happen. Of course, our version of caring is making a $30k show happen in about $20k.

Snowball4-81 karma

Hi! what is the craziest thing you have seen a performer do backstage? or perhaps the most memorable?

the3rdoption3 karma

Nothing too nuts backstage. Pretty basic dunk his head in an ice cooler. A lot of performers start stripping as soon as they're out of audience view (initially looks exciting, but it's not. they're in a body suit under the costume.gets hot). On the cruise lines, there was a lot of nudity back stage... But after a few moments, it's not erotic, it's just the job.

On stage, the best was at a Mariachi show. It was a cowboys and Indians themed band, and the Indian was a psycho. It was an outdoor climber roof (roof that lifts up on truss legs). The Indian of the group climbed up on a 4 stack of sub woofers and waved at the audience. That was all cool. Then he jumps down (about 8 feet), ruunnns across the stage and climbs about 20 feet up the truss leg, reaches out and grabs the cable pick (about 10 heavy guage electrical cables tied up to power the truss) and swings out on them before sliding down. He was about 1 false move from killing the lights and injuring himself. I really don't know how nothing bad happened.

Oh, and last year at Life is Beautiful... So, apparently the opening band on the main stage Sunday had some problems with the monitor guys. So, at the 3rd verse of their last song, the lead vocal walks over, flips off the monitor guys, and jumps on the side fills (speaker stack on stage so the band can hear themselves clearly). He lays down, sings a couple bars, then hops off, turns around, and shoves the stack over. It was a $10,000 "fuck you". The band had to pay back every dime they got for that gig, but they say it was worth it.

Snowball4-82 karma

These are great!

the3rdoption1 karma

Thank you!

coast_transplant1 karma

How good is gaffer or rigger tape compared to duct tape? And where can I get my hands on some without paying an arm and a leg?

the3rdoption2 karma

Well, to start, it's just not cheap. You can get rolls as low as $10... if you buy in bulk. But otherwise, your best bet is to periodically search Google and hope to catch a sale. The preferred brand is Pro-Gaff

So far as it's usefulness, I don't touch duct tape anymore. I think it's been a few months since I've even seen a roll. Gaff is just as strong, but without that sticky residue. My usual method of proving to higher ups that they need gaff tape is to take a strip, really rub it on my phone screen, and peel it off. Also, the ability to easily tear it in strait lines is pretty nice.

countvoncastro2 karma

We started using a newer version of Gaff tape on set. Its called Industry tape. You guys using this?

Its good for simple black tape jobs, and seems more water resistant. For jobs that need color, like dim and hot labeling, we still use neon gaff.

the3rdoption4 karma

Nope, we just use plain old gaff. But we're in las Vegas. Water is not an issue here. If you dump a bucket of water on stage, don't bother with a mop. Just go do something else for 15 minutes, it'll be fine.

mpstmvox1 karma

How long do you think those old heat lamps will still be relevant? LEDs are most likely going to take over, that's pretty much all we use in my band. I wire up our lighting, we use newer LED pars, a couple of Cubix, some Chauvet Intimidators, and some LEDs for sidewash. As well as some flood lights when we have the power to run them (as triggering them all at once requires 16A alone).

lordalch4 karma

For fixtures that use parabolic reflectors (ie, spread the light out with soft edges), LED is very competitive for cost, especially if you use the lights a lot and have to replace lamps. Most companies have already started moving toward LED pars.

For lights that project hard-edged beams, with ellipsoidal reflectors and lenses, the internal optics require that the light be generated from a point source. A panel of LEDs isn't compatible with that paradigm.

One company, ETC, who makes the most-used ellipsoidal light in the world, designed a work-around that uses a precision fly-eye lens to focus each LED cell individually. This works, but the precision manufacturing required makes the fixtures cost a lot more than their conventional equivalents.

Edit: there's a How Its Made segment on LED Source Fours. A very interesting use of 7 minutes.

TLDR: some kinds of lights are hard to make LED versions of.

andyflatt3 karma

Thanks for the plug! (I'm an ETC employee...) As for LEDs vs conventional lamps, I recommend catching our Layers of Light presentation. LED looks great for many purposes, but tungsten is still the perfect animal for lighting faces. I think we'll still see tungsten around for a bit, just maybe in smaller numbers. It may hang around a bit longer in theatre than in rock and roll.

the3rdoption1 karma

Theatre and corporate are really where your fixtures shine (no pun intended). I don't foresee being able to completely drop them in the near future. Until you give me a perfectly even field on a White-Amber LED Leko, and let me dump the Sensor racks.

the3rdoption1 karma

The LED Lekos are more expensive... But have you seen them do a color scroll through a color gobo? Sooo awesome.

the3rdoption2 karma

Well, so. There are some old school designers (from the 70s and 80s). Some of them insist on a par rig. They will not accept your LED rig. They don't want to see pics and video. They don't want to talk about it. Just plain and simple, NO. Not too bash the old guys, Willie Nelson only uses LEDs (but his lighting guy is a dick anyway). Until those guys are retired, conventional pars will still be a thing.

Also, the company I work for doesn't own any LED elipsoidal spots (lekos. They make a hard edged beam, and can project static images). We're looking at one from China... But Chinese gear comes at the cost of extra maintenance and repairs. American and European alternatives are still prohibitively expensive. So, for another 5-6 years, conventional Lekos will be the norm.