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Latency is the devil’s payback for trying to push too much data through a skinny wire, and video is a lot of data. Uncompressed 1080P at 30 frames per second is about 1.5 gigabits per second if you’re using standard eight-bit dynamic range (1920 pixels x 1080 pixels x 30fps x eight bits of red data x eight bits of green data x eight bits of blue data = 1,492,992,000 bits per second). If you now factor in high dynamic range with 10 or 12 bits, high frame rate, and 4K resolution you’ve got a real gusher of data. It’s amazing that it works at all.

Fortunately, some very smart people have figured out how to compress data without too much compromise. Although it’s going to be a while before we’re able to livestream the most demanding of video formats like UHD with HDR, there now are video-over-IP solutions to get video across a network with low latency, including NMI, ASPEN, SMPTE_2110, SMPTE_2022-6, NDI HX, and NDI. One of them has been making a lot of noise lately, and that’s NDI (Network Device Interface).


It used to be that shooting a video at a remote location— someplace off the grid—meant having to rent a portable power generator, hauling it, setting it up, and monitoring it for the duration of the shoot. But now that we have LED fixtures with good quality of light (and other features), the options are much better. Because LEDs typically use less energy than their tungsten counterparts, in many situations you can toss a putt-putt generator in the back of a truck and use it to power your lighting. Better yet, more and more gaffers are relying on portable battery power for short-tomedium-duration location shoots. Lithium-ion battery technology is powering this movement, and the current state of the technology is what allows a small battery and inverter combination to replace a much larger and noisier generator with much less care and feeding.

“An S.E.P.,” he [Ford] said, “is something we can’t see or don’t see or our brain doesn’t let us see because we think that it’s somebody else’s problem. That’s what S.E.P. means— somebody else’s problem. The brain just edits it out. . . . If you look at it directly you won’t see it unless you know precisely what it is.” ~ As quoted from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Douglas Adams Live in Concert

There are two kinds of people in the entertainment industry: those who take responsibility for their own safety and training, and those who believe that safety and training is somebody else’s problem. As long as that is true, the sun will continue to shine and the accidents will continue to pile up. The first group will jump up and down and wave our arms about safety, training, and certification, and the other group won’t see, or their brains won’t let them see the benefit of training and certification because they think it’s an S.E.P. It’s a blind spot, but they’ll find some justification or other, like repeating the myth that training and certification somehow creates more liability.


Elation Proteus Hybrid Review

I think it was Dale Polansky, Candace Brightman’s lighting console programmer on The Grateful Dead’s shows, who told me that the group played a show during a rain shower, and even though water was pouring out of the moving lights, they worked fine. Then there’s the story that Phil Ealy told about the Guns N’ Roses lighting rig that fell off a pier in Atlantic City and into the ocean. After using a blow-dryer to dry out the strobe lights, they came back to life. I suspect that, in both cases, the lights probably suffered from corrosion and, eventually, premature failure—not to mention the electrical hazards involved. Water and lighting ordinary don’t mix, but that’s changing, thanks to a new generation of high-IP-rated moving lights. Elation’s Proteus Hybrid, for example, has an IP rating of 65, for outdoor use.

Open Sound Control

MIDI has been around since 1983 and MIDI Show Control since 1991. They’re ancient by technology standards. They work just fine, but they are slow and have limited abilities. OSC, on the other hand, takes a more modern approach. As a result, it has much greater capabilities. It’s much faster, it offers much more granular control, it’s very powerful, it can be very simple to use, and there are lots of very inexpensive apps that allow you to take advantage of it.

Many years ago, one of the software developers at High End Systems developed voice control for a Status Cue lighting console. Could AI be the future of lighting control?

I think I was about 10 or 12 years old when I told my older brother I wanted to get a Ford Mustang when I was old enough to drive. But he was confident that technology had other plans for me.


“By the time you’re old enough to drive, we’ll have flying cars,” he said.


Not only am I still waiting for my flying car, I’m also waiting for my voice-controlled lighting console. The technology for both exists today, so where are they? Many years ago, Lary Cotton, one of the software developers at High End Systems, developed voice control for a Status Cue lighting console. When he showed it to me, he wore a headset and spoke simple commands. The console obeyed, but the product never made it to market - and not because the technology wasn’t capable.


We could use voice-controlled lighting consoles today, or, at the very least, consoles that are simpler to use. I recently came across a Facebook query that made me question the sanity of our approach to programming. The poster asked how to perform a relatively simple operation on a particular console, which was to copy the RGB colour settings from one fixture and apply them to another. The answer involved several keystrokes and was anything but intuitive.

...but are they a good thing?

A couple of weeks ago I was working on a job that had several ARRI L7 LED fixtures, and I was looking for some information in the user manual when I came across something that I’ve never seen before. It said, “You must not connect more than 256 products per data link.” If you’re at all familiar with the DMX standard, then you most likely know that it specifies a maximum of 32 unit loads per data link...


New technology necessitates new tools.

I’ve had a Minolta T-10 for years, but I recently acquired an Asensetek Lighting Passport spectrometer at the recommendation of Mike Wood. After reading his articles about CRI (color rendering index), CQS (color quality scale), TLCI (television lighting consistency index), and TM-30-15 (IES Method for Evaluating Light Source Color Rendition), I decided it was time to replace my Minolta, so I purchased a Lighting Passport Essence Pro. Like most professional lighting tools, it was not cheap ($1,295, plus another $200 for the Spectrum Genius Studio app that provides the ability to measure TLCI). There are several different models of the Lighting Passport, but this model is the least expensive that still provides TM-30 measurements in addition to CCT, CRI, CQS, illuminance, spectrum diagrams, and, with the SGS app, TLCI...


Medea, to be performed by the New Epic Theater at the Lab Theater in Minneapolis, was cancelled before opening night in May because the actors didn’t feel safe on stage with the planned water effect. A local magazine published a very long article about the incident, and not once was there any mention of the use of ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). It’s unclear whether or not the circuits in question were in fact protected by GFCIs, and if not, then the actors were absolutely right in refusing to go on stage under the circumstances.

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Not everyone who uses DMX needs or wants to learn how to patch and program a full-sized lighting con- sole. There are lots of instances where all you want is to use a handful of faders to control a few simple effects like fog machines, DMX-con- trolled fans, and maybe some practi- cals. There are many options: Some are free, others are inexpensive, and others cost a bit more. 

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A few weeks ago, I took a call for a corporate event, and I found myself schlepping gear that looked like it could have been around when I started my career about 130 years ago. It wasn’t quite knob-and-tube wiring or a GE Talaria projector (, but most of it certainly wasn’t 2017 state-of-the-art technology either. The next day, I took some antidote by getting on a plane and flying to Las Vegas for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show. It was almost like riding a time machine into the future of video technology

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I’m not a rigger, and I don’t pretend to be, but rigging fascinates me, because it’s just applied math and physics. I’m pretty good in those subjects, probably because they interest me; I was also fortunate that my father instilled in me an appreciation for math. Still, it doesn’t matter how good you are with math or physics, you can’t just read a rigging book, rig a show, and expect it to be safe. But reading good books about rigging can help you lay a solid foundation for learning the craft, and, with some experience, you can begin to work yourself into a job as a rigger.

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ETC Gio@5 Lighting Console

Choosing the right console can be an agonizing decision, one that you have to live with for a long time. You’ll spend hours and hours sitting behind it, pressing its buttons, dialing its encoders, setting its faders, and staring at its displays, and if you make a poor choice, those hours can feel torturous. The good news is that there are lots of really good consoles from which to choose. The bad news is that there are a lot of really good consoles from which to choose, which can make the decision that much more difficult.

It helps to narrow your choices if you have a preference for a particular operating system and already have experience with it. It helps even more if the console you’re considering is made by a company known for its control systems, and it has a console that fits your needs and budget. ETC might be that company, and its new Gio @5 could be that console.


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VYV and the Photon Media Server

A friend recently posted a question on Facebook asking about the future of media servers, and one of the answers caught me by surprise. It was simply a link to a company based in Montreal, Canada called VYV.

If you’ve recently worked with Ariana Grande, Roger Waters, Mariah Carey, Adele, Simply Red, Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, or Britney Spears, or if you work with Cirque du Soleil, Franco Dragone, or any number of other companies, you probably know VYV and its flagship media server Photon. You might even have worked side-by-side with them on some of these shows. Otherwise, you might be wondering, like me, how a company working on such high-profile shows can fly under the radar for so long.


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Hippotizer V4

Green Hippo, the manufacturer and developer of video hardware and soft- ware, recently launched a new soft- ware application called Play, which allows you to demo its Hippotizer V4 media server on your laptop or other computer. Until now, if you wanted to use the Hippo you had to have one of the company’s dedicated hardware solutions, like Amba, Karst, Boreal, Taiga, or Portamus. Besides the demo function, the software application allows you to preprogram a show with a visualizer and encode your media to ensure that it will run properly. It’s not a bad way to learn how to use the media server; that’s a win for users and Green Hippo. 

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SHoW DMX Multiverse: Poised to Change the Industry

Wireless DMX is changing the live event production industry, and City Theatrical is out to change wireless DMX. It’s a small change, literally, but it could have big implications.


City Theatrical’s SHoW DMX wire- less DMX system is not new. In fact, it’s been around since 2008. Like other wireless systems, it spreads the trans- mission frequency across a range of selected channels in order to avoid interference from other wireless sys- tems in the vicinity. But unlike other systems, the frequency hops are syn- chronized with the transmission of packets of DMX so they aren’t broken up, interrupted, or dropped. 


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MA Lighting VPU

The latest VPU software version is 3.2, and it allows the use of the Hap codec, which uses the graphics processor instead of the CPU to decompress video using hardware acceleration.

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A couple of weeks Ago I asked a console programmer, who also happens to teach console programming classes, which version of Art-Net a particular console uses. The answer was, “I didn’t know that there were different versions of Art-Net.” 

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When you go to the supermarket and lay down your hard-earned cash, you expect to receive a dollar’s worth of value in return. But suppose you paid your dollar and in return, you received only a few cents worth of value? that’s essentially what is happening when you turn on your lights. you exchange your dollars for electricity, and when you flip the switch, you’re exchanging the electricity for light. But the exchange rate falls far short of what you might expect.

How efficacy in lighting can not only save you money, but there are other benefits.To continue reading, click on the button below...

How do you calculate the current draw in an unbalanced 3-phase power system? That's a question I pondered and answered in this article.

Warning: Some math involved!

Ten Years of ACN

2016 is the 10th Anniversary of ACN...Why is it MIA?

In a few months, we’ll mark the tenth anniversary of the lighting control pro- tocol Architecture for Control Networks (ACN). In terms of technolo- gy, how long is ten years? When the protocol was ratified in October 2006, we didn’t yet have iPhones, the cur- rent version of Windows was XP, and Facebook was barely a month old. So here we are, ten years down the road; ACN is almost as scarce today as it was in 2006, and it’s not gaining any ground. Will it ever enjoy widespread adoption? 

Swisson XMT-350 DMX Measurement Tool/Tester

The Swisson XMT-350 is smaller and lighter than a roll of gaff tape, and is much better for working with DMX and RDM.

The longer I’m in the entertainment lighting industry, the more I want to travel light. I don’t like carrying heavy tools; bulky items, like a wallet or keys; or anything that I have to keep track of on a job site. I don’t even like wearing a hat. You may think that it’s because I’m getting old, but that’s not why; it’s because I’m getting smart. The smarter I get, the less I carry. If I thought I could get away with it, I would only carry a roll of gaff tape. You can do almost anything with it, including wearing it.

Realistically, you can’t show up at a job with only gaff tape. At the very least, you need a spanner and some gaff tape. But I seldom go anywhere without a DMX tester that has the ability to set up, test, and troubleshoot a DMX system.


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Video Power

There’s an age-old debate about whether electronics should be kept on continuously or turned off each night. 

On the one hand, turning them off every night (or periodically) creates a cycle of heating and cooling that caus- es expansion and contraction of com- ponents and solder joints, which some people say can lead to premature fail- ure. On the other hand, leaving elec- tronics powered up costs money and leaves them exposed to the vagaries of the electrical power grid, including spikes, surges, swells, and lightning strikes, which could instantly destroy components. 


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Protecting the Stage

How many more singers have to die?

On November 23, 2014, Augustin Briolini, the lead singer of a band called Krebs, was on stage in Argentina and committed a deadly act: he grabbed a microphone. It was an ordinary mic, except that there was enough voltage, possibly between his guitar strings and the microphone, that the simple act of touching the mic allowed deadly current to flow through his body. Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Unfortunately, this is a scenario that is too often repeated. You don’t have to look too hard to find stories and videos online of singers being badly shocked or electrocuted, such as Nolberto Alkalá, Frankie Palmeri of Emmure, or Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory. That’s just in the last two years, and it doesn't include countless backline techs who have horror stories to tell about their shock experiences. What if there was a device that could fit in the palm of your hand, cost less than a good microphone cable,  and was quick and easy to install, that prevents these types of accidents? Would you, as a trained live event professional, use it? Before you answer No, please read the rest of this article.

Understaning switch-mode power supplies

The changes in automated lighting

technology over the last five years are much

greater than I had imagined. What has changed? Primarily two things:

LEDs and switch-mode power supplies

(SMPS) have both proliferated. That LEDs

have mushroomed will come as no surprise

to anyone who is old enough to drive, but

the fact that SMPSs are now the dominant

technology might. In fact, the two are closely

related, since almost all LED luminaires

use power supply technology that is very

similar to SMPSs found in most automated



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The Musical RENT

by Richard Cadena


two-hundred pixels.

That’s what I had to work with

on a recent production of the

musical RENT at the new Patti

Strickel Harrison Theatre on

the campus of Texas State

University San Marcos. It was

my job to make every pixel

count in support of the story of

a group of young, struggling

artists in the East Village amid

the AIDS epidemic of the late

1980s and early 1990s.

Vectorworks 2015

by Richard Cadena

(rendering by Kate Blair)

“Which lighting design

software should I use?” That’s

a question that is commonly

heard around the industry.

Chuck Dillingham, director of

lighting operations at TMG

Production Services in

Nashville, Tennessee, posted

on Facebook in response to

that question that Vectorworks

is “the standard for

entertainment lighting design.”

by Richard Cadena

Shuji Nakamura wasn’t trying to start a revolution, he was just trying to make a blue LED. But when he succeeded in 1993, his little blue butterfly flapped its wings in Japan, where Nichia Corporation, the company he worked for at the time, was located, and it created a hurricane of LED activity in the live event production industry. One of the by-products of having the ability to combine red, green, and blue emitters to produce almost any color was to use it as a single video pixel, leading to the invention of the LED video display. When U2 used a large LED backdrop on the PopMart tour in 1997, it portended big changes in live event production.

by Richard Cadena

Remote Device Management, or RDM, was ratified in December 2006, and almost eight years later, it’s finally coming to a theatre near you. It took a while for manufacturers to assimilate the protocol and implement it in their products, but it seems like RDM is finally rounding the corner. Most new products being designed and built today have RDM functions, including luminaries and accessories like wireless DMX transmitters and receivers. The wild card is still consoles. Some of the popular consoles like MA Lighting grandMA 2 and Wholehog 4 still don’t have it. I used to think that the lack of RDM in lighting consoles was an insurmountable obstacle to its full acceptance, and that as long as consoles didn’t have RDM capabilities that it would never reach its full potential. Now I’m rethinking that.

by Rob Baxter and Richard Cadena

Last winter at the annual NBA D-League Showcase in Reno, I had the opportunity to work with freelance entertainment electrician Rob Baxter to conduct a test using LED luminaires for an NBA event. D-League or Development League is the NBA’s official minor league where prospective NBA players are groomed for the big leagues. We lit a series of basketball games exclusively with LEDs, and they were seen by a live audience in addition to being broadcast on the NBA-TV Network. 

by Richard Cadena

Voltage drop is what Kirchoff was talking about when he came up with his voltage law, which is taught in electrical engineering schools

everywhere. In simple terms, it says that the sum of the voltages around a closed circuit is zero. The supply creates the voltage, and

the load, including the cable or wire, takes it away. It’s kind of like going up in an elevator and then coming back down. In the end,

if you finish where you started, energy is conserved in the closed system including the energy put into the motor and the gravity that

brought you back down (ignoring the inefficiencies).

by Richard Cadena

How much of a story can voltage drop tell? After writing about it in the last issue of Protocol, I thought 2,000 words

would pretty much cover it. And then someone posed a question about how much voltage drop we would expect to get from a

1,000' run of 4/0 cable. (For those of you who don’t reside in North America, 4/0—pronounced “four-ought”—is an American

wire gauge size that is commonly used for feeder cable. It’s about 107 mm2.) Around the same time, I heard a story about a very

high profile show where the followspot ballasts kept overheating, presumably because of voltage drop. Clearly, there is more of the

story to be told.

By Richard Cadena and Alan Rowe

Pop quiz:

Lithium batteries recently overheated and/or caused a fire on an airplane in:

(a) Dubai, UE

(b) Sydney, AU

(c) London, UK

It’s a trick question because there is no wrong answer; they are all correct. The fatal accident in Dubai was the result of a large shipment of lithium batteries catching fire and causing the pilots to crash their UPS airplane. The United States Federal Aviation Administration subsequently issued a safety alert warning of the risks of transporting large shipments of lithium batteries in cargo by aircraft, even though the US Department of Transportation had already disallowed loose lithium batteries in checked luggage in 2008. What’s going on with lithium batteries?

by Richard Cadena

The perfect front of house? It has plenty of real estate, enough for my Starbucks, my laptop, at least two video monitors, preferably four...Let’s see...Am I forgetting anything? Oh yeah, the

console. That’s all I need. I don’t need anything else. Except an ergonomic chair. Just my Starbucks, my laptop, four big monitors,

the console, and a nice, comfy chair, and that’s all I need. And my headset. And that’s all I need.


Actually, there is at least one more thing, and it’s not a paddleball. It’s something no front of house should be without and it’s something every self-respecting tech knows all about. It’s relatively inexpensive, easy to operate and set up, and it can save your gear and your reputation as a tech who knows how to insure the show goes on. Have you guessed it yet? Of course you have, yoU smart PerSon,

you. It’s an uninterruptible power supply, better known as a UPS.

by Richard Cadena

Automated Lighting: The Art and Science of Moving and Color-Changing Light, 3rd Edition is a work of heart. I poured my time, energy, heart, and soul into this revised edition. Virtually everything changed from the 2nd to the 3rd edition, and as a result, I had to re-educate myself about almost every aspect of automated and color-changing light technology from the power supplies to the optics, light sources, control protocols, troubleshooting techniques, and more. I tried to make it clear and easy-to-understand for beginners but with enough detailed information for the most experienced lighting professionals. If you don't love this book as much as I loved writing it, I'll walk the plank.

Electricity for the Entertainment Electrician & Technician

by Richard Cadena

The 2nd edition of the popular book about electricity, power distribution, electrical safety, and more. It's the book that every live event production professional and aspiring professional should have and read. It covers everything from basic electricity to advanced power distribution systems including Ohm's law, the power formulas, 3-phase power distribution, electrical safety and more. It starts with the basics for the beginner (or as a review for more the more experienced) and builds to more advanced topics like 3-phase power, power factor, harmonics, and more.


New to This Edition:

This edition expands on the concepts developed in the first edition with more graphics and illustrations, and adds several new topics relevant to today's live events. New topics include portable power generators, battery power, LEDs, and updated information about personal protective equipment (PPE), safety, codes, and regulations.


Lighting Design for Modern Houses of Worship

by Richard Cadena

Starting with the basics and progressing through the details of advanced lighting design, this guide covers everything from lighting metrics (the measurement of light) to the classic approach to lighting and the all-important "jewel" lighting method commonly used where video is an important aspect of the production. It also addresses the study of aesthetics of lighting, including the use of diffusion and a detailed analysis of color theory and how it applies to lighting design.

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