Preface to “Stage Lighting: The Technicians’ Guide, 2nd Edition” by Skip Mort

Experience alone doesn’t always teach the right lessons. I once worked with someone who asked me to bypass the GFCIs that were protecting the final circuits for some outdoor lighting. (GFCIs, like RCDs or ELCBs, detect leakage current and will shut off the circuit if there is too much leakage.) I asked why.

“Because it’s starting to rain,” came the reply, “and they always shut off when it rains.”

Experience taught that person that using GFCIs can result in the circuit turning off if the rain causes excessive leakage, which is exactly what it’s supposed to do. What experience didn’t teach is why it’s necessary to shut them off and how dangerous it can be if they remain on.

The best teacher is a mix of education, experience, and re-training. Education lays the foundation of understanding, experience builds on that foundation, and re-training repairs the cracks in the foundation caused by advancing technology. Two of the keys to getting a great education are an insatiable thirst for knowledge and the right tools to dip deep into the well of information.

The more technology changes, the greater the need for updated information. The second edition of this book reflects the latest changes in the field of stage lighting, most notably the rapid advancement of LED technology and its effects. In addition to describing different types of LED luminaries and how each of them work, Mort catalogs some of the latest and most important of the latest models. He describes some of the pros and cons of LED lighting, as well as how they have affected best practices related to power distribution, dimming and switching, distribution of data, on-board dimming and more. He also includes updates on the practice of programming using color palettes, color matching, and other aspects affected by today’s LED and automated lighting luminaires.

LEDs aren’t the only technology that has been making great strides. Basically, anything with a computer chip in it is rapidly advancing. This edition features updated information about lighting desks, automated lights, digital projection, and media servers, as well as CAD programs and automated lighting rigs. There is also new material about one of the most relevant and important topics today, which is health and safety, and there are interesting tidbits about stage lighting history, expanded Global Jargon sections, updated technical information on lanterns, dimmers, and control, and an updated lighting resources web site directory.

The right tool always feels good in your hands. It’s comfortable, easy to use, and soothing to the soul. That’s how this book feels to me, from the quality of the paper, to the colorful layout, the ample illustrations, and the excellent content. The free accompanying DVD is the cherry on top. This is the right tool for anyone in stage lighting with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, a desire to learn, or a need to patch the foundation. It’s thorough, logically ordered, and it has a great variety and rhythm with tidbits like “Quick Tips,” “More Info,” “Extra Resources,” “Points for Action,” “Global Jargon,” and more.

I know how hard Skip Mort worked on this book because we exchanged several emails during the course of the revision. But you don’t have to be on the inside to feel his passion for the book, the subject material, and the industry. Whether you’re a teacher looking for a text to use, a student looking for the answers to your many questions, or a professional seeking to advance your understanding and your career, you will enjoy the second edition of “Stage Lighting: The Technicians’ Guide.”

Note: I wrote this preface for Mort's book when it came out in 2015 and I recently came across my original file. I wondered how well the words stood up in these changing times, and, to my surprise, it seems to hold true so I thought I would put it out there. If you're interested in checking out Mort's book you can find it here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/stage-lighting-the-technicians-guide-9781474212700/.

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