The ETC product catalog is dead.

Or is it? We hear a lot of conflicting opinions on how our product catalog is used - if it's used at all - from our dealers.

We hear the catalog referred to as a "gift" that sales people feel compelled to leave behind when they visit a customer.

We hear the catalog is the first place someone goes when they want to know about an ETC product.

We hear the catalog is the last place someone goes when they want to know about an ETC product.

But we're feeling like we need to get some opinions from the people who are buying and using lighting products every day. We don't want to do a survey, we just want to have a little dialogue.

So here's the deal: post a comment (or multiple) that addresses one of the following questions. On September 10, I'll pick five random commenters to receive some ETC SWAG (a t-shirt and something extra). Your comments need not be "positive" or "pro-ETC" to be eligible for SWAG, but they should be on-topic.

Q: If you've seen an ETC product catalog over the last few years, how did you use it?

Q: If you've found the ETC product catalog to serve a particular purpose for you, what is that purpose?

Q: What is it about the ETC product catalog that makes it useful, or useless, to you?

Q: If you could change one thing about the ETC product catalog, what would it be?

Get on board with the Pecha Kucha craze!

ETC Architectural Market Manager Joe Bokelman explains what a Pecha Kucha is:

A what? What is a Pecha Kucha, you ask? An easy answer might be to refer you to pecha-kucha.org, and leave it at that. But, if you haven’t already clicked away, allow me to make an analogy: if Karaoke is a way for drunken businesspeople to embarrass themselves after work, Pecha Kucha is a similar pastime while you might actually be working. It is like ‘open mic night’ for creative people.

The words mean ‘chit-chat’ in Japanese; more specifically, our dealer in Japan said it means ‘five women gossiping, at the same time.’ In 2004, two architects in Tokyo created an event style to help rejuvenate the gallery/bar/performance space they owned. They felt that creative types (architects, artists, etc.) had no outlet to explain and showcase their work to peers, but they also felt that ‘giving the mic’ to those same creative types was dangerous; they might never shut up! So, the pair devised a format to contain the presentation of a creative work (or idea) – one that also forced the presenter to really narrow their focus.

The Pecha Kucha format is very specific – 20 slides presented at a pace of 20 seconds per slide. In practice, the slides should automatically advance, making the entire presentation six minutes and 40 seconds long, exactly. This concept isn’t hard to understand, but just try it once for yourself; you will be forced to consider exactly what you are going to say, and you will have to work hard to avoid all of those little ‘filler words’ and verbal tangents we all have! In addition, you will have to find the right subject to present – you may find it very hard to express a broad concept at 20 seconds per slide.

Why do it? Because the format benefits the viewer. In a traditional format, the audience would have to sit the entire time listening to one person drone on about this project or that concept. If they don’t like the topic, or the presenter, that’s a good deal of time wasted. In a typical ‘Pecha Kucha Night’ or PKN, there may be 10-20 presenters, or about one to two hours of presentations. Some have said the best part about Pecha Kucha is that each topic (or presenter) is only up for 00:06:40. If you don’t like it, it will be over soon enough! Also, there is always some time in-between presenters, usually enough time to get a fresh drink from the bar (remember, the inventors owned a performance space/bar!) and the event usually gets more and more raucous as the night goes on!

Now six years later, the Pecha Kucha craze has grown worldwide: there are more than 335 cities with sanctioned Pecha Kucha nights, and more than 1000 presentations online on their main site. Thousands of people have experienced Pecha Kucha – and if you were at our Workshop this summer, you did too! The format has been used to present topics of all kinds (one of my favorites was given by a zoologist on a rare species of very large, flightless birds!).

Words don’t do the format justice. You have to check one out for yourself, either online, or better yet – go to a PKN near you!

Posted by allisonsuchon | with no comments

ETC Live!

ETC lights venues all around the world – theaters, museums, tradeshows, amusement parks, concerts and more. One of the main reasons our equipment is so popular is because we understand what lighting professionals need for their varied applications, since we’ve been in their shoes. Employees have come to ETC from all kinds of backgrounds and have their own experience in those industries. And every year, we get the opportunity to showcase our skills at an annual company picnic, art exhibit and talent show – called ETC Live! – held at our factory.

This year’s event, with a ‘Fire and Ice’ theme, took place on Saturday, August 7th. The deluge of rain that Wisconsin’s gotten this year took a day off, so we lucked out with beautiful – albeit humid – weather. Nearly 1,000 people – ETC employees, our families and guests – joined a swarm of Wisconsin state birds (read: mosquitoes) to enjoy the food and fun. ETC CEO Fred Foster provided some relief from the humidity, peddling around the event on his ice cream cart and handing out frozen treats. And kids got to experience a fantasy land, with a bounce house, massive inflatable slide, magic show, games and crafts.

ETC’s Town Square was turned into an art gallery for the event. Artists and photographers throughout the company displayed their beautiful paintings, photography, sculptures and woodworking in the pseudo shop-windows. And the parking lot was temporarily turned into a car show, as ETC gearheads showed off their classic and restored cars.

Then the ETC Live! show started. ETC’s outdoor amphitheater was bathed in deep blues and reds, thanks to the Selador® Series LED fixtures in the lighting rig. Manufacturing’s Dan Woodson kicked off the entertainment with a rendition of “Sweet Caroline.” He was followed up by ‘Madtown Ballroom,’ a local Latin-dance troupe made up of ETC R&D’s Matt Garrison and friends, dancing Salsa Rueda. Alternative-rock group ‘Crew Member Mike’ – all teenagers, including a son of R&D’s Dennis Varian – performed song covers and an original tune. Next up was musical-comedy group ‘Ironsides.’ John Ironside from ETC’s IT department, along with his wife and others, took on hits by the Carpenters, interspersed with witty observations on the neurotic nature of the famed lyrics. Rob Raff from the Sales department of ETC’s Southeast office – fresh off his smashing opening act at ETC’s Rep and Dealer Workshop – serenaded the crowd with smooth coffee-house covers of favorite rock and pop ballads. He was backed up by Scott Aumann from ETC Repairs, and Curt Schreiner and Rob Bloch from Shipping.

The main event of ETC Live! opened with teenage band ‘The Last Minute,’ which included sons of ETC’s John Masino (Manufacturing Engineering) and Lisa Patzka (Administration). The group handled clean covers of hits by Jane’s Addiction and Stone Temple Pilots and performed an original piece. ‘The John Masino Band’ took the stage to close out the show. Fronted by vocalist and guitar-wizard Masino – who was backed up by Aumann and Schreiner among others – the group wowed the crowd with incredible music, including classics by Chuck Berry, The Beatles, Jimmy Hendrix, David Bowie, The Foo Fighters and AC/DC, as well as the band’s own original hits.

At the end of the night, everyone packed up their lawnchairs and picnic blankets to head home. On Monday, we came back to the office to display our other talents – making award-winning products and providing outstanding customer service.

Posted by allisonsuchon | with no comments

Workshop 2010 – coming to a computer near you

This week, from Wednesday, July 14th through Saturday, July 17th, reps and dealers will flock to Middleton for ETC’s annual Workshop. Nearly 150 people are signed up to partake in this year’s event, which offers hands-on training on all of ETC’s products. Classes include everything from Systems Design to Theory of Operation to Retrofitting Systems, as well as sales training, demo tips, and a full-day basic product overview for new reps and dealers – all taught by ETC employees and a few guest instructors.  

Workshop also offers several special events. ETC CEO Fred Foster will make a keynote address Thursday morning, telling stories about the history of the company, and on Friday, distinguished Workshop guest and TV-lighting guru Bill Klages will deliver another keynote speech, detailing his 50+ years in the industry. On Thursday night, reps and dealers will attend a welcome event at the ETC factory, which this year will feature the sounds of The Sons of Sunset – a band made up of ETC employees who moonlight as musicians. Then on Friday night, Workshop attendees are invited to a banquet at Madison’s beautiful, Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Monona Terrace. Classes conclude Saturday morning and are followed up that night with a picnic, which wouldn’t be complete without Wisconsin’s iconic food staples: bratwurst, sauerkraut and beer. Saturday will also include the much-anticipated, annual East vs. West softball game, which pits reps and dealers – and some very competitive ETC employees – against one another depending on their geographic region. Attendees can also participate in other games like volleyball, croquet, go-carting and bowling to complete their Workshop experience.

Are you feeling left out? Want to get in on some of the Workshop action? We’ll be chronicling the week on www.etcconnect.com/workshop, with daily videos put together by ETC’s own comedic filmmakers. Their first, pre-Workshop video is currently available for viewing. You can also get the story behind the story by reading daily Workshop newsletters, compiled by ETC’s crafty paparazzi!

Posted by allisonsuchon | with no comments

Fun with ETC Swag

Ok, so sometimes we need to get into a little fun around here and not all be tied up in product releases and website stats [sorry Marketing guys].  And yes, I will write about something more serious soon....perhaps on rigging.....

ETC takes care of its employees quite nicely with the periodic swag drops and I try to make use of them as often as possible.  Holiday parties, Fred's 50th birthday, summer picnics, safety fairs and more all bring goodies our way.  I have a closet full of shirts, pullovers and jackets [it gets cold here].

Many years ago I found what I consider to be a much better use for the ETC gym bag than carrying sweat-laden clothing back from the weight room.  The gym bag folds up nicely in my roller bag and when I return from family and fun trips to North Carolina, I bring 14 pounds of Eastern NC BBQ with 2 quarts of slaw.  Now, this does take a little work as I have to tightly jam a small cardboard box into the bag that my NC buddy Mark has a stack of and line it with two kitchen sized trash bags.  I get the BBQ cold packed [frozen] in one pound containers and transfer the slaw to a couple of one quart ziplock screw-top containers.  This allows it to survive the baggage handlers as checked baggage.  I used to carry it on but the TSA gave me strange looks when x-raying 14 containers wrapped in foil.

I have been told that if at any point in time I do not come back from NC with BBQ, it will affect my employment status.  You see, the BBQ is for all my cohorts back here at the factory and we indeed have a great time with a potluck meal the day I get back.  Several of the execs keep me honest on my record....

For those of you with questions about, or just questioning, Eastern NC BBQ, here's a little ditty that will explain all about the different Southern BBQs and of course why NC is best.

 

[Note the Emerald Isle T-Shirt....the beach we went to on the weekends growing up]  Each time I return from NC, all of Technical Services, and a few others, get sent an email with this video as a warning that BBQ is nigh.  You may wish to start a BBQ fight below as I'm sure everyone has distinct opinions about why their region of the country is best.  Yes, I said opinions.  Facts prove out otherwise.

Now here's another great item from ETC that I repurposed...

A couple years ago we received some nice travel bags as part of a Holiday Party gift and I immediately put to use the toiletry kit bag for a Christmas gift I gave myself.  What really is the right term; toiletry kit, shaving kit, essentials bag....   The ETC bag now became a camera bag for a new Holga camera.  It works out perfectly as the bottom area is a film holder and the top cradles the camera fairly well.  Since Holgas have a tendency to have light leaks, this was far better than leaving on the passenger seat and ruining more film than planned. 

The Holga is quite cool but does have some rather odd flaws.  To start with it runs 120 film which really can't be processed in the one hour section of Walgreens [does anyone do one hour processing anymore?].  The edges of pics are vingetted, there's really no film tensioning device [I use a piece of folded over film box lid jammed under the reel], there's no film speed setting, no shutter setting, only two aperture settings and then there's the famous light leaks.  The basic Holga kit even comes with a roll of electrical tape to help you block out light if you wish.

The Holga comes in a variety of models, including the 120CFN which is a multicolored unit with a flash that has selectable color gels.  To me, 120FCN stands for Camera FuN.  Check these out for yourself at http://microsites.lomography.com/holga/.  I'll post some pics when I can grab a better scanner.  No memory sticks or USB ports for the fine plastic Holga. 

So let me know what kind of fun you've had with your ETC swag.  Maybe you've got a great shot of a shirt or case on tour, a Bobblehead Fred on holiday or similar repurposed swag.

Have fun!

David

Posted by dnorth | with no comments
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Selador Vivid Fire and Ice: a designer turned from skeptic to fan

Lighting Designer and Guest Blogger Chris Rynne talks about his first experience using the newest members of the Selador Series of LED fixtures, Fire and Ice:

Last year, I was in a conversation with David Lincecum, marketing manager for ETC, and in that conversation I mentioned that I’d be in Madison, Wisconsin, (home of ETC) this April to design lighting for the Madison Opera’s production of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman at the Overture Center for the Arts. When I mentioned the show, he offered me an opportunity that some would not refuse, but that I had to think about. He offered me the use of 30 brand new Selador Ice and Fire fixtures to use in my plot. The caveat was that I’d need to use them as real full-stage lighting, not for lighting sky drops or set pieces. For those of you that aren’t familiar with ETC’s Selador line of fixtures, they are a family of high-quality color-mixing LED units (using red, green, blue, indigo, red-orange, cyan, and amber for much richer color-palette capabilities than are available through an RGB fixture) for stage use, and the Fire and Ice units are a new sub-line that each use only five colors and are tuned toward the red and blue ranges.  

Getting back to my reluctance to immediately take David up on his offer…. I just wasn’t sure that these fixtures would do the job that I’d been using 750W PARs to do for the last 15 years of my design career. So, ETC sent me a couple of samples to play with and I put them up against my beloved PARs with color filters. It took me a couple hours of reviewing literature, specs, photometrics, and feedback, as well as going back into my garage a few different nights and blasting my neighbor’s garage door across the street with my testing (thanks, James) to convince myself that I was ready to take the leap of faith. But then I jumped in.

I just returned to San Diego on Sunday after spending almost two weeks with the Fire and Ice fixtures on my show and I have to say I’m really impressed. They not only replaced the blue PAR backlight wash and red PAR sidelight wash that I was originally planning, but did so with a vengeance. Not until the other day when someone had asked me how it went with the Seladors did I realize that the smoothness of dimming was indistinguishable from that of its tungsten-based buddies, even with long crossfades or completely fading the fixtures out. Having instant access to a large color palette from a single fixture without worrying about mechanically moving glass filters or plastic-sheet color media was wonderful. I was able to run through a gamut of moods over the span of the opera with these dynamic paint brushes….and feel good about the green-ness of it. I took a rig that would’ve been done with about 35,000 watts of tungsten-sourced lights and did it with under 7,500 watts (they’d only consume that much if I’d run all the colors at full on all the units, which I never did). And, as I noticed after programming, I only ever went as high as 40% of the output potential on the Ice units, as putting them up to full power would’ve been just too bright for the show. All that firepower from a lighting tool that can fit nine 21” fixtures into one 20A circuit.

I have to say that, after my recent experience, I’m a believer. ETC has created an awesome pair of flexible LED fixtures in the Fire and Ice that deliver much more than I would’ve gotten from even 1000W PAR64 fixtures fitted with color changers to meet my blue and red lighting needs. I believe that their color flexibility, smooth dimming curve, long lamp life, low heat, low maintenance, and energy savings will help the Selador line find homes in schools, theaters, music halls, churches, television studios, and architainment projects as an important part of the lighting design toolbox.

Source Fours in their (un)natural habitat

When I first saw the Source Four at LDI in 1992 I knew that it was going to change a lot of things. I wonder what the number would be if we could add up the kilowatt hours that the Source Four has saved the world in electrical generation. And yet the lighting world has pretty much forgotten that our entertainment industry shaved roughly 40% off our average electrical usage beginning in 1993 as the Source Fours made their way in to the market.

I am occasionally struck by the depth that the Source Four has reached. You see them in places where they were never meant to be.  I took this photo at Union Station in Washington DC while on spring break a few weeks back.  I was struck by the juxtaposition of the Source Fours against a tri-level backdrop of food court and retail. Thousands of people pass through here every day and couldn’t care less, but I am sure that someone like me or you also passes through weekly and notices these fixtures oddly out of place with their retail surroundings.

Seeing how these products have seeped out deeply into the market makes a comment on how lighting worlds have merged so heavily in the past 15 years. The two worlds of commercial lighting and the stage have been slowly, magnetically drawn toward each other over time. It's like a big luminary mash-up. What’s to blame? Several areas I can think of have contributed.

Technology is one – stage technologies that are just really useful beg for adoption elsewhere.  I don’t really see this the other way around – are stage designers adopting commercial technologies?

Designers – the masses of MFA trained lighting designers that hit the street each year looking for work add to the mash-up. As they seek work, commercial design firms seek imaginative, tech savvy assistants.

A flair for the dramatic – retail, hospitality and even commercial facilities are all looking for a gimmick. (I have to say gimmick because that is so often what it ends up looking like.) From my perspective there have been a few nice things done here and also buckets of money flushed down the drain. Nonetheless, it adds to the cross pollination of lighting.

Sales networks – when I look at the highly skilled, creative sales force at ETC, both our internal and our rep network, I see how creative salespeople are solving commercial lighting problems with non-traditional products – and getting orders from it. I have seen some extraordinary solutions and some extraordinary sales of equipment for unusual reasons.

There are probably many more observations on lighting cultures and mash-ups. What’s yours?

 

Posted by dlincecum | 7 comment(s)

New on etcconnect.com: white papers and application notes

A nubbin post today to point out that we've introduced a new feature in our also-new Support section: the Reference Library. That's a label that could mean a lot of things, but in this case, that's what we're calling the area of our site where you can find white papers, application notes and other kinds of guides and documentation on the science and art of lighting and lighting control. It's a small-but-growing library, and a variety of topics are covered already.

Curious about factors that can impact lamp life? David North covers that in one document, and shares tips for selecting the right dimmer in another. Looking for a guide to indicator lights on your new Paradigm system? You're covered. Immersing yourself in research for new LEDs? We've got a few great entries on that subject, too.

ETC experts have been asking for a public forum for sharing these documents for some time, and now that we've made it happen, let's not bruise their egos by letting this stuff go unused! The more you use it, the more they'll produce. And, while you're there, if you have a suggestion on topics you'd like us to address in the future, leave a comment and we'll look into it!

Posted by john.kuehl | with no comments

People for the ethical demonstration of Selador

ETC Field Project Coordinator David Hilton discusses an important issue facing lighting designers:

There’s a tragedy occurring every day in this country – a tragedy that affects lighting designers and technicians alike. This tragedy is unfolding right in our backyards. I’ve personally seen it firsthand, and I struggle to mitigate its aftereffects. You may have been witness to these horrid events and didn’t even know it. The tragedy is simple: seeing a lighting demonstration of a product outside of its natural environment. The most egregious example of this, for the purposes of this blog, is Selador.

Lighting products, especially of the entertainment variety, are sensitive creatures. They are conscious of their surroundings and react very differently when taken from their natural environment. I have traveled the country far and wide and have seen time and time again people placing a Selador on trunnions four feet in front of a wall, and it sickens me. ‘Don’t they understand they aren’t even giving it a chance?’ I often think to myself. ‘Don’t they know how beautiful that light wants to look? How much it yearns to be back in a theater, hung in the air, lighting someone?’ The only thing that calms my spirit is the fact that these tragic demonstrations of the Selador product are indeed innocent. For years, people have taken other LED products and have shined them on a wall, which is what those fixtures were built to do. How could they know that Selador is so different?

As a man trying to perpetuate the ethical demonstrations of lighting products, I ask this: do you remember the first time you saw a Source Four? Was it on a floorplate pointed at a wall three feet in front of it? Sadly, some of you will say yes, but that is a tragedy of a different magnitude. For most people, the first time they saw a Source Four it was hung on a pipe in the air, and it was there, in all its natural beauty, that people first saw the beautiful, sculpted light pour out of the front of the fixture and hit the waiting stage below. It was there that someone placed a set piece or an actor and you saw in front of you the sheer quality of light at which it illuminated those objects. And it was there that the Source Four felt at home.

Selador and Source Four are similar in this way: they feel at home in the theater. Selador feels comfortable lighting people and objects on a stage. Placing them on the ground and shining them on a wall give them a hollow existence. And why would anybody want to hurt a Selador? All they want to do is play with you. Selador yearns to give designers the options of changing their top wash from rich ambers to subtle lavenders to brilliant magentas. It yearns to light an actor in a light that looks as natural as a tungsten source, then grins when it suddenly changes to moonlight blue. It knows the lighting designers in the audience are scratching their heads, wondering if there is some sort of a color changing device on a Fresnel. What’s even sadder about the tragedy of mis-demonstrating Selador is that the designers suffer as much as the Seladors... and they don’t even know it!

I’ve begun a campaign in the Western United States. This campaign is aimed at one thing: to save Seladors across the country from unnatural demonstrations. If Seladors want to show themselves off as a top wash, I say let them. If they want to show off their color-mixing and lensing capabilities by lighting an entire cyc, I say it’s their right to do so. If they want to light a human being in 3200k, then in 5600k, I say, go for it!

And ETC is behind me on this. We are increasing the opportunities to save Seladors and lighting designers alike from horrible demonstrations. Come check us out at tradeshows where different types of Seladors will be playing with each other. Make an effort to see a Selador demonstration by one of our qualified ETC Field Project Coordinators (FPCs). FPCs are located and travel throughout the country, and they’ve been specially trained on how to take care of Seladors, to make them shine their best. Or see us at the Selador Roadshow, a marketing event headed to a local college or university near you. You will not only see how Seladors behave in their natural environment, but you’ll get an opportunity to play with them and see which one you want to take home!

Help my efforts to end these psychotic wall demonstrations! Let us come together and finally put Seladors where they want and deserve to be!

                                                                                    

ETC ready for historic USITT tradeshow

One of the things we at ETC most enjoy about the tradeshow season is the opening minutes of USITT, when students rush the show floor and scramble to collect as much swag as they can get their hands on. The first time I witnessed the mad dash, I was reminded of the running of the bulls at Pamplona or Black Friday at the mall, but it was a lot more fun (and probably a lot safer) than that. And throughout the show, we love to see the students’ enthusiasm for everything theater-related, and we can’t help but get swept up in the excitement, as well.  

This year, we have even more to look forward to for USITT. Here’s a rundown of the top ten reasons you should join us at the tradeshow, March 31st – April 2nd, in Kansas City, MO:

 

1. Golden anniversary

USITT is marking its 50th anniversary, so the tradeshow will be filled with special events and activities to celebrate the milestone.

 

2. Party, party, party

ETC is co-sponsoring the Fifty & Nifty bash on Wednesday, March 31st, in the Imperial Ballroom at the Marriott Kansas City Downtown, Muehlebach Tower, from 8-10pm. With music, dancing, entertainment and more, this promises to be a fun and exciting way to kick off USITT 2010.

 

3. Student Session turns 10

At USITT, ETC will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of our popular Student Session. If you stop by our booth (#630) anytime during the show, you can pick up a VIP pass to get you “backstage” with us on Thursday, April 1st, at 6:15pm. Students can participate in a question-and-answer session with ETC insiders, learn more about our company and products, and of course, score some exclusive, student-only swag!

 

4. ETC Rigging™

ETC’s new rigging line will make its USITT debut this year. Stop by our booth for a demo of the innovative Prodigy™ motorized-hoist systems and QuickTouch™ controls. Safer, smarter and more affordable, ETC Rigging is designed for any venue.

 

5. Selador Series® of LED illuminators

The Selador Series’ x7 Color System™ is see-it-to-believe-it technology. With color flexibility unmatched by other LED fixtures, the Selador Series produces beautiful white light, rich pastels and vibrant hues that are every designer’s dream. Visit ETC at USITT to see our color passion in action.

 

6. Vivid™ Fire and Ice

Catch your first glimpse of ETC’s new Fire and Ice LED fixtures. Fire is designed to engulf the stage in saturated crimson, amber and scarlet, and Ice produces stunning washes of indigo, cyan and jade. Fire and Ice produce these luscious colors while equaling or beating the brightness of conventional tungsten PAR fixtures.

 

7. Vivid-R

ETC recently updated the Selador Series Vivid fixture. The new Vivid-R uses 10% less power, with 50% more light output. Now you get stunningly bold color with even greater power-consumption savings. See why it’s easy being “green” in ETC’s USITT booth.

 

8. Smart dimming

ETC will show off the newest additions to our Smart Solutions™ family of lighting gear, SmartBar® 2 and SmartModule™ 2. Reliable, portable and affordable, SmartBar 2 and SmartModule 2 are the next generation of dimming.

 

9. Portfolio rescue

Students will once again have access to the ETC Connect Lounge at USITT, where you can get last-minute help putting together your portfolio. We’ll have computers, printers and scanners for you to use, with ETC staff ready to answer questions or offer advice.

 

10. Apply for LDI

ETC is launching at USITT the application process for our LDI Student Sponsorship. Apply online or pick up a hardcopy at our USITT booth, for your chance at an all-expense-paid trip to the LDI tradeshow, October 22nd-24th in Las Vegas.

 

 

We hope to see you at USITT!

 

Fire & Ice

ETC Fixtures Product Manager Tom Littrell discusses the newest Selador Series fixtures:

Vivid Fire and Vivid Ice have just released. In an environment where every LED offering touts its ability to make full-range color, you may ask yourself why we decided to build fixtures with a more limited color palette, especially when our own Selador Series products make the best full-range color of all.

I‘ve got to admit that I was a little skeptical about a limited-range Selador variant – especially after spending so much time looking at all of the great color possible with Selador fixtures. But sometimes I like to pretend that I’m a lighting designer. And I’m working to light acting areas and objects in theaters already equipped with tungsten fixtures designed for the job. It’s especially comforting when they are Source Fours.

But somewhere in the process, I start to think about adding deeper colors – just like real designers do, I think. Toning the stage with cool blues, warm blues, indigos, ambers, reds... you name it. But dropping that cut of R26 or L181 in front of a tungsten fixture chops out a LOT of light. The area I lit with two 575W Source Fours needs multiple fixtures, times multiple colors for toning. Or scrollers. Or moving lights. I’ve run out of fixtures or pipe space or dimmers long before I have the deep color I really wanted to pop those costumes and sets.

Enter Fire and Ice. LED reds are very efficient. Fire can equal two-and-a-half 575W PARs in R27. And blue LEDs have an unrivaled blue power. Imagine: the power of sixteen 575W PARs in Congo blue in one 11” fixture. By limiting the color output to ranges where LEDs have the most efficiency, we have created LED fixtures that can punch through bright tungsten stage lighting. And by adapting the x7 Color System for these two color ranges, you don’t just get a ‘blue wash.’ You get an R68 wash and an R79 wash and an R83 wash and a L181 wash, and, and, and… all from the same compact, low-wattage Vivid Ice fixture.

Hey, I like to think ‘green’ so let’s look at some ‘green’ numbers for blue downlight on 15 acting areas. Three rows of five 575W PARs gelled in R68. And three rows of five 575W PARs gelled in R80. So, two colors of blue downlight equals 17,250 watts. Now replace those 30 PARs with three rows of five 125W Vivid Ice fixtures. I’ve got one downlight system capable of warm blues, cool blues, dark blues and light blues for 1,875 watts of power. Yep, that’s about one-tenth as much electricity. And don’t forget the smooth crossfades from color to color and the Selador dimming ability in slow-timed cues.

The reality of my world – right now – is a stage or other space where tungsten lights dominate the inventory. The performance I’ve seen from Vivid Fire and Vivid Ice says that they will work in my world, right now. I can’t wait to use them.

Why additive color mixing matters

I guess that is a mighty 'heady' title for a blog post from a guy who has been silent on this Light Minds blog for months. Well... I am breaking my silence. Fact is, I have been busy, but now I feel motivated to write, and hopefully that will continue! You can encourage me by offering your comments please!!

Why does additive color mixing matter? I'm talking about LEDs here. We entered the LED market about one year ago and I've spent the last year really thinking about how and why LEDs matter and where they are useful. I can't tell you I've reached a state of enlightenment (pardon the pun) but I have learned a lot along the way.

We have a new white paper posted in our shiny new Support area on etcconnect.com. The paper is about color mixing and how and why the multicolor system we use in our Selador Series LED fixtures matters. Additive color-mixing is in play here. Most of us who have designed lighting intuitively understand what additive mixing is. Those of us who have used watercolors get it, too. We add multiple colors together to get a new color.

Working in pigments, we normally think of this as red-yellow-blue. In lighting, we know that red-green-blue are the primary colors of light and we understand how to combine them from a theoretical point of view. But we also know it more intuitively. Led by intuition, we know that we can cool the lighting look down by adding blue. So, we work with the colors we have selected or the color changing devices we have, and we paint and layer. Contrast this with the fact that most of the color we are adding has been produced via subtraction, namely gels or CMY systems. Putting gel in a fixture invokes subtraction, and it feels quite normal.

While Cyan-Magenta-Yellow color mixing systems are subtractive mixing systems, they feel strange because they are 'active' systems. You have a cyan color (blue and green) coming out of the fixture - you add magenta and you get... well, what exactly do you get? Blue? That's intuitive! The magenta you are "adding" is actually a filter that is subtracting the green. In more recent years, we started controlling color using hue-saturation-intensity controls -- like color pickers -- adding a new skill to our design arsenal. We let the console -- and its knowledge of the color mixing systems -- do the adding and subtracting. So, my point is that we have many ways to manipulate color, some of them more intuitive than others, each with a set of strengths and weaknesses.

Enter LEDs. Colored LED systems use additive color in the fixture. This is a slightly new concept. Instead of using a powerful light source generating "white" light, then subtracting the colors we don't need, we begin with nothing and add only the colors we do need. From the designer's perspective, not much changes, right? I mean, you want yellow, you bring up red and start adding green. This is vastly more energy efficient, as long as the fixture can reach the color you are seeking at the brightness you want.

RGB is great in theory, but most designers who have worked with these "16 million color additive mixing LEDs" will testify that it is not that easy and your results may vary. I first learned about the difficulty of doing RGB color-mixing in college. I dutifully hung a cyc wash with scoops gelled in Rosco diffusion RGB. Then I began to explore the 16 million or so colors I should have had available. I found that it was very hard to get the color I wanted, at the intensity I wanted it. I felt as though I was working in more of a 16 color mode rather than 16 million color mode. Many of us probably learned over time that hanging a four-color wash improved our results. Then we discovered that if you wanted a particular color and had the luxury, hang that color!

We were figuring out imperially that "more color = better light." That is the very principle that the company that ETC acquired last year, Selador, brought to their LED fixtures. ETC Selador series fixtures start with seven different LED colors. Sounds good, huh?  It does until you start from zero and now want to build the best-looking golden straw color you can. You can start with amber, add some green maybe, not too much. Should a little cyan play in? And doesn't that color actually have a touch of red? Well, you could try it. Actually, you could sit all day and try things like a kid with an endless supply of paint, water and paper.

When we combined ETC and the Selador concept, ETC simplified things a bit. We profiled these fixtures in our Eos, Ion, Element and Congo consoles and made them respond to our gel libraries. The fact is that LEDs are not perfect and can vary significantly from bin to bin and fixture to fixture (we are working on that problem, too!). But you can start with a language you know. Call up your Selador fixtures in a Roscolux 80 and you will get close. 

Now I come back to the subject of this very blog post: additive color mixing. When you see what your ETC console and your Selador fixture present as Roscolux 80, pick up your brush and personalize it. We give you seven colors of toning to play with. Add a touch more cyan or red, save it as a color palette and use it again. In this model, additive color works intuitively. The designer gets to play. So... have fun!

Posted by dlincecum | with no comments

Better support on etcconnect.com? You decide.

Have you noticed that we've made some support-related improvements to etcconnect.com over the holiday season? It's no secret that ETC prides itself on customer service, and online support is an area where we're always looking to improve.

In late November, we launched an entirely new Support section, which we hope will be one of your first stops - if not your only stop - when you're looking for support or education on an ETC product. One of the biggest improvements has been  the addition of a full list of all products, new and old(er), that have documentation online. This means that for the first time in a long time, you can now browse directly to a list of downloads (including software and manuals) for products like Express, Expression and Obsession, without having to perform a search. This new section also contains an improved presence for our Education Center - which includes both classroom-style training and online tutorials - and puts previously under-advertised links to our User Forums and Wiki in a more findable, logical location. Check it out for yourself at etcconnect.com/support, and, please, let us know what you think of it! Oh, and the Support section took the place in the navigation that was the "Services" section, so you'll still find all the information about ETC Technical Services and Project Management, too.

More recently, we made some user interface changes to the site search functionality on etcconnect.com. More than anything, we aimed to clean up the design of the page to make your search results more legible, and to improve the filtering tools available to narrow in on your result. And, with the addition of some "best bet" recommendations based on certain keywords, we're feeling better - not 100% better, but better - about our ability to help the site searchers out there find what they need more quickly and reliably.

Again, if you've already had experiences with the new search or Support section, let us know what you think by email or by leaving a comment below!

Posted by john.kuehl | with no comments
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It takes a village to raise a website

I'm overdue to say "thank you" to some people.

Specifically, "those people" being all the ETC staff, customers, end users that have ever stopped to say, "hey, this thing on your website isn't, or at least doesn't seem, quite right. can you fix it?" Some of those commenters have been bashful about raising these questions, but I can assure you that your feedback is invaluable and that we appreciate it.

Our website contains tens of thousands of unique pages and documents (since January 1, there have been over 119,000 unique pages served up about 3.7 million times on etcconnect.com - an admittedly inflated number that includes any unique keyword search, which isn't really a page, but still, it's a big site)...and there are just two people here at ETC who are full-time responsible for web-related work. Without the handful of people in the company that have at least part-time web responsibilities - from backend development to download posting - and the many other good Samaritans who call or email when they spot some newly-out-of-date or maybe-it's-always-been-a-little-inaccurate content, we'd labor to see and fix everything that needs fixing.

So, again, thank you for your help and diligence and shared interest in making etcconnect.com as accurate and reliable as can be!

Posted by john.kuehl | 1 comment(s)

Congo v6 Software now available!

A new software version – v6 – for Congo® and Congo jr consoles is now available! The v6 software contains a host of new features and changes to the internal structure of Congo, making it even more flexible for both traditional theatre-style and on-the-fly applications.

New Image Effects

ETC has added another powerful effect type to Congo: Image Effects. Image Effects use the Effect Playback concept from Congo v5 software to associate a layout of channels (which creates a graphical or positional relationship among included channels) with a source image or text. Parameters of the Effect Playback include positioning of the image on the layout, scale and aspect of that image/text, rotation, and effects like constant rotation, scaling or scrolling. Multiple effect playbacks allow for layered image effects.

Jam Mode

ETC has done a lot of work on Jam mode, making it easier for users to determine what data gets generated and where that data ends up in a play file. Users can also regenerate data quickly using the new Jam Mode Wizard. For those who like to experiment, we’ve added in Two Scene Masters where users can create a look “blind” using the top row of masters, then fade into that look in time using the Master Controls. The scene created on the top row of masters becomes “live” on the bottom row of masters, where additional adjustments can be made on the fly. This powerful feature of Congo v6 makes busking a breeze.

Masters
ETC has increased the number of Master Playbacks to 80 and made a lot of changes to the Masters, allowing once-global settings to be applied per master – including rubberbanding and exclude-from-record. And, there are new settings, such as the ability to choose what look a rubberbanding master returns to – this can be the previous state, or back to the main playback, or to a designated preset. Also improved is the Masters display and dock, allowing users to see a lot more information about the masters, including more steps of a sequence on a master.

Learn Profile

ETC has improved playback by incorporating the ability to learn a fade profile for crossfades in the Main Playback. Simply enable “Learn Profile” on a soft key and then move the faders in the manner you want the crossfade to happen. Also new is an indication of the current playback location (what’s in A and B) within the Sequence List editor.

Channel Views

The channel views have changed, giving users more options for the amount of information that is displayed within a channel box. There is also a new set of symbols in the Channel Layouts supporting more TV/film fixtures and adding special-purpose symbols as well. Now users can even draw circles!

Blind Editing
ETC also changed the way that blind editing is done, allowing for live moving-light controls to be used within blind views. This means that instead of using spreadsheet-style editing, users can view blind data and move encoders, use direct selects and other keyboard commands to select channels and enter data directly, as in Live.

New Docks

A number of new docks have been added, including the Designer Summary dock that collects important data about the main playback and/or selected channels and puts it in one compact location on-screen. A Timecode dock displaying a large clock for internal or external time code has been included. It enhances Congo’s functionality with support of the Net3™ Show Control Gateway for interaction with MIDI and SMPTE on the network, as well as adding an internal backup clock within Congo itself. There is also a new Selected – Live dock that shows the channels and effect playbacks users select in the Live tab.


Structural Changes
Congo has undergone some major structural changes including more Preset numbers – from 0.001 to 9999.999 – making it easier to organize shows that use multiple sequences. Also, finer timing resolution under ten seconds is now possible – 0.01 to 9.99 seconds. Lastly, 16-Bit intensity is now supported, providing improved control of automated fixtures and accessories that utilize high-resolution motor control and improved mastering of LED fixtures that use 16-bit color parameters.


View the Congo v6 movie at www.etcconnect.com/Congov6 .

Congo v6 software is available as a free download at www.etcconnect.com .

Posted by sclausen | with no comments
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