Saturday, September 17, 2016

USITT tech expo

Tech Expo Deadline Oct. 14

USITT Tech Expo displays creative solutions to production problems. Every other year, this exhibit highlights the work of technicians from all areas of production including sound, rigging, costume, crafts, properties, mask making, lighting technology, stagecraft, and special effects. An article describing, in detail, the products and processes used to develop the idea, accompanies each exhibit. The articles are assembled into a catalog which is sold at the Conference, online, and by the USITT Office.

The application deadline is Oct. 14. Apply here.

Tech Expo is the only juried exhibition and publication devoted to theatre technologists.

Find guidelines and more info at

Monday, July 25, 2016

Striplox Hardware

Striplox has and interesting product out that is fairly similar to the Z-Clip product that we use alot of around our shop.  It slides horizontally (or vertically), allows the connectors to be very flatly nestled together, though this is true if you inset Z-Clip as well.  It is a little different in that there is an option that makes it lock into place, so that it will not be removable once installed.

The website shows additional uses, including being able to put it into the end grain of a piece of wood, and to use it for corners.  It is definitely something that I could see being used in the shop.

Friday, July 22, 2016

On Teaching 3 – Online Learning

I wrote the first two of these after a bad online teaching experience.  During the last quarter I had an OK online experience.  Most of the classes I take are online.   It isn’t necessarily because I prefer them – but they are typically more convenient.  As with any class there are many differences between classes and schools, even within a college or university.  I consume a fair amount of content – much of it online.  Obviously it varies in the way that it is conveyed, but it is clear to me that online learning – actively with enrollment, semi actively via online sites like Lynda.Com, or open source university classes, or just casually with many of the articles and white papers available.
Generally speaking, most of this learning occurs much more passively than traditional classroom learning. 

Generally speaking online learning is typically not as effective as classroom learning and retention is lower.  Considering the fact that online learning, in my opinion will only grow, finding a way to fix this is important.

My online classes have generally been 1 of three types. One is a live recorded actual class, in which the online portion participates asynchronously with the rest of the class.  One class gave you the option of watching it live (this was a fairly good online class).  One type provides pre-recorded lecture materials.  One of the best classes I ever took online had this - his lectures were full length, insightful, and on point.  The third, may have online recordings but they are short and no where near lecture length.

The other differences in classes of course is the assignments.  To "mimic" in class discussion, many (poor) online classes require an absurd amount of reading and writing posts relating to the topic and the commenting on other posts. Hopefully, they at least provide a rubric on what these posts should include to be meaningful, but they often don't.  And the amount of work that goes into this far exceeds that of a normal classroom discussion and sometimes equals a paper (some require resources).  I understand that it is more difficult to see what students are doing in a virtual world.  I find that discussion groups work better than doing whole class discussions, and that case studies and actual papers and analysis also work well.

Also what I find is that not only is the lecture material not the same as an in class discussion, but neither is the reading material.  When I first started taking online course it seemed like teachers just simply made their in class course into an online version (minus maybe the video).  I'm not really sure of that though - just as students seem to put less work into an online course - so does, it seems the professors do.

I realize that all of these thoughts on teaching may seem off topic to theatre, but frankly, especially in areas like Cad, I feel like there are things that could be taught online.  and I don't think that online courses will go away, because ultimately they do save time, even if they are made to be high quality.

So here are my thoughts :
1. Provide lectures.  I am taking a class to gain specific knowledge, but I am paying someone for that opportunity and feel like I deserve some sort of personalized experience and that includes relevant, and full length lectures.  I can find a list of books to read on my own, and probably even fine a discussion group.  The teacher aspect is lost in online learning and needs to front and center.
2. provide meaningful books, articles, etc.  not overwhelming, unless it is clear what is required and discretionary and check that the links are active.  (providing does not mean that we won't purchase materials, just in terms of choosing resources).
3. have meaningful assignments.  do case studies.  Have small groups discuss issues.  Busy work isn't productive, takes alot of time, and is meaningless for long term learning.  Focus on projects or papers. realize that while we are all using technology that group projects are still painful (not that I ever expect them to go away).
4. Use other technology.  There are spaces for virtual collaboration where people can put up PDFs and text chat, or mark up what is on the screen.  Resources are constantly changing, stay up to day.  have virtual office hours.  Be responsive.  Give students feedback.  Be clear what you expectations are.
5. tests and quizzes vary from class to class. i don't typically find them effective (they are usually from the text book company and are "tricky" just to be more difficult.  Though in one of the best classes I had we did have an in class essay final.  Obviously this will depend on the type of class being taught, but projects and papers can be viable options.  Don't make choices because they are easy, and don't use the teacher questions out of the text book because it is also easy for you to deal with.

As I mentioned, I dont  think this trend will go away, but I think it can be much better if approached differently!

Below are a variety of sites that talk about online learning in more depth.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Klimp Fasteners

A job recently came in and the crates used Klimp fasteners.  They "clip" into place and secure the crate without the use of bolts.  The package we received to do work on was about 5 years old, and had seen international travel, so they had help up pretty well as an alternative methodology for crate construction.  

While obviously useful for its normal use for crates, I would be curious to see if it would be a useful piece of hardware for scenery in rep theatre - though obviously it would be limited to 90 degree corners.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

HPL Graphics

When it comes to durable graphics, HPL or High Pressure Laminate materials are the strongest that you can use.  They are great for museums for reader rails and in other high touch areas.  The quality is great, the timeline is long – so plan ahead! 
Some go to sources for us are:
IZone, Fossil and Folia.

I have been looking into this below and looking to experiment more with Envirosigns and Vacker signs, but am looking for more options.
Graphics are an odd part of my job as a PM.  We don’t make them either in terms of designing content (though we have done this), or in terms of printing them.  We install them – and we need to make sure that images are correct and the correct size.  So on one hand, there is little to no handling, except that on some jobs, graphic production, checking, and management is actually a very large part of the work to be done.

I did run across a couple PDF’s that have more information about graphics to pass on:

New Companies:

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Online Research

I write about many things here, but one topic that I like to engage in, and write about is research.   Usually my first step is Google Scholar.  You can configure it in many different ways, and even provide your school information to help make the process smoother (you typically have to log into many research databases with an ID, which you do through you school log in if you have one). Otherwise, some of these site will require payment (or sometimes they have a certain number of free articles allowed).   Google Scholar is also very useful in terms of looking up patents for theater technology.

I also frequently use the New York Times.  I was reading a book about a murder in NYC, and it dawned on me while reading the book that the reason I could not get earlier information about technical direction, technical theatre, and such from the times (late 1890's I think is the earliest that I have), is because they were not the dominate newspaper in NYC before that time.  The others that were are not as easily searchable, but I have not spend a significant amount of time following those leads.  I will say that newspapers and trade magazines are helpful in terms of tracking down industry trends and shifts.  For instance, many of the large scene shops switched hands over the years.  It is published that Variety was purchased by Showman Fabricators, but following the trail back can be tedious.  I have been looking at this history trying to trace the historical changes in the technical side of theater in the US.

New Mexico State University has a variety of PDF's available about doing research and using the library.  I know that all of the schools that I have attended have the same.  Connection to a college or university is nice because you often will have access to digital copies of articles that you may not otherwise have access too.  Many articles will not be available electronically though, so you still have to use the actual library!

Internet Scout Project  seams to be an online content knowledge management system where users can create their own database, but also provides databases to the public.  One such site is the Electro-Mechanical Library available which has a large collection of knowledge about devices.  This particular source is not necessarily research in terms of academic writing, but very helpful in terms of looking up information on specific electrical and mechanical devices.

Obviously, there are many, many, many more sources out there, but these represent a few that I have been using.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Led Lights

The whole of LED lights is much larger now than when I first started using them.
We often use lights from  Super Bright LED's.  We primarily use LED tape, and the projects often have a short lifespan.  More expensive LED's are usually fabricated under stricter scenarios.  But you pay a much difference price for that.  In this range the place to visit is: Color Kinetics, environmental Lights or DSL Group.  Basically, with LED's the quality does typically correlate with the quality of the lights.

Other good sources:
DSL Group

These sources will also provide enclosed LED strip light (similar to Neon Flex or the LED equivalent to neon).  LED only bends in certain directions, though depending on how you are using it you can often bend it naturally and bounce the light in the right direction.  If you buy it without the casing, you can only cut it within certain intervals.  This means that you need to occasionally bury the end of the tape, and that you have to plan ahead for where the lengths need to start and stop so that light is evenly distributed.

Often, once you get the LED's in place, if you are not using a packaged product (though this does occur in some packaged products as well) is that you can often see the LED's as single points of light which are not diffused.  To just dim the light we often use sheets of ND (neutral density) gel to block the light.  Milk white, sign white and Satin Ice acrylic are all good options as well.  If you are building something you will want to test - the specific type of acrylic you use, and the thickness of that piece will determine the spacing that it needs to be away from the LED to evenly distribute the light.

Lastly, if you are looking for specific colors, you may want to test the LED as samples before buying everything you need - for instance, we have had issues getting a good orange and red out of some products.  Its getting to be so common, that I think it is easy to slip into the idea that it doesn't need to be figured out - but that can bit you at the end when it doesnt work exactly how it was planned to.

Lastly, sometimes its helpful to buy something to hold the LED strips without manufacturing something new.  For this check out:
Klus Design
Outwater Plastics
Nova Display  We used the low arch product on a past project - you can see individual LED's but it looks sleek.  Nova Display also has many other products that are worth browsing.
And of course Amazon again.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Graphic and Shelving Hanging Systems

One of the items that I see more often in proposals and designs are cable display systems.  These can be fairly slick and elegant ways of displaying artwork or graphics, and even merchandise.

Most of the products I have used have come from Arakawa Hanging Systems.  There are many options out there though - I have often thought that the next time I do a cover the walls exhibit at USITT that it would be cool to use some of this equipment for the display.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Roll Drops

The other day I was thinking about roll drops - in particular a job I bid a couple years ago that used roller shades back to back for a TV studio.  The material on the shades was a print on blackout material - but they also used them for light boxes, obviously with a different material for the print.
They were using these rollers from Denny mfg.  They carry 12' long drops, and are pretty economical.

While looking for the information on Denny Manufacturing I also ran across a few other companies that produce equipment that could be used in situations like these.
 Titan Patio Drop Shade can do 20' wide by 18' tall

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Displays - Banners, Lightboxes & More...

Alpina Manufacturing has a good range of products that allow you to display graphics on walls or stands very easily, and the frame easily opens to allow you to insert a graphic - and they are economical. is one of my default places to look for sign frames, iPad holders, and even light boxes.  You could probably outfit an entire booth from this company.

For additional Slim Light boxes check out:
Blue River Digital
Environmental Lights

Note that depending on how you are using the light box you might need to check out the fabrication. Most thin boxes lit by wrapping LED's around the perimeter.  On many smaller sizes this is fine. And if you engrave the Acrylic it produces a really nice effect, though obviously different than lighting a graphic.  On larger boxes, places light environmental lights custom builds the light box with proprietary engraving patterns on the real of the acrylic to ensure that the light box is evenly lit throughout the whole surface of the product.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Cam Levers & Hardware Resource

MSC has a variety of adjustable clamping handles, hand wheels and knobs.  Its a good place to look when you can't find something from McMaster.  They also have a variety of white papers regarding inventory control.  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Job Data Notes

Budgeting from historical data is one of the best ways to price future work.  There are many of caveats of course, something might be more because there is no scrap, or a job may come in under because it used scrap, but theoretically it should even out for the company - but this may not track out in jobs. Also, how much use you can generate depends on your ability to track.  Where I work now can tell you how a project did - but it is much harder to track how one element within that job did.  At that point it is tracking done by hand based on time sheets and the way you broke out the budget. Budget breakouts are important in terms of reconciliation, and tracking history so that apples can be compared to apples.

At any rate, I have have been a PM for 8.5 years with my company and during that time I now have back 184 completed / reconciled files.  Approximately 22 projects a year is an interesting statistic too many - on the higher side for theatre (but certainly not off the chart).  But the flip side is that completed projects only, I think probably accounts for about 50% of my time - it doesn't account for any of the smaller jobs that go through as primarily rental jobs, and even more time consuming - it doesn't count the time I spend bidding projects for which we are not awarded the work in the end.

I used to be better about tracking jobs I sent in a proposal on in which we did not get the work - thus creating a "hit rate" of jobs won versus jobs lost.  But I have not really kept up with that - and it is a little loose as some are very low probably jobs in the first place, and we provide budgets that are more generalized.  If we chose to be more targeted on what we provided proposals for we would have a better "hit rate", but we could also lose potential customers.

I also track the cost difference between what we sold the project for, versus our actual cost and review those over time.  Tracking it over times helps me to identify trends to see what the causes may be if the proposed totals make more or less money than expected over a specific period of time.  Interestingly enough, one variable to consider, in my case, is that when the shop is busier jobs take less time than when the shop is slow.  And it doesn't mean that when we are busy quality suffers (though it can happen).  Rather time and projects have a way of expanding and contracting to fill the available time.  If you have nothing else to do, a task may take a long time - where as the same task n a busy day could be done twice as fast because you have a list of other things that need to get done.  (this is referred to as Parkinson's Law; specifically that 'work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion).  (this concept is actually one interesting for further date as it actually works within the triangle of fast, good, cheap).

Monday, February 15, 2016

Project Place PM Software and Training

Project Place offers a range of services from webinars, a blog, to PM software.  They offer quite a bit of services and is free for small projects - but also have enterprise opportunities.
I have been looking for an opportunity to use it for a small scale project and try it out. Implementing technology to a project team is always an interesting and challenging circumstance.  You need folks to buy in and use the software.  You can only test out a piece of collaboration software by yourself to a certain extent.  But all software packages have good points and bad, some may be able to work out - sometimes you may need to test other solutions - but care needs to be taken as multiple changes in technology can be even more difficult to manage.

At any rate, I like the information this company provides, I think that helps adoption, and knowing if it is a good fit for your environment in the first place.  Further, even without adoption there is a wealth of knowledge that is useful in terms of PM techniques that are worth exploring.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Artistic Direction - Frosh Bites

I was reading's article on Eleventy-One Nuggets for Being a Successful and Ethical Artistic Director, and thought that there was many interesting topics and thoughts that were worth passing on - and not just to artistic directors, but TD's designers, project managers, and basically anyone else that desires a successful life.  

I really like 111 - the comment on change management.  Change 
management is a difficult topic, and frequently is problematic to implement.  

Take a look at the article, book mark it - it will be worth coming back to. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Teaching Take 2. Bad Teaching

This sounds bad, and to a certain extent I apologize for that.  On the other hand – I find it frustrating.  As a student I believe that a teacher has a certain responsibility to their students (regardless of the cost of tuition, but tuition is costly).  My belief of a responsibility doesn’t discount the responsibility of the student to be an active learner.  Just that they should be responsible not just for disseminating information, but making sure that real learning occurs.  I don’t know the answer to this question.  I know that in many cases teachers are hired because of what they have accomplished in their careers (frequently common in business).  Depending on the institution they are hired because they do research (and/or have many publications) and that in both cases, the high profile of the “teacher” can bring in funding to the school.  Neither of these situations have ANY bearing on the capacity of the individual to be a successful teacher.  It is critical that a teacher has domain knowledge.  There are theories out there where this is a debatable criteria, but let’s assume that it is true, for the sake of argument. While I know this may work in coaching, teaching and coaching are not vacantly the same thing.  I’m not an educational theorist – but I don’t necessarily need to be one to say that regardless of any of those theories, bad teaching exists.

Just to be clear, I don’t think that teachers mean to teach poorly.  I think I have seen a lot of reasons over the years for “poor” teaching.  Poorly treated adjunct professors may be working at double or triple the load of a normal professor with no benefits -   Poor teaching in this case could simply be an issue of not having time – or capacity to be as thorough as potentially them may need to be.  Maybe they are burned out from striving to teach and do committee work, publish, and chase tenure. 
But I think, in my opinion, the issue is that teachers are not hired for their ability to teach, they are not taught how to teach after being hired, and that successful teaching is not a primary concern for maintaining their employment.  And I think that it is a problem.  Teachers should be mentored, and taught (assuming they have mentors how are successful teachers) about pedagogy.  They should be able to engage with students in multiple ways.  I don’t have an issue with a class that is a lecture class – but then the lectures should be done well. 

What I see that frustrates me the most are mostly simple things:

-          Poor public speaking, not being audible (even after being asked).  Not repeating student’s questions (this is a huge issue in some online courses). 

-          Lack of clear expectations and feedback to the students.  What is a quality response?  And I spend an hour to make a quality response to a question online and another student say’s yea me too – are we graded equally?  Intrinsic motivation aside, I don’t need to spend hours doing “busy work’ for an online participation grade while have the class gets the same grade for agreeing.  (Except that I do, which is probably why I get mad). 

-          Teaching skills that you don’t demonstrate as a teacher.  If you are teaching a course about creating a learning environment, then create a good learning environment.  I have had multiple classes where slides were published with poor grammar and incorrect information.  It’s hard to learn something when the provided materials are not correct.  Then of course, how do you have any credibility in the first place….

-          Class format, topic, and online versus in person all have different costs and benefits.  Teachers probably have preferred styles, but learners do too.   I have learned a lot from classes that were all lecture.  Unless the teacher is very skilled at leading a discussion, I find learning to be more difficult when it is only discussion – seminar style – unless, the students are very vested.  But generally mixes of styles work best for me.  Discussion is valuable. I like case studies.  I think group projects can be important (though I typically don’t care for them).  But it isn’t a one size fits all situation.

-          Last, but most wrong to me are classes where the teacher tells you a certain percentage of what you need to know to be successful (and it typically occurs in classes where you cannot easily research the remaining information), and expect you to figure out the rest – because they thing that proves that you are learning.  Examples:
o   Teach someone how to draft, tell them to design a house, but expect them to design windows, doors properly without showing them what the symbols mean for those elements (as they can just figure that out on their own).  Better yet, teach someone auto cad, even if they have no drafting experience.  Technically possible – but it comes with a loss of quality.  Or teach a French class, and expect someone to know what a library is called because they know the work for book.  I’m not saying that a student should not be able to put 2 and 2 together.  Students should problem solve, but teachers need to allow that to happen, and to give them the framework to build upon (or, conversely not expect the student to come up with the teacher’s “correct answer”.  I have seen a recent trend where teachers hold back information and tell students to figure it out, and that that if they wouldn’t give them any more information it would be “cheating”.  I don’t get that.   

There are other issues at play of course.  Do students rate easy teachers more highly than hard teachers?  There a third factor of fairness at work – hard but fair is okay, but hard and unclear is different?  I have heard that easy teachers are not necessarily ranked better – but in my personal experiences, there does seem to be a correlation between easy = higher ratings.   

Troubleshooting Today Update

Back in  April 2007 , I described an error in AutoCad.  A couple days ago I got an email from James with a screen shot:

Thanks for sending the image James - it is certainly just as funny now as it was before!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Watchout Software - Projection Design

I was reading and old issue of Live Design and caught a reference to a piece of software called Watchout. I have not used it, but it looks like it would be cool - and a great tool for doing projections.  Its geared towards multi-screen productions & 3D mapping, something that is increasing in popularity.

Media and technology behind it are here to stay - at lease in the foreseeable future. What I have learned in my recent projects is that there are in and outs to the process behind creating digital designs that don't directly transfer to the way that we typically design in theatre.

Monday, February 1, 2016

On Teaching v1 Why do you want to teach?

As you can see by my use of v1, I have a lot of thoughts about teaching swirling around in my head.  This comes from 2 sides.  First, my goal when I got an MFA was to teach.  I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, but I also wasn’t looking for an entry level, staff position where the best I could hope for was a stagecraft class while I was TD for all of the shows – I want to actively teach (and have a role in curriculum development).  Those positions are not as ready available, and frankly if I ever went back to teaching (which I hope, in some way that I do, eventually) I think my current work will probably help in adding to my effectiveness as a future teacher.  Second, I’m in the midst of a MS degree (middle mostly in that I haven’t applied for graduation yet, and have not completed “thesis” component of the degree.
Probably more so is that yet again, I have encountered what I believe is a fundamentally poor teacher.  Part of this problem is institutional in higher education.  Professors are hired not because they teach well, but, often, since they are “subject matter experts”.  In business especially, many professors do not have doctorates, but are successful people in their line of business.  Secondly, they are often hired based on research (as this can help fund the department).  Neither of these qualities have anything to do with the skill required to be a good teacher.
Granted to get tenure (if you happen to be in a tenure track position) student assessments are taken into consideration.  Historically I have done these at the last class.  At the current institution that I take classes at the assessments are not required to be done by all, and are due a week or so before the quarter electronically.  I don’t always complete them.  I would say that typically I would expect these to come back only in highly positive or highly negative since they are somewhat voluntary, except that I know that I have missed the deadline even when I had strong opinions about a class. Thus the only student metric is not one that is reliable.
It seems to me that many poor teachers seem to want to teach because it is easy to make extra $ (as an adjunct working a full time job).  Or perhaps if they are full time, they perceive the position as having less work required than any other work since it is semester or quarter based.  It seems to be forgotten that developing course content, grading, making sure that students understand core concepts are all part of teaching, much of which happens outside of the actual onsite teaching hours that are required per course.  Granted creating and teaching a course for the first time is probably hard than teaching is subsequently, but you have to keep updated on the subject and you have to keep your content updated.  If you have a staff or faculty position there is often advising and committee work on top of teaching duties.  Further, you need to stay current on industry trends, go to conferences, potentially speak at conferences and such, and so forth.  In short, teaching is not any easier than any other line of work.  How good you are at what you do is directly related to what you put into it.
The issue however, is that I am not sure how much universities really care if the teachers they hire (especially as adjuncts) are good or not.  Part of this is the predatory trend that I think colleges have been headed down (another topic of discussion).  Maybe there are a glut of unqualified individuals.  Maybe there are a lack of positions available in all of the different specialties required, and these are reasons behind adjuncts.  What I know, are that professors who have little investment in teaching are often very poor. 
As a student – I don’t pay any less to have a poor teacher than a good one.  It doesn’t serve employers down the road you expect to hire a graduate if they were taught by poor instructors and didn’t learn what they needed to.  And ultimately this gives the college or university a bad reputation. 
None of the above is rocket science.  While being a professor is a lot of work, to be fair putting together a life as an adjunct is also a lot of work.  The pay is very poor compared to a full time position, you need to string together a variety of courses (taking on a much higher course load) to equal out to the income a full time professor might make (on the low end), and they don’t receive benefits. 
Since it is not easy to be an adjunct, and it isn’t necessarily easy – it comes back to why are they doing, and probably more to why I am writing this) why they are often poor teachers.  Is that they are too busy to do the job successfully?  Are they just looking for an extra boost to their normal full time employment and don’t feel obligated to go above and beyond what they see their duties are (showing up for class and grading?)?

I think the situation is getting progressively worst – in that it seems to be more and more common that a teacher is given 2 courses to teach – one section in person, and one online.  In my personal experience this seems to equate out to the teacher giving a lecture (which online students later have access to via a recorded session) and grading assignments (which are the same) for both groups of students.  In reality this doesn’t work.  What works well in a classroom does not work well online.  Obviously there are differences dependent on class type (discussion versus lecture), but in either case an online class should be taught differently.  Secondly, no one at the university level seem to be giving instructors information on how to teach effectively online (or at least insuring that they know).  For instance – they should speak towards the microphone.  They shouldn’t block the board that they are writing on with their body.  They should repeat student questions. These seem basic to me, but I see countless times that I have issues understanding an instructor because of one of the above reasons.  There is also technology that some professors use that allow you to join their class live (if you want), and / or that that have virtual office hours where they are online in an environment with a  white board where you can draw, message back and form, and even share documents and mark up the document live.  I know that even attending live classes that skill and teaching style varies, so of course it doesn’t online.  But the best teachers, in either location also get that students also have different learning styles.  I guess the bottom line is why colleges and universities are so lax in their regulation of quality teaching (or why it’s not a priority on the first place).

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Stand offs and Metal Turning

Metomic brass turning has a variety of brass turned finials.  They also have stand offs and picture lamps.  An odd assortment of stuff - but items that could be difficult to find again in the future.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Food Props

I came across this article about the props used on the Food Networks shows.  Its always kind of interesting to look into what other folks have.  I think real shame (or highlight if you have the honor to walk through and talk to Wendy Waxman the resident historian and design director) is that so many of the nuggets of information that could be learned will never be committed to paper and will become lost over time. The photos also reveal other interesting notes that designers could find useful - like saturated colors do best under stage lights on film.

I have to say that everything looked really clean - and there was no evidence that the items were stored under a dust cover...  it makes me wonder if they were cleaned for the shoot!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Off the shelf Turntables

Everynow and then you need a turntable - not for a car or for a major, but for something small and low tech - like to make an a small object spin.  While creating a small turntable isn't difficult, you don't always need to recreate the wheel either.  (My apologies, the bad pun was entirely intended!)

A few I have come across during my last look:
Vue-More has a variety of small turntables and sign rotators.
Dino Rentos Studios has a variety of display turntables as well.
Turntable 360 has, you guessed, it - turntables. Small, for displays.
Young Electro-Mechanical Company has "motiondiser" turntables, they are small but have a high loading capacity.

Of these I have used both the Vue-More and the the "motiondiser".  The vue more was not very functional, but it was undersized for the application (provided by the artist for a sculpture.  The motionsiser is a fairly small little robust piece that will probably work as long as you can plug in a standard plug.  The unit has to be at least 10 years old - maybe 15, and spins happily away.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Labor Power and Organization

I read an interesting article today called Labor Power and Organization in the Early U. S. Motion Picture Industry by Michael C. Nielson.  It is located in Film History, Vol 2, No 2.  It generally is more about how theatrical workers created IASTE and that stage mechanics typically either worked on the road or specialized in building the scenery for the combination tours.  Film is a more economical model than live theatre.  I assume that it is mostly true today.  After all million dollar movies still cost 8 bucks (or so) plus concessions at a movie theatre.  Any touring show has a range of price points, but you can barely see a high school play or community theatre production for the price of movie ticket today. 

Another quote from the article stands out to me:
It occurred to us that we could use Bill (Bill Bowers was a prop man that had toured in vaudeville attractions) at the studio to take charge of obtaining all the odds and ends needed to dress the sets.  I think Bill established the principle upon which the props departments function today, namely that a director gets whatever he asks for without argument, no matter how crazy or impossible the request.  …early film craft workers set a tone of “doing the impossible” for the sake of creating whatever illusion the director wanted to produce. 

I also thought it was interesting how the article brought up that the unions were based on industrial lines (film and theatre) versus the trades like carpenters and IBEW.  It’s a conflict that still played out in some projects that I have worked on, and we end up working along beside the trades on some jobs depending on jurisdiction.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Bending PVC

I came across pvcbendit while looking at PVC stuff for home projects.  We frequently either bend steel, or have it bent for us to make a design work.  Sometimes it structural.  Sometimes it must be welded, and PVC fittings might not work -but being easily able to consistently bend PVC, especially at a low economic cost, could be a useful theatrical tool for scenery fabrication.

Monday, January 11, 2016

RGB Light Matching

On a project last year we installed RGB lighting within a visitor experience center.  The client wanted the lighting to reflect the colors in their logo.  It actually turned out to be a fairly simple things to do.  We used this site: pantone-to-rgb  and used the numerical number supplied to create the color.  The colors were a close (enough) match!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Universal Theatrical Hardware

An exaggeration in many ways, yet, it seems like the below two items are indispensable stage hardware.  The first for holding movies scenery together, the second for lifting decks up off of wheels, though I have used it in other situations as well.
Pull Action Latch Clamp #341
Straight Line Clamp #630R

Monday, January 4, 2016

On Being a Linchpin

First, to all Happy New Year.  My hope is to bring you many more posts this year!

I recently read Seth Godin’s book Linchpin Are You Indispensable.  I thought it was an interesting read.  It hit on a lot of items that bother me with today’s society – how people are replaceable, how schooling spits out compliant individuals that have lost their creativity and ability to think and create. When I was young I think there was still this idea that if you worked hard (doing what you were told) that you would be taken care of in return.  That isn’t true.  When I was young I worked at a lot of small theatres, many of which paid poorly. But they also operated almost like a family.  There was a community.  Once I hot larger theatres, and corporate theatre, the factory model became much more apparent. 
Godin claims that most people around us are “bureaucrats, note takes, literalists, manual readers, TGIF laborers, map followers and fearful employees.”  I want to think that I don’t see it in the places I have been in theatre, but I do.  It’s there lurking. Yes, certain individuals create – designers, directors.  Theoretically the rest of us have opportunities, but either we don’t exercise them, or they are minimized by the organization. 
When I left the world of theatre, I went to education then to corporate work.  Every place I went to I thought the grass would be greener in terms of experimentation, testing, and R&D.  What’s the difference between the 20 different ways that I know of to cover foam (foam coat, super 88, muslin cover, sculptor coat, urethane hardcoat, and so forth).  What is cheapest, what is most durable?  What is best for rocks versus trees?  Many there is no right answer.  But if you don’t look at things like this, then how do you discover something innovative, new and different?
I often hear discussions about shop standards.  I don’t necessarily disagree that these should not be developed.  I think sometime that once you have a functioning wheel, and you know how and when it works, then using it in the situations in which it applies should be done.  But that doesn’t mean that you should think about a better wheel.  But that costs money.  And it is easier for your folks to just follow instructions on using the first wheel.
At the same time as reading Seth Godin’s book, I read an article on facebook about suicides rates for kids in the Silicon Valley.  Their parents are rich.  They can afford to give the kids everything to give them a good life – lessons and schooling, and connections to give them a leg up.  But they can’t necessarily get them a job, or make sure that they are successful in the future.  So there is stress, and the kids are literally opting out at an alarming rate.
At this point, for decent paying work, you can’t just show up.  There is no miracle job.  You need to contribute and make a difference. Godin asks you to “be remarkable, be generous, create art, make judgement calls, connect people and ideas”.  I’m not good at doing this all the time, but I would like to.  I think that Godin has a lot of good things to say about stepping up.  I think there are parts where (and perhaps it is my own insecurity) that he indicates that the reader could be the next Steve Jobs, or some other similar famous entrepreneur.  But that’s beside the point. 
I also read an article on Forbes Called “Seth Godin’s Linchpin Theory: Sound advice or Career Suicide”.
It was an interesting comparison.  This article, to me over states the idea that to be a linchpin the entire company pivots around you – and that you are in a position in the company that is not at perhaps the CEO level (since at that point most entrepreneurial businesses often revolve around the creator, at least for a time).  The key, that this article makes that is very important (and very important theatrically) is that organizations need a way to manage knowledge.  When person A creates something, what happens with the knowledge that they have learned?  Without managing that knowledge, and somehow sharing it with others, that individual becomes valuable, but also problematic.  Historically that person doesn’t want to share information because that makes his job less stable.  But sharing that knowledge, is to me, pivotal with moving forward in our industry, as well as many other industries. 
Excel is a typical program to be using as a TD.  I am surrounded by users who have all used it for over a decade.  In the past month – I have had at least 4 moments where I or someone else learned a random things that you can do in excel by watching someone else.  All of us (in my example) thought of ourselves as pretty decent users of the program – but there is always something to learn.

Knowledge management, allowing people to share information, and providing space to experiment and test ideas, techniques, and so forth are critical things that I believe are necessary to cultivate in our world today.