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An Interview with Louie Luminaire

Louie Luminaire

This month I am very pleased to present a spectacular interview. It is always a great to learn about lighting programming from different perspectives. Recently I sat down with an actual lighting fixture named Louie Luminaire to understand what it is like for lighting fixtures to be programmed and operated on shows. He provides great insight into what happens “at the other end of the cable.” Louie goes deep and shares some valuable information that all lighting programmers should utilize.

Brad Schiller: Louie, you have had quite a career working on Broadway, concerts, and corporate events. Please tell us your background, and a bit about your career.

Louie Luminaire: Almost from the day I was born, I have been destined to be a great lighting addition to various productions. I immediately was shipped to a major rental company, and they have kept me very busy going from show to show. I have had the opportunity to light people, set pieces, and even create beamage in midair! Beamage is my favorite thing to do on a show, as I get to really shine (pun intended). I am a full-profile fixture, while my wife is a wash light with a sexy Fresnel lens. As you can imagine, we make a great pair and often work on the same shows. I really enjoy showing off my framing shutters, although some programmers never really use them.

As lighting programmers, we are always busy sending you various commands. What is it really like for you during a show or programming session?

Well, you know, it is a very interesting position for us lighting fixtures. My co-workers and myself sit there and listen very closely to the incoming commands sent via DMX (or sometimes in a related language such as Art-Net or sACN). As soon as I hear something meant for me, I am expected to instantly respond perfectly as requested. Those programmers are very bossy at times and send multiple commands quickly, yet rarely give us any time to rest.

Yeah, we can be demanding. However we do usually let you rest when we finally rest.

That’s what you think; but you don’t really know what we do when you are not there, do you?

That’s true. What is your take on RDM? Do you support this type of communication?

I absolutely love RDM as it gives me a voice back to the programmer. The programmer can ask me questions and I can respond with an answer, or with some implementations I can even just speak up when I want to notify a programmer of my current health condition. I do wish that more programmers made use of RDM, though, as I don’t get to speak this language often enough.

During an actual production, what are your favorite activities?

Ballyhoos are always fun, of course, as I get to swing all around. However, I much prefer when the programmer uses a bit more creativity to create flyouts or kicks. When they combine my attributes to create very dynamic moves; that is the most fun for me. There is nothing quite like making a big bold move followed by blacking out and restoring to make the same move again and again.

I also am really into mark cues or Move in Black functionality. I feel like a covert ninja when I fade out, then move slyly in the dark to prepare for my next cue. Not only is it fun to prepare for my next moment, it is also great to know what I am about to be asked to do. Plus, it just looks so much better on stage. I always feel bad for my friends that don’t get a mark cue or Move In Black function. They look silly screeching across the stage.

Yes, mark cues are essential. What is your least favorite thing that a programmer has asked of you?

This one time at a band camp show, the programmer thought that we all had to have all our attributes going crazy for every song. It was nuts! There I was, moving all chaotic while spinning my color wheels, changing gobos, and irising in and out. I looked like a fool! And all my coworkers were doing the same. This must have looked like insane flash and trash to the audience. I really don’t understand why they would ask us to do this! It was real torture.

Yes, there are some foolish people out there programming consoles. Let’s switch gears and talk about your coworkers and get your thoughts on them.

Ah yes, all the other lights out there. It seems like new ones come out all the time. As for me, I come from a long line of well-known lighting fixtures. Our lineage goes back many generations, and we have lit stages for a long time. My great-grandfather was not very sophisticated and listened only to voltage changes, as DMX was not invented yet. My grandfather actually has a tungsten lamp installed; my father has a large arc lamp, and I have a small, but efficient arc lamp. My wife Louise and I just gave birth to a lovely new LED spot named Liam! We are so proud of all that he can accomplish in his long lifetime.

I think it is great that there are so many different types of lights, but some are dangerous to be around. Those beam lights are very aggressive and can really burn you if they get too close. Then there are the hybrids that think they are so great because they can behave like several different types of lights. But if you ask me, they do a lot, but they don’t do anything as well as us purebreds.

There is a lot of talk about a light’s country of origin. Does this matter to you?

Well it should not matter, but the reality is that it does matter in many cases. There are some wonderful manufacturers that we can come from, and then there are others (many from China) that are not as reliable. Many are pumped out of the factory in a hurry with very poor quality. The worst are the clones. Can you believe that some manufacturers will make a direct copy of another light? Hopefully the programmers are kicking those clones off the shows.

There are some great products coming from all over the world, and it is interesting to learn where they are made. My friends and I did one of those on-line DNA tests, and of course we all have a bit of Chinese in us. A few were shocked to learn that although they were sold by a Western company, they were actually 100% Chinese manufactured! There is nothing wrong with that, but they were surprised to learn their true origin.

I have also worked with some fixtures that don’t speak very well. They will have trouble passing the DMX commands on to me, or they garble them all up. It is disappointing, as everyone should really speak the language properly.

What is one thing that you wish you could say to every lighting programmer?

I wish that they would take the time to study each of us and really understand our capabilities. I always feel bad when they miss out on certain features just because they did not look at our DMX charts. Too often they rely solely on their console fixture libraries, which often have errors or omissions.

Plus, I really don’t like when a programmer blames us, without checking first to see if we are doing exactly what we are told to do. For example, I was blamed for having my magenta wheel in a bit during open white. The problem was actually with the programmer’s palette/preset and not at all my fault. I was almost swapped out for another unit! I could have lost my job due to that programmer’s mistake.

Thank you, Louie, for a great interview. Where can we learn more about you and your family?

My manufacturer has a great website filled with valuable information all about my entire family and me. You can download manuals, software, CAD symbols, DMX charts, and so much more. Plus they even have experts standing by to answer any questions you might have via phone or email.

I absolutely love being commanded by lighting programmers and wish to thank them all for the wonderful opportunities to shine on stages around the world. Keep up the great work!

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