A View From Behind the Meter
I was lighting the Burbank International Film Festival awards ceremony at the Castaways Restaurant on Sunday and, as I worked with my young crew, I noticed several procedural errors that I thought I should mention here. Now, I am semi- retired, and most of the crew were young relatively inexperienced, so I became a teacher as well as lighting director rather fast. One of the first things I noticed was the common habit of placing a tungsten lamp upside down on the stand. Now this may seem benign initially but the globe is designed to be base down with most tungsten instruments so that the heat rises away from the socket structure. If the instrument burns base up the heat instead rises through the socket structure and reduces the life of the globe dramatically. It also increases the possibility of an exploding globe and this can have hazardous results for the performers. Michael Jackson had this happen to him in a music video and it was probably caused by some such lighting error.
The 1K open face tungsten instruments are sometimes pointed straight down by naïve technicians and this also will produce a shattering explosion spraying burning glass in a wide arc below the light. Again as is the case with the globe upside down the heat rises and in the case of the 1k open face the heat is trapped by the reflector behind the globe. The DXW globe is designed for horizontal function not vertical and will only sustain a normal heat level with most of the heat rising in front of the reflector through the vents surrounding the instrument. The enormous heat build-up both through the socket and trapped in the reflector is the single most dangerous element with regards to tungsten instruments besides electrical wiring problems. The filament inside the glass envelope is almost molten when functioning correctly and the movement of these instruments while hot will usually result in what I call a blow out. A “burn out” is when the life of the globe is near its life expectancy and the filament severs, due to age, creating a black carbon soot on the inside of the envelope. A “blow out” occurs when the filament touches the glass envelope during the course of moving the light while still illuminated. In the above case there will be no carbon soot on the inside of the globe at all and the globe is damaged due to operator error not in the normal usage. Most rental companies will charge for a “blow out” replacement globe but not for a “burn out”.
The other problem I noticed while working Sunday was that each of the HMI lights were set up and turned on before a lens was placed in the fixture. This is a very bad habit to get into due to the high UV that is emitted by these types of instruments. For a period of time we used to call out that we were striking the light in order to warn people against looking in the direction of the light at that moment. This habit seems to have disappeared on the sets that I’ve been on lately but the UV hazard is still present. Having a lens in place at the time of strike will mitigate the problem greatly. Lighting is a wonderful profession and with all this enjoyment we mustn’t forget that there is an ever present danger while working in this field. I have seen my share of shocks as well as fires during the last thirty years and I don’t suppose that will change in the next thirty. Safe habits are essential and the application of those habits must become instinctual if one wishes to step through the minefield of dangers ever present in this profession.
-Michael Rogers, Lighting Consultant And Outreach, BIRNS AND SAWYER