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Cinegear Expo 2017: A Recap

Every year Hollywood, California becomes a sort of Mecca for professionals who wish to learn and share information about emerging entertainment technologies. These professionals gather from more than 60 countries for a four day series of conferences called Cinegear Expo. This year Cinegear was held from June 1 – June 4 and hosted more than 16,000 professionals in the fields of Digital Media, Film, Entertainment, Post Production, Virtual and Augmented Reality, Government and Military, Sports, and the Academic World. This year’s event took place at The Studios at Paramount and was attended by such prestigious companies as 360Rize, 4Wall Entertainment, A.C. Lighting, AC Power Distribution, ASC/American Cinematographer, Chapman Leonard Studio Equipment, Inc. to name a few.


The Exhibitors


360Rize specializes in virtual technology and media management software.

4Wall Entertainment specializes in the rental of lighting equipment

A.C. Lighting displayed their Chroma-Q Color-Force RGBA-fixtures

AC Power Distribution is a supplier of adapters, cables and connectors

ASC/American Cinematographer is the oldest and most respected magazine in the film industry

Chapman Leonard Studio Equipment, Inc. is a maker of custom camera components


Noteworthy Seminars


Seminars and panel discussions where held at this year’s Cinegear as it has been in previous years. This year’s noteworthy discussions included:


“VR cameras A- Z” conducted by Radiant Images

“The Advantages of Lens Metadata Capture Throughout your Production” held by Zeiss

“Demystifying Log vs Linear, the power of 16 bit, and High Dynamic Range” held by Sony

“Large Format Cinematography with Leica Cine Lenses” presented by CW Sonderoptic & Leica

“Telling Stories with LED Lights” presented by IATSE Local 600 Cinematographers

“Documentary Cinematography: Challenges and Solutions from VICE using FS series camcorders” presented by Sony

“Shooting on the EOS C700: How Canon’s Flagship Camera Performs in the Field” presented by Canon

2017 Film Series Winners

Of course, the conference is all about innovation and the sharing of information between professionals in field of lighting/entertainment. However, innovation should be incentivized. This year’s big winner in the field of film were:

  • Student short film – “The Fare”
  • Independent short film – “Limbo”
  • Commercial and music video – “Cell Biology”
  • Rising Star Award Recipient – “Fragile Storm”


As long as innovation continues in our industry and as long as the public continues to desire the latest in entertainment technologies, Cinegear will continue to bring together professionals who will share information that improves and enlightens. Ratpac Dimmers is happy to be a part of that innovation.

A Brief History of Wireless Communications

While not quite the dinosaur that telephone booths are, wired communications is rapidly disappearing from our modern day society. Wireless is more convenient, faster and simpler to use and despite what some people believe, it can be secure. But this boon in wireless technology did not just spring up overnight. A lot of people laid the groundwork for the wireless keyboards, headphones, speakers, dimmers, etc. Here are just a few milestones on the path of our decreasing dependence on wired communications.

  • Early 1820s: Electromagnetism is discovered by Hans Christian Ørsted and Andre-Marie Ampere.
  • 1896: Guglielmo Marconi and W.H. Preece send wireless signals over a distance of one-and-three fourths miles on Salisbury Plain. (Early that year Marconi patented an operational wireless telegraph apparatus.)
  • 1906: Lee DeForest patented the first triode amplifier. The first speech wireless transmission was broadcast by Reginald Fessenden.
  • World War II (1941-1945): The war years see the rapid advancement of radio technology. Shortly after the war two papers are published on Information theory. These papers contain the basis of data compression (source encoding) and error detection and correction (channel encoding).
  • 1954: Many Americans get their first glance of a wireless mobile car phone in the movie Sabrina starring Humphrey Bogart, William Holden and Audrey Hepburn. (The first car-based mobile telephone was set up in St. Louis, using ‘push-to-talk’ technology.)
  • 1962: The first communications satellite, Telstar, is launched into orbit. Telstar was a U.S., French, and British collaboration that was the world’s first active communication satellite.
  • 1974: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allocates 40 MHz for cellular telephony.
  • 1982: European GSM and Inmarsat established.
  • 1990: Motorola files and is given permission by the FCC to launch 77 low orbit satellites into orbit.
  • 1994: The FCC licenses the Personal Communications Services spectrum (1.7 to 2.3 GHz) for $7.7 billion.
  • 1998: IBM, Intel, Nokia and Toshiba join forces to develop Bluetooth for the wireless exchange of data between handheld computers or cell phones and stationary computers.

Today as the public has gotten used to the convenience of wireless communications, companies like ours have – out of necessity – had to accommodate this need. Wired technologies, though they will probably never be completely replaced, are simply not practical in a number of situations. Ratpac Dimmers stands on the shoulders of giants and continues to innovate in ways that the early pioneers of wireless communications could not have possibly imagined.

The Harry Potter Light Show 2017

First J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books captured the imagination of children all over the world. After that the books were transformed into blockbuster movies that adults and children from all over the world have enjoyed for years. Now, the story of a student/magician is being translated into a Universal Studios light show that some people say will be a “bone-chilling adventure.” The show, which will launch on June 23, will be the culmination of years of planning by expert light technicians. Universal Studios is counting on this display to be the perfect blending of light, color and music. The music will be scored by Academy Award-winning composer John Williams — who composed the music for the first three Potter films.

The display will be a five-minute show, called “The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle.” This display was inspired by the Wizardry World of Harry Potter ceremonies last year. “We really wanted the guests to have that bone-chilling moment and go, ‘Wow, this is something I’ve never experienced before,’” says Stacey Quinealty, the park’s senior manager of audio and visual production. Universal Studios is no stranger to displays of pop culture references. In the past it has had to coordinate and plan displays such as The Flintstones, The Star Trek Adventure, E.T. Adventure, Back to the Future, etc. However, as technologies develop and change, expectations grow as well.

The light show – which will have audio piped in through a 27.5 surround-sound system – is an example of how light technologies have to be adaptive in the 21st century. Audiences who have come to know and love the Potter books and movies will be expecting visuals that are truly immersive. Ratpac Dimmers provides technologies that are utilized by the makers of such events every day. We understand that the logistics of a venue like Universal Studios are too complicated to accommodate wired lighting fixtures. It is not practical for people who work with enormous displays that must be synchronized in this way to be tethered to old, wired technologies. Quite a bit of state-of-the-art technology is needed to make such experiential events. That is why we take pride in our wireless dimmers, our portable DMX wireless receivers, etc. They make events such as the one that will be held in Universal Studios during the summer of 2017 possible.

So, whether you are a Potter Fan or not, we invite you to look over some of our state-of-the-art technology that experts in the field of lighting use every day due to its simplicity of operation and reliability. Have a fun summer.

Terms that Every Stage Lighting Student Should Know

Every profession has its own personalized jargon. These highly specialized terms may seem baffling to people who are outside of that profession, but to experts within those given fields they are an important tool for communicating effectively with others in that area of expertise. In the field of stage lighting, it is no different. It is incumbent upon lighting students to begin to master the specialized words and terms that are so essential to the craft. Here are some basic lighting terms that students and event lighting people should know.


    • ACN: Advanced Control Network. This is an Ethernet-based control protocol between control desk, dimmers & moving lights. It was developed by Strand Lighting, et al in 2003.
    • Backlight: This is a light that comes from upstage, behind scenery or actors. It helps to separate them from the background. Tip: Smoke, steam, and other Translucent work very well with backlighting.


  • Intelligent lights: These lights that can be controlled and programmed by sophisticated lighting software and hardware systems.
  • Non-Intelligent lights: These are basic, static light fixtures that move to music (as in rock concerts, etc.)
  • Vertical and Horizontal Truss: Vertical truss systems are hollow, steel columns that stand on either side of a stage’s floor and support lights. Horizontal truss columns usually rest above or below a stage allowing them to lay over or below it.
  • Digital dimmer: A digital dimmer responds directly to the multiplexed output of the lighting desk. This technology permits the dimmer to report faults and other data back to the control board.
  • Dimmer: This is an electronic or electric device that reduces a fixture’s brightness sometimes with a corresponding loss of color temperature. Optical dimmers maintain color temperature.
  • Dimmer Hookup: This is a spreadsheet that lists each fixture in a show with all its relevant information, including, color, template, accessories, dimmer, circuit, channel, wattage, and purpose.
  • DMX Terminator: This device regulates DMX fixtures when many fixtures are used on a single DMX line (Universe). Its function is to remove excess noise and flickering on the DMX Tx line.
  • GOBO (short for Graphical optical blackout): This is a physical stencil or template that is placed inside or in front of a light source, to control the shape of the emitted light.


Finally, knowledge of these specialized terms – and many others – will help you communicate better with lighting experts if you are outside of the field and help you communicate with peers if you are a lighting specialist.

The Psychology Color in Filmmaking

We all know that light affects mood and perception. During the shorter winter days when there is less sunshine and light, for example, people are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is why light therapy is used as a treatment strategy for this disorder. But color also has a huge effect on our moods and our behavior. Advertisers, lighting experts, cinematographers, etc., have known this for some time. In fact, no lighting director worth his or her salt can get by without at least a passing knowledge of color psychology. Let’s explore the mystery of color psychology and how it is used to influence our emotions and behavior.


  • Red: The color red is a very powerful color. It has a tendency to be associated with passion, violence, love, danger, power and anger. Its effective use is demonstrated in Stanley Kubrick’s 2000px-RGB_color_wheel_72.svg2001: A Space Odyssey and it is used all throughout Sam Mendes’ American Beauty.
  • Pink: Pink is used with great effectiveness in the movies Frozen and Hairspray to denote innocence, sweetness, femininity, playfulness, empathy and beauty.
  • Orange: The color orange is perceived to mean warmth, sociability, friendly, happiness, exotic and youth. The color has a higher wavelength than yellow, for example, which is why it is used to draw the attention of viewers. It is used often in the movie Romeo and Juliet (dir. Braz Luhrhamm).
  • Yellow: The color yellow is often associated with madness, sickness, insecurity, obsessive, idyllic and the naive. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining effectively uses this color to illustrate Jack Nicholson’s obsessive behavior, especially in the “Here’s Johnny” scene.
  • Green: Nature, immaturity, corruption, ominous, darkness, and danger are all connected to this color. Wachowski brothers’ Matrix series is filmed predominantly using this color.
  • Blue: Blue is a favorite color used by director Tim Burton for many of his movies which have to do with the melancholy such as Corpse Bride. This color is connected with coldness, isolation, melancholy and calm.
  • Violet: This color is associated with fantasy, eroticism and the mystical. It is used to great effect all throughout key scenes in the movie Avatar.


Finally, armed with the basics of color psychology lighting directors, cinematographers have another tool to use in order to influence the mood and perceptions of their respective audiences. The wireless dimmers and other devices on our site also help in this effort.

The Advantages of Using Wireless Technologies

Businesses are always in a race to find and exploit any technology that will give them a competitive edge and that will also best serve their customers. For several decades, now the preeminent technology that businesses have used to accomplish this goal is wireless communications. In fact, wires and cables have almost become technological dinosaurs. Some businesses and individuals still cling on to wires and cables and these devices do have their function. However, more and more they are being usurped by emerging wireless technologies. At Ratpac Dimmers, we are all about innovation and technologies that give our customers the edge over their competition and that increases the public’s appreciation and enjoyment of our products. For those few people who are not convinced of the virtues of wireless technologies – such as our wireless DMX control which uses Lumen Radio’s CRMX – here are just some of the advantages wireless tech offers.


  • Greater mobility: The elimination or reduction of wires means that equipment can be more easily moved from one area to another. This gives lighting designers, stage directors, etc., greater flexibility in the placement of technical equipment. Moreover, wireless systems can be more easily assembled and disassembled than wired setups.
  • Safer working environment: Fewer wires means that the number of trip accidents can be diminished which increases workplace safety.
  • Greater flexibility: It’s easier and quicker to add other components to wireless systems than it is with wired systems.
  • Greater reach: Wireless equipment can be connected in areas that would be difficult for wired networks. For example, many entertainment venues often have aesthetic styling considerations, which would make the presence of wires and cables impractical.
  • Lower cost: Wireless systems are often less expensive than wired systems since wires and cables are purchased on a perfoot cost. Moreover, wireless systems reduce the cost of installation and the time needed for re-routing and wire maintenance.
  • Greater scalability: The reach of wireless networks can be expanded more easily than a wired system. Moreover, this greater scalability means fewer workers are required for set up and installation.Wireless Dimmer


Yes, the advantages of wireless devices are obvious and explain why they have all but replaced wires and cables in many areas of business. The entertainment industry is just one of the many areas that benefit from this technology. Wireless makes life easier for technicians, artists and the public in general.

NAB Show 2017: Where Content Comes to Life

It all started back in the first part of the 20th century at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. There, Eugene F. McDonald Jr., who also launched the Zenith Corporation, founded the National Association of Radio Broadcasters (NAB). From these humble beginnings the NAB has risen to become the trade association representing commercial and non-commercial television and radio broadcasters. Today, the NAB thrives through its annual trade show which this year takes place from April 22 to 27 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ratpac Dimmers will proudly attend this trade show which will combine the talents of broadcasters and technicians from around the world. Also, attending the show will be a number of prominent media personalities from organizations such as the NBA, the WWE, the United States Tennis Association and many others. In the past speakers have included people like Steve Wozniak, director James Cameron, Gary Marshall and Betty White.2017-show


The three areas of concentration for the NAB have been and continue to be advocacy, innovation and education. The key legislative and regulatory issues the NAB currently promotes are high speed wireless Internet service bandwidth allocation, protecting the rights of journalists and equipping mobile phones with broadcast capability for emergency preparedness.


As a company that is all about innovation, we at Ratpac Dimmers are especially excited to participate in the NAB trade show. We see it as a chance to exchange ideas, present our technologies to interested companies and share in the history of the organization. We will be there to discuss innovations in wireless technologies that aid film makers, directors, choreographers and broadcasters of all kinds.


Finally, education is perhaps the most important area of concentration for the NAB and its annual trade show. Educational tools utilized at the show will include live interactive webcasts, podcasts and presentation by industry leaders. All of these have the goal of providing broadcasters with the opportunity to hear about the latest technologies, broadcasting issues and business technologies.

Yes, this year’s event is expected to continue the tradition of advancing all three of the main goals of advocacy, education and innovation which has been a part of the NAB since it started in 1922. Technologies have changed but our commitment to improving the industry remains the same. A complete list of each day’s activities as well as a guest speaker’s list can be found at the following link. Join us there.

Stanley McCandless and his Stage Lighting Theory

Considered by many to be the grandfather of modern day theatrical lighting, Stanley McCandless is one of those people whose influence theater goers witness everyday without knowing it. For although he developed his method of stage lighting way back in the 1930s with relatively primitive equipment, his techniques are still used today. His groundbreaking book “A Method of Lighting the Stage (1932)” laid out these techniques which are today known as the McCandless Theory or Method. Lighting professionals and stage directors who have access to much more sophisticated technologies than those that were available to McCandless – such as wireless dimmer packs – owe him a debt of thanks for the work they do.


McCandless was interested in both the art and the science of stage lighting such as it existed in the mid-20th century. He was born in Chicago Illinois in 1897 to Charles and Mary McCandless. While in his twenties, he received his degree in architecture from Harvard College. His studies there eventually lead to him becoming a theatrical lighting associate. As his interest in theater grew, he became an educator, innovator and author who took the problem of stage lighting head on. He basically categorized the functions of how light worked on the stage into visibility, locale, composition, and mood. Working as a theater consultant in his early years, McCandless designed house lights for the Center Theatre in New York’s Radio City. The fixtures he utilized used shutters and gobos or templates. McCandless continued to expand the burgeoning field of theater lighting and to educate new generations of lighting professionals until he retired in 1964.

The McCandless Method

The McCandless Method is a special approach to stage lighting that McCandless developed in the 1930s. Part of this method is that actors are primarily to be fully lit from the front but secondary light is used to sculpture the actor’s features. Full lighting is provided from two lights on opposite sides which are positioned above the actors at approximately 45 degree angles 90 degrees apart. (These two lights are positioned at opposite directions.) Moreover, his method pairs a cool light (relative to the other) against a warm light. The result is that placement and contrast of these lights create a more natural looking light. McCandless devised his system while at Harvard College. He refined it when he moved to Yale to be near the heart of the American theater. His method demonstrates that today’s technologies are useful, but that human ingenuity and intelligence are equally important.

Best Film Schools in America

Great moviemakers don’t just spring up overnight. It takes superior instruction and resources to help film students reach their potential and to go on to become great directors, cinematographers and lighting specialists. Fortunately, some of the best film schools in the world are here in the good ol USA. Here are some of the top film schools in the country and some of their notable alumni.


  • USC: Since 1929 USC’s School of Cinematic Arts has been cranking out graduates like Judd Apatow, John August, Susan Downey, Kevin Feige, Doug Liman, Shonda Rhimes, Bryan Singer, George Lucas and John Wells to name just a few. The school is a well respected leader in the world of academia.


  • American Film Institute (AFI): Notable among its graduates is Darren Aronofsky, David Lynch, and Terrence Malick. Its alumni are proud winners of such prominent events as the Cannes and Venice film festivals.


  • New York University: Graduates of this well respected school include Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone and M. Night Shyamalan and Ang Lee. The school is considered by many to be “the best film school east of the Hudson.”


  • UCLA: Frank Marshall, Justin Lin, Dustin Lance Black, Francis Ford Coppola are just a few of this school’s graduates. Adding to the prestige of the university is the fact that the School of Theater, Film and Television has an acceptance rate of only 2% of the applicants who apply to go there.


  • Columbia University: This school’s notable alumni include Nicole Holofcener, James Mangold, and James Ponsoldt. This school has a better acceptance rate that UCLA at 21% but it is no less respected in the industry and among academia. Its School of Arts has turned out film scholars, writers, theatre practitioners, and visual and sound artists and many other who have made great contributions to the world of film and theatre.


  • California Institute of the Arts (CalArts): This school’s alumni include John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Kirby Dick, Tim Burton, Brenda Chapman (the first woman to win an Oscar for an animated feature). Its School of Theatre includes Design and Production courses including Costume Design, Lighting Design, Producing (MFA), Stage Management, Production Management (MFA), Scene Design, Sound Design, and Video for Performance (MFA), etc.


Yes, it takes more than potential alone to become a great moviemaker. It also takes careful guidance and the right instruction and resources. Fortunately, these film schools will continue to produce some of the greatest artists in the world of film, stage and TV. Similarly, we at Ratpac Dimmers will continue to provide the hardware necessary also in creating memorable theatre and movie moments.