How do I choose the right color for a song?

Posted by | Lighting, Programming, Tips and Tricks | No Comments

Hue PieIf you’ve ever gotten to experience the programming process for a show you understand how frustrating it can get picking a color for a song. If you’re like me, watching a show can get additionally aggravating if the color doesn’t match the music. When I was interviewed about Little Big Town’s Tornado tour I said, “Ultimately, the music inspires the lighting. Tone dictates color, and visually draws out various feelings and emotions.” I feel that this is still the case today, and it is even more involved in a show psychologically than I may have indicated in the past. Color is important.

I was first clued into that color can have a powerful effect on the human brain when I heard about why McDonalds chose red for their old-style countertops. Somebody in their vast marketing department had done the research on what color stimulates your digestive system making you hungry, apparently, red and orange were the winners. If you’ve been to a Mickey-D’s recently, they’ve changed their look to earthy tones – which do not necessarily decrease your appetite, but makes the room feel more ritzy. Check out this article on Restaurant Psychology.

While in college, I had a friend doing a research project on people who had Synesthesia. According to wikipedia, “Synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.” She was researching the linkage to perfect pitch and seeing color, which oddly enough is something a bit different. Synesthesia happens when you eat broccoli and it tastes purple, or you hear something and it sounds red, or tastes like a grape. It was these linkages that made me begin thinking that there is more to color than just wavelengths of light.

Take a look at career development. When interviewing for a job, do you want to come across as powerful, and confrontational, or wise, loyal, and trustworthy? Chose the color you wear carefully. If you chose the former, you have issues, and would be wearing red. If you chose the latter, you would be sporting blue. I read a real good article by Walter Graff which goes into greater detail about color psychology, even touches on film for a bit. You can find the article on or here.

Red and Blue Wash

Linking all this science of color back to lighting: what color do you choose to represent a song? Is the song intense? Is it happy or sad? You can help reinforce those emotions using color. I’ve done this intuitively for years without being conscious of it, when I was programming for an artist, a song would “sound” or “feel” a specific color to me. The other side of that coin, was that songs never sounded one solid color to me. On one occasion I mixed red and blue on a song which its verse was slow and calm, but had a fairly intense chorus. The audio engineer at the time looked up and said that the lights made him feel uncomfortable – obviously I had to keep it that way from that point on. I was playing with people’s minds. The red and blue color combination reflected opposing emotions, the lyrics to that song were just as confusing, full of opposing emotions, so I felt the lights should do the same.

The other side of the color-coin is that color can also help visually move you through a song: color is not necessarily limited to an effect on your emotions but can assist in your perception of the song. One thing I like to do while programming is accent the changing of the song from verse to chorus by changing the color of the lights – this concept visually helps to move the audience through the song, while audibly, the change in chord and lyrical structure is doing the same through the ear.


Artists and musicians don’t often use the same chords or lyrics for the verse, chorus or bridge: they change. As a lighting programmer it is my job to accent the music. If the music is changing the lights should be changing. Say you have a song that features a happy, sassy chorus, but it slows a bit on the verses. I would use, lighter, warmer tones on the Choruses, and calmer, cooler tones on the verses. I may also throw in a consistent color somewhere to help bring it all together.


Color is a powerful thing (I’ve heard alternating red and green can cause seizures). The proper use of color can help accent the music, drive emotion and visually improve your show and the overall concert experience. Best of all, no answer is wrong. No one sitting in your audience is going to consciously hate your show because you used red on a happy song, unless of course I decide to come see it. Experiment. If it doesn’t feel broke, don’t fix it. If you don’t like the lighting on a particular song night after night, and can’t put a finger on what’s bothering you, change the color, you could be getting conflicting emotions. When I started this post I didn’t know how much research had been done on color and music, but I haven’t had a shortage of research material. All the articles I’ve read are linked within this post, for you to read at your leisure. I’ve had a lot of fun putting this blog post together and there’s a ton more that I could have written about from the research I had to do for this one.

I hope you find this post helpful, don’t forget to “like” the Facebook page if you haven’t already, find me on LinkedINPLS or catch me on twitter. I’ve also added a Fan Photos Page which is full of my favorite twitter photos.

Becoming the Best – Customer Service

Posted by | Lighting, Philosophies, Tips and Tricks, Touring | One Comment

Readers, Roadies, Skeptics and Crew,

I started writing this past summer because I had a green horn lighting tech with me. I wanted to find an outlet to be able to convey ideas and processes that would make his life easier, rather than every day putting my arm around him and telling him everything that he did poorly. Don’t get me wrong, we still had daily talks about what was good, what was bad and what he could do to improve both our lives on the road. He would have been wise to heed the advice that was handed to him. Fast forward to January 3rd, 2014, I still have a relatively green lighting tech, but he learns quickly, and actually made me take a step back when he began to anticipate needs and do things before I asked… that’s customer service! Remarkable!!! I had to write about this immediately. Read More

Touring 101 – Life on the Road pt2

Posted by | Lighting, Touring | No Comments


Readers, Roadies, Skeptics and Crew,

Happy Holidays and Merry New Year,

I hope you enjoyed part 1 of Life on the Road, if you missed it – click here. This is part 2 of the series. I could potentially do a few more as time goes on, but I want to get into more specific topics after this post, and finally finish the product reviews I’ve been working on (or ignoring) since July.

In Part 1 I talked a lot about the road itself; literally the travel aspect of touring: the bus calls, curb calls, trucking, and oil spots. I wrote about the various types of venues that you will come across on your journey and the challenges and features that can make your day better or worse. This post will be more on the day-to-day of touring, and the parts that make the show go.

RiggingOn most tours, your show day’s load-in starts at 8 or 9am. The first step is to mark your points – a rigging point is the spot marked on the floor that a motor chain must land to properly hang your rig. Generally, if you have staff riggers they will already have your points figured out and will take care of this for you. It is then your responsibility to run out your chain and float your motors (hoists in some circles). To float a motor is to power it up, and run it in the “up” direction until the motor is about 3′ off the ground… you can trust some local crew to do this for you, but be very selective, the last thing you want is a busted motor.

After you’ve run out your motors, they need to connect to your rig using shackles, gal-flex or span sets. Once all your truss has been inspected for safety, usually by your staff rigger, you can float it and when the truss is at a safe working hight, you can hang and wire-up all your lights, audio, video, soft goods, or special FX.

In my world, the lighting rig is raised up to trim about the same time that audio is ready to begin line-checks and system tuning. Trim is a pre-determined height by the designer that the lighting rig will be raised to each day for consistency and easier focus. A line-check is when your audio and back line techs go through each audio input and make sure that the audio boards are receiving signal from that input. System Tuning is when the audio guys make an obscene, but necessary amount of noise to determine the audio frequencies that the day’s room resonates and cancels out so they can then make the appropriate adjustments to the output from the Front of House console to compensate. (Not bad coming from a lighting guy, eh?)

Generally, if I have any moving lights on the rig, I don’t need to talk to anyone, so I will go through the tedious task of focusing them while the audio guys try to achieve an award winning sound. Lighting Focus isn’t like Video Focus. For every saved position that you can recall at the lighting board, you need to update it with the changes for the day. For example, if you have a Downstage Center Position (DSC), you need to tell every light that recalls that position, where DSC is that day by turning the light on, pointing it at DSC and repeating that process for each light, then selecting them all and updating your DSC position. Focus can get pretty hairy when you have several hundred moving heads, so I try to keep things as generic as possible. I will write more on this some other time.

Later in the day, after all your departments have successfully completed their tests, the band and occasionally the artist will arrive on stage for a soundcheck – during soundcheck the musicians and the audio crew work together to get their in-ears levels balanced for the show and make any adjustments to the overall look for that night. Most days I also take this opportunity to run some cues with the band, and tweak as needed.

LBT_HaveYourselfAfter this step, the stage is clear, and doors are opened. The audience fills the venue, and a show happens. Immediately following the show, load-out begins. Essentially load-out is the exact opposite of load-in but takes half the time. Trusses are lowered in, lights are put into cases, and everything is packed into the trucks. The crew showers, jumps on their busses and in 4-6 hours it all begins again. The road is a very busy place with very little downtime, and its not for everyone. You have to love it or you’re going to be miserable. If you can deal with the long hours and the hard work, it is a very rewarding career.

I’d love to hear from you. Is there anything I missed that you want to know more about? I’ve started the next post already, but feel free to let me know what interests you. I’ll do the research and fire it back out. In the meantime check out the Facebook page, find me on LinkedINPLS or catch me on twitter. I’ve also added a Fan Photos Page which is full of my favorite twitter photos.


Touring 101 – Life on The Road pt.1

Posted by | Lighting, Touring | 2 Comments


Readers, Roadies, Skeptics and Crew,

Happy Thanksgiving!
When I was thinking about my next post, most of my thoughts required some form of understanding of “the road.” For those of you that see something I missed, please comment. You veterans may find this review boring, but this post is for those of you that would like a better understanding of what we do out here. Remember while reading that this is an overview; I am planning on revisiting a lot of the topics listed here… I should put up a vote on what I should write about next…

What is “the road?”
I like to imagine a world-sized pinball machine; you barely get to touch a location before you’re shot of to another part of the globe. People ask what Europe, South America, Canada or other places are like and most the time the only thing you can tell them about the place is what the airport or the venue looked like. Very rarely do you stay in one location for more than 1 day, but I can tell you when you can leave your rig in the air for a night, its a nice break. Even more rare, but much appreciated, is when your client takes you sight seeing in a foreign country – hold onto those stories when your family asks you about what the rest of the world is like.

BussesIn North America, normally, if you’re full time with an artist, you travel by bus, a suped-up Prevost with 12 bunks, 2 lounges, a bathroom and little to no personal space. Good thing you’re only on it for a matter of hours, but if you have to travel by vehicle, its much nicer than the alternative greyhound… or van with a trailer. When traveling by bus, your Tour Manager will give you a “bus call” time and location – this is not the time you show up, it is the time the bus leaves from that location. Don’t be late or you will get to experience an “oil-spot.” An oil spot is when your tour leaves you due to your own poor planning; its called this because when you show up late and the busses have gone, all you see are oil spots.

~ If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late… don’t even bother showing up. – Vince Lombardi.

If you’re on a smaller tour, opening acts usually, you’ll have a trailer behind the bus with as much as you can fit into it; packed floor to ceiling. As your act gets to do larger shows, they’ll need to amp up production, which means a semi – 53’l x 96″w x 108″h of space to cram as much gear as you can get into it, until you can convince them that they need a second truck.

As a music group starts out, most of the time the band begins in smaller clubs or bars, building their audience. The highly creative, yet appropriate name for this kind of tour is a “club tour.” I have known bands that have made a career out of club touring. A Club Tour generally travels from city to city in a van, or van with a trailer and plays the smaller music venues that “seat” anywhere from 100-500 people. Every now and again you’ll come across a small theatre which generally seat 1200-2500. Some bands do decide to carry lighting and some P.A. but its a smaller scale, and most of the time you’ll need to be able to power your whole rig off of a few 15-20Amp electrical outlets, plan accordingly.

TheatreA Theatre Tour is exactly what its name suggests. When your band can draw a few thousand people per city, they’ll go on a theatre tour, which is when life gets a bit easier. There’s stage hands, a P.A., a lighting rig, catering and most the time a fly system – not to mention that you don’t have to load out to 130 decibels of the electric slide while the club patrons block your path to the trailer. Power is more available at these locations, plan for at least  one 400 amp service for lighting and a 200 for audio. Most theaters have more available, if not, you’ll need to bring in a generator.

Then there’s the big-time: Amphitheaters, Arenas and the mac-daddy, the stadium. A fleet of busses and trucks haul gear crew and band all across the world to entertain thousands upon thousands of people. Amphitheaters, fondly called “sheds” generally feature a covered stage and seating, with a unique lawn feature. You learn to love and hate each amphitheater as each one has a generally unique personality and set of features that can make your day easier… or an absolute nightmare.
I like arenas. Generally an arena is a hockey arena with ice covered with a protective layer. They’re cold, and static builds up in the winter, but you don’t have to deal with the risk of bad weather and there are usually plenty of dressing rooms. The wind doesn’t blow the haze away and the sun doesn’t mess up my lighting looks. I like the control of the environment in arenas.
Stadiums are another world of entertainment altogether. Everything gets bigger and takes much longer to get set up; some acts choose to have 2 stages that play leap-frog across the globe: one crew sets up one stage while the other crew does a show and tears down the other stage. There is usually a large power requirement for large stadium tours, so large, semi-sized generators are needed to provide electricity for the tour, which are also carried with the tour. The technical specifications behind a stadium tour are immense.

JetThe other travel alternative is called a “fly date.” On these particular shows your client flies you out to a part of the world because it is unfeasible to bus there. You will have a “curb call” – which is the time that you are expected to be at the airport. Don’t be late or you may have to suffer a wide range of unpleasantries, being left is probably the most unfortunate.
Most the time you fly in the day before, and they put you up in a hotel. The next morning you have a “lobby call” which is when the caravan for the venue leaves. Again, don’t be late. The vans will drop you and your gear at the venue which you will then do an abbreviated load-in. Hopefully all your production needs are locally provided and in place for you when you arrive.
Those of us in the corporate worlds get to experience longer days and some additional pressure, but less load-ins and load-outs. Corporate shows require a high level of professionalism, and a small ocean freighter worth of patience. The phrase “hurry up and wait” fits this aspect best. You most likely have a day or two to load in, depending on the size of the show. You’ll have rehearsals that will require some note-taking, and then there’s the real thing that will require you to pay close attention and be ready for almost anything – especially in the video / visual media department.

That’s it for an overview in a nutshell – trust me, there is plenty more to come. I had initially wrote a much longer post and had to split it into 2, so stay tuned for part 2 in December.

First Entry – From Chris

Posted by | About Me | 4 Comments

Hello readers, roadies, skeptics and crew,
I wanted to write my first blog post as a sort of introductory letter to explain my purpose here, what my intentions are and what you can expect from this particular blog. I feel as if many blogs out on the world wide web consist of people documenting their individual lives, recapping in the monotony of a 9-5 office job. Other blogs consist of tiny political campaigns, aimed at attempting to get people to see their perspective. You will get none of that here.
While I do have my own views and beliefs, I will do my best not to instill my perspective on you. What you will see here are things that I feel every tech on the road should know or be aware of. In the very least I will be here sharing some tricks and techniques I have learned that make my life easier on a daily basis. I also enjoy teaching. I will also be the first to say that I don’t know it all, and never will. There will always be someone out there who knows how to run a media server or a console better than me. That’s why I’m leaving the comment section available on each post. Keep it friendly and professional as it is my web page and everything you write has to be approved.
I also feel like before I start posting pieces of my experiences you should know a little about me. I am a professional lighting designer, director, programmer, board op and technician. I have also dabbled with some special fx including cryo and low fog: I’m working more on this part of the resume. I have worked on christian, country and bar band tours which have taken me all over the world.
I love my job. There’s something exceptionally dramatic when you call for the house lights to go to zero. The crowd roaring, you walk the spot ops through their motions one more time as the band’s intro rolls. Then there’s the adrenaline rush as you hit the first cue. It feels as if you launch the space-shuttle every night. This is my career. From the conception of the staging and the lighting design through the process of programming, into the intricate direction of the show, I love what I do.
I have a few objectives here: the first of which is to teach. I hope you learn something. For those of you who already know: chime in, many voices will keep this interesting.
The second objective is work! I love my job, but I can’t love my job while I’m at home on the couch. I can be booked for programming, designing, or operating your next concert or corporate event. Give me a chance and I will make every effort to exceed your expectations. To book me for your next event, check out my Contact Page.
The final objective that I can think of is that I really enjoy writing. I find that it is more productive than spending my down time playing XBOX. I hope to write fun, encouraging, knowledgeable posts for you to read and perhaps understand more about the touring industry and more specifically, lighting.
Until next time, check out the Facebook page, find me on LinkedIN, PLS or catch me on twitter.


New Website Layout

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments

Hello Everyone,
In an attempt to make it easier to update the website, I’ve switched over to WordPress. It’s going to take some getting used to, and the website is going to be a bit lackluster for a while but I do believe it is going to be worth all the patience and effort. I will touch base shortly on things I will be adding and maybe some blogs from the road. Til then, take it easy,