Creativity Base

Ethics & Sustainability

Lighting: Where to find cheap Tungsten photo flood lights, replacement bulbs and fuses

by on May.10, 2011, under Ethics & Sustainability, Great Finds, Tips & Advice

When starting out with photography or video production, it pays to be resourceful- especially when assembling your first lighting kit. Balancing interests in still photography, filmmaking and later videography I first turned to the secondhand market to purchase my constant, continuous tungsten studio lighting. A combination of eBay, camera fairs and garage sales delivered and I became the proud owner of several tungsten photo flood lights with brightnesses ranging from 450 watts to 1000 (otherwise known as 1k). The thing to understand about these lights is that they are mechanically every simple devices. Its worth considering buying one even if it’s declared ‘not working’. More than likely its only fault is a burned out bulb, or missing or burned out fuse.

Unomat LX6000 1000W Tungsten Photo Flood Light (with cooling fan)

Be mindful of old photofloods without cooling fans

Tungsten lights feature a burning filament inside a glass tube, similar to a traditional incandescent ‘Edison’ light bulb. As they step up in their intensity and power consumption (wattage), so increases the amount of heat they generate. Older lights (1980’s and earlier) often stimpulate ‘duty cycles’ offering recommendations of how long you should operate the light, before switching it off to allow it to cool. Some of these lights had very crude cooling mechanisms, without fans or obvious heat syncs, and were designed during the heyday of Super8 filmmaking- a time when a single roll of film could only record two and a half minutes of footage at 24 frames per second. I found these lights to be generally more trouble than they are worth, though using them in combination with a modern dimmer is a good way to give these old fellas a new lease on life.

Bausch VLG 1000W Tungsten Photo Flood Light (with cooling fan)

Cooling fans are best seen and not heard

Ignoring the duty cycle on such lights can lead to plastic in the light’s housing melting and distorting, and can create potential hazards for the operator, who can risk burns or electric shock as the heat takes over. Fortunately, German manufacturers Unomat and Bausch (and others) produced economical tungsten lights up to 1000W complete with quiet-running fans (thus eliminating the annoying duty cycles of the older, cheaper lights). These are the best ‘bang for buck’ option when buying your first tungsten lights. When considering a purchase, ask the seller if the light’s cooling fan squeaks- replacing the fan bearings is not an easy task, and if you’re planning on using this on a film or video shoot, a squeaky fan can ruin your sound recording.

Finding replacement parts for your photo-flood

When it comes to the maintenance of your photographic or video light, there are two spare parts you will need to keep handy: bulbs and fuses. You will be pleased to know that at the time of writing this post, bulbs are still available for both styles of 1K lights pictured here. If your light dies, and a fresh replacement bulb doesn’t illuminate your situation, you’ll likely need to replace the fuse.

Bausch VLG 1000W Tungsten Photo Flood Light (rear view)

If your light still has its information sticker attached, chances are it will tell you the Ampage of the fuse you require. In my case, both pictured lights required 6.3A fuses, and the existing burned-out fuses had this etched onto their metal caps. Another helpful detail which may be present on the sticker is the fuse’s DIN number. DIN stands for ‘Deutsches Institut für Normung (German Institute for Standardization)’ and if searched on Google your number should set you on your way to finding the right fuse for your light. The DIN for the fuse fitting my fan-cooled Unomat LX6000 and my Bausch VLG1000 is DIN 41660. The required DIN number for your fuse will vary depending on the style, age and wattage of the light you own.

Bausch VLG 1000W Information Sticker

Good news, fuses are plentiful and cheap

The fantastic news is that these fuses are still readily available and are very affordable. I bought three today from my local electrical repair store in Adelaide, South Australia: Statewide Appliance Spares. Three of them cost me a little over AUD$11, and the store had them in stock, ready to go. Bulbs for 1K tungsten lights in Australia cost between $20-30, and Osram bulbs tend to be quite readily available. I buy mine from Adelaide’s specialty lighting store, P.J White & Co. It is a good idea to purchase your bulbs locally whenever possible, as they are fragile items and need to be handled with care.

An environmental footnote

On an environmental note, it’s true… Tungsten lighting does burn a lot of power. The good news is that tungsten lighting is rapidly being replaced by LED lighting which generates very little heat, and is far more energy efficient in producing its brightness. There is no doubt in my mind that LED and similar technologies will replace the need for tungsten light in the near future, but for the time being, saving one of these well-crafted lights from landfill and putting it to work with a new bulb or fuse still serves an immediate environmental benefit- and is a good economical option for low budget creativity. While the three R’s of waste management typically include Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, I’m a firm believer in the 4th ‘R’… repair.

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Fundraising: Coles ‘Sports for Schools’ vouchers redistribution scheme to help rural, remote and aboriginal Australians

by on Oct.28, 2010, under Ethics & Sustainability, Our Projects

Do you shop at Coles for your groceries? Have you heard of the Sports for Schools program? It would seem that the Australian supermarket behemoth Coles has decided to act charitably of late, with primary school students the lucky recipients. Coles’ time-limited program (running September and October 2010 only) is offering shoppers the chance to help primary schools around the country acquire new equipment for their students. The gesture appears to be inspired by Australian atheletes’ recent Commonwealth Games endeavours in India, and is bound to encouraging more physical activity in a time of growing national concern over childhood (and adult) obesity statistics. While I am not a parent, I have been collecting these vouchers, and as the final date of issue draws near (October 31st) I have been carefully considering where best to dispense these vouchers. I concluded that helping an aboriginal school in a remote area with a small student population and limited resources was by far the best way for my points to be spent.

Last year Emma Sterling and I travelled with Slingsby, a local South Australian theatre company, touring as video technicians on the children’s theatre production WOLF. The tour reminded us how difficult it for schools in rural and remote parts of Australia to gather the necessary resources to offer their students the breadth of extra-curricular activity schools in major cities enjoy. While these students are generally more physically active than their city counterparts, their smaller student populations struggle to garner the financial support that schools in more affluent communities are able to for resources such as the Coles’ program is offering. Australians will know the range of additional disadvantages indigenous Australians face in navigating the two jarring worlds of indigenous and migrant Australia, so I went to the Coles Sports for Schools website to see which aboriginal schools were registered, so I could offer them my coupons.

Sadly, the majority of aboriginal schools in the state have not been registered to date. This is understandable in part, as many of these schools are more than a far cry from a local Coles supermarket. Indigenous communities like Yalata and Ceduna Area School could really benefit from a program like this, but since the nearest Coles to their communities is in Whyalla or Port Lincoln, over four-hundred kilometres is a long way for them to drive for a fist full of coupons and only the possibility of a few new footballs.

The program, while seeming generous, has a sigificant problem: waste. Points are redeemable in a way similar to frequent-flyer points or other loyalty schemes, so a school needs a minimum of 80 coupons before they can claim a package. The intervals between redeemable packages are also great, meaning that inevitably, at the end of the program, every school with have a surplus of useless vouchers. What if these surplus vouchers could be gathered and redistributed to the most wanting schools, in remote areas? Whether intentional or otherwise, the rural and remote school communities are far less likely to benefit from this scheme than the affluent suburban schools of our capital cities. It needn’t be this was though, so here’s my proposal.

After the final tally…

  1. all the registered schools should send their surplus vouchers to a single address (below)
  2. These surplus/waste vouchers could then be re-bundled into valid package sizes
  3. And can be redistributed to school in remote, rural and aboriginal communities

Making this work will take more than my single-handed efforts of course. We will need Coles to extend their deadline to allow for this extra processing, so we’ll have to write to them in appeal. We will also need to contact unregistered schools in these areas, and encourage them to register.

If you’d like to turn wasted opportunity into real community benefits for rural, remote and Aboriginal Australian school students, encourage your schools, post-tally to send their surplus coupons to:

Sports for Schools rural redistribution scheme
c/o danimations
Flinders Partners, Mark Oliphant Bldg
Laffer Drive
Bedford Park SA 5042

In the meantime, I’m sending my coupons to an Aboriginal school in the Coorong called Raukkan. If you’d like to do the same, here’s their mailing address:

Debra
Raukkan Aboriginal School
Taplin St
Raukkan SA 5259

If you’ve read through this and you’re nodding in agreement with my proposal and intentions, please retweet, blog or share this blog post on Facebook with as many Australians as possible… let’s make Coles’ charitable gesture go as far as it possibly can!

Dan Monceaux

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Art: Adelaide artists get a raw deal when producing Rundle Lantern animations

by on Aug.18, 2010, under Ethics & Sustainability, Our Projects

When the Rundle Lantern was first illuminated back in 2008, my mind boggled at the creative possibility of producing pixel art works for public display on a giant scale. The innovative screen design, a 34 x 21 panel matrix of illuminated metal panels, wraps around the facade of a multi-storey car park at one of Adelaide’s most renown intersections, where it teases and titillates pedestrians with its silent lo-res animations and video each night. Making effective content for such a screen is no mean feat and requires a balance of technical competency, design, timing and conceptual creativity. It is also time consuming (especially for dedicated pixel animators like ourselves). Regardless of these barriers to entry, the initiatives we’ve been involved with to create new artistic content for the Lantern have gone unpaid and largely uncredited. The following is an account of our experiences producing lantern content for display during two major cultural festivals in South Australia.

Photo by Kentaro W, courtesy of flickr.com

During Adelaide Fringe back in 2009, Emma Sterling and I were part of the first group of artists offered the opportunity to create and display works made specifically for the lantern. No money was to grace the artists palms- the initiative instead offered artists a waiver of the ‘load-up fee’ the Adelaide City Council and contractor Fusion had worked into the screen’s initial operating business model. Seizing the opportunity, we each produced a new work, and took careful note of the council & Adelaide Fringe’s production guidelines. In order to protect the screen’s integrity as a ‘cultural canvas’, the artists were not permitted to display logos within their work.

As experienced practising artists familiar with the concept of ‘droit morale’ or the ‘moral rights of the artist’ we asked about accreditation for our unpaid productions. We were informed that there would be no accreditation offered to the artists at the site of any kind, despite the works being programmed to loop for the duration of the Adelaide Fringe Festival (which runs for over three weeks). Instead we were offered a credit buried in the bowels of the Adelaide City Council’s website. Again, there was no signage indicating the existence of this website at the Lantern site, which in our opinion rendered the gesture tokenistic and almost entirely pointless.

In light of this oversight on the initiative’s organisational part, as artists we decided to exercise our ‘droit morale’ and add our names as closing credits to our work. The notion of the Moral Rights of the Artist protects the artists right to claim authorship of the work wherever it is displayed (attribution), and with it the right to preserve the integrity of the finished art work (ie, no unauthorised modifications to the work are permitted). At the launch night to our shock and horror our rights had been flaunted on both accounts. The Lantern’s content committee (whose persons remain unknown to us) had edited our work and removed our credits without our permission. While this issue of ‘droit morale’ may cause councillors eyes to glaze over, our right as artists to sign our own works is fundamental, and has been protected by Australian law under the Copyright Act. You can learn more about Moral Rights for artists in Australia at the website of the Attorney General’s Department.

Learn more about the Moral Rights of artists in Australia

This year, we were offered an opportunity (again without payment) to produce work for the Rundle Lantern. An initiative of the South Australian Living Artists Festival (an event we have been involved with since 2006) the financial model was slightly improved for at least one member of the local artist community. The Helpmann Academy offered a paid commission to one artist recently graduated from a Helpmann Academy school. The commision offered a $2000 fee to produce a new work and lead a workshop of participants in the generation of a wave of (again unpaid) new content from other local artists.

Once again the artists’ ‘droit moral’ has been flaunted by the lantern’s custodians with credits again barred from the exhibited works. To date there is no evidence of physical signage accrediting the artists as producers of the work, despite this being promised weeks in advance. It is now the 16th of August, and the works have been showing without credit to the artists since July 31st. From the public perspective, passers by will have no idea that light displays on the lantern have been created by local artists at all, and stand no chance of being able to identify any of the creative residents responsible. SALA festival concludes on August 22nd.

Despite ours and others’ ongoing grievances with the Lantern and the business model which cuts artists out of the financial equation and defies their inaliable right to be attributed as the authors of their own work, things may be changing for the better. At the SALA Awards, a new prize was offered: the Adelaide City Council Encouragement Award. One of the richest prizes on offer, it presented one Adelaide artist with a $2000 commission to produce a new work specifically for the Lantern.

When a piece of public infrastructure like the Rundle Lantern is constructed and a business model created around it, why should the content creator get the raw deal? Why is it that the contractors should command a ‘load-up fee’ for each video posted and annual maintenance fees while the best artists can hope for is an uncredited display and a free load-up? If the power of this structure as a cultural canvas is to be realised, the Adelaide City Council should look at genuine, sustainable incentives to generate content, not convenient cost-saving measures which benefit the council, break Federal Australian law and stiff the artists in the process.

Dan Monceaux

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