No Filter With Katie Nolan

The Internet.  No one denies that's where the future of media is headed.  There are hundreds, if not thousnads (perhaps hundreds of thousands?) of internet-only programs out there.  Most of them are garbage.  After all, any jag-weed with a video-capable point-and-shoot can spill their guts onto YouTube in the hopes of being the next internet star.

But it's the people who are producing content that they love to produce that rise to the top of the internet show slurry. Katie's and her producers's efforts with No Filter are a testament to the 'do what you love and the money will follow' creed.  In this case, they continue to do it.

We used to shoot this show on the Crowd Goes Wild desk, with a fully lit set, superior cameras, miles of depth, and an entire control room producing the show.  Since CGW's cancellation, No Filter has been relegated to Regis Philbin's tiny old dressing room at Chelsea Piers in NYC.  But No Filter retains its larger than life appeal namely because, regardless of the venue, Katie can still sling barbs and conjure jokes in a refreshing full-steam-ahead approach.

Recently I offered to swing down to the tiny dressing-room-turned-studio to tweak the lighting for Katie.  I knew they were going to keep shooting the show and I wanted to offer my services in order to keep Katie and the new set looking super pro.

Lighting in a shoebox, I still use the same techniques I use on any big show I design.  In particular there is a technique to lighting a beautiful women's face that can make the entire image pop.  After some minor color corrections, adjustment of the level and position of the fill lights, track light and back light repositioning, and the addition of a hard key Lite Panel LED Sola over the lens, the show now has the profesional touch that enhances Katie's skin, jawline, and separates her dark hair from the dark background all while simply creating the enviroment for her razor sharp wit to thrive.

Here's the show before my tweaks:

And the show after my tweaks:

All together, the tweaks may seem minor. But it's these little touches of professionality that can seperate a great (internet) show from the bottomless slag heap that most people count as 'content'.

Huge thanks to Greg for the opportunity to lend my personal touch to a show that continues to be anything but small.



Crowd Goes Wild


It's been a great run.

In 2013 I designed then for the past 8 months lighting directed Crowd Goes Wild for FOX Sports 1 with Regis Philbin.  And while the show boasted the best ratings of any cable show in that time slot, FOX execs decided to pull the plug. (Think Family Guy, Firefly, CGW. So FOX...)

Regardless, lighting this show has been quite fun, one of my favorite shows in fact. Here's a segment to show just how great this show could have been:

Right?  Fun!

Lighting 6 (6!) hosts that keep moving around and swapping seats was the challenge on this show, and while not a difficult one, I had to remain on my toes at all times.  In live TV anything can happen, from pies inthe face, to people on bikes riding around the set, cheerleaders, daily games that required game cues, to surprise entrances, it can and did happen.  Lighting for this one is a question of plugging into the pulse of the show and being ready for action.  Because I was the designer on this one, I built in fail-safes with washes and fill that lit the talent wherever they went but still preserved the evening show feel using saturated colors and appropriate night time contrast.

But the end of one show brings another, and I know that the next gig will be even better than the last.




I confess, I am leading a double life.

In one, I am a Lighting Designer.  I specialize in lighting for video and television production, live events, and music shows.  I program lighting consoles and add my special touch to the projects I work on.

In another, I am a climber, alpinist, adventurer, Owner of a small Indoor Ice Axe Company, and all around outdoorsy cliche.  I crag like the rest of the climbing community, and take the trips most of us take: Squamish, Boulder, Moab, Vedauwoo, Alaska, Devils Tower, The Canadian Rockies, The Valley…

It's when these two lives collide that a special mixing occurs.  An unnoticed combination of passion and creativity the sum of which feels more like mediation than the practicalities of either.

I have lit several climbing competitions, some higher budget than others, for me, the result is usually a disconnection from the climbing aspect and more a focus on the event production.  For many reasons, I see it more as vertical gymnastics, and not climbing, but it's still climbing.

When I got the call to light the Psicocomp, I knew that this one was different.  For years people have been saying how unique an event would be if we could organize a Deep Water Soloing competition in a place where folks could spectate, see the top climbers of the day go head to head in the purest form of climbing, soloing, sans the risk of mortal injury.  But where in the world could we do that?

Enter Mike Call, and the serendipity of having the Summer Outdoor Retailer Trade show in Salt Lake City, site of the 2002 Winter Olympics, home to the Utah Olympic Park in nearby Park City, and a Freestyle Ski Jumping Training center equipped with a Giant Pool where the ski jumpers land in a soft bubbly brew among the sage and sunshine.  My first words were, 'This is the gig I've been waiting for!'  Think about it.  Observing the tenacity of top climbers clawing their way to the top of expertly set routes, climbing higher and higher, the potential fall getting larger and larger.  And when they get close to the top, fingers aching, forearms screaming, and one mistake means an enormous and sometimes uncontrolled fall 50' into the pool below, with 3000 spectators sharing every move, and a live internet feed of the event broadcast to millions more.  All set against the background of the majestic Uintas and an inky black sky.

This is where I come in.  Lighting climbers is a special art.  You don't want to blind them, but the audience still has to see them and more importantly, the lighting has to be fit for camera.  You have to make the event special, but pay attention to level, angle, focus, and color to draw the audience in.  For this event, we're keeping it very simple, no flash, no trash, keeping close to the tiki/surf vibe feeling of the event, but still making sure that it looks good on camera.

What's next? An indoor Dry Tooling Comp using DRY ICE Tools?  We'll see...
The Psicocomp is set to take place this Friday. I wouldn't miss this one for all the tea Gaddamn in China.
-Ben Carlson



Programming Comedy

One of my favorite things to say is "You gotta do what you gotta do."  In this case, I wanted to do what I wanted to do.  I want to be a programmer on the Grand MA2.  Building from my expeience on the MA1, I was well prepared for the MA2 class at ACT Lighting and was able to ask many targeted questions to aid in my desire to program on this amazing console line.

After successful completion, I got a got from my good friend Chris Landy to program, on a Grand MA, a Comedy Show for Comedy Central starring Daily Show talent and The Bugle founder, John Oliver.

This was a great gig!  I felt great on the console and had loads of time to create, be creative, and generally take control where I usualy had to speak through a programmer of my own. It was extremely enjoyable and I now thatI want more gigs like these:  Here are a couple more pics:



It's good to be flexible, and that was what this last collaboration with my sister was all about.

I designed, programmed, tech'ed, and did just about everything else, for a modern dance show this past weekend in Bethlehem PA in my 5th collaboration with my choreographer sister, Sarah Carlson.  

The lighting was largely dictacted by the locations of the dances which were then defined by the locations of the light, making my job easy, by constrained at the same time.  Due to limits of time, money, man power, and electricity, I had to make very clear choices in gear and cueing, ultimately steering the design on it's own course.  I almost feel weird taking credit for it.  

15 lights total.  Three remote dimmer packs. No Color (except for L202 to correct for warmth of runnning the light s dim levels).

There is an excellent review of the piece at the Lehigh Valley Dance Exchange.