Atlantic Illumination Entertainment Lighting


Crap is Crap!
~ A Rant ~

Although poor quality equipment and accessories have always
been around, in recent decades some product designers
have created more sophisticated-looking products; yet
under their pretty exteriors lies essentially junk. Here
are particulars to consider while scrutinising the
equipment for your next purchase, or for the
servicing needed for existing equipment:


General     Cautions     Superlatives


    Some designers spend much time making their products appear to be expensive, or to be copies of quality brands. They make it look as if one is getting the same thing but for far less money. Well, too often these good looks do not live up to themselves. What about disc jockey gear masquerading as professional theatre lighting, or being rented out as suitable for that purpose? The latter is especially true regarding LED equipment. Let us look more closely...

Materials:   Does that nice chrome finish have plastic or white metal underneath? Is the finish actually chromium, or is it nickel-plated, or just very shiny plastic? What about the thickness of the metals; are they thin enough to flex excessively? Is the hardware good quality steel, or is it soft metal or even plastic? If it's the latter, how dense is it? Can it handle typical usage over time? What about the strains of touring?

Electrics:   What is the quality of the wiring components? Is the socket body made of porcelain or plastic? Does it use low-purity copper that heats up due to excessive resistance, and then welds itself to the lamp base? How flexible is the line cord? Will the prongs of plugs become loose over time?

Optics:   Are lenses clear, and free of bubbles, swirls, and irregularities? Does the beam have varying intensities that create light and dark areas? Do the lenses and reflectors employ the coated optics of the expensive brand it is copying? Has a metal reflector been substituted for the better-idea of the `cold' mirror, which means that heat in the beam is not reduced?

LED Elements:   If LED units are being contemplated, are the individual elements consistent with one another? How about their consistency from fixture to fixture? If the LED unit uses colour, does a given colour vary from element to element, and from fixture to fixture? Does the colour maintain its hue as one moves toward the side of the beam?

LED Fixture Particulars:   Is the beam pattern regular? How much spill is exhibited? Do equal board settings show exactly the same intensity and colour among all fixtures assigned to the same address? What about the same colour and intensity settings when compared across a range of addresses?

LED Dimming Operation:   If internal dimming is a feature of the LED fixture, how smoothly does it dim? Will it reach zero without interruption, or does it suddenly drop to off from some higher intensity? Is the curve behaviour the same from each LED to each other LED element? Are these the same across all the same fixtures? Do they correspond to those at different addresses? Do the LED fixtures dim in an identical manner as the incandescent fixtures in the same setup? Does selecting a specific intensity appear equal from every fixture?

LED Fixture Accessories:   Do the LED fixtures have accessory holders for beam modification? If not, how might one narrow it, mask one or more parts of the beam, control spill, or add diffusion or silk (beam-widening gel)?



  The preceding points are to be examined when
   considering a purchase or rental, but below are
    more things of which to be wary. These warnings can
     be extended to other products, and some relate to services.

  Beware of Misnamed or Mislabelled Products:   This often shows up as duct tape being advertised as Gaffer (or Gaff) Tape. Duct tape is NOT gaffer tape! See the AIEL Tape Guide for details.

    Another common mislabelling is seen regarding "Moving Mirror" and "Moving Head" fixtures. When you see "Moving Light" be sure to find out which it is. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and there are huge prices differences among the models.

  Check Core Sizes:   This is a problem seen more often with toilet paper, but when buying stage tapes watch that the big roll you may be comparing to a more expensive, smaller roll of the same tape quality has the same size core. (The `core' is the cardboard tube around which the tape is wound.) It may appear to be a better deal because the roll seems to have the same (or even a wider) diameter. Always look at length markings on the labels. A 35-metre roll can be puffed up to appear as large as a 50-metre one, but it may be the core diameter that is doing the puffing.

  Understand `Glow in the Dark' Tape versus `Glow' Tape:   Some unscrupulous retailers advertise "Glow in the Dark" tape as if it is actual Glow Tape. This is not the case. The former requires a constant light source (usually ultraviolet) in order to continue glow. Since there must be a light source present, this product does not glow in complete darkness. Instead, it is said to "fluoresce" when exited by an external light source.

    Glow Tape, on the other hand, is a luminescent product. That is, a light source is used to initially `charge' the tape so that when all light is removed, the tape will continue to emit light (usually, a soft, whitish green) for some time afterward. This happens in complete darkness, and the effect is known as `photo luminescence'.

    Retailers do this verbal/printed `switcheroo' for the same reason that they advertise non-gaffer tape as "Gaff Tape" -- and this is in order to appear to provide a lower price to the customer. Again, please see the AIEL Tape Guide for details.

  Take Notice of Downsizing:   (Often now referred to as "Shrink-flation".) Be especially observant of packages that are the same size as their former, larger versions, or that appear to be the same size. If the printed measurements are not prominent, or worse, have become very difficult to find, then suspect trickery.

  Watch for Diluted Products:   This mainly applies to liquids, but if cheating manufacturers can find a way, they will apply this to other products. Examples of possibly-diluted products in our industry are makeups, hair-products, paints, and fog fluids.

  Be Vigilant of Counterfeit Products:   Recent statistics show counterfeit products in Canada cost over $20 billion in losses. In our industry this is less of a problem, yet even when quality brand and model names are not being used illegally, there are companies that still put out look-alikes, but which simply don't perform well. This is because they have skimped on quality materials and generally cut corners wherever possible. As mentioned already, examples of this behaviour might include using softer metals (or the outright substitution of plastics for metals), and eliminating expensive technology such as cold-mirror reflectors and coated optics.

    Counterfeits most likely show up when ordering on line from discount websites, but some dealers may be fooled by their suppliers -- and those that aren't, buy anyway because they have no scruples selling them to you.


    We came across one product that is the clone of a popular, short-throw PAR fixture; its optics are so poor that it will burn high temperature gel with even a 500-watt GLC lamp -- and the fixture is rated for up to 750 watts! Gel won't last 15 seconds with a 500-watter, can you imagine the uselessness of a 750-watt lamp in this fixture?

    Another example is that we once received a complaint regarding motorised lighting that had been installed in a nightclub. Within a number of months, the fixtures had begun to fail; that is, they would not move properly, and eventually not at all. Upon opening them for servicing, it was discovered that the manufacturer had employed not metal gears but fibre gears, so these had worn out quickly.

    In keeping with the cut-corner design (of these very good-looking lights), the manufacturer had also installed used(!) electric motors to turn those gears. No wonder these things were so affordable -- too bad the repairs would not be. So, these were great looking products, yet they were junk on the inside.

    A non-lighting example regards the counterfeiting of guitar strings. Be aware of differences in packaging, poor-quality printing, substitutions of gauges that go against those listed; and a generally poorer sound and shorter life.

  Beware of Imprecise Terms:   Actually look to see what you are getting when terms such as `box', `jug', `roll', `sheet' and so on are used. Are they the same size, number or amount as sold by the competition? It's easy to make customers believe that one item is less expensive than another when the cheaper one contains less product.

  Use Caution when Encountering Non-ISO Measurements:   This is related to the discussion of imprecise terms. Always look for or request sizes in metric units. Those old measurements can no longer be trusted. Products showing such amounts have shrunk or lessened over the past few decades, yet the names of the measurements have not been changed. A good example is the useless `miles per gallon' employed by automotive manufacturers for their vehicles' fuel economies; these "gallons" are the largest they can find, while the "gallon" of windshield washer fluid that their dealers sell you is smaller. Same companies, same measurement name, but differing amounts of contents.

    On top of that, for almost 45 years no new car odometers in Canada have read in miles, and no gas pumps register in gallons. Nor are there any road signs that show miles. The specification of `miles per gallon' is a numbers cheat. That great sounding 30 mpg, is actually a dismal 10.6 kilometres per litre.   )-:

In our industry this kind of cheat usually shows up with products
such as oils, fog fluids, paints, cleaners, and solvents.



All advertisements use descriptive words to promote a person, product,
or a service. Many though, employ exaggerated intensity, exaggerated
excitement, and unfortunately, exaggerated claims. How accurate are
these commercial messages? Worse -- exactly how truthful are they?

Pay attention to the often vague adjectives employed that
describe a person, product or service. Superlative words
used in conjunction with such products or services are rarely
very well defined or quantified. With no additional information,
such "descriptions" are almost, if not completely, meaningless.

The terms and phrases below apply to a broad range of products and
services, and to persons both inside and outside of the entertainment
industry. Always question the following when you see or hear them.
Trustworthy persons can back them up; beware of those that cannot.

   * Compared to what?
   * What specifically is advanced?

   * By what agency?
   * What are its credentials?

   * By what authority?
   * What skill set allows assurance
       to be given?

   * Define `Authentic'.
   * Is it all authentic?
   * If not, what portion is?

   * By what entity?
   * Does the entity actually exist?
   * What are its credentials?

   * Compared to what?
   * Who determined this?
   * Is it really better than all the rest?
   * What is the second best?

   * By whom?
   * With what qualifications?
   * What does the certification
       actually mean?

   * Why is the item being cleared?
   * Does the product seem to always
       be `on clearance'?
   * Does stock constantly appear
       to be replenished?
   * What was its regular price?
   * Was that price higher than list?
   * Was the product ever actually
       sold at the regular price?

Clinically Proven
   * What was proven?
   * By what method?
   * By which clinic?
   * What are its credentials?
   * How old is the proof?
   * Does it apply to this
       version of the product?

   * Who is competent?
   * By what standard?
   * What certificates and/or
       experience are involved?
   * How valid are the certificates?

   * What is the reason?
   * By how much is it discounted?
   * What was the regular price?
   * Was that price higher than list?
   * Was the product or service ever
       really sold at the regular price?

   * Where?
   * By whom?
   * Under what authority?

   * For what marketing area?
   * Why is it exclusive here?

   * For how long?
   * What type of experience?

   * Was there a contest or race?
   * What proves this is the winner?
   * What came in second?

For Years
   * Exactly how many years?
       2?... 20?... 200?

   * Exactly what is guaranteed?
   * Who guarantees it?
   * For how long?
   * Will the particulars change over time?
   * What are the qualifications of the

   * Compared to what?
   * Who determined this?
   * What proves this is the utmost?

   * What part was improved?
   * By how much?

   * Is it actually an original idea?
   * Is the term `innovation' deserved?

   * How bright does that mean?
   * Are lux levels given?
   * At what beam angle?
   * At what distance?

Life of the Product
   * Which product?
   * The container?
   * Its contents?
   * Both?
   * Is the `Life' artificially restricted?

   * Is it actually recent, or is it a
       ploy to make people believe
        their old products are
         prematurely obsolete?

   * Can you actually get a full refund, or
       is it a store or manufacturer's credit?
   * Are shipping expenses refunded?
   * How long is the time limit?
   * What happens after the time limit?

   * How new?
   * What has changed?
   * By how much?

Our Price
   * With whom are you comparing prices?
   * Does your product or service not include something?
   * Is your product the same, or a less-expensive,
   * Is your level of service less competent or less thorough?

   * Who decides that it's premium?
   * What makes it premium? --
       The price?
        (It better be more than that.)

   * By what standard?
   * Was there an approved course
       or training?
   * How experienced are these pros?

   * By whom?
   * What methods were used?
   * Under what conditions?

   * What makes it quality?
   * Who decides the level of quality?
   * What are his/her qualifications?

   * How quiet?
   * Compared to what?
   * Is a db level provided?
   * At what distance?
   * What weighting is used to
       measure that db level?

   * Who recommended it?
   * With what qualifications?

   * By how much?
   * For what reason?
   * Was the product reduced from
       the most recent price?

   * As judged against which standard?
   * What is the average time between
   * How long is it expected to last?

   * Based upon the reputation
       of what or whom?
   * Who researched this?
   * With what qualifications?
   * Under what criteria?

   * By whom?
   * To what degree?

   * Who revolted?
   * With what product or service?
   * Has it really overthrown the

   * Is the product or service
       perpetually `on sale'?
   * What was the regular price?
   * Was that price higher than list?
   * Was the product or service ever
       really sold at the regular price?
   * Is the sale price per unit better
       than the price per equivalent
       unit when that product is
          bought in a smaller size?

Scientifically Proven
   * Who are the scientists?
   * What are their credentials?
   * What was the nature of their tests?
   * What was specifically proven?
   * Are there any dissenting scientists?

   * What courses and certificates make
       them skilled?
   * What is the proficiency level of
       that skill?

   * What makes it special?
   * Are `specials' occurring so often
       as to make them meaningless?

   * Who specified it?
   * What is the competency of
       those doing the specifying?

   * Who decided this?
   * With what credentials?
   * Does it fully apply to all the stated
       uses of the product?

   * To what?
   * Why is it superior?

   * What exactly was tested?
   * For how long?
   * Who evaluated it?
   * Having what qualifications?
   * Did it actually pass the test?

   * Are they real?
   * From customers -- or from
      personal friends?
   * Have they been altered?

   * To what standard?
   * Has an examination and
       a certificate been given?
   * How exacting is the exam?
   * How credible is that certificate?

   * By whom? -- was a survey done?
   * To what degree?
   * Why is the person, product,
       or service trusted?

   * By whose definition?
   * What exactly was updated?
   * From/to what date?
   * What is the price difference?
   * Is this difference worth the price?

   * Exactly what was upgraded?
   * By how much?
   * What is the difference in price?
   * Is it worth the price difference?

   * For what time period?
   * What is covered?
   * What is not covered?
   * Where must it go to be repaired?
   * Who pays for shipping?
   * Will coverage change over time?

Notice how often "credentials" and "qualifications"
have come up in the preceding discussion.

It is very easy to claim something without backing it
up or producing a verifiable comparison, but that
which lies behind such claims will tell the true story: 
Is exaggeration involved, or is it outright fraud?

No specific brand names or manufacturers have
been named in this discussion. It is not a desire to
bad-mouth any of them. The purpose of the preceding is
to compel you to look more closely before you rent, lease
or purchase; to not be swayed by your first, or even second,
notion, and to realise the folly of corner-cutting, poor materials,
bad design, and possible lack of training or educational standards.
Let these guide you, and do not consider price as your only criterion.

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