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Sunday, November 11, 2012
Hot and Hotter
In a recent post at “The Hills are Burning," A.J. discussed how hot lamps can get on set, especially the smaller versions originally designed for use on location shoots. On stage, we typically use the big studio models of Babys (one thousand watts), Juniors (two thousand watts), Seniors (five thousand watts), and Teners (ten thousand watts). Most studios have racks upon racks of these old lamps on hand, and since they pretty much last forever, thousands are still in use all over Hollywood and beyond. At every studio I've worked in over the last fifteen years, ordering a Junior from the lamp dock will bring a bulky Studio Junior to set rather than the more compact Baby Junior.
A modern tungsten-filament lamp isn't much more than a high-tech kitchen toaster with a polished reflector at one end and a focusing lens on the other. Like a toaster, a tungsten bulb works by funneling lots of electricity through a thin wire until it glows, so it's no surprise that such lamps heat up during use. The trouble is, heating a wire is a very inefficient method of creating light, somewhat akin to using a sledgehammer to open a can of tuna: it works, but you lose a lot in the process. Depending on the type of bulb (and who you believe), at least 90% of the electrical power flowing into a tungsten bulb is wasted as heat rather than turning into visible light.
Consequently, all tungsten lamps burn hot, but being physically smaller -- with less surface area to dissipate the intense heat from the bulb within -- the Baby Baby, Baby Junior, Baby Senior, and Baby Tener run noticeably hotter than their larger studio counterparts.*
Most juicers wear gloves whenever possible while working on set to minimize the danger of getting fingers burned. But you can't always wear hand protection and still get the job done, and besides, gloves can only do so much -- if you're careless handling any lamp that's been on for more than a few minutes, it can scorch you in a heartbeat. As evidenced by the photo above (and despite the fact that I damned well know better), I still get caught up in the metaphorical heat of the moment on set from time to time, and occasionally there's a price to be paid for moving a little too fast. A Baby Senior that had been burning for half an hour administered that burn in less than a second during the frenzy of a commercial shoot on stage a few years ago. It was a very dumb move on my part that hurt like hell, took weeks to fully heal, and left a scar that's still visible today -- one of many earned over the years.
Needless to say, I’ve been more careful since then, and suffered no further scarring burns... but tomorrow is another day on set, presenting endless opportunities to get hurt.
I intend to be careful.
* You can compare the various permutations of Mole Richardson's current tungsten lineup in their rental catalog here.