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Saying "striking" when turning on a light?


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#1 Scott Lovejoy

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 08:31 AM

This question arose during a lighting class the other day.

A group of kids who had just come from another class were all saying "striking" as they turned on lights. The teacher got pretty irate, and asked them where they learned it (from another teacher). The lighting professor explained that, while that might have been used in the days of arc lighting, it is not used anymore, and would probably get you laughed at, or looked at funny on a set.

So I ask you, forum goers, which teacher is right? I will say I also asked a grip who sided with the "say no to striking" teacher.
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 08:44 AM

If I'm firing up something big and scary (which is a relative term), I've been known to warn people to "mind your eyes" if there's obviously someone who's clearly likely to get a retina-full. I am particularly sensitive to this myself, and don't enjoy walking around with huge pink and green blotches on my vision for several tens of minutes, especially if I'm supposed to be evaluating things on a monitor.

I got this from hearing others do it, but you're right - it's seriously unfashionable, especially in the UK, and especially among members of the electrical department, who are in my experience uncooperative and abrupt to the point of rudeness (even for British people). Any inessential consideration for others is generally treated as weakness and seen as some sort of psychological shortcoming. The presence of sparks is all too often the worst thing about a film set.

But I still don't like getting blasted in the face by 10Ks, or those pokey little narrow-beam HMI things that Arri do, and I will continue to warn people about it as I see fit on the basis that common courtesy overrides the hale traditions of the film industry. If anyone gives you any stick about it, just tell them it's a safety thing, which is true and will shut them up.

P
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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 08:54 AM

I agree with Phil. When it comes to big lights, then yeah you should make sure that people know it's coming up.
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#4 Rob Vogt

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 10:04 AM

when turning on smaller lights just look around and see if people are looking. If you yell "striking" people are more likely to look at you, especially people who don't know (old) film terms, like actors and producers- people you don't want to temporarily blind. and thus turn directly towards the light as it goes on, which is why people are so rude about saying it. If you are going to warn people for the bigger or more intense lights, make sure you give them time to realize you are warning them not just "striking"-what?-blind... got it?
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#5 Ryan Thomas

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 12:13 PM

It's not always necessary, but as said before, it's definitely the nice thing to do. It's a bit strange that a teacher would get pissy over that though... I do like to say, "watch your eyes, light coming on", as I think that's a bit easier for everyone to understand. Especially if they're not usually around film production.

Edited by Ryan Thomas, 18 September 2009 - 12:14 PM.

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#6 Tom Jensen

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 12:23 PM

It's a courtesy that I have heard people use from day one. I believe it's a good habit and it never bothered me. lights can explode, someone might be looking into, it let's the DP know his light has made it to the set, it let's the grip know to be ready with cutters or flags or diffusion. There are a whole lot of reason to say it. As far as the teacher goes, he has his opinion and he is entitled to it. Getting pissy about it is, well, that's what teachers do.
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#7 Scott Lovejoy

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 02:06 PM

Interesting mix of replies.

The teacher who was opposed to saying "striking" did mention putting your hand in front to block the light, though I will say we were working with smaller lamps (biggest was around 2k), so there weren't any 10ks or large HMIs to blind somebody. I'm seeing a lot of set etiquette is personal preference.
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#8 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 05:00 PM

a lot of set etiquette is personal preference.


I get the same impression.

The following things appear to me to be true:

- Everyone believes there's a set of behavioural rules for working on film sets
- Everyone has a slightly to enormously different idea as to what these rules are
- Everyone actually believes their set of rules is universal
- Many people take it upon themselves to enforce their variant of these rules

I may just be describing human nature here, but the upshot of this is that it is effectively impossible to work a day on set without upsetting someone, either because you see yourself as an enforcer and suffer an acute attack of verbal diarrohea every time someone infringes one of your personal list of rules, or because you get verbally poop on for infringing one of someone's personal list of rules. The reason for the strict enforcement of discipline and a code of conduct in situations like the military becomes clear in this - at least you know where you stand. As an occasional video assist operator, I more often than not have no real idea who I report to or who is supposed to give me instructions. I do know I'm regularly mistreated by more or less anyone who happens to be wandering by, regardless of seniority.

This all became clear to me after I got told off for offering to make a spark a cup of coffee - interdepartmental rules, y'see. I don't offer to make people coffee anymore, but the point is this - I don't care if the camera obscura was new tech when you started, your list of rules is your list of rules and can't be directly applied to anyone else. You can try, but you'll only end up frustrated and unpopular. I also tend toward the opinion that things like common courtesy and basic politeness are considerably better standardised than vague and inevitably very personal ideas of "set etiquette", and therefore come first, by a very long way. Common courtesy would imply that abruptly firing a very bright light into someone's face is rude.

Sparks, who seem to disregard civilised behaviour with such crippling predictability that I'm willing to make a sweeping generalisation, forget this all the time.

P
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#9 steve laramie

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 05:18 PM

Like all terms in film it in my opinion comes down to area. Around here I always say and hear striking. It was what I was taught and it is what I hear and say on film sets. However... I have never said striking without everyone in the room looking directly at the light.
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#10 Chris Keth

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 05:34 PM

I always felt silly announcing myself like that. I just hold a glove or the scrimbag in front of the lens when I light it up. Then anyone looking doesn't get surprised by it, the light comes on a bit gradually. Seems to work for me.

Edited by Chris Keth, 18 September 2009 - 05:34 PM.

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#11 John Sprung

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 06:16 PM

"Striking" is technically true of carbon arcs and HMI's. HMI's have that nice little warm-up period, or at least they did back when I was doing this. But it can be a useful shorthand for situations where you're doing a lot of turning on of big lights.

What you need to do is what's appropriate to the specific situation and who's on the crew.

If nobody will be bothered, or even notice, it's better to say nothing.

If one or two people are looking your way, call out to them individually.

If it's a lot of people, make a general announcement using terms they'll understand. Depending on their level of experience and jargon preferences, it could be "Striking" or "Hey everybody, I'm gonna turn the 10K on .... So don't look at it."




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#12 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 06:57 PM

The only one which kills me is "eyes," when someone says that I just want to smack them because it seems like an invitation to LOOK at the light, (e.g. eyes here!).
In truth, though it is good practice to yell it for big heads, for smaller, gloves/scrims/doors etc.
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#13 Jim Hyslop

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 11:36 AM

Interesting mix of replies.

The teacher who was opposed to saying "striking" did mention putting your hand in front to block the light, though I will say we were working with smaller lamps


Bulbs explode. I'm not about to put my hand in close proximity to an explosion hazard.

If someone on a set doesn't know what the term "striking" or "sparking" means, then they have no business being on-set without an escort, just as someone who doesn't know what "heads" means has no business being on a stage.

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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 12:40 PM

"Striking - watch your eyes" is still a commonly-used phrase on film sets around Los Angeles, everyone knows what it means. Now if it's clear that no one is in the path of the light coming on, it's not always announced.

The other common phrase not used enough is "flashing" before someone flashes a still camera -- every so often, someone flashes a camera and everyone scrambles to look for an electrical problem. "Spraying" is another common thing called out, when spraying anything near a camera lens (hairspray, water, dulling spray.)

As far as standards for these things, including nicknames for equipment, it's never going to happen so I don't see the point of complaining about it. There is no single film school or regulatory body for the industry worldwide that strictly controls the use of terminology on a set. The only thing that ultimately matters is that everyone working together at that moment agree on the terminology, or understand it. It may take a few hours or even days to get used to it, but it's hardly a hardship.

Some nicknames are simply shortcuts - my key grip calls a wooden pancake (already a nickname -- is it technically a 1/8 Apple Box? Is Apple Box a nickname?) with a baby spud (another nickname) on a plate screwed into the pancake a "baby cake". A bit shorter than calling for a "pancake with a baby nail-on plate on it" all the time. On the other hand, we use the official term "camera offset" instead of "ubangi" for the dolly extension piece just because "ubangi" sounds a bit racist these days.
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#15 Sean Ryan Finnegan

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 01:56 PM

"Striking - watch your eyes" is still a commonly-used phrase on film sets around Los Angeles, everyone knows what it means. Now if it's clear that no one is in the path of the light coming on, it's not always announced.

The other common phrase not used enough is "flashing" before someone flashes a still camera -- every so often, someone flashes a camera and everyone scrambles to look for an electrical problem. "Spraying" is another common thing called out, when spraying anything near a camera lens (hairspray, water, dulling spray.)

As far as standards for these things, including nicknames for equipment, it's never going to happen so I don't see the point of complaining about it. There is no single film school or regulatory body for the industry worldwide that strictly controls the use of terminology on a set. The only thing that ultimately matters is that everyone working together at that moment agree on the terminology, or understand it. It may take a few hours or even days to get used to it, but it's hardly a hardship.

Some nicknames are simply shortcuts - my key grip calls a wooden pancake (already a nickname -- is it technically a 1/8 Apple Box? Is Apple Box a nickname?) with a baby spud (another nickname) on a plate screwed into the pancake a "baby cake". A bit shorter than calling for a "pancake with a baby nail-on plate on it" all the time. On the other hand, we use the official term "camera offset" instead of "ubangi" for the dolly extension piece just because "ubangi" sounds a bit racist these days.


My cinematography professor (Blain Brown) says that technically the term "striking" applies to arc lights only, but so many people and sets use the term to alert people that a light is going to be turned on that its become part of the set vernacular. According to him, if you want to be absolutely 100% correct without any question just say "lights, watch your eyes" when its coming up and "saving" when you turn it off. But again, as David pointed out, there's no uniform language for sets as everything has like ten nicknames anyway.
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#16 Ryan Patrick OHara

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Posted 23 September 2009 - 03:16 AM

My cinematography professor (Blain Brown) says that technically the term "striking" applies to arc lights only, but so many people and sets use the term to alert people that a light is going to be turned on that its become part of the set vernacular. According to him, if you want to be absolutely 100% correct without any question just say "lights, watch your eyes" when its coming up and "saving" when you turn it off. But again, as David pointed out, there's no uniform language for sets as everything has like ten nicknames anyway.


I was taught 'striking' in film school, but after moving to LA, found that 'watch your eyes' is the best. No one will get their panties in a bunch over that. There are older and younger electricians who object to 'striking' unless it is regarding an Arc lamp or perhaps a HMI... because they technically do strike while tungsten does not.

Overall, the courtesy of a warning was never under question. If people are around, it is polite to warn them. 'Striking' can upset some people and confuse unfamiliar set persons. It may be short and sweet, but 'watch your eyes' is more descriptive and neutral despite being more wordy.

If I had my way, I'd scream 'Shazaaaaam!' every time I turned on a lamp. But I'm sure many would disapprove. :)

Edited by Ryan Patrick OHara, 23 September 2009 - 03:17 AM.

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#17 Sean Ryan Finnegan

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Posted 23 September 2009 - 12:22 PM

If I had my way, I'd scream 'Shazaaaaam!' every time I turned on a lamp. But I'm sure many would disapprove. :)


How could any disapprove such a magnificent alert?!
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#18 Jim Hyslop

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 09:53 AM

There are older and younger electricians who object to 'striking' unless it is regarding an Arc lamp or perhaps a HMI... because they technically do strike while tungsten does not.

Do these same people complain when the director calls "Cut"? I mean, nobody actually cuts anything any more, it's all digital.

Oh, sorry, maybe I'm being too logical :-)

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#19 Gus Sacks

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 10:57 AM

There are older and younger electricians who object to 'striking' unless it is regarding an Arc lamp or perhaps a HMI... because they technically do strike while tungsten does not.


Gee, I think they should get their panties unbunched or possibly find something more interesting to gripe about if that's the convo going on at the truck at lunch :rolleyes:

"Striking, watch your eyes" is something I prefer my guys to say even if it's just a Tweenie on a small set where perhaps the director, talent, or honestly any other departments are nearby. Better that than someone catching a spike into the fresnel lens.
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