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Industrial art workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area

The Crucible - Oakland, CA
Classes in welding, metalwork, and the fire arts. Shop space and equipment are available.

TechShop - Menlo Park, CA
An open-access public workshop full of power tools, plasma cutters, CNC mills, electronics, powder coaters, laser engravers, welding gear, a Dimension SST 3D printer, and much more. TechShop offers many classes at reasonable rates.

Friends of Coil: SF Bay Area independent lighting designers

Coil - Oakland, CA
This site.

Radiant Atmospheres - Oakland, CA
A long-established SF Bay Area design collective renowned for its site-specific art installations and entertainment lighting. Coil's official partners and key collaborators for many years.

Websites for LDs

Vintage Light Effects
This Dutch website is basically a museum of the most bizarre effects, disco lights, and centerpieces from the recent past. Be sure to search YouTube for the model names of these fixtures. You may find some unbelievable home movies.

The finest source of reliable new and used Optikinetics effects, accessories, and fixtures. These guys are also LDs, and they love crazy lights.

Production Advantage
The cheapest serious online retailer of lighting equipment. Professional and knowledgeable.

A cornucopia of used gear.

Rants, books and treatises

The Art of Light and Color
by Tom Douglas Jones
The quaint subtitle says it all: "Featuring Mobile Color Expression, Lumia, Kinetic Light, with Instructions for the Creation of Dramatic Color and Light Instruments." This is one of the few technical books written during the early seventies about what was going on in the heads of lighting effects designers.

Light Fantastic: The Art And Design of Stage Lighting
by Max Keller

A Method of Lighting the Stage
by Stanley McCandless
Written in 1932 (and updated through 1958), this book lays out a basic design philosophy for modern electric forms of stage lighting. Contains remarkable foreshadowings of present-day control boards, moving lights, and mechanical animation systems. Plenty of fun, but not to be taken too literally.

Live at the Fillmore East: A Photographic Memoir
by Amalie Rothschild
This book contains many great photos (some in color) of the old analog light shows at the Fillmore. Best of all, there are many detailed backstage shots, where you can see just how far down the ol' rabbit hole they went.

Painterly Interfaces for Audiovisual Performance
by Golan Levin
An MIT M.S. thesis from 2000. This is a free PDF download.

Entertainment Rigging
by Harry Donovan
Essential reading for the hangman.

VJs and motion graphics designers

In 2007, Scott Pagano and Jochem Paap produced this intensely weird, hour-long motion graphics and surround sound experiment under a Dutch art grant. You can download the DVD for free. We do recommend paying for the complete package, which includes another long piece, Region Free 77. Umfeld is basically a fine art techno brainwashing tape for the extraordinary rendition of animators and visual designers. Everyone should have a copy.

Mr. Pagano's portfolio site, full of strange and unique animated visions. Be aware that many of the items on this site are aggressively compressed, so they don't adequately represent the quality of the originals. Fortunately, Apple has begun posting 720p versions of these inspiring works in the Quicktime HD galleries. See, for example, Parks on Fire and The Antikythera Mechanism.

VJ Culture
Grant Davis, prolific projectionist and pro VJ. Formerly of SF, now in Los Angeles.

Jon Schwark
Jon Schwark, VJ and post production director out of SF and Tokyo.

One of the rare VJ DVD content labels. Home of former SF VJ, Ben Sheppee.

C-TRL Labs
Successful commercial motion designers with roots in the SF VJ scene. They still make tasty artistic clips, which you can get from their website.

Emmet Feldman
Another good motion graphics designer from SF. His classic VJ clips are worth collecting. You can find them in the LRV catalog.

Developer of Electric Sheep, inventor of the Fractal Flame, and author of Dreams in High Fidelity. Catch the HD Dreams if you ever get the chance.

Pioneering VJs and projection designers.

Artists in various media

A prolific online design collective devoted to the abstract genre. They periodically emit curated thematic portfolios of high quality and great stylistic breadth.

Robert Rich
Acclaimed ambient music composer. Co-creator (with Daniel Colvin) of the film Atlas Dei, which they integrated into the set design for one of RR's tours.

Mr. Rich generously supplied much of the soundtrack for our 2005 installation in the Black Rock Desert, and we featured his live acoustic/electronic act at SFtA in January, 2010.

Good news: Mr. Rich's voluminous works are at last available as Amazon MP3 downloads.

United Visual Artists
Lighting design collective from London.

United Visual Artists
Lighting design and performance group from the UK.

Protocol references

Hippy's DMX resources

DMX512-A on Wikipedia

MIDI on Wikipedia

OSC on Wikipedia

OSC at CNMAT (Berkeley)



Software for creating digital visual art







Open-source 3D modeling and animation environment. Blender also includes physics modeling, lighting effects, modular compositing, video editing, and a game engine, mostly implemented in OpenGL. The tiny distribution and simple command line mode make farming easy, and there's even an embedded Python shell. Highly recommended, especially with its newly improved UI.

Modular show controller for VJs. Includes, among other things, a compositor and a nice librarian UI. Well-integrated with Quicktime and MIDI. Extensible using Quartz Composer. Recommended.

A popular motion graphics generator for live performance.

The classic visual programming language for sight and sound.

Open-source procedural graphics interpreter written in Java, with a vigorous and well-organized community of users.

An open-source raster graphics editor and compositor. (Worth comparing to Photoshop.)

An open-source vector graphics editor. (Resembles Illustrator.)

Free fractal flame renderer.

Quartz Composer
Apple's free modular visual programmer for creating OpenGL content. Supports easy programmatic integration with Cocoa and puts a UI on OS X's core services APIs for audio, MIDI, and graphics. Mostly discontinued but still compatible with many VJ programs.

After Effects
Adobe's 2D compositor, editor, motion graphics engine, and fx plugin host. Some 3D paradigms are supported. An easy-to-learn, high-productivity authoring environment.

Final Cut Pro & Motion
Apple's editor and motion graphics engine.

Native Instruments Reaktor
Although Reaktor is primarily a high quality modular softsynth, its support for MIDI and OSC make it a viable control center when you need to synchronize sonic and visual aspects of an installation.

This CAD tool makes the 3D design of sets and plots fast and fun. Very useful within its limits.