Light Talk is a new podcast featuring three seasoned professional lighting designers and educators who discuss the latest developments in the world of live entertainment and architectural lighting design. Steve Woods (SMU), Stan Kaye (University of Florida), and David Jacques (California State University Long Beach) offer sage, and sometimes controversial, advice to professionals and students of lighting design. Nothing is taboo, nothing is sacred, and all topics are open for discussion. You might even get a recipe or two.
Since the launch of Light Talk in April 2017, there have been over a dozen episodes. “We were surprised at the success of this,” says Woods. “We thought we’d just get together and talk, but we now have 600 downloads per episode.” In the first 12 weeks there were over 5,600 downloads in 50 different countries: Israel, Estonia, Russia, South Africa, even one in Somalia, US, UK, Sweden, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Iceland, France, Korea, Slovenia, Bulgaria, UAR, Ireland, Guadeloupe, Palestinian Territory, Ukraine, Aruba…
The idea for Light Talk was launched at the URTA auditions in Chicago last January, where these podcasting professors go for about a week to recruit students. “About 10 of us get together and talk, so we thought we’d just continue these talks,” notes Woods.
“It was kind of serendipitous,” quips Jacques, who is at his station at 9am on podcast days, as he has the westernmost location. “Stan and I were talking, and we said ‘Let’s get Steve on the line,’ then we said, ‘Hey, we should do a podcast,’ and pulled it together in a week. Steve and I have known each other for years, and meet at URTA… and we’ve both known Stan for a few years.”
The Lumen Brothers bring various points of view to the microphones: Kaye is a designer, as well as theatre consultant with an interest in architecture; Woods has designed a lot of theatre, dance, rock shows, and museums, while Jacques’ concentration is theatre and opera.
“We all have different interests,” confirms Kaye, who adds, “Our motto is, when it stops being fun, we’ll stop doing it. In the meantime, we like sharing the good vibes, even if no one is listening to us. In the first episode, we told our listeners how to send in questions, and asked, ‘Oh, do we have listeners?’ Well, now we do.”
The format is like a fireside chat. These three guys are pretty funny, their lighting anecdotes and kernels of information interspersed with personal ramblings. Each one is at home in a makeshift radio studio for the podcast, which can be heard later from the online archive. “The first dozen are in the can,” says Woods, noting they are “very homespun, but getting more professional.”
“The only advertising is fake. We are non-commercial, with no paid ads,” explains Kaye. “If there was any kind of interest in paid sponsors, we would set up a nonprofit 501C3 with the money to benefit students and professors.”
The Lumen Brothers have keyed into an increased interest in podcasts, which people can listen to whenever they want. “You can sign up for a subscription in iTunes, which automatically downloads our latest episode, so you can listen in your car, in bed before you go to sleep,” Kaye adds.
Special guests are not out of the equation. The first was projection guru Josh White, with LDs Anne Militello, Steve Shelley, and Stan Pressner on deck, and the trio would like to broaden the conversation by inviting light artists such as James Turrell.
Big Blue Button is the platform they use, and the Light Talk logo of three old fashioned microphones sets the tone for the podcasts. “At first, the sound quality wasn’t so good, so we use Big Blue Button to see each other, then run Garage Band on our own computers for a better sound quality,” explains Jacques, who then edits the sound tracks. “That takes about four hours, so we are not actually live. We sometimes say things we might not want heard…”
“We want to be entertaining but careful,” injects Kaye, who points out that the trio all bought the same microphone, the Audio Technica ATR2500, which plugs into USB and works really well for what they are doing. “We wanted the sound quality to be good, so people don’t have to worry about the technical side of things and just enjoy the talk,” enlightens Kaye.
“It’s personal, yet professional, and we answer the questions that have come in,” he adds. “We have a Facebook group with over 325 members and are building a webpage that will have a searchable blog, with a gallery of topics and written transcripts of the shows.”
With their three, funny make-believe sponsors, Light Talk is a cross between Lake Wobegon and Greater Tuna, with a 45° lighting angle, lighthearted banter, and some nuggets of serious info infused. Listen in to Light Talk. You’ll be amazed or amused, and might even learn how to make a really good pot roast!