Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

The non-exploding explosion

Sometimes, despite one’s best efforts, lighting equipment malfunctions – sometimes quietly, and sometimes loudly.

Most of us are used to small fires and medium kapows. They’re an occupational hazard (along with bad knees, the occasional shock and UV related eyeball damage) and it doesn’t seem to us like we downplay them, but we do, especially when compared to the reactions of witnesses from other departments.

Today, just after lunch, one of our security guards tapped me on the shoulder.

“One of the lights just exploded!”

Now, when someone tells me that a light exploded, the first thing I see in my mind’s eye is a column of flame shooting 20 feet into the air and shards of twisted metal and glass covering the blood soaked corpses strewn about the vicinity.

So, of course, I’m going to try to find out more information before I get any closer to that hot mess.
“Which light?” I asked.

“The big silver one!” he replied, gesturing frantically towards set.

Oh, that’s just fucking great. The ‘big silver ones’ are 18,000 watt  HMIs. I’ve seen one of those explode before. The column of flame wasn’t quite 20 feet high, but there was a lot of broken glass and I cut myself, so… blood.

I decided to follow-up before reacting.

“Tell me exactly what happened”

“The silver box made a loud noise and smoke came out!”

So, not really an explosion. More the aforementioned medium kapow. The silver box is the electronic ballast, and although they can have problems, actually exploding isn’t one of them.

It was probably coincidence. Or a squirrel.

I ventured over to set, reset the breaker on the ballast, and then the self-preservation instinct kicked in. I walked over to the lamp head and tried to strike it*.

Sure enough, there was a muffled “kumpfh” and a puff of something that might have been smoke, but was mostly bad smell from the ballast, followed by the lamp not igniting.

Okay.

So no one’s dead, nothing’s being consumed by an out-of-control inferno, and no one’s bleeding. Much.

Whew.

Makes having to tell the gaffer we’re down a light seem, well, no big deal.

Lucky for us, the kapow happened just as we were given  permission to downsize our HMI window barrage, so it all worked out well.

*One can strike, or turn on, an HMI from either the ballast or the head itself. Usually it depends on what’s easiest or, at the very least, not malfunctioning. You’d be surprised how often striking from the other end works.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, mishaps, Work, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses

  1. Dave22 says:

    WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!

  2. While on a feature down in North Carolina a long time ago, the guy who built our generators — a very knowledgeable fellow — warned me never to strike an HMI at the head. According to him, such a high voltage strike creates a burst of gamma radiation — the kind that gives you cancer — and since striking from the head puts your own cranium in very close proximity, this was to be avoided whenever possible.

    Maybe he was right and maybe not, but since then I always strike an HMI from the ballast first, and only if-and-when that doesn’t work (for whatever reason) do I resort to a head-strike.

    In the end, we do what we have to do…

  3. lighttech says:

    just so ya know I repair the lamps and I always start them from the ballast side— for 1 of 200 reasons i can list here–lol

    and if I am getting one from the “field” and they say it went “poof” i might even use a stick—

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