Lights Exploding

a thread in
from April, 2001

 Has anyone actually seen a bulb explode with pieces of glass flying
 out of the instrument injuring talent? Or is this a myth? 
 --- thanks, oliver

From: George Hupka (hupka at Yes, I have had lights go on me, both tungsten and HMI. I had an HMI (a 575 in a Fresnel) blow up real good - it took hours to get all of the glass shards out of the lamp. Safety glass protected everyone, though, so no harm done. In related story, I once had a 1000W Redhead turn into an arc light - the bulb must have blown, but an arc formed inside the bulb. The grip asked me when they started making daylight bulbs for Redheads.... I looked over and sure enough, it was burning at the wrong colour temperature! I unplugged the lamp, and the poor bulb had swollen to about three times its regular size, so I'm certain it would have blown up had it continued to burn.... -- George Hupka hupka at
From: "David McCall" (david at Many years ago I was lighting for a shoot at Columbia University, in one of those beautiful oak lecture halls with stained glass windows. At that time, perhaps still, New York used 50 and 20 amp 2 wire paddles that got plugged into big stage boxes and then connected using HC to a bull switch directly onto the mains. As a result the first and smallest fuse you hit was 100A. I had a fixture fail, way up high where I couldn't get to it, so the power cord burned from one end to the other like a giant fuse. Fortunately no further damage was caused, but it made a lot of smoke and smelled really bad for quite a while. David
From: "Steve Sakellarios" (goldthrd at I once asked a long-time cameraman at a PBS station what was the most unusual thing he ever saw in his years at the station. He told me that he had shot an interview with the mayor, and that in the course of the shoot one of the lights blew, the bulb went flying up in a high, flaming arc, and landed right in the mayor's crotch... Steve S.
From: "Michael Sanders" (michael at I was filming an interview with a prominent football player. Halfway through the interview another crew came into the room (they'd stowed their gear in there) and on his way out the sound recordist caught the back light with a cable. The lamp then fell over and crashed straight on to the footballers head. Luckily it was only a Satchler 300 and the guy wasn't hurt but thinking about what could have happened still freaks me out!
From: "Robert Dutru" (rdutru at Yes I have, once when I was shooting for abc in England I took out a set of small lights I'd just bought -luckily complete with glass safety covers -and did a shoot where I had a light sitting on the top on a partitition beaming down on the bald head of our guest. 2 minutes it went off like a bomb ! and white hot fragments of glass scatterred the safety screen. Up till then I'd never used glass covers but after that I did. One other story you might be interested in. I was doing a shoot for the Barbara Walters show with Maggie Thatcher at No 10 Downing Street, When we go there we found that they'd insisted the lighting crew had large safety fireproof mats hired from Samuelsons under and around the lighting stands. Apparently once before a BBC crew had come in to film the Prime Minister and one of their lights had exploded scattering molten class and flaming fragments of it on a priceless chinese carpet given to William Pitt (P minister in the 1800's) by the Empress of China with the result that the carpet had to be shipped back to Tensing in China to have it's burnt patches reweaved. ouch ! Bob Dutru
From: Joe (nospam at I wouldn't argue that condition for one second. I wouldn't have been able to concentrate on the shoot with that carpet exposed. I supplied an extra camera on a multi-camera shoot in a plush hotel. The shoot had a sizable budget and allowed the hiring of a local hot-shot that had rented a Chapman dolly. The genius decided that plywood or even dropcloths weren't need in the Presidential Suite the hotel was including. Not only did the heavy dolly leave permanent ruts in the carpet, it leaked hydraulic fluid all over the floor. Hot-shot worked for free that day and the producer ate the carpet cost.
From: "S Lord" (slorduk at I was filming a PTC inside a brand new 20,000 luxury caravan in the UK and of course this needed lighting from inside. I rigged a 650 redhead and besides the cramped and very warm caravan, the PTC was completed in about 20 mins. As I was de-rigging, I noticed that the redhead had started to melt PVC ceiling!!! It was just starting to blister, so I started frantically blowing on it and pressing it down with my hands. Luckily, no body ever found out....... I don't think!
From: "David McCall" (david at Speaking of melting. I got on an airplane once and several of the overhead compartment doors were badly deformed. Looked like somebody had been shooting in there. David
From: "Bill Farnsworth" (bill.farnsworth at verizon.CUTOUTnet) If it was a 767....... that was me. And that's all I'm gonna say. Bill
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