Book Review: Automated Lighting, 2nd Edition By Richard Cadena

Back at USITT 2010 in Kansas City, I got a chance to catch up with the Electron Magician himself, Mr. Richard Cadena. I am always in awe when around Mr. Cadena.  Not only is he a wealth of knowledge on lighting, but the entire industry as well. During our talk, I mentioned that I would love to write a review of his just then published book, Automated Lighting: The Art and science of Moving Light in Theatre, Live Performance, and entertainment, 2nd Edition.

“No Problem”, we made a B line for the Focal Press booth on the show floor.  Not only was Focal Press kind enough to provide me with a free copy of the book, Mr. Cadena signed the book right then and there for me.  Looking back at it know, that may have not been the best idea to sign the book right there on the show floor at the Focal Press booth.  Mr. Cadena was suddenly swamped with request to sign more books from attendees that just picked up his book.  Sorry about that Mr. Cadena!

Who is the book written for

Mr. Cadena has an amazing way with words.  While there are a ton of technical terms and advance topics, he makes sure to fully describe what he mentions so even the novice can understand.  After reading the book cover to cover, I feel as though the book is geared towards every lighting technician out there. Moving lights are hear to stay.  Call them what you like, Moving lights, automated luminaries, wiggle lights, they are all just broad terms for describing a lighting that operates remotely. Almost every venue will have some sort of multi-parameter device in house as a permanent fixture or rental at some point. As with almost anything in our life, things break down and need fixing. In the entertainment lighting world, it always happens after 5pm when tech service is closed. It then falls upon us to take a look and see what is wrong with a light and maybe getting it back up and running.

While the book does go into great detail about almost every aspect of a moving light, it is certainly not a guide on how to fix any particular light.  After reading the book, I have a greater understanding of the different parts of a moving light and what can be found inside to make it work.  The book certainly does not make me a certified tech to fix anything, but I feel like I can talk a bit more intelligently to tech services when trying to diagnose what is wrong.

As with most of Mr. Cadena’s book, he always starts off with my favorite part, the history lesson.  To fully understand where we are in the industry and where we are going, we have to understand the past and how we came to where we are. Intertwined in the history, Mr. Cadena provides personal experiences and stories about certain fixtures and how they came to be.  This is something you rarely hear or read about.

Understanding Protocols, Console and Design

Toward the last half of the book, Mr. Cadena writes about some of the newer protocols, lighting consoles and designing.  Like most of the book, it is a crash course into the subject.  The information will not make you a seasoned professional, but you’ll get a good understanding of the subject matter.  The book offers a great stating off point to understanding the different subjects and at times offers additional outlets to get more information on the subjects.  Included are some great helpful hints on what to carry around with you as well as best practices for trouble shooting and analyzing gear.

As Mr. Cadena is the Electron Magician of the industry, he offers numerous calculations and formulas.  This goes way beyond the West Virginia Law of power, ( W = V * A).  As an aspiring professional, the formulas can not only save your life, but save countless hours of trouble shooting and figuring out what is wrong.

Why Add this book to your Arsenal

As the School House Rock’s Cartoon from the 80’s says, “Knowledge is power”. I am a firm believer that we must understand where we came from in history to understand where we are at currently and where we are going in the future.  So the history lessons the book provides is just one reason to pick up Mr. Cadena’s latest edition of Automated Lighting.  The book also serves as a great entry into the world of automated lighting and control for the beginner.  For those seasoned veterans of the industry, it can serve as a great reference tool for understanding those new “toys” on the market.

I highly recommend Mr. Cadena’s book, Automated Lighting, 2nd Edition to any one that has any interest in entertainment lighting. You can purchase your copy of the book through the publishers web site, for $49.95.  You can save a couple of bucks by purchasing the book through for $44.95.

Thanks again to Focal Press and Mr. Cadena for their support and generosity with providing me a copy of the book to do a review.  You can check out more great titles written by Mr. Cadena and other great titles for almost every aspect of theatre production by visiting Focal Press’s web site,

Article by Justin Lang of

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