For as long as I can remember I have had an obsession with "How Things Work". This led me to do such things as a child as to bring home old broken Televisions from the local repair shop that the owner didn't want. I would take them apart to try to figure out how they worked. Then I would use the parts to make a "Star Trek" type of console to play with. At the age of 13, I was actually able to find the problem with one of these Televisions and repair it myself. I think I was the only kid I knew that had his own Television in his bedroom..... But Hey, I had to get it the hard way by fixing it myself...... This led to me eventually learning as much as I could learn about electronics and making a career of it.
Around age 11 or 12 I had taken to using the family lawnmowers to earn money. I would walk up and down the streets pushing that lawnmower. When I saw a lawn that needed to be cut, I would knock on their door and ask if I could cut their grass (for a fee of course). With all that usage, the lawnmower engine had to be maintained and serviced. This started my interest in Mechanical things. On many occasions I would need to repair the engine of the lawnmowers. Other times I would take it apart to just see how it worked and put it back together. It still amazes me today that my parents let me get away with some of the things I did to their things in the interest of my "Tinkering".
I have vague memories as a young child of my father having his car engine laying all over the garage in pieces as he was rebuilding it. Ultimately this led me to do the same many times as I learned the in's and outs of anything mechanical or electrical. My first car was a blessing to have but a curse to have also. It was the most unreliable old car I think I ever had. For a while every time I had it working, something else would break. In the course of 2 years I probably repaired almost every part of that car. While at the time I did this out of necessity, Later this was probably one of the best things that happened to me as it taught me that there was nothing I couldn't do if I really wanted to do it!!
By age 17 I had been repairing my friends and my own sound equipment and guitar effects as needed. One day my high school electronics teacher got a phone call from a local Mobile DJ that was looking for someone that could repair some of his equipment. He referred him to me. This got me into repairing Professional Sound equipment for real money. I did this as well as some Mobile DJ work for him part time for 3 years while I was in school. One day I got a call from him asking me if I was interested in doing some work for a local Sound and Lighting company. I went in to meet one of the owners, Richard Belliveau. He was the most intense and crazy person I had ever met. I turned down the work based on him being crazy. A few months later I was in my local "Radio Shack" where I liked to go to play with their computers and other things. The manager told me that there was this company that was looking for a good technical person and she thought I might fit it. When she told me who it was, I said, no that man was crazy. After several times of pushing me to go talk to him, I did. Since the school semester was at the end, I decided to try them for the summer. Richard took me under his wing and pretty much became like a father figure to me. He became my "Shi Fu" as the Chinese say.
It is kind of ironic that the 3 most influential men in my life were all named Richard. My father Richard Tulk made me and gave me his brain. My Step Father Richard Wilkison made me into a good person. My "Shi Fu" Richard Belliveau taught me work ethic and to strive for perfection.
.: My Work Now:
Currently I am working for PR-Lighting in China as Chief Engineer.
I joined PR in May 2002. During the first 4 years at PR I worked mainly in Texas and traveled to China as necessary. In early 2006 we found it necessary for me to be in China full time. Having recently divorced, it was a good logical next step and so far it has been a good one.
While my main job is the design of all the electronic and software for their range of Moving Lights, I also contribute a great deal to the Mechanical and Optics of the units.
While working in China certainly has it's challenges for an American, it is an experience that I would not want to miss. More on China here.
.: My Work History:
In April 1984, I took a summer job with a very small company called Blackstone Audio Visual. 18 years later I left that job. During that 18 years, a lot of hard work was done. As a result many changes occurred and that little company grew into the industry leader Highend Systems.
In 1984 I began working at Blackstone Audio Visual as a repair and installation tech. During the 3 years of working in Clubs and Disco's, I was privileged to have been involved with some of the most elaborate Lighting and Sound systems built in the US in the 1980's. Lighting was just beginning to "evolve" in the US market. Much of this was driven by the lights that Blackstone imported from Europe for it's own installations. Eventually Blackstone opened a small distribution company and called it Highend Systems.
In 1986 the FDA loosened the restrictions on class 3A lasers. This allowed a very controversial product known as "Laser Chorus" to be built and sold into clubs. Laser Chorus was a low power laser that came in 4 different colors and was able to be safely used directly on the audience. Since this was such a new and novel product, it became very popular. This launched us as a manufacturer of our own brand.
Following the popularity of Laser Chorus, another revolutionary product was born called Color Pro. The Patented Color Pro system used 3 light bulbs with dichroic filters to separate the light into Red, Green and Blue then re-combine them into 1 light beam again to allow for almost any color to be produced from it. Since dichroic color filters were fairly new to the entertainment lighting industry, there were no inexpensive sources of these filters, only very expensive scientific grade filters which really weren't very precise either. With that need for filters in the lighting industry, Blackstone opened another division called Lightwave Research. Four men (including myself) made lighting history by building the first optical thinfilm coating laboratory for production of dichroic filters for the entertainment lighting industry. Color Pro was a HUGE success and launched Highend Systems/Lightwave Research up to the next level.
On the heels of Color Pro's popularity, Highend Systems/Lightwave Research turned it's sights to an intelligent strobe light known as DataFlash. The patented dataflash system was a very difficult design as all power components were pushed to their limits and it was the first strobe light to use an on board microprocessor to control it. Microprocessors of that time were easily disturbed and crashed by radio noise. The strobe light is a HUGE source of radio noise. Putting a microprocessor on the same PCB as a strobe light was kind of like putting a computer next to an atomic bomb. It about drove me crazy while I tried to make sure the microprocessor remained sane and in control.
At the same time that Dataflash was introduced in March 1989, The sights of Highend/Lightwave Research were focusing on the new "Moving Light" technology. In November 1989 the Intellabeam was shown at the 2nd annual LDI show in Nashville. While it was not the first moving mirror moving light (later called a "scanner"), it was the brightest and fastest one available. Sales of the Intellabeam were Very Good and it became the most popular and reliable light in it's class. In 1992, Intellabeam managed to get into the top Professional realm by getting a "test run" on the Dire Straits "On Every Street" world tour. The tour started with mostly Vari*Lite and some Highend then ended a year and a half later with mostly Highend Lights. That tour launched Highend/Lightwave into the "Big Time". Intellabeam was the first product I was involved in where I was also involved in the mechanical, optical and most other aspects of the unit.
The Emulator was the next big product. This used a Xenon lamp to simulate a laser beam. Since it wasn't an actual laser, it didn't fall under the same restrictions as the laser. This meant that anyone could buy and use one with no permits and it was legal to scan the audience with the light beam which can't be legally done with a laser.
With Highend's foot now firmly into the market, it was time to make Cyberlight, "The Ultimate Powertool" as it was marketed as. Cyberlight used all state of the art everything to pack as much light and effects into one package. It was all there and engineered to be bullet proof. This light almost killed the entire design team. We worked long hours 7 days a week for almost a year to get Cyberlight ready to show and to ship. But we finally made it and it was a HUGE success. After 12 years, it is still the only early production light that Highend still makes.
The next obvious step was to enter into the Moving Head lighting arena. Until this time, the moving head industry was dominated by Vari*Lite in Dallas. The Studio Color was the first moving head that would become a "Real" challenger to Vari*Lite. Because this unit was designed to have no cooling fans, every part of it had to be custom engineered and tested for the high temperatures it would see. This was no easy task. Thus unit went through multiple design and re-design phases before it was even close to being released. Once released it was a great success but it still had to have many engineering changes.
Cyberlight and Studio Color were the ultimate machines for the user. They were also the ultimate machine for an engineer that loves to work with almost anything. These gave me the chance to get into literally every aspect of the light. We had to find or make parts out of very high temperature materials. This gave me experience in various metals, plastics, lubricants and other high tech materials. Many of these materials were developed for the harsh environments of aerospace or other harsh industries but they were a perfect fit for lighting since there it has a similar harsh environment.
With the success of Studio Color and other units, Vali*Lite took notice. Vari*Lite was notorious for filing law suits on any company that would tread on "their" territory of moving heads. Highend was no difference. When the Studio Color was launched in 1996, the legal fight began. Only this time they found that they had a VERY formidable challenger by the name of Richard Belliveau, the companies co-founder. EVERY legal tactic was to be used and most of the lighting industry was behind Richard in his patent fight.
After almost 2 years of legal fights, Highend was on the verge of beating Vari*Lite's patents and proving them all invalid. But the cost of the legal battle was more than the company could bear financially so they were also on the verge of bankruptcy. They received an influx of cash from an equity banking firm that saved the company from bankruptcy, but this equity partner put so many restrictions and unreachable financial goals on the company that the company "Sold It's Soul" to avoid bankruptcy and was virtually taken over by a hostile group of money hungry bankers with no concept of lighting or the lighting industry. The first thing they did was force Richard Belliveau out so they could obtain absolute control. It was the beginning of the End!!!!!
I served another 4 years in Highend after the take over, but my heart was not into it at all. The company lost all of it's focus without the leadership of Richard Belliveau. All of the good people that had made the company great were either leaving on their own or being forced out by the new management. I was one of the last to hang on, but ultimately I was read my rights and I was served notice that I was "on the bubble" as the new CEO liked to say. So I started to plan my exit strategy.
In 2000 I had started traveling to China to find sources of lights and parts for Highend. During my travels I met many lighting companies but only one stood out to me at the time as the "Next" up and coming company. This company was called "Pearl River Light and Accoustics Industrial Ltd" (later shortened to PR-Lighting Ltd.). After talking to them for about 6 months, I left Highend and went to work for PR-Lighting.
End Chapter of Life........