Back…to the Future

June 26, 2016 by BenStowe

It was more than 20 years ago that I first set up a sound system with the expectation of a paycheck at the end of the night. In fact, my career very closely mirrors the life of the print edition of Mobile Beat Magazine. As a young, starry-eyed DJ it would have never occurred to me that today I would be writing an article for the last print edition of the magazine. It would have been difficult to stoweunderstand how the emerging internet of the ‘90s would change the way we consume information and effect the existence of magazines.

Likewise, it would be difficult to have predicted the evolution of technology that we use as DJs. Ironic, perhaps, that during the past few days as I was researching this article I spent time at Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry, the Shure headquarters, and the Electro-Voice headquarters. As owner of NLFX Professional, a major gear retailer and installer, I visit manufacturers often, and most times I am looking forward as we discuss future needs of the industry. I often participate in engineering new products. This time, though, I was certain to look backwards. I warmly reflected on the advancements of the industry in the relatively short span of time from 1991 to 2016.


Speaking of “warm,” I’m immediately reminded of halogen-lamped effect lights. Any DJ store clerk sci-stoweworth his or her salt knew 64514 and 4515 lamp numbers off the top of their head. The 64514 was the staple lamp for lights like the Derby, which employed 2 of the 300 watt lamps, consuming 600 watts and making an Easy Bake Oven look like an amateur effort for using light as a heat source. I recall striking audio first at the end of a gig to give lights time to cool down to avoid getting burned. The heat also presented a real challenge with actually running the lights; the word of the day was “duty cycle.” 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off was the standard mantra. Of course, I preferred to try to use the lights selectively and specifically to enhance an effect, but one still had to be mindful of the duty cycle.

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Ben’s love for electronics began when as a very young through the inspiration of a neighbor he often visited. The neighbor ran the small town’s TV repair shop out of his home, and in order to occupy the energetic Ben, allowed him to play with the brightly colored electronic components. At first Ben was simply using diagonal side cutters to strip circuit boards and sort the parts, then at the age of 5 his persistent nagging was rewarded with a few soldering lessons. Having previously taught high school electronics, the neighbor recognized Ben’s enthusiasm and began to teach him the principals of electronics. Ben’s love of electronics and technology led to years of schooling in Electricity, Electronics, Robotics and Lasers. Ben supported himself through school by building and selling strobe lights and other electronic devices. He built his first DJ show largely from scratch and scrap, often repairing broken items others had thrown away because he could not afford to buy new equipment. He holds a Minnesota electrical license, and his AV installs have been featured in almost every major industry trade magazine. His relentless passion for education has led to a number of other certifications and accreditations, including the most widely recognized one in the AV industry, the InfoComm CTS. His love for education inspired him to begin the ProAcademy educational sessions, focused on increasing understanding of AV technologies within the industry. Ben has been involved in a number of technical writings, lectures, presentations, as well as research and development assistance with a number of manufacturers for products, industry wide. He is also a regular contributing author to industry magazines in the United States and Europe. Ben’s presentations have been featured across the world both as a part of industry leading trade shows, and as a presenter for various groups and functions. Some of these events include BPM in the United Kingdom, Mobile Beat, the ADJA National Convention, Wedding MBA, and a national tour as a headlining presenter for an industry magazine. The United States Armed Forces branches have also called upon Ben to provide engineering and training assistance. His highly informational, slightly nerdy and always funny presentation style have made him a favorite at events, while his sincere desire to help people with their application of technology have made him a favorite with them after the event. These presentations have recently led to the production of a ProAcademy Series of DVDs. The first of which, “Event Lighting” was released with much anticipation and with great reviews. A few industry leaders commented: “Ben Stowe knows his stuff. He is friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about this business. He also has a rare ability to not only understand technology, but be able to explain it in simple terms. You’ll learn a lot and it won’t hurt a bit!” — Jim Cerone, Author, “The Perfect Host” “Finally, there is a product that offers useful information for lighting design that is equivalent to the many products that offer instruction for sound equipment, business management and talent based education. I can easily see this DVD tutorial as being the Rosetta Stone or Video Professor equivalent in our industry for those who are seeking to gain valuable insight into the technology surrounding lighting design” – Larry Williams, Author, “Mind Your Own Business” “Ben Stowe an the ProAcademy team have really done it this time. After providing seminars and training sessions at local and national events for everyone to know their gear and what works best, they have now created an awesome DVD on Event Lighting.” — Scott Faver, Author, “The Game Master” “Finally, a training video that’s made for real working mobile entertainers. Easy to understand, easy to follow and easy to find exactly what you’re looking for, and long overdue.” — Randy Bartlett, Author, “The 1% Solution” Ben serves the industry as the President of NLFX Professional, an industry leading supplier of sound, lighting and video systems, a role he has maintained since founding the company in 1993.

Filed Under: 2016, Sound