Friday, 9 December 2011

Event Lighting Design: Part Three

Direction

For special event lighting, there are three areas of concern with respect to lighting direction: stage and entertainment lighting, décor and theme lighting, and ambient lighting. In all cases, the effect of directional lighting is similar, but the desired outcome may be different. Let us examine the different directions that may be used to light people or objects and then see what the differences may be.

We begin with some illustrations of lighting people from different angles. Figure 1 illustrates front lighting. Although this direction gives the best visibility, it also tends to make objects and people appear “flat.” For lighting people and stage shows, this is one direction that is absolutely necessary so the audience can see what is happening onstage. Generally speaking, in almost every instance of special event entertainment, some component of continuous front lighting will be needed, even if it is not fully bright or not white.

On the other hand, for ambient lighting and theme décor lighting, front lighting is not always desirable. If lighting walls, for instance, to achieve a general mood, direct lighting is less desirable than uplighting as it tends to highlight the flaws in the wall. However, if a large painted mural is part of the décor, front lighting may be the right choice in order to give the best visibility and render the mural scene more realistic. The same would apply if the front lighting is a gobo and a clear, proportionally correct pattern is required to be seen on the wall.


Figure1: Front Lighting 

Figure 2 illustrates top lighting, which, for people, adds shadows to faces but also adds nice highlights to hair and shoulders, which onstage can help to separate people from backgrounds. For décor purposes, top lighting is often used to light table centers with pin spots or automated fixtures, to give crisp, undistorted beams of light throughout the event space. It is also used for highlighting décor vignettes and for floor lighting.


Figure 2: Top Lighting

Figure 3 illustrates rear lighting, which is very useful for adding dimension to persons or objects onstage and for separating them from the background. Similarly, for décor it can help to add a third dimension and make a display seem more “alive.”


Figure 3: Rear Lighting 

Figure 4 illustrates side lighting, which is highly desirable in some form when lighting people onstage as it also adds dimension and makes the body shape more obvious. In the same way, it can add shape to décor. However, when lighting flat décor as in the case of murals, it tends to highlight flaws in the surface and is not recommended.


Figure 4: Side Lighting 

The final direction for lighting is under or up lighting, as shown in Figure 5. When used to light people, this is associated with a ghoulish, macabre effect as seen in movies and is not desirable unless it is being used for a special effect. However, for décor, especially for ambient lighting, it is one of the most effective directions, particularly for uplightng walls, ceilings, and backdrops.


Figure 5: Up Lighting

Movement


A related aspect of direction is movement. Movement indicates any change in lighting that gives life to the lighting and brings it closer to the natural world. It is usually of timed duration and can include:
  • A change in direction
  • A change in color
  • A change in intensity
  • A change in distribution, such as the appearance of different gobos from the same fixture
  • The movement of an offstage light such as a followspot or automated fixture.

According to Williams (1999), “movement may be rapid or very subtle, slow and imperceptible. Such may be the case of a designer that provides a slow shift in sunlight from one side of the stage to the other throughout the duration of a play. The audience may not notice the shift; however, they often may ‘feel’ the result of the change emotionally...Up until recently, movement was probably the least utilized quality of light by the stage LD. This all changed in the 1980s when the automated lighting fixture was born. The modern automated fixture can now move physically – directing its beam from one part of the stage to another (or any other area within the event space – author). In addition, the automated fixture can ‘move’ from one color or effect to another, at any speed. The changes and combinations of intensity, form, distribution, color, and movement are endless.”

I hope these basic explanations of event lighting will help you and your lighting designer come up with some wonderful events.

References:

Williams, Bill. (1999). Stage Lighting Design 101, Edition 2.d. Retrieved January 2006 from www.mts.net/williams5/sld.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Event Lighting Design: Part Two

Color 

As with the design tools of event décor, color is the most noticeable and strongest quality of light. Indeed, all light is colored, and white light is simply a mixture of all visible wavelengths (colors) between infrared and ultraviolet radiation on the electromagnetic spectrum. One of the keys to good lighting design is a thorough understanding of color. We begin with some definitions.


Hue is the pure form of a color with no white, black, or grey added. Tint is the mixture of a hue with white. Shade is the mixture of a hue with black. Tone is the mixture of a hue with black and white (grey). It is sometimes also called value. Saturation refers to the amount of hue in a color mixture. For example, a pure red color (like fire-engine red) would be said to have a high saturation of red. Figure 1 below illustrates these relationships in a triangular form.


Figure 1: Tints, Tones, and Shades (Courtesy Gillette, 2000 - Redrawn by author) 

In the world of lighting, the color wheel takes on a slightly different appearance from the color wheel associated with décor (which uses pigments). For light, the primary colors are red, blue, and green. The secondary colors are yellow (mixture of red and green), cyan (mixture of green and blue), and magenta (mixture of red and blue). Figure 2 illustrates a lighting color wheel (also called a visual or RGB color wheel).


Figure 2: Lighting Color Wheel

The two differing color wheels, the one for pigment and the one for light, are often confusing since they do not make logical sense when mixing colors. Technically, as pointed out by Fitt and Thornley (2002), “the lessons learned from mixing the colors of paint are somewhat different to those for mixing the colors of light. It has to be realized that light is the source of all color, but pigments in paint (or in dyed fabrics – author) are simply reflections or absorbers of parts of the light that illuminates them If a beam of red light and a beam of green light are superimposed the result is yellow. On the other hand, if we mix red and green paint, we get rather a nasty looking ‘brown black’ color. When using light, all spectral colors can be created by adding various component parts of red, green, and blue light and the system used is called ‘addition,’ ultimately creating white. Pigments derive their colors by subtracting parts of the spectrum, therefore the system with pigments is called ‘subtraction’ and ultimately creates black.” 

For special events, the LD is frequently called upon to not only light stage performances, but also decorative elements. These are particularly sensitive to the interaction between the hues of light and pigment hues, since most décor is pigment-based (e.g. fabrics, painted surfaces, costumes). Table 1 illustrates the interaction between the two types of color, and can serve as a guide for what a decorative element or person looks like when subjected to a certain color of light. 

Color of Pigment
Color of Light
Violet
Blue
Blue-Green
Green
Yellow
Orange
Red
Purple
Violet
Deep violet
Dark violet
Dark violet
Violet
Dark brown
Dark brown
Dark gray
Dark violet
Blue
Light blue
Deep blue
Light bluish gray
Light blue
Dark bluish gray
Black
Gray
Blue
Blue-Green
Dark blue
Very dark blue
Dark bluish gray
Dark green
Greenish blue
Dark greenish brown
Black
Dark blue
Green
Bluish brown
Light olive green
Light greenish gray
Intense green
Bright green
Dark green
Dark gray
Dark greenish brown
Yellow
Scarlet
Greenish yellow
Greenish yellow
Greenish yellow
Intense yellow
Yellow orange
Red
Orange
Orange
Scarlet
Light brown
Light brown
Light brown
Orange
Intense orange
Intense orange red
Scarlet
Red
Scarlet
Purplish black
Dark maroon
Maroon
Bright red
Orange red
Intense red
Red
Purple
Reddish purple
Dark violet
Maroon
Purplish violet
Light brown
Maroon
Reddish brown
Deep purple






Table 1: Interaction of Colored Light with Colored Pigment (Courtesy Fuchs, 1929) 

To add to the confusion, additive and subtractive color mixing are also found in the lighting world alone. Additive color mixing refers to the combining of two or more colors to form a new color. As illustrated in Figure 3, the combining of red and blue light sources, for example, will produce a new color, magenta. Subtractive color mixing refers to the filtering of light. When light passes through a single colored gel or filter, only the wavelength corresponding to the color of the filter will pass through it. Figure 4 illustrates this concept.


Figure 3: Additive Color Mixing in Light (Courtesy Gillette, 2000 – Redrawn by author)

Figure 4: Subtractive Color Mixing in Light (Courtesy Gillette, 2000 – Redrawn by author) 

The last important concept of color in lighting design is the meaning of color. It is a well-known fact that  every color has certain emotions attached to it. It is these emotions that the LD tries to enhance in order to make his design more effective.

My final post on lighting design will discuss direction and movement.


References:

  • Fitt, Brian, and Joe Thornley. (2002). Lighting Technology: A Guide for Television, Film and Theater, Second Edition. Woburn, MA: Focal Press.
  • Fuchs, Theodore. (1929). Stage Lighting. Little, Brown, and Company. Retrieved January 31, 2006 from www.rosco.com/us/technotes/filters/technote_1.asp#4.
  • Gillette, J. Michael. (2000). Theatrical Design and Production: An Introduction to Scene Design and Construction, Lighting, Sound, Costume, and Makeup, Fourth Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Event Lighting Design: Part One

Lighting can be thought of as one of many raw materials the event producer has at his or her disposal. It is the job of the Lighting Designer or LD (usually from a subcontracted lighting supplier), to manipulate the light beams emanating from fixtures or luminaires to achieve the look desired by the event producer or manager. The LD has five qualities of light that can be varied and massaged to do this. These qualities are intensity, distribution, color, direction, and movement. Over the course of the next two or three blog posts, I will cover the basics of these qualities.


Intensity 

In simplest terms, this refers to the strength of a light source. However, there are some other relative measurements that are also associated with a light source and what happens when the light is projected over a distance and strikes an object.


Intensity is the strength of a light source (e.g. the actual lamp inside the light fixture), or the light output. It is measured in lumens or candles. Illuminance is the light level actually falling on the surface of an object being lit. It is measured in lux (metric) or foot-candles (imperial). 1 foot-candle = 10.76 lux. Brightness is the effect of light leaving the surface of an object being illuminated. It is what the human eye actually sees. It is affected by the intensity of the light source, the distance from the source to the object, and the properties of the object (e.g. color and texture). It is measured in foot-lamberts. The figure below illustrates the differences amongst these three terms.




        Light Strength 


Actually, this relationship can be calculated mathematically using what is known as the inverse-square law, E = I/ D², where E is the illuminance in foot-candles, I is the luminous intensity in lumens, and D is the distance in feet between the source and the point of calculation on the surface. For example, using a light source that produces 6000 lumens, the light density on a surface 10ft. away would be 60 foot-candles = 6000/(10)(10), and 20ft. away would be 15 foot-candles = 6000/(20)(20).

Generally speaking, objects that appear bright draw more attention to themselves. Because of this, it is the job of the LD to ensure that those objects needing attention, whether they be performers or decorative, are appropriately bright. 

Distribution 

Distribution refers to the manner in which light strikes a surface and reveals an object.
It can be applied to how objects appear, in that they might be softly lit as part of a larger scene with light that has no sharp edges. On the other hand, they may be individually lit with a small, sharply defined, single light beam.

On another level, distribution can be applied to the appearance of light that uses an image projector of some sort, such as a gobo in front of an ellipsoidal fixture or an actual projector. These in turn produce certain desired images on a surface such as a wall or scrim. 

On a third level, distribution can be applied to the shape of a light beam itself when viewed through smoke or haze effects. 

I will cover color in the next post.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Six Suggestions for Running Efficient Production Meetings


In event production, there is no room for error, and meetings are often full of minute details pertaining to the production. By efficiently conducting meetings and recording their results, the possibility for error is significantly reduced. Recorded meeting minutes and decisions can also help in providing specifics should any contractual disputes arise at a later date either with suppliers or with clients. 

Although far from an exhaustive list, the following tips are essential to running an effective meeting.

  1. Deal with the most important agenda items first. Too often, the items requiring key decisions are left until the end of a meeting when everyone is tired and ready to leave. Key items should be discussed when people are the most energized. For example, leave a decision about green room amenities to the end but put a key discussion about multimedia content at the beginning. 
  2. Follow Robert’s Rules of Order for more efficiency. US Army Major Henry Martyn Robert first wrote this now world-famous book in 1876 after presiding over a church meeting and discovering that delegates from different areas of the country did not agree about proper procedure. It is bar none the best and most widely used guide in existence to running orderly meetings, yet amazingly, few people who chair meetings on a frequent basis are aware of many of the key rules. Every producer should have a copy. 
  3. Set time limits for each agenda item. This forces attendees to be aware of the time allowed. 
  4. Limit discussion to one statement per attendee until all others who want to, have had a say. This, in more detail, is one of the essential points of Robert’s Rules of Order. It is the best way to stop a meeting from getting out of hand. 
  5. Have attendees address all discussion and questions through the Chairperson to reduce the possibility of heated arguments and of personality conflicts interfering with the conduct of the meeting. This is also a key Robert’s rule. 
  6. Sum up each agenda item, clearly establish any action required, name the person responsible for the action, set a target date for the action to be completed, vote on the decision if necessary, and record the results.
Following these simple suggestions will have you looking super-organized and in control, essential traits of a good event producer.


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Terrifying Roman Theme Dinner

Back in May I promised to talk about some ancient events, and the time has come to start doing so. 

It always surprises me how little we know about the history of our own profession. I did not know much myself until after I stopped producing shows a few years ago and finally found time to look at some history. Knowing what I do now, I would have to say that we are only barely beginning to scratch the surface of creativity, especially when it comes to comparing ourselves with ancient event producers and what minimal "raw materials" they had to work with.

I'm going to begin these visits to the past with an example of a Roman theme dinner that was created by the notoriously paranoid and cruel emperor Domitian in or around 88 or 89 CE, and to which he invited leading senators and other VIPs to commemorate Romans lost in the Dacian War. The account by the Roman writer Cassius Dio provides a good description:

"On another occasion he entertained the foremost men among the senators and knights in the following fashion. He prepared a room that was pitch black on every side, ceiling, walls and floor, and had made ready bare couches of the same colour resting on the uncovered floor; then he invited in his guests alone at night without their attendants. And first he set beside each of them a slab shaped like a gravestone, bearing the guest's name and also a small lamp, such as hang in tombs. Next comely naked boys, likewise painted black, entered like phantoms, and after encircling the guests in an awe-inspiring dance took up their stations at their feet. After this all the things that are commonly offered at the sacrifices to departed spirits were likewise set before the guests, all of them black and in dishes of a similar colour. Consequently, every single one of the guests feared and trembled and was kept in constant expectation of having his throat cut the next moment, the more so as on the part of everybody but Domitian there was dead silence, as if they were already in the realms of the dead, and the emperor himself conversed only upon topics relating to death and slaughter. Finally he dismissed them; but he had first removed their slaves, who had stood in the vestibule, and now gave his guests in charge of other slaves, whom they did not know, to be conveyed either in carriages or litters, and by this procedure he filled them with far greater fear. And scarcely had each guest reached his home and was beginning to get his breath again, as one might say, when word was brought him that a messenger from the Augustus (Domitian) had come. While they were accordingly expecting to perish this time in any case, one person brought in the slab, which was of silver, and then others in turn brought in various articles, including the dishes that had been set before them at the dinner, which were constructed of very costly material; and last of all came that particular boy who had been each guest's familiar spirit, now washed and adorned. Thus, after having passed the entire night in terror, they received the gifts."

Talk about an experiential event! We love to trigger emotions in modern events, but seldom consider fear as one that our guests would appreciate. I wonder if any of us would be prepared to go as far as Domitian did.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Cool Historical Event Venues Around the World: Take Two

A couple of years ago I first posted a video about unique event venues around the world. This is the updated version with several additions. Most of these are historical venues that were used for some of the most spectacular special events the world has ever seen. Examples include Roman Triumphs through the Forum in ancient Rome, Mayan sacrifices on the temples at Copan, the Opet Festival in Luxor, Egypt during the New Kingdom period 1500 years ago, amazing shows at various Greek and Roman theaters throughout the Mediterranean, and much more.

video


This is only the start. There are literally hundreds more all over the world. 

Quite a few of the venues are still in use today for special events. You will notice staging, lighting, and audio systems set up in a number of locations. These are all my own photos with only two exceptions. Hope you enjoy.

Feel free to ask me questions about any of these venues and what went on in them.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Vancouver Stanley Cup Riot

I have been watching with interest the fallout from the June 15th riot in Vancouver. Lots of passing the blame but nobody seems to have looked at the event planning process that went into the creation of the live site.

From what I can tell there were two reasons for establishing the site. First, the city wanted to continue the success of the “open streets” that were prominent during the 2010 Winter Olympics that generated so much supposed communitas for the public. Second, they wanted to undo a reputation that the city had for several years of being a “no-fun” city. So intense was the pressure to have this live site that their planning was inadequate and they neglected to fully comprehend the nature of the crowd demographics, even though there was ample evidence from the past. In the end, the message that came across to attendees was that this was a chance to “party in the streets” supposedly with impunity. The resulting confusion between the reason for, and message of, the event gave birth to riots that caused over $5 million in damage and millions more to the city’s reputation.

Notice that I mentioned the message of the event. So often in our planning of events, we only discuss the reason or purpose of the event and overlook what message(s) we want to send to the attendees and to send to the world for posterity if it is a public event. This should always be part of the planning process. It is just not enough to say we want to create a zone where people can enjoy watching the hockey finals in an atmosphere of community and happiness. We must also decide if the message that the attendees will receive is going to be in their best interests rather than the best interests of the organizer/owner of the event: will attendees also feel safe, will they want to return for similar events in the future, will the event give them pride in their city and their fellow citizens, etc? It requires that a lot of questions be asked prior to the actual planning. It is then up to the planner to create an event that will both meet the objectives/purpose/reason for the event and also the needs of the attendees. The Vancouver live site event does not appear to have done this.

Speaking of planners, there has been no obvious evidence that there was a specific person or actual event manager in place at the event during the hours leading up to the game as well as during and after it. Who and where was this person? All indications so far seem to be pointing at the mayor but surely the city could not have been so naive as to assume he was in charge of the entire operation. If so, they have been GROSSLY negligent.

From my point of view, and without the details, it would appear at this point that blame lies squarely with the city planning department and nobody else, except of course, the mayor, where the buck must ultimately stop. Folks, if you are going to try to be in the event planning business, do it properly and professionally. For starters, at least read a few risk management books!!