Cory FitzGerald, production designer for Demi Lovato’s Neon Lights tour, notes that the set, which is based on a “neon-like concept full of Video Blades in smoke colored covers…essentially tubes of single pixel video elements diffused by the plastic covers,” is complemented by a phone app developed by Wham City Lights “to let the audience participate.” The app turns smartphones into handheld lighting effects by flashing color, text and imagery to the music. Songs for the interactive experience are selected in advance, and the resulting effect can be created by the App’s developers or using the App’s online lightshow editor program. When the inaudible ultrasonic Wham Waves signal is made active through the sound system, the Wham Waves can be embedded into the song, click track or played on its own to sync the phones in the audience. Once the Wham Waves are played, every app-enabled phone bursts into color and syncopated flashing with the music.
— From “Designer Watch” by Debi Moen, PLSN, April 2014, page 50
For years, lighting designers have been matching lumens between the lighting and video elements. The video was always brighter. In the last couple years, much of that has suddenly changed. That’s because we lighting guys now have some powerful weapons in our fight against video dominance. One problem I noticed with the advent of all these new bright lights is that lighting designers have gotten use to focusing lights directly into the crowds’ eyes. In the days of old, this wasn’t so harsh. One could put a gobo in the light beam or soften it up with a diffuser so it wasn’t so blinding. I see shots of people with their hands in front of their face constantly. To me, that’s bad. I can take 40 Sharpys and make amazing “Matrix” style focuses of light beams in an arena. Yet not a single beam will terminate in a spectators face.
—Nook Schoenfeld, from LD-at-Large, PLSN, April 2014
Every lighting programmer should have an understanding of the common types of windows and their uses. One of these is the Patch Window. All automated lighting consoles must provide a method for the programmer to assign DMX addresses and universe assignments to console specific fixture numbers. Typically it is one of the first windows that must be used, as it is required to properly configure the console to communicate with the luminaires. Once the fixtures are patched, this window is rarely used again during the show programming and operation. The patch window will contain various fields including fixture number, fixture type, DMX universe and DMX address. Often, console software provides additional settings per fixture in the patch window. These can include pan/tilt swap or invert, dimming curves, fixture modes and more. Be sure to understand the various parameters that your console provides you access to in the patch window, as they often have ramifications that can affect data throughout your entire show.
— From “Feeding the Machines” by Brad Schiller, PLSN, March 2014
When I’m mad about something petty, I think of how to relieve that stress in the best way. Last month, I got back close to $200 worth of rebates and credits by applying myself for no more than five minutes. Last week I rented a car at LAX for three days. The total came out to $119 — not a bad deal for a major city. Upon driving the car that evening, I detected the odor of cigarettes. I could live with it, but I don’t have to. I look at my online reservation confirmation and notice there is a spot where I can leave comments. So I expressed my concern that I was a valued, preferred client, and they gave me a car that stinks. I hate it, and just want to let them know I was upset. Within 24 hours, I receive a nice courtesy apology email along with a $50 voucher for my next rental. When I get home, I found an additional survey they sent me, asking about my rental experience. I filled it out. The next day, I am credited another $30 to the Amex card that I used for the reservation. That’s $80 (two-thirds what I paid) that I get back for using Avis. All I did was use a pen for two minutes.
— From “LD-at-Large” by Nook Schoenfeld, PLSN, March 2014
For Beyonce’s Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, production and lighting designer Roy Bennett noted that, in the initial meeting with the artist, “we came up with the concept that the show would be lighting-based vs. being video-heavy, as in the past. I came up with the idea of making a wall of light that consisted mostly of mirrors on moving yokes (based on the old Vari-Lite VLM) and SGM strobes. The mirrors have two different surfaces. One side is flat, and the other is a faceted convex mirror-ball-type surface. Her show has two different stages. There’s the main stage, and then Beyoncé is flown over the audience and lands at the B-stage, the idea based on allowing her to have a place to perform out in the audience as so many performers like these days. The stage is behind the FOH position [and] has ramps and walkways with VIP audience members enclosed. It’s almost as big as most artists’ main stage. Most of the lighting for the B-stage was floor-based and bounced off of the moving mirrors overhead.”
— From “Designer Insights” by Steve Jennings, PLSN, March 2014
WATCHPAX units are solid-state media players designed to work in conjunction with Dataton’s WATCHOUT networked multi-display software. I am impressed with the power and scalability of the product, and I would imagine that these types of standalone media players have a huge advantage over using dedicated display computers in the digital signage and trade show markets. They promise to eliminate the need for computers to be located at display devices along with long runs of video cables between display devices. Operated either in standalone mode or via external control, they can work in tandem with the WATCHOUT system’s unlimited scalability. If you need to add more display devices to your booth or show, simply add another WATCHPAX for each unit.
— From “Video Road Test” by Vickie Claiborne, PLSN, Feb. 2014, page 54
Intensity adjustment is seen as so very important that many console manufactures include a dedicated intensity wheel on their desks. This wheel is always active for dynamically adjusting intensity anytime a fixture or group of fixtures is selected. Typically, this will be an absolute adjustment, but most consoles also come with a key that can be held when adjusting the intensity wheel. This key will change its behavior to a relative adjustment. With relative adjustment enabled, turning the wheel 10 percent of its range will increase all selected fixtures intensities by 10 percent of their current value. So a fixture with no intensity will not increase, while a fixture with an intensity of 50 percent will increase to 55 percent. Conversely, if you had instead used a traditional absolute adjustment, you would have seen the fixture with no intensity rise to 10 percent and the 50 percent fixture rise to 60 percent.
—Brad Schiller, from “Feeding the Machines," PLSN, Feb. 2014
In terms of video, I like to have panels that can move around and stagger heights for different songs. But renting a motion control system to move LED panels constantly was out of my budget, as were hi-def LED walls themselves. I thought about moving shoji panels, and projecting on them. Shojis are basically panels of rice paper with artistic drawn scenery on them. They’ve been used for years in Asia to separate larger rooms into smaller ones. Now if I combined them into some sort of airwall hanger apparatus, I may be onto something. What I came up with was eight custom Shoji panels measuring 14 by 6 feet (HxW) that hung on a series of traveler tracks. I needed simple travelers with no ropes or motors. A quick call over to Joe at Gallagher Staging solves everything. He quickly manufactures a simple metal piece that consists of five traveler tracks welded together into a single piece, which attaches to a stick of 20-inch truss. Then he rented it to me at an affordable price. Three 20K projectors on the front truss, some media servers and a video tech from PRG Nocturne finished it off. No automation necessary. The touring carp and a light guy would move the panels to various configurations during the show. With minimum practice, I had myself a giant 48-by-14-foot (WxH) video wall, all for $11,000 per week.
—Nook Schoenfeld, from LD-at-Large, PLSN, Feb. 2014
“We were all perplexed by the script because it goes so many places so quickly,” noted John Lee Beatty, set designer for The Snow Geese on Broadway. “Dan Sullivan, the director, said we couldn’t do the big outdoor scene where they’re shooting geese in the marsh as a drop or anything like that. He felt that just wasn’t going to work for him, so I started that way. The backstage is very small, so I had to be very quick on my toes to figure out a scenic scheme that could get enough scenery on and off. That’s how I came up with the double jackknife instead of a revolve, because I wanted to have the illusion of an open stage for the shooting scene. I worked backwards in design. It was quite a challenge in that small space.”
—Bryan Reesman, from “Inside Theatre,” PLSN, Jan. 2014
What I like about using a media server to create the blend instead of using another piece of gear is just that: outputting a signal to another device that processes and divides it means the potential for data loss and/or artifacts that could get introduced along the way. Using a media server in this way won’t always be possible, due to the size and overall scale of the project, but it is something to consider when designing a show. On the other hand, the downside of using a media server for edge blending is that as the media server itself takes on more responsibility for tasks typically reserved for the video production crew, the less likely it may be that the lighting programmer will have enough time to handle all the necessary tasks associated with both roles. For this reason, it’s probably best to have a dedicated media server programmer on these types of shows. That way, both lighting and video will look equally as impressive instead of both looking half as good as they could.
—From “Video Digerati” by Vickie Claiborne, PLSN, Jan. 2014