Santa Claus came early for me this year, and as a result, I’ve been propelled into the exciting world of the iPad2. I spent the first few days with it loading games and magazines (i.e. PLSN, http://plsn.com/app), but then I thought about what else might be available for lighting professionals. And that’s when a whole new world unveiled itself for me. In terms of productivity apps, iTunes has quite a few choices. I chose iAnnotate PDF, Evernote and Dropbox right away because of their flexibility and mobility between desktop and iPad. Many more — available for free or as little as $.99 — can be found at http://plsn.me/iosprod. By helping you be better organized and prepared for your next project, they’re well worth the price. The next search led me to find out what apps are available for popular lighting control systems. Today, many consoles offer PC versions of their console software, and most of those PC versions are Art-Net friendly…so, I was curious to find out what iPad apps were available, and if they could be used as a stand-alone controller if needed. (For a sampling, click here.)
Vickie Claiborne, from “Video Digerati,” PLSN, Jan. 2012
It is a New Year and time for a new calendar. The scheduler, or calendar function, on lighting consoles allows the programmer to specify triggers based on exact dates, times, or recurrence patterns. This allows for cues to play automatically on any given time and/or date. While this is most commonly useful in installations, it can also be of use within any type of production. Clock-triggered cues can be used for a multitude of tasks besides just triggering simple cues. Typically, the console will allow you to enter in a specific time for the trigger. It will then use its own internal clock to automatically execute the command when the time and date is reached. Some consoles allow you to schedule reoccurrence patterns such as “Every Tuesday” or “Every Fifth Day.” A good calendar routine will enable you to set any type of pattern you can think of. Once assigned, the clock triggers pretty much run on their own, executing cues and commands “like clockwork” (pun intended). Most consoles will include a screen that indicates the next upcoming scheduled event and usually there is a method to easily cancel or dismiss the event before it happens.
—Brad Schiller, from "Feeding the Machines,” Jan. 2012
Katy Perry’s 123-show California Dreams tour, replete with outlandish outfits and set elements including giant lollipops and cotton candy clouds, welcomed audiences to the altered state called Candyfornia. Baz Halpin, Chris Nyfield, Olivier Goulet, Brad Teagan, Bryan Barancik, Jay Schmit, and a crew led by John Chiodo sweetened the visuals with support from Upstaging, Chaos Visual Productions, All Access Staging & Productions and other production companies…“Of course, for the first couple of months, Chris [Nyfield] and I would talk about the set and stop ourselves with comments like, ‘Wait, flying sparkly sausages and glitter T-bone steaks?’ After a while, though, you talk about a flying cotton candy cloud and your first comments are, ‘I assume that the Barbie stand will be candy-striped — and do we need that to be scented?’ You fall into the Candyfornia world of Katy Perry very quickly, and nothing surprises you after a while.”
—Baz Halpin, as quoted by Steve Jennings for PLSN's "Production Profile,” Dec. 2011
For Def Leppard’s 2011-2012 Mirrorball tour, show designer and video director Jonathan Beswick, who has been providing the band with distinctive video looks since 2006, worked with LD Kenji Ohashi to go beyond mere I-Mag to fuse lighting and video into rock ‘n’ roll looks that are even bigger than those achieved on previous tours. Higher-resolution video panels — and more of them — made that goal possible, and lighter-weight gear helped keep the production’s rigging, setup and tear down challenges in check…”Last time around, I used a 53-by-13.5-foot LED wall upstage, and then LED fascias on the set carts. In the air, I had previously used the Nocturne V-Lite with its 28mm resolution,” Beswick said. “This time I wanted to go with a higher-res product, and I wanted to go bigger. The problem we had to overcome was, how do we go bigger within the same core design and make it look fresh? After considering it, I redesigned the large upstage screen area. It is now 63 by 17.9 feet, and I broke it up into seven separate panels. To up the resolution, I went with an 18mm product; the new PRG Nocturne Productions V-18. It is a module product, and I made each of the seven screen panels six modules wide by 12 modules high. I staggered the panels on the stage depth-wise to achieve a three-dimensional look to the wall, but kept the same aspect ratio that we had produced for the 2009 show, albeit a bigger version of it. The set carts behind the band are covered with PRG Nocturne V-Lite, their 28mm product.”
—Jonathan Beswick, interviewed by Michael S. Eddy, "PLSN Interview,” Dec. 2011
Earlier this year, authorities were investigating the transfer of cocaine and cash between recording studios in Los Angeles and New York. Rock-It Cargo and Interscope Records both denied any involvement in, or knowledge of, the exchange, and both were also reported to be cooperating fully with the efforts to prosecute those sending and receiving the drugs. Rock-It Cargo declined to discuss the matter, but a conversation with Brandon Fried, the executive director of the Air Forwarders Association in Washington, D.C., told PLSN that, regarding air transportation in general, the Federal security focus has been on passenger aircraft and the safety of those passengers, and that the screening of cargo hold contents is focused on explosives, not contraband. “The all-cargo side of the shipping business is focused on keeping the ‘man out of the box,’” added Fried, a reference to shipping people in containers as part of human smuggling rings. Entertainment equipment for music and other types of tours, however, can be transported via either route, depending upon cost, itinerary and dozens of other factors. Contraband of various types — narcotics, cash, precious metals — can find their way into all of these silos at any time, and with potentially disastrous results: Federal drug laws provide severe seizure and forfeiture penalties for items and conveyances deemed to have been used in the interstate transportation of narcotics and cash derived form the sale and transportation of narcotics.
—Dan Daley, from "The Biz,” PLSN, Dec. 2011
For Paul Simon’s recent So Beautiful or So What tour, LD Rich Locklin and lighting director Steve Fallon use a large screen filled with media content as the main backdrop. With a minimum of lighting fixtures — 16 fixtures each on two rigs — Fallon uses images of moving light beams in the media content to fill out the rig. This adds to the beam effects without adding more gear. …Often, the content draws you in, sometimes taking on the effect of 3D, such as when a red background contrasts with the blue light on the band. Fallon also makes use of images of windows and doorways to shine extra light through, again adding dimension and depth.
—Debi Moen, from "Designer Watch,” PLSN, Dec. 2011
I have just finished programming another big rock show, and it got me to thinking about the common programming elements that are present in all concert tours. Even with different musical genres and unique production requirements, there are some essential processes that every automated lighting programmer should be aware of. The layout of the show, use of flash keys and palette usage are very important parts of the concert touring experience…Most lighting consoles have a function known as a “template” page. Any playbacks assigned to this page will be available on all pages within the show. By making use of this feature, you can easily create a common layout without having to rebuild it for every song. Common playbacks for color bumps, strobe cues, fogger controls and other effects can be assigned to the template page. They will then appear at the same location on every page. Don’t fret, though. If you need to, you can usually override the template page playbacks with unique playbacks on a page if needed. Consult with your console’s user manual for full details.
—Brad Schiller, from "Feeding the Machines,” PLSN, Dec. 2011
Visual media is a better communicator than sound, says Rick Cope, CEO of NanoLumens, an Atlanta area LED systems maker, because it’s not constrained by language. It’s not constrained by much else, either, thanks to new designs that NanoLumens and a handful of other companies are coming up with. The five-year-old privately-held corporation designs and assembles patented, ultra-lightweight, Flex — as in highly flexible — LED displays that can be configured and mounted in ways you used to think of as limited to a bed sheet, making, in the company’s words, any wall, column, ceiling or window into a video display. “What’s been holding digital signage back is the need to conform the message to the display, like with LCD panels, or to have to adjust the lighting of the space around the needs of projection systems,” Cope explains. He says that highly flexible displays will move the notion of lighting-as-message into new areas and into new applications, from retail to entertainment. “It’s going to move it into areas that aren’t just advertising driven,” he predicts, citing uses such as managing traffic flow in stores and at events. “You’re using it not to push the product but to create the environment,” he says.
—Dan Daley, from "The Biz,” PLSN, Nov. 2011
In the man-made city of Las Vegas, you can count on experiencing the real change of seasons in one place: The Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Under a high greenhouse dome connected to the Bellagio Resort is a live plant and prop display designed to depict the seasons…Because of the huge draw of Asian tourists to town, Chinese New Year is treated as its own event. Extra careful attention is paid to the arrangement of plants and props, Eckerman said. “The botanists follow the rules according to positive energy flow in Feng Shui principles,” he said. “A Feng Shui expert comes in and rakes the rocks according to plan, and the number of plants has to be just right — for example, they need to be in groupings of three (for good energy). Luckily they don’t hold me to that regarding number of lighting fixtures in an area.”
—Debi Moen, from "Designer Watch,” PLSN, Nov. 2011
Oprah likes to tell people that they need to set limits and boundaries with others so that relationships work within certain parameters. Much in the same manner, you can set limits on parameters within the patch functions of most consoles. By limiting a parameter, you can adjust its true maximum or minimum value. For instance, if you have four 500W fixtures and two 750W fixtures, you may want them to all appear the same onstage. You can limit the maximum intensity of the 750W fixtures to a level that is equal to the 500W fixtures’ full intensity. This way when you put the fixtures at full, the console will actually limit the output to 75 percent of the fixtures’ capability. In the console data it will still read as full, but the DMX data will be limited accordingly. This can also be useful with position information, as you can limit the pan or tilt range of a fixture. By doing so, you can ensure that a fixture never projects to a certain location onstage. Limits on other parameters such as media server folders, zoom settings or gobo wheels can prove handy in many situations.
—Brad Schiller, from “Feeding the Machines,” PLSN, Nov. 2011