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
Media servers adopting the Mac platform include the Catalyst, developed by Richard Bleasdale, and PRG’s Mbox EXtreme. Media servers that were developed on a PC operating system platform include High End Systems’ Axon, Green Hippo’s Hippotizer and Martin Professional’s Maxedia. For its MediaMaster, ArKaos opted for the cross-platform programming route…Macs are known to be very user-friendly, more secure and stable, but upgradeability is limited and the OS can not be used on any other hardware than a Mac. PCs, on the other hand, can be purpose-built, and they have more upgradeability via graphics cards, RAM and other hardware, thus making them great for gaming. However, certain OS versions can be unreliable and are more susceptible to viruses than Macs. “These days you will find successful products on both platforms, so while there are pros and cons either way, both are viable,” noted PRG engineering manager and chief software developer Charles Reese.
—Vickie Claiborne, from “Video Digerati,” PLSN, Oct. 2011
When I crossed over from the television broadcast domain to the live events market a few years back, there was a fairly steep learning curve. With LED walls, I figured that you simply connect a video signal to the LED wall. It turns out that an important video processing gadget is required between the input video signal and the LED wall — the LED digitizer. With minor variations, all digitizers perform the same basic functions - they translate video into pixels. On the input side, some digitizers accept only one video format (e.g., SDI), while others accept a variety of video formats, including our favorite flavors: analog RGB, SD-SDI, HD-SDI and DVI. If the digitizer only takes a single input, you’ll need a scaler to convert your format to the digitizer’s preferred input format. Once accomplished, you can take just about any video device display its image on an LED wall via the digitizer…On the output side, digitizers send data to an LED wall instead of video. Depending on the manufacturer, some digitizers connect to a single wall only, while others can drive multiple walls, with separate output banks that can drive both new generation and legacy LED tiles simultaneously.
—Paul Berliner, from “Video World,” PLSN, Oct. 2011
The most commonly used type of macro is often referred to as a “trigger” macro. Typically, this is a series of short commands that are added to a cue, sequence, page change, view, or other console operation. These pre-defined commands allow the programmer to initiate a command at the same instance as a different action. For instance, a trigger macro can start chase 22 when cue 4 of a cuelist is played. By adding a unique trigger macro “code” to cue 4, the console knows to automatically start chase 22 whenever cue 4 is played. Trigger-type macros are extremely powerful because they let programmers create complex triggering structures with very simple commands. Quite often, these are used within programming to automate tasks that would be difficult to accomplish manually. At other times, they are used to turn on or off various playbacks. In addition, trigger macros can be used for other console events such as page or view changes, thus changing the state of the console when certain cues are played. Trigger macros can often be triggered not only by playbacks, but by other events such as clock triggers, page changes or MIDI events.
—Brad Schiller, from “Feeding the Machines,” PLSN, Oct. 2011
It is important to show our work in the best way possible, and we don’t always have the luxury to have someone capture our work. But we can learn to improve our own photography skills…In terms of composition, when starting out, there is a tendency for many to always place the subject in the center of the frame. Professional photographers divide up the frame; this is often called using the “rule of thirds.” This is when a photo is divided into three equal parts, both horizontally and vertically, making nine equal parts. Instead of simply centering the object in the frame, try positioning it a little off-center — at the intersections of the lines marking the “thirds” — to add more visual interest.
—M. Brooke Poley, from “Focus on Fundamentals,” PLSN, Oct. 2011