For Cowboys & Aliens, director Jon Favreau prefers to create effects live on the set, known in the industry as “in camera,” rather than to rely solely on computer-generated visuals. Favreau and cinematographer Matthew Libatique were able to use a trolley system equipped with Clay Paky Alpha Beam 1500s, PRG Bad Boy fixtures and a 26W laser from Lightwave International to simulate UFOs for the scene where the aliens attack the Western town, circa 1873. The DMX-controlled fixtures proved well-suited to the need for repeatable effects, and the addition of the lasers to the rig gave Libatique the otherworldly element that completed the alien spaceship effect. As gaffer Mike Bauman notes, “everyone loved the look of the lasers. They really made the rig look like a spacecraft.”
—Michael S. Eddy, from “Close Encounters with Automated Lighting,” PLSN, Aug. 2011.
The presence of Asian exhibitors in general, and Chinese companies in particular, was larger at InfoComm this year - not surprisingly, considering that the InfoComm China show in Beijing two months earlier was the organization’s biggest event there yet, with 10,758 visitors, an increase of 16 percent over the last show there in 2009…A decade ago, the lighting industry was using China and other Asian countries as their manufacturing resource…but that paradigm may be shifting. Troels Volver, formerly with Martin and more recently the export manager for Italy-based lighting manufacturer SGM, pointed out that his Chinese labor costs have increased 23 percent in the last year, which is fueling a surge in China’s nascent middle class and which will, ultimately, transform the country from an oasis of cheap manufacturing to an end consumer…but overseas lighting brands that have capitalized manufacturing ventures in China, in Volver’s view, may get “burned,” unless they “develop a domestic market for those same products in China or find new, more cost-effective manufacturing locations in the world, or both.”
—Dan Daley, from “The Biz,” PLSN, Aug. 2011
Even with all the new technological advances at your fingertips, the latest apps and gadgets are not going to conceptualize the program. Whether it’s a clip for the web or a roll-in on a giant LED wall, one still has to go back to basics, roll up your sleeves and carefully plan. For my two cents, it all starts with the storyboard, a solid planning technique that goes back to the era of silent films…The backbone of the storyboard is a keen understanding of the overall production process. Essentially, this is the best way for the video producer to “pre-viz” the entire workflow, starting with the concept and moving on to the script and pre-production stage, then on to the production stage, post-production stage, marketing phase and, finally, the duplication and distribution phase…Pre-viz for video? It’s six stages of hard work. (For the full story, download the PDF at http://plsn.com/vw/082011.)
Paul Berliner, from “Video World,” PLSN, August 2011
One of the biggest problems when visualizing is making the transition from the virtual stage to the real rig. Many things may or may not appear as they did on the screen. One of the most common mistakes is related to the fixture orientation. It is essential that you understand which way you have your fixtures placed within your visualizer. If the visualizer thinks that you have all the displays of the units facing downstage and your real rig has them upstage, then all your positions will be way off. Usually when you arrive on site after visualizing, your time is cut extremely short (after all, you did all that visualization beforehand). If you fire up the rig and see all your positions and cues pointing at the upstage wall, you have to quickly update all the positions. In many cases, this can lead to confusion, as you may not remember exactly how the various positions looked and you never expected them to be this far off. This is why I always take a screen shot of every position palette before I finish my visualization programming. Then, when I turn on the real rig, I have actual images on my computer to refer back to when updating my position palettes.
Brad Schiller, from “Feeding the Machines,” PLSN, Aug. 2011
Don Holder, LD for the Broadway play, The Motherf**ker with the Hat, says he has learned that whenever he deals with moving parts and scenery in transition, the most effective approach is to utilize sources that move with the turntable, or whatever is in motion. “In every transition, there’s a lot of light mounted on scenery that activates the space while it’s in motion, and that was a conscious choice…There’s lighting built into the scenery all over the place to make these spaces full and give them personality and help with the transitions.”
From “Inside Theatre” by Bryan Reesman, PLSN, July 2011
Erich Friend, owner of the Texas-based Teqniqal Systems, a Fort Worth, TX-based consulting firm specializing in performing arts technology and safety, makes a case for the effective use of safety signage to help overcome barriers from languages and dialects. “The international show production environment is a very dangerous place, so there is little room for error,” he notes. “Everyone should be familiar with the ISO standard pictograms for health and safety items. Any misinterpretations with regard to hazard warning and communications can result in serious injuries and even death.” Friend also directs people to ANSI Z535, a standard published by NEMA (the National Electrical Manufacturers Association), which includes the uniformity of safety color coding; environmental and facility safety signs, and communicating safety symbols. ANSI further enables the design, application, use and placement of product safety signs, labels, safety tags and barricade tape.
—Linda Hamburger, from “Focus on Fundamentals,” PLSN, July 2011
I truly believe that the success of most gigs is not about the actual quality of all the gear you are using, but the quality of the tech who is servicing the gear. In one gig, I have old, unheard-of gear, but a tech who would go the extra yard to give me the best show ever. And I will never forget his name or the beers we shared after the gig. The other guy had one of the best working system of lights I had ever seen in a club. But because of his dismal attitude and lack of knowledge about his own gear, I had forgotten his name before the show was even over.
—Nook Schoenfeld, from “LD-at-Large,” PLSN, July 2011
Just as you would park your car to leave it in a location for a while, you might park the parameters of a light to leave them at a specific value. The park function of a lighting console is used to lock the parameter(s) for an undetermined amount of time. Once parked, the parameter(s) cannot be altered by any programming, playback, faders, or other console functions. You must unpark the values before they will be allowed to change again…The park command on automated lighting consoles serves an extremely useful function. By locking parameters to specific values, a programmer has the power to create very high priority settings. It is important to understand the process of parking as well as the possible problems that could develop. With a little practice, you should be parking like a pro in no time.
—Brad Schiller, from “Feeding the Machines,” PLSN, July 2011
I just got back from taking a cruise. I didn’t go for a relaxing vacation, mind you, I went to work. There’s a new trend now where bands are chartering these ships and creating a musical ride for a few days. This particular ride consisted of 2,500 diehard fans who boarded the vessel for four days of alcohol infused, music blaring, full-on debauchery. That is for the people who paid. For those of us who get paid to control the theatrical lighting on one of these floating tubs, it’s quite an exercise in futility. I believe the majority of these ships start out with some pretty sweet light rigs. Somewhere along the way they seem to go to hell in a bucket. The upkeep of these once-divine lighting systems is pretty non-existent. The bottom line seems to be that once the ships are out to sea and a show is programmed, nobody wants to dump a dime into maintaining fixtures…Out of 86 yoke lights, I have an even 60 that have light coming out of them. Mostly dim brown light. The VL3500 bulbs emit a beam the equivalent of a Maglite with a color changer on them. Out of 20 Cybers, I have 11 that even turn on but have broken color flags…After swapping six bulbs that were bad, I fire up these fixtures. There’s a reason these lights had bad bulbs. Each one had either a gobo or a color wheel stuck in it. Apparently they sometimes run short of bulbs, so they simply stole them from broken lights and put them in working fixtures that needed a lamp.
—Nook Schoenfeld, from “Floundering on a Sea Cruise,” PLSN, June 2011
There’s no question that 3D projection is solidly entrenched in the digital cinema world. In our own staging realm, for both live and corporate events, the use of 3D is making inroads, albeit slowly. The caveat is that clients need to be budget aware, technology aware and content aware — beyond their current levels with 2D productions. In addition, clients need to ensure that they research the right “3D savvy” staging companies…”When you work with projected stereoscopic 3D, active glasses can cost $150 a pair or more, and most clients don’t have the ability to pay that kind of money to outfit an audience. So, from my experience, the majority of 3D shows opt to use passive technology, and this is the better solution for the live events industry — especially when dealing with large audiences,” says Les Goldberg, CEO of LMG, Inc. As a staging company tasked with taking someone else’s vision and putting it on screen, Goldberg also sees a slow, steady upturn in the use of 3D. John Wiseman, CEO of Chaos Visual Productions, also sees 3D ramping up slowly and carefully. And he envisions an extension of this technology. “I think the next big thing is going to be virtual 3D sets on stage. Imagine set pieces that aren’t really there, but ones that an artist can interact with, and walk through. And it will all be live, rather than blue-screen.”
—Paul Berliner, from “Video World,” PLSN, June 2011