I was talking with Edward Marks, co-CEO of The Producers Group, a kind of collective-turned-corporation that pools its multiple event technology resources for large-scale projects such as The Crane Dance in Singapore — one of the world’s largest animatronics installations - along with events and installation projects at Hong Kong Disneyland and Six Flags Dubai. He outlined his procurement strategy, which he called the “bulls-eye approach.” It calls for sourcing products such as lighting, video, projection and other staging technologies starting from the center of the bulls-eye, which is always located directly over the project itself. Successive rings around the bulls-eye are breached when they have to go further afield for what they need. When the U.S. was the locus of this kind of large event, this economic Norden bomb sight was dialed in squarely over Orange County and Orlando. Its scope broadened to include Europe a few decades ago, but since then, the center of activity has moved east, as has the center of gravity for manufacturing. This, says Edwards, will be one of the trends for professionals in this business to keep an eye on.
—From “The Biz” by Dan Daley, PLSN, Nov. 2012
Automated lighting manufactures go out of their way to provide us with outstanding fixtures that are packed with hardware and software features. One example includes the ability of color mixing fixtures to automatically cycle through a rainbow of colors. This can provide a quick, easy color chase that is defined by the fixtures themselves and not your lighting console. Another example: the color-based and pixel-based effects added into LED wash lights. Many allow you to select a particular effect and then use another channel (or channels) to modify the effect — perhaps different segments of light, or pixel shapes. Some of these effects will use your base color mixes to apply various type of chases within zones of the light. For instance, if you create three different colors on a unit, you can then have it chase between these colors, or swipe from the center out using each of your colors. It would be a shame to never use some of the tools that their engineers work hard to provide to end-users. Take it upon yourself to read the user manual and DMX protocol for every fixture you are using on your next production. See if there are unknown features for working with color (or other attributes) that you are not aware of. I bet you will find something new.
—From “Feeding the Machines” by Brad Schiller, PLSN, Nov. 2012
Last month, I questioned a vendor on why he still wants to charge me $250 per week for the Vari*Lite VL3000 spot on tour. These fixtures have been workhorses over the years for this company and have been paid off several times over. His reply was simple. “The $250 I charge is not paying for this sexy fixture. That money is applied to all the other facets of this organization to keep it running. It’s paying off those certain lights we bought for designers two years ago that nobody else wants now. It’s paying for all the non-sexy stuff I have to buy to keep you happy.” …Along with different types of gear, there are a lot of expensive, non-sexy items that it takes to put a show together. It takes a crack team of guys in the lighting warehouses to keep gear working. Certain rental houses are notorious for providing multi cables with bad circuits. Or having constant troubles with bad motor cables. Any new guy can be taught to tape cable hods together, but will they care enough to test every XLR cable, twist lock 208 and multi cable going out on a show? Good guys need to be paid accordingly.
—From “LD at Large,” by Nook Schoenfeld, PLSN, Nov. 2012
You might think that LED sources would be more consistent, but the truth is that it is very difficult (and expensive) to get perfectly-matching LED light sources. To keep the pricing affordable, when a lighting fixture manufacturer purchases LEDs, they do not just order 10,000 red LEDs with a particular wavelength. Instead, they order 10,000 red LEDs from a certain “bin. Color calibration systems are designed to ensure that all products coming off the production line will mix to the same set of colors, regardless of the LEDs installed and the binning selection. The downside is that some of the most saturated colors that a given LED fixture might be able to achieve will never be revealed when color calibration is turned on. Because the algorithms are restricting output for the sake of uniformity, they might also be blocking a range of unique wavelengths that might yield a deeper color. This is why it is essential that lighting programmers are aware of fixtures that have calibration features — and that they understand how to turn color calibration on or off.
—From “Feeding the Machines” by Brad Schiller, PLSN, Oct. 2012
Anyone in the business for a number of years knows Phay MacMahon. After all, he’s “Phaymous” — his nickname for the past 32 years or so. As the authority in charge of hiring crew, MacMahon is hard on everyone when it comes to safety. He gives each crew member a detailed job description, outlining every single duty that’s expected of them. And with the recent spate of accidents hitting the headlines, MacMahon has also devised extra safety procedures in the form of accountability. Once production is set up, and before each and every showtime, each crew chief signs a document swearing that they have all inspected their areas. “Each crew chief has to sign off to show that elements of safety have been adopted and enforced,” he says. Although the production manager holds the ultimate responsibility, he says, everyone in the production family has to work together to make the team strong.
—From “Designer Watch” by Debi Moen, PLSN, Oct. 2012
What do you do with 20-year-old fixtures now? Can you even get 10 cents on the dollar, or should you just throw them in a dumpster? Personally, I wish all the gear that’s been paid off three times over went in that bin, because I don’t ever want to see them again…Then there’s the other side of the coin. Marcel Fairbairn’s company, GearSource, out of Florida, specializes in selling quality used gear. Marcel can be a godsend to the companies who have limited budgets. He checks out the gear before it’s on his website. He may even guarantee it, I don’t know. If you need those three-year-old LED fixtures that you know will still get you a lot of miles, you love this time of year. You can make an offer.
—From “New vs. Old Gear,” LD-at-Large, PLSN, Oct. 2012
The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, which opened in 1910, was updated with the opening of a new visitor center earlier this year for the 725,000 people who tour the 52 acres of artfully-arranged horticultural beauty every year. Designed by Weiss/Manfredi with a 10,000-square-foot “living roof” covered with grass and plants, the center also includes large glass windows that let natural daylight stream in. To deal with the constantly-changing levels of ambient light, the pavilion and exhibition areas, which were designed by Thinc Design and Hadley Exhibits with support from Electrosonic, feature Samsung’s DX series of monitors, which are equipped with sensors that automatically adjust to different light levels, according to Bryan Abelowitz, Electrosonic account manager.
—From “Projection Connection,” PLSN, Sept. 2012
Global Creatures, the masterminds behind one of the highest-grossing tours of 2010, Walking with Dinosaurs, are once again amazing audiences and pushing the entertainment technology envelope. Having teamed up with DreamWorks Animation, they are now sending dragons soaring through arena skies and immersing audiences in the mythical Viking world of DreamWorks’ How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular... There are two rigging systems on Dragons. For the animatronic dragons themselves, there’s the first-ever touring flight track system, which weighs over 28 tons. The other rig is a static conventional truss system with stage right and stage left truss that extends the entire length of the show floor, with a cross run of truss at mid-arena that runs between them. “The rigging required a lot of focus at the start,” says production manager David Wright. “PRG’s first task was the rigging and they delivered a system that has really worked for all the departments; it is the building block for the whole show. They then integrated all the lights, sound, video, and special effects packages.”
—From “Production Profile” by Michael S. Eddy, PLSN, Sept. 2012
“There’s something enchanting about the forest, and that’s part of why we picked this site,” says Andy Carroll of Synergy Event Production Inc., who handled lighting and video duties for the main stage and Sherwood Forest areas of the four-day Electric Forest Festival, staged at the Double JJ Ranch & Golf Resort in Rothbury, MI. “The forest is one of the headliners of the event,” agreed event producer Jeremy Stein, who calls the LED-uplit and laser-animated surroundings “zones of experience,” not just stage areas. “There’s a sense of mystery, where lighting unveils different parts of the forest at different times to you. Remember, the forest is 14 acres. There’s a lot to explore in there.”
—From “Production Profile” by Will Romano, PLSN, Sept. 2012
As more and more movies are being created in 3D, and 3D is beginning to make its way into the home theatre market as well, I thought I would take the pulse of where media servers geared for live entertainment stand in this area of digital content… Media Servers with 3D stereoscopy playback capability include Watchout from Dataton (dataton.com/watchout) and Pandoras Box by coolux (coolux.de). Both have full DMX control capability and stand-alone interfaces... Playing a 3D stereoscopic movie within Watchout requires that two video files specially created using a stereoscopic camera (or even two cameras) are played back simultaneously while overlapping to create the 3D image. Pandoras Box from coolux also allows S3D content to be played using both outputs from the media server. Like Watchout, the appropriately rendered content as well as polarized filters on the projection devices and glasses are required for viewing.
—From “Video Digerati” by Vickie Claiborne, PLSN, Sept. 2012