Design: Illuminating Options
Use lighting to ‘paint’ your venueby Ryan Hanson | Published in April 2010 Columns | lighting
Use lighting to ‘paint’ your venue
It is no secret: Lighting is an event designer’s best friend. You can use light to bring life to a space in the same way you can paint your venue with color. You can focus light to pin-spot the perfect detail. Light can create custom color and patterns, and higher-end fixtures bring movement and layers of textured patterns to a space.
Then there is LED technology. From tabletop units to wall washes, LED lighting can do almost anything. Each year it gets better, expanding its range from red-green-blue light combinations into cold and now warm colors of white and amber. A recent event I previewed used new LED fixtures in place of conventional ellipsoidal to light speakers on a stage, registering a color temperature equal to the output of a conventional fixture—meaning the light worked for video. With this ever-increasing, ever-better supply of LED technology, you can custom-color any event space and any event décor object and change that color over time, all at a fraction of the electrical draw of conventional fixtures. Better yet, the trends in LED technology are toward stand-alone battery-operated units—meaning all those cables are on the way out too! Now you can have light anywhere you want, outlet or no outlet for upwards of 24–36 hours.
(When using LEDs, be certain you work with an expert. With the proliferation of the technology, there is a lot you need to know to use LEDs correctly. It is not enough for your event designer or production company to say, “We have LED lights.” Even though they may all look alike, LEDs are not all the same. You have to ask about wattage of the LED bulb, degree of light and what colors are included in the fixture. Talking with a professional production company will help answer those questions.)
Lighting is often used to project images. The most common form of such projection is the use of a gobo. A gobo is a metal or glass insert made especially for a lighting fixture, usually an ellipsoidal/Source 4/Leko light or for an intelligent fixture. Each type of light has limits on the kind of gobo that can be made or used. Standard gobos come in many patterns and shapes to project break-up patterns or iconic graphics onto walls, tables, sets, etc. Custom gobos can be made of nearly any image—typically a logo—in metal, which means the image will be projected in whatever color the light is set, or in glass, which gives you the ability to colorize the image in up to four colors. The more colors required, the more expensive glass gobos are.
For those with bigger budgets, projectors can be used to create images. A video projector allows you to project moving visual graphics onto any surface. Your die-hard production provider who believes video is best seen on a screen is right—when you are projecting content in a learning environment. But in an event space, I say all rules are off. Projection screen material is available and can be crafted into any shape. Consider projecting graphics-based imagery onto the venue’s architectural details or onto tabletops and spandex shapes create great sub-screens for video imagery.
Intelligent fixtures have advanced to the point of being able to be used as “movable” projectors. Merging a media server (your video content) with a moving head intelligent light, the DL.3 Digital light lets you project your content anywhere and move it from place to place. Then there are the LED products including Versa Tubes, Versa Tiles, soft curtains and LED screens, which display content to verifying degrees of quality while mounted on truss, configured as walls or backdrops or can even be used as a floor.
For the more budget conscious, there are great solutions. Need to blast a color logo but can’t pay for the custom glass gobo? One of my favorite products is the Rosco IMAGEPro. This little unit—rentable in most markets, purchasable for around $250—operates much like a gobo holder and turns an ellipsoidal lighting instrument into a slide projector. For around $25, you can take any graphic image you wish to project, turn it into a slide (using a kit by yourself or sending it into the company to make for you), the equivalent of a one-time-use 5-hour multi-colored custom image. Tip: As these are temporary items, be sure to order a couple of slides so you have one to focus your light with and a backup for the show/event.
Want to go even simpler? Dust off that old 35mm slide projector in the storage room. These are forgotten jewels and yes, companies online will still produce 35mm slides for your event overnight. For several events, I have used a 35mm projector to shoot black-and-white imagery onto drape, creating backdrops, borders or window fillers. Better yet, using sheer drape lets you see the beams of light coming from the projector for a fun effect.