Tech Tool Revolution
Whether your budget is limited or limitless, take advantage of these new technical event production elements to create highly engaging experiencesby Diana Rowe | Published in October 2009 Features | audio-visual | LED | lighting | production | wireless
Whether your budget is limited or limitless, take advantage of these new technical event production elements to create highly engaging experiences
“Lights, camera, action!” isn’t just the call to action for Hollywood anymore. Today that mantra is fast becoming achievable for event producers due to the incredible advances in technical event production elements. Audiences now require more interactive entertainment, rather than sit-back-and-listen stage acts. That ups the ante for producers to achieve the most exciting production using the latest and greatest tools in lighting, A/V and multimedia.
“The latest advancements can be really showcased on big productions with big budgets,” says Suzanne Baugh, CEO of Q&A Events, based in the Atlanta area. “However, even when budgets are limited and quality is absolutely important, technology opportunities still exist for producers to pull off a spectacular event for their client.”
ES interviewed top event producers for their take on the latest in lighting, A/V and multimedia tools and technologies that are making a difference in events across the world.
Visualize your Event in 3-D
“Visual” event producers appreciate the ability to see the layout of a room and visually apply the design and theme to the décor and stage production prior to finalizing the production commitment.
“One incredibly talented set and lighting designer is Mike Swinford,” says Baugh. “Swinford creates the vision with 3D Studio Max, which gives me an accurate depiction of how a set will look at different times of the day, or with different light fixtures and set components. It’s much easier — and more cost-effective — to make augmentations to sets on a computer screen than after it has been fabricated.”
Bob Moisan, vice president of sales and marketing for Intelligent Lighting Creations, based in the Chicago area, uses the ESP visualizer, a pre-visualization rendering software that allows you to import, draw a room and mimic all attributes of the room, from carpet to wallpaper.
Although Moisan agrees with Baugh — it’s a great tool for the event producer — he also uses it as a selling tool. “It’s like a virtual reality show,” says Moisan. “I can create the setting exactly like the client asks, and then I can drop added components and features that will make it look that much better, such as adding the additional expense of four moving lights. The client can see the benefits on the screen, and I don’t have to launch into reasons why it’s worth the additional costs.”
Moisan adds, the “ESP visualizer also saves the client money and the event producer time. We visually lay out the set and save time on-site. Also, when the venue is a union facility, the client doesn’t have to pay eight hours of programming on-site. All we do is hand them a disk to load up, and the client saves thousands of dollars in union labor.”
Welcome to the LED Revolution
LED is an abbreviation for “light-emitting diode,” little lights that shine brighter, live longer and change color quicker than other types of illumination. LEDs also happen to be smaller and more energy-efficient.
“Lighting has seen the LED revolution,” says Todd St. Onge, show designer with North Charleston, S.C.-based Production Design Associations. “Now almost every manufacturer is making a move to LED fixtures. Just this year, manufacturers developed a way to adjust the beam angle from narrow to wide. This will give event producers another batch of options in abilities of throw distance and lumens output.”
Aaron Hubbard, lighting operations manager with Milwaukee, Wis.-based Clearwing Productions Inc., says, “One of the most exciting innovations comes from combining the limitless creativity of video content with two core basics of every production: theatrics of stage lighting and creativity of scenic elements.”
With the recent introduction of the FLX series from display and visualization solutions provider Barco, for example, Hubbard says that designers have been given the creative freedom to apply any combination of individual LED video pixels to build any shape imaginable, breaking free from traditional rectangular video display.
“When ‘clean’ and dramatic looks are important to achieve, but space constraints prevail, such as walls and multi-level buildings, a wireless DMX system can help you overcome some of the lighting programming challenges that difficult settings create,” says Baugh, paraphrasing comments from production partner Gary Teal of Live Event Solutions, also based in the Atlanta area.
Wireless is an ever-changing and continually beneficial tool for event producers, according to Baugh. In addition to the DMX systems, producers can run sound wirelessly — necessary when a large production setup in the front of house is either not feasible due to the size of the room or not desired because of the atmosphere the client wants to achieve.
Wireless systems give the event producer the flexibility of creating a front-of-house area in the back of the house, says Baugh. Out of sight and out of the way of attendees, wireless DMX systems are also becoming more affordable.
Photo Courtesy: LD Systems
Case Study: Projection, sans Screen
With the advancements in LED media technology, 3-D mapping technology is projection technology, says Scott Justis, a project manager with LD Systems, a Houston-based lighting, sound and video company.
“Projection can now be out-of-the-box: no longer relegated to square box and screen. Event producers can take advantage of existing facades, without requiring pipe and drape, and projection can have depth.”
For example, Uptown Park in Houston was the scene of the annual Page Parkes Modeling “Faces of Summer” model search in 2009. The unique challenge, according to Justis, was to provide a large visual to support the event in an outdoor setting, which took place at the boutique Lenny e Cia. “The awnings over Lenny e Cia became the projection surface for the event, a natural and spectacular backdrop for the runway.”
Photo Courtesy: Disney Event Group
Case Study: Combining Technologies
“Sometimes the secret to pulling off a spectacular event is combining technologies,” says Dennis Wirzman, managing director of the Disney Event Group. “There’s so much available to event producers that the challenge becomes finding the tools that belong together and then creating a sensory overload.”
Disney Event Group recently engineered a highly successful, “futuristic” event for a client at the World Showcase at Epcot Center, a big black box of space hosting 2,500 attendees for that occasion.
“We pulled from the world of technology, coordinating several tools: fiber-optic drape, surround sound, lasers and mechanized illuminated balloon planets,” explains Wirzman. “The CEO announced the theme: blasting off into the future. That’s what we orchestrated: fire and flames, rumbling noise of a space ship taking off, and the planets illuminated and lowered 2 feet above everyone’s heads. It created the illusion of the world traveling towards them. It was a definite wow moment.”