Any opportunity to participate in a trade article is warmly welcomed!  In the article “The Light Fantastic” PTE was quoted multiple times in addition to providing two of the five featured photos! This is the original transcript of my take on the Q&A for “The Light Fantastic” in the November/December issue of Special Events Magazine.


 Special Events Magazine Lighting Design Trends Questions

1. Lighting is so much more than illuminating a space.  Can you elaborate on this? What else can lighting accomplish at an event?

Let’s first identify the 3 main types of event lighting: functional, atmospheric and dynamic.

Functional lighting, even the name sounds dull.  But is it critical to safety, and required for efficient movement of guests and staff.  Buffets, bars, walk-ways, entry/exit all must be lit sufficiently.

But functional lighting doesn’t have to look like the “house lights” are on.  Choosing the right amount of brightness and if possible, matching the color temperature (i.e. a warm white, a cool white or something in between) to the environment can produce a pleasant look that doesn’t detract from the overall appearance of the space.

Atmospheric lighting is an artistic addition to the event space.  The event space is the “canvas” on which to create the desired scene or mood.  The now common practice of “up-lighting” is perhaps the most recognizable form of atmospheric lighting.

Atmospheric lighting makes maximum use of color, accents, shadows, angles and highlights to create a vibrant, rich, visually pleasing environment.  Ranging from subtle to transformative, atmospheric lighting plays a critical role in creating the first wow that guests experience when entering a space. Using the same set pieces in the same room but lighting them differently can result in a completely different ambiance.  Great aesthetic lighting helps “sell” an event’s theme and is often the difference between “…nice” and WOW!

Dynamic lighting is the top-tier of event lighting.  Think concert stage.  Dynamic lighting is all about movement and impact.  Powerful beams, deep saturation, constant motion and evolution of the “look” of the space takes the WOW of great atmospheric lighting and keeps it fresh and new many times per minute.  The raw energy of great dynamic lighting elevates entertainment to its greatest potential and motivates party-goers to dance for hours!

2. What are some current lighting design trends/looks that you are seeing more of/implementing in your event lighting?

This is an exciting time for the event industry!

In the area of functional lighting I see continued growth of battery powered LED fixtures.  From standard “pipe and base” style implementations for area lighting to specialized lights for buffets, clients are exercising their right to not pay enormous venue fees for power while at the same time improving the appearance and safety of the space by not having cables attached to the fixtures.

For atmospheric lighting, modern LED fixtures provide lots of color and “punch” with very low AC requirements.  The better LED fixtures build on that foundation with beautiful color tones (vs the sometimes garish and primary color look of the less capable fixtures) and deep saturation.  It’s much more common now than 10 years ago to see premier event spaces awash with color and vibrancy.  The accomplished lighting designers also create “living scenes” where the colors and highlights change subtly over time allowing the space to “breathe” while keeping the look fresh from doors to wrap-up.

Dynamic lighting has seen the most evolution of the three categories.  New fixtures with intense output, deeply saturated colors, tight beams and incredibly fast movement have redefined what is possible for clients who demand the best.  Par style LED fixtures with high-speed zoom capabilities are able to create energy and motion in addition to their original “wash” abilities.  Sharpie style fixtures with skytracker-like beam saturation AND the ability to rotate 360 degrees in the blink of an eye, while sipping minimal AC power, make arena concert style lighting a realistic option for corporate clients.  High powered moving lights can project gobos hundreds of feet onto less than ideal surfaces for branding and photo-ops never before possible.  Bigger, better, bolder, faster, brighter and with lower AC requirements than ever before is the new norm for dynamic lighting.

3. On the flip side, is anything on its way out?

While the leko continues to be a staple lighting instrument (it is still the best tool for its job) with a secure future, it’s near and distant relatives such as the source four par, and the 1k par are dinosaurs and being used less and less.  The first and second generation of 10 mil LED fixtures with their low output and ugly looking colors have been relegated to “weekend warrior” providers and beginning DJs.  Non-battery powered low and medium output LED fixtures are obsolete.  Low output arc lamp moving yoke fixtures are nearly obsolete as well.

4. What about lighting products and accessories? From a design standpoint, what’s new on the market and how are you using these items/techniques?

Our most unique new product is the Wire-Free LED dual temperature, battery powered, wireless DMX controlled white par fixture.  Dual temperature means it features both 2700 (warm white) and 5000 Cool white) LED elements that can be mixed and matched as desired to set exactly the right tone for the environment.  A high color rendering index value means that skin tones look great and the scene doesn’t look “flat” as it would with previous generation LED products.

Because of battery power and no cables we can literally be in and show ready in minutes and the wireless control means that our operators can properly take show cues such as CEO walk-on and walk-off looks, etc.  We have used these for everything from mayoral keynotes to celebrity press events to high-end beach parties.  They are particularly enticing to clients that wish to light atmosphere entertainment.  Previously, access to venue power, even for a single traditional light could cost up to hundreds of dollars per circuit.  That cost to the client is now $0.  All of the client’s resources can be focused in areas that will positively impact the guest experience.  We call this progress!

5. What are some of the more unconventional techniques and/or products that you use in lighting your events? Why and how are they effective? Please be specific.

One technical element that is becoming a client favorite is our large scale gobo projection.  Using a 25,000 lumen moving yoke fixture mounted 25 feet in the air on a construction lift and a small generator for power, we are able to project a client’s gobo super-sized on buildings and other surfaces from hundreds of feet away.    An aerial or helicopter shot of the client’s event with their logo on the side of a building often becomes the official documentation picture of the event in addition to the obvious WOW.

On the other end of the scale, we are proud to be pioneers in the area of battery powered LED lighting.  We often deploy 120 – 140 light packages around large pool areas, beach events and other beautiful outdoor settings that have no power available. The safety concerns alone of running many thousands of feet of power cable to a beach or remote location can make such an event impractical or even impossible.  We open that door for clients to experience something different and magical.  Venues are able to add additional (typically high-end) event spaces to their catalog.

6. On the traditional end, what are the tried and true elements of event lighting that never go out of style?  What gives them staying power?

Fixtures: the leko.  Still the best tool for its job.  Hot running, power-sucking, requires additional hardware (dimmer rack) to achieve its best, weighs a ton… nothing else produces beautiful skin tones, perfect depth of field and “natural with a kick” white light like a leko.  Add gel or dichroic glass and millions of colors are possible.  With the ability to trim the output to a clean straight edge or a soft round dissolve it’s the weapon of choice for lighting …everything.

The other fixture that will never go out of style: candles.  It’s the original lighting instrument.  Admit it… you’ve probably tried everything, but no imitation quite captures the magic and simple charm of a real candle.  It’s been mesmerizing for thousands of years.  Long live the candle!

Effect: the gobo.  It’s the perfect one-trick effect.  Everyone likes their name in lights.