The 4 Cornerstones Rock Star Event Planners Use To Create Compelling Live Events

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There is an air of breathless anticipation among the hundreds of people hugging the stage. The lights suddenly drop and a murmur begins to rise as smoke fills the stage. Everybody has been waiting for this moment. A familiar baseline begins to play and the venue becomes bathed in light as a handsome singer in a cowboy hat trots out from stage right.

Luke Bryan makes his way to center stage and the energy in the venue rackets up to unseen levels. Luke has been filling up professional sports venues around the country for months with his Kill The Lights tour.

Events like this require careful planning and strategy to be successful. Event planners who work with the biggest entertainment and corporate companies know that even the smallest hitch in design or production can be the difference between a great performance and unmitigated disaster. The most important parts of a live event (besides the talent) all come down to quality preparation when incorporating audio, video, and lighting.

When creating the strategy behind one of these performances, it is important to take several factors into account. There are 4 key components of a successful AV deployment: budget, vision, design, and execution.

Budget

What can you spend? Will you have the equipment you need?

It is extremely important to find a one-stop supplier that you can trust, who is willing to go the extra mile and help you create a fantastic event. A good partner will have a complete understanding of the industry and help you determine if you have the funds to put on a performance fans will love.

Vision

Does the venue have technical drawings of the space to aid in this process? How big is the venue?

Questions like this can help you determine if you really know the venue from the inside out. This knowledge will help you envision the final product and make any necessary adjustments.

Design

Is there a musical act? Is this just a talking head event?

Every act is different, and the design must correspond. It would be a mistake to set up an event for Michael Bloomberg with the same structure as an AC/DC concert. Top AV suppliers will know how to pair the correct technology to give your event the perfect ambiance.

Execution

Have you ever done an event with professional live production? Do you have a production design?

They say ideas are a dime a dozen, but execution is priceless. There is no area where this may be truer than in high-stakes event planning. A quality production company can help create pre-production diagrams and then work with you during every step of the show.

Whether you want to put on the world’s biggest engineering conference or put on a Rock n’ Roll show for the ages, Elite Multimedia is the partner you can trust. We have over 85 years of combined experience and help some of the largest acts in the world put on successful shows.

If you are interested in learning more about the sort of work we do, please feel free to visit our portfolio here.

Back Lounge Confessionals – Approaching video as a lighting designer

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Video is lighting.

That’s right, we’re going to dive right in. Start the article in medias res1 because that’s how we do things in the production industry. No long-winded exposition on the history of media servers, how LED technology has changed the face of lighting and video both, no comments about the Icon-M (Remember those?). We’re gonna jump right in and talk about how to think about and design with video elements when one comes from a mostly lighting background.

Designing with video

One of my very first jobs was full-time technical director at a big church in a flyover state. We had several projected screens in the auditorium, which we fed IMAG and content from a media server. This was fine, and is probably the “easiest” and most obvious use of a video surface. (Throughout this article, I’ll refer to a “surface” as the part of any object that displays the actual pixels of a video you can send it, whether that’s beamed from a projector or the pixels are contained in the source itself, like an LED wall.) Simply sending some video to a surface is a very easy way to quickly add movement to a stage, and as anyone who’s ever worked in a church, or any other corporate environment that tends to attract the intransigent can tell you, once a way of “doing things” gets established, there can be a lot of institutional momentum that discourages innovation or creativity. We never used our screens for anything other than IMAG and stock media clips; it was just the Way Things Were Done, and we missed out on a lot of opportunities to use our video system creatively. When I left the church and started touring, it was difficult not to fall into the same way of thinking about other video screens I encountered. 4:3 or 16:9, displaying video loops or IMAG and that’s it. I made the mistake of seeing video as essentially a TV that we could send clips to. Disappointingly, this is a trap I see many acts fall in to – their screens are just that: screens, and there is missed potential to use video in other creative ways. Thankfully, there are indications that this attitude is slowly turning for the better.

Just like moving lights, PARs, ellipsoidals, and every other instrument that we as lighting designers use, video elements can project light, display texture, light scenes or act as an accent or the focus of a scene. Lights can do these things, video can do these things. The line between what constitutes video and what constitutes lighting not as immutable as the two separate departments in most lighting shops would suggest. The difference is in resolution and some formatting, nothing else. I therefore submit that video is lighting, and to make our designs better, more integrative and fluid, we should start thinking of video as lighting. Not just as screens versus pixel-mapped devices versus traditional arc-or LED spot or wash fixtures, but as a (somewhat) linear continuum that includes high-resolution LED walls and projection at one end, continues to low-res video, then to pixel-mapped products like the Chauvet Epix, to LED PARs, then continues to moving head video products like the Ayrton line and ends at traditional stage lighting.

The elements of set design: a crusade against rectangles

The first consideration when designing with video elements is the physical placement and form factor within the stage space, and avoiding the trap of visual clichés and lazy design. This is a very roundabout way of saying: please, please think carefully before using a straight rectangle in your design. There are a multitude of historical and technical reasons why formatting every video signal in existence as a rectangle makes sense and is done, but this doesn’t mean that the output must always follow that same form factor. I’m going to adopt what a perhaps controversial opinion, and assert that unthinkingly throwing up a 4:3 or 16:9 rectangular screen will never look good. It will look adequate. It will look like a movie theater. As I’ve stated elsewhere, we as lighting designers are purveyors of just one thing: looks. And when a look has been used too often or reflects something that the audience can regularly see in their everyday life, it becomes boring. Movie theaters are a visual medium we’re all familiar with. Most people have a television in their homes. A simple rectangle displaying a simple video file or IMAG presents no novelty, and novelty is what makes a look interesting. To boil it down to something you could fit on a fortune cookie, people get bored with seeing the same things over and over. Give them something different. A rectangular video wall has been overdone almost to the point of parody – certainly we’re to an era where it’s no longer a show of technical achievement to have even the largest rectangular or square walls. It’s almost a requirement these days for there to be a rectangular side screen at concerts for IMAG. We don’t need more squares dominating the stage. Do something with your video besides just a straight square: make it wider, make it taller, break it up into pieces, make the corners round, something other than a TV-looking thing sitting upstage because management wanted to be able to “show the music videos”. Nothing could be more boring than a rectangle, unless you’re designing for a corporate presentation for insurance actuaries. (Disclaimer: I don’t actually know what an insurance actuary does, and I’m sure they’re a fine group of people who contribute to society.) You can have a rectangular virtual surface “within” a larger irregular shape, but just having a regular 4:3 or 16:9 wall as the sole video display surface is almost always boring.

This is not to say that all rectangles are always bad. In fact, they can look very good. The right content can turn a humdrum screen into something that actually pulls a set together. The key word to take away from my assertion is “unthinkingly”. For a straight rectangle – or, really, any other shape you could conceive of – to look good, there must be thought put into the placement, design, content, and of course shape. The takeaway here is not that rectangles are bad, but thinking that a rectangle will somehow magically look amazing just thrown upstage center to “have some video” is folly. Maybe that would have amazed someone in the 70s, but a huge percentage of our intended audience walks around with a tiny video rectangle in their pocket, literally every day. When they come to a show, we should present them with something different.

Other surfaces and shapes are where one can really start the blur the lines between lighting and video. Products light the Ayrton Magic Panel (Most of the products in the Ayrton range, actually, as well as things like the B-Eye from Clay Paky) contain matrices of LED sources that can work to either wash a surface or an actor, but also have included in them pixel-mapping abilities that a designer can use to send actual video signals to the product. Many of these products have very narrow culminating lenses on them, further enhancing their pixel-like look and allowing for some truly creative visuals to be produced. Designing with these sorts of products requires deep attention to detail, and – in my opinion – a well-developed budget. Having one or two of these devices around the stage will simply not realize their full potential; they look the best when they’re in a matrix or group of some sort.

Content is King

Once you decide on a physical layout for the lighting and video elements, the next most important question is what they will be showing. A blog post about video design could (and has) filled volumes of books, and is outside the scope of this article. Instead, I want to hit on some of the basics that we should understand and have in mind when we think about lighting, the relevant issues being color temperature, brightness, pixel mapping, color, and texture.

The content that gets played back on whatever video surfaces are part of the set design can make or break that video element’s contribution to the overall show. We all know that one can get a bunch of stock content from the internet, or get it in large batches from any of the many content houses around the world, but again, the key here is not to just go “This song is red, and kinda fast, so I’ll find a fast red clip and play it back here.” I see this mistake most often on productions that are just starting out with a media server and excited about the possibilities that having tech like that affords them. Having video affords a lot of power from a visual standpoint, but requires thought to get the most out of the potential it represents. To return again to the similarities between lighting and video, remember that video surfaces can display both color and texture; it’s not necessary that they do both at the same time. Think about the interplay between what the lights are doing and what your video surfaces are displaying. Do they complement each other? Or are they fighting for the same “visual space”? This might be desirable at times, other times it can be distracting. Have a clear vision for what a design needs to accomplish with its visual elements, both lighting and video, and don’t make the mistake of just throwing whatever the media server has in it to see what sticks. This is the wrongheaded thinking behind every instance of “visual vomit” you’ve seen.

Related to the above point is color temperature, though it’s not necessary to belabor this point: be aware of color temperature. Most (all?) LED video products use straight RGB LEDs, which tend to have a different color temperature in white than other sources on stage, so be aware of the white points of your various sources.

The final point that I wish to make is about brightness.

For a while there, it appeared as though video would completely overtake lighting on stages. A far cry from the days of three projectors that had to be manually aligned each day on the road, the technology and sophistication to create truly bright – bright enough to be seen in full-on daylight – video screens is now upon us with the force (and power) of a solar prominence. We suddenly have video walls –really, really big walls, with a photonic output quite capable of figuratively crushing any other element on stage save for the brightest and narrowest of moving light beams.

There are many examples of video walls taken to an extreme. Giant squares conveying an almost Soviet-esque oppressiveness on the stage. Too big, too bright, and being run as little more than giant overpowered television monitors. We’ve all seen them.

And this is a shame because, when balanced and working in harmony, video and lighting together can – if one will allow the author the indulgence of overstatement – sublime. As an example, I offer up the design for the Nine Inch Nails Hesitation Marks tour. Here, video and lighting worked so perfectly together that the lines between what was video and what was lighting were beautifully and masterfully blurred, a testament to the prodigious skill of designers LeRoy Bennett and Rob Sheridan.

Just about every creative element can have a place in the right part of a production, even the oversized video wall. There’s something to be said about spectacle as art, and having a massive video screen is no exception. But the key factor that is required is balance. Today’s LED-based video walls are capable of truly stunning amounts of light output. The brightest are practically impossible to look at in open white at full output in a dark venue like an arena. This is neither pleasant to look at or artistic in any reasonable definition of the word. Artistry requires balance, requires a skillful blending of two modalities of visual conveyance so that sometimes one is emphasized, sometimes the other, sometimes both, but one or the other never fighting for dominance. To use an analogy from the world of sound, think of video and lighting as two different channels of a song track. Mixing is the process of not only adjusting the various channels that make up the song so that the listener can hear everything, but emphasizing some instruments in some areas and de-emphasizing them in others. Throughout it all, however, the listener can still pick out the individual components of the whole (if the track is mixed well) and never has to strain to hear one thing over another. In the same way, the brightness of the various elements is of paramount importance when mixing disparate products on a stage. They must be harmonious, or one will stick out like a sore thumb while the other is invisible.

Thankfully, while we as lighting designers often have less control over the brightness of our lights than we would like, we almost universally have more light coming out of video elements than we know what to do with. And in their wisdom, manufacturers almost always provide a way to reduce the overall brightness of a video screen uniformly without changing any other aspect of the signal. My personal preference is for the video – in the sense of real “video”, that is, displaying content that contains recognizable stuff  like humans and music videos – to be dynamically controlled throughout the show. Don’t just set it on eighty percent and forget it. There are times when the video is supposed to add to the set without being a distraction. Other times it should blend completely into the background, being just some subtle movement. Still other times, it should pop on and really draw the audience’s eyes to it.

Although it’s easy to focus on the most obvious use of video we see in the world of touring musical acts today – modular LED video screens – projection can also a big part of the scene when it comes to video design of a set. Some of the coolest designs I’ve seen in recent years – I’m thinking specifically of Bon Jovi’s “Because We Can” tour and their projection-mapped Tait-built hexagonal towers of awesome. Video need not be relegated to the world of LED-only fixtures. A proper write-up on projection design, however, could (will?) be its own multi-page post.

Overall, the approach to video that I take is to view it as another facet of lighting. LED surfaces project light, and lighting devices can be pixel-mapped to display video. What we’re talking about when we discuss video and lighting as two separate entities is really just a difference of form factors. A successful combining of the two sources will take into account not just color and content, but a thorough understanding of what one is trying to accomplish.

 

Blog By Craig Rutherford – Blue Shift Design – weet us @elitemultimedia and @blueshiftontour and tell us what’s in your daily workbox.

How To Guide to Lighting Design and Fixture Selection

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Lighting design is a complex art form. It encompasses a unique combination of art and technology. The lighting designer creates imaginative atmospheres that express the feeling and meaning of the moment. These atmospheres originate in the lighting designer’s imagination and art. In order to create this art, the lighting designer must also know the technology, as well as what tools are available.

For most people, it takes seven years of university study to be properly trained for entrance into the lighting design profession. But that does not mean that it is impossible for you to create effective lighting atmospheres by choosing appropriate fixtures. Understanding the basic approach to lighting design and choosing fixtures basically comes down to indentifying your church’s needs, and applying the right tools to meet them.

Creating the Design

The first step in creating your lighting design is to identify what needs your particular worship space requires. Whether for worship, theatre, opera, dance, or video broadcast, I always consider this as the beginning of the creative process.

The functions of lighting are clear to most professional worship designers and consultants. The lighting must create visibility and focus, reveal the space, create modeling, support the composition of the worship service, and finally, support the message.

Creating visibility is the most obvious function of the lighting. Although one may think of visibility only as adding light to reveal a subject or object, it is crucial to understand that lighting designers create shadows as well. The lighting designer reveals what the audience sees and what they don’t see through shaping the space and directing focus for the audience. By revealing the space, the lighting designer generates interest and assists in the emotional engagement of the congregation.

When creating visibility and focus, it is also important to assess whether or not image magnification (IMAG) is being used. If so, lighting the space becomes even more challenging. Due to the limitations of video, the lighting designer must be very careful with intensity and contrast. I will refer you to the excellent article written by Jim Kumorek entitled: “How to Guide: IMAG (Image Magnification)” in Church Production Magazine (http://www.churchproduction.com/go.php/article/14694). In this article, he explains the best techniques to consider when considering lighting for video.

In addition to lighting for the camera, the lighting designer must be careful to keep light off the video screens. Choosing the appropriate angles of light-along with choosing lighting fixtures that are able to shutter the light off these screens-is necessary to achieve this.

Speaking of video, modeling is another crucial function of light. As the congregation is often sitting at a long distance from the stage area, the lighting designer must use angles of light to create highlights and shadows on people and objects that emphasize their three-dimensional properties. This is called modeling. The most useful angles to achieve modeling are sidelight and backlight. These angles separate the objects from the background, adding depth to the stage area. This is especially important when IMAG is being used.

Most worship services include sections of prayer, community worship, sermons, and worship songs. This is what we call the composition of the service. Although we are familiar with the concepts behind these sections of the service, it is important to consider the needs of each, as well as how they interact.

Understanding the composition will help you create lighting atmospheres and transitions that guide the congregation from one section of the service to another. This is partially accomplished by generating focus for the congregation.

For example, you will probably light the pastor’s podium completely differently than a worship song. The podium should be lit with a clear, warm light. This atmosphere conveys an intimate bond between the minister and the congregation.

Worship songs give you the opportunity to be more creative through color, intensity, and angle. Music naturally evokes a “suspension of reality.” The power of good music will transform the congregation into a strong connection with the message of the song. Lighting designers support this power though the qualities of light, and how they are composed through movement.

A common technique is to use deep blues and soft qualities for “quiet” music, and bright colors and higher intensities for up-tempo, energetic songs. This use of color and intensity is not absolute, but it is important to appreciate the psychological and emotional effects of these qualities of light.

Developing these distinctive lighting atmospheres creates conventions that communicate to the congregation what part of the service is next. The lighting qualities of intensity, focus, color, texture, shape, distribution, and movement can all be used to accomplish this.

Finally, the lighting design must support the message of the service. Lighting artists interpret the message of the moment, and express their own personal points of view through light. There is no step-by-step way of doing this-as in all art, creating art with light is a personal expression of creativity. Successful expression of creativity usually comes from talent, experience, and a knowledge of the available tools.

Choosing the Right Fixtures

Lighting may be the most powerful and spectacular element in a stage design. This is more apparent today with all the amazing new lighting technology available to us. With new fixtures being developed every day, lighting designers must continually find ways to keep up to date with the technology. Every year I attend Lighting Dimensions International (LDI) to attend seminars, stay in contact with my colleagues in the industry, and to see the latest lighting fixtures and controllers. This event allows me to see, up close, what new tools are available for my art. The upcoming WFX event in Dallas also features a great many lighting manufacturers and dealers.

I am also fortunate to work in some of the most state-of-the-art theaters in the world. I am presently designing a show at the Oslo Opera House. Built only a few years ago, the technology in this theatre complex is truly amazing. The hundreds of high-tech lighting fixtures lying backstage would make my graduate students salivate. Many of these lights were foreign to me when I started working here three years ago, but I learned their capabilities by doing research and actually using them on my shows.

For the local church designer who is not in a large city, keeping up to date can be especially challenging. The best way to learn about lighting fixtures is to see them in action. Go to a local stage lighting dealer and see what they have in stock, or visit a nearby church with a larger or more diverse inventory. If your church is considering investing tens of thousands of dollars in new lighting equipment, most dealers and manufacturers are more than willing to set up demonstrations in your church. You can also do research on the Internet to see what the fixtures’ capabilities are, or attend LDI or WFX and see for yourself.

The first consideration in choosing a fixture is what type of effects you wish to achieve. For a basic stage wash you could use a great number of different models of conventional stage lighting fixtures. In fact, just about any fixture that emits light will work. The ultimate difference is in control.

Although Fresnels can be used to create a soft stage wash, it is somewhat difficult to control the light. You can make the light from a Fresnel small or large, but due to its optical design, you really can’t shape the light effectively. Barn doors can be used to cut the light, but achieving a sharp cut is difficult.

Lekos (ellipsoidal reflector spotlights) are the most common lighting fixtures incorporated for stage washes. The reason for this is that Lekos have shutters, which enable you to control the light by shaping the beam. Lekos can also be used as projection devices. Unlike Fresnels, you can make a Leko’s beam sharp or soft. By using frost color media, you can make a Leko look almost like a Fresnel with a beautifully blended soft edge.

The lighting designer calculates how many lighting fixtures are needed for a stage wash through the use of the fixture’s photometric data. To accomplish this, the designer chooses the desired lighting angle and distance, the hanging position of the light, and then calculates the beam spread. Photometric data is available on the manufacturer’s website.

Lekos come in a variety of fixed beam spreads including 90-, 50-, 36-, 26-, 19-, 10-, and 5-degree models. They also come in variable beam spreads, also known as “Zooms.” These zoom Lekos are quite versatile, allowing you to change the size of the beam through simple optical adjustments.

Lekos can also do a great deal more than simply suppling a wash of light. By shaping its beam you can use a Leko for a tightly controlled lighting area. If you just want to light the pastor’s podium, you can use the shutters to cut a shape of light that isolates this area.

You can also insert a gobo inside a Leko and project a static image onto a surface. There are hundreds of different gobo patterns made by several companies that enable you to project anything from a colorful stained glass window to a leaf pattern. You can even generate your own artwork, and the gobo manufacturer will make a custom gobo for you.

Another useful stage lighting fixture is the PAR. These fixtures are relatively inexpensive (compared to Lekos) and are quite common. Due to the nature of its optics, PARs are very intense lights and are normally used for powerful stage washes. Like Fresnels, PARs cannot be shaped via internal shutters.

A recent development is the LED PAR. Along with its inherent energy savings, most LED PARs are designed with various colors of LEDs. This allows you to change the color of the light without changing the gel. When all the colored LEDs are on, the fixture emits a white light.

Striplights come in many models and sizes. The concept behind a striplight is to create an even wash of light over an extended area. This is the type of fixture you use to light a drop or cyclorama. You can also use smaller striplights as footlights. Striplights have multiple circuits (usually three or four) enabling you to mix colors. This is very useful when you wish to change the color of a wide surface.

But don’t limit yourself to conventional stage lighting fixtures. Many architectural lighting fixtures can also be used in a stage lighting plan. On several occasions I’ve used household fixtures purchased at hardware stores for stage lighting applications. You may be surprised with the effects you can achieve with the simplest of lighting fixtures.

Another consideration is the type of lamp these fixtures use. Most of these models come in incandescent, LED, or HID (arc) sources, though there are other lamp types available.

The most common lamp type is incandescent. These lamps are easily dimmed by conventional stage dimmers and emit a warm, white light (usually around 3,200 Kelvin). They are relatively inexpensive, but have a limited lamp life compared to LEDs.

As mentioned above, LEDs offer advantages in energy savings, lamp life, and color flexibility. The initial purchase cost of LED fixtures is usually much higher than comparable incandescent models. In my opinion, the advantages of LEDs certainly outweigh the disadvantages. Lately I have been specifying LEDs for most of the wash fixtures in church lighting systems.

HID sources are also more expensive than incandescent, but offer a greater intensity of light. For instance, a 700-watt HID lamp is several times brighter than a 750-watt incandescent lamp. One of the main disadvantages of HID lamps is that you cannot electronically dim them. These fixtures require a mechanical device (called a “douser” or “shutter”) to block the light and dim the intensity. Due to the great lighting intensity of these fixtures, I specify HID fixtures on most of the major opera productions I design.

But HID fixtures may not be the best choice for houses of worship. They usually require much more maintenance, and most require fans to keep the fixture cool. In addition, they use a lot of energy and emit a great deal of heat.

Moving Lights

Automated lighting has radically changed the art of lighting design. Moving lights enable the designer much more flexibility in changing focus, color, texture, and movement. They have been readily accepted in the church market for obvious reasons, and the prices keep coming down.

Choosing the appropriate moving light can be as challenging as choosing a color. Each model has different capabilities (and different costs). If you only need soft washes of light with color changes, then a “wash” fixture would be appropriate. If you need to project images from the light, or shutter it, then you need a “spot” fixture. Similar to the difference between a Leko and a Fresnel, you can make most spot fixtures look like wash fixtures (with the internal frost filter or by softening the focus), but you cannot make a wash fixture look like a spot fixture.

Let’s say that you wish to create a moving fire or water effect. You can do this with a spot fixture that has two rotating gobos, or a rotating gobo and an animation wheel. But you can also create this effect with one Leko and a dual gobo rotator (savings thousands of dollars). So sometimes a moving light is not the most practical answer for an effect.

You can also use external automated accessories for your conventional fixtures. These include automated yokes and mirrors that can pan and tilt the light, color scrollers and dichroic filters that can remotely change the color, and gobo rotators for special effects. These accessories basically transform a static conventional lighting fixture into a moving light.

One of the latest developments in lighting design is the use of video projectors on movable yokes. With these projectors you can paint the stage with light from a video source, and remotely focus the video onto different objects. These amazing fixtures are used in some of the more complicated productions in the industry.

Even with all these sophisticated lighting fixtures, it is important not to allow technology to overwhelm the art. Lighting designers must balance their analytical and artistic instincts. Achieving this delicate balance is the key to creating the most effective lighting atmospheres for your worship service.

This article was written by David Martin Jacques for church production magazine. David is a professional lighting designer and professor of lighting design. You can find his book, Introduction to the Musical Art of Stage Lighting Design on iTunes and Amazon.com.

Here is the articles full link to Church Production Magazine.

A Guide to LED Stage Lighting

The market in LED based lighting fixtures has seen huge growth in the stage lighting industry in recent years. All of the major stage lighting manufacturers have dived into the LED market while cheap imported lights mean that every church, small band or DJ can get a slice of the action too.

Rental companies are now expected to stock a wide range of LED units alongside their tungsten conventionals and the technology is developing rapidly. If you are new to using LED lighting, we present a guide to LED stage lighting.

What’s so exciting about LEDs?

LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology has now developed to become a viable source of light in live performance and recorded media. LED fixtures have some advantages over ‘old’ tungsten based lighting fixtures and are particularly attractive to the event and concert markets right now. Manufacturers specializing in theatre and television equipment are also developing more sophisticated LED based fixtures to answer the needs of those markets as well.

So what is there to like about LED lighting fixtures? Lets take a look.

● Low Power Consumption – Because LEDs draw a comparatively small amount of power, you can use a lot more fixtures on a smaller amount of power. This is great for small band lighting rigs and the disco/party DJ. Bearing in mind that 20 years ago we were still working with large rigs of PAR cans, there are also benefits of low(er) power requirements for the large show too.

● Low Heat – Although LED stage lighting does produce heat, fixtures produce light without getting extremely hot as with their tungsten or discharge counterparts. In some environments, the lower heat properties of LED stage lighting are very desirable.

● Lightweight and Portable – The hardware that LED fixtures are packaged in does not need to be heavy and even with the various power supplies and other elements, LED units are usually fairly lightweight. To make them even more portable, LED units can be more readily powered by battery and several products boast battery power and wireless control via DMX over WiFi. This creates a lighting product that you can place and control quickly with no messy wires and minimum fuss.

● Color Effects – A common use of LED for stage lighting purposes is additively mixing a combination of different colored LEDs. A fixture with all three lighting primary colors, Red, Green and Blue (RGB) LEDs blended together in different combinations gives the lighting designer easy access to many color choices in one fixture. More complex LED color mixing fixtures use additional sources such as RGBA (Amber), RGBW (White). The color functionality of all these fixtures does away with creating color subtractively using gel filters completely.

● Small and Compact – LED lighting fixtures can be made in small, discreet packages which suit applications where size and appearance are important such as exhibitions stands and smaller events.

● High Brightness – Looking at Low Power from the other end, this is the ratio of light brightness to power consumption. Often advertised as Lumens Per Watt, high-powered LEDs are very bright considering the amount of electrical power they use.  The “additive” color mixing mentioned above means that light produced is not wasted being filtered out.

● Longevity- LED lighting manufacturers often quote the number of hours an LED light source will last in comparison to sources such as traditional tungsten halogen lamps.  And we are talking tens of thousands of hours for an LED vs conventional counterparts.

● Built-In Dimmer. Most LED units offer dimming built inside the fixture, so there is no need to have a separate dimmer rack. In addition, many have onboard controls that allow setting the unit to a color, dimming the fixture, or even cycling or scrolling through different looks, all without the need for a separate controller or bulky dimmer rack.

So, LEDs are the answer to everything now?

Not yet. There are a few things you might want to know about LED stage lighting, before you go out and buy a truck full.

● Many LED arrays can’t provide a point source like a conventional. Because there are many sources of light in the LED array, it is harder to create a LED fixture that will focus like sharp spotlight or project a gobo. Manufacturers have worked their magic on this, creating a point source with optical systems or by using a single, bright LED source. Recent developments have been in the introduction of hard edged spots such as the ETC LED Source Four but still, many LED units are designed to be wash lights. This is getting much better with every day that passes. Plus there are some really cool fixtures being created that couldn’t be made with a conventional light source.

● 16 Million Colors. Just not the one you want. Because of the way colored LEDs are made, different LED fixtures have colors that they just can’t create. A good quality white light that looks great on human skin is often cited as being one of them. Because of the way that all LED source colors are mixed together and the way LEDs are made, a nice white light is extremely difficult to achieve with many fixtures. One major complaint of many Lighting designers out there. LED lights that are designed to be white light sources often lack the range of spectral colors of daylight or an incandescent.

● LED lighting fixtures are bright but …  Although when considering power consumed for brightness LED stage lighting fixtures are really efficient, many units lack the punch of their conventional lantern relatives. A cheap PAR can with LEDs in it is nowhere near as punchy as a 1000W PAR64 CP62. Cheaper LED lighting units have neither a lens nor a reflector, the light they produce scatters and struggles to maintain intensity when thrown much of a distance. However, great strides have been made regarding the optics in the last few years and the top LED fixtures really blast out some light.

● Color Mixing And Shadows. Colored LEDs mix on a surface to create an even light, this mix improves further away from the light source. If there is much distance between the colors, the end result is multi-colored shadows that don’t get with a single-colored conventional. The latest professional and more costly LED optical systems are better at reducing these issues.

● Dimming Issues. Because LEDs don’t use traditional AC powered dimming systems, LED based stage lights don’t behave the same as traditional lighting equipment when it comes to dimming. Cheaper units can have poor or step like dimming curves and there is the real possibility of high frequency flicker when used with cameras. At some point in the dimming curve, LEDs can snap to blackout unlike the cooling down of an incandescent filament. Although high end LED fixtures can attempt to replicate it, LEDs also don’t naturally shift in color like a tungsten source does over it’s dimming range.

● You get what you pay for. All LED stage lighting fixtures are not the same. Even though you can buy them cheap doesn’t mean that you should and all of the above points are more apparent in cheap LED lighting fixtures. A good quality lighting manufacturer will always be more expensive but you can expect the quality of the light to be superior. If you want good colors, beam quality and optics, you must be prepared to pay for them.

Before you throw your rig of conventional fixtures in the trash, be aware that there are serious and often complex reasons why LEDs are currently not a cure-all in stage lighting right now. These caveats encompass color rendition, fixture life, dimming, optics and even environmental questions. Lighting designers have their reasons for choosing LEDs, along with reasons why they continue to specify other light sources. Most lighting designers are pairing LED fixtures with conventionals to create even more effect.

If you are using or buying LED-based stage lighting fixtures, you should familiarize yourself with their limitations along with their benefits. Enjoy the possibilities of LED in stage lighting—and don’t junk all your incandescent or discharge source equipment just yet.

Jobs You Have On The Road Touring

Jobs You Could Have on the Road Touring

Being on the road touring with a music act or production is a dream for many, more now than ever. With schools offering music business programs (Belmont University, Middle Tennessee State University), technical degrees in lighting, video and sound (Blackbird Academy, The School of Audio Engineering, Full Sail University) there is also much more competition for these gigs then ever. Having an open mind to possible different kinds of gigs will help you get on the road quicker and work your way through the ranks to your dream job.

Varying on size, tours may have multiple positions soaked up into one, but for this I will be breaking them down as individual positions. With that said, here are a few positions, some you may or may not know to consider.

Tour Manager (TM)

Just like any workplace, you have a boss. The tour manager is that guy. Most of this gig consists of sitting behind a computer and on the phone squaring away all the nitty gritty details like travel, accommodations, catering, bus stock and, ultimately, keeping the artist happy…(also known as babysitting).

Production Manager (PM)

This guy is in charge of all things production related. Pretty hard to figure out, huh? Often this guy does all the technical role hiring (FOH, MON, LD, backline techs, etc). He will also be in charge of working out production budgets and securing gear with vendors that the tour will carry. Advancing shows with venues to make sure production needs are met is also this person’s responsibility. The PM should be pretty hands-on with all levels of production on a daily basis, and—if done well—makes for easier show days. “FOH/MON engineers frequently wear dual hats and play the PM role as well since they usually have more time during the day than other roles.

Stage Manager

This person manages the stage during the day and pre- and post-show. Often times managing the local stage labor and the flow of load in and load out will fall under this role, if not under the PM. Depending on the size, not every tour will have a stage manager.

Lighting

Long hours sums this department up. But there are a few positions here—the LD, or lighting designer, runs the show each night, the Crew Chief, and lighting techs, who tech the rig, setup/teardown, as well as fix lights that may need to be looked at each day. If you’re lucky, you might get a lighting tech. If you aren’t, you have to soak up this role as an LD. If you’re an LD and you get a tech/s, be thankful and do your best to take care of your crew.  They are the ones busting ass to make your rig pretty. And vice versa, if you’re on the lighting crew, do your best to take care of your LD…it will go a long way when stuff goes downhill.  AND as an LD, always make a MON focus position…it’s a requirement and they really appreciate it (SARCASM).  Just remember—first ones in, last ones out.

Audio

Audio is full of the coolest guys on the road—or so they think (Fair warning here, one of the authors is biased). Most tours run with at least two audio engineers: one front of house (FOH) and one monitor engineer (MON). The FOH mixes the band for the audience to hear, and monitor engineers attend to the bands hearing needs. If you want to be an audio guy, shoot for FOH—you’ll be around longer then the MON. Depending on the size of the tour and amount of gear you carry, you could be a MON, FOH tech, or a PA tech on a bigger tour.

Video

Video is a growing role in today’s touring world. Projection, LED, cameras and this department of workers are responsible for video images on screens. There are a multitude of jobs you can have in this department including video director, projectionist, LED tech or camera operator.

Backline

Unlike lighting, these guys are last in, first out. They tune and tech guitars, and make guitar changes during the show. They setup the band gear on the stage as well. That’s all there really is to say about backline guys.

Special Effects

Whether its pyro, cryo, or confetti, these guys tend to make a mess and have wires everywhere, but they do make a show really awesome. This is a serious gig though, because people can get hurt if you don’t have a good, reliable, and trusted person operating this gear.

Automation

On really large tours you can have truss automation, where lights and video are moving to different positions throughout the bands set. Like with special effects, it is also very important to have a reliable and responsible automation operator

Merch

A merch guys job is kind of like a backline guy in terms of hours, but this duty helps your boss make money. Merch mans the tables before, during, and after the show every night. They also make sure all of the tour merchandise counts and money match each other at the end of each session.

Drivers

These guys are the night owls that get you to the next gig safely. Keep these guys happy, and your tour will run on time—literally.

Production Assistant (PA)

If you’re really lucky, your tour has a PA.  This person can make all your requests happen, and oftentimes are the most beloved person on the tour. If you want to have a great experience on the tour, make friends with this person. No questions.

 

Remember that being on the road is fun, but also a lot of work. It’s not like the movies! Anything you do is a direct representation of the artist you work for, so remember, take your job as it is—a job.

Written By David Venus and Jason “Cannonball” Jenkins