More Lighting, Please

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In the past, I've written a number of pieces about lighting and video in large scale staging, and the inevitable conflicts that come up between the video techs and the lighting director (LD). I don't entirely recall how I referred to the LD in those columns, but friends with better memories than mine (most of them lighting personnel) seem to remember that the terms "fiend" and "monster" played a big part.

So I feel a little apprehensive about what I'm going to say next:

What we need is more lighting.

As a video guy, even I admit that lighting makes all the difference in the look of a show. But, mostly, lighting has been confined to certain types of events, and is a missed opportunity on many shows.

Big shows have always had a significant and necessary lighting component. Two days before any big event, the lighting crews arrive in their big trucks full of dreadfully heavy gear. They get out of the trucks in their lighting crew costumes, which consist mostly of humorous vari*lite t-shirts and tour jackets, accessorized with colorful harnesses. Then they pull on their Fagin gloves with the fingers cut off, put their C-wrenches in their back pockets, and begin the heavy construction process. This has always been a part of big events, and it always will.

But it's not the big event that I write about here. It's the bread and butter, mid-level meeting event that I think has the most potential for lighting to accomplish three things for those of us in the AV rental and staging industry:
1. Increase revenue
2. Make a better, more professional-looking show
3. Increase revenue

As you've probably noticed, there have been a lot of advances in the lighting arena in recent years, both in equipment and techniques. Those advances make it easier to add lighting to more events, producing both more revenue and a more satisfied client (and crew). These advances make lighting on a smaller scale much easier and more cost-effective to accomplish. While those of you who are big-show lighting people may disagree, I believe that the following are the most important advances for the improvement in the quality and frequency of lighting in the general audiovisual business:

Smaller (more compact) fixtures and dimmers are probably the most important development for this phase of the business. While the major lighting manufacturers have always made smaller units, most were not truly powerful enough for anything but small exhibit lighting. Today, increases in lamp and motor efficiency mean that many of the smaller fixtures, both traditional and moving, have acquired the power and versatility for shows while accommodating the reduced size requirements of the smaller ballroom.

Lower power draws, as lamp efficiencies have developed, are allowing for lighting in rooms without access to big power, using more compact distro equipment. For this segment in the market, my hat is off to companies like NuTech industries for their small, easy-to-manage power distribution equipment.

Easier control has made it possible to integrate more lighting into smaller shows by making it easier to control lighting directly from presentations and in sync with video and audio cues. Small DMX storage and playback units can now provide this functionality while reducing the space requirements for lighting control to fit in the smaller show setup.

LED Color changers have reduced the size and power draw for color-changing backdrop washes, which are always a convenient and inexpensive upsell to a smaller show. This has become a great way to introduce the smaller show planner to more sophisticated lighting.

Smaller rigging hardware and gear are making it possible to rig smaller rooms. Innovations such as great airwall hangers, smaller truss in multiple colors, and smaller motors now help us to place the new, efficient fixtures into rooms they couldn't have fit in before, once again increasing the possibilities to add lighting revenues.

Lower initial expense overall for smaller fixtures, control systems, and dimmers have also helped place lighting within the budget to enhance mid-sized events.

So, lighting for more events is now possible. Today's small, highly integrated products can bring a more professional, staged look to more meetings.

And, hopefully, this article has put me in the good graces of the LD far enough that he or she will keep the light off my screens.