The Next Generation of Staging

Recent developments in technology have sent the lighting and video worlds on a collision course. We have begun to see a transition in how people define the roles of each discipline with the emergence into the marketplace of digital media servers such as Catalyst, Maxedia and grandMA Video, Pandoras Box, and Hippotizer HD. An industry shift has begun as these digital media servers merge video and lighting to offer clients more options for imagery, illumination and effects than ever seen before.

Now, corporate staging is seeing the lines blur between what used to be a solely lighting or a solely video function. Sometimes, lighting directors are crowding onto the (former) turf of video companies, as they use new technologies like LED walls, and control video with DMX. The result: Technical directors are left to figure out who is to be responsible for some specific elements of the show.

The Answer
As with most things in life, the answer depends on a few factors. For example, if you have one full-service supplier handling video, audio and lighting, its not as crucial to distinguish the lines of responsibility between disciplines. Its when you have two or three different vendors that areas of responsibilities need to be defined.

Although its a newer struggle on the video/lighting side, this challenge has always existed in the industry. For example, you need to have a good audio recording on tape to make a quality video. So, audio and video work together toward an end product that is ultimately the video vendors responsibility. Another hurdle: Does the scenic company, or the video company provide the screens?

Cross-Over Technology
The video/lighting cross-over products include: Versa TILE and Versa TUBE units by Element Labs, and the digital media servers such as Catalyst, Maxedia and grandMA Video, Pandoras Box, and Hippotizer HD. To determine who should supply and manage the gear, you need to know what the application is and who is going to drive the content. Is the end product a video or is it lighting? Often its a convergence so the video and lighting crews work together to make it happen.

For example, with a name like video lights, which are video projectors that are mounted on a moving head, its easy to see why these units are difficult to classify. Sometimes, they require a video vendor to supply a signal to the lighting vendor, who then runs the lights.

Scenic LED curtains also fall into the video/lighting blurred category. Considered part of the set, these elements allow for instant gratification. At the touch of a switch, a spectrum of color can change instantly. Usually, the video team puts the content together, and the lighting people trigger the illumination.

Finding a Show Solution
If you dont have a full-service firm, you need to determine whether or not your vendor owns the needed equipment as part of their inventory. Also, figure out whether your vendor can supply the goods and know-how to pull off your show. And, make sure that theyve done it before.

If you are working with multiple vendors, make sure you clearly define their responsibilities, so that you dont put your show at risk.

Its important to note that lighting companies are traditionally not set up to do video and traditional video companies are not set up to do lighting. This is truly a collaborative effort. When you have multiple companies working on a show, they have to play nice together.

Speaking the Same Language
Its also important to be sure that your vendor speaks the same language as your show technology. For instance, DMX control is used in lighting. So, typically, if the equipment is DMX controllable, the responsibility falls to the lighting vendor. If the equipment is serial or IP controlled, it falls to the video vendor. There are some exceptions, but this is the general rule of thumb.
Ultimately, whoever supplies the equipment takes on the responsibility to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Theres No Going Back
Lighting and video are coming together and for a show to be successful, the two fields will need to cooperate. Whether you are hiring a full-service company to execute your show, or several vendors, its simply important that you hire a crew of people that are experienced, familiar with the equipment, and know what is necessary to carry out a successful event.