Special Events

TIPS, TRENDS & TIDBITS: The Lighter Side

The San Diego Convention Center Sails Pavilion, which overlooks the harbor and downtown San Diego, can accommodate 2,000 guests for a sit-down dinner with entertainment. But how can a space of these proportions be livened up without spending a fortune? The technical production services company Southwest Show Tech offers two words: virtual decor.

For the final night gala for two pharmaceutical giants, San Diego-based Southwest Show Tech provided large-format special-effects projections, lighting and scenery. It used six Pani projectors to light the 113,000-square-foot fabric roof with images of bridges, star fields and "planet-scapes." The stars and planets reflected the evening's program: The featured speaker was astronaut James Lovell.

After Lovell's speech, the guests mingled and danced while 30 automated Cyberlight fixtures threw fiery red, undulating projections onto the roof. "They were spinning, morphing in and out of focus, and creating a lot of energy in the room," notes Southwest lighting designer Steve Thurston. "People were looking up all the time-it was real eye-candy."

Thurston also used an extensive theatrical lighting package to light both the stage and the audience.

Accommodating the attendees' sight lines with all the lighting equipment proved to be challenging, says Thurston. "We tried to blend all the equipment with the architectural elements that were already in place," he explains, "For example, we tucked the overhead lighting trusses to the lower grid of the sail structure to keep them out of the floor projections. We also used a side-light technique on the set and stage."

Finally, to augment the projections and add drama, Southwest let a lower level conventional wash play over the guests.-T.M.

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