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Masters of Special Event Lighting Share Their Secrets

Masters of event illumination shine a light on environment-altering technologies both old and new.


Lighting doesn't simply add one more visual element to an event environment — it enhances, improves and, at its best, transforms every other element in the room. With today's hottest digital and LED lighting products and technologies — plus at least one surefire standby — lighting design pros have more tools than ever before in their event arsenal.


For high-impact, dynamic effect, nothing packs more punch than High End Systems' DL.3 digital light, notes Raymond Thompson, owner of Los Angeles-based Images by Lighting. Thompson, who has projected DL.3 lighting on walls, dance floors, spheres and ceilings, says the best thing about the DL.3 is the breadth of content it offers. “The DL.3 library has thousands of colorful and graphic effects,” he explains, plus its ease of use and versatility are perfect for event environments indoors and out. “It's basically a video projector on steroids,” Thompson says. With a standard projector, “Once you rig it, you're married to it,” and can only project images on a single surface. But with the DL.3, a lighting pro can, for instance, project video onto the dance floor, then shift effects up to the stage, all in one seamless motion.

At a recent event for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Thompson used DL.3 cross-lighting to create dazzling chandelier effects on large overhead spheres from North Hollywood, Calif.-based Air Dimensional Design. When L.A. Philharmonic conductor Gustavo Dudamel rose to speak to the crowd, Thompson and his team projected his moving image onto the spheres, transforming them in an instant from chandeliers into audiovisual screens — and wowing the crowd.

Thompson doesn't relegate the DL.3's dynamic capabilities just to indoor events. “One of the coolest events we did with it was a big wedding reception in Boston, right on the water,” he notes. One feature of the setting was a large outcropping of coastal rocks. But that's not what guests saw when they looked out over the water. Instead, they marveled as moving clouds and other effects rippled across the craggy surface. As Thompson puts it, “We turned these ordinary rocks into an amazing light show. It was magical, beautiful.”


Among the most transformative technologies to hit venues around the globe, bright, beautiful LED lighting has become an event mainstay. And now, with Coemar's Reflection LEDko, LED event technology is more versatile than ever before, says Jerry Mitchell of Wellington, Fla.-based LED Source. Identifying the Reflection LEDko as “the world's first LED hard-edge and soft-profile combined fixture,” Mitchell notes that the product “produces a uniform beam mixed at the source with no pixels, dots or multicolored shadows,” and it can achieve any tone, color or shade of white light.

Perhaps most exciting for event lighting pros, the Reflection LEDko has the unique ability to create custom gobos from any standard printer using a transparency sheet, rather than requiring an expensive pre-order. For the recent Wine Enthusiasts Toast of the Town event at the Moore Building in Miami's Arts District, Miami-based ARPI Events tapped LED Source to create custom gobos using a visually enthralling abstract image. Utilizing the Reflection LEDko fixture, LED Source “enhanced the theme and mood of the event and highlighted the art deco features of the building,” all at an affordable price point. And with the venue's limited power availability, the low-consumption Reflection LEDko provided a perfect alternative to high-consumption dimmer-pack-based entertainment lighting.

Also on the leading edge of LED technology, the new moving-head Mac 301 from manufacturer Martin has become one of Thompson's go-to gadgets for “powerful output” that requires very little power. Ticking off stage production, room effects and chandelier color modulation as some of his favorite Mac 301 uses, Thompson singles out the 63rd Emmy Awards Governors Ball for special mention. Working with Los Angeles-based Sequoia Productions, Thompson and team used color-changing Mac 301 LED lighting to illuminate structures of inexpensive clear plastic beads. Not only did the beads effectively fill the big West Hall at the L.A. Convention Center but, when lit, became “elegant, playful and very joyful,” Thompson adds.


Famed illumination expert, ISES Hall of Legends inductee and lighting designer to the stars — his clients include Chelsea Clinton, Robert DeNiro, Eddie Murphy and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to name a few — Bentley Meeker is not one to ignore the latest LED discoveries. Indeed, says the owner of New York-based Bentley Meeker Lighting & Staging, “LEDs have their place — and we own and use a lot of them.” But, he notes, “For the drop-dead, most beautiful environments, I tend to resort to halogen, which may be old and inefficient, but is magical and mesmerizing if used correctly.”

He gives the example of the Burning Man festival in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, where he needed to inexpensively light events for a week in the middle of sand, rocks and heat. Not only did halogen meet this need, but “there is just no substitute for the beauty of halogen light,” he says. “And for me, that's everything.”





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