Cisco Live Joe Kenemore

Ripples Of Light At Cisco Live

Cisco raised the benchmark for corporate events with a visually exciting, 360° experience with Cisco Live, held June 25 to 29 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. The in-the-round, arena-style venue, hosted an educational and training event for IT, networking, and communications professionals produced by Go! Experience Design, with lighting and visual design by John Featherstone of Lightswitch and scenic design by Johniene Papandreas of Valdreas Design. Read more about the production design and sound design.

“Cisco wanted to do two things: Shake their audience up and get away from the expected opening for their meeting,” according to Featherstone. “They wanted to recapture the edginess that was their original DNA, and opening with the spheres was to say it’s not business as usual.”

 
 
The show started as expected with an intro video. “There was an interruption, a break like we lost power for a long few seconds, and then it was like we rebooted, and something very different happened,” Featherstone explains. “After the reboot, we got into the immersive entertainment technology. The guests were wearing Glow Motion pendants for a true multimedia experience, along with the spheres over the audience, triggered sound effects, and the presenters’ graphics, which contained elements of the pendants and spheres during the four-day meeting.” The pendants were controlled from the same console as the winches and orbs, but all of the lighting control was one network.

This was not, in any sense, a traditional sales meeting. Cisco Live is a pay-to-play event for professionals from around the world, with a lot of training, plus a show floor with Cisco and third-party technology. “The idea is to engage the audience from the get-go,” says Featherstone. “The show was truly integrated and focused on telling a real story that Cisco wanted to tell—true business theatre—and everything became an analogy for the fluid, ever-changing network and Cisco’s new paradigm. We wanted to make sure it wasn’t as if people were just watching TV on a screen someplace in the room.”

As a result, “the lighting rig was designed to echo the circular shape of the stage, fill the visual space of the large arena, and also speak to the global networked nature of Cisco’s clients and offerings,” explains Featherstone. “Working with fabulous scenic designer Johniene Papandreas, we conceived the array of circular trusses and arcs that moved into house like ripples from a stone thrown in a pond. These provided not only lighting positions, but also hanging for the winches and orbs.”

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Featherstone adds that the rig was divided into three main categories of fixtures. His real workhorse fixtures for stage and audience light were what he calls his “usual go-to” of Martin by Harman MAC Viper AirFX fixtures for audience light and Robe BMFL Blades and Robe Spiiders for stage key and fill light. “The AirFX give me the ability to achieve both punchy beam effects and wide, even washes of color and texture from the same light,” the LD says. “The BMFL Blades give me the ability to really control the light distribution, high color-rendering index and impressive output. The Robe Spiiders are a new LED fixture to me that combine both impressive stage wash capabilities with novel and innovative effects—pretty rare in this day and age, when I thought I’d seen everything an LED fixture could do.”

Next in the rig were air beam effects. “There is only really one game in town for me in that regard,” says Featherstone, referring to Claypaky Mythos fixtures, which were placed on the floor as well as mounted on two of the rig’s concentric circles, where they formed a parallel cage of beams enclosing the stage. “Brightness, control, and accuracy: it’s the sharp edge in my designs.” The third section of the rig is what Featherstone refers to as icing or eye candy. “For this, I turned to the always delightful Ayrton MagicBlade-R, which provided accents as visual interest and are astonishingly bright for such a compact fixture.”

But what made the system really special for Featherstone was the combination of the Glow Motion orbs on their individual winches, as well as the Wi-Fi-controlled audience-worn medallions, and the lasers, provided by StrictlyFX.

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“I was ably assisted in my endeavors by my right-hand man and collaborator, lighting director Dennis Connors, as well as winch programmer, Prelite pre-visualization guru, and all around tech genius, Mike Robertson,” says Featherstone. Technical support came from production electrician Ryan Babroff, assisted by networking gurus Lacey Taylor, David Strouse, and Steve Thacker.

“Robertson built a very detailed MA3D model, including the winches, and we were very happy with the accuracy of the winch movements from offline to online,” says Featherstone. “They were correct down to the inch. The d3 Technologies video playback was ably managed by the always delightful Troy Fujimura and the patient Austin Shapley.”

Four MA Lighting grandMA2 full-size consoles were used for Cisco Live. One of these consoles, programmed by Connors, ran the main portion of the lighting system. The second system, programmed by Robertson, handled the winches, Glow Motion orbs, and wristbands. The third system was for the tech team, while the fourth console was on hand for backup.

Stay tuned for more on the sound design!

Selected Lighting Gear List

Provided by VER

  • 180 Martin by Harman MAC Viper AirFX
  • 42 Claypaky Mythos 2
  • 36 Robe Robin Spiider
  • 28 Robe BMFL Blade
  • 24 Martin by Harman Rush PAR 2 Zoom
  • 6 Martin by Harman MAC Viper Performance
  • 176 GlowMotion Orb with Stage Kinetik Winch
  • 14 Ayrton MagicBlade-R
  • 4 MA Lighting grandMA2 Console
  • 176 Stage Kinetik Winch

Lightswitch Crew

  • John Featherstone, Principal Lighting and Visual Designer
  • Ryan Babroff, Production Electrician
  • Dave Strouse, Assistant Electrician
  • Lacey Taylor, Networking and Technology Supervisor
  • Dennis Connors, Mike Robertson: grandMA2 programmer
  • Troy Fujimura, d3 Supervisor
  • Austin Shapley, Content Curator and Archivist
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