What's Trending: In Our Dreams

What's Trending: In Our Dreams

LDI is that exciting time of year when many new products are launched on the American market. The aisles of the trade show floor are humming with people all abuzz looking for the hot new thing, the fabulous invention that will change their lives.

But seriously, for many designers, LDI is a chance to see innovative new products and discuss current—and future—improvements with the manufacturers. Closing in on the eve of LDI2016, we asked three lighting designers, who are also speaking at the conference, to tell us what they are looking for, or what they hope to find, as they cruise the exhibit hall.

John Featherstone

President, Lightswitch, Inc.

‘Twas the night before LDI,

And all through the convention center,

Not a soul was moving, not even…an electrician!!

I always have The Night Before Christmas feel in anticipation of LDI, with a sense of excitement about what are going to be the “presents” to us creative types from the talented ranks of engineers and developers at the many manufacturers. What new LED fixtures are we going to see? What new media server possibilities will be at our disposal? Are we going to have new outdoor weatherproof lights, or are we going to have my number one wish, a console that makes a proper cup of tea, all while balancing my check book, focusing my front light, and giving a wicked foot rub. Come on guys, I know you can make it!

Seriously, there are some things I hope to see.

We are engaged on an ever-increasing number of outdoor events in an era of ever more unpredictable weather, so weatherproof moving lights are high on the wish list. I’d love to see an IP65 automated profile, as well as a bright moving LED wash and an IP-rated moving beam light, too.

For LED fixtures, I’d like to see an LED cyc light or batten with optics that zoom along the length of the device to accommodate or fill gaps between fixtures when hanging goes awry due to truss welds and similar. I’d like to also see a small—like PAR38 size—simple automated LED fixture for display lighting in difficult to access locations.

I would also welcome an LED-powered automated ellipsoidal-type fixture with framing shutters and either zoom or interchangeable lens barrels. It doesn’t need gobos or a ton of bells and whistles that drive up cost, just a simple, affordable, reliable remote-focus key light.

In the realm of media servers, I’d love to see more robust integration of lighting previz for more seamless preproduction and more innovation in effects engines. We have been using the same basic effects that were created at the dawn of servers; it’s about time that we bridge the gap between effects and realtime created content.  

In terms of consoles, other than the wish above, I’d like to see two things: First, more robust integration of simple pixel-mapping to allow easier and quicker programming of multi-part LED fixtures, kind of a drag-and-drop with QuickTime files. Second, I yearn for an interface that allows programmers to program and select fixtures more in the way we speak; for example, “select all the lights that are blue and pointing downstage center,” or “take all the lights that are focused on the car and reduce the level by 10 points” kind of vocabulary. I know some consoles are making advances in this regard, and I hope to see more developments.

I also look forward to all the little widgets and gadgets I find that always surprise and delight me at LDI, all those little things that smart people like Doug Fleenor or John McKernon come up with to make our lives a little bit easier. That, and a good cup of tea.

LDI session: Designing With LEDs: Challenges And Solutions

New Ideas And Forward-Thinking

Jen Goldstein

President, Radiance Lightworks, Inc.

This year at LDI, our team is looking forward to seeing developments in outdoor, weather-rated intelligent fixtures to support our projects at Universal Studios Hollywood. Over the past few years, we have found creative solutions employing plastic bins and tarps to protect intelligent fixtures for outdoor shows, but the increased availability of weatherproof fixtures would improve the aesthetics of the rigs and reduce maintenance costs. Weatherproof fixtures also provide a huge advantage in indoor areas of theme parks as well, by protecting them from ingress of pyro dust and fog effects. This can substantially increase the life of the fixture and the cost of maintenance over its lifetime.

 We are also hoping to see overall improvements across the board in the color rendering of white light LED products and better color tuning and color rendering in RGB LED products. Many of our themed projects require us to blend white light moments with colorful synchronized effects, and unfortunately, the current generation of fixtures really requires two systems of lighting for that: one white light system and another color system that increases project costs. Additionally, most theatrical LED fixtures still specialize in the most saturated part of the color spectrum and struggle with subtle hues and colors. We’d like to see more fixtures that allow us to use subtle modern colors in architectural environments in a dynamic fixture, rather than requiring a traditional halogen lamp with color or white LED with color.

Finally, at this year’s LDI, we hope that manufacturers find ways to display and show fixtures in an environment where we can really get hands on and experience the real-life quality of light and construction of their fixtures. One of the greatest challenges for us, as designers, is really understanding what a specific fixture can do for us, in the scale and brightness of the overall show room. Frequently, we set up follow-up appointments, or we are hesitant to use fixtures we see on the floor because we don’t have a sense of how they hold up on their own. Better hands-on displays would help us eliminate this concern and help us make the leap from the floor to an installation specification.

LDI session: Designing With LEDs: Challenges And Solutions

Justin Townsend

Broadway Lighting Designer

Growing up, my best friend and I would sit in the attic of his garage staring at old firework duds and tell each other stories of the spectacular explosions holding the empty used shells. We dreamed of the amazing things these spent fireworks did and gazed at the catalog, saving for the newer, bigger cannons and fountains, eager to get our hands on the next and the newest explosions.

LDI marks that amazing time of year when the industry gathers to offer us new dreams, both the big gigantic technological leaps as well as the industry-shaking little steps that change how we think and work in the industry. It’s with the same anticipation that I am going to Las Vegas this fall to see what’s possible and who I should be working with next. What new leaps in our field will come of this week?

As lights become brighter, smaller, and faster, I can’t wait to see what combinations manufacturers are joining together. A few years ago, Elation Professional’s pixel display panels blew my mind with control and color from a flat panel, but now, those individual beams can spin and twist. My good friend, Broadway production electrician Justin Freeman, just introduced me to the new Rogue R1 FX-B from Chauvet Professional, a simple idea using a smart assembly that pushes designers to not simply think about light coming from an XY axis.

Related to that, with motors, I can get units to fly in and out with relative ease, especially as software for automation becomes more common. When will automation software become as intuitive and fast as ETC has managed to make its Eos software? When can I assemble banks of moving lights that can also track left and right instead of being static on the truss?

Here’s a mundane but industry-changing desire: As a theatre designer, I’m always pushing for brighter lighting and more control but, most importantly, silent. A decade ago, it seems like every production meeting at the end of the night was spent talking about haze and air currents. Now, the conversation is about fan noise. More and more, I need bright, fast, framing fixtures that aren’t just whisper quiet but absolutely silent. Quiet lights aren’t the only issue. As projection design becomes more and more present in my work, why can’t the projectors be quiet? Or can there be a box that can silence them that’s affordable?

Strobes! Brighter, more color, faster strobes. The fast timing of LEDs allows such complex thinking on cueing rhythm that it’s changing my work.

I’m still blown away by PRG’s GroundControl Followspot System from last year. I can’t wait to see it in person this year. The ability to turn a moving light into a followspot and allow an operator to use that intuitive finesse and detail still blows my mind with potential.

It’s exactly that forward-thinking that makes it so exciting to work in our industry and to share with my peers at LDI. What will be the new ideas that we all huddle around and shake our heads in disbelief? 

LDI session: Envision: The Future Of Lighting

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