ILLUMINATED: MORE AMAZING LIGHTING DESIGN IDEAS FOR YOUR EVENTS
IF YOU WERE ONE OF THE OVER 100 MILLION PEOPLE WHO WATCHED THE SUPER BOWL THIS PAST SUNDAY, YOU CAUGHT A HISTORY-MAKING GAME, A SPECTACULAR HALFTIME SHOW, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY FOR OUR PURPOSES, A MAJOR EVENT. A FEW MONTHS AGO, WE WROTE A POST ALL ABOUT LIGHTING INNOVATIONS IN THE EVENT INDUSTRY. AFTER WHAT WE SAW OF THE SUPER BOWL HALFTIME SHOW, WE THOUGHT REVISITING THIS TOPIC WAS DUE. WE DUG UP A FEW OTHER LIGHTING FEATURES WE MISSED ON OUR FIRST LIST AND A FEW WE THOUGHT MIGHT BE WORTH CONSIDERING FROM THE SUPER BOWL.
The first thing you might have noticed about the beginning of Lady Gaga's halftime performance, were the firefly-like lights that suddenly illuminated the night sky behind her as she stood on the roof of the NRG Stadium. These lights first appeared like constellations, then in swirls of red and blue, and finally, in the shape of an American flag before disappearing as she leapt off of the roof, flying down onto the stage below. Like us, you might have seen that and wondered, "Wait! How did they do that?" Well, they used drones. Brilliant! Specifically, drones that Intel has been building, engineering, and programming for several years now. They've broken a Guinness World Record or two, taken them to Australia and Disney, and now, the Super Bowl. As a quick note: this segment was actually filmed one week before and layered over the broadcast due to an ultra-strict FAA no-fly order over the stadium--but that doesn't make it any less amazing.*
*It should be noted that if you plan to use drones for your event, it's likely to be on the pricey side and you will have to cooperate with FAA-authorized drone pilots and any local regulations that may exist for your venue.
What truly spectacular event would be complete without a little help from pyrotechnics? Whether it's something rustic and familiar like a big bonfire or sparklers or over-the-top and spectacular like fireworks a well-managed use of fire as lighting is always memorable. Depending on your theme, torches, lanterns, and abundant candlelight can also be appropriate. If your venue or fire regulations don't allow for any real fire, lighting companies have several different machines that can be used to mimic the feeling and effect.
Perhaps no one understood the strategic and artistic use of darkness and light in a space better than the famed architect Le Corbusier (as illustrated by the photo above, one corner of his stunning Church of Saint-Pierre in Firminy, France). When you are focused on how lighting is used to illuminate what you want seen--it is easy to overlook what you want to mask or keep shadowed. It's a balance, a yin and yang of elements that keep an event design proportional and beautiful. When you're planning your design, keep in mind that darker areas provide this visual balance, offer a bit of restfulness for attendees and provide boundaries where you wish for them to be created and defined within a given space.
We've seen things like flash mobs come and go in events trends, but instead of disappearing entirely, the use of human elements to create entertaining effects continues to evolve. In the video above, you can view an array of uses pioneered by industry leader PixMob (who also engineered the 80k lights worn on hats by Superbowl fans in 2013). Sunday's halftime show gave us additional insight into how a coordinated crowd using lights can add even more impact to dynamic lighting elements. In this case, there were handheld flashlights for a coordinated dance below Lady Gaga's stage. Like a crowd of lighters at a concert in the dark, lighting features that employ human motion, give a layer of meaning and engagement that goes beyond what even technology like drones can produce. Lights can be held, worn, or otherwise attached to or used by the people in the crowd--whether it is just for synchronization or for creating another experience, like a dance.
This one might seem more nightclub-appropriate or remind you of some less formal soirees from your youth, but it actually can have applications for higher-end events. The Emmys Governor's Ball has employed black lights and glow-in-the dark technology in their event designs as have luxury car brands like Jaguar and Range Rover. Finding ways to innovate and pivot features that might be used in less refined contexts is always a fun challenge. This kind of lighting obviously works best in the darkest venues or at night, so be sure to take that into consideration when you are planning for the day and time of your event.
The above video is obviously a performance piece using shadow but as with the strategic use of darkness we noted above, shadow and light interplay can make for stark and bold statement-making for any event. We like how dramatic the use of shadow can be--and it is usually used to convey something very specific and defined. If you want your event to be visually striking, using shadow is a great way to achieve this. It can be as simple as branded or patterned overlays on gel or spotlights all the way to a backlit image behind a transparent curtain--or something truly grand like this shadow performance. It's an excellent way, in fact, to get some bang for your buck--it's usually technologically on the simple side with a strong visual impact. Consider if this element might be useful to you as you plan your next event.
While it is true that tiny lights are often reserved for holiday events and uses, like the blacklight advice we gave--don't restrict yourself to holiday-only considerations. Though these may be cost effective on some level (as they are less sophisticated usually than other more advanced options mentioned above), volume and quantity is important to consider when planning your budget--many lights may be needed to make an impact. Where other light effects may be more dramatic, small, plentiful lights succeed in feeling magical and more subtle. Seeking winter season income, many botanical gardens around the U.S. are starting to do holiday light programs through their venues (to great success, such as the Atlanta gardens profiled in the video above). However, be sure you are thinking outside the box when you're considering how you could use a proliferation of small lights versus larger light fixtures and features for your event.
BECAUSE LIGHT IS SUCH AN INTEGRAL ASPECT OF EVENT PLANNING, PRODUCTION, AND DESIGN, WE WILL NO DOUBT CONTINUE TO REVISIT THIS TOPIC. WE COVER EVEN MORE ABOUT LIGHTING IN OUR FREE, DOWNLOADABLE CHEATSHEET: 10 WAYS TO GET BIG IMPACT ON A TIGHT BUDGET. WE WELCOME YOUR THOUGHTS, COMMENTS, AND IDEAS AND WE HOPE YOU WILL SHARE THEM WITH US BELOW IN THE COMMENTS AND ON TWITTER.
FOR A FASCINATING LOOK AT LIGHT AND HOW IT'S USED IN ARCHITECTURE, DESIGN AND MANY OTHER CONTEXTS, CHECK OUT THIS AWESOME TED TALK BY DUTCH LIGHTING DESIGNER ROGIER VAN DER HEIDE: WHY LIGHT NEEDS DARKNESS.