7 Lighting Trends for 2011: LEDs, Interactive Projections, 3-D, and More
Traditional decor elements like fresh flowers and silk tablecloths will always have their place, but lighting design is shaping the look of events like never before. And it’s not just about illuminating a room. Thanks to new advances in technology and the changing face of event marketing, lighting is being used to create interactive branded experiences, arty installations, and splashy, large displays, as well as to set the right tone. Here are the seven trends and developments that will influence events in the coming year, plus a slew of design ideas.
1. Architectural Mapping
One of the biggest—and most influential—trends in lighting is architectural mapping, three- dimensional projections designed to transform a building’s facade. For the Vimeo Film Festival and Awards, held in New York in October, London-based arts and technology firm Seeper worked with New York’s Glow Design Group to create a dynamic display on the IAC Building.
“In simple terms, we take architectural plans of a building—or if they don’t exist, we create them. Using these plans, we recreate the building as a 3-D model using computer software,” explains Evan Grant of Seeper. “This provides our canvas, on which we compose the visual and audio performance. Finally, using super-bright projectors and our own custom software, we project the model onto the building, aligning it to the architectural details.”
While the goal of Seeper’s design at the Vimeo fest was simply to look cool, these light shows can also be heavily branded, as seen in a Ralph Lauren promo in November. A team including U.K.-based United Video Artists and Drive Productions, Scharff Weisberg, and experiential agency MKG cast images of polo players, models, and products onto buildings on New York’s Madison Avenue.
“The thing that’s most compelling to me about video projection is what can be conceived of as a projection surface. As our software gets better, we have a higher degree of control in terms of shaping the image to fit different surfaces,” says Ryan Scammell of Glow Design Group.
Grant predicts that as the technology evolves and projectors get brighter and smaller, the mapping will merge with augmented reality. “In the future, architecture will be responsive to its environment and the people within it. We are working on interactive and generative projection mapping that allows the user to become part of and take control of the building and the performance,” he says.
2. Wireless Lights
Battery-powered lights are growing more popular due to their ease of use. “This type of fixture allows planners to have beautiful lighting in remote or hard-to-reach areas, such as table centerpieces, lounge areas, and trees, without the need for an external power source or running cable. This also means less hardware, and potentially faster setups,” says James Schipper of Los Angeles-based Kinetic Lighting.
“Another important component of this is wireless control. Most planners probably want to control which color or sequence of colors the fixtures output; by doing it wirelessly, it’s less cable and hardware to run to each light fixture. We’re getting asked for this a lot, but it’s difficult to supply. I think that will change as the demand continues.” While the cost is still high, many lighting designers predict that wireless LEDs will become cheaper and more accessible as demand increases.
Over the past few years, interactive lighting projections have been a popular way to incorporate branding and engage guests, and designers are continuing to dream up—and manufacture—new innovations. “Imagine an event space featuring wall, floor, and furniture projections—a fully immersive environment where every move triggers something else,” says Ira Levy of New York’s Levy Lighting. “The complete environment can change throughout the night.”
4. More LEDs
LEDs have been around for a decade or so, and we’ll be seeing even more of them. In fact, for some events, they’ll be the only kind of lighting. “The advantages of all-LED lighting are a huge reduction in power requirements, infrastructure, and cable and installation labor requirements,” says Chris Newkirk of Toronto-based Screamlab. “There is no [significant] heat, and there is full programmability in terms of color,” he says. “I use a combination of static—nonmoving—LED modules and moving head LED fixtures, as well as various other elements depending on the project. The fixtures are more expensive to rent, but with the savings elsewhere it pretty much balances out—if you have the right supplier.”
When it comes to branded content, many lighting designers are opting for video. “Video can be used to support a theme in a way similar to how we’ve used gobos in the past. The advantage is superior images that can be animated and change during the course of the event,” says David Kelly of Frost in Chicago. “The advantage of all of these systems is that they are modular and can be assembled in endless ways. Units can even be suspended overhead to create an amazing effect.”
LED systems can also integrate video into an event. “They can be used as a light box or a large source of colored light that can also take in video content, which allows for constantly changing color and patterns. They are also not necessarily square or rectangular tiles; now, they come in linear, curved, circular shapes and more,” says Michael S. Eddy of Eddy Marketing and Consulting. “There are a lot of creative applications with LED video products. They are being used widely on television projects like award shows, game shows, and news programs; they are widely used in concert touring; and they are getting wide use for corporate events, parties, and trade shows.”
6. Bold Color
“With the economy perking up, I’m finding that people are requesting more colorful environments using closely connected but differing palettes to establish a vibe or create more of a branded feeling,” says Bentley Meeker of New York’s Bentley Meeker Lighting and Staging.
This technology has made its mark on the movie industry—will events be next? Michael S. Eddy thinks it’s still a fad, but it can create impressive visuals. “When good 3-D content is made, like a three-dimensional logo spinning at a product launch, the effect really works well,” he says. “There are now LED video products that can create 3-D effects that will work with 3-D glasses—both the traditional two-color, like red and blue, and some that use a polarizing effect, which is more what the technology is moving toward. The polarizer version is far superior to the two-color system, which I find headache-inducing.”
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