Photo credit: Konsertsystemer LLB | Our Norwegian member delivered, among other things, almost 300 moving heads and many effect lamps for the ‘Nordic Beats’ tour in 2017
In most countries December’s holiday season is all about lights. Whichever hemisphere you live in, cities and homes are enveloped in decorative lights and the New Year brings about spectacular light shows and projections all around the world. Thankfully for us at AV Alliance, the rest of the year feels very much the same (even during the pandemic), as lighting is an integral part of making spectacular events and installations of all sizes and types. Be it indoor or outdoor, big or small, our members know all about the importance of good lighting.
Because while all elements of AV technology are important parts of a whole, there really are two factors that can turn any event into a failure: inadequate audio, and bad lighting. Your audience will forgive you for projection or video glitches, but if they cannot properly hear or see what they came for, it can ruin their experience altogether. Thankfully, for every type of event there are a multitude of different lighting solutions that are specifically designed to elevate the event experience, and that is the way we like it, as it gives AV professionals a chance to be really creative.
Why is lighting so important, you might ask? Simply put, it can drastically change the impact of your event and completely transform the look, feel, and ambiance of your venue. Its main function is to showcase and increase the value of the content you provide (be it a conference, a fashion show, an exhibition, or an arena concert) and also engage and retain your audience’s focus throughout, and has the ability not only to enchant them momentarily but to leave a lasting impact on them.
This, of course, requires you to go with the lighting solutions that are best suited for what you want to showcase, or where you would like to direct your audience’s attention. Working with a professional AV provider that possesses not only the experience but also the know-how of the necessary equipment is crucial for the successful planning, installation, and operation of lighting fixtures and control systems.
In the first part of our blog series on this topic we will highlight (pun intended) the purposes and the different uses of event lighting solutions for certain event types. Let us jump right in!
The Main Purposes of Professional Event Lighting
Creating the perfect lighting is one of the most foremost considerations of the planning phase of any event. With us humans being visual creatures, the right technology can make all the difference in physically directing our attention to important elements of any event space and content.
Let us take a quick look at how exactly lighting can elevate your event:
1. Illuminating Effect and Focus
While this sounds like we are stating the obvious, illumination does not only mean that we turn on the lights and your event is ready to go. Professional lighting illuminates exactly what you want your audience to look at in any given moment. Lighting showcases your presenter(s) and performers, be it statically or by following their movements, or can “hide them” from your audience’s view when necessary. It shows what you want people to see, highlight structures such as facades or landmarks, interior features of your venue, parts of a set or an entire stage, etc.
This brings us to focus. Lighting is the easiest and most effortless way to direct your audience’s attention throughout your event. Depending on the program or agenda, playing with lighting in a creative way draws focus to whatever you wish to – the stage, the exit, a branded wall, parts of the audience, presenters or performers, etc. This is especially important when it comes to maintaining audience engagement: at events that are either longer or busier when it comes to stimulating senses, strategic lighting helps your audience keep their eyes on the “main attraction” without losing focus or getting tired.
2. Setting the Scene
Setting the tone and atmosphere for your event not just in theory but also with the help of lighting can ensure that it will leave a lasting impact on your audience. It is one of the easier steps to make it a reality, as an experienced AV partner will create a lighting set-up that is not only tailored to your venue and your event needs (and more specifically its goal, message, audience, marketing value, etc.) but also deliver the visual wow-factor that adds that extra “oomph”.
AV does not only bring the technology, its many elements – sound, visuals, staging, decor, etc. – also create the mood right from the get-go, and it applies especially to lighting. Whether you create a soft ambiance with uplighting, harsh lines to create an industrial, perhaps unsettling feel, a dazzling and colorful light show or a magical atmosphere with intelligent lights, a full theatrical lighting setup for your stage, or whether you choose to work around natural light at your event, the result can be breathtaking and immediate.
3. Evoking Emotions
Lastly, we must talk about emotions, and all the ways that professional event lighting can evoking them. Firstly, there is the psychology of colors, which we are all familiar with: depending on what feelings you wish your audience to have during your event, choosing not only the type of lighting but the color as well is imperative. For example, white is associated with cleanliness and pureness, whereas red is the color of both passion and danger. Yellow is proven to spread warmth and happiness, while blue has a calming, cooling effect. And, of course, green is the color of nature, etc. Colored lights are a great way to evoke such emotions in the audience even before the event itself starts, setting the mood. This also works very well with the illumination of the venue and its architectural features, for instance in museums, exhibitions, or theaters, and of course outdoors, using the surroundings as a canvas to paint on with lights.
The other way you can successfully evoke emotions with the help of lighting is bringing the power of audio into the equation. Syncing a lighting show or the movements of programmed lights with music – whether it is a DJ providing the rhythm, a rock band, a solo singer, or a even a string quartet – and/or its lyrics can have a breathtaking effect and will surely give your audience goosebumps.
Types of Professional Event Lighting
Now that we covered the purpose of lighting and the role it plays in creating memorable events, we are going to touch on the different types of lighting that are used, depending on their function. But before we go into the kinds of light fixtures that are suitable for certain event types, let us explore three major distinctions we may categorize event lighting by:
Functional or Decorative Lighting
We can distinguish event lighting based on its function. The purpose of functional event lighting is to allow your audience to see your performers, presenters, showcased products, etc. Your venue’s own lighting system falls into this category, but so does stage lighting, washes, dimmable lights, spotlights, backlighting, etc. These fixtures are usually rigged, mounted, or hung from the ceiling or the structure built overhead, or placed around the stage on stands or on the ground. We might also consider LED walls as a lighting source in this case due to their brightness, which can illuminate the entire stage area.
Decorative lights, on the other hand, are fixtures that are installed purely for the purpose of creating a certain mood and evoke emotions from the audience, in accordance with the theme of the event. They are used to enhance event decor and architectural features, setting the tone of the entire event.
Static or Moving Lights
Lights can also be categorized based on their ability to move, which determines their use at any event. Backlighting, uplights, static washes, fixed spotlights, Gobos (fisxtures fitted with a special plate that control the shape and color of the emitted light and its shadow, ideal for static logo projection), PAR lights (mostly used for concerts settings back in the day), LED lights, etc. can all be categorized as static fixutres.
These stay in position, unlike the extremely popular and versatile moving heads, also called as moving lights or intelligent lights, which have three types: the well-known overhead beams, follow spotlights, and washes. Of course, these days most moving heads are fitted with internal Gobo plates to create a variety of colors, patterns, etc. for a special effect. We can also add the increasingly popular kinetic lights to the “moving category”, as well as laser beams, etc. Intelligent lighting is programmed and operated by control systems that allow you to be as creative in your lighting design as possible and turn your event into a breathtaking experience for your audience.
Indoor or Outdoor Lighting
Our distinction between indoor and outdoor lighting does not actually refer to the types of fixtures that you can use. On the contrary, most types of lighting can be used both inside and outside, as long as the fixtures are suited to the conditions you wish to subject them to (depending on the make, the material, and the durability of the product). Indoor and door lighting differences mostly come from the surroundings and the time of day when your event takes place.
When it comes to indoor events, your possibilities are endless. No matter if your event takes place during the day or at night, you can either work with (and expand on) the architectural characteristics and equipment of the venue, or build your own truss structures and rig the lighting fixtures according to your needs. Depending on the theme of the event and the mood you wish to evoke, you can amp up or tone down functional lighting, install decorative lights, etc. and if your venue lets in natural light and your event takes place at daytime, you can also incorporate that in creative ways.
As for outdoor lighting, the most important factors you need to pay attention to are the time of day and the weather conditions, both of which impact the type of lights you want to use. At daytime outdoor events – be it a festival concert or a reception – certain products will not work due to natural light, but colored luminaries and LED are always a fail-safe option to go with. In the nighttime, however, your possibilities are once again endless!
Working with your surroundings and nature is an added opportunity to showcase stunning outdoor lighting. Over the years many of our AV Alliance members have delivered breathtaking lighting solutions or various clients at parks, landmarks, buildings, and even entire cities. This type of outdoor lighting also came in handy when the event industry issued a global plea for governmental support at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, bathing tens of thousands of buildings in red – and sometimes blue – lights all over the world as part of e.g. the Night of Light and We Make Events initiatives.
Depending on your event being completely open-air or taking place partially under some sort of structure (a tent, canopy, or truss structure, for instance), you need to choose your light fixtures accordingly. For example, moving heads and spotlights will always need to be rigged or mounted overhead, while uplighting and many different types of LED lights (wireless or not) can be placed anywhere without needing a structure to be attached to.
Weather conditions, such as rain, wind, snow and ice, heat, dirt, and even air pollution will have an impact on your lighting, in part due to how they affect the fixtures (and the structures they are attached to) and the way they function, and also due to how these conditions influence how the light itself that they emit behaves under extreme circumstances. Of course, LED lights today’s manufacturers make sure that they continuously develop outdoor lighting fixtures that can stand even the harshest weather conditions, e.g. our technology partner Elation Professional‘s Proteus Maximus, the new Proteus Lucius, or the much talked-about and incredibly durable Proteus Hybrid.
Lighting Categories by Event & Venue Type
We can further categorize lighting by focusing on the types of events that they are used for, depending on what their main purpose is and what you wish to achieve with them. Here we bring you a couple of examples where lighting is specifically tailored to the venue/occasion:
Lighting for Meetings & Conferences
The main purpose of meetings, conferences, conventions, etc. is for the audience to interact with each other and with the presenters or speakers. This means that they not only have to be able to clearly see who is on the stage, but also to see each other clearly at certain times. To best serve this purpose, the main type of lighting is always functional at such events. Venues in which meetings and conferences are usually held – such as hotels, convention centers, etc. – are usually equipped with their own solutions, however those usually apply to the general lighting of the meeting hall itself.
Professional event lighting needs to work with the solutions that the venue offers, and also seamlessly to the technology used at the event (LED or video projection), the different parts of the program, a potential live stream or broadcast, photography and video recording on site, etc. without distracting the audience from what is happening on the stage. Depending on the venue, light fixtures for this event type can either be hanged, mounted or rigged, placed on stands, or on the floor next to the stage. Decorative lighting is also frequently used to highlight showcased products or certain areas and features of the venue.
Typical lights used in a meeting environment: wireless LED lights, washes, spot beams, backlighting, uplighting, Gobos, etc.
Stage and Theater Lighting
All stage productions – theater, music, dance, opera, or any performance art – have a story at heart that they tell their audience. They evoke emotions through the performance, and lighting plays a crucial part in that by incorporating light and shadow, and colors in the storytelling. From the technical side of things, innovative stage and theater lighting has to be thoroughly planned, programmed, and operated with control systems by a lighting crew to achieve the right luminance, the right colors, etc. while bringing the power, the effects, and the flexibility (and dimmability!) that is required for a professional stage production.
Typical lights used in stage and theater setting: moving heads, washes (floodlights), spotlights, Gobos, lasers, dimmers, LED lights etc.
Arena and Stadium Lighting
Major events such as sporting events and concerts can turn into unforgettable moments. What’s more, the flexibility of modern stadiums and event arenas is increasingly becoming a success and competitive factor. A key element: Light that optimally stages the event and at the same time provides the best viewing conditions. Embedded in a flexible infrastructure with open standards.
Typical lights used in arenas and stadiums: floodlights (washes), and stage lighting elements (moving beams, spotlights, lasers, etc.) for certain event types
This kind of lighting works with and showcases the natural characteristics and architectural features of buildings and landmarks, and it has been enjoying tremendous popularity (especially in the past two years) due to the stunning visual effect it achieves and also the emotions it evokes in spectators. Of course, lighting large and sometimes irregular surfaces for long stretches of time requires a great deal of planning, as well as powerful light fixtures that are durable and energy-efficient, as well as have high output and color capacity. Architectural lighting can be used both indoors (e.g. accent lighting) and outdoors, however the latter requires a slightly different approach. In the section that details the specifics of outdoor lighting we already mentioned that the most important factor that needs to be taken into consideration is how well the light fixtures adapt to and function in different weather conditions, as well as the material of the surface that is being lit.
Typical lights used for architectural lighting: wall washers, uplighting, downlighting, recessed lighting (floor, ceiling, etc.), wireless LED lights, Gobos, unmounted moving heads, wall-mounted spotlights, facade spotlights, different types of luminaries (high-bay, wall-mounted, etc.) etc.
Lighting for Studio, Streaming and Broadcasting
In the past two years live streaming and broadcasting for events have skyrocketed for obvious reasons, and it resulted in an exponential increase in studio production as well. Today’s leading lighting manufacturers have created entire product lines that are perfectly adapted to the specific requirements that a studio environment, as well as a live stream require. The lights’ brightness, color temperature, luminance, luminous efficiency, heat production, energy saving, etc. will all have an impact on the quality of the video output, therefore the light fixtures have to be carefully selected (and programmed).
Unlike lighting an in-person event, in case of a live stream lighting professionals have to meticulously calibrate lights to avoid harsh tones, soften shadows (especially on the presenters’ faces), tone down or increase contrast if necessary, brighten backgrounds, etc. in order to improve the quality and clarity of the video output. They also need to work with technology on site, factoring the brightness of LED panels (on walls, floors, screens, etc.) into the overall lighting setup.
Typical lights used in a studio setting or in live streaming/broadcasting: LED lights, LED spotlights, moving head beams, etc.
There are, of course, many other venues and event types, such as outdoor festivals, clubs and entertainment halls, weddings, rallies, trade fairs, exhibitions, etc. that all have their specific lighting requirements, of which a professional audio visual partner can also take care of.
Working with Professionals
Having a trusted AV partner taking care of your event lighting is an absolute must if you wish to achieve professional results. Even though many venues have lighting systems in place, these may or may not fit your needs and can significantly lower your audience’s event experience if they fail to create the right mood or bring the highest level of quality.
Now that we extensively covered the different types of event lighting, here are some examples as to the questions you need to answer before you start planning your event, so that your AV production company will know exactly what you need and what kind of lighting solutions they will need to bring to the table both from the technical and creative aspect.
Practical questions regarding factors that impact the overall lighting strategy:
- What is the overall goal that you aim to achieve with your event?
- What is the theme of the event, and what are your audience’s expectations?
- Do you have corporate colors or logo that you wish to incorporate in your event?
- What kind of stage will you have?
- Will you use LED walls or projection?
- Are you going to live stream or broadcast your event?
- Will you be recording the event?
What would you like to achieve regarding your presenters/speakers/performers?
- How many presenters or performers will you have?
- Will your presenters remain seated or walk around the stage?
- What kind of performances (music, theater, dance, etc.) do you plan to incorporate in your event?
- Will any of the performances involve separate set design?
- What kind of clothing will your presenters wear? Are any of them bald? etc.
Things you may want to consider regarding your venue/location:
- What is the height of the room?
- Is the venue’s power supply sufficient for the kind of lighting you need, or does your AV partner have to provide the power?
- Is there a fixed area for the stage, and if so, does it allow for custom lighting?
- Can you have lights rigged or hanged from the ceiling?
- Is there sufficient space for installing a lighting rig, if you need one?
- Does your venue have its own lighting control system?
- If so, can it work with the lighting control system of your AV partner?
- Can the lights of your venue be dimmed?
- What type of lighting fixtures come with the venue?
When evaluating and ultimately selecting your venue, there are many aspects to consider, but it is always worth asking the right questions (not just in terms of lighting but audio visual technology in general) to make sure that your venue can actually host the kind of event that you have envisioned.
In the next installment of this blog series we will dive deeper into introducing the different lighting fixture types that we have mentioned throughout this article, explain what they are, and will also endeavor to provide you with an overall knowledge of the most common professional lighting expressions that you always wished to be familiar with.
To learn more about the technical aspects event lighting, the necessary equipment, as well as the related costs, feel free to get in touch with us and find out what our AV Alliance members can do to make your event dreams a reality!