Masterworks Lighting Reinvents Sci-Fi Comic-Con Exhibit
Originally posted by P. Dexter on Tuesday, December 5 2006
Building on last year’s Sci-Fi Channel Comic-Con Exhibit, Masterworks used the skin of the booth structure as a projection surface.
Read the complete article in pdf versions of the article that appeared in Lighting & Sound America:
How I Did That: One Happy Collision
A Project For VW Underscores The Rewarding Potential In Niche Markets
“The VW team commissioned architectural design firm Graft to envisage living spaces from 2026…”
“Life Sets showed us that an important part of future architecture is that a lighting designer is becoming more and more a part of our design process,” says Stefan Beese, Graft’s production designer. “Lighting and multimedia fuse together, as architecture and lighting will fuse together to become one element.”
Read the full story of how we did that at the LIVEDESIGN site: http://livedesignonline.com/mag/one_happy_collision/
Masterworks Lighting Invents New “Digital Chandelier”
Masterworks Lighting Invents New “Digital Chandelier” — Posted by Dexter on Tuesday, May 9 2006
Masterworks Lighting Invents new “Digital Chandelier”
Masterworks Lighting, based in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, recently solved a huge problem facing event producers and designers when it comes to decorating and lighting large spaces.
“Necessity is truly the mother of invention”, says, Paul Dexter, Masterworks President and creator of the new “Chandelier”. “We had an event in March called “Radical Craft”, which was a three-day design event, attended by innovators from all disciplines from advertising to architecture, coming from around the world to Pasadena (CA) for the 2006 Art Center College of Design Conference. Considering our overachiever audience, I had to make the entertainment space immensely different from what ordinary lighting means could offer.”
The space was a 160’ x 50’ tent, provided by Classic Party Rentals, that was linked to another 80’ x 40’ tent. The problem not only involved lighting a vast space, but to make it intimate for lunches, dinners and after parties.
“Making white wall tents intimate is a challenge for any event producer that uses them for large events,” says Dexter. “They are just inherently cold, but it didn’t stop there, either.” The event producers described multiple sponsors, including New York Magazine, GE and Target that were requesting specific color combinations to associate with their corporate branding and were at the same time, needing predominant space to shine their famous logo designs on to.
So how do you combine all those requirements together and end up with a solution? Sakow Events resided over concept design for the entertainment tent and owner/producer Pam Sakow, disclosed details to us from the first meeting when the idea of a Chandelier took place. “Paul described these huge chandeliers, with CAD visual aids, using panels framed like pictures, but lit by LED’s from behind. It sounded good to us and we were excited about it, but we had no idea until they were physically up in the tent, what it was going to be like”, says Sakow. “It finally hit us that they became huge lights that could change to any color, but also could be projection surfaces for the sponsor’s logos. It looked amazing and the compliments are still coming in, even after the event is over”.
Masterworks submitted the Chandelier design to the USTPO. They are currently waiting for the design patent and plan to market the “Digital Chandelier”, and variations of it, to the many large events looking for a new solution to customize 4 wall temporary installations. For more information, visit www.masterworkslighting.com.
It’s Not Just About the Money Sept 7, 2005
Upper Left Hand Corner: Smoke and Mirrors
Head: It’s Not Just About the Money
Deck: Two questions that reveal the premises of a career—and a life.
By Paul Dexter
Considering all the corporate takeovers that we read and hear about, in which large companies are rolled into other, larger, companies, business in America is generally motivated by a profit-driven agenda. This fact of life that has a ripple effect on long-term employment, leaving our workforce at the mercy of decisions determined by power and greed.
The situation isn’t healthy for steady-employment seekers. The climate has certainly changed the most for baby boomers, who were raised with the belief that jobs were a lifetime commitment and would yield regular promotions and retirement security. Today, situations like that are rare–so it’s up to us to create our own security.
If you are in the employer-employee relationship, therefore, you need to find security within yourself, in the confidence that you’re doing a good job. Human nature being what it is, you’ll need your bosses to reinforce that, says Bob Nelson, author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees. “It’s more about how people are treated everyday at work,” he writes, “about being given interesting, meaningful work and being shown its content and value to the organization.”
However, it’s not just about positive reinforcement; money counts, too. With a master’s degree in business administration and a doctorate from the Peter Drucker Graduate Management School at Claremont Graduate University, Nelson has tailored his career to learning what makes workers tick and how managers can motivate them. “In a time of flat raises, hiring freezes, doing away with 401Ks, outsourcing, and so forth, money is so important,” Nelson says. “I don’t pit my stuff against money. Employers still need to pay people as best they can. Recognition programs aren’t substitutes for money.” Thus job satisfaction comes in two parts—financial reward combined with a sense of personal success.
Sensitive to the new and evolving circumstances imposed on workers these days (being a baby-boomer myself) and having experienced both self-employment and life as an employee, I was interested to learn how new job trends are affecting freelancers in our industry. How do self-employed designers and technicians contend with the concept that security depends on finding the right balance of money and recognition? Can they strike that balance?
Subhead: Asking the questions
To this end, I asked three industry lifetime professionals–a sound engineer, a tour manager, and a lighting designer–two questions about their vocations and their longevity in the business: 1. How did you get started? 2. Is it more that just about the money?”
Sound engineer Don Dodge (“Dodge”) is the classic rock-and-roll touring crew member and wouldn’t change it. With over 35 years in the business, he has certainly seen changes. I caught up with him on his cell phone, at an airport in Chicago, waiting to take another flight. Currently on tour with Foreigner, Don also owns his own recording studio in Seattle, Washington. How did it start? “I was knocking around, singing and playing guitar,” he says. “I starting putting sound systems together for my own band, around ‘69-‘70. Friends with their own bands wanted their sound systems put together, too, and, before long, I was making more money putting systems together than playing. That railroaded me into that side of things and lead to road work with a national recording group–Fragile Line–signed to Metromedia Records, and then Doug Kershaw, who was, at that time, looking for a road manager and audio guy. I moved to Nashville for a year and then to LA.” The rest is history: The Jackson Victory Tour, Bonnie Raitt, Pat Benatar, to name a few.
Is it more than just the money? “I knew from the start it was a future and a career. I didn’t have formal schooling, beyond high school. But I quickly got out of my position a sense of pride–and the relationships with band and crew became a key part of loving the job – so, yes, it’s more than just the money. You’re with them day-in-and-out and they become family. Apart from that, there’s not a whole lot that I don’t like.”
Tour manager Michael Nachtigal started as a guitar player in the 60s and was in the band Common Ground—a group that actually supported some of The Yardbirds’ shows. “In those days, we never had control of production, so I decided to explore that end of things, and learned about sound boards. Eventually, I traded the guitar in and became a house sound-mixer and mixed everybody from Little Richard to Paul Simon. Finally, I discovered what production control feels like, with Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Dancin’ on the Ceiling’ tour, doubling as a mixer and a production manager.” Today, Michael owns his own company, September Productions, and organizes tours with Usher, Manhattan Transfer, and Kitaro.
Is it more than just the money? “I’ve become something like an orchestra leader, except my heart’s deep in production. I’m not skilled enough to do all the jobs, but I do exercise my natural gift to bring artists, designers, and crew together. All I do is coordinate 40 different names to make a tour happen. Money is important, but production excites me and there’s nothing else I care to do.”
Lighting designer Libby Gray didn’t start as a musician. Participating in her college drama club, she noticed that no one looked after the stage lights. One Friday afternoon, she locked herself in the auditorium for 24 hours and proceeded to figure out how it all worked. With auto-transformers and a TTI desk, she got a single Leko to turn on at center stage, and an overwhelming realization came over her—this was what she going to do! As luck would have it, she lived 20 minutes from Manhattan and began interning for Off Broadway theatres and for designer/mentor Mitch Dana. He told her, “Never get into lighting!” Libby is currently touring with the rock band Styx.
Is it more than just the money? “I love the medium of light and the immediacy of light as an art form. You can’t capture it with a camera, so if you’re not there, you’ll miss it. Controlling lights also enables me to be musical without being a musician. I just aspire to be prominent enough to mentor people like I was. The comment Mitch made to me about not getting into lighting? I finally figured out that was a deterrent! You have to be strong and passionate about it, otherwise, you shouldn’t be attempting to go into that field.”
Subhead: Where’s the real security
Working is simply survival and we have to make money. So, if you need to face this fact of life, try to take control of it as best as you can. It’s a blessing when you find your niche and love what you do–that’s when work becomes more than just for the money.
Luck is key, too, and, unfortunately, you don’t hold a magic wand to wave over your fate. If you’re an employee, chances are high that you could be subject to the profit-driven ethos, not necessarily being recognized for your talents and, maybe, not even getting proper compensation. That’s why, even thought it can be tough and it may not seem as secure, a career in the entertainment industry is, to me, one of the best choices available. You don’t have to look to a boss for recognition, because you’ll have the support of an entire community.
How do self-employed designers and technicians contend with the concept that security depends on finding the right balance of money and recognition?
“Money is important, but production excites me and there’s nothing else I care to do.”
“I love the medium of light and the immediacy of light as an art form. You can’t capture it with a camera, so if you’re not there, you’ll miss it.”
Blind Ambition Aug. 3, 2005
This will probably be the first of many articles you’ll see about the bold Sci-Fi Channel exhibit (www.scifi.com), showcased for the first time at Comic Con, in San Diego, CA (July 14-17). I know it’s the first, because I watched its initial construction of 57 groundbreaking rigging points in a 60′ x 30′ island. The surrounding convention center floor was polished clean, empty, and industry press were understandably absent.
Being in the fortunate position of determining the content of Smoke and Mirrors, I observe and write about, well…whatever is the current flavor of the month. But the plan is to bring news and ideas about a different parts of this glorious industry in which we work, from a perspective that will hopefully be thought provoking. That’s what this project, an architecturally designed fiberglass sculpture, did for me. The Sci-Fi Channel display had something far deeper and thought provoking to offer than any ordinary, practical exercise in marketing products and services on a convention floor.
We’ve seen all the tactics used to attract attention on trade show floors-wow-factor lighting, two-second flash LED wall images, and vertical truss structures used to hold colorful signs with company logos and product ads. This, instead, is a story of design in its purest form, of the creation of a space that addresses all of the client’s requirements, an ambitious and production-heavy solid structure that pushed the boundaries of exhibit show marketing. It’s also a story about those involved in its ever-evolving creation.
A Client With a Vision
Kim Volonakis, Sci-Fi Channel’s manager of off-air marketing and promotions, explains, “We’ve been showing at Comic Con for six years. This year we wanted to bring a new structure that communicates our changing identity. Much of our program content is original, which is far different from the stigma that Sci-Fi only shows a bunch of Star Trek
To that end, the Sci-Fi Channel initiated a design competition in late 2004, complete with written criteria for their basic, emotional, requirement–a space that would draw the exhibit audience in-along with practical considerations, such as a private meeting space, relaxation areas for viewing projected imagery, computer and signing tables, display shelves, and–let’s not forget–the storage area. Foremost in this design brief was the directive to take a fresh approach and not be guided by what-has-worked-before standards of booth design.
Five known design companies were contacted and given the same brief. After putting their best efforts forward, the winner was announced in January of 2005: GRAFT (www.graftlab.com). With offices in Los Angeles, Berlin and Beijing, Graft practices full spectrum design in architecture, retail, art and exhibit settings, and hospitality design. Those experienced capabilities that have been honed over the seven years since the company’s inception were able to fully answer the Sci-Fi Channel’s objectives, one of which was, “To express Sci-Fi’s grasp in belief and imagination though a solid structure.”
Pulling Together a Team In addition to winning the design contest, Graft accepted another key role: to manage the build of this creation in time for the July opening at Comic Con. Stefan Beese became Graft’s project coordinator, working closely with the three main partners, Wolfram Putz, Lars Krueckeberg. and Thomas Willmemeit, to deliver a sculpture that was a ready-to-beshipped package of parts. First, they called upon fiberglass manufacturers Greneker
(www.greneker.com), guided by executive VP Steve Beckman to construct the interactive, 60′ long by 30′ wide structure complete with 20′ high abstract bridge.
The construction and organization of such an original art piece for exhibit use was an area that was admittedly out of the usual realms of Sci-Fi Channel’s expertise. “For us,” says Blake Callaway, Sci-Fi’s vice president of brand marketing, “this was a leap of faith. We were completely counting on people that could help us realize our vision.”
Further to the Graft structure build process, the Sci-Fi Channel contacted Tangram International Exhibitions’
(www.tangramint.com) Steel Swift and Jeremy Thom to provide a production liaison. With a successful NBC and Sci-Fi Channel working history, Tangram would become pivotal in offering assistance in structural engineering, moving the structure from Greneker to San Diego, interface with the production rental house AVW-TELAV, controlled by sales manager for exhibit programs Bill Carlson and then combine all production, practical equipment and labor schedules to culminate into a well-organized load-in on July 9th , through the strike, rental returns, and storage.
AVW is a Freeman Company (www.avwtelav.com), which provided all of the A/V equipment and lighting. As a rental and
service vendor, their total show approach was particularly helpful, because they maintain the in-house production contract to provide for exhibitors coming into the San Diego Convention Center. Exhibitors who use Freeman can generally exercise a poll position to negotiate services and receive show considerations that would require more influence to achieve if they used outside vendors. In the case of production the size, scope and financial investment made by the Sci-Fi Channel, there were extraordinary conditions for accommodating technology and rigging that might not have been accepted in many exhibit situations, but were in this instance owing to AVW’s involvement and first-hand understanding of the project’s complexities.
Fast forward to Art: once the lighting and structure were in position, construction activity cleared the building, leaving Chris Marimen (programmer extraordinaire) and myself, Charles Hellwig from Sunset Media + Technologies (www.sunsetmediatech.com) and Stefan. I was hired in April by GRAFT to design the lighting and develop the concept of using the entire structure as a projection surface, in addition to linking three specific areas designed for original projection images (provided by Sunset Media) on the underside of the bridge, with lighting looks that contained the branding colors of the Sci-Fi Channel.
The moral of this story? Keeping it safe and using what worked-before tactics has a homogenizing effect on live or
recorded media, whether it’s TV (Ohh…another show that someone gets voted off? – original!), or remake movies trying to be TV (Bewitched or Dukes of Hazzard, anyone?) These not-so-innovative ideas are typically agreed to by bean counters turned decision-making CEO’s looking to maximize studio profits without paying original storywriters or new concept designers.
So when an imaginative new project idea emerges from the basis of solving specific needs through design clarity, I’m
delighted to boast about it. There’ll always be the inescapable parameters of budget-squeezing and often it has been our mother of invention. It’s just better when economy isn’t imposed on the creative sector and rental vendors from rich corporations. For that reason, it’s refreshing to report, in this day and age of ruthless budget cuts and shoddy corporate behavior, that Sci-Fi Channel stayed the course through their desire to create a brand original,
to communicate a new message for the 100,000+ fans to enter Comic Con. Maybe this trend of pushing the limits of industry talent will catch on!
Paul Dexter runs Masterworks Lighting Design in Los Angeles, CA.