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Publications 2018-05-09T03:34:42+00:00
Concert Lighting book by Paul Dexter & James Moody

The most comprehensive entertainment lighting book to date: the 4th Edition of Concert Lighting, The Art and Business of Entertainment Lighting, published by Routledge, a Focal Press book.

Written by James Moody and Paul Dexter.

Available now:
Purchase Concert Lighting from the publisher.
Purchase Concert Lighting from Amazon.

October 1, 2010, Live Design Q & A Paul Dexter released online, click here for the full story. Lighting & Sound America Magazine, a review of their book, “Concert Lighting, Third Edition”, recently published by Focal Press, Paul Dexter and James Moody give an in depth interview with Sharon Stancavage http://www.lightingandsoundamerica.com/ConcertLighting.pdf. Lighting & Sound America’s October 2009 feature article by Sharon Stancavage, is “Double Feature” with interviews from Paul Dexter/Masterworks and designer Jeff Ravitz. The article covers the unique joint design of REO Speedwagon and STYX productions. Concert Lighting by Paul DexterConcert Lighting Third Edition, By James L. Moody and Paul Dexter was released on September 29th, according to Focal Press. Reserve yours today through Amazon.com or Focal Press Read more about Concert Lighting Third Edition. Live Design Article released – “Book Release Concert Lighting” – includes interview with James Moody and Paul Dexter. Article by Marian Sandberg. Read the article in LiveDesign. February 2008 Issue of Live Design Magazine Used with Permission from Live Design. “…invaluable experiences continually evolved and only because of these sets of extraordinary circumstances and vast challenges.” Click here for the full “In the Trenches” story PDF. Click here to see the article at LiveDesignOnline.com. Tales From the Crypt Paul Dexter Gives a Gothic Spin to the Heaven and Hell Tour Lighting & Sound America, July 2007

The Heaven And Hell Of Show Construction by Paul Dexter July 2007 Issue of Live Design Magazine

A Look at Heaven and Hell DL.2s add to Gothic set for heavy metal tour

Heaven and Hell to Tour with DL.2s LD Paul Dexter designs set, lighting for much-anticipated tour March 7, 2007 The Heaven and Hell tour kicks off March 11 with High End Systems DL.2s in its design.

New photos have been released of the REO Speedwagon, Cant’ Stop Rockin’ Tour with Styx 2009 Click here to view Slide Show Click here to view Slide Show #2 Slide show #3 REO Speedwagon stage design Paul Dexter has released his latest drawings for the REO Speedwagon stage design that was used on the 2009 “Can’t Stop Rockin” tour. The set uses 92 custom LED nodes and 460 DMX channels that was engineered by Excitement Technologies in Dallas, Texas. The LED’s were controlled through a Catalyst V4 which achieved an infinite number of variable scenes. This is the first time that LED nodes have been customized and used in this way. Click here for photo slide show.

Heaven & Hell, Metal Masters Tour 2008: View Slide show

Activision Masterworks Design’s Paul Dexter releases exclusive new photos by Gene Kirkland of Paul’s innovative architectural lighting design and install for Activision’s Motion Capture Studio, located in Marina Del Rey, California. Click here for photo slide show.

Concept and Set Design for Heaven and Hell 2008 Tour for Live Nation’s Metal Masters. Click here for photo slide show.

Lighting and Set Design for Summer 2008, Triumph in Concert for Rocklahoma Crowds in their second Concert appearance in 25 years. Click here for photo slide show.

Lighting and Set Design for Summer 2008, Triumph in Concert for Swedish Rock Festival. This was the first show played by the Iconic band for 25 years. Click here for photo slide show.

Lighting design for a 21st-century workplace at Activision’s LA studio. Masterworks Lighting created “… a space that facilitates the staff’s work, both with motioncapture cameras and computer terminals, while creating a pleasant, atmosphere that recalls a classic motionpicture studio.” Read the story in Lighting and Sound America.

Activision Signs Masterworks Lighting to Design LA Studio “Dexter came to the studio and soon after developed 3-D images of our studio, merged his lighting suggestions and involved us in his processes.” Read the story in Lighting and Sound America.

In the Trenches, On the Road with REO Speedwagon by Paul Dexter February 2008 Issue of Live Design Magazine Used with Permission from Live Design. “…invaluable experiences continually evolved and only because of these sets of extraordinary circumstances and vast challenges.” Click here for the full “In the Trenches” story PDF. Click here to see the article at LiveDesignOnline.com.

REO Speedwagon, 2007 NEW photos the touring stage set by Paul Dexter of Masterworks!

Headline St. Louis Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, September 8, 2007, with .38 Special and Kansas for 14,000 fans [ View Slide Show ]

See Paul Dexter with REO Speedwagon band and crew, Summer 2007. Black Sabbath has released their new Heaven and Hell DVD, live from Radio City Music Hall in NYC. Production Design, as well as Concert and Film Lighting was performed by Paul Dexter of Masterworks.

Tales From the Crypt

Paul Dexter Gives a Gothic Spin to the Heaven and Hell Tour Lighting & Sound America, July 2007 “… Black Sabbath by any other name still guarantees a hard-rocking good time. To design the tour’s stage set and lighting, the Heaven and Hell crew turned to Paul Dexter, of Masterworks Lighting. A multi-tasking designer whose resume includes special events, corporate exhibits, film, and much more, Dexter has a deep experience in concert touring. His relevant experience includes a past Black Sabbath outing in 1992, as well a lighting design gig with Ozzy Osbourne in 1981; he’s done Dio’s self-named act since 1983. As production designer for Heaven and Hell, Dexter has provided plenty of amusingly subversive imagery.”

The Heaven And Hell Of Show Construction by Paul Dexter July 2007 Issue of Live Design Magazine LD Paul Dexter says, “I became the production designer for Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell Tour 2007, handling just about every facet of the visuals in the show — set design, lighting design, scripting the show, directing programming for lights and projection, and even coordinating moves with the band,…”

A Look at Heaven and Hell DL.2s add to Gothic set for heavy metal tour LD Paul Dexter says, “The DL.2s are so versatile that for a nearly two-hour show, new images and stock footage continues to alter the look of the three centrally dedicated arch projection windows and all encompassing Gothic stage set.”

Heaven and Hell to Tour with DL.2s LD Paul Dexter designs set, lighting for much-anticipated tour March 7, 2007 The Heaven and Hell tour kicks off March 11 with High End Systems DL.2s in its design. Heaven and Hell is a highly-anticipated tour among heavy metal fans, as this new band features veterans Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice. Megadeth and Down are also on the bill for Canada, with Machine Head and Megadeth opening the US dates.

Masterworks Lighting Reinvents Sci-Fi Comic-Con Exhibit 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:

A Science Fiction Masterpiece VARI*LITE® Automated Luminaires Bring Sci-Fi Channel Booth to Life September 25, 2006 “As the attendees perused the tradeshow floor, one booth clearly rose above the rest, the Sci-Fi Channel’s unique and futuristic foray into the world of tradeshow booth design. …Beese and Dexter created a Sci-Fi masterpiece, complemented by the programming talents of Chris Merriman.”

How I Did That: One Happy Collision A Project For VW Underscores The Rewarding Potential In Niche Markets Tuesday, August 15, 2006 “…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 at the LIVEDESIGN site:

Masterworks Lighting Invents New “Digital Chandelier” Friday, April 7, 2006 Masterworks recently solved a huge problem facing event producers and designers when it comes to decorating and lighting large spaces…


>rofessional Courtesy, please July 3, 2005

By Paul Dexter

I recently visited the House of Blues (HOB) in Myrtle Beach, SC with a touring show. Between the lighting and sound console, a standard white 8½ ” x 11” laminated sign was posted, reading, “If you are grouchy, irritable or just plain mean–there will be a $10.00 charge for putting up with you.”

I asked Penelope, the house lighting designer, who has been there for nine years, what the story was behind the notice; are there really that many crews coming through with bad attitude. The answer: “Oh, yes.” This was enough for me to question what it is about being on the road that frustrates crew members so much that they would lose any social etiquette, professional courtesy, and respect toward local crews.

There is no doubt that, waking up from a long bus trip, entering a venue after four shows in a row and being presented with breakfast consisting of a box Krispy Cremes and a lukewarm Starbucks container–yes this still happens—you’ll want to kill the nearest person. Then, just to exacerbate things, let’s say that you discover that all the production amenities aren’t unfolding as expected or the local crew isn’t up to your high standards.

Kevin Shirley, production manager at HOB, had a valid observation: “The evolution of equipment has streamlined the way that we build shows; everything is ready to go or easily adaptable. It’s made it so simple for younger crews now and it’s what they’re used to; new technology is commonplace for them. When those new features aren’t there, they get pissed–either that, or they had a bad local crew from the night before. They won’t differentiate between our crew and the bad one–in some cases, they’ve given up and assume that all local crews are idiots.”

At that point, you are justified in seeing this as the worst day in your life, so you verbally annihilate anyone who gets in your way until after lunch. Then you have a different reason to be pissed off, because the pre-show stress sets in. There’s a lot of work to be done, but all you want is to fast-forward the work part, so you can relax and get the show over with. Listen: if this is you; find a new career, because this is the in-the-trenches dirt that comes with the lifestyle. So… buck up, private or get out!

Let’s face it; it’s not an easy lifestyle. But I can, with no trouble, find a dozen seasoned veterans with vivid stories to tell about the wrath brought down by a bad attitude. It isn’t new. It’s caused by the trying details of a life that is different from any other, a life that you must be able to deal with, to take the extremely good with the sometimes unfathomably bad. Now, a new generation is coming into the road crew challenge with entirely different backgrounds–many whom have never ever had to do without. So why cause misery for yourself and with those local crews that are there to help you?

I’m no expert, but I have some field experience, I’m a dad to teenagers, and I read and observe in my travels. Besides, I’m the one wielding the pen here. To my eyes, the new generations of crew persons out there are technically skilled and sometimes exceptionally smart, but many of them lack common sense and they like to drink their water from a glass. Growing up, they got pretty much everything they needed and wanted. My generation’s (I’m a baby boomer) parents and grandparents would wash the foil off after cooking so they could reuse it. These days, you can throw a used cell phone in the trash. It’s a totally different mindset; a world without overabundance would be unimaginable to many young people.

So not having to go without, in my view, has unfortunately created a backlash effect, spawning a generation of individuals noted for their entitlement and unearned feelings of privilege. This has a ripple effect, with dire consequences for the social graces and manners that bind us all together. I conducted a simple personal experiment to prove this point: I went out of my way to hold doors open for people in public places, just to see the reactions. Most of the young people wouldn’t even acknowledge me, let alone say that magic word “thanks.” A number of little teenage princesses walked through the doorway with scowls on their faces, then looked down at the ground as they passed, as if I was their servant or something. It’s not surprising that baby boomers and other older types would graciously nod, smile, or say thank you.

Concerning a behavioral generation gap, results from a couple of independent studies were published recently in the The Journal of Gerontology and Psychology and Aging. While older people have been stereotyped as being grumpy, recent studies have proven otherwise, concluding that fewer had interpersonal difficulties to begin with and, when problems arose, they experienced fewer negative emotions and behaved less aggressively. “When they do feel upset, they’re more likely to wait and see if things improve than to yell or argue.” said Kira S. Birditt, a research fellow at the University of Michigan and lead author of two separate behavior studies.

A reliable source in England told me a disturbing tale of bad behavior from the recent Beck tour that further underlines my point. It made me cringe, because, as American road crews travel abroad, they represent our country. If they display a lack of manners and an oversupply of pretentious movie-star behavior, people in other countries will soon form the indelible notion that all Americans are selfish pigs.

According to my source, Beck carried his own overconfident touring chef who put on the rider American brand name items that aren’t available in England; he balked at any substitutions offered. A verbal stink was directed toward the European touring staff because they couldn’t provide these US products and moreover, it was reported that other crew members displayed a stunningly disrespectful attitude toward others. Next, I was told that Beck had to have a choice of six entrees presented to him each night. If at any point during the meal he was distracted and it got cold, another had to made… from scratch. Can you believe that?

I don’t know about you, but if we were to follow the rule posted at the HOB, $10.00 wouldn’t be enough for me to put up with that. The fact of the matter is, none of us should have to put up with bad behavior, no matter what industry you work in. Individuals who can’t accept their job challenge predictably point fingers of blame–in many cases at local crews that are hired specifically to help you.

We all have bad days, but when all is said and done, we should be grateful that we work in such a fantastic and rewarding industry. Look–when it comes to practicing good manners, the class system is dead. Either be a professional, mind your manners, and treat your colleagues with some dignity or find new means of employment. We don’t want to put up with you for any price.

Pullquotes:

There is no doubt that, waking up from a long bus trip, entering a venue after four shows in a row and being presented with breakfast consisting of a box Krispy Cremes and a lukewarm Starbucks container, you’ll want to kill the nearest person.

To my eyes, the new generations of crew persons out there are technically skilled and sometimes exceptionally smart, but many of them lack common sense and they like to drink their water from a glass.


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:
https://masterworkslighting.com/articles/Comic-Con1.pdf
https://masterworkslighting.com/articles/Comic-Con2.pdf
https://masterworkslighting.com/articles/Comic-Con3.pdf


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
PRESS RELEASE 

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.

Pullquotes

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
April 28

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
reruns.”

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.



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