The live events industry – including activations, music concerts, DJ events, official opening ceremonies at sporting events, conferences and corporate events – is a multi-billion dollar business that continues to grow in size, stature, sophistication and proficiency. Each of these live event categories has one thing in common: They have all been revolutionised by technology in the last decade.
Much of this development is being driven by competition and the need for companies to unlock new sources of revenue growth for their brands; from celebrity brands to FMCG brands – the same pressures apply. The live events industry has responded by raising the bar and delivering mind blowingly creative spectaculars that are theatrically innovative and just a few years back would have been improbable; hard to imagine – let alone deliver technologically.
This trend is particularly prevalent in the music world where international tours and festivals are the lifeblood of the industry, which now relies on these live events to replace revenues being lost to digital content distribution and piracy. No longer just about the music – these concerts are about the entire show experience with each spectacular more impressive than the next.
Creating social content
Ask anyone who has attended a Pink Floyd concert and they are sure to comment first on the mind-melting visuals employed by the band. These events also represent an ideal opportunity to create social content for sharing; fans fill their social feeds with selfies, photos, videos, and posts showcasing their event experiences. This social sharing stimulates interest from other fans, driving more ticket sales, as well as advertising opportunities.
Reflecting on the state of the industry, Rob Izzett from lighting distribution company, DWR, says that no one would argue that lighting and sound is at the epicenter of this creative explosion and it is technology that’s enabling creativity: “When it comes to lighting events today – anything that the mind can imagine – we can create.”
Every event uses some combination of audio, video, and lighting and the use of lighting technology in the live event environment, not only provides the focus for an event it also makes it more memorable with the moods it triggers – creating depth and ambiance.
Get it right and you will make headline news, get it wrong and the show can fall flat and even overload the senses.
“Creating light shows is about technology and production techniques; light is the medium of expression to create mood and effects and shift emphasis within performances. There is a technical side to this, but more importantly there is also an opportunity to extend the storytelling deeper into the production process especially during live performances,” says Izzett.
Electrosonic SA Lighting director Bruce Schwartz says that South Africa is as technologically advanced as the rest of the world and if anything we are just six months behind global trends. “We have world class technical and creative talent right here in South Africa – the real difference is in the volumes and budgets being put behind our shows. We are nowhere near the size of the established European market and produce shows on a smaller scale with less kit – but our productions are as ground-breaking. At an international concert there may be 100’s of moving lights on a show and in South Africa just 100 – but the level of tech will be the same.”
Looking at lighting trends in the live events space there is a progressive move to more power saving and sustainable lighting solutions which has prompted a lot of development on the LED side. It’s been said that there’s an LED replacement for almost every type of lighting fixture on the market which indicates dramatic growth over the last five years.
“More than that, nearly all the manufacturers of moving lights are releasing new LED profiles. Traditionally we haven’t achieved the output we need with LED and used conventional bulbs, but this is now all set to change which is a big milestone. Running costs will come down – and these big units could cost a one tenth of what it would normally to maintain – so there are tremendous benefits associated with this new technology,” says Schwartz.
Another trend becoming increasingly more prevalent is the focus being placed on safety. Where the approach to safety protocols five years ago may have been considered a bit dubious – both in South Africa and the world – now there are countless new more stringent safety precautions in place which both Izett and Schwartz agree is a good thing. Tons of equipment is moved above people’s heads using rigging during these shows and today with better safety protocols – much more creativity can go into shows because these safety nets are in place.
Mediatech exhibition director Simon Robinson says that shows and live events make use a lot more moving truss. “Trussing has traditionally been static and on a rigid scale. Today there’s a lot more movement and a lot of fixtures are clamped onto the trussing; far more can be achieved creatively because of this. All of this progress has only been made possible because the safety boxes have been ticked which provides greater control and safety.”
Video mapping is another trend that while not new has definitely grown over the last few years. Robinson believes the reason for the increase in its popularity is because there are no limitations – except those of the imagination.
“The advances in the software that enable the projection of images onto the sides of buildings have come a long way. Because the building is not a flat canvas, with windows, doors, and columns, every surface of the building has to be mapped using software to create a seamless image, or even manipulate the building to look quite different: columns can fall away or change colour. With the new tech, anything that the mind can imagine can be reproduced in video and then project it onto a building, a set piece in a theatre, in a corporate environment, or for a car launch. The angle and shape of that surface can be mapped so that it can be manipulated digitally into whatever shape or form is needed,” adds Robinson.
Addressing change in the theatre environment, Robinson says, “An advance we can expect to see soon is the availability of automated follow spots which up until as recently as last year, were manually moved. New software is being launched which enables one operator to control 10 automated follow spots by using moving lights on stage. This is a significant change and will avoid some of the human error because control is now more spontaneous.”
Lighting is an essential element in creating atmosphere at lives events and has the potential to make or break the show. While technologically challenging, light is a necessary medium requiring the mastery of varied and continuously evolving disciplines. The specialists in live event and entertainment technology bring a varied skillset to the sector incorporating audio engineering, working to stringent safety standards for complex rigging and trussing set-ups; and conceptualising and designing breath-taking sets and staging to make the event successful.
For practical demonstrations of what light can do in a creative live event environment, visit the B2B technology trade show, Mediatech. Delegates wishing to register for the event can sign up now: https://event-rsvp.com/MediatechAfrica2017/. Alternatively they can SMS their email address to 30529 to receive a link for easy registration on their mobile device.