Future Vision – Inspirational disruption in light

Technology is causing a shift in work practices and operations throughout the lighting sector. Luckily, there are resources at hands to help practitioners adapt. Here’s how.

Long-standing work practices in the lighting industry are being significantly disrupted by technology, but current tools do exist, allowing practitioners to adapt in cost-effective ways.

That was the key message from Ziggy Ziegler of ZZ Creative, who told Integrate Expo attendees in Sydney that the ‘whole fabric’ of the lighting industry is changing in the same way that technology has disrupted the music and publishing industries.

Lighting as a Service

“In the past, what we have done in lighting for theatre, opera, live music and concerts have all been very structured,” said Ziegler.

“There was a process with bump-ins and meetings beforehand to talk about things, but that has all been slowly eaten away in the events industry.

“This has changed us into a service-based industry, and it’s moved us into something new and completely different.”

In this new environment, lighting practitioners are being required to work faster and with smaller budgets, while many large trade shows are now being scaled back or cancelled because the online world has made them irrelevant and expensive.

“Where I used to have a week to do a render to show a client, I now have one hour,” said Ziegler.

“Where there was time to go to a meeting and then a secondary meeting over two weeks and put something together, now I am given overnight to achieve the same things.”

New ways of working

In response, Ziegler has begun using free messaging meeting and file sharing software to cut down on the number of meetings he has to physically attend.

This saves him time and money and enables him to have more meetings than previously, when he may have managed only two meetings in a full day and spent much of the time travelling between them.

“In one year I have converted all my clients to doing virtual meetings,” he said.

“I can drop in and out of the call. I can do multiple meetings in an hour, and I can start working on the project straight away.”

He gave an example of using Keynote software and iCloud when working with a choreographer colleague in Florida recently.

The two worked together from remote locations and configured a full storyboard over a four-hour virtual call, which was then sent to the creative agency, distributed onsite in Sydney and installed in projectors and ‘mapped and worked brilliantly’.

Moving beyond CAD

Other technologies which Ziegler uses are cheaper and faster alternatives to CAD Software, and he uses a combination of offerings such as patch pixels, Duet and Twinmotion to create rapid renders which he can edit and change, often in real time.

“If I do a drawing, most clients will redraw it for insurance purposes in-house with their own CAD,” he said.

“This is just double handling, so if I am able to create a drawing in 3D, get the right spacing and the right size and do it in minutes, why am I spending days or weeks to do things the old way?

“I might have a design with a shiny floor, but the client wants a black floor. I can just throw that in, and it renders instantly. Or they want a lectern moved, and I can show that in real time.”

When working onsite there is also a range of new collaborative tools that speed up communication and teamwork.

Shoflo, for example, creates a master version of a run sheet which can be edited and shared in real time, but which also enables people to make their own notes relating to their own roles. This can be shared through tablet devices and mobile phones.

Even messaging platforms such as WhatsApp are proving invaluable on-site at events.

“Creating a WhatsApp group for the team working on the show allows you to ignore Facebook messages and emails, and everything relating to that show is going to be in that group. You can also share copyright video files,” said Ziegler.

“People are getting the right communication at the right time, and I’d say it improves on-site workflow by about 50 percent.”

Ziegler also spoke about a generational disconnect in the lighting industry that is inhibiting the passing of knowledge.

He said there is a ‘changing of the guard’ in the industry as leadership changes and the heads of longstanding production houses retire or sell their businesses which is breaking all the old relationships.

“There is a big gap in experience,” said Ziegler.

“There are the older more experienced people, and then there are the young people, but there is no one in the middle ground.

“But if we use some of these tools we can help to bridge that gap because the issue is that while the younger people have all the technology in the world, they lack the skills that come from experience.”

To find out more about the latest audio visual industry trends, head to next year’s Integrate expo on 27-29 August 2019. Subscribe for updates.

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