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Articles May-June 2021

Pursuing the Pro Audio Trail

In conversation with Caroline Moss and Sue Gould

PT got in touch with the Pro AVL Asia magazine core team of Editor - Caroline Moss and Sales Director - Sue Gould, who between them boast of over three decades of experience in the pro audio industry..... read more

NJSM Marks a Milestone in the Business of Sound

From Rental Company to manufacturer and innovator, Nixon Johnny has guided and grown NJSM from a two-person company to a fifty-person company, continuing to expand into virtual events with NJSM Virtual Studio..... read more

Tech Savvy Environment for T-Systems

Eyte Technologies installs high-tech AV Solution at T-System’s Experience Center facilitating brand value and delivering superior customer experience..... read more

Conversations with SudeepAudio

Sudeep Audio, one of India’s first pro audio web store selling studio software and equipment online commenced its YouTube Channel, ConverSAtions, in 2011 to share the journey of Indian Sound Engineers..... read more

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Too Bright

Viraf Pocha

 I don’t understand what’s going on any more.  Does anybody?

All of us want to go back to a familiar Life. We want to work, we want to live and we want to go back to our struggle to be the best at what we do.

So many people and sources bombard us with how to navigate these days. What to wear, what to eat, where to stand and even what to think.

The economy is in smithereens.  At least our industry is. We have to keep on running while our world is at a standstill. That is a leveller. The biggest, richest guys down to the most junior technician are worried about how to keep our families afloat. All of us are reviewing our commitments. How long can we hold on without having any idea when we can go back to work?

Fundamentally we are an energetic group of guys. We are always trying to do something new.  Always pushing the envelope. Our Industry is based on everybody looking for the next big thing.

For me the greatest Challenge, excitement and horror all rolled into one stems from the coverage LED’s offer. You can place the damn things anywhere and everywhere. AND control them with an immense level of exacting detail. Both Remote as well as wired.

It’s not in our DNA to sit and webcam all day. We want to use our hands. We think with our fingers. We don’t talk. We ‘do’ stuff. Nobody listens to anybody in this crazy corner of the world. I’ve never been in a production meeting without somebody always jumping up and running around. The only thing that keeps us at a common table is food and drink.

So Guys – Grab a healthy titbit and let’s talk Lighting. Let’s forget our problems for a short while and let’s talk about something that cheers us.

Lighting was undergoing a massive transformation over the last few years. LED led. Pun intended.

I am old enough to remember switching on the First Par 64’s in India. I was awestruck by its power.

Until that point my experience in lighting was centred in the theatre.  Where mood and atmosphere are everything. I was constantly being yelled at ‘can’t see their faces‘. Until the inevitable compromise. Set the mood in the first minute and then lift levels or (Some serious threat here depending on the director). Alyque would threaten to chop my hands off. Pearl would use a softer touch “....No meat in your curry tonight”

I’m not being racist or anything but the first time I was noticed as a Lighting Designer was doing a play in Max Muller Bhuvan. Normally a lecture hall with a no place for any fixtures at all. A low ceilinged White Painted room with a white floor. To make thing even more challenging. Pearl decided to do this play ‘In the round ‘so if we put up any stands – the light would fall into the audiences eyes. That’s not all. The two leading ladies were a White Skinned Parsi and a really dark skinned African lady. If you lit a match the Parsi lady’s face would Glow. If you flooded the room with all the lights we had – the African ladies expressions would barely register.

I got permission to remove all the fans over the stage area and hang fittings pointing straight down (so no spill into the audience’s eyes) and then fill in all the other areas with really low foot light. That was my first lesson in ‘Shadows have no colour ‘.

I’m not saying all this to impress you.  I’m trying to explain how low our lighting levels were just a few years ago. 

Into that world came the Par 64 and the Lee / Roscoe colour filter swatch book. The power of the Par allowed us to paint the stage in so many shades of blue or pink. Bathe the stage in warm tones or cool.

The power of the Par allowed us build stages across stadiums. When we ran out of lighting stands, we brought in entire scaffolding structures.  I remember being told off by an Art Director who said ‘Bugger, if you have these bloody ugly scaffoldings in the audience nobody will believe my set is complete’. So he actually extended the set to incorporate the side lighting towers into his design.

The Generator industry Boomed as the demand for more and more Pars required more and more power. Bigger Brighter Everything. 

Then moving Lights appeared. In theory now one light could do the job of ten and the light technician was freed from the hassle of climbing and focussing all those lights.

I personally was caught between two ideas. I loved the ability of moving lights changing colour and position; I missed the warmth of tungsten light.  Sadly no manufacturer could bring the softness of tungsten light into a moving head. Apparently the Blues looked too muddy.   

The Moving Light revolution did bring many youngsters into the world of lighting. Unfortunately they did not have the time or the patience to understand the subtlety of lighting.  Their brashness and young blood combined with the rebellious music of the era made Lighting Design all about speed and flash of the moving lights. It became like the Wild West when the fastest shooter in town became the sheriff. 

A Group of us old timers started a movement ‘Why must you see the moving lights move ?’ The premise was – Set up a position, colour effect on a light. Then fade off. Recalibrate the lights in the darkness and bring it up again in another place in another colour.

Watching lights move was far too exciting and an easy sell to sensation seeking producers. So our lot settled for smooth transitions and graded fading.  Today most boards have earned their reputation delivering just that. That explains why a board designed to be used in German Opera houses is today the board of choice around the world, surpassing the cockpit looking boards designed by ex NASA scientists.

Now LED threatens to upend all of that. That humble diode that was designed to signal that an electrical circuit was functioning is now the centre of everyone’s homes and shows. 

The research and optics that have gone into harnessing its potential is immense. The Greens love the fact that LED’s produce an even brightness at substantially lower electric consumption. So leading to a massive saving of costs.

I’ve seen too many artists bite the dust before statistic quoting bureaucrats. 

But cost savings and environment savings are very real. In fact despite much opposition the EU has mandated that every entertainment fitting installed within the EU necessarily has to be LED based.

A set of road warriors are fighting it.  But their two arguments sound increasingly hollow. They go somewhat like;

  1. Would the Taj Mahal (Or any other great monument) be as Grand if Shah Jehan had tendered for the lowest bidder?
  2. A Famous Astronaut’s comment ‘Just as this incredible spaceship fired up for launch, I was not comforted by the fact that each piece in this complex machine was built by the lowest bidder that could be found.

I personally have mixed feelings about LED fixtures. I must admit that great technical leaps have lain to rest most fears of colour rendition and uneven fading. LED fixtures have replicated Tungsten lights in all but two important features that I am sure in time will be ironed out.

  1. The Lit Surface does not glow like it would under tungsten light. Faces don’t eat light as they used to.
  2. Due to its multi-point surfaces - LED’s still don’t do textures and shadows like tungsten did.

I am sure in time – some clever engineer will figure out how to bridge that.

For me the greatest Challenge, excitement and horror all rolled into one stems from the coverage LED’s offer.

You can place the damn things anywhere and everywhere. AND control them with an immense level of exacting detail. Both Remote as well as wired. 

This is the opportunity as well as danger of the technology. The scale means that to be effective we must work in ever enlarging teams, which may mean that spontaneity may be sacrificed especially in projects that have limited production schedules.

More people spending more sleepless nights.

And lastly – LED installations are becoming so vast that there is a constant fear of drowning out the performer.   Already our concert experience is so removed that 90 per cent of the audience interacts with the performer only over Jumbo Screens.

That’s an incredible opportunity for the technician, but takes away some power from the performers.

Will be interesting to see how this plays out after we get back on our feet.

And this is how I remain sane in these crazy times. Stay safe and Be Blessed everybody!