Event Solutions: Focus on - The light show comes of age

High-definition images and digital signage are now routine - but scenic LED is stunning, writes Jennifer Creevy.

Last month, thousands of Londoners were treated to a free concert in Trafalgar Square with colour-filtered 3-D glasses included in the dress code. As the image of a dancing girl was projected over the square, revellers watched performances by the Chemical Brothers and singer Calvin Harris, accompanied by animation and 3-D images.

The 3-D disco was a first for London and was part of the four-day audio-visual Beck's Fusions event organised by beer brand Beck's. Nicola Gates, senior brand manager for Beck's, says: "For the past 20 years, Beck's has championed emerging visual arts talent through projects such as Beck's Futures, and in this multimedia age we're beginning to see artists experiment with other genres."

Massive influence

Such experimentation is being pioneered not just by music artistes but by the AV industry itself. "With all the new technology coming through, AV as a whole is constantly overtaking itself," says Cookiejar Technical Services managing director Ed Jarman. "What is new one month is out of date the next."

Jarman points to scenic LED as an emerging trend. Jack Morton technical director Chris Richards agrees, adding: "Scenic LED is having a massive influence. It is being discussed on a large proportion of our events."

Fitch Live senior production manager Alex Kennard also points to scenic LED as a trend to watch. He says: "Using LED display technology MiTrix or MiStrip as part of a set where you are using it for lighting purposes is becoming much more popular, as is creating still or animated backdrops to replace print and projection."

George Michael's world tour features a high-profile example of scenic LED. XL Video worked with Cookiejar on the project and used 3,000 of LED specialist Barco's MiStrip modules to form a curved display with video and graphics effects. The giant backdrop flows on to the stage and beyond via both concave and convex curves.

The effect is stunning, says XL Video project manager Phil Mercer. "MiStrip is essentially a strip of pixels which can be combined in any shape and quantity to make up any size and form of LED screens," he adds. "It makes everything fluid and flexible and means both set and AV are inextricably linked for better visual effect."

Mercer says a similar effect was created on an annual conference for Cisco Systems in Las Vegas earlier this year but that scenic LED has not fully penetrated the corporate events industry yet. Although the technology is expensive, he says that companies have to invest in the equipment only once, because it is reusable.

The product launch of the Ford Verve in Frankfurt at the end of August provides one example of scenic LED at a corporate event. Mansfield Design asked Essential Lighting to create a digital waterfall - an effect Essential Lighting achieved using its MiTrix product.

Essential Lighting Group was set up in 1993 and its managing director Martin Locket says scenic LED is the next step for the corporate events industry. "This technology has cut its teeth in live television shows and music events and we are now getting countless enquiries from corporate events," he adds.

Increased flexibility

Yet while scenic LED may be the future for corporate events, technology such as high-definition products and digital signage seem to have become the norm. Jack Morton's Richards says the cost of HD technology has fallen to such a level over the past two years that it is now much more viable to use in live events. "The reduced cost brings with it increased flexibility as we now have the capacity to use multiple high-definition displays rather than a single static screen," he says.

Tiger AV sales director Stephen Hilton adds that digital signage is rapidly replacing paper posters as a visual medium. The firm was set up in 1997 and works with clients such as the Metropolitan Police and Manchester United.

"Digital signage is popular simply because it is a cheaper option than setting up a network of LCD or plasma screens," he says. "It also allows regular promotions to be run on them as well as the necessary information."

The AV industry cannot be accused of sitting still, and while new technology such as scenic LED continues to push the boundaries, smaller-scale events can also benefit from the reduced cost of quality AV products.

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