ESP Vision 2.0


What It Does

ESP Vision from ZZYZZ, Inc. launched Version 2.0 of its popular lighting simulation software at LDI 2005. After getting a lot of comments from lighting designers and programmers, the time seemed ripe to take a longer look at the new version. If you design or program lighting, and have — what is increasingly becoming the norm — no pre-production time, you owe it to yourself to take a long look at ESP Vision 2.0.

“Vision 2.0 is a lighting simulation pre-production tool that lighting designers can use to preprogram a show, whether it is a concert tour, broadcast event, corporate event, trade show, theatre, anything that requires lighting,” says Greg Jesse, director of marketing for ZZYZX, Inc. “This tool gives you the ability to actually cue your show in advance of actually having access to the live rig.”

Jesse notes several aspects of Vision 2.0 that are different from its predecessor, ESP Vision 1.1. “First and foremost, we have adopted some additional standards with regard to our rendering, which makes it even more realistic than it was before, providing additional realism in the shadowing and the color blending area,” he explains. “Secondly, we have provided a much friendlier user interface that gives you many more tools within Vision itself, over Vision 1.1 — things such as being able to import multiple objects from different sources, including [Autodesk®] 3ds Max files, being able to add fixtures, being able to do patching and texturing, and adding effects directly within Vision without having to go to any other modeling package first.

“Simply stated, it looks a lot better, plus we give you a lot more flexibility in how you can manipulate and use the information that is in your environment,” Jesse adds. “We also provide things that you usually would have to go back to 3D Studio Max for; we allow you to do texturing and things of that nature directly in ESP. We added the entire capability of moving truss, which is a differentiator for us in this specific release, and we added effects that allow you to expand what you are doing with video capture and video projections.”

How It Came To Be

“Vision 1.1 was our first shot at visualization, so it was a barebones visualizer,” says Jesse. “It was a natural progression, a natural evolution of the product into Vision 2.0. We wanted it to be more user-friendly as well as to be more tightly integrated with the underlying modeling packages that it works with, so it was less of a problem with something not working out the way that we thought it would. Also, it was based significantly on the feedback of our customer base, which we take very seriously.”

What's Next

Like all software, it's never really finished. Jesse says plans are in the works to provide even more integration; currently, the software integrates with Autodesk's 3ds Max and VIZ and VectorWorks Spotlight. Jesse hopes that Vision 3.0, which is at least 18 months away, will also be able to bring in AutoCAD and other files.

What End-Users Have To Say

“After a year of using Version 1, I was very happy to see 2.0 come out,” says Tyler E. Littman, principal of the New York-based lighting design firm Sholight. “A number of new components make working in ESP much easier. First and foremost, the interface has improved exponentially. The addition of the toolbar makes working in the program a lot faster. The biggest change for me is the patch window. Instead of having to re-export the file from VectorWorks when a light needs to be repatched, I can make quick patch and even positioning changes from within ESP.”

Littman says there are a couple of things on his wish list for the software. “One, I am very excited to see the release of the manual,” he says. “I am sure there are a number of features I am missing that a manual would allow me to find. The second thing I would like to see is improved integration with VectorWorks. Although that feature currently works well, it would be nice to have transitions to and from each program a little more seamless.”

Overall, the designer is happy with the new version. “I currently use it for programming and rendering purposes at least once a week, and both my clients and I love the results.”

Rodd McLaughlin, principal of Prelite NY, a lighting previsualization studio, could easily be described as a power user of ESP Vision. “Vision 2.0 takes the great leap in realism that it introduced in Version 1 and extends that considerably,” comments McLaughlin. “As soon as you turn a light on, you notice it. The quality of the light is a big step forward. Add to that the materials capabilities — reflections, shiny metals — in real time, and you have a product that finally feels like the 21st century. The lighting industry has been lagging behind the gaming industry for a while now, and I feel like we are finally catching up.”

George Paniat, who has the cool title of “lighting visualizations” at The Royal Opera House in London, adds his thoughts on Vision 2.0. “The first thing is the real-time rendering; it gives you real-time shadows. When you focus the lights, you can see when the lights hit a piece of the set. We have been using it for the last year and a half, and it has proved its worth.

“We had used WYSIWYG before that, and we were doing all our programming in wireframe,” he continues. “It was not hard for us in lighting, but when you have a lighting designer who has never used the software, and he tries to watch a wireframe rendering, basically he walks out of the room because he does not understand what is happening there. With the new version, I can build a very accurate replica of the real show, and this gives the designer a better idea. We have a huge library of lights at the Opera House, and I know the company is really busy, so I modeled the lights, sent them a 3D model, and we told them the parameters that we need for the lights like zoom, focus, etc. Within a day or two, we had the virtual models for those lights back to go into the Vision library. So they are very good in the area of support.”

When asked what he would like to see improved with the software, Paniat adds, “There is always room for improvement, but they are working on it. Greg took all of my notes. Most of the stuff that I asked for, he implemented. You always need to improve. Show me the perfect program. After seven years with another program, to switch to a different software straight away, we took a bit of a risk, but is has been well worth it.”

Butch Allen, lighting designer for Garbage, Jennifer Lopez, and the upcoming Metallica European festival shows, has had a number of projects with no pre-production time and has been using Vision to previsualize the lighting. “It is the closest thing to lights without them hanging in front of you,” says Allen. (For Allen's complete opinion, see sidebar below.)

For more information about ESP Vision 2.0, visit


By Butch Allen, lighting designer

ESP Vision Is…

  1. Visually stunning.

  2. Easy to use.

  3. Affordable.

  4. A problem solver: You can find and solve problems in advance — not on site, but on the computer in your house. Cool.

  5. A programmer: Oh yeah, you can program your lighting, too.

  6. Supportive: ESP provides prompt and professional support and service (sorry to be so serious, but it's important).

ESP Vision Is Not…

  1. The real light: Duh. Use your eye, your experience, plus your imagination in conjunction with this tool, and your art will benefit.