Power, authority, control, influence, TOTAL WORLD DOMINATION! Once again, I'm drunk with power. I've taken over so much that I've invaded the “On Projection” spot of this magazine. Perhaps I'll just change the name of it to “On Dierson,” because we all know that there's nothing more fascinating to read about than me. At least that's what my mother always told me and she was never wrong about anything…ever. Now I think that I'll dispatch my minions to find out why nobody else understands this concept except me. What the heck is wrong with people? I guess that they just don't “get it.” I'm the most powerful person around and if you want to confirm it…just ask me!
Okay, moment over and now it's back to the harsh reality of being a regular schmo who's just trying to eke out a living. Regardless, having control is a great thing when you're trying to create something artistic, which is the real reason why I've been asked to write about projections this month. Most people don't think of me as a projection designer, and rightfully so. That job title is one that I've been rather lax about promoting over the past few years. The truth of the matter is that I've always enjoyed designing the projected elements of shows, and it's even better when I've got control over the lighting and projection designs.
There's a delicate and intricate chemistry that should be inherent between the lighting designer and the projection designer. When it's there, you end up with some truly magical looks on stage. When it's not there, the results can be disastrous. This relationship can easily be applied to any and all members of a design team when putting a show together, but politics can easily get in the way of the greater good. That's when it's nice to have control over both of these very important visual elements. Placing the power in the hands of one person immediately eliminates one link in the chain of potential communication breakdown.
In my past experiences, I've found that the balance and the matching of color between the projected imagery and the lighting are what truly tie a scene together. Now I know that you're thinking, “What's the big deal? Just match up the color and be done with it.” As easy as it sounds, it can be a real problem when two different designers have opposing images in their heads. And as easy as it may be to rectify, someone will need to change what they've already put a lot of hard work into creating. Both designers will probably have spent time planning out these “looks” several months in advance and one of them will now have to do more unexpected labor to make this work out.
Traditionally, I've found that it's technically quicker to change the lighting scene than the projected imagery but it's not always the best artistic choice. (Besides, why does lighting always have to fix the broken art? Not that I'm bitter or anything.) This is the prime argument for having control over both elements. When creating the lighting and projections I'm able to let one lead the other from the inception of the design phase. I also find that having control over both allows me to have variations on the same scene. In the highly unlikely event that someone else on the design team might unexpectedly change their mind at the last minute, it's always good to have something accommodating in your back pocket.
Now there are a many various scenarios that can lead you to a battle of proper art, but the key problem lies in communication. If there's proper communication between all of the design team members from the start, this difference in vision should never arise. It all looks so good on paper. The truth is much different. After all, the script for Gigli probably looked good on paper too.
So why don't we see more lighting designers given the double duty of handling projections? Well, we're talking about two very specialized areas of design that usually take years to learn individually. It's probably for the same reason that you don't see too many projection designers creating the lighting. In fact, it's probably for the same reason that you don't see too many architects hanging wallpaper. Most people stink at it! No really, it's slim pickins as far as talent is concerned, and I'm not proclaiming to be the Salvador Dali of it either. I've just been lucky enough to have taken an interest in both early on.
Let's face it, the dawn of the “media server” has suddenly made projection a hot topic among lighting folk. Very few of them cared about projections until recently, and now there's a brand new geek-factor involved in controlling it. I readily admit that it's very cool to have complete control over both visual elements from a single control source. However, unless you were involved in projection control interfacing from a lighting desk before the Catalyst was released, you probably didn't pay a ton of attention to projection design.
The whole media server thing is arguably the most exciting thing to happen to the lighting world in many years. In fact you'll be hard pressed to find people who remember a fixture called the “PixelScan,” which was released briefly in Europe many years ago. It was spitting out video feeds well before any of this media server hype was unleashed. It always astounded me that it never really went anywhere but a trade show floor. People have been asking for video lights since before the VL-7 was released, and now that they've gotten something else for Christmas, they've ended up invading the projection designer's domain. Perhaps the dawn of this newfound technology will breed more hybrid designers.
Let's just pray that they don't start writing for magazines too because that would definitely be pushing things too far.