Anthony Petruzio is an LD who initially trained in architectural drafting and computer-generated visualization, never for a moment imagining that his passion for lighting music would become entangled with his "day job." Today, producing photo-realistic computer visuals of lighting designs and production concepts is an integral part of Petruzio's work as LD, moving lights director, and system designer. Recently he has undertaken visualization work as diverse as designs for corporate theatre, a production company's tour bid for Aussie super-band Cold Chisel, a winning lighting concept proposal for teen grunge band Grinspoon, and of course, plenty of architectural visuals.

Petruzio, who spent many years as a pub and club lighting director, is convinced that the use of highly realistic visual renderings for design presentations is becoming as important in the music and club scenes as the "artist's impression" has been in architecture, and charcoal and watercolor renderings have been for decades in theatre. "It's pretty rare to get a gig like the Grinspoon national tour from all the way over here in Perth," asserts Petruzio. "It may not even have been the best design, but because they were able to clearly see what I was offering in the way of a look, I got the tour." (Note: Perth, Western Australia, is reputedly the world's most isolated city, being some 2,200km (1,350mi.) from the next city of more than 50,000 people.)

The two main threads of Petruzio's interest collided head-on when he was approached to design the lighting system for a new club in Northbridge (Perth's club and restaurant district) to be known as the Viper Room. Naturally, Petruzio illustrated his initial design concepts for a Medusa-like intertwined truss system with computer renderings that included luminaires and their effect on the appearance of the venue. The club's developers were so impressed with being able to see their project in such a realistic interpretation that they enlisted Petruzio to help with the design of the club's interior, effectively using his renderings as an interactive design tool.

They then got to work on designing the shapes, layouts, and even the leopard- and zebra-skin coverings for the couches, the shape, layout, and finishes for the bars, and eventually also the wall colors and finishes for the entire club. How often do LDs get to exert design influence over the other elements of a venue?

Petruzio's major rendering tools are his dual Pentium II/350MHz PC (about to be upgraded to dual PentiumIII/ 500MHz) with 384MB of RAM and Kinetix 3D Studio Max from AutoDesk (www.autodesk.com) running under Windows NT 4. The atmospheric effects are produced using the Volume Lights plug-in for 3D Max which allows for varying densities of fogging in a light beam, along with air movement of different wind strengths and directions, turbulence, and even setting the color of fog. (Petruzio uses white fog, preferring to let the color come from the light sources.)

The LD has been experimenting with two Radiosity-based rendering tools to improve the accuracy of the effects of his lighting: Lightscape from Discreet Logic, a subsidiary of AutoDesk, and the still-under-development Luminaire from Jissai Graphics (www.jissai.com), which Petruzio has been tinkering with through some six beta-test versions and which has only recently attained sufficient power to render an image with the number of sources that are found in a club or concert rig. "It was getting pretty frustrating to leave the system working on a rendering for 24 hours, only to find that it didn't produce a result," he admits.

Petruzio currently has the capability of adding any of the Lee range of gobos into the beam of a luminaire, having acquired images of the templates from the ProDesign Lighting website (www.pro-design.com.au), and is about to add the Rosco range from the Lightmoves site (www.lightmoves.com). Presently he has a limited number of accurately represented filter colors in his system, but is in the process of expanding that beyond the more commonly used saturated palette of the club and concert stage.

Petruzio does admit to cheating a little when it comes to some aspects of his renderings. Rather than defining objects and surfaces in all of their detail, he will take an image of an existing object and let 3D Max apply a texture mapping (effectively a photographic skin) over a simplified version of t he object. For example, where there is a lighting console in a rendering, instead of constructing a series of three-dimensional faders, knobs, and panels, he will simply define the console as a box and then apply a texture map to the rendering that is a digital photo of an actual console. In the Grinspoon proposal, Petruzio defined flat objects on the stage, then texture-mapped images of the band members onto them, giving the impression of having rendered the group as part of the visuals.

The Viper Room was unfortunately never more substantial than Petruzio's renderings. Although architectural and design drawings were completed and local authority building permits were obtained, something went awry at the last minute and construction was never undertaken; indeed, it took Petruzio some time to recover his fees. The brush with the Viper didn't deter Petruzio at all--in fact, it has made him aware that there are other areas where his unusual blend of skills in lighting and architectural visualization may yet have some bite.

Andy Ciddor of The Kilowatt Company has been a practitioner, educator, and writer in the field of production technology for 30 years. He can be reached at aciddor@kilowatt.com.au. Anthony Petruzio's website is www.keylight.com.au.