Located in the northern region of Michigan's lower peninsula is the Interlochen Academy of the Arts, a world-renowned boarding school that teaches, among other disciplines, acting. As a sophomore in high school, Kille Knobel decided she wanted to pursue acting there--until she had a taste of the actual courses. Almost immediately, she changed her major to design and production, and several years later graduated with a bachelor of arts in lighting design from the California Institute of Arts in Valencia, CA.
"I was really interested in getting into the musical field, particularly pursuing moving light technology," Knobel explains, which led her to a position with Light & Sound Design in Los Angeles following graduation. Knobel started as an Icon(R) bench technician, and stayed in the shop for about three or four months. "It was a learning experience," she chuckles. "I had never spent any time with intelligent lighting and my background wasn't in electronics, so it taught me a lot about troubleshooting." While Knobel learned the mechanical side of the business, her aspiration was to design, which necessitated getting out of the shop.
And get out of the shop she did. As Icon technology developed, LSD decided it needed a North American training program. Knobel stepped into the position, which originally was just console training, but has now grown to include luminaire training. "My parents are teachers, and I never thought that I would be in a position where I would be imparting information. But it's ended up being quite nice because it's taught me a lot about communication and a considerable amount about presenting ideas in, hopefully, an unbiased way." The training program runs for two weeks, on a very informal basis, with sessions taking place several times a year. "What I've learned most from training is that when you're teaching something technical like programming you have to communicate ideas in such an elementary fashion that anyone can understand it."
Her career move also afforded Knobel the opportunity to start programming in a variety of situations, from industrials to special events to concerts. Her first major special event was a corporate show for Viacom in Santa Barbara, CA. "It was a matter of getting my feet wet and retaining the confidence of the people around me, And, of course, not letting them know it was my first corporate gig ever," she laughs.
Then Knobel joined a Bryan Adams tour as an operator, including a number of one-offs in Canada. From there she went on to work with John Tesh, Megadeth, the Further Festival, and, most recently, the Bee Gees' stadium world tour. "I like programming for music the most--being part of an event that hopefully creates a cathartic experience. I love it when you hit a lighting cue and 20,000 people sigh and they don't really know why they're doing it--it's a perfect blend of production and performance."
Knobel has also worked on several televised awards shows, including the Billboard Awards. "A lot of the events I do for TV are for a live audience, but the audience outside of the theatre is much bigger, so they become your emphasis. You're working in a dimension that the live audience isn't necessarily seeing, because of the camera angles." Consequently, because of the cameras themselves, Knobel's job becomes slightly more challenging. "You're always tweaking the background for the cameras or giving them something to look at--it's really important for the camera to have a background, even if it's just a color wash. In the end, it's much more difficult to go down to a minimalistic look that you could easily use in a live concert situation."
One of Knobel's programming feats was the 1997 Superbowl halftime show, which included performances by ZZ Top, James Brown, and the Doobie Brothers, and teamed her with LD John Osborne. "Just the energy of doing a live broadcast for so many people with only five minutes to set it up--the adrenaline rush of it was just incredible. We did about four or five real-time rehearsals of the show, and in every one, I had about 30 seconds between the time most of the lights were striking and coming online to the time we went into the show. The day of the actual event, I think I had maybe 10 seconds," she recalls with a smile. "The nightmares you have are not necessarily about the act of doing the show itself, but wondering 'what happens if someone runs over the control snake?' "
As a programmer, Knobel continues to hone her skills at LSD while working on many events. "Every project is different--I haven't worked on a show that hasn't been a collaboration on some level, although some are more collaborative than others." Looking toward the future, Knobel recalls her days at Interlochen, where she developed a love of lighting for dance. "I'd love to infiltrate the dance world with new technology," she says, somewhat wistfully.