Video company Barco is establishing a major presence in the lighting industry, as evidenced by the appointments of two highly regarded lighting pros: Mats Karlsson, formerly of Bellalite in Sweden, and Grif Palmer, most recently of High End Systems. Karlsson, based at Barco’s Belgium headquarters, is now the product manager for the company’s new Creative Light Imaging Group. Palmer has taken on the role of regional sales manager on the West Coast for Barco Events, working with production companies to forge relationships that will likely pave the way for the future of lighting and video as a newly fused art form.

“People want to integrate new technologies in lighting and video and take control of both,” says Karlsson. “Barco wants to make it possible for lighting designers to take overall control of video in live events, to enable them to be the visual designers. We will eventually be at the point where we still have a video crew on productions, but the LDs are in command of the overall visual content as presented to the audience. They have to get to the point where they can control elements of video to match their lighting—for example, the intensity of the screen, the color balance, and the cueing of media playback.”

“Creatively, the producers have already figured out that you can’t have two visual designers running on two different tracks,” adds Palmer. “So, it makes more sense to let one designer control all the visuals. Some of the guys who do corporates and trades shows, who get to do a lot of the creative themselves, are already realizing they have to delve into both lighting and video because they can bring a complete design to the customer.”

But, as Palmer sees it, putting one person in charge all the visual elements of a show is not necessarily news. “What is interesting, from the business end, is when a Roy Bennett designs a show and can have LEDs, projection, and lighting elements,” he continues. “Does that ever start blurring the lines between equipment and production providers? Do the lighting companies hold a hard line, or do they start owning some of this gear? Scharff Weisberg is a good example of that fact that we’re starting to see ‘show companies.’”

With around 85% of the market share of live video screens, the company is confident that they already have a huge market from which they can draw business. And they’re already meeting with LDs to determine what is required of the market.

“The reaction has been positive so far,” says Karlsson. “People want to see what Barco can do for the lighting industry because they know we have an established reputation in video. Designers want new tools. Since 2002, there has been a decline in sales of moving lights, I think because there are just too many. And media servers are still in the stone age of what they really can do.” “The best analogy for all this is when LDI was split between ‘traditional’ lighting companies and all the then new intelligent lights and smoke machines in the back,” notes Palmer. “The up-and-coming LDs knew they had to try out the new technology. They’re now doing the same with video.”

-Marian Sandberg-Dierson