The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) seems to get bigger and gain an increasingly higher profile every year. This year, the show – which is a trade event and not open to the public – had national broadcast and print news coverage – helped in part by the number of Hollywood celebrities who headed down to the Los Angeles Convention Center May 14-16 for the fun and games, mingling with the 60,000 global industry professionals who attended the most influential event in the interactive entertainment industry.

The rivalry amongst the fierce competitors who exhibit wasn’t limited to the games themselves – the production values of the booths at E3 continue to be among the most sophisticated of any trade event in the US, easily in the same arena as the much-discussed auto show circuit. The technology on the floor was well matched with the technology in the air. When E3 hits Los Angeles, one is hard pressed to find a stick of truss or a moving light left on a rental shop shelf for at least a 500-mile radius. Nintendo , one of the heaviest of hitters, turned to the Lightswitch team for the eighth consecutive year to help create the right environment for their extravagant exhibit.

A front view of the Nintendo booth at E3.

The 250’ x 300’ Nintendo booth was intended to show off the fact that Nintendo is ALL about entertainment, recreating the world that happens within an actual video game environment. This huge booth invoked a Star Trek Holodeck-type experience – and like a Holodeck, every surface could be projected on, using media produced by Ralph Miller. Lighting, projection, lasers, video, audio, and live entertainment combined to create this interactive space with a timeline of marketing messages. The booth elements themselves, curved white translucent and opaque surfaces, were motorized to support the action. The lighting execution was tied to a show control system, providing complete synchronization of music and video events. Up to 60 different events could be accessed randomly via show control and the live band – the Magnetic Poets, who used synthesizers and other computerized technology, such as virtual reality glasses – could also call up lighting cues in real time using MIDI Notes. Due to the flexibility required, programmer Chris Medvitz was also on hand during the entire exhibit.

A side view of the Nintendo booth at E3.

Lightswitch’s Norm Schwab headed up the lighting design effort, with David Elliott acting as associate designer. Schwab comments, “Our biggest design challenge was creating this all inclusive, yet totally flexible and visually entertaining environment. This is not like theatre or even concert touring productions, where you can build looks carefully and control when you expose your audience to various experiences. Even many trade shows are fairly linear, where the events unfold in a somewhat predicable manner. This wasn’t one of those! The staff had total control of the order of events. We needed to create a very efficient design, but with enough depth and complexity to adapt to the ebb and flow of events, able to go gracefully and in an interesting way to any place in the programming at any time – even during unexpected transitions. Added to that issue, the Nintendo exhibit was in a hall with pretty extreme rigging restrictions. So the logistical considerations had to take center stage.”

He continues, “The booth design, which was by Kevin West of Way Out West, was about big white surfaces that created an environmental entertainment experience. There was a circular stage in the middle, surrounded with a translucent cone that raised and lowered to hide the stage. And there were ceiling pieces around the cone in different shapes – like triangular translucent surfaces – they all had individual articulated motor control. In addition to lighting, they were used as video projection surfaces. The outer wall of the booth was formed by a variety of layered, curved translucent surfaces, with different curves forming a circular barrier to the space.”

Because of the weight restrictions, Lightswitch worked closely with West on the booth design. The team developed a concept of elliptical-shaped ground support truss structures, each about 8’ tall. The truss, which was dressed in white fabric, provided both positions from which to light the ceiling and an interesting architectural surface that could be lit from within. The team dubbed these towers, each of which had 20 Martin Mac 2000s in them, “Mac Sushi.”

InLight Gobos of Dallas, Texas provided the 250 custom full color gobos designed for the project. Schwab comments, “The crew at InLight was just terrific. We threw this huge order to them – which had very little duplication - with just one week to produce the gobos. Scott Green worked out a delivery schedule where the first production run outfitted the lights that were flown, followed by the lights that were ground supported. This wasn’t the ideal manufacturing method for them, but it fit our needs much better. They completely understood the production environment and optimized for it.”

The lighting equipment was supplied by Entertainment Lighting Services (ELS) and included 70 Martin Mac 2000 Performances, 20 Mac 2000 Profiles, 150 Mac 2000 Wash Lights, 23 Vari-Lite VL6C spots, 12 VL5Arc Wash Lights, 12 High End Systems Studio Beam PCs, 20 AF-1000 Strobes, 72 Color Kinetics Color Blasts, 100 ETC Source Four Ellipsoidals and 134 Source Four PARs. Atmosphere was provided by four Reel EFX DF-50 Hazers four HES F-1000 Smoke Machines.

The rig was driven by three Flying Pig Systems Whole Hog IIs and one ETC Expression 3. Chris Medvitz and Brett Gardner programmed while Jim Holliday and Bill Lemkuhl acted as production electricians.

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