The Electronic Entertainment Expo, more commonly known as E3, is the computer and console gaming industry's most important annual gathering. Held at the Los Angeles convention center, the 2003 show was the site for one of the most "cutting edge" temporary installations of a networked lighting control system.

Microsoft’s Xbox and PC Games booth at this year's E3 show.

The 100' x 350' Microsoft Xboxand PC Games booth at this year's E3 show was designed and managed by The Production Network of Seattle, more commonly know as TPN. TPN's Alex Berry designed the lighting for the enormous booth with Gary Radakovich leading a team of programmers. Jason Richardson, Jon Smith (who were also the assistant lighting designers) and Leif Dixon completed the programming team with Jennifer Womack acting as master electrician.

The rig of 50 Vari-Lite VL5s, 40 VL1000TS, 20 VL1000AS, 50 Martin Mac 250+, 60 MAC 600NTs, 50 Mac 2000 profiles, 20 Mac 2000 Performance, 19 Mac 2000 Washes and 24 Color Kinetics Color Blasts was controlled by two MA Lighting grandMA consoles, outputting a total of 16 universes of DMX and all provided by Christie Lites Seattle. DMX was output from four Artistic Licence Ether-Lynx DMX Nodes, which were located on a catwalk next to the dimmer rack, high above the booth. This meant that a single CAT 5 Ethernet cable ran from each console to the catwalk for all DMX data and console communication. In addition to the two main consoles, an additional two grandMA consoles were also on-site and connected into the same network. This allowed for up to four people to be programming at the same time, in a multi-user environment, sharing cue and fixture data between consoles.

The Xbox booth at E3 was designed and managed by The Production Network of Seattle

"Multi-user on the grandMA rocks" says Berry. "The whole tradeshow booth process was made much simpler with the new V4 software. Having the ability to have two or three guys concentrate on a single area, all at the same time, makes such a difference on a booth like this". In addition to the four grandMAs, each programmer had their own Windows powered Pocket PC running "Wi-Fi" and acting as a wireless remote. So from any location on the booth floor they could log into a console and update presets, run and store cues, check the patch, and even send messages between consoles. "The Pocket PCs were a blessing as they increased our productivity overall by allowing full access to programming from anywhere in the booth. Most importantly, this flexibility allowed us to view the lighting from the attendee perspective rather than being tied to a single cueing location," Berry enthuses.

Xbox booth at E3. LD Alex Berry, who was able to view the lighting from the attendees’ perspective, rather than being tied to one cueing location.

"It was really quite funny," comments Radakovich. "Most of the time it looked like the programmers were not working, as they'd be away from the console, sitting in a odd corner of the booth or wandering around, tapping away on a Pocket PC with a big grin on their face."

Lead programmer Gary Radakovich, wandering around, happily controlling the rig from a Pocket PC. Do you think the Microsoft techs were jealous?

For further information on any of the products mentioned in this story or about this project, please check out the ACT Lighting website at: