Back with the creative and technical teams at Drury Design Dynamics and UVLD. Participants in the roundtable included three from UVLD: lighting designer Greg Cohen, programmer/designer Paul Sharwell, and visual media developer Cameron Yeary. From Drury were president/chief creative officer Chris Drury and Ron Annas, director of production services.MS: Along those lines, what about folks who say there’s no room for lighting designers doing video and vice versa?
GC: There’s no ego for us in terms of who is going to do it. We don’t have traditional projection designers in what we do. We’ve just always been there to paint the picture. Also, the relationships in corporate are very long-term, and we all have this trust level that we just have to sometimes make changes to one another’s work, maybe more than, say, a theatre designer would be happy with.
RA: I used to work on Broadway productions, and you have months for territorial domain to build up, and people feel ownership for designs. In corporate, we have only days, and we don’t have time for egos, and if it happens, it’s very destructive.
CD: That’s like the first time I saw robotic lights, and I thought they were great for two reasons, both as entertainment and for flexibility.
CY: In theatre especially, you’re also presented with a piece of scenery that already has color and texture and has to be lit.
MS: It’s less of a blank canvas then.
CY: Exactly, and what we’re doing is specifically designing the scenery and overall look to let us have infinite flexibly.
CD: The scenic designer is really part of this converged approach now. We’re given a space, and we don’t always love the space we’re given, but we want to create something really modern and really slick in that space. It can be very complex—picture-in-picture, animated backgrounds, moving lights, projector positions, curved screens with cutouts—and a really big deal. The client might just say “great,” but we know it’s a big deal to make it happen.
GC: We use terms like “creative” in corporate really because there’s no other word, but it’s not as touchy-feely as other disciplines. What we’re doing is very creative, but we’re beholden to an end client, so the greatest creative idea could really be gone in two seconds. Like in theatre, there’s necessarily that tendency to guard your creativity, and understandably so, but that doesn’t really get us anywhere. Any idea that gets it done can be valuable.
CD: That’s where all that preplanning comes back into play. And I agree with Greg, but just because we need good ideas fast, I don’t really think it’s any less creative than when it takes someone six weeks to light a cyc.
MS: Differently creative?
GC: In theatre or film, you start with a script, but what I love about corporate is it’s the most purely visual. There’s nothing to do except create an image that’s visually appropriate, whether it’s branding or similar.
CD: And we’re not limited by a storyline. In some cases in corporate, the lighting and video is the story. We generate excitement for our clients, so we have a different story we’re telling than in theatre, for example. We borrow more from the rock ‘n’ roll concert than we do from theatre.
CY: Ron and Chris, how do you guys feel about someone like me, as a visual media developer, inserting myself into your current workflow compared to the way you did things in the past?
CD: Well, what you bring to the table is what we can or can’t do and if it will work, and that’s the type of meeting I want to have all the time—what the roles are, what the resolutions are. That requires a significant role. We need someone like you involved so we don’t get screwed in the end.
PS: And not only does it make it technically seamless, but while Cam is sitting there through the planning process, he can add to the design just by saying what he has at his disposal.
CD: A lot of our dialog actually centers around who should be doing what, so sometimes it’s not Cam, but it evolves from there. And I want the best and most efficient way, and I don’t care who does it.
MS: What are the top challenges in your roles in these types of productions?
CY: I don’t want to put anyone out of a job, but I want to do things efficiently and have the visual aspects work together, so for me it’s communicating with the people creating the graphics and making sure they know I’m on their team and that I want to support that effort, taking it to another level than just a PowerPoint slide.
GC: As we change the way we do things, the way we involve other departments is changing. We might have to rely on the video guys, for example, to run fiber-optic backstage if we forgot to order something. So we rely on a lot of goodwill sometimes to maintain our flexibility onsite. We’re fortunate to work with a lot of the same teams, so we’ve been lucky.
CY: In lighting, all our lighting equipment always came from the same company. But now, there’s more crossover, and you can now have maybe one computer with everyone’s cable coming into it from all departments. It’s true convergence and true teamwork, so sometimes it’s hard to tell where the financial cutoff is and who has ultimate responsibility.
CD: The obstacle for creative directors is really in keeping up with the technology and knowing what it can all do, so you know how it can achieve your vision.
RA: My challenges are making sure we carry out Chris’ creative ideas, fitting them into a budget, and putting together the team to cover it all.
PS: Back to the idea of turf wars, about five years ago, I was running media servers for television, and these turf wars began between lighting designers and media companies who specialized in media clips, say, for Madonna’s tour. I don’t really see it in corporate, but it got really ugly where the video department wouldn’t even switch over to our media servers. It’s disruptive technology. In this business, I think if you’re going to be disruptive to the process or insecure, you need to go out the door.
MS: Or reinvent yourself.
CD: The position Cam is filling is so new, and we know that he’s critical to what we do. But the real question is how many Cam’s are out there who can do what Cam can do, so we always have someone.
PS: Lighting has always been an odd mix of tech and creative, but Cam’s position is really a difficult one to fill.
CD: And the team is many more than you see here at this table, with roles evolving, and convergence of all those jobs.
For the full article, check out the April issue of Live Design.