Studiotech Swot; Control – The Role it Plays in the World of Dynamic Lighting

There are hundreds of articles out there that will provide you all the tangible quantitative benefits of effective use of lighting control. Extending product life, reducing energy consumption, improving visual comfort are all major benefits of implementing a successful control strategy. The purpose of this article is not to explain all this again, it is to focus on the less tangible aspects that, in my opinion, have a bigger role to play in the world of dynamic lighting.

When I initially entered the lighting world, my understanding of lighting design was incredibly limited. Back then, I would have thought it would have been exclusively relating to theatrical/stage lighting. The skill of using lighting to engage with the audience and place the focus in the desired area. The focus of the design was so heavily weighted towards the control of the lighting, not just the source itself. 

Since I’ve been in the lighting world, I’ve seen that lighting design has taken on a whole new meaning. The focus appears to have shifted predominantly to the source of the lighting rather than what that source would be programmed to do once installed. The advent of LED technology has afforded lighting designers the ability to create the most incredible lighting projects that simply wouldn’t have been possible just a decade ago. This is an amazing thing for our industry and light sources have now become considerably more advanced and capable of delivering stunning solutions. The aspect that I feel has perhaps not received as much attention is the control of these light sources. Control systems have made similar advances in recent years and have been designed around the fact LED has afforded seemingly infinite possibilities. 

We have delivered a number of schemes that have received national and international recognition. The reason they did so is because of our collaboration with a lighting designer that allowed us to deliver an engineered solution to the designer’s concept. I can say that for these projects and the vast majority of our dynamic lighting projects, we have spent around 95 percent of our time and effort on the light source and its integration and 5 percent of the time on the programming of the content that this light source would be displaying. I have always found this fact quite unusual in that tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds are spent developing a solution only for it to never really be used to anything like its full potential. It felt like designing and manufacturing a Bugatti Veyron then using it to pootle to the supermarket and back every other Monday. The car will still look stunning but is not used to anything like it’s potential.

Control systems are now incredibly advanced, able to integrate so many different forms of data under one system. Traxon’s latest e:cue Sympholight release allows seemingly an infinite amount of data to be derived from sources then coded to produce a lit effect. In the past few months, as part of the lighting solution, we have enabled the tracking of a bowling ball down an alley, trawled Twitter posts (automatically and all in line with GDPR, I hasten to add), created a ‘Dr Strange’ style portal behind mirror glass, used geotags, used depth sensing cameras, created custom videos, linked audio and light within a lift cart, amongst many other things. Now, I realise this appears to completely contradict everything I’ve said up until now but I feel we are only just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s achievable. 

My feeling with dynamic lighting is that the solution is only as good as the programming that goes alongside it. Alongside the lighting designer, we can spend years developing what will be a stunning solution, only for the content to be somewhat neglected nearer the end. Now, in my experience, this is absolutely not through the lack of desire from the designer or integrator. Again, in my experience, the designer would love nothing more than to be able to go wild with their creation but there appears to be a disconnect between programmer, designer and client which both the programmer and designer, I believe, can remedy to some extent. 

If we can combine what the incredible advancements in light sources has afforded us, with the equally progressive control systems, our collective ability to create transcendent and unique lighting projects is advanced considerably. Lighting designers, alongside integrators and control specialists like ourselves, can deliver true experiences for the users. 

This is something that we have been discussing over the past few months with our network, something that we aim to bring to light and discussion within the lighting industry. 

Tune in next month to see how we aim to achieve this.

Written by Ed Vickery, Studiotech Director