ARRI's Ring of Light at NAB 2018

ARRI's Ring of Light at NAB 2018

Crowds were captivated every hour on the hour at this year’s NAB with ARRI Lighting’s Ring of Light. Using a total of 67 LED fixtures on a suspended lighting rig, different individual and spectacular light shows were created to showcase the power and flexibility of the new SkyPanel’s Firmware 4 feature Light Engine DMX Control.

After receiving positive feedback for their lighting rig at NAB 2017, ARRI’s Lighting team knew they faced a great challenge; to come up with a new show that would again inspire the show floor at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Conveniently enough, with the release of SkyPanel Firmware 4, ideas that could not have been realized before became possible for Lighting Designer Emanuel Treeson and Lighting Programmer Phil Kong. Using the rig as a second show floor, Treeson’s circle of lights hanging over the booth was pixel-mapped to be triggered by music cues and rhymes of different songs. With the total of 25 SkyPanel S30-Cs, four SkyPanel S360-Cs, 24 L5-Cs and 14 L7-Cs, new SkyPanel Firmware 4 feature Light Engine DMX Control allowed Kong to break individual SkyPanel S360-C LED engines into columns, checkerboards, larger blocks, and even into 48 individual strobes.

ARRI spoke with the talented Lighting Designer Emanuel Treeson and Lighting Programmer Phil Kong about their work on this impressive project.

What were the project scope and goals from a technical stand point?
Treeson: When Michael Wagner from ARRI Lighting approached me to design the show for NAB, he wanted to focus on the power of the new SkyPanel Firmware 4 with an emphasis on the latest SkyPanel S360-Cs in particular. From the beginning, we designed the project around these goals. I sketched a number of layouts for the ARRI team but quickly landed on the idea of a raked circle of lights that would hang over the booth like an icon. A beautiful living circle of animated light alive with a blaze of intensity and color.

What was your first reaction when you heard about the project?
Kong: This was my second year programming the ARRI booth at NAB. However, this year we were creating five different shows to five different songs. I was excited to get my hands on the new firmware and see all of the things we could do with it.

Different individual and spectacular light shows were created to showcase the power of ARRI Lighting’s LED ranges and the flexibility of the new SkyPanel’s Firmware 4

What were the challenges of bringing the Ring of Light to life?
Treeson: First, just creating the shape and getting it rigged within the overall footprint of the booth in a way that made sense when a person looked at the booth as a whole. We never wanted it to feel out of proportion to the rest of the booth. Also, we did not want the lighting experience to adversely impact the camera and workflow teams at the booth. This was one of the many reasons we racked the rig away from the camera displays. The rake also allowed the overall show to be more visible for our guests at the booth. People had to crane their head less to watch it because it was tilted towards their line of vision.

How did you start to program the Ring of Light?
Kong: Emanuel sat down with the tracks before we even began to program to determine cue points and get an idea of how we wanted to cue each song. Sometimes the idea was a bit rough and sometimes very concrete, but we always had a vision of what we were trying to achieve. We then had a day of pre-programming at Illumination Dynamics where we set up how we would use the console. We were also able to set the majority of the cues for the songs as well. Once we got into the convention center, it was all about wringing out the system and really diving into the nitty gritty of the cues. We spent a few days refining our show, making sure everything looked exactly the way we wanted it to, ensuring all transitions were clean and making sure we were still enjoying and having fun watching the show even after seeing it so many times.  We also then had to make sure the whole show ran smoothly in tandem with audio.

What was your personal goal for the project?
Treeson: As a designer, I wanted to approach each song with a different visual gesture. I wanted to create a sense of surprise and delight in the audience with each new cue. For example, one song started out focusing on the SkyPanel S360-Cs’ individual engines working together as one unit bouncing between panels with the rhythm of the beat. As the songs went on, we split the panels into two groups of light engines within each S360-C, hoping to surprise the audience with the new firmware features. We split the panels further into quarters and down to the individual engines. Considering one S360-C is comprised of 12 engines, this was a very complex series of cues. The SkyPanels are so fantastic, and I particularly loved playing with light patterns and their interplay with the various rhythms.

Lighting Designer Emanuel Treeson (left) and Lighting Programmer Phil Kong (middle) carrying out their final check with Paul Lange (ARRI, right) before the NAB doors opened.

How easy were the new features of SkyPanel Firmware 4 to use during the programming?
Kong: It was incredibly easy! SkyPanel Firmware 4 works directly into what we had been doing with Firmware 3.0, but with additional features, modes, and the Light Engine DMX Control. We had a finer control of the rig, especially with the S360-Cs.

How long did the programming take?
Treeson: Phil spent a full day in prep. Then, he and I spend one full day together programing using PreVis. Both programming and focusing took three days. Separately, I spent several days with the different music tracks breaking down each and laying in the timecode triggers.  

Your thoughts on programming the SkyPanels.
Kong: I love working with them. It is easy to get eye-popping colors as well as fine tune color temperature and color correction. However, the one feature I love the most is how the  color mode is treated separately from color temperature mode. Having the color cross fade channel allows me to have two completely different sets of effects or cues running at the same time, one affecting color and the other affecting color temperature, and I can pick and choose how I move between the two. I can have fixtures rippling between the modes together, in waves, randomly, etc. You name it and it can be done with the SkyPanels.

How did you use the Light Engine DMX Control Mode?
Kong: We knew this was a major feature that we wanted to showcase, so right off the bat we were planning how we would reveal the new level of granular control. Emanuel featured the S360-Cs in the middle of the ring so that they could take focus when we wanted them to. As we built each song, we used the four S360-Cs as a whole in order to keep the surprise under wraps a little longer, and when we got to key song moments we then started to deconstruct how we used the lights, breaking them up into columns, checkerboards, larger blocks, or, like in one fun moment, into 48 individual strobes.

How many universes / DMX channels did you use?
Kong: We used eight universes for the entire rig, leaving some small gaps in case there were any unforeseen changes that needed to happen with re-patching or moving fixtures between universes.  We used a total of five universes to handle the ring.

“All conversation stopped and all eyes turned to watch the show,” commented Phil Kong, Lighting Programmer of the Ring of Light.

What was you first thought when presenting the show to a live audience for the first time?
Kong: I was excited and proud when we had people watching for the first time. All conversation stopped and all eyes turned to watch the show. It is certainly gratifying to see, but it is a testament to the quality of the product we were working with that we could capture people's attention for the length of our shows without any moving parts. SkyPanels, L5-Cs, and L7-Cs made that possible.

Phil Kong, Lighting Programmer: www.philkong.com
Emanuel Treeson, Lighting Designer: www.nyxdesign.com
 
Explore SkyPanel Firmware 4: http://www.arri.com/skypanelfirmware4/