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Lighting a Sweet Sixteen Party
Sweet Sixteen Party


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 Light Jockey

 
Lighting and Video Design for Charlotte's Premiere Sweet Sixteen Party
 

Sweet Sixteen Lighting Fantasies
Lighting and Video Design for Charlotte's Premiere Sweet Sixteen Party
Design Dialogue By Jack Kelly | Photography by Jack Kelly


May 5, 2007 | Charlotte, North Carolina

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Click here for article in Live Design December 2007
Nominated for Charlotte ISES Evie Award in 2008: Best Use of Lighting
Equipment
12 x Elation Opti Par RGB
2 x American DJ Accu Scan
2 x American DJ Fantasy Scan
8 x Elation MR E27 LED
12 x Color Kinetics Color Cast 14
2 x View Sonic 2000 Lumen Projectors
2 x Global Truss DJ Truss Systems
Edirol V-4
Martin Light Jockey
Elation Octopod System
Elation DR-512 DMX Recorder
10 Sauce LightTro LED Lamps
10 Chinese Lanterns
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Lighting a Sweet Sixteen PartyI love designing house parties. Much like skiing on fresh powder, homes are virgin landscapes that result in high praises from the client every time. However, a lack of power and the inability to easily hide cables plague nearly every home. Designing the lighting schemes for homes is both rewarding and challenging. What more could a lighting designer ask for? So when Rhonda Caldwell, president of The Main Event Inc., ask me to work a sweet sixteen party in one of the most beautiful homes in Charlotte, I rearranged that weekend to get the equipment and personal to work it.

Originally we were designing several rooms inside the home; however the mother decided to keep the energy outside. 150 high school kids can create quite a mess, no matter how well behaved. On top of the mess, we were threatened with thunderstorms. We discussed moving the party to one of the garages, but we decided to take a chance and have the party outside anyway.

In preparation for any potential rain situation, I always pick up a box of white trash bags. Trash bags are essential to every production. From clean up to raincoats for lighting fixtures, trash bags can save your show. As a light drizzle teased my electronics, everything exposed to the rain was positioned and instantly bagged. Cables were run. However, power remained off. Fixtures with cooling fans will malfunction if you block the intake or outtake. For LEDs, the white trash bags allow the programmer the ability to see the programming and modify the scenes in the rain. White trash bags also make fixture recognition easier for layout checks by production managers. We were all held in suspense until a solid hour into the party when the rain stopped enough to unbag.

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Lighting a Sweet Sixteen PartyI would like to take a side step to make an apology. I started writing articles back in 2004 because when discussing lighting design to many people I might as well be speaking Martian. Not to insult my clients, they are usually extremely intelligent, but lighting can be counter intuitive. Most of my clients come to me with very little ability to express what they saw in Miami or Vegas or Atlanta or whatever inspired them to call me and poor understanding of what lighting can do. An hour into the party with only half the lights on, one can imagine how Rhonda felt waiting for the rain to stop, hoping that my descriptive ramblings were going to be a dynamic design.

For the entrance, I used 12 Elation Opti Par LEDs to light the nine massive columns around the porte-cochere. As guest approach the brilliant entrance, the magnificent columns burst with rich hues sweeping through the covered driveway. Each light was positioned on the front of the driveway to maximize the picturesque view as the vehicles climbed the steep incline. Two groups of six Colorcast 14s lined each side of the porte-cochere continuing the dynamic color of light, transitioning the colored lighting theme into the dim white light down lighting the rest of the home. Upon entering the porte-cochere, the four lights framing the grand entrance filled the ceiling with light keeping the interest towards the door leading to the party in the back. A single fixture was placed on the inside of the middle column opposite the entrance to bring balance to the space.

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Lighting a Sweet Sixteen PartyAs the guest enter the foyer, warm sweeps of color greet them from eight American DJ E27 MR16 RGB. Graciously beckoning the guest inward, the LED lamps provide softer lighting which contrast to the bold lighting outside. The 5W LEDs incased in black Par-16 were hidden in the ornate wrought iron railings of the open arm staircase. The butler lead the guest through the home lined with red carpet to the party in the back garden.

Onto the patio, the guests are greeted with 8 Octopods in a line on a small fountain above the pool. The LED fixtures are sweeping with color in a night rider fashion. On each side of the Octopod system, a Global Truss DJ System holds two American DJ Accu Scans on each truss leg. Under the outer Accu Scan, an American DJ Fantasy Scan is inverted, mirroring the Accu Scan. The Fantasy Scans provide a powerful psychedelic wash for the back of the house. With its wide 30 degree beam angle, each fixture casts light about 40 yards covering two stories completely. I am still amazed at how effective the optics in the Fantasy Scan 250. The outer Accu Scans trace the pool with a cool blue spot light enticing the party kids to get in the water. The inner Accu Scans are sweeping the dance area and cutting through the fantasy effects along the back of the house.

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Lighting a Sweet Sixteen PartyThe Truss also doubles as frame work for two 5.4’x4’ video screens. The Edirol V-4 was used to mix several DVDs of the latest in hip hop, and dance animation (Rize and Geospirit just to name two). The screens are made of a medium gage Lycra and provide a great projection surface for our View Sonic PJ402D 2000 lumen projectors. A great solution for low budget and one use custom screens. The screens are set snuggly in the trussing system with 6” of space around its edges.

The final touch was in the VIP balcony. Ten 20” Chinese Lanterns lit with Sauce LightTro color-changing light bulbs float above the balcony. Each lantern changes color at a different speeds through the color spectrum. The effect is breath taking as the large orbs glow, hovering above the crowd like spirits.

In the beginning the birthday girl only made one request. She wanted her party to be different. With years of nightclub design for some of the craziest parties in Charlotte, Eye Dialogue pushed the envelope of what a house party could be. The response was priceless. Nearly every teenager present was sure that MTV was hiding somewhere in the house. I think at one point I was accused of lying because I obviously had a hidden camera somewhere. From entrance to the pool side, Nina’s party impacted her friends and family. By changing the lighting from the front to the back, Eye Dialogue transformed the space into something special. The Birthday girl couldn’t stop smiling as all her friends commented on her amazing party. I smiled with pride knowing that my creation even though it only last for a moment will be remembered by everyone there throughout their college years.

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Synopsis:

Without little access to power, no rigging points, and strict rules on expendables, house parties challenge the innovation of every lighting designer. Armed only with experience and good guesses, we used LED lighting to transform her home for her sweet sixteen party. Located on top of a large hill, LED pars created a fantastic vision of color on the front columns of her home. In back, moving lights scanned both the pool and the back of the two story house. Completely filling the poolside party floor with different lighting effects, some of the kids are still convinced MTV was there.