focus of innovation , creativity , and total quality , and to stick with it when it gets challenging . And that ’ s fine — it ’ s a company strategy and it ’ s exciting . Like , right now I have to go to a meeting where it ’ s all of our product team and we ’ re going to be just so excited about the product we ’ re going to be talking about . So , it ’ s fun . I love it , but it is a challenge always . And you know , the cyclicality of entertainment is what it is .
To get the end-users ’ perspective , PL & P also reached out to California-based creative producer Tim Durant , whose work has ranged from music tours and concerts ( Bruno Mars , OK Go , Steve Aoki , and Avenged Sevenfold ), to opening ceremonies and halftime shows ( the 2014 Winter Olympics , the 2015 South East Asian Games , the University of Michigan Halftime Show ), and broadcast ( the Victoria ’ s Secret Fashion Show and the Country Music Television Awards ), and more .
PL & P : Can you recall when you first saw or learned about this new product category of programmable LED wearables ?
Tim Durant : Well , I remember my first encounter with PixMob in general was when I was designing the stage set and video content for Steve Aoki ’ s tour back in 2010 , I think . So , very early . I met with Vincent [ Leclerc ] and David Parent because they were quite interested in offering PixMob as part of that design . Unfortunately , we weren ’ t able to use them then , but then our relationship continued into lots of other projects .
PL & P : Do you remember your initial thoughts about the potential for these products in terms of how they could be used , or how you ’ d want to incorporate them into your work ?
Durant : Oh , I thought it had huge potential . I wish we could have gotten them onto that tour . I loved the idea of incorporating the audience into the experience rather than it just being a show that literally just shows people things . To actually have the audience participate was huge and quite ahead of its time .
PL & P : When did you actually first use them ?
Durant : I think the first time I worked with those guys , they actually hired me . They were lighting up all the audience at the Winter Olympics in Sochi in January of 2014 . They hired me to help design the looks and produce for the team all the video effects that they were putting on the 50,000-strong audience [ at the opening and closing ceremonies ].
PL & P : Do you remember how you were using the PixMob products to accentuate the show ?
Durant : Well , on that one in particular , we were using an advanced form of PixMob , which was their video product . And so , in addition to doing various kinds of chases around the stadium , and kind of up the rows and back again , we were actually able to send an animation around the stadium . The big one we did for that was the countdown as we went from 10 down to zero that actually kicked off the opening ceremony …
For the Olympics , they did a custom build of a medallion , probably about three or four inches across , that sort of mimicked the gold medals that the athletes were awarded .
PL & P : What ’ s your guiding principle for when and how you use LED wearables in one of your shows ?
Durant : Well , I ’ ve used them really for two purposes ; sometimes in the audience itself , kind of as originally intended , which the Pix- Mob team themselves , independently of me , do themselves in the audience .
So , I ’ ve hired them to provide pixels in the audience to create similar effects , but I ’ ve also hired them to create looks on a mass cast performance on the field of play . So , for example , I did a show with Boston University , a big celebration for them , and I put it in the audience there , inside an arena in Boston . With the University of Michigan , where we had over 400 musicians on the field , a marching band , I lit up those musicians ; we didn ’ t light up the crowd , we lit up the musicians instead and they created these lovely shapes on the field .
PL & P : Where do these products come into the design process ? How do they work with what else is going on in the show ?
Durant : Well , it depends because I ’ m not a lighting designer , I ’ m a creative producer . So , I ’ m more of the creative director , and then the actual lighting guys will often incorporate the PixMob signal and management into their system . So , I ’ ll get them on board as early as possible , just because they ’ re very much in-demand and I want to make sure that there ’ s availability of the system – of the pixels themselves in whatever form factor – and the crew . So , I ’ ll get them on board as early as possible . And if they ’ re lighting up the audience , then that ’ s somewhat after-the-fact . We ’ ll design what ’ s happening on the field of play and then the audience looks will accentuate that . If I ’ m going to use them as part of the performance itself , then really at the beginning of the creative process that ’ s a tool we have in the toolbox .
PL & P : Where do you see this product category going ? Or at least what ’ s your hopes for what will be possible with this type of product ?
Durant : I do like where they ’ re going with installations , like what they ’ ve done up at the San Jose Sharks ’ arena . I think that ’ s a big way forward . I mean , being able to install that in a venue does open up options financially . It amortizes the costs of a PixMob installation across a longer timeframe . So , therefore , makes it more attractive to a much wider client group , which means it ’ ll get used more often . I also like that they ’ re trying out different form factors and they ’ re willing to be very flexible on that , which I think opens the technology up to more things . And I love that they ’ re going green with it as well , which , again , I think opens up a few more doors for them as a vendor , and it opens up more opportunities for me , for example , because that ’ s part of my pitch to my client that they are a green option .
PL & P : Just on the creative design front , is there anything that ’ s not currently capable or you haven ’ t been able to achieve with them that you hope will be made possible in the future ?
Durant : I would love there to be a way that it can be airborne . At the Southeast Asian Games , we did do a version of that where we distributed them from the ceiling catwalks . We made them kind of like little Sycamore leaves , almost little helicopters that flew down , and that was able to create a cloud . I don ’ t see them as getting in the same space as the Intel drones and things like that , but certainly being able to create some spatial aspect rather than it being two-dimensional on the field or in the audience .
Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief of Professional Lighting & Production
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