Atmosphere and Show with the Right Lighting

Lighting on an event is not only functional, it is essential for the atmosphere and show. Our colleague Tom  knows exactly how to make a lighting scheme with the right lighting for your events and he was very happy to share those ‘secrets’ in the studio. You can watch the English version of the interview below.


Hi Tom, welcome to our studio. Today’s topic is lighting. Lighting makes of course that we can see each other but there are other reasons why lighting is so important for an event.  

The basic reason is to create a nice environment or a nice show or a nice event is light. We all need it every day in our car, at home, when it gets dark. We pull the switch and we have light. So we can’t see anything without light. So that’s of course always the basic.

Yes, but if you come in an event location and you put on the light what is there already then there is no atmosphere. And then you need to do your magic and add some light to create the atmosphere.  

Yes, because when you enter a venue most of the time it’s cold, white light. It’s very nice…

For the cleaning?  
For the cleaning, to build up, to see everything very well. But you also see all the mistakes of the venue. So the best thing for us is kill the lights and let us do our job. So then we can start making some nice scenes. It’s more like we can start painting with the light. And we can create atmospheres and all those things depends on the demands of the client, of course.

I heard you say ‘Hiding the mistakes’ So it actually means that you put light on the things you want to show?  

Of course.

And no light at the parts that need to stay in the background.  

Yes. And the more you put your accent to the things you want to show the less attention goes to the thing that you don’t want to see. So that’s where lights are very handy.

But if you want to create an atmosphere in that way then you need to plan up front, okay, this is the setting I have, this is what I want to achieve… How do you start with such a plan?  

It all starts with the idea of the client, of course. The client decides. Or it is thematic or we want to go in that atmosphere. First of all is it a dinner show, is it only a dinner, is it like an exposition or is it really show? Or is it a mix of all those elements? That’s also possible. This is the start. And then we see, okay we have this venue what’s possible over there, what technology do you want to use? Has it to be really bombastic or is it really dramatic? So everything starts with a conversation. And then you start designing.

I heard you mention a show, then I think it’s about show lights flashing things, moving lights, is it that kind of stuff then?  

Yes. This is one part of show, you can create a show with let’s say 100, 200 lights and of course it will be wow. If you flash the lights, everyone say, oh, 200 lights at a time. It’s amazing of course. And they can move, they can get every color whatever you want, it’s all… And the operator will make you a good show. But then again you can also create a show with very conventional lights. Let’s say for instance you have a stage, a blue background and only one light at one guy who is telling something. But then again, this is one guy and maybe the client’s show has 50, 60, 100 people dancing on stage. Of course you need-

There is a difference.  

There’s a difference and the lights will be different of course.

Do I understand correctly that even with a small budget, light can do tremendous things for your event?  

Your experience with, let’s put a number on it, with 10 lights, 10 convention lights with some color filters which can create a really nice atmosphere. You can’t create the same effect with 200 lights than with eight lights. A small venue doesn’t need 200 lights. And if there’s, for instance, one guy at the piano you don’t need 200 lights.

Just one targeted spot?  

But really target right color, right intensity, right background, it can be enough.

When we’re talking about a guy on stage, then it’s enough to put just a light on him if you want to keep it clean and simple? Or do you need-  

No, normally the basics are three points. So not frontal, just on the 60 degree and at the back?

And why at the back?  

Well, the reason for that is, if we look at the guy and we only put one spot in front of him he will be a little bit flat and the guy should be a little bit more 3D. So if it’s only one light your nose will create a shadow and that’s not nice. We want to see the guy as we see him normally in daylight. So this is the most important thing. You need the depth and you create a depth with more than one light of course.

Yes. And what is it about, when we are here in the studio I always hear the light technician talk about: when we do camera we need white light.  

Well, white light is the basic of everything. If you buy a light bulb, it’s white. Of course different temperatures of color, but it’s still white. We’re not talking about LED, but basically if it’s a discharging lamp or is it a tungsten, whatever, it’s always white. Warm, cold, whatever it is. And then you start putting on filters. You have the classic filters, but you have also the automatic filters in the moving lights. But the basic is still white. And when you’re outside and you look at someone, it’s the daylight so it’s white. If I put red on you, you will be red. But the camera will see that in another way. So it’s for the camera, it’s a little bit more different to capture the color which is projected on your face or on your clothes.

So you need a white light to get the image realistic?  

Yes, this is a perfect example.

Yes, but I can imagine if you have a great show with a lot of red lights you don’t want to put white light on it, because then all the effect is gone.

The effect for the background, the effect for all the obstacles they can be red. But if there’s one guy at stage or ten, or whatever you need to put white light on him because otherwise he will be as red as everything. So the camera will see a red object, but it will not see you as Kevin.

It will be a red version then?

Yes. That’s it.

Okay, and what about all the technologies? Because you have LED lights, you have the traditional lights you have so many different technologies, which one do I need to choose for my event?  

This is again planning, this is again what kind of venue, is it a large venue? What about the air conditioning? If you have, for instance, a large dinner show with 1000 people dining. Okay, those guys need warm light to eat. You can’t out a green light on them.

That wouldn’t be very tasteful.  

No. So we need warm, white light. We should take, or we can take the traditional warm tungsten light or the halogen light, but most of the time it is 1000 watt for each piece. So imagine the heat that’s coming from those lights?

In a large venue that’s okay, but in a small…  

…venue it can be a problem. Also the power consumption of those lights is really, really high. And today we have to think green.

Yes, and not every venue can handle such a power consumption.  

Exactly. And if the venue is a little bit less high than let’s say the larger venues we know we can start choosing or thinking about LED lights.

Because of the heat? Otherwise it will be too warm in the room?  

Yes. And in the beginning LED lights, they didn’t have the right colors. You always saw the red, the green and the blue. Because those were the three colors we have. Then they started using the white LED and also the amber. So now with the technology and the software behind those lights, we can create a lookalike of a tungsten lamp. We’re not really there yet, but it’s getting really close. So in a year, two, three, the difference will be very, very little.

If I understand correctly, it is not possible to take a light show and just copy it over for a different event?  

Not for different events. If it is a show on tour, of course we copy it because every city needs to see the same show.

But even then don’t you need to make adjustments based on the venue?  

All the time. Not every venue is the same, but at that time it’s show light, so it doesn’t matter that much. The concept will be the same. But for events of course it’s every day another thing.

And then you need an expert for making that possible?  

Yes, an expert who plans in front, who has a lot of experience. If you have a guy who has 20 years of experience he can easily say, more or less, we’re not going to do we’re going to use this kind of equipment, and the approach will be more like this.

Because he can anticipate on the actual effect the light will have?  

Yes, he knows what the light will do. And these days we don’t have the budget to rent the venue three or two more days extra.

To try and…?

To try. Let’s say 20 years ago it was possible, but then again we had less lights. Now we have too many possibilities, so you have to think up front before you start building.

And talk with the experts?  

Yes, the designer is a key element today.

Tom, thank you very much for your advice.  

You’re welcome.