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    Five innovative secrets of concert lighting designers


    Anyone who has ever been to a stadium concert has experienced that thrilling moment when the lights go down before the show begins. A feeling of excitement flows through the crowd as the artists prepare to start the event the fans have waited for. Bright, colorful lights flash on the stage, engulfing the band as they perform their opening number. From the front row to the very last, the crowd is collectively immersed till the end of the show, sharing the experience with each other and the artist on stage.

    1. Extend the show as far as possible


    As venues become bigger and more high-tech, lighting can be an excellent tool to involve the whole crowd, even fans in the very back row. Ed Warren, who has done the lights for performers such as Mumford and Sons, Shakira, and MGMT, says “Concerts are a collective experience, and bringing 60,000 people together in one experience can be tricky. I like to employ lighting as far back as possible, and extend the celebration on stage to the whole audience.” To do so, Warren often uses light like audience blinders, which are high intensity flood lights pointed directly at the audience and covers them light to create a dramatic affect.

    The Head & the Heart 2013 USA Tour, lighting design by Ed Warren d:_{q

    2. Some tricks never fail to impress


    There are some commonly used design techniques, that although they are “overdone,” Warren says they work every time. Hanging strings of light above the audience is one of them, and it also helps involve the whole stadium. “Nothing will beat the wonder on people’s faces all the way to the back of the arena when [the lights] are turned on for the first time,” he says. Another common tool is the use of lasers, which can create some breathtaking results. Warren has even noticed that fans will often stop to take photos of the laser shows.

    3. Put the light in the audiences' hand


    One of the newest ways lighting designers and bands engage the entire audience is by literally putting the lights directly in their hands. This new form of hand-held light is a modern twist on the tradition of waving lighter flames in the air. For example, indie electronic artist Dan Deacon created a free app for his concert that interacts with the concert audio, turning audience members into part of an elaborate light show. Other bands have used similar technology during their concerts, such as LED wristbands that light up at certain parts of the show.

    4. LED lights cut energy costs


    LED lights not only have programmable capabilities, but they also vastly save in CO2 emissions and energy costs. This was crucial for the band Radiohead during their 2008 “In Rainbows” tour. The band, known for being active environmental justice, noticed their lavish concert lighting was having a negative ecological impact. Longtime lighting designer and stage manager Andi Watson worked with the band to make the switch to energy-efficient LED lights. Yet, instead of just using traditional LED stage lights, Watson used Philips Color Kinetics fixtures typically used for architectural lighting, for the interesting design affects they could create, their impressive light projection, and programmable capabilities. Creatively placing the fixtures around the stage, like floating lines of light hanging from the ceiling, he was able to create incredible scenes. While the band reached their goal of cutting their carbon emissions, Watson was also opened up to the sustainability and design potential of LED light.

    5. Lights help musicians perform better


    The artists are normally too busy concentrating on music to notice the lighting, says Warren. When they do make a positive comment, that’s when he knows he’s accomplished something extraordinary. “The best direct comment I’ve ever had from a member of the band was that I made them feel like they were floating in space for an hour,” says Warren, proving the lighting can even influence the performance beyond what the audience sees.