The merging of architectural and theatrical lighting techniques is reflected in the professional backgrounds of lighting specialists, which now include theatre-lighting designers and light artists, as well as architectural lighting consultants. Coupled with a wider variety of products, often transferred from different sectors, the result is more interesting and varied lighting design solutions.
There has also been a migration of theatre-lighting equipment, such as the MiniMac Maestro multi-gobo colourchanging projector, manufactured by Martin Architectural, into the architectural arena. And a proliferation of new developments from theatre and entertainment lighting manufacturers has addressed issues such as long lamp life, ease of maintenance and colour rendering by adapting lamp technology from the architectural lighting arena; for example, ceramic arc tube technology and metal halide lamps.
Though still in their infancy and therefore not fully proven, the rapid progress in the development of LEDs has enabled techniques commonplace in the theatre to move into other sectors. Small, neat, with long lamp life, low power consumption, and excellent control technology, LEDs have crossed into all sectors, making colour change much more achievable.
LEDs were used to create an entertaining public space at Finsbury Avenue Square in London's Broadgate. The installation was designed by Maurice Brill Lighting Design, with lighting equipment from Artistic Licence, and consists of a large in-ground array of colour-changing lamps.
More than 650 individually controllable light modules each provide independent colour mixing, giving a floor of colour, with effects ranging from subtle moods to dynamic animation.
A custom lighting fixture of extruded aluminium provides mechanical protection and thermal management for the optics, while Artistic Licence's Colour-Tramp was specified for control. This communicates via the Art-Net Ethernet standard to implement the remote device-management function, allowing it to operate as a lighting controller and an installationmanagement system. One screen can show the status of all the fixtures.
Control technology now enables designers to programme lighting effects remotely.
For the Al Salhiya building for Mabanee in Kuwait City, Speirs and Major Associates was able to programme the electronic theatre controls (ETC) emphasis control system from its Edinburgh office and then email them - saving time and money. The single system controls some 312 LEDs in the iColor Accent light fitting from Color Kinetics, including concept and programming, and fully integrated WYSIWYG. The direct-view linear light provides a 250° viewing angle in lengths of 300mm, although the fitting is also available in 1.2m and 2.4m lengths, at controlled 330mm intervals. A low-maintenance option offers continuous columns of colour and colour-changing light for indoor and outdoor applications.
The level of sophistication now available in lighting systems is also demonstrated by Pixelrange's products. For example, the Pixelpar 90 offers a silent, non-mechanical additive colour-mixing system to produce effects ranging from subtle dissolves to dramatic colour saturation. This projector uses LEDs that last 10 times longer than equivalent incandescent light sources. Not only does this make them suitable for difficult locations, but their heat-saving and energy-saving properties make them environmentally friendly and cost effective.
Although LEDs are now widely used for exterior colour-changing effects, as yet they are not bright enough to wash large areas from a distance. Where large areas of light need to be produced, projectors with filters - such as the Pantheon OS CYM 400 architectural colour changer from Griven - are usually a better option.
The Pantheon is fitted with a metal halide HQI-TS 400W 6,000-hour lamp and an optical system that produces a long throw beam of 38°. Alternative beam angles can be achieved by expansion filters. The colourmixing system, with cyan, yellow and magenta (CYM) dichroic filters, creates virtually unlimited colour hues. Sequences can be selected from a pre-programmed internal controller, with multiple-unit synchronisation possible, or controlled from the IP65 CYM dedicated controller, or any DMX512 control system.
Thorn has also introduced a range of projectors featuring dynamic light colourchange systems - the Contrast Spectra.
Two systems are available: a rotary dichroic disc for pre-programming colour and changeover time, or CYM dichroic technology for more scene-setting and timing options. This also has a dedicated programmer for 62 colours or special software for infinite colours.
The lighting possibilities for the BT tower are shown on page 20. The design by Rufus Leonard and Imagination uses an Exterior 200 colour changer from Martin Architectural and implements branding techniques on a grand scale, enabling BT to mirror the rainbow colours found in its new 'connected world' globe logo.
The Exterior 200 was selected for its colour-matching capabilities and its compact and powerful, short throw, CMY colour changer, which allowed an asymmetrical wide-throw flood beam in the limited projection distance. A built-in light sensor, memory presets and DMX controllability add to its independent functionality.
For the lighting and control solution for the 48 fixtures that required DMX capability, an astronomical clock and the ability to switch easily between pre-programmed lighting sequences for special events, AC Lighting specified an ETC Unison system and Chroma-Q Magic Box DMX distribution solutions.
The main sequence involved dividing the fixtures into seven groups of light scenes, with each scene equating to a different colour in the logo at any point in time. Fading the scene colours in and out while simultaneously rotating the groups in a set order, gives the impression of the globe rotating around the building's crown.
Projectors and colour filters were also chosen for the Newport Theatre and Arts Centre. Hoare Lea Lighting specified the Pantheon and the Trident CYM 150 architectural colour changer by Griven. The Trident is fitted with a metal halide CDMSA/T 150w 9,000-hour lamp, giving high efficiency but low energy use. The standard optical system gives a relatively narrow, softedge beam of around 38°, but good distance coverage from such a small unit.
Output and beam angles were varied, with half of the products located on the roof of the main building to light up the flight towers, and the remainder pole-mounted, (for vandal resistance), lighting the main building facades.
To add to the flexibility of the installation, each fixture has a unique data address for the widest variety of programming choices, be it a simple monochrome treatment for all the facades or a rainbow effect played out over a given time period. The scheme enables a wash of changeable colour to be applied to the building's facade.
The sheer scale of exterior spaces perhaps makes them best suited to such dramatic lighting effects, creating a moment's entertainment for people as they pass.
However theatrical lighting techniques are also increasingly being used to liven up interior spaces.
In retail and leisure spaces, lighting can add drama. Varilite's VL2500 wash luminaire could be particularly effective for large retail applications such as shopping centres.
It provides three-wheel CYM colour mixing and, when combined with 11 standard colours on a fixed wheel, the colour options are almost limitless. A coated-glass dimmer wheel provides smooth fades, and a separate dual-blade strobe system offers quiet and reliable strobe effects. The fixture can be controlled from virtually any DMX512 console or DMX output device.
Filters and sleeves represent an economic method of adding colour to lamps, and are easily retrofitted. Aimed at the entertainment, leisure and architectural industries, Lee Filters' polycarbonate fluorescent sleeves includes more than 200 coloured polyester inserts, which are supplied either pre-assembled, ready to install or as pre-cut rolls enabling self-assembly of sleeves and inserts. More subtle, less saturated and frosted colours can be added with one of the company's 36 dichroic glassfilter options.
Theatrical effects have also crept into the working environment. They are perhaps not suitable for the actual work space - after all, who would want to sit next to a colour-changing wall or gobo fitting all day - but they can liven up reception areas and waiting spaces, as well as staff restaurants. For example, in MoreySmith's design for EMI's headquarters, both the reception desk and the glass counter in the staff café have glass fronts that are illuminated internally with colour-changing LEDs from Crescent Lighting. Colours can be varied to suit different occasions and times of day.
It is not just colour changing that can create interest or enhance corporate identity and image. At the Food Standards Agency, ArtSource selected a lightbox to add drama to the dark entrance lobby, while subtly reflecting the nature of the client's business.
The lightbox is broken into segments to give a unique elevation, with a custom-built backlit display of food photography, in this case Rocket Man by Patrice de Villiers.
Of course, there are some products that will always remain exclusive to the theatrical market, but the development of technology that successfully addresses issues such as power consumption and lamp life opens up fantastic lighting possibilities that can give a project that something 'extra'.
Jonathan Morrish is a lighting consultant who has worked in the lighting industry for more than 20 years