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Lighting Design

Adding the “Wow Factor” with Event Lighting

Step up your game with these underrated event lighting design techniques

Do you want your event to stand out among the rest? Of course you do. Event planners are always searching for new ways to spice up their event designs, but these five classics are timeless techniques that you might have underestimated.

Paper Lanterns

A paper lantern is a lantern made of thin, brightly colored or white paper. Paper lanterns come in various shapes and sizes, and in their simplest form, they are simply a paper bag with a candle placed inside, although more complicated lanterns consist of a collapsible bamboo or metal frame of hoops covered with tough paper.

Inexpensive and beautiful, paper lanterns can be added as a complement to bistro lighting, or hung individually without and string lighting accompaniment.

Event Paper Lanterns Lighting Design
Paper Lanterns come in all shapes and sizes, and many different colors too

Pin Spots

Pin spotting is crucial to a successful lighting design. While it is pretty much standard, it’s important to remember why it became such a popular line item. Without pin spotting, many of the details of an event can be lost.

While they aren’t essential for daytime or brightly-lit events, pin spots should always be considered. Even if it seems like there will be enough ambient light to see, a boost from some well-placed pin spots can help decor stand out . A centerpiece washed with the same amount of light as the rest of the event space isn’t going to “pop”. Like any lighting design, it’s important that the lighting for your event is dynamic, and not just a dull wash.

Pin spots help to create a dynamic lighting look that both illuminates and excites

Dynamic lighting leads to a dynamic event design. A subtle, single-color wash is a nice look. But, adding some pin spots, especially in a low light setting, can help keep the look of your event exciting. Ideally, you’ll want an evenly washed room that includes lighting accents to add dynamics and prevent eye fatigue.

Texture Gobos

While there are six controllable qualities of light, often in the event industry we focus focus on only four. Color, intensity, direction, and distribution are all given a lot of love. Meanwhile, the other two qualities – texture and movement – take a back seat.

Movement is an incredibly powerful tool to excite and amaze your guests. We cover the importance of movement in another article, so right now we’re focusing on the importance of texture. Texture gobos are an underutilized & affordable way of projecting texture onto any surface.

One of the best things about using gobos is that they are fairly simple for production companies to get manufactured. Along with the thousands of available designs, you can work with your production company to design your very own texture to perfectly suit your event.

High Definition nebula & starry night textures for an Event at the Science Museum in Richmond, Va.

There are many different materials and manufacturing processes used to create gobos. However, the two types of gobos that are most commonly used in the modern event industry steel-cut and glass. Plastic gobos are now possible with LED technology, although they are not as widely-used. With steel-cut gobos, single-color simple textures and designs are possible at an affordable price. Even custom gobos are within range for most event budgets. Glass gobos are more expensiveness than their steel counterparts, but well worth it for the range of amazing visuals they can provide for events. Glass gobos can be multiple colors, and often feature high definition images such as nebulas, photo-realistic clouds, beautiful nature scenes, star fields, and more.

Texture gobos can be used both to enhance an already beautiful space, or cover up an otherwise dull or ugly surface. Often, event designers will use texture gobos projected onto the floor from above to create amazing surface looks. That barely even dives beneath the surface of what can be done with textures.

In today’s age of LEDs, uplighting is among the most popular special event service. For your next event, keep in mind how gobos can be used to completely customize your venue, and turn a space into a magical, once-in-a-lifetime scene.

Special Effects

Getting to the good stuff. Special effects is a pretty broad category, so we’ll try to keep this brief. Low fog, haze, confetti, streamers, pyro, cryo, fireworks all belong on the list. These are event elements that you’ll need your venues permission for, but it’ll always be worth it

When the dust has settled and the event is over, these are the types of elements that people will remember. A confetti shot at the end of the night can leave a lasting impression. Low fog is great for reveals, entrances, and more. And a little bit of haze can go a long way.

Maddie & Tae perform at Fort Lee for Fourth at the Fort. Haze gives lighting designers the ability to use 3D space

Haze is often used at concerts to create a 3D space for lighting. Many people confuse haze with theatrical fog, but there are many differences. Both a fog and haze machine will create particulates in the air, but hazers produce a finer particulate. Haze is odorless and because it is water-based, it is not an irritant. Having particles in the air allows for an effect called “air light,” where beams from lighting instruments are visible in the air. Haze, if tastefully done, can be used for more than just concerts.

While some venues do not allow haze, it is water-based and completely harmless. Many professional haze machines are designed to not set off most types of fire alarms.

Custom Design Elements & Fabrication

One thing that event planners often don’t realize is the versatility of their local production companies. Like most event vendors, event production companies work with thousands of different clients from a wide variety of industries. Unlike many other industry companies, production companies provide completely different sets of services to different types of clients

A corporate client might have a fancy gala with uplighting and pin spotting, not unlike a wedding or special event. Or, they might need a video live stream displayed on a video wall the size of a house, and syndicated to live stream outlets such as Twich, Livestream, or Facebook live. Because of this, production companies provide services you might not expect. These might include custom set fabrication, content generation, or graphic design services related to your event.