Monday, May 9, 2011

Rogue Redesign: Small Conference Room.

In the office that I work in, we have a small conference room.
Since its small, and I'm still learning to model spaces in Dialux (which has limited CAD capabilities and I don't, yet, have a way to import from Sketchup) I decided to make this my first Rogue Redesign.

I am hoping that through Rogue Redesigns, I (and others who see this) can be inspired to see what a room could be with different lighting. They are Rogue, in that I was not commissioned or hired to create these designs, they are just for fun and, hopefully, to help inspire you a bit.

Here is the current 'design'

Actually, I don't mind being in this room too much, ti is overall pretty good although there are spots that are places that are harshly lit and places that are to dark.The biggest thing I don't like about this is that it is quite haphazard. The track has a funny arrangement and we have cobbled together track heads from other rooms to make this work. This isn't necessarily the fault of the original design; the room used to be an office that had some additional lighting, which was removed to make it into a conference room.

So, using Dialux, I came up with the following rendering.

Knowing that this room is in a non-profit organization, with very low budgets, I decided to use lighting concepts that are variable in cost. So I stuck with LED MR-16 retrofit lamps (in this case 7W, but could be adjusted for more or less lighting) for most of the lighting. The beauty of this is that the quality of the lighting design is not dependent on the fixture-one could pick very inexpensive residential track fixtures, recessed lighting or expensive decorative track with very little change in the lighting effect.

I chose to distribute the fixtures around the room, using them as task lighting for the tack board. I also placed a couple fixtures above the bookcase (to highlight some decorative item or plant) and on side table (I also took some liberty with a different furniture arrangement to make the room suitable for a small meeting or for some quiet reading).

While the accent lighting is certainly not necessary, it helps to balance out the room, providing some visual interest in areas that are dark now.

Over the table, I added a basic pendant lamp with a cylinder shade (and a 23W CFL). Although this may hinder some views of the tackboard, I like the way that these fixtures (when hung just above seated head height) provide pleasing ambient light, table task light and soft vertical illuminance on the occupant's faces.

Again, this wasn't a complicated design and certainly not a drastic change. But with simple changes, inexpensive lighting (or expensive, depending on the quality of fixtures), we can address some of the shortcomings of the original lighting, while maintaining a cozy meeting space.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lighting in My Day Job.

Although I am an engineer by training, I currently work in the media production department at a large non-profit university student ministry, InterVarsity. Most of our work is producing videos but a couple times a year we provide the technical support (sound, lighting and video) for large conferences that InterVarsity puts on for staff and students.

Doing these conferences gives guys like me a chance to use my engineering and lighting design skills as we design systems, layout thousands of feet of wiring and work to create a nice environment out of an ugly hotel ballroom.

This year I got to do the lighting design.

Although we have some high-end stage lighting equipment we have to make work with some pretty heavy limitations. I think we do pretty well though and I was happy with how things turned out at this one.

In this case, we were able to have truss hung from the ceiling of the hotel ballroom. However, give the distances we needed for back-fired projection, the truss was only about 2' out in front of the stage--not exactly the 35-45 degrees that you like to have. Given this limitation, I blew the dust off all the old 40 degree Par-56 cans we had laying around the studio (about 16), knowing that I'd need more than our 8 ellipsoidals to adequately cover the stage.

Our 4 wide ellipsoidals were used to light the stage near the vertical screen backdrop (the middle panel was a projection screen, which allowed our graphic designers to create images that conveyed the context of various parts of the conference) so that we could prevent as much spill as possible. Narrow elipsoidals were used to light signage at the backdrop and to kick some light across the stage.

For the backdrop, I modified 7 (I don't know why we have 7, but we do) color changing DJ lights that we have (Martin CX-2) by taking the lenses out (they are normally a focused light with gobo patterns) and replacing them with small pieces of fluorescent prismatic diffusers. I mounted them to a bar on the floor and uplit the background. They made great washes and I was able to do basic color mixing to change things up a bit throughout the conference.

We also had four Martin Mac 250 washes, which we put on the stage floor, allowing us to uplight the ceiling of the ballroom. I could also program movement and color changes to create various moods in the room.

In addition to the Macs, we also have two Coemar Prospots. These are some old, kind of junky, moving lights that we have. They are more of a spot light and they have a few patterns in them. They often are used to make some interesting patterns, etc on the ceiling but I decided to hang them on the truss this time. I was glad I did! They came in really handy for a couple of drama sketches and, at one point, I was able to swing one around to spotlight someone in the audience for a camera shot.

In the photos below, I used the Prospots to create some movement in a drama/music piece. By putting a photo of an abandoned factory (that I took a few years ago) we were able to create the feeling of a place in ruins. I set the Prospots to slowly rotate a fan-shaped gobo on Michael, emulating the effect of an old exhaust fan being pushed by the breeze. The sketch was very striking and moving and I was really happy with how I was able enhance that with the lighting and photography.

It was a lot of fun creating this space with light. Although I always imagine what I could do if I had more and nicer fixtures to work with, I was happy with how this turned out.

--All photos credit Matt Kirk and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA. Stage and Backdrop design by InterVarsity's Twentyonehundred Productions. Thanks to Michael Eubanks for allowing me to use his image.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Myths of Green Design.

Here's an interesting article (actually a press release from an architecture firm) that seeks to debunk some of the myths about "green" design.

Architect Debunks "Green Design" Myths

Many of his points have long bugged me when talking to people about sustainable design. Particularly, his first point about "complicated technology and exotic hardware" is especially important to consider. Green design has become a trend and manufacturers are quick to capitalize on that trend, by making all sorts of new gadgets and systems to save energy, etc.

I do think that new products should be developed and pursued (and that a small number of people with zeal for conservation and large pocketbooks) should be able to spend a bunch of money to be early adopters. But when the focus is on new technology, we forget about all the other, simple, things that we can do be better stewards of our resources.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

TED Talk: "Why Light Needs Darkness"

This is an inspiring and informative talk for those of us who appreciate lighting. While I do think that there are areas which need bright uniform lighting, there seems to be an unnecessary push for brightness and uniformity in many spaces which simply don't need that and would benefit from having less.

Perhaps most interesting is that the idea that a more artistic, comfortable and interesting space has benefits beyond the users, but also has cost and environmental benefits as well. In many spaces, darkness doesn't cost anything, so sculpting the light more carefully could mean less fixtures and less energy consumption, too.