Under the direction of lighting designers, International CES becomes more than an exhibition dedicated to introducing the latest consumer technology.
These designers proved that theatrical lighting is an essential element to the show’s large-scale production — it continually makes attendees stop, look and engage with an exhibit, even if they have no idea what wares the exhibitor is showing. Nowhere is this phenomenon more prevalent than at the largest of the CES venues – Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) always features the largest exhibits, giving lighting designers the space to create intense visual attractions.
“As a lighting director for a project, I have to see what is physically viable in terms of structures. Some venues are more difficult to light in than others,” stated Paul Fine, principal designer, Fine Design Associates.
The dimly lit Central Hall of LVCC became the perfect backdrop for moving colors of light in prism-shaped structures or in 200-foot exhibit walls. This was only just one lighting trend seen on the show floor.
“All the significant booths had overhead lighting rigs. There is a trend in the industry toward automated LED fixtures. Many used LEDs they could control to do specific patterns. LEDs were also built into walls and sculptures,” added Fine. “The fixtures themselves are always new at CES. Everybody likes to use the newest technology available, such as the latest projectors.”
A major show like CES could also be considered a paradise for designers. Not only do they get to highlight their capabilities to the tradeshow industry and general public, but as artists themselves, they too marvel at the show floor creations of other designers.
“Intel did something on a back wall with lighting, mirrors and Plexiglas. At first, we couldn’t figure it out, but it came together beautifully,” stated Chris Virtuoso, national design director, MC2.
Never something to be left to the last minute, lighting design is important to the overall presentation and functionality of larger exhibits.
“When working with booths up to the size of those we work with at CES and [with] artists like Paul, lighting changes the feel. Lighting is everything. We keep it in mind when designing,” added Virtuoso.
As early as possible, MC2, an exhibit house, brought in its decade-long partner, theatrical lighting design firm Fine Design Associates into its exhibit design-builds for Samsung and Canon at CES.
“We tend to get the [exhibit] design internally or from the client. We talk to Paul about 25 percent into the process. We make sure we don’t design structures that get in the way of what he does,” explained Virtuoso.
From there, Fine and his team determine what needs to be done to achieve its partner’s goals as well as those of the clients.
“For any of the properties we do, we have to pay close attention to the technical requirements. We always want to get product lighting right. We want to make sure we are creating visually interesting effects and that every property we do looks different down the line in terms of lighting. When you look at Canon vs. Samsung, those are different types of lighting,” commented Fine.
CES is where consumer technology reigns supreme, so it is important to all parties involved that product lighting is implemented correctly. Imagine going to a booth and discovering that an interesting lighting effect overshadowed the product line, which is probably more important to the client.
“Most products at CES emit light. It is a fine line to light around them without washing anything out,” added Virtuoso.
Lighting all areas of a large booth is a continual balancing act that Fine Design Associates often undertakes. The team lit quadrants of the Samsung booth based on different color temperature levels.
“We wanted the product tables to be the hottest things in the [Samsung] booth in terms of light level. We had a specific brightness chart. The Samsung phone area was the brightest area, and the TVs were the darkest area,” Fine explained.
They also ensured that the lighting, such as a projector delivering blue pattern lighting, didn’t interfere with the overall Canon environment in which attendees tested out the capabilities of the client’s cameras.
Prior to the show, MC2 eliminated any lighting issues by creating a mockup of the Samsung exhibit. While conducting experiments to guarantee that a lighting effect worked, MC2 also took advice from Fine Design Associates about what lighting techniques should be avoided depending on the structures used.
Additionally, Fine Design Associates designed lighting for other clients at CES while MC2 worked 12 other projects across five CES locations in Las Vegas from Jan. 6-9.