Don’t underestimate these unexpected event lighting challenges

In commercial and consumer applications, lighting can be very straightforward: When you walk into a dark room, all you have to do is flip a switch and the space is instantly illuminated. But when it comes to lighting up an event, the process is rarely so simple.

Lighting is an essential component of your event planning process, but it’s still easy to underestimate the factors that impact your lighting choices. To create a successful event, anticipate these challenges and have solutions planned from the beginning.

Event lighting challenges

Dylan Waite, a solutions specialist at FMAV, emphasized that the lighting challenges presented by your event will largely depend on the venue you choose.

“The largest challenge faced by designers and technicians is the physical venue,” Waite said. “Many factors contribute to the overall lighting design and plan; the most common relate to infrastructure, structural and physical construction.”

Each of these components has a direct impact on how you will light your event and what resourcing you need:

  • Infrastructure: Consider your event’s power requirements in contrast to what is available to you. Even with many instruments using less power through LED technology, a substantial power service is often necessary for proper distribution and reliability. If your venue can’t meet these requirements, you may need to invest in additional generators or alternative lighting fixtures.
  • Structural: Event lighting often requires hanging equipment from the ceiling and mounting it on walls. Weight limits, rig capabilities, and other limitations can create challenges to the overall design.
  • Physical construction: The ceiling height, shape of the room and even the finishes of the wall can affect how your lights are set up and the visuals they create at your event. This includes the appearance of the lighting fixtures themselves.

“Lighting instruments are not necessarily ‘pretty,’ so how they play into the event aesthetic should be considered,” Waite said. “To get a great wash of colour, layers of texture and a perfectly lit stage often requires equipment hanging or towers of equipment standing throughout the space.  And many times, both.”

To make lighting really shine, you may want to consider using atmosphere generators – also known as hazers – to produce a light fog in the room. The challenge is that the haze can trigger a fire alarm. Often, this means that you must coordinate with the venue in advance to turn off these alarms.

“What often surprises folks is this can come at a cost; many venues require a guard to be on fire watch in the event an actual fire starts,” Waite said. “Of course, this is all at an additional cost, but essential to making the event look good.”

Evaluating your space

To mitigate many of these challenges, you need to start by evaluating your space for event lighting requirements before you sign on the dotted line.

Begin by considering the goals and objectives of the event and determine the appropriate venue to meet these requirements in terms of size, location, and infrastructure. Then focus in on the audience experience. Waite also recommended thinking about how you can tailor the experience to the specific demographic you’re targeting.

Next, think about whether there will be any special lighting needs created by livestreaming, photography or video recording.

“Livestreaming or any broadcast element should instantly trigger special attention to making sure both the stage, talent and room look great on camera as well as for attendees in the room,” Waite said.

When evaluating your space, pay attention to the assets that the venue already has, including existing room lighting and control. These elements may influence the equipment you’ll need to bring in. The walls are also important. White or neutral walls reproduce colour more effectively than wallpaper with lots of pattern or texture.

Finally, consider your client’s brand. If you have a very specific corporate colour you would like to reproduce, your venue choice can impact how that scheme is translated. Don’t expect to turn the space light pink if it’s currently dark green. But keep in mind that even with the great lighting technology, your colour may not be perfectly represented in the final produced, so you may need to adjust your client’s expectations accordingly.

To create the perfect lighting solutions for your event, consider partnering with FMAV. With years of expertise in event lighting and access to the latest technology, your lighting requirements will be in good hands.