To keep your audience engaged, says Corey Easterbrook, you have to create a “continuous flow of looks” that changes as the evening progresses, making sure to add subtle color shifts to your design, and texturizing the stage with deftly projected gobo patterns.
The owner of Hothouse Music and Productions in Fort Myers, Florida Easterbrook isn’t talking about reflecting the music of a rock star on the concert stage, nor is he discussing his work for a theatrical production — what he’s referring to is event lighting.
In Easterbrook’s world, lighting an event isn’t a set it and forget it affair. Carefully planned and meticulously executed, his event projects are characterized by dynamic, harmoniously balanced designs that immerse guests, while conveying the branding message of his clients.
Treating event lighting as intensely and seriously as any concert or theatrical project has earned him a large and loyal list of clients among large corporations, global associations and elite meeting planners. It’s a following that keeps him traveling throughout North America. Taking time from his busy schedule, Easterbrook shared some frank and colorful advice with us about elevating event lighting to the next level.
Some people lump all event lighting into one basket, but as we know different clients have different event needs. So, when you take on a new event assignment what are the things you look at to determine what it’s going to need from a lighting perspective?
“I have three guidelines that I try to keep at the front of my mind at all times. Following them is a sure way to achieve the right match up between your lighting and the expectations of the event client.
“Rule number one is to always over deliver. Second — and this may be a difficult thing for some people to talk about when they’re trying to woe a client — always be upfront about budget at the start. No one wants to have the budget talk, but if you don’t, and you assume that everyone is clear on the budget, you will invariably let your client down. Closely related to this point is to base your plans in reality. When you do this, the worst that happens is your clients get exactly what was asked. At the best, you become the only call those clients will ever make for the rest of time. For the love of safety cables, don’t be afraid to tell clients no! Sometimes it falls to you to protect clients from themselves.
“Last, but never least, only ask open ended questions at the beginning of the process. If the client gives you a short bland answer, wait a moment to respond. No one likes “dead air.” So usually the client will then start to elaborate without extra prodding. The information you get during these moments will set you up for success — and a happy client.”
Corporate colors are a big thing in event lighting. How particular are clients about getting an exact match?
“This depends on the client, but I have a few things I do to save time. I begin by going to the website. If a company has approved a look for the entire world to see, you’re going to get three solid colors to work with before you set foot in the venue. Second, once my rig hits the trim, I color match it. Positions can wait, client branding is number one.
“Before an event starts I always try to talk to the presenters about my colors, and the entire look. Going up to the CEO, introducing yourself, and asking for their preferred color scheme is great way to get face time, which leads to repeat business. When everything else fails remember this: if you are an integral part of being an ambassador for their brand, and if you believe in a look, they will too.”
How knowledgeable are event coordinators and planners about lighting?
“Ok, planners and coordinators are just that — they plan, and they coordinate. They know what they like and what they hate. Your job is to interpret that in your design. I try to set myself up for success by only specking color mixing heads on my shows. If that means the head count goes down then so be it. Because hell have no fury like a planner that you gave a yellow to, when gold was wanted. You can take that to the bank. Better to inform them that ‘there are not enough lights in the quote to do that,’ than it is to say ‘I can’t give you that color.’”
Are events incorporating more concert elements today?
“They are, and I love it!!!! But…. now the rant… LD’s for the love of socco know your haze fluids!!!! Every gig is not the same and I am tired of explaining that my haze is going to be light enough that it’s not really noticeable and will still be great for their photographers to capture amazing long range images. Stop fogging out the entire venue. If you are cutting air 30-feet out from the stage, quit while you’re ahead and focus on finding equilibrium with the HVAC.”
The entrance to an event always sets the tone. How do you ensure that you make a good first impression when people enter?
“Work with your A1 or TD. I can’t emphasize that enough. Sorry to burst everyone’s bubble but ‘walk-ins’ are only as good as the backing track. You can design the most jaw dropping look and if the backing music is terrible, no one will care. Sorry, not sorry!
Is it important to create subtle changes in the color scheme or overall looks at an event as it progresses through the evening to keep things interesting?
“Yes, 100-percent important. One of your jobs as LD/OP is to keep the audience engaged. I can’t stress enough how important this role is. If a speaker bombs, but his lighting look is killer, people will still pay attention. Give them movement, then a second count to podium color/position fade for every presenter.”
What role do you see gobos playing in event lighting?
“In short, everything! Brand recognition, dimension, space of a venue, they’re all be enhanced by gobo textures.”
What role do you see video walls playing in events?
“I feel we are still in a split between the new laser projectors and LED walls. But at the end of a day, FOH is a team, no excuses, period. Learn to accentuate each other’s strengths as a team and check the rock star mentality at the door.”