CAST Software Slams R25 Down Onto the Design and Visualization Software Table

Writing reviews of products is a hard thing.  It is one of the hardest things about being a writer, contrary to popular opinion.

It’s no secret that I am a fan of the wysiwyg Lighting Design suite, I’ve been using it for years.  Pretty much every show I’ve designed over the last five years has been done in a version of wysiwyg.  I design them, print out the plot and paperwork, make pretty renderings for the client of what the show’s gonna look like down to the texture on the carpet on the camera riser if they want, and spend some time in virtual reality programming my palettes and positions to write the show totally offline.

I got to beta test R25 when it was being run through the paces.  I designed a show in R25 beta that I executed this last week in Tampa – corporate show, medium sized rig in 3 ballrooms, maybe 2500 people.  I was behind the Hog III driving my lighting spaceship to give the client a good show.  Everything was programmed offline with updates on site, all through wysiwyg Perform Unlimited.  Epic success prevailed.  Looks are accurate, as are the photometrics.  I’ll put my renders up against renders from Dialux, AutoCAD, or VectorWorks any day, any time.  When I walk on site, I have confidence that the hard work I put into designing each show comes with me in that little purple dongle.

To first be critical – for my experience as a user, wysiwyg R25 solved my issues in the CAD department.  The addition of a toolbar to deal with text solved a long time personal annoyance with the product.  Such a simple addition, but so important.  It’s a fine detail point – R25 has a lot of very fine detail hones, and some major implementation of other new features.  One such feature is the ability to export fixture point-of-view images to the third party lighting control app we all love, Luminair for iPhone and iPod.  On a side note, Ryan Hisey from Synthe FX (the Luminair people) is also working on the interface for the iPad.  I can’t WAIT for that!  I would buy an iPad JUST for that purpose – to take around with me on shows.

Let’s get into R25 a bit and look at the individual components – R25 has a lot of enhancements.  In addition to not needing to render live shots (because the shaded view is so damned good that you can just screengrab), the enhancements and improvements in some of the basar functions of the suite make it faster to use.  Why is this important?  It’s important because if you’re a working designer with plots flying around the office like hotcakes, you need to be able to use your design suite with the speed of a ninja and still have the artistic stroke of Rembrandt.  R25 made it happen.

CAD Mode – had lots of enhancements here, by no means an exhaustive list, I’m just capturing some of my faves:

  • Font Styles – they’re all over the place now, I love it.  Love it, love it, love it.  Seriously, such a simple little addition and it made a huge difference in the way that you interact with the program.  The text toolbar makes such an improvement over the interface.  I wonder how many more times I can mention it, get the point?
  • Positioning tools – send to back, bring to front, and tools for alignment.  Big deals here – speeds up the interaction time within CAD.
  • Visual Truss Assembly Indicators that show you how your truss is assembled (you know, “M”s and “W”s and all) with the foresight to know what’s happening before you add a bunch of lights and realize you screwed up the truss when you were putting it together.  In addition, the right click menu options for truss assembly are much more robust.
  • Cycle – for those of you who might not know what this is, it is an invaluable CAD tool.  When you have objects stacked on top of one another in 2D space, you can click one time and “cycle” through all objects in that space without having to switch views and all of that other stuff.
  • A quick Polygon tool for making exact polygons

Text and Alignment toolbars!

Truss positioning tools in action:

DESIGN Mode – more cool enhancements and features:

  • Pan and Tilt Locking in the Focus Designer Tool – when you’re just building looks without a console in the Design mode, you can lock pan, tilt, or pan AND tilt to get those looks you want, easier.
  • Library items all appear smooth, which is extremely great
  • There are some new Camera features too that have been added – I tend to group these in with the Design and Live modes, since this is what I use most often to make client renderings.  Camera views are now lockable, which is great, along with being able to save a new shaded view as a new camera.  Hotkeys to switch between cameras is in place, which makes bouncing around during pre-viz a snap – and not like just a finger snap, like a real-time Blaine and Antoine from In Living Color “Around the World and Back” Snap.  Yeah, that’s right.

Camera lock – when you’re trying to move around a locked camera view, you get this to remind you it’s locked:

Turning a new shaded view into a new camera, lickity split:

Presentation Mode Features and Enhancements:

  • Objects in Layouts can be locked into place
  • Text Toolbar and Alignment Tools – WOOHOO!
  • Modifiable corners on rounded rectangles in Presentation Mode
  • We can now make perfect circles, 45 degree angles, and rectangles in Presentation Mode.  Simple?  Yes.  Awesome?  Yes.
  • The New Plots feature has been optimized for speed and stability
  • Worksheets are now SO MUCH EASIER to work with – column and row options, alignment options.

LED Walls and Video got a lot more awesome in R25 too – Gil Densham told me that people were calling R25 “video WYG” at ProLight+Sound in Germany this year!

  • Video can now be displayed on LED Walls and split into sub sources!  WTH!  That is awesome.
  • LED Walls now have a tab in their properties that allows modification of image/video sources and intensity
  • LED Walls are now selectable in Design Mode, which is a huge time saver
  • A generic video projector was added to the library
  • LED Walls are up to four times brighter in shaded view

Here’s a quick video of R25 in action – pre-viz and design:

Another pretty great feature of R25 is the connectivity with Synthe FX’s Luminair 2.0 app for iPhone and iPod Touch.  The wysiwyg/Luminair connectivity allows you to export fixture point-of-view images into the program.  I have been getting some questions about this and why it is useful, and frankly the best explanation I can come up with is an example.  Let’s say that your electricians are up in lifts trying to focus a large array of fixtures to specific shutter cuts, which can be a very difficult thing to call from the deck.  Instead of trying to give them pieces of paper or focus charts, wysiwyg can export selected fixture points of view to iPhones or iPod Touch handhelds with Luminair installed, allowing your electricians to have an exact image of what their cuts and focus are supposed to be.

In my opinion, this is a revolutionary idea.  wysiwyg and Luminair are essentially and potentially changing the way that we work, for both speed, accuracy, and general lack of confusion.  I think that is pretty cool.

When I design, I use wysiwyg.  In my head, lighting design is spatial, intangible, and ethereal in most cases.  I use it to design scenery, too.  If you’re using something else, at least try R25. I think your creative lighting muscles are begging for it.

David Gallo Talks Underwater Illumination at TED

Bio-luminescence in sea creatures is a phenomena that I have been interested in for some time – Mother Nature is an amazingly psychopathic mommy figure full of very interesting adaptations of human and animal behavior.  Things like bio-luminescence, Circadian Rhythm, and the body’s generation of Melatonin are all things that fall under this category.  Mother Nature,  you so crazy!

A scientist and underwater explorer named David Gallo talked at TED back in 2007 about this very phenomenon.  Check out the video below – you won’t be disappointed.  David says that we’ve discovered about 3% of our planet, and every time that we find a new place in the ocean, it is usually filled with exciting new discoveries.

NuFormer Digital Media Turns a Building into a Building with a Heartbeat

This video is amazing.  I love love love this kind of architectural lighting – lots of people refer to this kind of work as “architainment.”  Frankly I like to just call it what it is, which is effing amazing.  Check out this video, thanks to awesome JimOnLight.com reader Kevin Jamison:

Projection on Buildings from NuFormer Projection on Vimeo.

Here’s a second video from NuFormer:

Projection on buildings – Live performance from NuFormer Projection on Vimeo.

Thanks Kevin!  You rock!

Happy Birthday, Heinrich Göbel!

Is that – no way – it’s Heinrich Göbel!  (Dude, who invited this guy?)  Happy Birthday, Heinrich!

He looks like the kind of guy who should be in movies with Emilio Estevez and Lou Diamond Phillips about the Old West.  This guy though, Heinrich Göbel (April 20, 1818 – December 4, 1893), is significant in the history of lighting, and maybe more specifically, lighting manufacturing.  You see, Heinrich here claimed to have invented the electric light bulb too, right along with Swan and Edison.  Of course, like others, Heinrich claimed that he was actually the one who invented the lamp for the first time.

The US Patent office kind of discounted everything that Heinrich said about the patent “violation” that he claimed, and at one point Heinrich even recreated the tools used to make his lamp.  Still, no one bought it.  Since the Patent courts don’t allow witnesses as proof of invention, Heinie’s stuff pretty much got tossed out.  From Wikipedia:

Judge Colt explained how he ruled based on probabilities:

“It is extremely improbable that Henry Göbel constructed a practical incandescent lamp in 1854. This is manifest from the history of the art for the past fifty years, the electrical laws which since that time have been discovered as applicable to the incandescent lamp, the imperfect means which then existed for obtaining a vacuum, the high degree of skill necessary in the construction of all its parts, and the crude instruments with which Göbel worked.”

Well, so much for that.  Unfortunately for Heinrich, he died about two months after all of that litigation took place.

Check out Heinrich Göbel’s lamp, and the US Patent below:

Crazy.  Happy Birthday though, Heinrich!

Thanks, Wikipedia and Technik Atlas!

Analyzing the Design: Jeff Waful, LD for Umphrey’s McGee

I made a new friend this week at NAB in Las Vegas after having three days to wax poetic about lighting and Phish with Jefferson Waful from Umphrey’s McGee.  You get to know somebody better over drinks, and after all, we were in Vegas.  By the way, Patrick Woodruff’s lighting installation at the Wynn is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.  Ever.

When you get to know a designer, it’s interesting to meld the conversations you have before you meet them to the conversations after.  I talked to Jeff back in January about his exploits as lighting designer for moe. and Umphrey’s McGee and a host of other musings, and I just had the chance to talk geek again with him this week.

I was sitting here going over my notes from NAB, and I glanced at Jeff’s blog to check out a video I hadn’t seen of the band playing “Nothing Too Fancy” on February 28 of 2010.  Take a moment to check out this video – it’s actually ten moments, but it’s well worth your time:

I always think of a good LD as a pilot of an intangible, fast spaceship – the more in tune that person is to the music at hand, the faster and harder they’re going to fly you in and around all that is awesome.  My favorite LDs are the ones who know when to use a slow move in a period where most LDs would bang on the audience abusers to emphasize their point.  I think I am also one of the few LDs left that actually kinda link the audience abusers for what they represent.  But that moment when you’re at a show, the lighting designer is flying hard and fast in their lighting spaceship, and all of the sudden some actual art hits your eyes – those are the moments I live for, when you have to remind yourself that you’re standing at a show and not flying around the universe.

Lighting designers like Jeff Waful make it hard to remember that yes, your stinky Tevas are actually still planted to the sticky floor of the venue that is being rocked.  Thanks for kicking some serious ass while doing what you do best, Jeff!

Jim’s On the Way Home from NAB 2010

I am sitting in the Vegas airport waiting for my flight to board, thinking of all the absolutely awesome times I had over the last 72 hours.  The NAB Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center was a HIT for me – lots of people, lots of interviews, and tons of fun.  A word to the wise though – Phil’s Steakhouse at Treasure Island gave me food poisoning, so I spent Monday afternoon and night holed up in my room puking my guts out.

<start Google Sarcasm tracking>Thanks a lot for the day of vomit, Phil’s Steakhouse.</sarcasm>

Tuesday was an unbelievable day – not only did I get to interview two of my favorite lighting designers (Jefferson Waful from Umphrey’s McGee and TJ Gerckens from – well, everywhere), but I also got to talk to Jeff Ravitz, John Gates, Jon Griffin from Saddleback Church, and many other great pros.  A major thanks to Tom Stanziano and Phil Buchsbaum from SeaChanger/Ocean Thin Films for flying me out and allowing me to have outstanding conversations with outstanding people on film.  What an amazing few days.  Amazing.

Videos coming soon – stay tuned!

FujiFilm is Developing A New Light Diffusing Film for LEDs

I found this press release interesting, and now I’ve been trying to find out more information about the product.  FujiFilm (yeah, that one) is working on a light diffusing film for LED sources – they’re set to release some prototypes in the late summer/fall according to a few of my sources, but we’ll see what happens.

This is a little teaser – believe me, I’ve been looking all over to find info on this product!

From the release:

Japan’s Fujifilm Corp. plans to enter the market for LED lighting materials with a new kind of light diffusing film which is thinner and offers higher illumination intensity than products now available.

The light diffusing film acts to spread out the light from the LED bulbs so they are not so bright. These diffusers are now typically made from acrylic resin materials which are milky in color and around 2mm thick. The thickness means they are hard to bend, and the milky color means that some of the light is wasted.

Fujifilm’s new light diffusing film is made by coating a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resin sheet with an orderly array of micrograins of a light-dispersing material. The film is only 0.3mm thick so it is lighter and easier to bend and shape, plus it has around 30 per cent higher illumination intensity, which translates into a significant improvement in the energy efficiency of the overall LED lighting system.

Fujifilm will begin manufacturing prototypes this summer for distribution to LED lighting makers, homebuilders and contractors.

The Fujifilm Holdings Corp. (TSE:4901) unit hopes to begin commercial sales during fiscal 2011 and intends to develop this area of business into a major new revenue source.

PSLAB Beirut Lights Al Dente, Now It’s Well Done

Ha haaa, pardon the wordplay there, sometimes I just cannot help myself.  I just got word from my pal Ramsey at .PSLAB Beirut that the firm has just completed another concept project!  PSLAB is one of my top five favorite lighting design firms on the planet – they’re like my Chicago Blackhawks of the architectural lighting design world.

Press release below, then awesome imagery.  Ramsey, tell everybody I said excellent work!

Al Dente Restaurant, Beirut- Lebanon

.PSLAB BEIRUT was asked to develop a lighting concept for al dente restaurant in beirut–lebanon.
The high ceiling restaurant is divided into 3 areas: the main central area containing the entrance and the main hall, a secondary hall and a bar area.
We developed twig-like metallic fixtures to be mounted in clusters at the center axis connecting the entrance to the main hall.
For the secondary hall and bar area, we developed superposed brass discs carrying the light source and fixed to the ceiling by means of a metallic rod. The linear layout of the fixtures and the continuity of the line of light defines the depth of the spaces.

Check ‘em out:

Thanks, Ramsey!