Urge To Gamble: LDI 2010

The Las Vegas Strip as seen from Frenchman Mountain in Las Vegas, Nevada, Friday, October 22, 2010. The LDI trade show and convention was recently held in Las Vegas.

Last weekend, while strolling amongst the beautiful girls, the flashing lights, and thick smoke in Las Vegas, I got the overwhelming urge to gamble. I didn’t want to gamble on a card game or sporting event, however. I wanted to gamble on which new light fixture on display at LDI 2010 would change the game in the lighting industry over the coming months. Those lights and that smoke I experienced, they were coming from the hundreds of booths on the LDI trade show floor, not from a seedy casino. As for the beautiful girls, well, they were pushing some sort of rigging accessories, I think.

2010 marked my third time attending LDI, one of the largest conventions in the United States for all things lighting. If it’s above your head (or even below your feet) at a concert or a theater, you can see, touch, and learn more about it at LDI. Learning is a big reason I attend the trade show at LDI. Nothing beats being able to handle gear you’re interested in, rather than seeing it trapped behind a computer screen or in the pages of a catalog. Being able to talk to the creators of some of the tools I use on every show I do (like picking the brain of John McKernon, author of the ubiquitous Lightwright software, about his forthcoming iPad app) is another huge plus of making the LDI pilgrimage.

This time around at LDI, I also had the pleasure of representing Apollo and their Standing O Campaign, which promotes young lighting designers who make the best use of Apollo’s wide range of products. It was cool to see my ad poster hanging with the other winners’ in the Apollo booth. While I was there, I also got a sneak peak at a very useful item for electricians and designers coming from Apollo in the near future, one I’ll most certainly be picking up. Stay tuned!

My trip to Las Vegas would not have been as entertaining without my gracious hosts Erik Ramirez and his sister Cindy. From the rides to and from the convention center, to last-minute shirt ironing assistance, to photo trips around the city, to my roller coaster introduction to carne asada fries, I couldn’t have had a better time without them opening up their home and their schedules to me so freely. Thanks guys!

Whenever I enter the Las Vegas Convention Center and see the hazy air before I’ve even made it through the lobby, I can’t tell you that I don’t get a little excited. After all, I know this is what I’m about to see when I round the corner and step into the show hall – lots of lighting greatness!

I scoped out the Apollo booth first. Based in my home state of Indiana, Apollo has always been super-fast at turning around custom gobos (the things we place in lights to make projected patterns, like the jack-o-lantern in the image above).

It was cool to see my Apollo Standing O Campaign poster (top left) on display at the booth alongside the other winners.

Philips / Vari*Lite had a visually tasty booth with some impressively bright Color Kinetics LED fixtures. Rock and roll lighting design postulate #24: Circle trusses and Spandex are always cool.

Speaking of Spandex, Rose Brand had an interesting variation of a dimensional softgood on display at their booth which I really dug. My mother is really handy with a sewing machine, but is she this handy? I smell a challenge.

LDI is a haven for photographers like myself who flock to accidental patterns of colorful light bathing people engaging in the most mundane activities.

After day one of the convention, my friend Erik Ramirez (a local Las Vegas music instructor) showed me a good time around town.

A pattern on the sidewalk from shadows cast by a fence near Betty Willis’ famous Las Vegas sign.

Erik and myself are both aviation enthusiasts, so we were especially elated to see Air Force One parked on the ramp at McCarran Airport during a visit to the airport’s observation area. President Obama was in town that night, confirming for us that this aircraft was the real deal.

Back at the trade show the next day, I got a behind-the-scenes look at the gear operating this impressive display setup from Daktronics. If you’ve ever marveled at one of those video billboards along an expressway, or a scoreboard in a major sporting arena, there’s a good chance it was manufactured by Daktronics.

It’s rather ironic that one of the fixtures that I was most excited to find at LDI is based on a very old-school concept, the audience blinder. The Jarag, from Chromlech, gives you individual control of each lamp in the fixture, without the need to supply each with its own dimmer (the fixture has its own dimmers for each lamp built-in). Simply supply a circuit of power and data, and you’re off!

I was disappointed I forgot my glow sticks and pacifier for my visit to the Martin booth, for there were times when it took on the feel of a high-energy rave! All jokes aside, I think the Martin booth was one of my favorites at this year’s LDI. They did a very nice job of showing what their fixtures are capable of through a nicely programmed demo which ran every few minutes throughout the day. Even more impressive is that each and every fixture in the above photo (most of them new Mac 101’s) is LED-based.

In my intro to this blog, I mentioned gambling on game-changers at LDI, and I think Martin has one on its hands with this fixture, the Mac 101. Where do I begin? The Mac 101 is TINY, and could easily be rigged with one hand. That’s my friend Erik’s hand on the left for a size reference. The Mac 101 is BRIGHT, easily comparing to if not exceeding the brightness of 250 watt MSR moving heads I’ve used in the past. The Mac 101, as expected with a fixture so small and light, is FAST. During those raver moments in the booth’s demo show, the fixtures were zipping around like moving mirror units. With a ballpark street price of $1500, the Mac 101 is poised to change the game in a market where most fixtures this bright are at least double this price. I can’t wait to use these in one of my rigs.

After I finished drooling over the Mac 101, Erik and I headed off to visit the historic Hoover Dam (foreground), along with the newly-completed Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (background, left). The dam, along with the bridge, are massive, and photos have a hard time doing them justice.

Yours truly, squinting into the desert sun high atop the the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, with the Hoover Dam and the Colorado River in the background. I just realized there is a high probability that I’m standing in two states at once in this image, with Nevada on the left side of the river and Arizona on the right. (Photo by Erik Ramirez)

Here’s this week’s image taken for the sole purpose of terrorizing my mother. I had to hang over the edge of the railing a bit to get my feet in the photo along with the Colorado River, a dizzying 900 feet below the bridge deck. I know it’s only a matter of time before some intrepid BASE jumper decides to challenge this lofty structure. Whoever that is, I hope they have their bail money saved up!

Later that night, I met up with my friend and fellow photographer Justin Kase Conder, who was in town working on a photo shoot. Here, Conder marvels at the world’s largest souvenir shop.

I absolutely loved this sculpture at the CityCenter complex entitled “Big Edge” by sculptor Nancy Rubins.

The Las Vegas Strip (center) at dusk as seen from 8,000 feet. After a few more hours on the trade show floor Sunday afternoon, I flew into the sunset (actually, away from it) back to reality here in East Chicago. Until the next LDI, let’s get the rock show!

Posted in Lighting Design, Photography, Travel by Guy Rhodes on October 26th, 2010.

2 Responses to “Urge To Gamble: LDI 2010”

  1. Thanks for sharing the views from the show floor as well as the area around Vegas. As is often the case, business commitments prevent much excursion from the immediate area around the show floor. Your photos and perspective are much appreciated!

    Keith Kankovsky

  2. Jahaira says:

    Greats pictures and blog! I can’t wait to join you next time! ;)

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