Turning the spotlight on aesthetic design has paid dividends for Dubai-based Lighthouse Productions, which is set for expansion across several fronts. S&S spoke with the region's youngest industry veteran and company founder, Terry Miranda.
How did you get involved in the live events industry?
I have worked in the industry for around 16 years. My first job was pulling cable for the Bryan Adams concert at Dubai's Al Nasr Leisureland in the early-1990s.
I'm quite proud of the fact I've worked my way up from there. My grassroots experience means I have a firm understanding of the various facets of this industry.
Working from the ground up also means you see a number of things that people in senior management positions don't get to see. Developing the company from scratch has been a great experience.
We established Lighthouse four years ago with just US$13,500 and now we are a $2.2 million company with an equipment inventory worth $2 million.
We are a very young company, both literally and metaphorically.
I am the second oldest person in the company and I'm only 34!
How far has the industry come over the past 16 years?
Things have really kicked on in the past five years. Before then, the industry was generally moving slowly towards a more professional standard. Now, every company has to be certified and technicians have to be properly trained.
The industry has also benefited from the economic boom across the region.
The property boom has created additional income for the production design and rental companies, which has provided them with more funds to purchase new equipment.
The live events production sector is also booming, with a huge increase in the number of international artists performing here.
Also, with the creation of permanent installations such as Cirque du Soleil in Dubai, the level of professionalism will only continue to rise.
Commercial lighting design has really taken off in Dubai over the past couple of years. What's your take on this?
The degree of professionalism has increased significantly on the architectural side.
With the construction boom, property developers are keen to showcase landmark buildings at night, which means they are paying a lot more attention to exterior lighting design.
Another sign of this growing maturity is the success of the Middle East Lighting Design Awards (MELDA), which attracted a huge number of architectural lighting design submissions last year.
So lighting design in the live events sector still lags behind?
The situation is much better than it was four years ago and it is continuing to improve each year. I think event management clients are beginning to understand the importance of lighting design.
Many rental companies have lighting technicians who are programmers and who know the equipment very well.
Design philosophy however is not generally a strong point. From our perspective, we want to be able to provide a comprehensive range of services, from supplying the equipment to developing visual concepts.
A lot of the bigger companies will hire freelancers for this kind of work. Our goal is to provide a one-stop shop.
So the main focus is still on technology rather than innovative design?
In the past this was definitely the case. But we are working hard to change this. We are educating our long-term clients to show them that it is not just about the size of your inventory, it's what you do with it.
How you create an ambience that reflects what the show is about, for example.
Now when a client requests a quote they don't ask to see the inventory because they know that it is the design philosophy that should take centre stage - not the kit list.
The event management companies are also generally more appreciative of how long it takes to put a good show together than they were in the past.
Have you worked on any architectural lighting projects?
I have been responsible for some architectural lighting consultancy work in the past but it's not really my main priority; I'm more focused on the live events market.
It is a really interesting market in terms of its commercial potential, and it is in an area we need to explore further to ensure our long-term growth.
From the outset, I wanted Lighthouse to cater to as many industry sub-sectors as possible and I believe we are well on our way to achieving that.
A lot of companies in this industry only specialise in one area, but we have been involved in a whole range of projects.
Does Lighthouse target work outside the GCC?
I have just returned from Uganda where we provided production support services to a launch event staged by Warid Telecom.
We managed the production, using our own crew and equipment shipped over from Dubai.
We are in negotiations to manage the upcoming Ivory Coast and Rio de Janeiro launches for the company as well. We've also been involved in events staged in Russia, Turkey and Pakistan.
For these events we worked in conjunction with local equipment suppliers.
However, when working on a project for an important client such as Warid Telecom, we will ship our own equipment to a venue to ensure we maintain control over the technical aspects of an event.
Are you planning to establish a base outside the UAE?
We are in the process of setting up an office in Pakistan, which will be one of the first production design offices of its type in the country.
Aside from the recent political problems, we believe Pakistan holds great commercial potential for our business. We have already earmarked $500,000 worth of gear for the operation.
Initially, we had planned for the office to be fully operational by the end of 2007, but because of the recent political strife we have pushed it back to the middle of this year.
LED lighting has had a profound effect on the industry's approach to lighting design. Are you a fan of the technology?
I am a big fan of LEDs. We mainly use them to incorporate visuals into our lighting designs. I'm not talking about video screens with live footage, which is the general approach taken by AV companies operating in the region.
We're not an AV company. We use the technology in collaboration with more traditional lighting fixtures to create a visual statement.
The technology is inherently flexible. For example, it allows us to incorporate corporate branding in a lighting design when a client specifies its inclusion. The other obvious benefit is that LEDs use very little power and they are compact. Big, moving lights located on stage are difficult to hide.
What LED technologies do you currently have in your inventory?
We recently made a significant investment in the technology. We acquired 42 panels of Pasef 40mm pixel LED panels and we have another 42 on order, which we should take delivery of later this month.
The panels provide about 65 sq m coverage in total, which will have a major impact on the way we develop our stage lighting designs. We can use them for floors and catwalks - not just backdrops.
Lighthouse staff are currently getting to grips with the technology and I expect we'll be offering it to market by the middle of this year.
We recently signed a reseller deal with Pasef and we'll be setting up a separate division to oversee this operation.
What are your thoughts on the future of lighting design?
The future is not just about the emergence of LED as a technology but the way it impacts design concepts. The exciting aspect for me as a lighting designer is the way it merges visual textures and lighting to create an impact on stage.
We are seeing many of these types of installations internationally and it's only a matter of time before the trend lands in the GCC.