So I’m Getting Into Lighting Design

Lighting Desk at VancouFur 2019
Lighting Desk at VancouFur 2019

So, you may have heard somewhere on the internet that I am a part of the furry community. I go to a bunch of events every year, primarily on the West Coast. Last year, an event called VancouFur (yes, in Vancouver, Canada) gave me the opportunity I never thought would happen. I knew most of the AV crew already, so I showed up on load-in day and said “put me to work and learn me things!” Little did I know the spark that was about to hit me.

I’ve always been good with computers. From a Texas Instruments cartridge-based system to a 386 or 486 that I was constantly messing up by editing registry files and deleting random things, to going all Mac in junior high school. I could figure my way around most systems just by looking, though for the most part I was kind of just left to my own devices. I didn’t really have anyone else to go to for encouragement or support to explore or dive further, so my skillset mainly remained at the level of better than average. Once I had access to the Internet, I quickly developed web skills that I continue to use to this day. Again, not really strong in any one language but I can figure it out by looking.

Shiny lights have also been something that was attractive to me, though I never really did anything with it. I remember seeing choreographed shows and events on occasion where I was entranced with how the lights synchronized with the music and even lasers and water and fog effects. I never thought of it as something to pursue; more of a “hey that’s neat” thing. I had a brief opportunity to learn theatrical lighting at a brand new state of the art venue when I was younger, but for a number of reasons it didn’t go very far.

Enter VancouFur 2018, and I’m immediately put to work setting up the truss and hanging the lighting fixtures and plugging in cables and learning how to configure the lights. And then we got to the console. And started hitting buttons and moving faders and encoders. And lights started to move and react. The glow on my face could’ve been another light, and a few times during the weekend I got to play live, or “busk” in reaction to the nightly dances and various music. Another fact about me is I did DJ for a while and had a lot of fun with that, so having that awareness helped a great deal.

I knew it was something I wanted to pursue, so I immediately downloaded the same software called MagicQ. The same software that runs on their touch controllers and even on PCs, Mac and Linux. This also gave me an opportunity to pick up a cheap PC to finally experience Ubuntu on real metal and not virtually. By the fall, I had an event – also in Vancouver, running a basic lighting setup for a day and a half. I went back in January for yet another Vancouver weekend event, and then this year I ran lighting at VancouFur 2019.

Vancoufur 2019 AV Desk
VancouFur 2019 AV Desk with live video switching and streaming, lighting control, and digital audio control.

This is an incredible thing to do, and it’s so much more real to see the lights doing what you expect (or sometimes don’t) and people reacting. The software visualizes the setup in advance so I can somewhat program things, though in reality it’s far better to have everything set up to react to particular lights or venue elements. The best part though is how it makes me feel like an artist – the stage is my canvas and light is the paint as it were. And it’s only part of the complete experience that draws out emotion and excitement about a particular event.

A highlight is a panel run by a character named Jib Kodi who does digital animation for the furry fandom, which he only joined very recently and has become a well known figure in the community with his art and all around electric energy! It was a full on presentation with slides, video, music, and what he creates is nothing short of amazing. From the moment it started with a video, to the stage wash coming up illuminating him as he walked on stage; controlling the slides and dimming lights for videos, and making lights dance at the end in celebration.

Jib Kodi at VancouFur 2019
Jib Kodi’s “How Fandom Changed My Life In One Year” panel at VancouFur 2019

This has taken off more than I imagined, with my name being brought up at upcoming events for possible future gigs to gain experience. There’s SO MUCH to learn so it’s far from perfect, but I got a lot of praise and encouragement from so many people. It’s something I didn’t really get when I was growing up and tinkering, but now that I’m surrounded by people who DO THIS and are getting excited for me… I think this is where I want my future to go.

Howloween 2018
Howloween 2018
Vanhoover Pony Expo 2019
Vanhoover Pony Expo 2019

Thank you to Nullreff who welcomed me into this craziness with open arms, and everyone on the VancouFur AV team for letting me learn and experiment and yeah even fudge up a few times. It’s the best experience and I look forward to working with y’all on future events!