It’s not enough to have a lineup and some beer anymore. People need to be blown away. The bar has continued to move higher over the last decade and one area that has accelerated, particularly in tandem with the rise of EDM, is lighting and stage production.Having led the lighting design and production for some of the biggest US festivals, founder of SJ Lighting Steve Lieberman is arguably the most influential figure behind this shift, boasting over 20 years of lighting design experience under his belt. From the flashy festival stages of Ultra Music Festival, Electric Daisy Carnival and Coachella to the vibe setting rigs of clubs like Vegas’ Drai’s Nightclub, XS, Marquee and LA’s Sound and Exchange, Lieberman and his team have pioneered a new age of stage lighting and set industry standards for creating immersive designs for millions of people. We caught up with Steve to get a quick rundown of key things to consider when putting together a production that will blow your fans away.
Start with the budgetFor Lieberman, the biggest driving factor and first question to tackle is: “What’s the budget?” When SJ Lighting is given a budget, they first start a spreadsheet that’s in-line and done in tandem with their plan, updating it as they add to the design.
“If we put in 25 spot fixtures, we understand how much they cost—$150/unit, $250/unit—so if I put in 100 units, I have to understand that I just spent $15,000. If I’ve only been given $20,000, that doesn’t make fiscal sense because I haven’t thought of trucking, cabling, labor and any of the logistics that it takes to put this device up in the air,” Steve explains. “So you gotta stay on top of it. Don’t come up with this beautiful, rendered image of what you want to do and then back the price in afterwards, that’s counterintuitive.”
Middlelands day 2 Main Stage Collaborated with Vita Motus on this stage… very proud of our work on this and the team effort. Heather and Elliot are so talented. It was great to work with them.. looking forward to the next one. #middlelands #productiondesign #insomniacevents #sjlighting #vitamotus @insomniacevents @sjlighting @_michlieberman_ @vitamotus @fofo4sho @jspagg @middlelandsfest
Diversify your creative partnersWhen working in a creative space, it’s important to stay on your toes and keep new ideas flowing in. Working with new people with different experiences is a surefire way to get new outlooks and ideas in the mix.
“Every company has a different philosophy,” he starts. “Some of them want inside people working on their projects, but I like exploring other designers and seeing other perspectives. I think people get pigeonholed when they have someone in their office…I don’t think [they] can see outside of the box. When you have new blood coming in and taking a look, with experience, it’s kind of refreshing.”