L8 Previsualisation Design Challenge

The brains behind L8 previsualisation software reflect on #L8Battle21 – a competition providing show designers and scholars something to strive for during this uncertain time. TPi’s Jacob Waite reports…

It is no secret that one of the main factors in the success of any live event is preparation. The time to agree on a design can be crucial, with slight refinements or amendments taking anywhere from hours to days, or in some cases, weeks. As a result, when designers arrive at a venue, there is very little time left to experiment or margin for error. The solution? L8 software, which today – like its pre-visualisation counterparts – has become an integral part of show development for curators of live experiences, not least in lockdown.

“L8 is an incredible software package for visualising various disciplines related to real-time shows, lighting design, automated DMX-controlled objects, laser, pyrotechnic and other effects in a photorealistic environment,” L8 Founding Director, Dmitriy Giventar began. “The realism and speed of our software is right up there with the best in the industry.”

L8 software has always been distinguished by a high level of realism in the visualisation market, providing ample opportunities to implement the most daring ideas of stage designers the world over. Implementation in L8 support of NDI video streaming has allowed users during lockdown to create virtual concerts, shows, DJ-setups and not only continue their activities, but also explore new realms of creativity.

Giventar has been writing his visualisation software for over 15 years. He explained the benefits of the technology to show designers. “It’s a tool that helps you come up with lighting design ideas. There is a huge library of DMX fixtures with over 6500 profiles from different manufacturers. Built-in onboard DMX control lets you quickly explore new lights.”

Speaking to TPi in March 2019, Giventar discussed his research into Ray Tracing technology. Two years on, L8 has now integrated visualisation of beams as well as much sought after indirect lighting. “Together with our world-class rendering speed, the L8 is the only visualiser to offer this to the live events market,” Giventar remarked.

Another important and advantage of the L8 software is its stability and compliance with the declared characteristics. “The L8 team pays great attention to the technical support of its users,” Giventar said. “This is reflected in the constant replenishment of the equipment library and new functions in the software.”

In February 2019, the L8 team united around the idea of supporting end users, naturally, according to Giventar, a previsualisation competition was an extension of this idea. “For the first challenge, we made a special free version of L8 for one month, which was a good start. Now we have permanent contestants, and we are inspired by their growth. Seeing truly brilliant stage designers among our users is the most important reward for the L8 team,” he said, praising the efforts of contestants. “We are very pleased and understand why we are putting in so much effort.”

Contestants have to submit a previsualisation of their show. In fact, there are only three restrictions in the competition: a month to create your own show, a video presentation of no more than three minutes and the show must be visualised in L8 software. At the same time, the L8 product line makes it possible to reveal the creative potential of any skill level user. Prizes start from a L8 CE3 upgrade for 200E and go up to L8 UNLIMITED, which costs €7,500.

“At the very beginning, we evaluated the participants in our team and L8 dealers, but over time, the number of participants increased, and the quality of work improved – the competition went to a new level,” Giventar explained. “This year, we decided to add the ability for contestants to rate each other. There were 39 unique pre-visual designs from all over the world. The scoring of the results resembled a complex dataset with over 5,000 graded scores that were averaged in a single table.”

According to the used L8 licence, there are three weight classes for this task: a heavyweight class – TRACE / UNLIM. A middleweight class – NetIn / MEDIA and a lightweight class – CE / CE2 / CE3. All works are evaluated in four categories: screenplay, lighting design, programming, and filming. The winner of this year’s heavyweight category was Zhang Hua, who scooped a L8 UNLIMITED licence. Martin Eigenstetter of LichtLogistik LED Support won a L8 TRACE licence for his entry in the middleweight category. “I wanted a classic light and stage design, not a virtual video room, but a stage with real room elements,” he said, describing the foundation for his entry. “Pure, handmade light, in the sense of real craftsmanship.”

Cesar Feraud won a L8 MEDIA licensc for his efforts in the lightweight category. “I discovered L8 in 2017. I bought a L8 CE2 licence in 2020 during the lockdown to experiment and have fun,” Feraud said, describing the inspiration for his submission. “My video design was inspired by my travels in Japan. I put a big background to light it and made an immersive video similar to a real-life festival. I was really motivated to make a precise lighting show to enjoy the viewers who missed in-person live events.”

Above all, competitions like this one provide show designers and scholars something to strive for during this uncertain time. “Today, with the crisis in the live events sector, many have felt a vacuum not only in the absence of live events as such, but also in the absence of living emotions that feed the artist no less than his fees,”  Giventar said, recalling the project’s modus operandi. “The L8 Previsualisation Design Challenge provides the very grain of emotions in the form of likes, discussions of numerous approvals. It is an opportunity to declare yourself, show your vision, unlimited by the real tasks and requirements of a particular event.”

Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, Giventar believes that many end users have had a wealth of time for exploration and creativity, which is so often lacking in the fast-paced world of live events. “This year, instead of the traditional three prizes and a viewer’s choice prize, we increased the number of winners to nine,” he concluded. “It is really important for our team to be able to support our users in such a difficult time, and the competition gave us this opportunity.”

This article originally appeared in issue #263 of TPi, which you can read here.