Virtual Reality Meets Lighting Design & Architecture.

Eric Berntsson on VR and the challenges and opportunities it presents for lighting designers - take it from one who knows!

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Virtual reality (or VR) has been around for a much longer time than many would think. You can find info about VR headsets dating back to the early 90s.
For most people it’s just a stupid mimic of “The Future”. The reason for this is that the majority of VR headsets that people try on are in general quite bad. You get dizzy, light headed or even nauseous.

However, if you ever have the opportunity to try one of the newer, higher quality beasts - one that is not an app on your smart phone; one that requires a monster of a computer to bring you all that eye-candy graphics and physics - stay in the queue.

The HTC-Vive is one of these headsets, and it’s the one I decided to buy for myself. The first time you try one of these high end headsets you realize how immersive they really are. You can walk around in the virtual space, pick up objects and look at them in detail.
You want to stand on the Empire State Building? No problem, “Google Earth VR” is out there and you can visit (or revisit) any part of the world.
You want to dive deep under water? Go ahead and try “TheBlu” and freak out when a whale swims next to you.

So that is all cool and fun stuff. But what about lighting design and architecture? Well... there is none. There are a lot of educational demos and experiences out there for medical, historic and biological purposes, but no architecture. So I decided to try to model up one of our projects at KSLD myself using Unity - a free development program. Add some textures, load it up in the headset and suddenly you stand in the middle of the project - in real life scale.

The lighting is a huge challenge by itself. linear lighting is not a standard thing you can just throw in a model and move around in real time when using Unity. A powerful computer like the one I own struggles when calculating these things and it took me a good while to get the lighting to look somewhat realistic.

With the problem of good looking lighting solved, I could create more models, try different environments like lobbies, bars and offices. I soon realized that I had quite a few models ready. I brought these in a demo to show the office along with a few invited designers, engineers, and decision-makers.
Putting the “First time in Virtual Reality” shock away, I got some really good feedback on the models and ideas of what to change and add.

One of the joys of owning the headset is to look at other peoples faces when they try out VR for the first time! The future seems to have found its way here after all.

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KSLD is a Scottish Living Wage Accredited Employer

KSLD has today been accredited as a Living Wage Employer by the The Living Wage Foundation.

The Living Wage commitment will see everyone working at KSLD, regardless of whether they are permanent employees or third-party contractors; receive a minimum hourly wage of £8.45 - significantly higher than the national minimum wage of £6.95 and the new minimum wage premium for over 25s of £7.20 per hour introduced this April.

The Living Wage is an hourly rate set independently and updated annually. The Living Wage is calculated according to the basic cost of living using the ‘Minimum Income Standard’ for the UK. Decisions about what to include in this standard are set by the public; it is a social consensus about what people need to make ends meet

"KSLD has always been committed to supporting our employees. What's great about the Living Wage Accreditation is that is also applies to our regular third-party subcontractors. It's great to know that even the cleaners who come in and do a fantastic job are now receiving the Scottish National Living Wage," says Design Director Kevan Shaw.

Employers choose to pay the Living Wage on a voluntary basis. The Living Wage enjoys cross party support, with public backing from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

Living Wage Foundation Director, Katherine Chapman said: “We are delighted to welcome KSLD to the Living Wage movement as an accredited employer.

“The best employers are voluntarily signing up to pay the Living Wage now. The Living Wage is a robust calculation that reflects the real cost of living, rewarding a hard day’s work with a fair day’s pay.

“We have accredited nearly 3,000 leading employers, including XXXXX, ranging from independent printers, bookshops and breweries, to well-known companies such as Nationwide, Aviva and SSE. These businesses recognise that clinging to the National Living Wage is not good for business. Customers expect better than that."

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5 Ways to Spruce up Your Lights for Winter

Ah, the nights’ a fir drawin’ in! With the increasing darkness, people are spending more time indoors, and those that are outside need more light. How are the lights on your property? Keep reading to identify the ways you can make your property light beautiful.

Stobo Castle

Stobo Castle

The first thing you need to do is walk all the way around your property in the dark, with all your current lighting on in its normal setting. As you walk, you need to look for the following things:

1) Are all the lights working?

You’d be amazed how many properties have rubbish lighting simply because a lamp or two has gone out and not been replaced. If you notice a light out, or a location that is too dark, the first thing you need to do is call your electrician to either replace the lamp or repair the fixture. This does not need to be an expensive exercise, and keeps your property clean and attractive. If your fixtures are so old that you cannot replace the lamps, contact a lighting designer or manufacturer to help you find out which fixtures are appropriate for your property.

2) Are all the lights the same colour temperature?

It’s a little appreciated fact that different lights have slightly different colours of light. In LEDs, the distinction is usually between “cool” white and “warm” white. Having a row of cool white lights with one warm white light in the middle can really frustrate people. Again, you should be able to fix this easily by simply buying the correct lamp for your fixtures.

3) Do any lights shine directly in people’s eyes?

When you look at the fantastic oil painting on the wall, or when you sit in the chair in the sitting room, is there a light shining right into your eyes? Why is it doing that? Is it trying to light something else? Did it slip and get crooked? Try seeing if you can point the fixture in a different direction. If you’re really stuck, a quick consultation with a lighting designer should be able to resolve any minor problems without a whole redesign.

4) Are the correct things and places lit?

The Edinburgh Festival Hub

The Edinburgh Festival Hub

If you have art that you want to be seen in dark winters, it needs to be lit. If you have dark stairwells that could be dangerous, they need lit. If you sit in your favourite chair to read, is there enough light to read by? Think about safety and the things that are important to you, and make sure you have enough light. However, if you regularly open your home to the public, you may need to meet specific health and safety lighting regulations; please ask your lighting designer which regulations can apply.

5) Is there… something missing?

Light can be functional, but light can also be beautiful. It can provide an atmosphere, and turn a simple bulb into a feature. It can hide faults and accentuate perfection. Maybe you need a feature light, or maybe it needs a bit more sensuality and cosiness. Is it too modern, too dated? Or do you just want something that is beautiful? Light can do all those things, and it can be achieved with as little as adding a feature light, or changing the location of a couple of fixtures. Historic buildings need tender loving care, but respond best to good lighting. Get in contact with KSLD if you think your lights need an overhaul, or if you just feel over your head. Your property is important, and deserves the best lighting.

 

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Cleaning the Old KSLD Neon Sign

Back when Kevan first started KSLD as Kevan Shaw Lighting Design some 20-odd years ago, he had a custom neon sign created. Visitors to our office may have noticed its absence over the last few months as it was away getting restored and repaired. The sign is now back, but needs a good clean.

The sign has returned to us, but unfortunately our restorer, Kemps Architectural Lighting, was hit by the terrible floods that plagued North England and the Scottish Borders this past winter. We were actually quite fortunate, as this light is attached to a wooden frame, and so he said he just walked in to find it floating in the workshop. While I’m sure he cleaned it up significantly and had to do additional repairs because of the flood damage, it still came to us a touch grimy.

You can see the levels of dust and water spots on the frame.

The 20-odd year old neon sign needed cleaned.

Cleaning a neon sign can be rather delicate work. You don’t want to damage the delicate bulbs, and in the case of this sign, damage any connecting wires. Nor do you want to use harsh chemicals that might damage the paint on the frame, the paint on the tubes, or the tubes themselves.

The tools used for this clean were an air duster, a soft cloth, dish soap, warm water, and some paper wipes.

First as much loose dust as possible was removed by using the air duster.

Then came the soft cloth (no loose fibres to catch on wires sticking out) with warm water and dish soap. Cleaning had to be careful and gentle.

To get underneath the tubes bolted to the frame, the cloth was folded and dragged under each section, with a motion similar to flossing your teeth.

Cleaning the tubes themselves also provided some challenges. To minimize risk of damaging the tubes, as little physical contact as possible was needed. Rather than holding the cloth and rubbing the tubes, instead the cloth was folded and held some distance away from the tubes, like dusting.

Having the cloth folded also created the opportunity for cleaning the underside of the tubes by placing the tubes in the folds of the cloth and again employing a flossing style technique. Folding the cloth into smaller sections allowed access to tight corners and spaces.

It is important to rinse the cloth often, as if you don’t rinse the cloth then you’re just pushing dirt around.

As you can see by the colour of the water, the cleaning was indeed successful.

After using the cloth, smaller spaces and missed spots were tidied up with the paper wipes. These wipes are the ones you use for cleaning electronic things, so have little lint. These were quite useful for sections very close to the frame.

The clean neon sign.

After cleaning and before hanging you need to test the light to make sure it wasn’t damaged in the cleaning process. Apparently some neon signs which are really dirty can be soaked and washed in water. That type of cleaning would require appropriate drying time to reduce risk of electrical problems. As this was dry-wiped, there was little moisture on the light and frame, so it was ready to test very quickly.

The light works! And is clean!

Get your qualified individual to install the light in its location. Here, that’s Kevan installing the light back where it was before.

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And now the light is completely functional! The word “design” was re-blown (topped up), and is brighter than the others, but you can clearly see that each letter is lit, albeit in different brightness. Because the light hasn’t been on for some month, this should improve with more constant use.

Thanks to Becky for cleaning the light, Kevan for hanging it, and Kemps Architectural Lighting for restoring and repairing it. KSLD always recommends that you have a qualified professional service, restore and repair your neon signs.

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How Do We Do It? Stobo Castle Exterior and Flambeaux

How does lighting design happen? First there is a place to be lit, then there is inspiration, then creativity, then a lot of hard work, and finally the end result, a beautifully-lit space. See how we did it at Stobo Castle Hotel & Spa in these videos.

KSLD was chosen to update the exterior lighting at Stobo Castle Hotel & Spa near Peebles, Scotland. Led by former Senior Lighting Designer Claire Hope, a team of KSLD’s designers worked to create a plan that would bring out the natural historical beauty of the castle. Warm lighting was chosen to accentuate the stonework of the facade and key elements such as the battlements, turrets and coach porch. Each light position was tested to ensure that neither the rural location nor the guests inside would not be disturbed with obtrusive light. It was decided that the historic entrance would be revived with gas flame flambeaux, which were custom designed by Claire Hope and Beltane Studios

Once the plan was accepted, and Scotlight installed the luminaires, Claire led a group of three designers with Fin Barber & crew of Scotlight out to Stobo Castle to focus the luminaires. After all, a light that is pointed in the wrong direction won’t look very nice, and is just a waste of electricity. Watch in this video KSLD’s designers and Scotlight’s electricians as they zip around in the cold winter night ensuring that Stobo Castle looks good even in the dark. (Watch how the Scottish saltire flag is lit!)

The gas flambeaux were installed by Scotlight after the main exterior facade was lit. (Check out those awesome Scotlight engineers in that group photo!) These torches were custom designed by Claire Hope. Speaking with Stobo Castle, she was inspired by the historical building to create a uniquely Scottish design, incorporating elements from the beautiful Scottish Borders surrounding the castle. Scottish thistle and the antlers from wild deer were the source of the design to bring out the wild in the rising flame that would welcome visitors. 

The production of the flambeaux was carried out by local Beltane Studios, who melted and cooled each individual piece to make these extraordinary creations. There is nothing like watching molten metal being poured into a mould!

The videos were filmed and edited by Glasgow filmographer Daryl Cockburn.

We encourage all owners of beautiful historic buildings to consider how they are lit. Are the lights showing off the most important or most beautiful aspects of the building? Are they efficient in their lighting, with little light flooding into windows or blurring out stars? Good light is good art, and good light can bring out the best in a location. And in people.

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Claire & Natalie Raise £285 for Edinburgh Sick Kids

Claire and Natalie both completed the marathon in excellent time. Claire, running with her brother Tom, finished in 2 hours, 33 minutes and 19 seconds, while Natalie finished in 2 hours, 13 minutes and 27 seconds. There are exorbitantly priced photos available, although due to a clerical error Claire is listed as Melissa Riley.

£285 has been raised for Edinburgh Sick Kids so far through Natalie’s Just Giving page. Edinburgh Sick Kids is a charity based in Edinburgh which provides equipment, comforts, emotional support, training and research into pediatric care in Scotland. They work closely with the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, helping families stay together with accommodation assistance, and helping individual children through their illness with distractions and art. 

Natalie and Claire originally set a goal of £500, which would provide 10 portable DVD players for children, and have raised £285 of that with the help of Zumbotel LightingMode LightingMike Stoane Lighting and individual donors. The fundraising page will be active until the end of the month, so if you haven’t already donated a few pounds to help some Scottish children and families, you can still do so.

Good job to Natalie, Claire, Claire’s brother Tom, and all the other runners in the marathon!

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