Designing a "Moonlit Theater" for YouTube
With its ever-expanding base of creative content producers and viewership, YouTube has built three production facilities—in Los Angeles, London, and Tokyo—specifically dedicated to their most consistently prolific YouTube content generators. In each of these spaces, those exceptional YouTube channel stars can collaborate in studio space with audio-visual and filming equipment, all free of charge. Aside from its indoor sound stages and screening room, the Los Angeles YouTube Space also boasts of an impressive outdoor theater, seating up to 200 at a time, with a 1080p resolution projection screen and 5.1 surround sound.
When Oculus Light Studio was commissioned to design the landscape lighting for this outdoor amphitheater, they were enthusiastic about working with another entity that values combining technology with creativity. The challenge of this particular outdoor space was to create an intimate theater experience while maintaining the alfresco natural environment. Additionally, one of the main criteria of the program was that the light must be contained within the premises as much as possible due to the close proximity of neighboring private residences.
With the listed conditions in mind, Oculus developed several lighting schemes for the outdoor amphitheater, all of which included a set of “Base Landscape Concepts”, which consisted of elements to illuminate the pathways, amphitheater seating, and surrounding trees. Building on that foundational base, Oculus constructed more thematically inspired aesthetics, such as “Electric Jungle”, “Music Lounge”, and “Moonlit Theater”.
The “Electric Jungle” concept reflected YouTube’s fresh and lively character, with colorful and unconventional light fixtures. While the client appreciated the idea, a comment was made that the interior of the space similarly reflects the high energy of the brand, so by contrast the landscape atmosphere would ideally be quieter and more low-key. The “Music Lounge” provided a calm alternative to the “Electric Jungle”, but the “Moonlit Theater” felt more appropriate in the outdoor setting. Additionally, from a cost standpoint, the “Moonlit Theater” was preferred over the other options. This feedback ultimately led to the joint decision that the “Moonlit Theater” scheme would work perfectly. For its ambient treatment of the outdoor space, Oculus proposed suspending downlights with patterned projections in a cool color temperature to mimic the feel of moonlight. The use of downlights also meant that the light would not be projected outward toward the neighboring residences.
Oculus worked in collaboration with the landscape architect EPT Design to custom-detail the concrete amphitheater risers to include a niche for integrating the LED striplights, which create a glow that is complimented by the gobo pattern projectors. After the pattern projectors were installed, Oculus aimed and defocused each of them to the appropriate level. The softness of the project gobo patterns also provides adequate safety lighting without the harsh feel of prison yard lighting. The periphery of the amphitheater is supplemented with LED accents on the trees and a single-file progression of LED in-grade uplights through the center of the pathway leading to the parking lot. Altogether, the “Moonlit Theater” is successful in evoking the feel of a drive-in theater with moonlight, stars above and dappled light coming in through the trees.
Update December 30, 2013: This project was published in Lighting Today Magazine, based in Singapore.