Paula and Marc of San Diego's Artistic Laser Productions are conductors of light through music.
If you have spent any time enjoying the San Diego club scene you have probably experienced the fun and fantastical world of synchronized laser light shows. These brilliantly choreographed visual shows use cutting edge technology, music, and artistic flair to heighten the joy of a buzzing party atmosphere.
San Diego's Artistic Laser Productions (ALP) taps into that energy and have been doing so in some form or another for over two decades. It all started when owner Paula Steger and her husband Marc decided they weren't happy with their careers as jewelers, they discussed what else they could do that would make going to work every day a joyful experience instead of a daunting one.
It got to a point where the ideas they had weren't quite firming up until they revisited a very important date in their relationship. And like light through a clear-cut diamond, an idea was captured.
"Backup to 1976, when we were dating," recalls Paula who says they just celebrated a 41-year wedding anniversary. "Our favorite date was Laserium (an awesome planetarium laser show). Fast forward to 1998 and a night sitting in the dark listening to jazz music. Marc started to play with a laser pointer, making patterns on the wall in time to the music….we suddenly looked at each other and said (as though well-rehearsed) 'That’s it!' We bought our first laser projector that November and ALP was launched."
Their new venture would have to officially wait to launch until the couple was approved for a federal license. "That happened April 12, 1999," she says. "Before that, we had to run shows with a 'babysitter' (an employee of our licensed mentor) – which was fine with us, as we had a lot to learn. We’ve been intensely happy ever since, and can’t imagine doing anything else."
Believe it or not, laser shows are a lot more than just setting up a projector and dazzling the audience with jaw-dropping special effects. Paula says they must follow strict rules and regulations.
"Laser shows have a lot of safety issues and only a company licensed by the FDA/NCDRH can set them up and must run them, or train a venue LD to run them under our license."
Set up time depends on the length of the event and how detailed you want it to be. Paula says she has taken up to three nights to set up production, and that's with a crew of six. Shows can take less time, but that depends on the client and how much detail they provide. She recalls a time when a busy customer made a timing error.
"The shortest setup time was 20 minutes when our client had two events going on in Bakersfield (a three-hour drive for us) and had given us the wrong start time for the one we were doing. We thought we had arrived about an hour and a half before show time but soon found out that wasn’t the case. Thank goodness, this was a simple show to set. But, boy, did we have to hustle to make it happen! On average, though, we usually need about two hours to set our show."
There might be a common misconception that DJ's are in control of the light show from a switch or control somewhere on their deck. Actually, the laser production team does all that and they have it down to a science.
"If there is a specific piece or set of music that needs precise timing, we get it well ahead of the event and build a script of visuals to go with it. We then create our visual show matched to the microsecond with the music, to be autoplayed at the event," says Paula adding that most of the time theey run the lasers in real time to the music. "We are both musicians, so playing along with the music is fun for us."
"We also do a lot of work with cover bands and tribute bands. What we like to do with them is get their set lists ahead of time, then match our visuals (aerials and/or graphics and animations) to each song. We create a set of them to be played live with the performers (as a live show is never exactly the same timing as prerecorded music, true?)."
Recently Paula and her team ran all the laser lighting for publisher Johnathan Hale's charity event called the "Glow Pool Party." The party was to help raise money for The Trevor Project and relied heavily on laser showmanship and soul-stirring music.
"It means a lot that SDPIX did this event solely to raise money for the Trevor Project," Paula says. "The fact that even in today’s sociological climate it is still needed is something Marc and I can’t quite grasp. But, having an organization that is always there advocating for and supporting LGBTQ youth is vital. And, of course, it’s an organization that doesn’t get nearly the recognition and publicity the “big” charities get. We’re delighted we could help. Here’s a “small world” story for you. I noticed that Trevor Project just became a grantee of the Google AI Impact Challenge (congrats!). Wednesday, we were doing lasers for a Google AI conference in Santa Barbara!"
As far as the event itself, she says it couldn't have gone more smoothly, "Johnathan and his team were as gracious to us as they were to their guests--who were all absolute delights," she says. "And they chose all the best lighting to complement our lasers (they said we were to be the star of the show), which created the perfect ambiance for a magical night."
In some ways even though Paula and Marc left their careers as jewelers, they continued to orchestrate light and control it. But whereas gemstones rely on facets to distribute points of light, lasers can actually be controlled to evoke emotions.
You might call Paula and Marc laser lightsmiths, they are artists using elements as old as time. They create a world through darkness and just like those first rays, bring life to everything that falls within its spell.
If you would like to hire Artistic Laser Productions for your next event you can do it the modern way with a PM to any of their social media accounts, but Paula prefers another way.
"In spite of having the latest in high tech laser show equipment, we’re really old school," Paula confesses, "the best thing to do is pick up the phone and call us to have a conversation about how we can help them create the most memorable event ever."
You can call Paula at (760) 802-2752 from 10 am-10 pm 7 days a week. she says you will only have to leave a message if they are at a gig.
You can also visit their website HERE.