Marvel Movies & More with One Lighting Programmer

2017/05/23

For Scott Barnes, lighting console programmer and owner of i-light design, the movie “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is more than a beloved classic from the 80s — it was the catalyst that led to an illustrious career designing 2D plots and 3D models of movie sets. “After I saw ‘ET’ at 10 years old, I realized how fascinated I was with motion pictures,” said Barnes. “I started following filmmakers, got an 8-millimeter movie camera, and began experimenting with filmmaking. Lighting logically followed, and I got my first job offer as a tech guy for a movie with George C. Scott before graduating high school.”

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial © UNIVERSAL ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial © UNIVERSAL ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Early in his career, Barnes did most of his drawings and renderings by hand. When design technology started to become more commonplace in the industry, he was quick to embrace it for his work.

“When I learned about previz, my introduction to it was with a Hog console, which came with wisywig — and I did not like wisywig,” Barnes admitted. “I did some more research on my options and discovered Vision, which I really liked.”

Barnes first used Vision software for the movie “Dreamgirls” to previsualize camera movement on set, but when it came to 2D drafting and 3D modeling, he was still grappling for a solution. “I had dabbled with 3D modeling in Maya before, but it had overwhelmed me. It was too much — too broad of a tool. I discovered Vectorworks Spotlight because of its tight integration with Vision, so I gave it a chance, and I realized it was the perfect 2D and 3D industry-specific tool.”

Rendering created by Barnes for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”

Rendering created by Barnes for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”

With his established go-to tools, Barnes first tackled “Iron Man” in 2008, and since then he’s worked on every Marvel movie to date, including “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Captain America: Civil War,” and “Ant-Man,” as well as other films like “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” “Star Trek into Darkness,” and “Inception.”

As Barnes continues to refine his skills, he prides himself on seeing the big picture. For movies, he collaborates with set designers, construction crews, gaffers, cameramen, and anyone else involved in the production process. Each team is only responsible for specific parts of bringing the production together, but Barnes’ job goes beyond just creating the lighting plots, as he brings all the different elements together.

Barnes’ laser drill plot for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”

“I collect all the DWG or PDF drawings from the different teams and scout out the space to add details and see what is going to actually work in reality,” explained Barnes. “I don’t just draw the plot and leave — I’m a part of the process and add my input. Using Vectorworks, I can then take those files and details to create a 3D model to provide super-accurate drawings for the gaffers and cameramen.” Barnes says this is especially helpful in providing an accurate representation of what he can do with lights and trusses, too.

When asked what the best part about his job is, Barnes reflects, “it’s definitely not your typical 9 to 5 job. The interesting thing about the movie business is that anything goes, so there’s always something new around the corner to keep me on my toes.”

Barnes’ rendering of the camera’s view of the set at 30 feet for “Captain America: Winter Soldier.”

Barnes’ rendering of the camera’s view of the set at 30 feet for “Captain America: Winter Soldier.”

With this “anything goes” mentality, Barnes particularly enjoys the freedom Vectorworks Designer provides as it includes tools not just for the entertainment industry, but for architecture and landscape design. He’s previously experimented with these other realms in his work and loves how “you can draw a castle, a boat, a car, a tree-lined field, or anything” in the program.

Barnes is quite the Vectorworks enthusiast, and when it comes to Vectorworks 2017, he has a long list of favorites.

“I loved data visualization in viewports,” said Barnes. “I never thought viewports could get any better than they already are, but they did. It’s saved me so much time, as I can now easily color code by universe or type.”

Barnes’ plot for “Captain America: Civil War.”

Barnes’ plot for “Captain America: Civil War.”

With this passion for Vectorworks software, Barnes is known as an expert on the program. He often fields requests for training from designers and is an active Vectorworks beta tester where he provides feedback for future product developments.

“As a beta tester, it’s so great when your feedback is not only heard but implemented,” enthused Barnes. “One particular update with subdivision surfaces in this latest release stemmed from one of my requests. But, what I’ve always loved most about Vectorworks is the creative expression it enables — there is always more than one way to accomplish your task, it’s just a matter of which route you want to take.”

Intrigued by Barnes’ line of work? Follow him on Instagram to stay up to date on his projects.

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