The unsung heroes of events are those who work behind the scenes to give us epic experiences, so today EDM Identity is proud to shine a light on a member of the industry, Anthony Garcia!
When chatting about events or giving a full on event review, one of the many things that are commonly discussed is the production. The lights, sounds, lasers, and decor all go into making an event or festival seem like a magical wonderland. All of these things are elements that blend together and yet what many people seem to forget is that there are dedicate people who run these production elements too.
These unsung heroes of the scene sit atop scaffolding, are constantly working throughout the events, and they take pride in the creations and experiences they create. Browsing Reddit one late night led me to stumble upon a video showing off an amazing laser show set to Kaskade’s track “Disarm You“. Immediately falling in love, I reached out to Anthony Garcia to tell him how moved I was by the show and give him a huge thumbs up. We wanted to know more about him, his work, and what goes into productions like there, so read on for our interview with him below!
Get blown away by Anthony’s Laser Show set to Tuneboy’s “Digital Nation”:
When was the first moment when you realized that creating laser effects was something you wanted to do?
I moved to LA from a town where everyone knew everyone. The entire city was daunting and to get over it, I would go to concerts alone to get a feel for being in a big city all by myself. I decided on a last second whim to buy a ticket to the Zedd show at the Shrine Expo Hall during the Moment of Clarity tour. It was during the encore of that set during Deadmau5’s “Suckfest 9001” / Zedd’s “Lost at Sea” acapella when all lighting and video turned off and my eyes were met with a perfectly timed dance of lasers. This cone of beams surrounded Zedd and that was the moment that I realized that designing lasers shows was going to become a very real passion of mine.
How did you get into creating shows?
The same way you get any job: networking. A huge part of my first year in the laser industry took place at photonlexicon.com. On that website, you have a wide range of laserists, from hobbyists who are just building their first lasers to people who have spent the past few decades touring the world. The information I got from there got me started and the people I met there gave me the practical experience I needed to get started,
How long does it take to construct a show for a song?
Depends. Certain songs on the Excision tour took hours for just 30 seconds of laser show, but I’ve also programmed other shows in just a few minutes. Depending on the complexity of programming and number of lasers in the design, show creation typically is between 1-2 hours per minute of laser show.
For people who are interested in getting into this business, what steps can they take? What key things can help them stand out from others?
There are a lot of people who tell me they want to be a laser operator when in reality all they want to do is get wasted at shows and meet their favorite DJ. A problem I had when starting out was treating the job like a vacation. Anyone who is getting into this industry needs to keep it professional. Now, do I still dance around at the controls and sing along to my favorite songs? Of course! But at the end of the day, I’m still being hired for a job and there need to be boundaries.
What’s the approximate cost for laser hardware at a big show?
All depends on the power and quality of the lasers on the stage. Some of the side stages at these festivals could only have 4 lower powered lasers (which could still cost as much as a nice car). But these larger stages? That’s where you’re getting into hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment. I personally only own one 3 Watt RGB laser (that I recall buying for around $2,000) that I use for almost all my at home programming and then play the shows over the festivals systems.
What are some of the best lasers in the industry? What is your go-to laser for putting on a spectacular show?
I’ve worked very closely with X-Laser recently. They’re US-based and have the greatest customer service that I have experienced (or heard about). To see a show I created for them (performed on one of their lasers) check this link out!
I’ve seen the laser and light crews running shows before, and it doesn’t look like they are having much fun. It looks like a lot of work. Is it more work than fun? Do you think the laser, light, and sound crews should get more recognition?
For me personally, I could be showing the full spectrum of emotion on my face during a show. If everything is going right and someone starts playing “Black Hole” by Craig Connelly / Christina Novelli I’m going to be smiling/crying /singing along. If it’s music I don’t really care for or if the software/hardware isn’t acting the way I want it, I may have a much more tense face on. Personally, I think operating lasers live is the greatest job out there. A lot of these operators have been at the venue since 8AM loading equipment and didn’t leave the night before until 2AM. Life on the road / at festivals gets rough and it takes a lot of red bull and friendliness to get through each night. But I think a lot of us appreciate being behind the scenes. I am more than happy to do my work without a single person in the crowd knowing my name.
If someone wanted to get started making shows in their home studio, what advice would you give them? What would be an entry level cost to get a basic system setup?
A great first laser is the X-Laser Mobile Beat MAX MK2 or the Kvant Clubmax 1800. Either of those is going to cost a couple thousand dollars but it’s much better than buying a cheap no-name Chinese laser that will end up breaking (possibly before you even get it).
Entry level software is Pangolin Quickshow (which costs only $595 for the hardware/software to make and play laser shows). That’s the entry-level version of the software I use to create all my shows (Pangolin Beyond Ultimate) but there’s no reason to sink thousands into software you may or may not need (or enjoy). I am a huge believer in hands on learning and I think everyone should try it out themselves before giving up.
To you, what has been the greatest innovation in show lighting in the last 10 years?
As a young guy in this industry, I happily didn’t have to deal with the size, weight, and complexity of water-cooled gas lasers (that could easily reach over 100 pounds). Nowadays a solid state laser of similar power can fit inside a small metal box that can easily be mounted by someone with lanky arms like me.
Where do you see laser and lighting technology going in the next 5 to 10 years?
The same route as computers. Smaller, lighter, cheaper, and more beginner friendly.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I’d love to keep doing this. I hope that in 5 years in addition to programming I will also have a large stock of lasers and employees that I can hire out to run shows under my company.
What would you consider to be your greatest achievement for your career?
I’m tour managing Gareth Emery right now. I consider that pretty fucking awesome. He’s the nicest most understanding boss I’ve ever had and he’s sort of become my life coach.
Finally, those who work in the scene also tend to enjoy the music too, who are your favorite artists to jam out to?
Gareth Emery (I have seen his show over 50 times this past year and I still can’t get enough), Eric Prydz, Aly & Fila, and Hot Since 82! 🙂