We have met with the Nelca Roco, prominent Lighting Designer and influential professional video blogger, for a journey into the future of the profession. When more and more people today are asking how advancement of the machine learning may affect their careers, Nelca advises to keep calm and get ready to something exciting!
Nikita: Nelca, you are probably the most “go to” lighting person in the region and beyond.
Nelca: Seven thousand people…
Nikita: …who are subscribed to your YouTube channel are constantly looking for solutions, answers, walk throughs. Let’s talk about how lighting design got where it is today.
Nelca: I have started about ten years ago, when there was Dialux 4.13. I am an architect by trade and wanted to train myself do lighting design. Another software we used was Relux, AGI32, practically all big manufacturers had their own applications. Everything was very basic and took long time to do. Now I work mainly with Dialux EVO and occasionally, when I plan sports venues, I use AGI32. A decade later Dialux finally gives me amazing renderings, however its performance depends a lot on the resolution, and perhaps the one thing I miss is the ability to create videos in Dialux EVO, this feature is only available in a regular version of Dialux.
Nikita: How stable are those apps?
Nelca: Still crashing, still reliability issues, but it is improving. A few really good features have been added, say, reporting is better today, saving images and overall user interface is convenient. JPEG file can be used as a base plan, whereas before only the CAD file could be uploaded. Another thing worth mentioning is the quality of renders. A few years ago, if you were to show them to an architect, you would see their brows go up: what was that, solid blocks and dark monoliths! Ugly! Now I have no fear, because it feels more like a 3D Max image, and customers appreciate the design more.
Nikita: What brought you to the idea of sharing your work on YouTube?
Nelca: I remember myself struggling to find any good training materials, when I was learning lighting design. Few posts on enthusiasts’ forums but still not sufficient to improve on the subjects to the degree I wanted to. This is how I came to the idea of starting a YouTube channel, to relief others from the pain. Another thought I had was that whichever I do will remain there, on the cloud, and I can always get back to it, for my own reference. I am an architect, and sooner or later I might get back to the profession, then all I had created by then would become my own guides (what if I forget something – laughs). Some people tell me I am such an expert, but I don’t feel this way; I just want to share my knowledge and ideas and what I have found out with the next generation of lighting designers. …and leave a legacy.
Nikita: What would you like to share with your subscribers but unable to do due to some technical limitations?
Nelca: Video in Dialux EVO. Hope they are reading this right now: please add this feature! Emergency lighting calculation is not available in EVO, and this is not convenient too to leave the application to do an emergency plan somewhere else.
Nikita: From what I can imagine about the lighting design, it is quite a laborious process. What of what you do now, you like the least?
Nelca: I do not fancy making submittals, not a bit! Getting all the data sheets of all the components of luminaires, although it may be beside the point slightly. In Dialux EVO I do not like editing walls and windows. This is the part of a lighting designer’s job that we have to trace the walls and build a geometry of the space, and if there is a revision of the drawing, and – that too happens — the change is in the last minute before submission, then so much needs to be reworked! I would also highlight exporting to AutoCAD as not my favorite task: heavy files and a lot of manual work.
Nikita: About time to introduce AI then! Max Tegner, author of Life 3.0, defines artificial intelligence as the ability of a computer or neural network of computers to solve complex tasks. Let us imagine for a moment that your software already knows how to solve those complex tasks. Which of them would you gladly hand over to your machine?
Nelca: Of course, let it build walls for me! That would save a lot of effort by not having to move it point by point. Why doesn’t it do it anyways if walls are in the separate layer in AutoCAD? Then I am imagining, if I were to label the area by application, “Office,” “Corridor” and so on, the software should detect the applicable standard for me, as a lighting designer, to follow. I may be as well offered a choice of luminaires which would then be laid out upon my choosing.
Nikita: You have mentioned standards, could you speak a bit more about it?
Nelca: The software should know what the geographical location of my building is, the norms I am working to meet and suggest lighting solutions based on this data. It will be helpful if the building purpose is taken into consideration by the software, and then I may be asked to agree if, for example, I wanted to continue to design towards LEED or WELL or any other standard.
Nikita: What else would you give away to a computer?
Nelca: I guess, selecting and arranging views. Sort of a default value when I am producing reports. With the customer in mind, of course. Interior designer or architect or landscape specialist would love to have as many visuals as possible. On the other hand, consultant or contractor are all about facts, numbers! I am thinking about generating reports the content of which depends on my customer profile. Then technical submittals? We spend so much time preparing, searching, downloading, compiling a single luminaire set of documents. Let computer do it! It should know where to search for such details.
Nikita: … scouting through manufacturers’ websites?
Nelca: Yes! Once collected, this information may be stored in one report.
Nikita: Then what would sales people want from such smart software?
Nelca: Oh, sales people are all about price, delivery time, country of origin and when their sample is available. Every other time I am doing the design, they’d want a sample. Oh my God, what if we had a 3D printer! Of course, you would not print a functional sample, but enough to demo the actual size, textures, the build. Today we have a virtual reality, VR, however sales people are reluctant to use it, as it is not perfect.
Nikita: Digital Twin is a big thing now…
Nelca: Lighting designers would have benefited from such technology of course! Especially in retrofit applications. I saw somewhere: you point your iPad to a fruit plate and see all the nutrition data. Same way I would like to be able to see what the old installation was when I come to a site inspection through this augmented reality.
Nikita: Now, allow me to ask you what would you not give to an AI and keep for yourself?
Nelca: How does AI know what is in my mind? This is what I would never give away. I know I said before that layout of the fixtures in an area was a computer task, mine then would be to make all the creative adjustments. Only I know which elements of the interior I want to highlight, I have my reasons why I do it, may they not even be logical. No computer can and should do it. It is bound by rules and algorithms, but I want to and I must escape them at times. Shall I approve what computer has done? If this is a simple job, I see that the machine can produce and send it directly to a customer. However, if the artistic part of lighting design exists in the project, I would want to review it. Are my shadows right? I want to be able to adjust it myself and be happy about the result and only then send it, actually I will want to present this to the customer. So, lighting designer now evolves into someone else.
Nikita: An Actor?
Nelca: Yes, yes, yes! An actor, presenter who would enact his or her lighting design ideas to the customer. Why I have chosen this intensity, that focus? I want architect to fall in love with my piece!
Photo credit and (c) Fort Wayne Civic Theater, Flickr
You can find Nelca on YouTube or her website www.nrocolightingdesign.com