Bio page for Emanuel Treeson. A lighting and video designer.
Emanuel Treeson — just call him Manny — got his start in theater and live television, and then began creating spectacles for Hollywood movie premieres. Lately he's been designing and building immersive light environments for clients such as Amazon, Disney, Nissan and Microsoft/Xbox, helping them inhabit huge spaces and look great on TV.
Cinematographer Gordon Willis once said that the light in Los Angeles stinks, that, “It’s like living inside a toaster oven.” As a lighting designer, how do you stand it?
Well, he's not wrong. But I actually find inspiration from so many other parts of LA. The modern architecture is particularly compelling, especially when you stop thinking of it simply as buildings, but more as three-dimensional sculptures that you pass through—something constructed of lines and solids and transparency. I also find the contemporary art scene in LA creatively stimulating.
Have you been inspired by something specific recently?
The James Turrell retrospective that was at LACMA. One piece in particular jumps to mind: it was this black space that you would walk into and sit down. Or it seemed to be pitch black. As your eye got used to the darkness, you would very slowly start to perceive these thin lines of light, and then more and more elements. What is amazing about Turrell’s work is that you’re not viewing it from a distance but in fact you are often directly in the center of it. It is an amazing, immersive experience.
How does one create an immersive experience with light?
Well, at NYXdesign, we don’t do it just with light. We’re usually doing it with light and video. We weave all those things together in such as way that it’s in your peripheral vision, in front of you, and behind you. When you create an immersive experience, it shatters the sensation that the show is happening at some distant end of an arena. Instead you are right in the midst of it. As soon as it starts to envelope you, and surround you, then all of a sudden you become a participant in it.
It seems like there are almost no boundaries now between what’s video design and what’s lighting design.
Those two things have been converging over the past decade. We’re getting these tools that allow us to break up the projected imagery and take it outside the normal aspect ratios we’re used to—like TV screens or widescreen. As lighting designers, we have often created large-format projections, so video is a natural evolution for the profession. Anything that emits light must be balanced to everything else during a show, so it makes perfect sense for the lighting designer to also be the media designer or collaborate very closely with the media designer.
Some of these shows take you out of town for long stretches. What do you like to do when you get home?
Personally, I like to bike. That’s my form of exercise, but I also find it incredibly contemplative, especially when I’m riding solo. Sometimes I can actually do design work in my head as I ride. It’s meditative.
Everyone has an opinion on this: best taco in LA?
King Taco. I like both the carne asada and the chicken tacos, but really what I like is their green salsa. I think if you bottled that green salsa, put it in an IV tube and give me a constant drip, I would be happy forever.