Marius Coetzee is a freelance technician that is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the country’s most promising up-and-coming lighting designers. He has worked extensively with some of the country’s leading technical service providers to deliver professional lighting design, from plot to operation, for a wide range of corporate and entertainment events in South Africa.

Recently, Marius upgraded to the newly released Vectorworks Spotlight 2020 software for entertainment design from DWR Distribution, the local South African distributor. Vectorworks is considered to be the leading CAD software for the technical entertainment industry and is deemed to be an international standard by the world’s most prominent production and technical entertainment services professionals.

The Vectorworks Spotlight 2020 software package represents a sizable investment and is considered costly, even for some of the bigger players in the market. Over the past few years, Marius has set himself apart as a serious lighting design professional and is optimistic that this investment will enable him to deliver at a world-class level for his clients as an independent LD.

Vectorworks product representative at DWR Distribution, Dylan Jones, states: “I have enormous respect for Marius as a freelance engineer. It is truly admirable to see him make such an ambitious investment in his career by buying Vectorworks. His purchase will open more doors and will hopefully help him to land more work with new and existing clients in the future.”

Marius shared his experience with Vectorworks Spotlight 2020 in a recent interview.

What motivated you to purchase Vectorworks software?

I am deeply invested in establishing a long-term career as a lighting designer, and I therefore feel that it’s a priority for me to get to know and work using products that are considered the industry standard. Vectorworks Spotlight, without doubt, falls into this category, especially for those working on large-scale productions both locally and abroad.

Using Vectorworks also makes it easy to collaborate with other companies already using the software. When you are using different CAD software, it is sometimes difficult to convert files to make them cross-compatible, and information is often lost in the process. This is much easier when both parties are on Vectorworks, as the software has been designed to be as flexible as possible, and you are able to import and export a wide range of files that have been created using a number of software packages.

How are you planning to use Vectorworks Spotlight?

Currently, I’m using Vectorworks to design lighting rigs and produce lighting plots. The software also helps enormously with the administration side of the business, as I am basically able to automate most of my paperwork. The Vectorworks Spotlight package has an enormous range of functions and applications and I’m looking forward to expanding my use of the software in the months ahead.

What are the benefits of being able to do 3D renders in Vectorworks?

One of the biggest advantages of being able to produce 3D renders of a show design ahead of an event is that you are able to show your client exactly what you will be delivering, and make changes based on their feedback before you have placed a single fixture on the a rig.

There are a number of effects and camera angles that you can apply to 3D renders in Vectorworks, which produces a fairly accurate virtual representation of your show design, and the client is able to get a good idea of the look and feel of their event.

There are a number of software packages and applications that make 3D renders possible, and I use a range of them. However, one of the advantages of using Vectorworks is that you don’t have to go out of the software to transform a plot into a 3D render, which makes it quick and easy to make a small change and immediately see the results.

Have you had any challenges with the product?

I have been working with CAD software packages for some time, and while Vectorworks has been a learning curve, I have not found it difficult to navigate the programme.

There are a number of features that I have not yet touched on, and I am still in the process of discovering all of its capabilities and adjusting my workflow accordingly. Anytime that I have come up against something that I have not been able to solve myself, I am able to contact Dylan Jones at DWR, and he has always been able to assist.

What would you like to see improved in the future?

Nothing is perfect; however, the 2020 version of Vectorworks has already introduced some of the changes that I would like to see with the software.  With the invention of the new GDTF (General Devise Type Format) and MVR (My Virtual Rig) standards, Vectorworks now supports exporting MVR files with both fixture and scenery data. One of the things that has remained a challenge with CAD software is exporting your files between platforms, and this development is going to make the process seamless. I have tried the export process on the new MA3, and it already presents a huge improvement on the MA plugin for Vectorworks. As the technology matures in the years to come, I think that it is going to make a world of difference.

What are the best features in your experience?

There are a number of features that have really made a huge difference to my workflow. Thus far, the most impactful is the fact that I no longer have to manually input data or physically count quantities on a plot, because Vectorworks does it all for me.

I am also able to use the impressive onboard product and symbols libraries, which means that I don’t have to search for, import or manually insert data. The Vectorworks Spotlight 2020 package has all the symbols, instruments and product information libraries that one needs, and if I want it to look different it is easy enough to tweak an existing symbol, which saves a lot of time as I no longer need to go and find these items and import them or create them all from scratch. One of the best features from a workflow perspective is the automated reports, which streamlines the whole work process beautifully. The software is also very accurate – and you can go down to the smallest millimetre in your planning – which is very important and saves a lot of time when you get to the site.

How has Vectorworks affected your workflow?

The Vectorworks Spotlight package facilitates the pre-production planning process and allows for seamless collaboration between all the technical and production teams. I am able to use the software to plan my lighting rig to the very last millimetre ahead of a show, and I am then able to pull automated reports that I can supply to the relevant technical services company without having to sit and count every piece of truss and lighting fixture used.

In my experience, Vectorworks serves as a very comprehensive planning solution for lighting designers and has the potential to save time, improve accuracy, and reduce the margin of error during the design and planning phase of a project which, in turn, increases the odds of delivering a seamless end-product for the client – which is always the ultimate goal.

Has purchasing Vectorworks had an effect on your freelance career?

My primary motivation for buying Vectorworks was to make my life easier as a lighting designer. I do, however, think that it will have a positive effect on my career growth because my clients appreciate being able to collaborate with me using an industry-standard platform.

I also feel that being proficient in Vectorworks will enable me to broaden my service offering to include lighting plots, lighting design, quality renders, 3D renders, pre-production collaboration, planning and consultation services, in addition to actually running the lighting rig for events.

What are your hopes for your professional future?

I really enjoy the flexibility of working as a freelance lighting designer, and I am very invested in developing my craft to the highest standards that I can achieve. I have a lot of experience in the corporate events market and am confident that, as I gain more experience and broaden my skills-base, I have a lot to offer the industry. That being said, I started my career as a musician, and I still really enjoy being able to light shows for the entertainment industry and am hoping to have the opportunity to work on more performance and entertainment productions, in addition to the corporate work that I do, in the future.

Marius Coetzee is based in Johannesburg, South Africa. If you would like to see some of his work, view his profile on Facebook or email him at