VARI*LITE Tickles The Red Piano
Elton John Concert to air on NBC
Published Tuesday, October 18, 2005
by Bryan Matthews

one day to focus the conventional lighting and program the automated luminaires. On the night of the second day, they did a live rehearsal in front of a paying audience, with the television shoot taking place the very next night.

"The short amount of time to get it right was extreme, but we received unconditional cooperation from the house crew at The Colosseum.," said Watson. "We could not have gotten it done without them."

Watson had to choose carefully which luminaires he would put on the rig. Any hold-up, or problem, that arose in a light fixture would slow both he and Caserta down, possibly causing the DVD shoot to be delayed, and delaying the shoot was not an option.

"I chose the VARI*LITE fixtures for their reliability, profile, weight, and size. No light does more, so I go with the most reliable with the best profile," raved Watson.

"From a programmers point of view, using the VARI*LITE fixtures made my life very easy for a few reasons," stated Caserta. "The fixtures were never down so I was able to program uninterrupted from start to finish. The color mixing and the static colors all matched so I didn't have to spend a lot of time making the colors match, and the same goes for the gobos."

Watson added, "I feel very comfortable with VARI*LITE in the air that nothing will go wrong. Each new generation of light simply gives you the tools you need to make the shows work."

As the main focus light for the DVD shoot, Watson chose the VL3500™ spot luminaire. With a 1200W short arc lamp, the VL3500 spot maintains high standards for imagery, beam control, color and brightness, while adding a four blade shutter mechanism that allows the blades to be operated independently or in unison on two planes for a clear and crisp image. The VL3500 spot luminaire features 6:1 zoom optics, CYM color mixing, variable CTO color temperature correction, a six-position color wheel, two gobo/effects wheels, a shutter and separate dimmer, and ultra-fast strobe mechanisms. A standard pallet of gobos, effects, and colors is also provided with the unit.

"The VL3500 is outstanding. I stuck it straight up for the architecture lighting, and then shuttered off portions of the venue to make custom cuts," said Watson. "I can’t stress how invaluable the VL3500 spot is. With the work that I do, it has made my life. It’s the end all, be all, light for me."

Caserta added, "The shutters in the VL3500 spot are very accurate and repeatable and allowed a lot of flexibility when shaping for set pieces and when the cue was executed. I didn't have to worry if the shutters would be right, they always were. The speed of the fixtures matched very well so I didn't have to use multiple timings to make everything move together as a whole."

Watson concluded, "The DVD shoot went excellent. Once the gear was up in the air, it became an easy show."

LD Jerry Watson grew up in Miami, FL, and graduated from Florida State University with a degree in Communications and Film. Starting in 1973, Watson began to freelance as a camera operator, mostly with local and regional commercials. By 1976, he began working on bigger projects such as feature films and graduated to Director of Photography. In 1978, having established a pretty good reputation in south Florida, Watson was asked to do a project for a British company coming to America. He was told they wanted to shoot a video for three songs by the Bee Gees., which would be shown on Top of the Pops in England and another show called Ready Steady Go. After the shoot, the director, Bruce Gowers asked him to relocate to LA to shoot three more videos for Rod Stewart. In the next four years, Watson shot well over 200 music videos. In 1980, Warner Bros. Records decided they wanted to do a video album of Blondie's hit album "Eat to the Beat". By the mid 1980's, tiring of the three minute format of music videos, Watson transitioned into feature films and television. However, he maintained a relationship with some of the better directors known for shooting musical performances, and therefore still gets the call for such artists as Elton John and Celine Dion.

For over 30 years, Elton John has survived the ups and downs of musical stardom. Commercially, creatively, on stage, and on record, Elton John is a legendary artist who is still as relevant as ever. Elton John’s finely honed stage presence, a winning factor in targeting his tunes straight into the heart of America, is excess incarnate. In The Red Piano, the showy costumes are replaced by incredible video imagery and stage props, yet the end result is unmistakably classic Elton John.

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