Outdoor Recreation With Vari-Lite
Lighting Designer Michael Murnane illuminates new product showcase
Published Tuesday, August 28, 2007
by Bryan Matthews

On July 23, 2007, the Polaris Outdoor Recreational Vehicle New Product Showcase took place at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium. Lighting the bi-annual event was Lighting Designer Michael Murnane, Footcandles LLC. To assist him in his design, Murnane chose Clearwing Productions and 24 VL3500 Wash, 12 VL3500 Spot, 16 VL3000 Spot, eight VL2500 Spot, and eight VL2500 Wash luminaires.

Murnane began, "This event is a business meeting that showcases all the upcoming outdoor recreational vehicles to the Polaris dealers in the Nashville area. It's a show about the unveiling of new products, so I need to light it in a way that the product can be seen, but also give it a theatrical, or rock-n-roll, atmosphere."

Produced by Peter Bacig, Media Loft, the new product showcase consists of three segments, the product unveiling, break-out sessions for individual dealers, and then the finale consisting of an awards banquet and entertainment.

Murnane continued, "Media Loft is a longtime client of mine, and we have done shows together for almost 20 years. In the past, many of our collaborations have been for Polaris events, such as their snowmobile and other ATV product launches. In the lighting design for these events I have to balance budget with expectation, realizing what they want and finding out how much I have to work with."

The production schedule for the Polaris Outdoor Recreational Vehicle Product Showcase spanned six days. Day one began with the construction of the lighting truss, and the subsequent hanging of the fixtures. Day two began the actual programming. Day three was given to rehearsals for the stunt riders who would be performing during the showcase with more programming towards the end of the day. Day four was the executive rehearsals implanted to preview the showcase to the Polaris executive team, which led into day five and the first day of the show with the product unveiling and subsequent break-out sessions. Day six concluded the event with an evening awards banquet and rodeo.

When designing an event such as this, Murnane is most aware of the set and what will require lighting. For this particular event, the stage had no set, simply a projection screen and a black curtain on a stage. He must also be aware of how involved the audience will be, along with what product is being showcased.

"First, I look at the budget to see how much I can spend. This event was unique because we had the arena floor for the rodeo. I needed enough light to wash the entire floor and then needed to be able to keep it theatrical for the unveiling of the product. I need the lighting equipment to be versatile enough to do a lot of different things."

In choosing the fixtures for his design, Murnane turned to long-time friend and colleague Aaron Hubbard, Clearwing Productions. Hubbard understood what Murnane was looking for in his fixtures, and as a result offered him the new VL3500 Wash luminaire.

"I have to credit Clearwing. They always find a way to get it done. They ask me what I want and then they find a way to make it happen. Aaron knew that Vari-Lite had a new wash light which would give me the lumen output I was looking for; it was great timing."

In the entirety of the event, Murnane's design would be used to accentuate the product showcase, the awards banquet, and the grand finale of the rodeo and concert. He would have to use each VARI*LITE luminaire in a specific way in order to achieve the design he envisioned.

"I was excited to try the VL3500 Wash because this fixture would allow me to use a few fixtures to get a great amount of actual lumen output. From 45 feet, we used the fixtures in a general stage wash and they were phenomenal. Then besides the general wash, I was also able to use their beautiful column of light to add great punch and color for a rock-n-roll atmosphere."

"I focused on the VL3500 Spot and VL3000 Spot fixtures for my gobo patterns on the arena floor. The arena floor is dark brown dirt, so I needed the power these fixtures put out, plus the wide zoom which allowed me to cover the entire area with gobo projections."

"I used the VL2500 Spot and Wash fixtures for the lighting on the band during the product showcase and awards banquet. These fixtures primarily took care of the backlight for the video CTO and they gave off some great aerial patterns during the concert."

The Polaris Outdoor Recreational Vehicle New Product Showcase is a high-energy, high-octane event. Polaris dealers are invited to attend with the purpose of not only being educated on the new vehicles, but also to be entertained. Lighting is a key component in the entertainment, and in the end, the lighting design not only met, but exceeded all expectations.

Murnane concluded, "I was pleasantly surprised. In designing, there is always an element of having to meet Producer's expectations, but this year I think we went a step above. With the features of the VL3500 Wash to complement the additional VARI*LITE fixtures, everyone was very happy. The show went great and the video came out really attractive. These are my favorite lights and there really isn't anything better. They are the first lights I always look at because the value I get is simply spectacular."

A 23-year veteran of theatrical lighting design, Michael Murnane has lit more than 1000 shows throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Working in the fields of opera, dance, concert, gala, architecture, television, and corporate events, Murnane's designs have won praise for their power to bring the emotional tone of the work to life.

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