All Lights on Mommy
VARI*LITEŽ Luminaires Shine on NBC Reality Show Favorite Mom
Published Thursday, June 19, 2008
by Angelia Pinaga

DALLAS, TX – June 19, 2008 – On Mother’s Day NBC aired America’s Favorite Mom, a reality show where five finalists vied to become the nation’s favorite mom. Thousands of moms were nominated for the show but voters would approve only one. The show, hosted by Donny and Marie Osmond, honored the 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day.

Lighting Designer Matt Ford lit the show with VARI*LITE® luminaires supplied by PRG, consisting of 53 VL1000™ luminaires and 6 VL3000™ Spot luminaires. Ford’s system also consisted of 32 VL5B™ and 25 VL6C+ luminaires.

“I’ve worked with many products over the years and have found that Vari-Lite luminaires consistently deliver in the demanding television market,” said Ford. “I know what the products will do and the products always deliver.”

Ford and his team of Paul Lennon, George Harvey and Suzanne Sotelo originally planned to key the show with Tungsten luminaires. “Since we wanted to use Tungsten luminaires, I chose the VL1000,” said Ford. “My workhorse luminaire was the VL1000,” added Ford.

The team didn’t have much time to build the rig and to create the moods for the show. “To accentuate depth on the camera, I used contrast of color and intensity for brightening the foreground and the background,” said Ford.

Ford first needed to accomplish three distinct looks with the use of color. He needed to make the outdoor themed set, composed of a house and a garage sitting on the front lawn surrounded 360 degrees by a painted sky drop, appear that it was late afternoon. He also needed to create a nighttime feel to contrast the look of the show. Lastly, Ford’s lighting needed to romanticize the two musical performances; one from Donny and Marie Osmond and another performance from The Dey. Ford used magentas and lavenders for the musical performances; he used bastard amber to achieve the afternoon look and used blues to achieve a nighttime feel. “The VL1000 luminaires have such an amazing color range,” said Ford.

Television typically requires the use of saturated colors. Ford had to take a theatrical approach to lighting the America’s Favorite Mom set. “I chose VL1000 luminaires which gave me the subtle tints of colors that I needed,” said Ford. “It was really important to have the subtle pastels.”

“The main garage had a large rear projection screen on it so I used the VL1000 luminaires to light the garage and used the framing ability to keep the pattern off the garage,” said Ford. “I also used the VL1000 luminaires to perform color toning from the front of the house.” Ford scattered a few of the VL5B luminaires on the floor to uplight the trees on the set. Ford used the VL3000 luminaires as backlights “to really cut through the other fixtures.”

Ford’s main challenge was beam control. “The VL1000 luminaires really saved the day by offering the kind of control that this difficult set needed.” His overall approach was to light the scenery with a dust gobo from a very steep angle. “Normally a drop is a good 12 feet behind the scenery,” said Ford. On the America’s Favorite Mom set, the drop was only about five feet away. This close proximity made the lighting placement critical. “I knew that I needed the ultimate control to be able to tone the architecture and put pattern on the architecture while keeping it clean from the sky drop so that I would not spoil the illusion”, added Ford. “Because of the close set, it was important that the luminaire had shuttering capability.”

A full sky drop set isn’t too common for television anymore. “It is rare to see sets with big sky drops and these sets disappeared with the old variety shows”, stated Ford. “I’m a fan of the present day television sets which are against black. It’s easier to do color chases on the darker background versus the lighter background.”

All the moms were from different walks of life but the set created a familiar home-like feel. The format was similar to an awards show where there was a category introduction, taped introductions of the contestants and then a winner announced. The VL3000 luminaires were used for the final tension cue where America’s favorite mom was chosen.

The prize for Ford’s team was the “versatility” of their Vari-Lite luminaires. “All the fixtures were incredible,” added Ford. “They did everything they needed to do with no problems. I couldn’t have built my lighting system any other way.”

About Vari-Lite:
As a Philips group brand, Vari-Lite has, for over 25 years, served as a leading designer and manufacturer of premiere automated lighting systems, providing lighting equipment and services to the entertainment industry, serving such markets as concert touring, theatre, television, film, cruise lines, houses-of-worship, and corporate events. VARI*LITE® automated lighting systems are available through a worldwide network of independent professional dealers.

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