Just the Girl and the Piano
VARI*LITEŽ Luminaires Shine Big for Alicia Keys
Published Monday, July 7, 2008
by Angelia Pinaga

DALLAS, TX – July 7, 2008 – Multi-platinum selling superstar Alicia Keys introduction to the stage was made via video where Cedric the Entertainer held a mock church service as he preached from the pulpit and pointed out “Little Alicia” in the congregation.

Then emerging from behind a big white beam of light created by the VL3500™ Wash luminaire appeared “Little Alicia” riding on a platform with her shiny black piano. “The VL3500 is great if not over powerful for a simple stage wash,” said Nick Whitehouse, Lighting Designer. Using the Vari-Brite™ mode you can turn the VL3500 Wash into an incredibly strong beam of light with great effect and anything in between. The Vari-Brite mode can be used from almost any zoom position and offers a tight column of intense light. “It’s like having two fixtures up there,” added Whitehouse.

Keys “As I Am” show was designed to tell the story of her life journey to stardom. The lighting design followed that of a musical with the story being themed on a symbolic star who in the end “makes it.” The lighting allowed us to create the look and feel of a sophisticated pop show.

The tour carried a full rig of Vari-Lite luminaires. Whitehouse focused his lighting line-up on the VL3000™ Spot luminaires and VL3500 Wash luminaires. Vari-Lite dealer Solotech delivered 44 VL3000 Spot luminaires, 25 VL3500 Wash luminaires, 140 Color Kinetics® ColorBlast® 12 TR, 20 Color Kinetics ColorBlaze® 72 and 12 VL6C+. Whitehouse used the Avolites Diamond 4 console for control.

Whitehouse worked with Bryan Leitch of Visual Light. “We work together on all the designs,” said Whitehouse. “We’ve found that when we review the designs together we are able to render some unique rigs as our differences bring out so many possibilities”. Steven Douglas ran the show as the lighting director and programmer.

The show was video intensive so the team needed to create lighting that would complement the video. “We needed to work with the video rather than override it,” said Whitehouse. “I think we managed to create just the right balance where some moments the video was stronger and at other moments the lighting was really strong.” “I love the Vari-Lite luminaires,” said Whitehouse. “There isn’t another choice of fixture as they always live up to my expectations and are solid and reliable.”

Whitehouse needed his selection of luminaires to fit many criteria. “We had quite a strict budget so we went for quality and power over quantity and spent more for better fixtures so that we wouldn’t need as many of them”, said Whitehouse. “I’ve been using the VL3000 since they were first introduced and they have the best quality of light on the market today.” “I know what they are capable of and the effects that I can get out of them. There isn’t another spot on the market that can compete with the optics of the VL3000 Spot so this was an easy choice.”

“I needed to cover a large amount of space with as few fixtures as possible and still get the effects I was looking for. Because of this fixture choice I didn’t need as many to produce the same result. The VL3500 Wash luminaire is outstanding at covering large spaces and I only used four to cover the entire down stage edge of a 64-foot wide stage.”

As the show concluded, the Whitehouse design continued the theme of classy and elegant lighting. “We wanted to contrast from the set,” said Whitehouse. “With the optics of the VL3000 Spot some of the looks that you can get from gobo’s are breathtaking.” This look fitted perfectly with the video and song. “We didn’t want to overdo it by using too many tricks.”

Whitehouse concluded by offering advice to the apprentice designer. “Always remember less is more,” said Whitehouse. “You don’t always need a lot of lights and 300 cues in a song. Sometimes the most powerful look is something so simple it doesn’t need anything more to be stunning.”

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