Lighting Individuality For Ten Finalists
VARI*LITEŽ Luminaires Give Fresh Look for American Idols
Published Friday, August 1, 2008
by Angelia Pinaga

DALLAS, TX - July 31, 2008 - Seth Jackson’s lighting design team for the "Pop Tarts Presents The American Idols LIVE! Tour 2008" wanted to give each of the top ten finalists from the season a different look and feel. The Tour started in July and runs through early October where the top ten finalists from the 2008 American Idol TV show, including winner David Cook, are presented. Each Idol will perform a few songs and Jackson’s team will provide the works with the lighting, i.e., moving truss, video lighting and deck lighting.

Jackson’s programmers, Jeff Bertuch and Wally Lees, are using the GrandMa console for control.

“We took everything we had and gave it the ability to move," said Jackson. The team has 11 six-foot panels of low resolution video that can move and four trusses of VL2500™ Spot luminaires that easily move into different positions.

The rig consists of 20 VL3500™ Wash luminaires, 12 VL3000™ Spot luminaires and 20 VL2500 Spot luminaires. Jackson’s programmer and lighting director, Jeff Bertuch, is using the GrandMA console and Mbox media servers for control. On the deck Jackson used eight VL5 luminaires.

This American Idol show is all about variety. While giving each Idol a different look and feel the team also had to keep in mind their limited budget. “It can be difficult to keep reinventing what is in front of us,” said Jackson.

Jackson explained that it is important to realize the constraints and specifications of the design that is needed. “Every tour comes with specifics that the designer must work inside of,” added Jackson.

The team worked on incorporating specific effects for each Idol performance.” These special effects relied on the use of color. “The VARI*LITE color system is unique,” said Jackson. “The static wheels are fast and can change in an instant. The color wheel responds like no other light.”

The VL2500 Spot, the VL3000 Spot and the VL3500 Wash luminaires all contain a three filter CYM cross-fading system and fixed color wheels with interchangeable color filters. The VL3000 Spot and VL3500 Wash luminaires include a variable CTO color temperature correction filter.

“The range of ambers and reds is rich and varied,” said Jackson. “Likewise, the amount of blues and lavenders that are possible provide a great palette.”

Only lights with flexibility would suit Jackson’s needs. “I really don’t see anything else out there with the optical quality and versatility of the VARI*LITE product line,” said Jackson. “Quite simply, the VARI*LITE luminaires are the only game in town.”

“I had to have a heavy-gunner light in the rig that could cut through all the video and the lighting,” said Jackson. “My heavy-gunner was the VL3500 Wash luminaire. The zoom in the VL3500 Wash and the VL3000 Spot is ridiculous. It blows my mind how far you can open those beams and still have a real punch with an even field of lighting.” Jackson’s hard edge lights were the VL3000 Spot luminaires which complemented the layering of the VL3500 Wash luminaires.

Jackson’s favorite luminaire is the VL2500 Spot. “They carry the load for all of the movement and the “eye candy”. “I have always loved this light,” stated Jackson.

From the start, the Idol tour had to fit into a certain amount of trucks, given the variety needed for ten performers and given the need to maintain a specific budget. “You might create the Mona Lisa of lighting designs, but if it doesn’t fit in the truck space, then you’ve not done your job,” said Jackson. “If any of these elements are not met, then I don’t care how cool the set is, it won’t work.”

This is Jackson’s first year with American Idol. “Tony Wigens, 19 Management, head of touring, saw my work on Hilary Duff and felt that what I accomplished in a limited amount of truck and budget was a needed skill for this year’s American Idol production team.” The rest is history.

This year Seth Jackson is designing Barry Manilow's arena show, Carrie Underwood, Toby Keith and also the set design for Alicia Keys. Jackson is also the show director for Manilow's show in Las Vegas, its fourth year at the Las Vegas Hilton.

Jackson has been nominated five times as lighting designer of the year for the Parnelli Awards. Jackson won set designer of the year last year for Toby Keith.

Jackson has designed and toured with Don Henley, Melissa Etheridge, Barry Manilow; (since 1998), Kenny G; (since 1996), and with Hilary Duff.

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