Lighting Designer Nick Whitehouse raves about the Vari-Lite® VLX™ Wash
Published Monday, November 23, 2009 6:00 am
by Bryan Matthews

As units of the much-anticipated Vari-Lite® VLX Wash luminaire continue to make their way into lighting rigs around the world, lighting designers continue to rave about the performance of the latest product from Philips Vari-Lite. While taking a break from the Britney Spears Circus tour, lighting designer Nick Whitehouse placed 24 VLX Wash fixtures into the rig of the Kylie Minogue tour, and his perception of LED automated fixtures will never be the same.

“This tour for Kylie was a quick promo tour with nine shows which began in San Francisco and then moved on to the Hollywood Bowl, Las Vegas, Chicago, and then New York,” began Whitehouse. “I first saw the VLX Wash at PLASA as a prototype and at the time I thought it was a great idea, although I haven’t typically liked the look of previous LED fixtures on the market.”

As Whitehouse began constructing the lighting plot for the Minogue tour, he was searching for a wash that would complement the VL3500 Wash fixtures already in his design. He knew he wanted to stick with the power and performance that comes from a Vari-Lite luminaire and it was then that he was approached by Solotech regarding the VLX Wash.

Whitehouse continued, “In my original lighting design, I drew the lights in as VL5™ or VL500™ Wash fixture, but then Solotech told me that they were going to be taking on an inventory of the VLX Wash fixture. They told me how bright the light was and asked if I wanted to use them. I will always take new technology as soon as I can have it, so while I was in Dallas with the Britney tour, I got George Masek to bring one down for a demonstration. It looked great and I was sold.”

Now that he had what he believed would be his secondary wash fixture, Whitehouse got to work putting the complete design together. But when he finally had all the lights hung, and began to power them all up to run them through the paces, Whitehouse got a pleasant surprise. The VLX Wash was a bit more than he thought it could be.

“My initial plan for placing them in the rig was that their main job would be a fill light for simple washes, chases and creating some kind of simple movement. But when I actually got them up and on, I found them to be much brighter and better than I thought they would be. They were actually so bright I decided to use them as the main wash light for the show which freed me up to use the VL3500 Wash fixtures for the intense beam and great aerials.”

When using a newly released fixture that only a handful of lighting designers have had the chance to work with, finding out all the possibilities the luminaire provides is something that Whitehouse enjoys. He was excited to explore all the options the VLX Wash offered and to see just how each facet would make his design even better, including using the fixture as both a tungsten and arc source.

“Because Kylie is a two-hour show, I have to keep changing the mood, look, and feel to complement her complete range of songs. In this production, we go from a sort of starship, laser, techno feel to a very theatrical and old-school Hollywood show using all the CTO colors. We basically covered the whole color spectrum and the colors and color snaps of the VLX Wash matched great with all the other fixtures in the rig. Then as we moved into the old-school Hollywood section I was able to take them into the tungsten source with lots of gold and amber and it looked phenomenal.”

Understanding that he was one of the first lighting designers in the world to actually hang and program a show using the VLX Wash luminaire, we wondered what Whitehouse felt would surprise his fellow lighting designers most about the VLX Wash luminaire. And from his answer, it was clear that is was the combination of power and versatility with less power consumption of the VLX Wash that would change the automated LED market forever.

“I think what will surprise other lighting designers the most is the sheer power and its versatility. It’s a wash light and you actually see the beam, but there are no shadows created as with other LED fixtures. In my opinion, it’s the first quality automated LED product on the market. I will have no problems putting the VLX in place of an old arc or tungsten wash. I would swap it in a second. It’s light weight, has low power consumption, and if I only had the VLX Wash hanging in the rig, there would be a considerable drop in power consumption.”

At the end of the tour, Whitehouse was a firm believer in the power and performance of the Vari-Lite VLX Wash luminaire, and no longer will lighting designers have to shy away from automated LED fixtures or be afraid to use them as a feature wash light in their lighting designs. According the Whitehouse, the VLX Wash is truly the next generation of solid-state lighting offered exclusively from Philips Vari-Lite.

“What actually impressed me most was how bright they were. They’re really bright, I mean really bright. Normally when you look at LED fixtures they’re not very sexy and when you point them at something there’s no output. But when you point the VLX Wash at something they definitely light it. They were in the rig with VL3000 Spots and VL3500 Wash luminaires and there were times that I had to bring down the VLX Wash because it was too bright. The VLX Wash worked hard during this show and they showed through very well.”

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