The VARI*LITE® VL3500™ Wash Luminaire Shines All Night
Published Monday, April 26, 2010
by Bryan Matthews

When 44 Designs was launched in Nashville, Tennessee, it was president and lighting designer Jeff Lavallee’s mission to assemble a talented group of designers under one roof for the purpose of creatively collaborating on projects that would give their clients the best in visual design. Now two years old, 44 Designs is doing just that through a collaboration with Atomic Design from Lititz, Pennsylvania, on the Shine All Night tour featuring Trace Adkins and Martina McBride; and they are doing it with the VL3500™ Wash from Philips Vari-Lite.

“I had never worked with Atomic Design before so we were very excited about the collaboration,” began Lavallee. “We would be handling the lighting and staging for Trace and then they would handle the design elements for Martina. Having two headliners such as this on tour, we knew it was going to be a great show, but during the design phase the successful collaboration between the design teams was going to be crucial. And it turned out to be incredibly successful.”

During the tour, both design teams would need to seamlessly integrate their design elements by choosing the most advantageous products that would have the flexibility to give both performances their desired look and feel. With two headlining performers, each desiring a powerful and energetic lighting design, the lighting designs had to work together, but also have varying aspects so that the performances would not be identical.

Lavallee explained, “The biggest challenge was going to be trying to make sure the whole rig worked together since we would be designing the elements separately for what our artists needed, but then bringing them together under one roof. The original concepts began with designs being shot back and forth between myself and Tom McPhllips at Atomic Design. We both had an idea of what we wanted for our artist, so we began by simply breaking down each design one piece at a time. We first started with just the lighting elements for Trace and then added in his video, then moved forward onto Martina’s design elements until we had a final collaborative design that could handle both shows.”

Once the final design was complete, the designers next turned their attention to the selection of products. With two designs, they had to choose the lighting fixtures carefully knowing that the demands on each fixture would vary between the two shows, but they had to use the same fixtures. They needed power, performance and flexibility from all their instruments. To solve this challenge, the designers decided to use the VARI*LITE® VL3500™ Wash luminaire as a focal point of both designs.

Lavallee continued, “The idea behind our lighting and staging elements was to make sure Trace was seen as a co-headliner and not an opening act. We had some great video elements in the design with 13 columns of WinVision panels ranging from 6’ to 10’ that tier upwards behind and on top of the riser, and then a large Winvision wall in the middle of it all. Since this is such a video heavy show, we needed something that could cut through the panels and the center wall. We went with the VL3500 Wash because of the big fat beam on it that can fly out through the video and make the whole show pop.”

With the feature light now chosen, Lavallee and the team moved to the programming phase where they would be able to see the fruits of their collaborative design come to life. In the design, Lavallee wanted to utilize the power of both the VL3500 Wash and the video elements to give the show a commanding yet creative feel. To accomplish this, they placed 18 VL3500 Wash luminaires in the air and on stage, completely surrounding the WinVision panels which would allow the lighting and video to complement each other perfectly.

““Our programmer Darien Koop was a huge part of getting this rig going. We are running the video elements at around 60% and the VL3500 Wash fixtures at full so when I bring the VL3500 Wash into a tight beam, they cut right through the video with the fantastic color you only get from a VARI*LITE fixture. Then I can bring the beam back out into a wash and they diffuse into a colorful backdrop that lets the video pop in front of the wash. It gives the show a great balance.”

With the design collaboration a success, Lavallee and his team are now able breathe a momentary sigh of relief and settle into the remaining dates on the North American tour. Reflecting on the design, Lavallee is excited about the future of 44 Designs and his continued use of the VL3500 Wash luminaire.

“This whole design process was a success from start to finish. I can’t say enough about the collaboration between 44 Designs and Atomic Design and I can’t say enough about the VL3500 Wash. The first time we pulled the beams of the VL3500 Wash over the audience, it floored everyone. I had seen them about a year ago on another tour, but when I got them in my own rig and got to light them up, I was blown away. It’s honestly one of my favorite fixtures on the market today.”

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