Lightswitch brings the VLX Wash and VL3500 Wash FX to Paris
Published Wednesday, September 8, 2010
by Bryan Matthews

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When legendary crooner Barry Manilow moved his hit Vegas show from the Las Vegas Hilton to the Paris Las Vegas for a new two-year residency, the production team wanted to make a few changes to better reflect and adapt to their new home. To do so, they brought in lighting designer Chris Medvitz of Lightswitch to create a wonderfully intimate yet powerful lighting design. Lightswitch and Paris Las Vegas then enlisted the assistance of PRG Las Vegas and 65 VARI*LITE luminaires from Philips Vari-Lite.

“When the production was moved from the Las Vegas Hilton to the Paris Las Vegas, everyone wanted to create a new look and feel for the show so that they could really compete against the larger Vegas shows that were established on the strip,” began Medvitz. “Barry had never done a theatrical-type show before, so they felt this was a great opportunity to capitalize on the intimate 1500-seat Paris Théâtre.”

Over the next several months the production team began to discuss, sketch and create the exact design concepts desired. It was then up to Medvitz to take those concepts and weave then into a complementary lighting design.

“Barry wanted this show to have an abstract artistic theme, but they didn’t want it to be cliché. They also wanted to use timeless art pieces that would connect throughout the show; therefore we knew video would play a big role in the production. But since we were now in a traditional theatrical setting, the lighting had to have a theatrical feel to it as opposed to a concert feel.”

As Medvitz and his team made the move from concepts to physical design, they knew they would need to enhance the house lighting rig at the Paris and so they made the decision to purchase additional lighting instruments to bring their design to life. Once given approvals for the new purchases, PRG Las Vegas provided Medvitz with his instruments of choice; 40 VLX Wash and 25 VL3500 Wash FX luminaires.

“In the design, we knew the lighting would be competing with five high-resolution LED video screens and a soft LED backdrop. But since Barry would only be performing 28 weeks out of the year, the additional lights purchased for the show also had to be flexible and useful to the other shows that would be using the space. When we added all these necessities together, we knew it had to be VARI*LITE fixtures. They are powerful, possess great color, and are always flexible in a lighting design.”

As the new fixtures were received, Medvitz moved in to the Paris Théâtre where he and his team encountered new challenges.

“The stage at the Paris is approximately 60’ deep and 85’ wide creating some sightline issues for the audience. So sticking with the theatrical approach to the show, we decided to create a classical ballet set-up with a series of black borders and legs to create a forced perspective and eliminate the sightline issues. This then gave us the opportunity to outline the portals created through the borders and legs with lights instead of trussing and this is where we really loved using the VLX Wash.”

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In the design, Medvitz used the VLX Wash luminaires in eight towers placed strategically on both stage left and stage right to bring the size of the stage down and to allow him to focus on the rich, saturated colors created by the VLX along with the true LED white.

“Both myself and our programmers were very impressed with the VLX Wash. It easily and quickly exceeded all our expectations. We originally thought the VLX would just be eye candy, but the color-mixing is superb, the homogenization of color is perfect, and the quality of light is much better than any other LED fixture right now. Plus, the pure white LED is very impressive.”

With the VL3500 Wash FX luminaires, Medvitz used 10 with the wide, buxom internal lens, mainly for lighting the back cyc and for a flat stage wash. He then used 15 luminaires with the standard fresnel internal lens to capitalize on the intense beam and color capabilities of the VL3500 Wash FX.

“We needed the VL3500 Wash FX for the larger beams to cut through the video and this light quickly became my workhorse light for this show. We had originally intended it to be just a wash light, but it’s so great, we ended up using it for much more. The VL3500 Wash FX allows me to put FX patterns in the gate that play beautifully in the narrow focused beam mode, and it allows me to take a tight beam and make it something special with beam effects and patterns. And with the video, it can cut through as a layer that adds depth and color with the gobo breakups.”

As the elegant Paris Théâtre fills to capacity each night, the top-selling, adult contemporary artist of all time has the perfect venue to showcase his new production. Looking back on the entire process, Medvitz feels the lighting design successfully incorporated all the design aspects desired and as a bonus it allowed him to discover a few new things about two of the most recent product offerings from industry-leader Philips Vari-Lite.

“To be theatrical we made the show very colorful and visually fun for the audience, but you have to keep the color interesting because if you do too much it all starts to look the same, so we had to have color contrasts. VARI*LITE fixtures allow you to do this, but we had the most fun doing things we didn’t know we could do. For example, we put a series of VL3500 Wash FX luminaires 60’ away from the stage with great tight beams that were animated with breakups and it completely added another layer to the show. The VL3500 Wash FX is just a great wash light. Then with the VLX, we loved using the true LED white because it is an extremely clear and clean LED white. It has such an impressive crispness to it. Both of these lights are definitely in a class of their own.”

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