HE Eric Abbott raves about performance of the VLX Wash on American Idiot
Published Tuesday, March 8, 2011
by Philips Vari-Lite

When American Idiot first loaded-in to the historic St. James Theatre in February 2010, little did head electrician Eric Abbott know that it would be the last time he would see his primary automated wash fixtures for a long time. While 20 VLX Wash luminaires, provided by Hudson Sound and Light, work as the backbone for the Tony® Award-winning lighting design by Kevin Adams, it’s their virtually maintenance-free operation that is further solidifying their value on Broadway by providing both high-performance and cost-savings.

“Our lighting rig is working roughly 40 hours per week, 160 hours per month, or 1920 hours per year,” began Abbott. “Generally we do a full swap of bulbs on automated fixtures every 600 hours, or approximately 3-4 times per year if the bulbs are all functioning perfectly, but if not, we replace them once or twice a month. And then once every two weeks, we also do a general 4-hour maintenance work call to clean the insides of automated fixtures and perform the suggested manufacturer maintenance.”

When the full production run for American Idiot began in April 2010 and Abbott and his team implemented their regular maintenance schedule, they began to notice that one particular set of lights would often go untouched.

Abbott explained, “With a normal wash fixture in a typical Broadway rig, you have to swap out a fixture once or twice a month for various issues, but it took us nine months to touch our first VLX Wash, because there is no bulb in it and the amount of heat generated is significantly less than other moving lights. They are hung 10 in a row on each side of the stage and we had to figure out how to take it down because it had been so long since we had to put them all up. Typical fixtures fade with a loss in output, but the VLX Wash fixtures look the same today as the first day we turned them on.”

By not only eliminating the need for traditional bulbs, the VLX Wash also has another advantage over traditional automated wash luminaires that further saves on crew work time and production costs.

“During our routine bulb swaps for the other automated fixtures, we also check the vital parts inside the lights to make sure no other maintenance is required. But since the vital parts of the VLX are protected inside as a self-contained unit, and with minimal fans that may bring in dust or debris, we spend significantly less time per light than with any other fixture in the rig. I would estimate that by using the VLX Wash as our primary wash fixture we are saving at least 5-6 hours per week in crew time which brings down our overall production costs.”

Now that American Idiot is entering its second year on Broadway, Abbott and his team are excited about the sustainability of their lighting rig and are confident that through their fantastic relationship with Hudson Sound and Light they will easily overcome any challenges that may come their way, but with the VLX Wash those challenges aren’t a concern.

“We love working with Hudson Sound and Light. The whole staff is very helpful and quick to assist and solve any issues so we don’t have to worry about what we might need and that’s an important relationship to have. A successful Broadway production can have a run of 5-6 years or more and you have to be able to count on both your dealer support and the products in your lighting rig. From a production costs standpoint it would seem that the more VLX Wash you have in your rig, the larger the savings due to the elimination of bulb costs and the reduction in crew work costs. Plus you can definitely count on the VLX Wash to look the same on the very last performance as they did on the day you opened.”

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