Baz Halpin relies heavily upon VARI*LITE Series 3000 luminaires
Published Friday, August 12, 2011 6:00 am
by Philips Vari-Lite

In May 2011, when country music superstar Taylor Swift kicked-off her “Speak Now” tour, the production stood ready to excite sold-out concert goers across North America. With the tour now on the road and all the design elements working perfectly in their place, Baz Halpin (Show Director, Production and Lighting Designer) feels a sense of pride from the creation of an authentic theatrical experience where he relies heavily upon VL3000 Spot and VL3500 Spot luminaires from Philips Vari-Lite, provided by Production Resource Group.

“This is my first opportunity to work with Taylor Swift and I am thrilled with how the complete production came together,” began Halpin. “It all began when Taylor was searching for a Show Director and since she was familiar with my work from previous artists, I joined on as Production and Lighting Designer as well, and we got right to work.”

Having worked with other artists as Katy Perry, Ricky Martin, and Sade, Halpin and his team from Silent House Productions began creating the complete show design for “Speak Now” in November 2010. Knowing that this North American tour would give them the opportunity to expand on all areas of Taylor’s previous European tour design, Halpin was excited to push the bounds of his creativity.

“Because Taylor is an artist with a deep sense of story-telling throughout her music, we decided that instead of the tour having one central or overall theme, we would give each song its own story. Her songs are like mini-plays, so we needed a set that would allow us to showcase each one and that led us to create a Theatre Proscenium. It was a very organic process between everyone involved and it was a very efficient work flow.”

With Associate Designer Chris Nyfield leading the charge on the set design which was now taking shape in the form of a dilapidated theatre that would change scenes with each song, Halpin knew that in order for the complete design to read true as a theatrical setting, the lighting design must be authentic to how fixtures would actually hang in a theatre, but they must also be capable of handling the lighting needs of a live concert.

“Since we were going with an authentic theatrical setting, this show would have to be a compromise between theatrical and live concert lighting. I typically like for my designs to be heavy on spot fixtures, but we had to have multipurpose fixtures for this show. With so many different scenes and set changes, it was all about making sure we weren’t using any fixtures for only a single purpose. Whereas a fixture might be used to light a set piece in one scene, it would need to be an aerial beam in another. It was this necessity for multipurpose lighting that would affect the majority of the decision-making on which fixtures we would rely upon.”

As Halpin began placing the actual fixtures inside his design, he found himself once again relying about the same fixtures that he had relied upon many times before; the VARI*LITE VL3000 Spot and VL3500 Spot luminaires.

“They way I like to create my looks is to put fixtures in places that create beautiful pictures, and the VARI*LITE VL3000 Spot and VL3500 Spot luminaires are staples in my designs. I can literally put them anywhere to use as a key light, a front truss light, a wash light, a side light, or for an aerial beam light. They are definitely the workhorses of my shows because of their versatility and reliability. While some fixtures may give you one great look, the Series 3000 fixtures give you many.”

Now that the full show design for “Speak Now” was almost complete, Halpin and his production team were thrown one more challenge, but it was a challenge that both he and the team were able to efficiently overcome.

“The show actually came together so well that the decision was made to open the first dress rehearsal to audiences as a benefit for the victims and survivors of the tornado outbreak in Missouri. So essentially our opening night was moved up one week and I don’t think there is any other show that I have worked on that we could have done this and actually be ready. I can’t say enough about how everyone worked so well together, and I can’t say enough about the Series 3000 luminaires. There has not been a show over the last 5-6 years that I haven’t had the Series 3000 Spots as the bulk of my rig.”

On its way to a final stop in New York City on November 22, 2011, the “Speak Now” tour is currently selling-out stadiums and arenas across North America. And it’s the successful creation of an authentic theatrical setting for both venue styles that leaves Halpin with a unique sense of accomplishment that he has not felt before.

“This is the first time in a design where I have taken a concert and made it look like an authentic theatre for both arenas and stadiums and not like a Pop or Rock show inside an arena or stadium. This show looks like a fantastically old theatre show, and that was mainly in part to the complete level of commitment from everyone to make both the set and lighting design work together. It felt great to commit whole-heartedly to a project and have it turn out so well. This is easily one of the best crews I have worked with, and once again the VARI*LITE luminaires did exactly what I needed them to do. Simply put, VARI*LITE luminaires are reliable with great intensity and an incredible variety. With VARI*LITE fixtures I know exactly what I am going to get and they do the job every time.”

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