Lighting Designer David Zeffren knows a true contender when he sees one
Published Thursday, November 3, 2011 6:00 am
by Philips Vari-Lite

Photo Credt: Amy Harper

In recent years, the sporting world has seen a meteoric rise in interest in Mixed Martial Arts and television production companies have responded. Joining into the competitive arena of MMA broadcasting, MTV produces the action-packed, 12-week tournament named Bellator, a single-elimination event that features some of the best fighters in a winner-takes-all competition. Behind the scenes of the nationally-televised matches, lighting designer David Zeffren and assistant Amy Harper of Frank Gatto & Associates, have created a unique lighting design that is unlike any other MMA broadcast and while doing so have discovered a new competitor in the world of TV lighting; the VLX Wash from Philips Vari-Lite.

“The Bellator Fighting Championship is a one-of-a-kind event that puts top fighters into a single elimination tournament and allows the fighters themselves to control who is named champion in the end,” began Zeffren. “And like the competition itself, our lighting design is also unique in that we are the first MMA broadcast to use a fully automated rig for our TV lighting instead of conventional tungsten fixtures. This year, as we were getting ready to launch the Season 5 tournament, we wanted to look at new automated lighting that would give us more accurate color temperature control and better optics.”

So as the search began for the optimal automated light that could give Zeffren both the color temperature control and power desired he attended a product demonstration by Philips Vari-Lite Regional Sales Manager Alan Kibbe in New York. It was at this demo, that he was introduced to the VLX Wash.

“When I first saw the VLX Wash, the most significant aspect of the light that initially struck me was the flatness of the beam field. We use multiple cameras from multiple angles and it’s difficult with other automated fixtures to get a true flat field across the whole space that you are lighting. The VLX Wash is extremely even from the center of the beam to the edge. There is literally no level drop and this translates to a better shot for TV.”

“But the characteristic that I like most about the VLX Wash is that you can literally dial-in any color temperature you want. This means I can give the video engineer an exact and consistent color temperature to work with - and that goes a long way on a television shoot, especially when a color temperature other than the common 3200 Kelvin is being used.”

Satisfied that he had the perfect light for the new season of Bellator, Zeffren returned to the production to begin showing the full team exactly what the VLX Wash could do. It all began at a Summer Series event before Bellator’s matches officially got underway, and since that day the VLX Wash has been the mainstay workhorse of the lighting rig.

“During a summer event in Ft. Lauderdale, we rented a VLX Wash package from Zenith Lighting and this was the first time that the full production team would get to see them in action. And when they saw them, they immediately wanted nothing else. It was requested that I bring the VLX Wash units back for the full Bellator production which I did with 30 VLX Wash luminaires from Scharff Weisberg who has been providing gear and tour support since the first season of Bellator.”

“What other designers might not be aware of about the VLX is that it’s an LED fixture that can be used as the main light source for TV, which is not the case with many other LED or moving light fixtures. With the VLX Wash, the colors are completely merged before they ever leave the fixture and you need to be very careful when using a large number of other LED fixtures because the colors might merge outside the light and when dealing with High Definition cameras you might not be able to get a consistent color temperature. But with the VLX Wash, you don’t have any of those issues and when you put all that it has to offer on the table, this light has no match.”

Now airing on MTV2 on Saturdays at 9 PM EST, Bellator continues to place some of the world’s most dynamic and exciting MMA fighters against one another. But while the live crowds and fighters themselves may not be aware of the lighting overhead, Zeffren knows firsthand that while the VLX Wash may be a newcomer to TV lighting, it is also a dynamic contender that promises to be an effective ally for years to come.

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