LD Michael Murnane and Clearwing partner once again with VARI-LITE luminaires
Published Monday, October 15, 2012
by Philips Vari-Lite

For over 30 years, Macy’s Glamorama has raised over $41 million to help fight childhood illness, cancer and HIV/AIDS. A spectacular combination between a fashion show and party, the 2012 Glamorama held events in Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. At each stop, lighting designer Michael Murnane put together a design that not only captured the essence of the evening, but also struck a delicate balance between lighting for video and a live audience. To help him accomplish this, Murnane turned to his trusted colleagues at Clearwing Productions who supplied a lighting rig that included VL880 Spot, VL3500 Wash, VL3000 Spot and VL3500 Spot luminaires.

“I use gear that is relevant to the time and what is needed for each application,” began Murnane. “I don’t really pick fixtures because of brand loyalty. I pick gear that will work and I know exactly what I’ll get out of it. With VARI-LITE fixtures, I know the colors they give me, and I feel very comfortable with their performance consistency. I will try just about any lighting instrument, but I always seem to keep coming back to VARI-LITE luminaires.”

To fill his lighting rig with both powerful and versatile lighting fixtures, Murnane turned to Authorized Vari-Lite Dealer Clearwing Productions. Having worked with Clearwing on the Macy’s Glamorama over the previous six years, Murnane was confident they would be able to supply him with the exact fixtures needed.

“I have been at this a long time and have worked with a lot of lighting vendors. Clearwing Productions is by far my favorite. They’re very sharp and simply figure out how to make things work for you. They always go out of their way to make sure we have everything we need, and they have a lot of talent behind them. They always deliver exactly what they promise.”

For the 2012 Macy’s Glamorama, Clearwing Productions delivered Murnane a lighting package that included 17 VL3000 Spot, 10 VL3500 Spot, six VL3500 Wash, and 37 VL880 Spot luminaires.

“I used the the VL3000 Spots as my back lights and my main gobo wash lights. They are an industry standard when it comes to spot fixtures and deliver every time. Then we used the VL3500 Spots on the front truss as our main key lights. We relied on their shutters quite a bit to carve out what we didn’t want to light because show director likes to light specific areas on the stage. We then used the VL3500 Wash fixtures for their incredible power. While we only have six in the show, they make an incredibly beautiful stage wash and I love their massive power and their bold columns of light. Then finally, we used the VL880 Spot luminaires for their speed and flash with their gobos producing a lot of aerial effects. There are some new stock gobos in these fixtures that are fun to work with, and I love using the prism inside the VL880 Spot as well.”

Weighing only 56 lbs, the VL880 Spot is small, lightweight, and fast with an 800-watt MSR Platinum 35 lamp which produces 19,000 lumens of output. Complete with a zoom range from 15º - 36º, a mechanical iris for continuous beam control, plus a drop-in frost glass assembly which allows users to soften the overall beam for even more beam control, the VL880 Spot was an ideal choice for Murnane.

“Against the larger fixtures, the VL880 Spots cut through very nicely. They are quite bright and I am really happy with their intensity. In the VL880 Spot, you get a bright, fast light, and there’s something special about the optics and the prism that is extremely unique in that you can focus through it. It gives a fantastic, multi-dimensional feel to the gobos.”

In each city, Macy’s Glamorama showcases 4-7 clothing lines, while also treating the live audience of approximately 2000 people to an evening filled with live music. In his design preparations, Murnane must take into account not only the musical-style of each performer, but also the look and feel each designer wants for their fashion.

Murnane explained, “The show is broken up between the various designers and performers. Each clothing line then has some sort of video image displayed on the large, half-circle, video screen behind the stage that I must try to enhance and match with the lights. But at the same time, I have to get white light into the space for the cameras. While the video is a large part of the show, the content often does not come until the last days of tech and at each show we showcase different fashion lines. Versatility in my lighting equipment is absolutely essential. I have to have the ability to change things on the fly because we could receive a video image for a clothing line that we have never seen before, and I have to be able to complement and match it with the lighting.”

While not only complementing the looks for the clothing lines, Murnane must also light each night for the performers. This year the show included performances from multi-platinum superstar Robin Thicke, Boston-based duo Karmin, and also Megan & Liz (Macy's iHeartRadio Rising Star Winners).

“All three performers go every night,” continued Murnane. “Megan & Liz perform first with one song, and they are a cute, pop sound, so we give them a cute, pop look. Next comes Karmin who is pop-rock and very energetic. We do three songs with her that are ferocious and fun, so our lighting has to get more intense with lots of flash. Then in the finale, Robin Thicke takes the stage and with his crooner-style, we do big, sweeping soulful looks with deep and rich color. They are three very different musical acts, and we go through about a dozen design sections in each show.”

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