Vari-Lite Shines Bright in the Valley of the Sun
Published Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Thommy Hall of Barbizon Phoenix describes the outdoor lighting system at the city's new America West Arena as "the ultimate mega-rig of all time." Integral components of the "mega-rig" are 16 VARI*LITE® automated lighting fixtures - eight VL3000™ Spot luminaires and eight VL1000™Arc units.

The luminaires are located outside the arena in the Paseo, a 400-by-65-foot area where visitors gather before and after events at the venue. A perforated steel canopy above the area serves as a projection surface for the "star attractions," four 12-by-9-foot glass kiosks suspended 10 feet off the ground. Each kiosk houses two VL3000 Spot luminaires, two VL1000 fixtures and it's own video projection system. Each kiosk also has its own enclosed three-ton air conditioning unit. Barbizon (www.barbizon.com) provided the VARI*LITE automated fixtures to Genesis Audio Systems for the project.

Jim Jorgensen, owner of Genesis Audio Systems was originally brought in as a vendor to provide materials. After "artistic differences" arose between the original consultant and project planners, Jorgensen was asked to take the role of consultant and project manager. Jorgensen then sold the architect and designers on the technology and function for the area.

"The planners wanted the area to be more entertainment focused," Jorgensen explained. "They wanted to give it sort of a sports bar look, and wanted it to have a dynamic feel, not just become a giant Lava Lamp."

"I went with the VARI*LITE fixtures because I think they are the best moving fixtures on the market," Jorgensen continued. "The combination of zoom and gobo wheels made it the right choice for this application."

The biggest challenge of the project was the glass kiosks. Hall explained that the architect and engineer actually designed the kiosks after they were provided with information about the automated lights and the projection system. Each of the kiosks allow for approximately 200 degrees of pan and 180 degrees of tilt from the VARI*LITE fixtures and maintain working temperatures of less than 90 degrees even in the summer heat of Phoenix.

"There were probably 15 different kiosk designs, from curved Plexiglas to transparent graphite to glass," Jorgensen said. "We received samples of each and went through trials and tribulations with every option. In the end, we went with regular UV treated glass. There's a little bit of coloration and a lot of reflection, but we've designed it so that it is all a part of the look."

The automated fixtures are used mostly for color washes. The four independent shutter mechanisms on the VL1000 ERS fixtures allow lighting designers to color the canopy right out to the edge with no light spill. By framing the fixtures and zooming out, designers can create a flat, smooth color wash that covers the entire canopy.

Genesis also installed the audio system, which combined with the video system offers amazing sights and sounds for Phoenix sports fans. For example, designers can program in an image of a basketball bouncing from one end of the canopy to the other. As the ball travels from end to end, the sound follows the action.

All of the VARI*LITE fixtures are loaded with custom gobo images such as sun, moon, clouds and stars, "all of the standard images you need to throw overhead," according to Hall. In addition, logos were created for all of the sports teams that will call the new arena home - the Suns (NBA), Mercury (WNBA) and Rattlers (AFL). The Paseo will be home to many outside events supporting the Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB) and the Phoenix Convention Center.

The automated fixtures also provide a potential revenue stream for the facility. Custom logos have already been created for some corporate sponsors. And with numerous gobo slots on multiple rotating gobo wheels, there is plenty of room for additional advertising.

And who wouldn't want to buy space on the "ultimate mega-rig of all time"?

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