Production Manager Craig Ahneman solves all his lighting needs with an all Vari-Lite rig
Published Thursday, October 17, 2013
by Philips Vari-Lite

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As one of the largest music festivals held in Colorado, the annual Country Jam features four days of performances by some country music‘s hottest stars. With a 2013 festival headlined by Montgomery Gentry, Miranda Lambert, Kid Rock and Rascal Flatts, the event once again lived up to its reputation as one of the premier festivals in country music. But before the award-winning artists could take the stage, it was longtime festival provider StagePro who oversaw the creation of all the production elements which included an all Vari-Lite automated lighting rig complete with 12 VL3015LT Spot, 16 VL3500 Wash FX, 16 VLX Wash, six VL880 Spot, and 16 VL3000 Spot Luminaires.

“This was a festival rig which was not designed for any one specific band,” began Craig Ahneman, StagePro Production Manager. “As a full service production company, the one thing we fought for on the project was to design a true festival rig where the bands would not need to hang any of their tour lighting since that would cause an indeterminate weight to be placed on the overhead truss every day. When you are requesting that artists leave their rigs in the trucks, you have to have top-of-the-line equipment and this is why we went with an all Vari-Lite automated lighting rig.”

With a total of 22 different artists scheduled to appear at the festival, StagePro understood the need to create a diverse lighting rig to fulfill all the various design needs. Conversely, since they have been working with Country Jam for a number of years, they also knew there were common lighting elements often seen with each artist.

Ahneman continued, “We have done the Country Jam festival for the past 21 years and what we have seen year-after-year was Vari-Lite products coming off the trucks. So in putting this year’s rig together, we first looked at our headliners, what their touring rigs were, how they were laid out, and then we conducted a conference call with the lighting designers to go over the rig we wanted to put up. In the end, we came up with the all Vari-Lite automated rig that everyone agreed upon and was excited to work with.”

With the lighting plot now finalized, Ahneman and the StagePro crew got busy putting together the comprehensive rig which could create a variety of looks for the multitude of artists using them. While each product would have a specific purpose within the design, they all also had to offer other capabilities which could be called upon on demand, plus offer consistent color-matching, which was no problem for the VL3015LT Spot, VL3500 Wash FX, VLX Wash, VL880 Spot and VL3000 Spot luminaires.

He explained further, “Our biggest concern when putting the rig together was consistent color-matching across all the automated luminaires, but what we have found over the years is that Vari-Lite products have impeccable color and optics systems that are second to no other manufacturer. Plus all their lights are extremely versatile allowing you to get so much out of one light which is why we decided to go with the VL3015LT Spot in the rig because we could get the effect of their super tight and strong beams, but still have the wide zoom and horse power of a 1500W lamp whenever we wanted it. With the VL3500 Wash FX luminaires we used them mainly for their wash and gobo effects, but some LD’s used them for their tight columns of light as well. The VLX Wash fixtures eliminated our need for Par Can’s and gave us a great front wash light with virtually any deep and rich LED color available whenever we needed it. We then used the VL3000 and VL880 Spots as our key band lights, but then also for any special accents that we needed for any individual artist, eliminating the need for any other lights for gobo effects.”

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Using a highly reliable 1500W double-ended short arc lamp to produce 41,487 lumens of output, the VL3015LT Spot features 10:1 zoom optics, CYM color mixing, variable CTO wheel, two five-position color wheels, three gobo/effects wheels, a beam size iris, and separate dimmer and ultra-fast strobe mechanisms. The zoom range of 6° to 60° allows for use in a multitude of applications from stadiums to arenas or theatres.

With an output that exceeds 70,000 lumens, the VL3500 Wash FX luminaire features internal zoomable beam optics with either Fresnel or Buxom options, an interchangeable front lens system, and a pattern wheel that allows users to harness the tremendous intensity of the luminaire to project effects patterns making it one of the most versatile wash luminaires available today.

The VLX Wash luminaire incorporates the most attractive benefits of LED lighting technology with the product quality only found in Vari-Lite automated luminaires. The internal beam homogenization system creates rich and smooth color mixing, plus the VLX Wash also allows for operation of all seven light engines as one, or for completely independent control of each. With stunning colors, powerful intensity, a multi-year source life, and low energy consumption, the VLX Wash is a remarkable LED automated luminaire.

The VL880 Spot utilizes an 800-watt MSR Platinum 35 lamp to produce 19,000 lumens of output, plus it has a zoom range from 15º to 36º, a mechanical iris for continuous beam control, and brilliant color mixing through its three-wheel CYM color assembly. When combined with the eight standard colors on a fixed wheel, the color options of the VL880 Spot are practically limitless.

The VL3000 Spot luminaire features CYM color mixing, variable CTO color temperature correction, a six-position color wheel, three gobo/effects wheels, a beam size iris and separate dimmer and ultra-fast strobe mechanisms. With its 20,000 lumens of output and 6:1 zoom optics, the VL3000 Spot is an industry favorite that has set the standard for imagery, beam control, color and brightness in automated spot luminaires.

Ahneman concluded, “This show was a true group effort with our lighting technicians AJ Avery and Cole Crockett working tirelessly to get the rig in the air and programmed. They did a great job in helping me put together a rig that could literally handle the needs of any type of song. Whether it was a dark and moody piano ballad with gobos and deep color saturation, or an upbeat song that called for vibrant colors and powerful intensity, none of the Vari-Lite fixtures are a one-trick pony. When you look at other lights many of them have one thing that they do well, but that’s all they can do. With Vari-Lite luminaires, I can get so many looks from the same set of incredibly versatile fixtures, and that is why we were able to go with an all Vari-Lite automated lighting rig.”

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