LD Matt Firestone leans on the reliability and power of Vari-Lite luminaires for 50th Anniversary celebration of The Beatles
Published Monday, May 12, 2014
by Philips Vari-Lite

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the groundbreaking appearance of The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show”, The Recording Academy®, AEG Ehrlich Ventures and CBS presented The Beatles: The Night That Changed America - A GRAMMY® Salute. Featuring many of today’s top artists performing songs made famous by the seven-time GRAMMY Award-winning group, the production also included footage from that landmark Sunday evening along with various presenters discussing the worldwide impact of The Beatles. Behind the scenes, it was designer Matt Firestone who was charged with bringing the events lighting to life while working on an extremely tight production schedule; which he did relying on VL3500 Wash, VL3000 Spot and VL3500 Spot luminaires from Philips Vari-Lite.

“For the production, we mainly needed both backlight and a floor package that could compete against the large video walls,” began Firestone. “I wanted to create separation between the flat video screens and the talent, so we used 40 VL3500 Wash luminaires and they did excellent. We also used 19 VL3000 Spots for their powerful aerial beam effects plus six VL3500 Spot luminaires as key lights relying on their shutter capabilities to precisely hit exactly what was needed.”

For the last six years, Firestone has been involved with a GRAMMY Foundation fundraising event for MusiCares, a non-profit foundation that provides a financial safety for music industry personnel, which runs concurrent with the annual GRAMMY Awards. This year on the back end of that event, producers also wanted to present the televised tribute to The Beatles and so Firestone and his team were asked to reconfigure the lighting rig and be prepared to roll cameras in less than two days.

Firestone continued, “The biggest challenge was the time that we had to complete the full turn around, so we had to keep it simple yet entertaining. We had to know going in what lights were going to be the best to use for which applications for the sake of speed. For the new set up we moved a lot of the Vari-Lite fixtures that were in the air for the MusiCares event down to the ground to get the big cross shots of front light that I wanted in front of the large video screens which were brought in specifically for the tribute to The Beatles.”

With an output that exceeds 70,000 lumens, the VL3500 Wash luminaire features internal zoomable beam optics with either Fresnel or Buxom options, an interchangeable front lens system, and an aperture wheel, while also providing CYM color mixing, variable CTO color temperature correction, dual five-position color wheels, a separate dimmer, and an independent dual blade strobe mechanism. Along with its zoomable optics system, the VARI*BRITE mode allows the luminaire to create a tight column of remarkably intense light.

“I come from the background of a Vari-Lite programmer and technician so I have always been an advocate for Vari-Lite products. I believe that their color rendering on television is far superior to other products on the market and the VL3000 Spot luminaire has always been a fixture I could count on in these situations.”

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.

“I like the VL3500 Spot fixtures because they have the ability to zoom out to cover a large area without losing any color or power, but then at the same time you can bring them down narrow and use the shutters for the ideal key light. Their flexibility was a tremendous asset to our lighting rig.”

The VL3500 Spot luminaire maintains the same high standards set by the VL3000 Spot luminaire, but with the added feature of a four-blade shutter mechanism that allows the blades to be operated independently or in unison on two planes for a clear and crisp image. The VL3500 Spot luminaire also features a 6:1 zoom optics, CYM color mixing, variable CTO color temperature correction, a six-position color wheel, two gobo/effects wheels, a shutter and separate dimmer and ultra-fast strobe mechanisms.

“We relied heavily on the Vari-Lite fixtures and they were very reliable,” concluded Firestone. “As terrific workhorses in this type of television environment when we have little time, the color temperatures are very consistent between fixtures and they are my go-to lights because I know exactly what to expect and there are never any drawbacks to using Vari-Lite luminaires.”

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