"The Casino" Pays Off
Published Monday, June 7, 2004

When the new reality series "The Casino" premieres June 14 on FOX, the lighting design of Alex Ares will be on display before millions of viewers. Using a VARI*LITE® automated lighting package, Ares created the lighting for featured performers and numerous additional scenes that took place in the showroom of the Golden Nugget casino, where the series was filmed. 

The automated lighting rig, which consists of 12 VL2000™ Wash luminaires and 10 VL2000™ Spot fixtures has been installed at the 450-seat Golden Nugget showroom for about a year. Although the fixtures are used nightly for casino entertainment, this was the first time Ares used the fixtures to light events that would later be televised.

The VARI*LITE Series 2000™ fixtures were originally installed because the ceiling in the showroom is low - ranging from 12 to 14 feet - and Ares needed fixtures that were small, yet had a powerful zoom range. Eight of the wash units are in the air above the stage, two are on the deck and two are positioned in the house. Six of the spot units are in the air and four are placed in the house.

"Here in the hotel, they are more concerned with creating a design that looks good for the live audience, but the TV producers wanted a look that would translate good on film," explained Ares, the in-house head of lighting at the Golden Nugget. "The challenge when you're trying to please two different audiences is to find a happy medium."

The fact that "The Casino" is the first network reality series to be filmed in HDTV gave Ares a bit of relief and eliminated the need for extensive color changes and color correction.

"I'd never done television before, so it was new to me how the colors would change from what you see with the naked eye to what you see on the television monitor," Ares said. "HDTV format gives you almost the color that you see live, so that was sweet."

"The Casino" follows the daily lives of Golden Nugget owners Tom Brietling and Tim Poster, the entrepreneurs who founded Travelscape.com and later became multi-millionaires when they sold it to Expedia a few years later. The duo used part of their fortune to purchase the Golden Nugget. "The Casino" was created by Mark Burnett (Survivor).

"What FOX did was throw event after event at us," Ares explained. "They were making up events as the filming went along, so it was kind of crazy for a few months."

In addition to following the activities of Brietling and Poster, "The Casino" also features footage from Tony Bennett, Jewel and Barenaked Ladies, to name a few artists who performed at the Golden Nugget during the four-month long filming process. The 13-episode series also follows the rags-to-riches journey of Matt Dusk, who started out working in a restaurant at the Golden Nugget with dreams of becoming a star.

And hoping to someday perform under Ares' VARI*LITE created designs.

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