Sarah McLachlan Feels Right at Home with Vari-Lite
Published Monday, July 19, 2004

For those who plan to catch one of Sarah McLachlan's shows on her current North American tour, expect to see a rig full of moving lights. Just don't expect to see a lot of movement - or to be precise, don't expect a lot of unnecessary movement.

Lighting designer Graeme Nicol specified nearly 50 VARI*LITE® automated luminaires for the lighting rig, but the philosophy behind his lighting design is somewhat paradoxical.

"Just because they're moving lights doesn't mean they have to move," Nicol says.

Sticking with that basic fundamental principle, Nicol created a look for the tour that is subtle, casual and sensitive. Instead of taking advantage of the incredibly fast and intense strobe functions, the quick-snap color changing ability or the speedy movement of the VARI*LITE fixtures, Nicol made use of the smooth pan and tilt, the soft color-fade capability and the fixtures' CYM color-mixing system to dial in the precise colors to create an elegant look for an elegant performer.

"There's a bit of movement, but it's not unnecessary movement," Nicol explains. "If there's no point in making the fixture move, I don't do it."

The automated lighting rig consists of 23 VL3000™ Spot luminaires, 12 VL1000™TS ellipsoidal reflector spotlight units and 14 VL5™ fixtures. All of the VARI*LITE luminaires were provided by Q1 Production Technologies in Vancouver. The main truss is a 40-foot diameter semi-circle with a set piece linked to a 10-foot semi-circle. On each downstage corner is a horseshoe-shaped truss.

Eight of the VL3000 Spot luminaires are positioned around the 40-foot main truss. Three VL3000 Spot fixtures are positioned on each of the horseshoe-shaped pieces and the 10-foot semi-circle. Nicol placed the remaining six VL3000 Spot fixtures on the floor across the back of the stage for low-level, shoot-through looks.

The VL1000 ERS units are positioned upfront for front lighting. Although the units are static for the majority of the show, Nicol designed a few specific looks to take advantage of the units' 70-degree "super zoom" feature.

"The VL1000 fixtures are really nice because I can use them as a front wash, but there are also times when I turn just a few of them around and fill the whole arena with light," Nicol explained.

Curing certain songs, Nicol uses the automated, four-blade shutter mechanism of the VL1000 units for complete framing control to light some of the trees and other set pieces on stage. The set itself is very organic, comprised mostly of grass, rock and other "earthy" features. Nicol's design compliments that look and feel.

"Sarah said after the first couple of shows that the set looks like her house because her house has a big tree growing through the middle of her living room," Nicol said.

And with the comfortable, casual atmosphere Nicol was able to create, McLachlan is able to feel right at home every night on stage.

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