The VL1000™ Luminaire– A High School Perspective
Red River High School fires up their new technology
Published Monday, February 6, 2006
by Bryan Matthews

In November 2005, Red River High School in Grand Forks, North Dakota, turned on their new VL1000™ automated luminaire that they received as part of a Stage Directions Magazine Technical Theatre Grant. Vari-Lite recently sat down with Josh Anderson, Red River Technical Theatre Director, and Mike Brown, Red River Technical Theatre Student, to hear their thoughts on the VL1000. With two productions now under their belt, while utilizing the automated ellipsoidal reflector spotlight, faculty and students alike are thrilled to have the fixture in their possession.

"We replaced a 40-year old dimming and controls system consisting of 48 analog dimmers and control desk, with a new dimmer rack, control console, the VL1000 automated luminaire, and a few conventional fixtures," stated Anderson. "Just turning on the VL1000 was impressive. The CYM color-mixing, gobos, brightness, and zoom capabilities are all amazing."

"When I first thought of utilizing the moving light, I instantly thought of flashy fast paced lighting for rock musicals and not much else," said Brown. "But I actually end up using it more for slow scenes where I need the feeling of the show to change, more than the flashy rock-n-roll aspect of it."

In a normal school year, the Red River Performing Arts program will produce three mainstage productions; two musicals, and one play. The performing arts program will also tour to the area elementary schools, host a Tuesday night student comedy troupe, produce a senior directed program, and all the theatre classes will direct and tech a series of one-act productions. During the summer, Red River High School hosts the Summer Performing Arts (SPA). SPA is a summer stock atmosphere where the students oversee the entire production from start to finish. To date, the VL1000TS™ luminaire has been used in The Fantastiks and the holiday production of Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

The VARI*LITE® VL1000TS™ ERS automated luminaire combines the functionality of one of the most popular conventional lighting tools - the ellipsoidal reflector spotlight - with the versatility of an automated luminaire. Acting as a spot or wash fixture, the automated functions include CYM color mixing, rotating gobos, variable diffusion, and a zoom lens that ranges from 19° to 36° for normal imaging and a super zoom function that ranges to 70°. The VL1000TS contains a 1000W-tungsten halogen lamp, and includes an automated four-blade shutter mechanism that provides control of the shutter functions popular in conventional ellipsoidal reflector spotlights.

"In the production of the Fantastiks, we mounted the VL1000 below the first catwalk in house center where it could cover the entire stage, or zoom in for a tight spot," continued Anderson. "The VL1000 was used for our spot light and our front wash lighting. It’s very nice to have the capabilities for any application as a spot or a wash fixture."

Anderson went on to state, "In Best Christmas Pageant Ever we did a cool effect when the Mary character realizes the magnitude of the moment. We used the VL1000 as a special on her with a cold gel and a hard focus. Then in a 45-second scene, we moved to a warm gel with a soft focus. In the Fire Scene, we did a crazy chase sequence all over the theatre with red and yellow gels. Audience members were looking up in amazement. We couldn’t have done that with any other light."

As with many high school theatre programs, the students play a significant role in the productions. The technical crew for each production was now able to accomplish lighting effects that Red River had not previously seen, and it was up to the students to make them come to life.

Brown continued, "When I first started using the VL1000, I felt like a kid in a candy store. Anything I can think up, I can do. The only limitation I've run into is that I don't want to use the light too much because it loses its ‘specialness’. I often have to hold myself back from putting it into every cue. My expectations of the VL1000 were quickly met and exceeded by the reality of the instrument. When I used the VL1000, anything became possible."

"The students are having a blast working with the light for hours at a time," stated Anderson. "It was greatly appreciated within the first week of its arrival. One day the students used the light for six hours, requesting to play with the light instead of just watching it in action. As one student would be onstage, one would be in the booth and they had a ball simply practicing chase scenes. They were all amazed at how easy it was to program."

With the numerous automated lighting products on the market that are available to Educational Theatre programs, the VL1000 has continued to set itself apart.

Brown went on to state, "I enjoy the CYM color mixing attributes the most, hands down! The VL1000's ability to mix color has made many normal light cues turn into aesthetic experiences during a show. Setting the VL1000 to change color slowly over a length of time while a scene goes on, or during a quiet emotional part of the show, can add to the emotional impact of the scene. I don't have to deal with dichroic color wheels that don't match the gels I already have hanging, I can just mix it until its perfect, cue after cue after cue."

The lighting needs for High School theatre programs will differ from those of a professional theatre, and the automated luminaire must be able to address those specific needs.

"The VL1000 has made cueing shows and designing them so much fun that I don't want to stop. I now continue to add cues up until closing night; adding to the living, breathing nature of the theatre," Brown said enthusiastically. "Sure, conventional lights are fun, and my high school was able to make professional looking shows on dated equipment, but the VL1000 really made me feel like a artist. Anything I can think of I can do, quickly and easily, without any limitations. And that is the best feeling in the world when cueing a show; no problems, no worries, and no limitations."

As students look to make a career in the theatre, they must make a decision on which avenue to pursue. At Red River High School, the VL1000 is helping students to discover the technical side of theatrical productions.

"The VL1000 is not just a light used for shows, it's also a way to give students who wouldn’t normally be involved in the arts, a feeling that they can create art," said Brown. "The VL1000 makes it fun, easy, and a memorable experience. I love spending time at school with the younger students on the crew teaching them about the VL1000 and having them come up with their own ideas and cues. Many students comment that when they don't get cast in a show, and then they do tech, they don't want to go back to being an actor. The ‘techie’ atmosphere is fun when you get to use the latest and greatest technology."

Anderson concluded, "The students have really enjoyed the light and it is helping to open their eyes about all that there is in technical theatre and lighting design. It is showing them that there is much more they can actually do."

And Brown added, "After working with just one VARI*LITE, I want to work with more of them."

Send this page to a friend