Christmas at Resurrection
Lighting Designer Travis Slyter utilizes the VL1000TS™ automated luminaire
Published Friday, January 12, 2007
by Bryan Matthews

On December 7, 2006, Travis Slyter opened the production of Christmas at Resurrection at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, KS .  Needing to overcome set, video, and structural challenges, Slyter turned to PRG Nashville for a lighting rig which consisted of 80 VL1000TS™ automated luminaires.

“I’ve been doing production design in churches for over 15 years now, and this is the second year I have done this particular production,” started Slyter.  “What makes this production interesting is that it was a hybrid of a theatrical presentation and a choral/orchestra concert, but with specific requirements such as consistent color temperature for video.”

In Christmas at Resurrection, Slyter needed to be able to light very specific locations to accommodate the acting, orchestra, and choir areas; therefore it was imperative to have a light with shutter capabilities.  With an in-house I-Mag video system as prominent element of the performance, it was crucial to use a tungsten light source to match pre-existing lights.  And due to the design of the sanctuary, Slyter was short on overhead rigging locations, so he needed a light that would not occupy a lot of space.

Slyter continued, “When you are looking at the automated lights on the market, and you need a tungsten unit with shutters, the VL1000TS luminaire is the obvious choice.  And because of the size of the VL1000, I was able to fit our overhead lighting on 12”x12” box truss located inside the seams of the acoustical clouds over stage.  With one light, I could get everything I needed.  That was a definite bonus and simplified programming.”

During the design process, Slyter built a 3-D model of the venue in WYSIWYG software and was able to send renderings of the specific scenes to the directors and receive their feedback.  Slyter went on to state, “When designing this show I first met with the musical director and theatrical director to find out the locations for the key areas of action.  I then began to light these specific areas for both the audience and for the video.  I spoke to the directors once again regarding the mood of each scene, which determined the appropriate color palettes.  Next, I found out about the tempo and pace, which determined the how much ‘wow’ factor to add to the lighting design and how much leeway I had to play with all the moving light attributes.”

The first act of the show was a concert setting which featured the choir and the orchestra.  For this, Slyter chose to utilize bright projections and aerial lighting effects.  In the second act, the production took on a more traditional theatrical setting with the nativity scene.  For this, Slyter chose to use a softer more subtle lighting design.  There were also two overtures and during those numbers the directors gave Slyter a sort of free reign for the design and the effects that he wanted to do.

“There was not much of a set design for the show, so the lighting had to handle the transitions and the overall mood of the production,” said Slyter.  “I try to allow the flow of the story to dictate what I do with the lighting.  In a holiday performance for a house of worship, the atmosphere is really important.  You don’t want the lights to be distracting.”

In the VL1000TS™ automated luminaires, Slyter utilized the color mixing, gobo projections, frost, and shutter capabilities. Slyter added, “I used a lot of the dust break-up gobos along with the rays, leaves, and pinwheel patterns.  For texturing, I used both sharp and out of focus gobo projections. I used the frost a lot for wide washes on the back wall for a nice even wash.  The frost was definitely a plus. Not a lot of fixtures have the frost and the zoom capabilities of a VL1000.  I often used the shutter cuts in conjunction with the gobos and color mixing to create fun shapes for the kid’s portion of the show such as candy canes.”

Load-in for Christmas at the Resurrection took place the week following the Thanksgiving holiday.  Afterwards, he was given one week for on-sight programming, followed by three dress rehearsals, and then it was show time.  Nearly 15,000 people attended the five performances.

As the production came to a close, Slyter was able to reflect upon another job well done.  “I was very happy with the fixtures.  They were very smooth in the movement and transitions, and the color across all the fixtures was even.  Red was red in every fixture, which isn’t always the case with a lot of lights on the market.”

He continued, “The repeatability of the shutter cuts was awesome.  They are hands-down the best shutters that I have used.   We were very pleased with the VL1000 fixtures.  This was the second year we used them, and this year we replaced the entire house conventional rig with the VARI*LITE fixtures. The VL1000 was perfect as it had precise shutters, great frost, incredible color mixing and the color temperature matched what few conventional fixtures we did use for the house aisle lighting and specials.  Since we were using video cameras for I-Mag, color temperature was a very important consideration, and the VL1000TS fit our needs precisely.”

Slyter concluded, “Most importantly, the church was very pleased.  The lighting design was much more than they had anticipated, and they loved being able to get colors and patterns in the front of house locations.  They are already speaking about next year, and that’s a sign of a happy client.”

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