Big Dog Daddy Gets A Big Dog Light
Lighting Designer Seth Jackson debuts the VL3500™ Wash Luminaire
Published Thursday, July 12, 2007
by Bryan Matthews

On June 21, 2007, Toby Keith kicked off his "Big Dog Daddy" tour with an energetic lighting and production design by Seth Jackson. To complete his design, Jackson worked with Bandit Lites choosing 18 VL2500™ Spot luminaires, 12 VL3000™ Spot luminaires, and 16 VL3500™ Wash luminaires, the North American debut of the much anticipated wash luminaire from industry leader Vari-Lite.

As the design process for the "Big Dog Daddy" tour began, Jackson was confronted with a different challenge than in years past. For this tour, Keith wanted to move away from the themed sets and wanted to go with a clean, bright, and big lighting design.

"It was a lot of fun to roll this tour out," continued Jackson. "It was a nice shift from the previous years, in which we used a lot of LED and other lighting effects. This year, we wanted to make a simple, yet bright, light show. So I put together five or six broad stroke designs, and then passed them along to the tour production team and allowed them to give a bit of feedback. From there, we began the process of putting everything into a design that all could be happy with."

For his designs, Jackson begins by drawing in 3D Studio Viz where he is able to manipulate the location of trussing, lighting fixtures and accessories. Once he nails down the truss locations, he starts placing the fixtures, beginning with the brightest and working his way back.

"In the design, I was looking for a wash light that was simply big and bright, but the VL3500 Wash wasn't on the scene when I began the process, it was still in pre-production. But then I met with Thommy Hall and found out that the VL3500 Wash would be available before the tour kicked off. I left locations open for them in the design, but we also had other wash fixtures on deck just in case. We received the brand new fixtures on the third day of programming, and right out of the gate they all powered up and everything worked great."

With the lighting design now in place, and all the fixtures received, it was time to finish the programming of the show. Working with Jackson was co-lighting designer Eddie "Bones" Connell. Connell has worked with Toby Keith for 10 years.

"Bones has unbelievable timing and he knows how all the songs breakdown. He knows Toby so well that he and I have the ability to work together very successfully. Bones develops the timing and layouts for each song, and then we place that on top of the design and move quickly. It's just he and I and we move fast. We were able to program a 30 song production in five days, and this is the best tour design that we have done to date. This year the lighting isn't competing with any other visual element and it really shines."

The lighting design for the "Big Dog Daddy" tour consists of a predominately all VARI*LITE® automated lighting rig, and while programming the VL3500 Wash luminaire into the design, they were surprised by a few attributes.

"When we added the new fixtures into the programmed show we were able to add a whole new element. We were able to rethink how we would do everything in the design because the colors are so great and they opened up different layers to the design by adding really deep, bold colors. Because of this, the VL3500 Wash luminaires became the main layer of every look. They literally became the base for the show. Their color saturation and brightness set the tone and identity of each song, and then we used all the other fixtures in the rig to fill on top. And with the horsepower behind them, they can translate just as well outdoors as they do in an arena, which is perfect for this tour."

In explaining the broad appeal of the VL3500 Wash luminaire, Jackson went on to state, "This is going to be a strong fixture for everyone's inventory. The beauty is that you can pull the light wattage back when you need, but then open it up and get that fantastic horsepower when it's time. That power and punch in the same package as the VL3000 Spot allows you to have this design flexibility in large quantities. Combine all that with the two color wheels and beam shaping and it has unlimited flexibility. With this one wash light, you can get everything you need."

To complement the VL3500 Wash luminaires, Jackson needed fixtures that would be able to adhere to specific design and programming requirements. For these he chose the VL2500 Spot and VL3000 Spot luminaires.

"The VL2500 Spot luminaires are being used for their speed and agility. They move so well and so quick, but are still bright enough to hold against the other lights. They have been rock solid. Bones is always looking for the quick moves and their speed allowed him to find those spots in the cues. It's great to have the speed with the great color mixing."

"The VL3000 Spot luminaires are our heavy hard-edge fixtures. I love the width of their beam and the spread they give. With 12 fixtures, we can fill a whole venue. They have a clean hard-edge with the power to slice through the wash lights, and it is the brightest hard-edge light on the market. We replaced all of our hard-edge fixtures from last year and decided to go solely with the VL3000 fixtures."

Jackson concluded, "When I first began my designing career, I was actually a Vari-Lite employee, and it is great to be able to use them again. There is simply nothing better. The colors, optics, and the horsepower are unmatched."

This is Jackson's 5th tour with Toby Keith, and he has also designed for Carrie Underwood, Don Henley, Barry Manilow, Melissa Etheridge, and Hilary Duff.

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