Vibrant Design's Christopher Landy gave a contemporary, lower Manhattan loft look to the lighting design for MTV's new ""It's On With Alexa Chung" which airs at weekdays at noon. The pop culture show, hosted by the British model of the same name, mixes celebrity talk and music with online interaction with viewers. MTV has partnered with Facebook on the series and uses Facebook and Twitter to reach young viewers.
No stranger to MTV: Landy lit an estimated 1,000 episodes of the network's hit "Total Request Live" (TRL) over its 10-year run and was an integral part of the growth of it's Times Square Studio, designing everything from daily shows, interviews, to Unplugged's and New Year's Eve.
Even though "It's On With Alexa Chung" originates from the studios that once played host to TRL, the network didn't want the new show to look like TRL. "It had to be distinctly fresh and carry a unique look," says Landy who teamed with production designer Tom Lenz on the project. "We initially scouted an actual loft space on the lower West Side of Manhattan overlooking New Jersey. So we brought a lot of those concepts into the studio where we did the last January."
Lighting "It's On With Alexa Chung" represents something of a departure for Landy who's known for his use of moving lights and saturated color. "When I started on TRL there was not a lot of colored light. Times Square was the set and the color was inherent through the windows. The studio was lit entirely with Daylight HMI's attempting to compete with the sun. Over the years we progressed to an impressive moving light package and a substantial use of color. We made a clear decision that 'Alexa' to take a much more cinematic approach. Allowing a very realistic setting, without unnecessary cues or unmotivated color.
Landy & Lenz worked closely to create motivated sources of light throughout the set. The studio is covered with thick beams and enormous skylights to fill the room with sunlight. There is a wall of light that radiates from a large angled loft window off to one side. "There are literally banks and banks of Kinos in the air," states Landy. "Tom and I set out to create a believable environment within the studio, paying strict attention to angle of light, shadow and our use of color. The color had to be inherent to the set."
Landy was faced with a challenge in lighting the set's intimate performance area. "I pointed out early on that if we were taking a realistic approach for the show, we need to approach the performances in the same manner," he explains. "This is Alexa's loft, no moving lights, no LED's, no concert rig." To accommodate live performances Landy tapped old theatrical studio units on stands and a few small PAR cans which are visible as part of the performance space. "It's not unlike the complement of a dozen or so lights you might find in a club," he notes. "By using focus and adding a little color in those 10 lights you can come up with some dynamic looks which make it more about the music and less about a lighting extravaganza." Working with Landy's decidedly limited set of tools toolset the lighting director can create an array of different looks for bands and artists performing on a day-to-day basis.
Although MTV's Times Square Studios has its own complement of conventional lights, Landy obtained an extensive package of Kino Flos from Scharff Weisberg. "John Healy at Scharff Weisberg was like a member of my team," he says. "He's great at getting me the most cost-effective and versatile lights."
Landy was assisted by his associate Matthew Piercy and gaffer Jerry Grant for "It's On With Alexa Chung." Corin Nelson and Shawn Witt produce the show for MTV.
About Vibrant Design
Vibrant Design, LLC is an entertainment design firm providing a full range of set and lighting design services to broadcast and cable TV, live productions, corporate events and theater as well as architecture and interior design. For more information, www.vibrantdesign.tv.