Few rock bands can say they have been touring to sold-out crowds across five decades, but Journey can. Since first forming in 1973, the group has produced 19 Top 40 singles and 25 Gold and Platinum albums. So when launching their 2011 tour in Phoenix, AZ, lighting designer Kevin “Deuce” Christopher was tasked with putting together a powerful and expansive design that could enhance the music while creating a variety of looks. To do so, Christopher turned to longtime tour provider Epic Production Technologies who supplied him with VARI*LITE automated luminaires.
“I initially joined Journey as their lighting designer in the summer of 2004,” began Christopher. “When I put a lighting design together, I like to design in flow with the songs, which for Journey can be anything from up-tempo and powerful, to subtle and dramatic. As a designer, they give me a fantastic free range to create, but they also like to have a lot of variety in their lighting.”
When Christopher and the production team set out to complete the design for the 2011 tour, he knew that video would be a key component. Not wanting to simply use large screens onstage; Christopher came up with a more unique idea.
“In the initial stage design the band wanted to use a video backdrop, but I didn't want to do full video walls for a number of reasons, such as budget restraints and the fact that we have seen large video walls on a number of other tours. So what I did was create 3' x 3' blocks of video that would work more as â€˜eye candy' or as light sources, rather than completely spell out a story or provide a source for I-Mag. To implement them into the lighting, we hung the video blocks on four trusses staggered in height behind the band with the last truss trimming at 12 feet, and we then filled-in the spaces with automated lighting so that we could create a â€˜shell' of light above the band.”
To complete the “staggered video cube concept”, Christopher also added a series of 6' x 6' video displays upstage in place of the back line to complete the set continuing his theme of lighting opposing video. So now needing to fill the spaces between the video blocks, he began looking at what would be needed from the automated instruments chosen. Since the lights would be placed side-by-side to the video, brightness was essential, but he also needed a variety of characteristics to complement the variety of songs. In the end, Christopher decided to use 44 VL3500 Wash and 28 VL3000 Spot luminaires from Philips Vari-Lite, supplied by Epic Production Technologies.
“In placing the key lighting elements of the design side-by-side to the key video elements, we knew that brightness would be a high priority. If the lighting can't compete with the intensity of the video the band will get washed out and the design will lose all its impact. Plus, we would also need a sharp edge so the audience can see the gobo breakups in the air and on stage as well. The fixtures would be used for different layers of back light and front light, plus aerial and stage specials. So when I put all of this together, I knew we had to go with VARI*LITE luminaires. Having toured with VARI*LITE in the past I also knew they could easily handle the rigors of the road, and that's why I chose VL3500 Wash and VL3000 Spot luminaires.”
With his lights now chosen, Christopher and the production team moved onto the load-in and programming. After placing 40 of the VL3500 Wash and all 28 of the VL3000 Spot luminaires directly onto the truss system, with the remaining four VL3500 Wash fixtures directly on the stage, the design was complete and the VARI*LITE luminaires began performing exactly as Christopher had envisioned.
“In this design we basically utilize all the attributes of each instrument, taking advantage of their brightness and reliability of optics. With the VL3500 Wash, in the VARI*BRITE mode, you can create a beautiful, rich beam column, or you can zoom out for a great wash that easily covers the stage but is still powerful enough to light the band. Then the VL3000 Spot gave us the power needed to have sharp gobo breakups that could compete against the intensity of the video blocks. In other fixtures you might lose the intensity when applying a gobo, but not with the VL3000 Spot. Plus with both fixtures, we get the beautiful VARI*LITE color-mixing, lightning fast strobe, and a very high factor of reliability. To be honest, the VL3500 Wash and VL3000 Spot had everything that this design needed, and their versatility is amazing.”
As a leading designer and manufacturer of premiere automated lighting systems, Philips Vari-Lite provides equipment and services to the entertainment industry, serving such markets as concert touring, theatre, television, film, cruise lines, houses-of-worship, and corporate events. VARI*LITE automated lighting systems are available through a worldwide network of independent professional dealers. For more information, visit www.vari-lite.com.