Since 1998, Train has been at the forefront of the pop/rock industry with multi-platinum records and several Top 40 hits. Now at the conclusion of the California 37 Tour, the San Francisco-based band has been selling out venues of all sizes across the world. To make sure the show was unlike any the band had produced before, Lighting Designer Brock Hogan had the opportunity to create their largest rig to date and he filled it with VL3500 Wash FX, VLX Wash, VLX3 Wash, and VL3000 Spot Luminaires. Lighting and LED equipment was provided by LMG Touring.
“This is was my fifth tour with Train and I was brought in a little later than usual in the production process, so we were very short in time,” began Hogan. “They gave me complete freedom to design what I wanted and to set the tone for the content of video for the overall look for the show. With my automated fixtures I would definitely need something powerful, to cut through the video wall and I have always been a fan of VARI-LITE luminaires. In working with LMG’s inventory, they are very well stocked with VARI-LITE fixtures and since we wanted to bring a big rock-show look to the tour, it was sort of a no-brainer.”
“This is our sixth tour with Train and the big difference this time was the size of the rig,” added Craig Mitchell, national sales manager at LMG. “VARI-LITE luminaires have always been very reliable for us, and they are very high-quality and in-demand fixtures. As a vendor you want to have fixtures in your inventory that people want and need, and that is what happens with VARI-LITE luminaires.”
As Hogan got started working with LMG Touring, they both knew that one of the main challenges in the design would be making the large, rock-n-roll rig not only powerful enough to illuminate the large stadiums on the way, but to also scale down to smaller arena venues as well. So not only would the fixtures chosen have to be powerful, they would also have to flexible in their design capabilities.
Mitchell continued, “The challenge this time was to fit the large rig into some of the venues, so they had to have a rig that could scale down but still be enough to carry the show. Brock is very good at this because of his well-rounded lighting crew background and this allows him to see how the rig will fit into each venue, how it will travel, and how it can cable most effectively.”
“The only portion of the production that was in place before I came onboard was the set design with the circle configuration of the risers and then the concept of having a large LED screen in the front of it,” added Hogan. “Other than that, I was given complete freedom which was good because I got to pick all the particular fixtures that I wanted to use. The one aspect that you always have to keep in mind is what is the smallest venue and the largest venue we will play, and then what can I design that will accommodate the majority if the spaces so that we can utilize as much of the rig as possible.”
Getting started in placing the exact automated lighting fixtures he wanted into the flexible design, Hogan and Mitchell began by looking at the LMG stock of VARI-LITE luminaires, and that led them to utilize 12 VL3500 Wash FX, 6 VLX Wash, 18 VLX3 Wash, and 24 VL3000 Spot luminaires.
Hogan commented, “Last year I went down to Dallas with LMG and saw a demo of the VLX3 Wash and I thought they were amazing. Then when I learned that you could also have individual LED Engine control, I definitely wanted to use them quite a bit on this tour. So I placed all 18 of them overhead with six per truss equally spread across to mirror the VL3000 Spots. For a spot fixture, the VL3000 Spot is an easy choice because if the quality of the gobos and the consistent color mixing across the fixtures. Since we wanted to have the big, rock show feel with this tour, I had to have them. I then use the VLX Wash for my downstage wash and they work beautifully. They have beautiful color mixing and their dimming capabilities are phenomenal. Finally, the VL3500 Wash FX fixtures are used on an upstage ground row to give me nice, tight beam of overhead shots with a few gobo breakups, but I mostly use them for their nice and tight beam and the look great.”
Mitchell added, “When we introduced Brock to the VLX3 Wash down in Dallas, he saw the potential of the fixture right away, and in this show he is using the individual cell control very effectively. By not being afraid to get in there and do the programming to make it happen, he is beautifully taking full advantage of the fixtures. I am very impressed with the VLX3 Wash color temperature range and its ability to match tungsten fixtures, plus I think the individual LED engine control has huge potential in many applications. It can actually create movement in a rig without the light even moving. The VLX Wash has been a very reliable light for us, and the VLX3 Wash is definitely following in its footsteps.”
Hogan admitted, “I have been loyal to LMG Touring over the years as they always support us perfectly and are simply amazing. I know that if there are any issues that come up, they are on top of it, and the crew they provided was outstanding with Lighting Crew Chiefs Tony Dorman and Mark Donahue. They all do fantastic work, and LMG always takes care of me.”
“Brock is great to work with,” responded Mitchell. “We have worked with him not only on Train but with other tours as well and he is very creative and an extremely hard worker. He is not afraid to put in the hours on the programming side to get the rig looking perfect and I really like his choice of color palette. He is constantly growing as an LD and is always challenging us to come up with something bigger and better than before.”
So as the California 37 Tour drew to a close, Hogan and Mitchell were not only complimentary of each other, but they also raved about the performance of the VARI-LITE luminaires, especially the performance of the VLX 3 Wash.
“This really was a true rock-n-roll show and we could not have made this look without using VARI-LITE luminaires,” said Hogan. “The fixture I was impressed with the most was the VLX3 Wash because its output is amazing and the zoom range gives you the ability to have either a tight beam or a wide, even wash. Even with the power of the LED video wall in the background, I was still able to get their beams to cut right through it.”
Mitchell concluded, “The challenge with supplying a tour with LED video walls is that they can usually blowout the lighting. You have to have fixtures that can punch through, and that’s where the VARI-LITE fixtures are head and shoulders above the rest. With the VLX3 Wash, we’ve had several comments from other designers as well that are surprised a 3-cell fixture is able to cut through, but with VARI-LITE power and performance, they are able to make it happen.”
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. www.vari-lite.com.