Part of the LA-based Full Flood collective of lighting designers, Matthew Firestone has been responsible for illuminating the National Christmas Tree, set in front of the White House, for the past three years.
While this year the 50ft high tree twinkled in amber and warm white, along with the various state territory lights, the performance stages featured a series of guest artists, along with GLP’s new and versatile X4 Atom.
Each year America’s first family attends the event, and following a countdown, the President throws the switch to begin the show, which was this year hosted by Reese Witherspoon.
In order to light the entire area, including the host stage, located in front of the tree and the White House, the performance stage, housing an orchestra from a different armed forces each year, along with an audience of around 12,000, a large inventory of fixtures was sourced from PRG. This included a quantity of GLP’s new X4 Atom fixtures … and production was fortunate indeed that they are IP65-rated.
“Rain and weather always create issues for us,” states Matt. “This year it pretty much rained every day except the day of show, which created problems finding time to get equipment focused and then covered again in anticipation of the coming rain.”
But once he had been treated to a demo of the new Atom fixtures he was sold. “I realized that the dire weather conditions was one thing I wouldn’t have to worry about with these fixtures. The compact size was a further bonus.”
Matt Firestone was able to make use of a bright, 15W RGBW quad color light source and 9 to 1 zoom ratio that goes from a wide 34° wash down to a tight 3.5° beam. “The zoom range was just amazing,” he praised. “I was also impressed with the color range of the X4, that can be used for both effects and static looks — and the fact that they are weather-rated makes the product very viable.”
The 12 Atoms were placed around the National Tree as little points of light for both wide shots and close-ups.
“For TV we sometimes create point sources from lights — little hits of colored accent light which we call ‘hokum’,” he explained. “With its amazing zoom control, the Atoms are a great way of adding ‘hokum’ to a show at minimal price point. Using them in that fashion worked very well for us.”
Matt Firestone also dipped into GLP’s standard impression X4 inventory, having now replaced conventional wash luminaires with around 40 of the X4. “This drastically cuts down the amount of dimming and cabling required,” he states. The impression X4 was thus deployed as a primary wash light for both the main and host stages, as well as backlighting on the audience.
Matt Shimamoto, who was worked with Matt Firestone on the project for the past three years, handled programming duties on a grandMA2 while the latter called the show from a TV truck set in the production compound.
The evening itself ended with a Holiday message from the President, and a sing-along with Santa.