More than 50 GLP impression X4 LED moving heads made a recent TV appearance on ‘Legends: OWN at the Apollo’, a four-part prime-time special featuring icons such as Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, The Isley Brothers and Earth, Wind & Fire.
Created and produced by Ron Weisner Entertainment for the Oprah Winfrey Network, the programs transported viewers to the Apollo Theater in Harlem for four nights of classic soul music as well as personal thoughts on how this historic and world famous theater has helped nurture and develop their careers.
From a technical perspective the event brought together the respective lighting skills of Matt Shimamoto (Volt Lites) and Mark Butts — both highly experienced in handling TV productions of this nature. With Shimamoto taking design duties and Butts overseeing the programming and operation, the brief was to create a rich and tasteful design.
“Production required something that was dynamic, but that didn’t overwhelm the performers. As we were working with music icons in a theater with a huge amount of history, we needed to be sensitive to that, but still provide something dramatic that translated to TV,” explained Butts, This enabled the two men to create a warm environment that showcased the essence of the Apollo with a rig that remained largely constant, barring some changes to the floor packages.
However, the short time span available to prep the show certainly tested the two designers. “I was fortunate that Mark had a window available in his busy schedule to collaborate,” stated Matt Shimamoto. “I relied on him to come up with the looks for each song and cue out the show.” In addition, Butts also had to run video — no easy task with the tight schedule precluding the opportunity for a full run through.
He explained, “The design started with the Down Stage Picture Frame comprising 7mm LED. That would be the iconic piece that would tie each act together.
“Playing off of that I used [Cosmic Truss] U-Torms to cascade light down from the grid to the floor. The Apollo is a very intimate space so I tried to draw the eye up as much as possible to help create the look of a bigger rig. We had to burn most of the top balcony to cheat in as much front light as possible to combat the large number of musicians onstage.”
In a careful selection of mission critical fixtures, the GLP impression X4 played an important role. “I love using the X4 as my base for any design,” he continued. “It’s so easy to design and program. With a multitude of beam and color looks the X4 is incredibly versatile — also, the clean and minimalistic housing looks great on camera along with its unique front lens that adds another element of eye candy to the camera.”
LED’s often pose threats on camera because of color and flickering issues, he continued. “I tend to bump up the white chip in all my primary colors to help with the over saturation and blooming. As to the flickering you never know what you’re going to get until you are on Camera. To combat this I have all cameras pointed towards the X4’s — these we put in a deep saturated blue and start to role in the PWM adjust.
“It takes a matter of seconds and once we are all signed off we update the preset and we are good to go. This is highly useful and a huge selling point for the brand.”
Mark Butts agrees, “For TV work, flicker free, flat fields, and uniform color across fixtures are vital. The X4’s are excellent in all respects; they have some fun internal macros that I used in a few spots, they are easy to get working and have cool dynamic looks.”
Also supplied by GLP Inc, the Cosmic Truss U-Torm was another wise investment for the production team. “The ease of use of this system was the saving factor in making this very fast load-in come together,” considered Matt Shimamoto. “Our Gaffer, Mike Grimes, and the rest of the team had built sections of the U-Torm outside the venue while rigging was putting up points. Once the truss and motors were ready to receive the U-Torms it was a matter of pinning the units together and running power and data which was already loomed from the prep.”
Mark Butts also used the U-Torms for a Juanes tour this spring, stating: “It’s a really great system. Anything we can do to pre-rig lighting and deploy gear quickly has my support.”
The Legends TV series proved again that LED heads such as GLP’s impression X4 series, have come of age. “Now that we have fixtures like this with a uniform face, which don’t show the individual color pixels, I find great use for LEDs, especially when working in older spaces,” continued Butts. “There are always weight and power consumption considerations, but the LED sources help address many of those.”
And as far as the Apollo Theater shows were concerned both lighting specialists can reflect on an overwhelming success.