When two of music’s most iconic bands prepared to embark on their 38-city North American co-headlining tour, the design teams behind Journey and Steve Miller Band had to find the best way to support the unique style of each group. With the challenge of sharing the same rig, lighting designer Kevin “Deuce” Christopher had to decide which automated luminaires would provide the most flexibility as the main lighting instruments for both show designs. Working with Tour Tech East, he chose 38 VL3500 Wash and 25 VL3000 Spot luminaires from Philips Vari-Lite to be the lighting backbone for the complete tour.
“In the design for the Journey tour, we have a large video wall that we treat as a surface for I-MAG, so I knew we needed automated lighting that could punch through the intensity of the video wall,” began Christopher. “During the design process, we looked at several luminaires for the job, but at the end of the day, we found that the power, performance and reliability of the VL3500 Wash and VL3000 Spot luminaires were second to none.”
“For the Steve Miller Band portion of the tour, we really wanted a hard and psychedelic look in a theatrical setting,” added Andrew Richter, Steve Miller Band lighting designer. “Whenever you have two acts that are trying to meld what they do, you really have to sit down and define what you want to use as your workhorse and effects fixtures. I was thrilled when I heard that Kevin had chosen the VL3500 Wash and VL3000 Spot luminaires and I knew they would be the right choices for both our designs.”
As the two designers got to work on their lighting designs, Christopher turned to his trusted relationship with industry veteran Tracey Ploss and brought Tour Tech East on board to supply the Vari-Lite luminaires.
Christopher continued, “Our previous tour vendor was Epic Production Technologies and since we have maintained our relationship with Tracey over the years it made sense to go with Tour Tech East as the vendor for this tour. They have an impressive operation in Halifax and they are very organized with well-maintained gear.”
Richter agreed, “While this is my first time working with Tracey and Tour Tech East, their crew is phenomenal and their gear is top-notch.”
After the lighting gear and vendor were both in place, Christopher and Richter finished their designs and began working to bring the full production to life with the VL3500 Wash and VL3000 Spot luminaires leading the way.
Christopher explained, “The bulk of the VL3500 Wash luminaires are flown and then I have four on the floor. The main characteristic I use them for is to get a beautiful broad wash on the band, but then I’m also able to get nice graphic effects by tightening up the beam and creating a really narrow look. I love the way you can go from ultra-narrow to super-wide really quickly. This enables me to have a really tight shape on stage and then fly out to hit the audience in a really broad look. I also like how you can get the aperture to spin at different speeds which really adds a whole new layer to the design.”
“I enjoy working with the VL3500 Wash fixtures because I really wanted to create get a big chunk of light and that’s what they provide,” said Richter. “I love their high-output, color consistency and accuracy of recall. With a lot of other fixtures you can’t get the recall that a Vari-Lite gives you. We have a limited time to do our focus updates each night and the Vari-Lite fixtures always recall to the exact same spot. Also, for our rectangular Space Cowboy drop I needed shuttering, but I didn’t want to have to deal with shuttering fixtures. The Buxom lens of the VL3500 Wash gives me a great square beam saving even more time during the set-up.”
With an output that exceeds 70,000 lumens, the VL3500 Wash luminaire features internal zoomable beam optics with either Fresnel or Buxom options, an interchangeable front lens system, and an aperture wheel, while also providing CYM color mixing, variable CTO color temperature correction, dual five-position color wheels, a separate dimmer, and an independent dual blade strobe mechanism. Along with its zoomable optics system, the VARI*BRITE mode allows the luminaire to create a tight column of remarkably intense light.
“I like to use the VL3000 Spots for their front specials and back specials,” commented Christopher. “Their gobo projections provide wonderful textures on stage, but then I can pull the gobo out and tighten their beams for additional graphic looks. The VL3000 Spot is bright and the optics allow you to get the exact special you want. You really only need a few of them to give you the texture needed on stage and you can use the rest for aerial graphics, plus they are very reliable.”
“Steve despises followspots,” explained Richter. “Because of this, we have to light him with a high side profile fixture and that’s where the VL3000 Spot comes in for me. I like to use them for large audience sweeps and the multi-color gobo effect they provide on ‘The Joker" helps create a classic jester look for the band. Also, the VL3000 Spots have a wonderfully consistent color temperature which is important for the artists in relation to their video projection.”
The VL3000 Spot luminaire features CYM color mixing, variable CTO color temperature correction, a six-position color wheel, three gobo/effects wheels, a beam size iris and separate dimmer and ultra-fast strobe mechanisms. With its 20,000 lumens of output and 6:1 zoom optics, the VL3000 Spot is an industry favorite that has set the standard for imagery, beam control, color and brightness in automated spot luminaires.
“We really wanted to go with a different look for this tour and the video portion created a much bigger look over anything we have done in the past,” Christopher admitted. “In the end, it was the pure power of the VL3500 Wash and VL3000 Spot luminaires against the large video elements that really solidified in my mind that Vari-Lite was the right choice as the backbone of our automated lighting.”
Richter concluded, “The music of both tours really takes audience members back to an earlier time in their lives and lighting-wise this is a high-energy type of tour. Vari-Lite fixtures seem to be the most reliable, high-output, color consistent fixtures on the market. This is a big, solid show from both sides and it’s the VL3500 Wash and VL3000 Spot luminaires that give us those big solid looks.”
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.