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American DJ and Elation Are Out Of This World At Davidson Center For Space Exploration

American DJ and Elation Are Out Of This World At Davidson Center For Space Exploration

Davidson Center For Space Exploration

HUNTSVILLE, AL – The Davidson Center For Space Exploration in Huntsville, AL is home to the original Saturn V rocket, which launched the Apollo moon missions back in the 1960s. The massive 300 ft. long craft is suspended from above, giving the museum's visitors the opportunity to walk underneath the space vehicle that was ranked as one of the “7 Wonders of America” by Good Morning America. With the 68,200 sq ft. museum also housing a 350-seat auditorium and commercial kitchen, it's no wonder that the Davidson Center has been a popular venue for events of all kinds since it opened in 2008. So when Sutherland Sight and Sound (Sheffield, AL) was called on to provide lighting for a presentation program at Davidson hosted by Oakwood College, the production company wanted to make it a truly cosmic event.

“The college pretty much gave us free rein about how to light their production,” said Josh Johnston of Sutherland Sight and Sound. “The Davidson Center is part of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, where they hold Space Camp. So we wanted the lighting to play on the ‘spacey' theme.” Another consideration was that the production's cost had to be kept within the college's trim budget. Johnston was able to accomplish both missions, thanks to some out-of-this-world fixtures from American DJ and its sister company Elation Professional.

Inside the Davidson Center, the lighting designer used 8 ADJ Mega Bar LED color-changing bars, 2 ADJ Galaxian red and green laser effects, 4 ADJ Par 64 LED Pro par cans and 2 Elation Design Spot 575 moving heads. The par cans and moving lights were hung on trussing from another sister company, Global Truss. An additional 4 ADJ Mega Bar Pros were used to light the outside of the building. The whole production was run with Elation's Compu 2048FC PC-based lighting control software.

Wanting to showcase the museum's main attraction, the Saturn V rocket, Johnston beamed the 2 Galaxians onto it. A “solar system” type laser effect, each Galaxian unit produces over 500 red and green laser patterns, making it ideal for covering the surface of the massive spacecraft. “The Saturn V hangs from the ceiling and we wanted to draw attention to it,” said Johnston. “The Galaxian's awesome shower of beams certainly did that -- even its name is perfect for a fixture used to light a rocket!”

Another fixture that contributed to the outer-space theme was the Elation Design Spot 575, an intelligent 575W CMY color-mixing moving head that's loaded with gobo patterns and effects. One of its built-in gobos resembles the shape of a moon, says Johnston, and the unit also features a 15°-30° linear zoom. “We used the zoom to change the size of the moon gobo pattern,” said Johnston. “One of the reasons we chose the Design Spot 575 was because of the zoom -- when you're in a facility so large, the zoom could make the gobo appear huge. When you're doing a space design, and you've got a moon that goes from being small to huge, it's just an incredible effect.”

The stage itself was illuminated with ADJ LED RGB color-mixing fixtures. The Mega Bar LED, an ultra-bright color bar containing 252 red, green and blue 10mm LEDs, cast changing colors onto the stage's scenic elements, which included large sconces on each side. Johnston chose the Mega Bar LED because “it's the best thing for the budget out there. You get a nice, even wash and it's super useful. You can do anything from face it toward the audience and run effects, to washing walls.” ADJ's 64B LED Pro par cans were flown overhead on SQ-4114 square truss from Global Truss. “We use Global Truss because all of their products are in stock all the time, so there's never any waiting to get them. They have excellent customer service, their product is at a price point that's very affordable – and it works,” said Johnston.

To wash the exterior of the building, Johnston used ADJ's Mega Bar Pro, a brighter version of the Mega Bar LED, containing larger, more powerful 1W LEDs. “We needed to shoot as far up the building as possible, and the Mega Bar Pro is an inexpensive solution, especially when you're doing an outdoor event,” he said. “It has a really long throw distance – I can put those out and be able to wash a great distance.”

As he does much of the time, Johnston used Elation Compu 2048 FC PC-based software to control the lighting. In today's era of LED-powered fixtures, he says, “it's not practical to use a console with the amount of DMX channels you're taking up. I pretty much always use Compu software now – whether it's the church market, the theater market, any market.”

Compu software is also easier for most end-users to operate than a DMX console, Johnston pointed out. “Unless it's a professional venue, the people who are running the lighting are typically volunteers and not very experienced with controllers. So when you have a visual interface like with Compu, and can actually see what you're doing, it makes it a lot easier for the customer to use.”

In other words, it doesn't take a rocket scientist!

For more information, call Elation Professional toll-free at 866-245-6726 or visit

Sutherland Sight and Sound can be reached at 256-381-1995 or visit

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