The State Fair of Texas has been an institution in the Lone Star State since 1886. Although the fair’s nightly spectacular, “Illumination Sensation,” hasn’t been around for quite that long, it’s become one of the big draws of the yearly event, which this year ran from Sept. 29th through Oct. 22nd. Lighting designer Nick Belley and show producers Interlaced Productions upped the shows visual appeal for 2017, incorporating effects from Elation Professional’s award-winning IP65-rated Proteus™ series moving heads, along with other Elation gear.
Set to music celebrating Texas heritage and American pride, the Mattress Firm “Illumination Sensation” show incorporated dancers, fountains, a dazzling array of lights, projection-mapped buildings, and of course, fireworks. Roughly 20 minutes long, the show took place each night of the fair at the Fair Park Esplanade fountain, which stretches over two football fields long with a stage in the middle. This year’s show was expanded to include lighting of the historic Hall of State building, which sits at the end of the Esplanade, making the rig about 400 yards end to end.
“The biggest challenge we have with this show is the fact that it is outdoors for almost a month,” said Scott Britt, producer and director of Interlaced Productions, who has produced shows at the fair for more than 20 years. “I saw a prototype of the Proteus Beam last January at the Elation headquarter office in Los Angeles and after seeing a demo we were convinced to use them on this project.”
Reproducing vintage lighting look
“Illumination Sensation” included some fantastic lighting looks but it was an event held at Fair Park over 80 years ago that was the inspiration for one of this year’s signature looks. In 1936, the Texas Centennial Exposition was held at Fair Park to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Texas's independence from Mexico and historical photographs show a special lighting look that state fair officials wanted to emulate. “Each year we have tried to expand the rig and make the show bigger and better,” explains Nick Belley, lighting designer and programmer for the show, his third year designing the show. “We wanted to add the Hall of State into the show for 2017, and our producer, Scott Britt, and the fair approached me with a research image from the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936 of these amazing beams of light from searchlights radiating out from the Hall of State in hopes of coming up with a modern recreation of that look. Because of the limited access to the roof, limited power available, and exposure to the elements through all 24 days of the fair, we looked to Elation and the Proteus Beam to help us achieve the look we were going for.”
The Proteus Beams, powerful 2-degree beam lights with a 14R 280W lamp, were used to reproduce the historical look. Show producer Scott Britt comments: “I was tasked at reproducing the look and went on a quest for a light and/or a way to accomplish that which hadn't been seen since 1936. The Proteus Beam did it really well. It can be a bit worrisome using fixtures that are the first out of the box but the Proteus performed very well and we had no problems.”
Eleven Proteus Beam fixtures were spread out on the roof of the Hall of State building and used to shine an array of beams in a moving canopy of light. “One of the biggest draws for us to the Proteus Beam was the IP rating and astounding light output that make the beams of light pop so well in the Dallas humidity, without having to add any haze or fog to the air,” stated Belley. “It was a great benefit that we were able to not only have the lights running a loop of architectural looks throughout the night, making for a great photo op at the main gate, but also to have a light so versatile that looked great incorporated into the show as well.”
Although everything associated with the show - fountain, lighting, pyro, video, projection and sound playback - was run on timecode, Belley says that control was a challenge as the control center was 600 yards away from the Hall of State building with no way to run a cable between the control center and the roof due to heavy foot and vehicle traffic on the fairgrounds. “We came up with the solution to use an EnGenius long range outdoor wireless bridge to transmit Art-Net from our control center to the roof, creating a network with no latency across the Esplanade.”
Mounted atop buildings flanking the Esplanade fountain were four Proteus Hybrid™ moving heads. The Proteus Hybrid, with a 21R 470W lamp, is not only powerful, IP65 and compact, it is loaded with features and is multi-functional with spot, beam or wash capability. Pointed downward towards the stage, the fixtures were primarily used in spot mode to light the stage portion of the show in color and pattern. “With the stage being in the center of the fountain pool and viewed in the round, a big challenge has always been how to light that stage in interesting ways,” Belley explains. “Changing out our conventional lighting from years past and being able to put the Hybrids on the roofs of the Auto and Centennial building allowed us to build a lot more dynamic looks on stage with the use of the Hybrid’s gobo package and vibrant color mixing.”
As with the Proteus Beams, the IP rating and powerful output was what sold Britt and Belley on the Proteus Hybrids. “The throw from the roof to the stage is around 135’, and even at that distance the output was unmatched,” Belley said. “The standard gobo load also included a great selection of patterns both for use on the stage and aerial effects.”
Although October weather in Dallas is a bit cooler than at the height of summer, the region can still experience blistering days of heat with periodic rainstorms. “The Proteus fixtures definitely helped us through a number of rainstorms, as well as baked in the Texas sun all day,” Belley said. “The first night we ran the show with pyro, it started pouring right before we ran it. It was a fun time seeing the beams of light through the rain for hundreds of yards without missing a beat.”
Large effects package
The Proteus fixtures were just one piece of a large effects package that also included Elation Platinum Beam 5R™, Platinum Beam 5R Extreme™ and Satura Profile™ moving heads in weatherproof enclosures, as well as other effect lighting. Used for color and beam effects, 12 Platinum Beam 5R and Extreme version fixtures were placed on the roofs of the Automobile and Centennial Hall buildings for aerial effects, with eight fixtures on each corner of the octagonal stage also for aerial effects. Eight Satura Profiles were placed around the stage to light the performers during the show and then repositioned after the show to light the trees around the fountain until the fair closed each night.
Production and lighting supply for the “Illumination Sensation” show was by Dallas-based event solutions company Onstage Systems. Belley was pleased with the cooperation, stating, “Stacey LaBarbera, lighting manager with OnStage, was instrumental in getting us set up with the Proteus fixtures and did an amazing job keeping the rig running every day.”
Photos: Interlaced Productions
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Elation Professional is one of the world’s leading lighting and visual solutions providers and is the global brand of Elation Lighting. Founded in 1992 and headquartered in Los Angeles, with European sales, distribution and support based in The Netherlands, Elation designs and manufactures a comprehensive range of innovative yet affordable lighting and video products that are distributed through a global network of dealers and distributors. Made up of a spirited team of dedicated personnel, Elation is setting new efficiency and performance standards in Platinum lamp and LED technology and is acknowledged for a comprehensive commitment to Total Support. As a company in expansion with a presence in a growing variety of market segments, chances are you’ve experienced Elation lighting at a concert, special event, TV, theater, late night venue, House of Worship, theme park, cruise ship, exhibition, architectural space or elsewhere. For more information, please visit www.elationlighting.com