Watch The Gray Room Sessions here.
The Gray Room at Special Event Services’ headquarter facility in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is usually abuzz with activity as the live production and touring company preps gear for upcoming tours and festivals. With the COVID shutdown in March however, the warehouse area turned eerily quiet. Nevertheless, the downtime provided Special Event Services vice president and co-founder Jeff Cranfill the chance to realize a long held ambition for the space.
“I had been looking at this spot in our warehouse for literally 30 years,” Cranfill shares, “an area with wood columns and brick wall, thinking how beautiful it is. Over the years, I always thought that if you light it up the right way, it would look really cool, an ideal space for an intimate performance. When our Social Media and Marketing Director Rebekah Carney came to me with the idea for music sessions in order to help furloughed SES crew and local musicians who don’t have work, I had it all in my head and knew exactly what to do.”
Cranfill and his SES crew used their inventory of gear, including Elation lighting fixtures, to turn the space into a performance area worthy of any intimate live venue. “Winston-Salem is a city of the arts with a lot of talented musicians and artists, and I worried about them,” said Cranfill, who is a local musician himself and grew up in the local music scene. “I watched many of our local musicians, many my friends, prop their phone up on their kitchen table and struggle to produce a quality video for Facebook. I thought, we have the audio, lighting and video here and we have this beautiful space. We can give these artists the opportunity to perform in a more professional environment.”
The SES headquarter facility is housed in an old tobacco auction warehouse with a striking brick wall full of character that runs all the way around it. Lighting the brick wall and wooden columns made it possible to create a warm, cozy look, something akin to a relaxed coffee-bar feel. Cranfill says he was pleasantly surprised how easily they achieved a great look, a simple setup that puts the focus on the artist. “I wanted to keep everything very warm so we decided to shoot at 3200 Kelvin color temperature,” he explains. “I looked around our shop for non-incandescent sources and realized we had a lot of Elation products that are 3200K base LED. I then started metering them to find they all matched in color temperature, which was great.”
Used to graze the brick wall are Elation DTW Bar 1000™ variable white LED battens. “They are extremely smooth and throw great shadows that allow you to see all the detail and imperfections of the brick,” Cranfill said. “In this type of more club-ish or coffee-bar setup, the shadows are welcome. They accentuate those little imperfections versus trying to make it look like a TV studio.”
In order to emphasize the fact that the performance is taking place in a warehouse, beautiful vintage wood columns are uplit using Elation Cuepix Blinder WW2™ lights with their warm white 3,200K COB LEDs. They give the room a bit of ambient light as well and although considered more of an audience blinder, at low intensity levels the light is highly appealing and brings out the character of the wood, Cranfill says. “Sometimes when you get down into lower dimmer values with LED it’s not very stable but these fixtures are just spot on. The color of the light is what makes the difference. I’ve used these two fixtures in a lot of projects and knew they’d work great.” Another pleasant surprise, according to Cranfill, was the ADJ Z100 3K LED Par, which provides key lighting and backlighting. “Its 3200K matched perfectly with the Elation lights, making setting up the cameras much easier.”
New session every Friday – opportunity to tip and donate
SES released the first of The Gray Room Sessions on YouTube in early May with a new session posted every Friday evening at 8 pm EDT in the US. All sessions can be viewed here and feature different artists in a 15-25 minute format. Viewers can follow the artist, share their music and even tip.
SES is also raising funds for others in the live music industry by collecting donations through a local non-profit organization. Tax-deductible donations can be made to the charitable foundation MusiCares® and SES through Pure Heart Ministries at Paypal link https://bit.ly/3hpSQlJ. Half of all proceeds go to MusiCares with the other half going to employees of SES who have lost work during the pandemic. As an additional help to each artist, SES gives each performer a free copy of their video that can be used for his or her own promotional purposes. “Many artists who have been around for quite a while have never had the means to book a recording session with high def video,” Cranfill said. “Our early beginnings of SES were built on our hometown and music scene which has contributed to our success. Now we want to give back to the city and music scene anyway we can. This is just one possible way we can do that.”
SES plans to continue The Gray Room Sessions after COVID and hope to branch out into other forms of entertainment like visual artists, dance, etc. “Another thing that’s been great about this is that we’re learning so much as a production company about how to do something that isn’t a regular practice for us. It’s a new skill set and I get excited that we’re doing something new and innovative with technology,” concludes Cranfill, adding that SES are working to partner with a local radio station to play The Gray Room Sessions on a regular weekly radio program with a podcast also in the making. “We’re venturing out into all these streams to see where it takes us.”
SES has also recently sponsored two other online music events using Elation fixtures. The Clubhouse Live is an EDM music festival streaming June 26 & 27 on YouTube and other platforms (with plans for future events), using Elation eNode-4 network nodes. Hellooo TV is a series of full- production online concerts out of Nashville, TN, using Elation SixPar 200s.
The Gray Room Sessions Team:
Jeff Cranfill | Audio Engineer and Producer
Matt Szczygiel | Video Editor and Motion Graphics Designer
Dusty Beach | Video Director
Rebekah Carney | Social Media
About Elation Professional
Based in California with facilities in Florida and Mexico City, as well as European offices in The Netherlands, Elation designs and manufactures a comprehensive range of innovative lighting and video products known for its superior performance, excellent efficiency, and outstanding price:value ratio, all backed by a hard-earned reputation for Total Support. Through nearly three decades of intelligent lighting development, our mission has always been simple: to provide best-in-class products and service while offering the best value:performance ratio in the industry, helping show designers and producers achieve their vision. From discharge to LED, intelligent to conventional, Elation products continue to be a part of the industry’s most exciting projects across the globe and our list of references is always growing. We invite you to take a closer look at www.elationlighting.com