To celebrate the annual NASCAR Nextel Cup Awards Ceremony on December 3rd, Jason Robinson was commissioned to light the ceiling in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York.
"I chose the VARI*LITE® VL3000™ Spot luminaires for their ability to paint gorgeous pictures," says Robinson, lighting designer for the televised awards banquet.
Robinson was limited on space, size, and throw distance, because the grand ballroom is a shallow theatre. To create the enormous look he had envisioned, Robinson needed the ability to fill the space with fewer fixtures and chose the VL3000 Spot fixtures for their image quality, intensity, and 6:1 zoom range.
"I had limited throw distance, but I was able to use the zoom range of the VARI*LITE fixtures to paint bigger pictures better," he explains. "And with the rotating gobos and effects wheels, we were able to create some incredible images."
This is the fifth year Robinson has lit NASCAR's year-end gala. When he took over as LD, the first major element he incorporated into the event was coloring the entire ceiling of the ballroom with light.
"The ceiling has such great texture, and there's a beautiful chandelier," Robinson says. "I began lighting them, and NASCAR loves the environment we are able to create within the venue. They love walking into the Waldorf-Astoria ballroom and looking at the ceiling and seeing this great motif and the chandelier glowing in color."
"Every year they ask, "Are you going to light the ceiling again?’ This year we gave them something really spectacular with the VL3000 fixtures," he continues.
VARI*LITE dealer Bandit Lites supplied all of the lighting for the event, including the VL3000 Spot luminaires, which were positioned on the floor and along the balcony. Robinson hung fixtures from custom-built hangers over the balcony rail, shooting up onto the ceiling, and positioned fixtures on the floor to project graphics and gobos onto the stage.
Additionally, set designer and show producer John Kallas created a huge drapery that hovered over the stage like a cloud. Robinson also used the VARI*LITE fixtures to light the drapery during the event.
Each year, NASCAR makes it clear to the lighting designer that the night belongs to the drivers and their teams; only the top 11 drivers, their crews, and team members are invited to the annual celebration. Therefore, Robinson used the fixtures’ advanced CYM color-mixing system to choreograph the show for each driver’s team colors, another creative element that pleased NASCAR.
When Tony Stewart was at the podium, the ceiling, drapery and ballroom were bathed in "The Home Depot" orange, but when Jeff Gordon took his turn on stage, Robinson dialed in the blue and red colors of the DuPont 24 Chevrolet team.
"When a driver was at the podium giving his speech and thanking his sponsors, the room was his for that moment," Robinson explains. "The ceiling was different and unique for that particular driver and team."