Fresh off the release of his hot new album Real Things, country superstar Joe Nichols rang in 2008 with a national tour, which will include a performance at Super Bowl XLII’s star-studded Super Jam event. With his show becoming a more elaborate production, the Grammy-nominated artist is now traveling with his own lighting ensemble and LD for the first time, Keith Hoagland of CK Productions in Nashville, TN.

When putting together Nichols’ light show, veteran designer Hoagland sought products that would provide the creative tools he needed, yet be mindful of his client’s budget. “Obviously, when you add the expense of an LD and lighting gear, the tour’s overhead goes up,” notes Hoagland. “So we were looking for a way to hold costs within reason.”

Hoagland found the gear he was looking for in the Design Spot series of intelligent moving-head hybrid spot/wash fixtures from Elation Professional. He selected six 575-watt Design Spot 575E units and six 250-watt Design Spot 250s to form the nucleus of Nichols’ light show. The fixtures were obtained on a rental basis from Keylight, LLC, also located in the Nashville area.

The 575s are being used as overhead lights, spread out evenly above the stage, while the 250s are positioned on the band risers behind the stage. “The Design Spots are the core of my show, with other lighting based on whatever the promoter provides—PAR cans and such. I’ll just softpatch the PAR cans around it,” says Hoagland. “That way, Joe sees pretty much the same show every day. With Elation, the cost was so reasonable, we were able to put up 12 lights for a rental fee that other vendors couldn’t touch.”

But affordability was only the beginning of what the Elation Design Spots had to offer, according to Hoagland. With the capability to function as both a spot and wash, thanks to a variable Frost Filter, the Design Spot 250 and Design Spot 575E are loaded with colors, gobos (glass and metal), and other features such as Gobo Morphing, an Iris, Strobing, and a Prism effect. Additionally, the 575 offers the added features of full CMY color mixing and an Effect Wheel, which allows users to create dynamic vertical effects such as fire and water, for added visual excitement and versatility.

“As a designer I look for two basic things: color mixing and rotating gobos,” explains Hoagland. “I love the color mixing on the 575—I haven’t had an issue with any of the colors that I like to use. And I’m really pleased with the variety of gobos that Elation has put in. There are some nice glass gobos and a multi-color dichroic gobo. I’m using their stock gobos, and the variety lets me be creative without having to repeat.”

Beyond his wish list, Hoagland also found some “bonus” features on the units, such as the Design Spot 575E’s Effect Wheel. “I didn’t even know there was an Effect Wheel. When I saw it I was like, ‘Oh my gosh – this is amazing!’” Speed was another factor that impressed the LD. Both the Design Spot 250 and Design Spot 575E are capable of a maximum pan of 630° in 2 seconds and maximum tilt of 265° in 1.5 seconds.

The units’ durability and reliable performance has been another big plus. Hoagland spent four days programming them at the outset, during which time the lights were never turned off. “I was putting in 10-hour days and I knew I’d be back in the morning, so why shut ’em off. I left them on four days straight, and there were no problems.” Now several weeks into the tour, Hoagland reports, “Not one of the 12 fixtures has given me a single hiccup.”

The LD plans to add more Elation fixtures in the near future. “Joe’s words to me were that as the show grows, we’ll add more lights. My immediate goal is to bring in six more Design Spot 575s for bottom lighting.”

Hoagland’s supplier Han Henze of Keylight, LLC reports that since he added Elation’s Design Spots to his rental inventory, he has gotten “A lot of really good feedback” from clients. “The Design Spots are great from a rental standpoint,” notes Henze, “because the price points are low, so we can present our clients with discounted costs. It’s a win-win scenario.”