Lighting Designer Clifton Taylor creates one of his most unique designs for the New York Philharmonic
Founded in 1842, the New York Philharmonic is the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States playing over 180 concerts per year, but this year they played one program which was unlike any before. In A Dancer’s Dream: Two Works by Stravinsky, Producers Giants Are Small and Music Director Alan Gilbert combined music, ballet, puppetry, video projection, and theater, bringing The Fairy’s Kiss and Petrushka both to life in one creative and fantastic event. Working behind the scenes, lighting designer Clifton Taylor was given the challenge to blend all these production elements seamlessly together and to help him accomplish this he put together a comprehensive lighting package from Philips Entertainment which included Showline SL BAR 640, Philips Selecon PLCyc LED, Philips Vari-Lite VL3500 Spot, VL1000 ERS and VL5B Wash luminaires.
“For A Dancer’s Dream, the creators and Maestro came up with a wonderful scenario that reshaped the original works into one common story which carried throughout the entire evening,” began Taylor. “The Fairy’s Kiss is a contemplative piece with an internal story taking place among the ballet dancers as the orchestra plays the accompaniment, but in Petrushka the orchestra actually takes on the role of characters in the piece along with the dancers. The biggest challenge with the design was that there were so many competing interests on stage. There was lighting for the camera, for the live audience, and then for the puppetry projection elements as well. While these three lighting essentials were not always happy to be together, it’s my job as a lighting designer to keep all three up in the air at all times so we needed to bring in fixtures that were strong and up to the creative challenge which is why I chose the Philips Entertainment luminaires.”
Understanding the uniqueness of the production, Taylor got to work laying out his lighting design taking on the lighting challenges one at a time and finding the precise lighting tools to help him overcome each obstacle along the way.
He continued, “For the puppetry projection elements, we had small scale puppets and props which were integral to the story at various locations on stage. While the audience could physically see them, they were really too small for theatrical scale. They were shot by steady-cam operators and projected in HD video on a screen above the orchestra and we needed to create lighting specific to these vignettes. To do so, we created a lightbox 4 feet high and 15 feet wide with a scrim to make a small theatrical cyclorama but we now needed a light that could produce multiple color fades across the top and bottom so we built the Showline SL BAR 640 luminaires into the lightbox. On the HD video these scenes scaled up to be very large and I really loved the color of the SL BAR 640 and the capabilities of each LED light engine. Having each cell individually addressable is fantastic and it enabled me to do very subtle color fades and changes which were really important in this application.”
The Showline SL BAR 640 is a powerful 4-foot LED linear fixture that offers unprecedented output and exceptional color clarity. With 13,360 lumens of output, the SL BAR 640 may be used for general illumination or direct view purposes and the uniform, homogenized RGBW LEDs make a bold statement in any production.
With the SL BAR 640 luminaires illuminating the backdrop to the puppet scenes, Taylor also needed front light on them as well. That’s when he turned to the Philips Selecon PLCyc LED and Philips Vari-Lite VL3500 Spot luminaires.
“Since the puppet scenes were being projected in large-scale HD video, we sometimes needed a soft light directly in front of them, just below the cameras, so we used the PLCyc LED luminaires throughout the various scenes taking place around the stage. I really like how the PLCyc LED has a very soft and even field and I have plans to use them on my next production on a more traditional theatrical cyc on a much larger scale.”
A breakthrough in cyclorama lighting, the PLCyc LED luminaire delivers smooth and even cyclorama lighting in a compact and light weight design. Using a maximum of 120 watts, each unit can replace the equivalent of a traditional 4-color, 500-watt per cell, cyc light. A typical cyclorama can also now be powered from a single circuit using the convenient PLCyc LED Powercon cabling system for power in-and-through applications.
But not only lighting the puppetry projection elements for video, Taylor also needed to light them for the live audience as well.
He explains further, “Needing to get light onto the puppet scenes from above so that the audience could easily see them on stage, I went with the VL3500 Spot because it is such a capable light and the throw distance was approximately 40 feet from the puppets. We had to have this light cut through all the other lighting elements and get a very specific beam using shutters to isolate the small lighting moments and the VL3500 Spots worked perfectly.”
The VL3500 Spot luminaire features high standards for imagery, beam control, color and brightness and a four-blade shutter mechanism that allows the blades to be operated independently or in unison on two planes for a clear and crisp image. Additionally, the luminaire features a 6:1 zoom optics, CYM color mixing, variable CTO color temperature correction, a six-position color wheel, two gobo/effects wheels, a shutter and separate dimmer and ultra-fast strobe mechanisms.
With the more unique lighting challenges now met, Taylor was able to focus on the more traditional lighting elements associated with orchestra productions, such as lighting the musicians, conductor and dancers on stage. For this, he turned to his staple automated luminaires, the Philips Vari-Lite VL1000 ERS and VL5B Wash luminaires.
“The VL1000 luminaires were placed around to light such elements as the conductor and to act as my refocusable side lights during specific dance portions of the event. I like using the VL1000 luminaires because of their quiet movement and operation. For my orchestra lighting, the first thing I am always looking for are fanless instruments so I like to use VL5B Wash luminaires because it is imperative that the space over the orchestra is quiet and they provide a beautiful wash.”
Series 1000 luminaires from Philips Vari-Lite feature a 50 kHz drive system that quiets the operation of all two-phase motors during movement and while in static positions, along with three-phase, ultra-quiet stepper motors that provide a smooth, timed continuous pan and tilt. Additionally, Series 1000 luminaires include CYM color mixing, rotating gobos, variable diffusion, and a zoom range from 19° to 36° for normal imaging and a super zoom function that ranges to 70°.
Philips Vari-Lite Series 500 luminaires also include a drive system that quiets the operation of all two-phase motors during movement and while in static positions; plus the patented and innovative DICHRO*TUNE radial color mixing system employs three sets of 16 radially mounted dichroic blades - magenta, blue, and amber - designed to produce a smooth, full spectrum of color cross-fades.
With the lighting design complete, A Dancer’s Dream: Two Works by Stravinsky debuted to critical acclaim. Looking back on the design process, Taylor was extremely pleased with the performance of all the lighting tools used to bring the show to life and he is also excited about the possibilities to use them more in future productions.
He concluded, “The first time I saw the PLCyc LED and Showline SL BAR 640 luminaires, I was very impressed. I had spoken with Kara O’Grady about the possibility of getting them into an upcoming show and this production was the perfect situation because of our very specific lighting challenges. With the SL BAR 640 luminaires, they read beautifully on camera and the dimming curve is very nice especially on the low end where it is very smooth. The beautiful part of the Philips Entertainment LED products is that the LED engine is built inside the lens so that you don’t see all the component parts of the color. We have sort of grown accustomed to looking at LED fixtures and seeing the RGBW LED’s which is disruptive in a theatrical environment because you only want the audience the see the mixed color coming out of the fixture. With the PLCyc LED and SL BAR 640 you don’t have this issue and moving forward I can use them as a ‘beauty’ light exposing the lens to the audience where the color coming out of the light is the same color I want them to see.”
Beginning in September 2013, A Dancer’s Dream will be playing in movie theatres worldwide. For more information on where to find a theatre near you, visit www.dreamonscreen.com.
Philips Entertainment offers a wide range of state-of-the-art lighting solutions for the concert, theatre, television, film, and architectural lighting markets. Consisting of industry leaders Philips Vari-Lite, Philips Strand Lighting, Philips Selecon and the Showline family of LED luminaires, Philips Entertainment is committed to the continued development of energy-efficient and high-performance lighting and control systems through the use of innovative technologies that provide everything from single dimmers and fixtures to the most sought after automated luminaires and lighting control systems available today.
For more information on the SL BAR 640 Luminaires visit www.philips.com/showline.
For more information on the PLCyc LED Luminaires, visit www.seleconlight.com.
For more information on the VL3500 Spot, Series 1000 ERS, and Series 500 Wash luminaires, visit www.vari-lite.com.