The Oprah Winfrey Live Your Best Life workshop tour recently brought Oprah’s message live to multiple locations across the US. A team from Unlimited Visibility Lighting Design was charged with lighting the full-day event. Greg Norgeot designed the lighting, and Paul Sharwell, assisted by Angus Sinex, recreated the design on each stop of the tour.
Hosted by O, The Oprah Magazine, the Live Your Best Life tour was billed as, "A day with friends, an afternoon with Oprah." The workshop consisted of a morning of motivational entertainment and esteem-building exercises, followed by a presentation by Oprah Winfrey in the afternoon.
"Lighting Oprah was all about respect, showing how good she looks, and helping her to deliver her message," notes Sharwell. "There was a lot of input from the client –O, The Oprah Magazine–about colors, and we also received lighting information from The Oprah Show about general light levels. Apparently, Oprah likes very high levels of light on her, as well as on the audience–particularly during the question-and-answer period." This high light level meant that significantly more equipment was required than would normally be used on a show of this scale. Each area of the stage was lit with at least six 750W ETC Source Four® fixtures, not including backlight.
"This was quite different from most of the shows that we light," says Norgeot. "Whereas most events we design are very busy, with challenging time constraints and heavy cueing, this show had a rather simple format and relatively few moving lights." The afternoon presentation consisted of a number of walk-in looks coordinated to music and video clips designed to build anticipation and introduce Oprah Winfrey’s two-hour talk. Oprah’s speech was followed by a lengthy question-and-answer session, that made for a long and challenging day.
"Production electrician Angus Sinex’s television experience was a huge asset on this show," says Sharwell. "In each city, Angus worked with me to painstakingly meter the stage wash to achieve truly even light levels and a consistent color temperature. Our final levels were about 350 footcandles across the stage. The video crew repeatedly remarked that they wished they always had such high levels of key light." Consistency between the venues in Denver, Dallas, and Washington, D.C., was of prime concern. Sharwell undertook an extensive amount of liaising between the different departments on the tour– including carpentry, rigging and electrics–to ensure that every dimension was measured; so that the relationship between lighting and set could be recreated exactly at the next venue.
The focal point of the set was a giant, three-dimensional "O" suspended above the stage. Two layers of walls surrounded the "O," which was backed with a cyc upstage. The set pieces were positioned close to each other. "To add depth, we lit each surface differently; however, it was a significant challenge due to how little room there was between each of the walls," says Norgeot. To light the set, Norgeot used 13 Martin MAC 2000 Wash fixtures and 21 MAC 2000 Profile fixtures with an additional 14 MAC 2000 Profile fixtures front of house to create movement and project custom gobos around the room. The majority of the lighting rig was made up of conventional sources with 89 ETC Source Four® fixtures, 24 ETC Source Four PAR fixtures, 74 1K 14" Scoop floods and 21 Ianiro 2K 7" Bambino Fresnels.
The Live Your Best Life tour sold out in each city. "While it was called a tour, it was more like a television show that had to be repeated exactly in three different cities," notes Sharwell. "But for Oprah's comfort and for the quality of the video images, it was worth it."