Unlike Jennifer Lopez's minimalist dress, which had tongues wagging about what wasn't there, the production effort at this year's Grammys had everyone talking about how much was there, starting with the talents of award-winning LD Bob Dickinson and production designer Bob Keene. Then there was the mammoth-sized new venue, LA's Staples Center arena, and one of the largest rigs of automated lighting ever supplied by Vari-Lite, Inc.--almost 800 instruments.

To start with, Dickinson and his crew had to transform Staples Center into a suitable backdrop for the awards show which was broadcast February 23. Dickinson credits rigger Ed Kish and the production crew for four days of working around-the-clock to turn the arena into a theatre.

On the creative side, Dickinson and Keene met last September to conceive a look that would serve both the awards ceremony and its eclectic mix of musical acts. "There are so many awards shows and you always strive to stand apart and do something that elevates and uses new technology and new approaches," says the LD.

Succeeding on both counts, Dickinson incorporated new technology, including 10 prototypes of the new Vari*Lite(R) VL2416 Arc(TM) 1,200W wash luminaires run by the Virtuoso(TM) console, and came up with an innovative truss design that radiated off Keene's central scenic element of a Grammy icon.

The designers also invented a new look using a cyc design, lit discretely with baffling on the backside, which was created for last year's Grammys. "Bob came up with trapezoid-shaped quadrants on the cyc that were irregular in size and used a combination of [Vari*Lite] VL7s(TM) and PIGI projectors," he says.

Dickinson credits his crew, including lighting director Bob Barnhart, moving light programmers/operators Andy O'Reilly and Matt Firestone, Gil Samuelien, who ran conventionals from an ETC Obsession, head electrician Jerry Nashelinus, as well as Susan Tesh and the staff of Vari-Lite Production Services in Los Angeles.

The lighting system included: 10 prototypes of the VL2416 Arc, which the LD praised for its dependability and the size of its rotating beam, VL5Arc(TM) wash luminaires, VL6B(TM) spot luminaires, VL7 spot luminaires, and VL4(TM) wash luminaires. Almost 1,400 conventionals were supplied by Production Lighting Systems. The projection system was supplied by Production Arts and operated by Jean Doherty.

When it came to controlling the close to 800 moving lights, two Virtuoso controllers provided the necessary flexibility. "Andy controlled lighting performers, frontlighting of scenery, and any band keys," explains Dickinson. "Matt controlled the walls, the backlighting of the scenic elements, and all of the moving lighting in front of house."

He adds: "The fact that they were able to build so many chases in such a short period of time is a real testament to the abilities of the operators and the Virtuoso."