Tony Award-winning LD Donald Holder will not only be addressing his designs for Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark at the Broadway Lighting Master Classes, but also back by popular demand is his very informative and illuminating session comparing LED and tungsten sources. Live Design touches base with Holder to see what he has up his sleeve this year:
For the LED VS Tungsten session at the BLMC, what will you be illustrating... how will the session be different from last year's or is it a continuation of the same exploration of light from various sources?
As was the case last year, we will be looking at side-by-side stage pictures: one created exclusively with tungsten sources, the other via LED. Time and space permitting, I'm going to try to layer in a bit of storytelling through light, showing transitions from one stage picture to another, thus giving the participants a more detailed look at the pros and cons of each kind of technology in a 'real-life' situation versus a showroom 'shootout'. In addition, the technology has improved dramatically since 2010, so we'll be looking at a few fixtures that are 'hot off the press', along with improved versions of products we first saw last year.
What are the qualities of light that you hope to show and contrast between the two sources?
We'll be looking at the qualities that I assume most lighting designers would be interested in: dimming, intensity, beam shaping, color temperature, color-mixing, color consistency across product lines and fixture families. I'm sure there may be some other considerations I've left out that we'll discover during the presentation
Are you using LEDs more on stage now than last year? In Spider-Man for example? If so, how...
I would say I'm definitely using more LED technology in my work than ever before. When it comes to Spider-Man, most of the decisions to use LED's versus tungsten were either design, maintenance or space-related. The need for a wide range of vibrant color in many scenic elements, coupled with very limited space for mounting really made the decision to use LED's a 'no-brainer' in most cases. Recent developments in LED technology (and in theatrical lighting control) have made it possible to realize the production design (more or less) as envisioned by George Tyspin and Julie Taymor. It would have been quite difficult to accomplish this task 5-10 years ago because the technology was not available to us…
When you use LEDs on stage, what kind of source are they generally replacing or are they more for accents…
LED fixtures are being used largely as a replacement for striplights, cyclights, low profile halogen strips and other fixtures traditionally used to deliver broad swaths of light on vertical surfaces from a very short throw distance. I'm using a few LED fixtures to light the air over the audience during the flying sequences, due to the raid-fire color changes that are required.
As for Spider-Man, what was your greatest challenge here, other than the gestation period for the show, but also how did the lighting evolve over all that time?
There were many challenges beyond the changing schedule and length of the process. The staging was complex and multilayered, and included a lot of aerial work that needed a very specific approach in order to reveal it successfully. It was imperative to come up with solutions to light the flying that could work with little or no tech time: the logistics of programming and creating flights didn't accommodate the 'stop and start' process we're accustomed to in the theatre. A good portion of the available stage time was devoted to rigging issues and transitions, which left very little time to work on actual scenes and production numbers in-sequence.
By necessity, we were doing a huge amount of lighting 'on the fly' during actual preview performances (including automated lighting programming), which was a rather new experience for me. Version 2 required a complete re-working and relighting of Act 1, and Act 2 contains largely all-new material. The objectives of the new script and creative team required a lot of soul-searching and re-thinking from my end. Because it's been a new beginning, the production and the lighting is still very much a 'work in process', almost a year after we started in the theatre.