Increasingly, lighting designers find themselves challenged with heightened client expectations and reduced load-in time. John Featherstone of Lightswitch found himself in that type of situation recently when developing plans for lighting Medtronic Inc.'s national sales meeting at the Four Seasons Resort in Dallas.

Medtronic wanted the production value of its annual event to appropriately reflect the company's role as a world leader in medical technology. While designing the lighting for such a show was no problem for Featherstone, the production crew had just over 24 hours to set up the entire room, which included lighting, sound, stage, video, a band, and seating for a couple hundred people. In addition, program organizers also had to find rehearsal time for Medtronics executives and key personnel who were to deliver presentations during the meeting.

Featherstone employed an automated lighting rig comprised mostly of Vari*Lite® VL1000™ ERS fixtures. The automated system allowed Featherstone to deliver the sophisticated program that met Medtronic's requirements, and not consume an inordinate amount of time for set-up. "The VL1000 ERS is a valuable tool to help the designer in those situations," Featherstone commented.

The use of the 26 VL1000 fixtures enabled the Delphi production crew to rapidly install the lighting system and focus remotely, freeing more time for the production carpenters to install the stage and scenic elements and allow the hotel to set up seating. Meanwhile, Featherstone and programmer Dennis Connor were able to tweak the focus as Medtronic personnel went through their presentations onstage, a luxury that is impossible with conventional fixtures. "Due to the use of automated fixtures," Featherstone said, "we were able to offer the client ultimate flexibility in terms of last-minute changes."

photo: John Featherstone/Lightswitch

Riverview Systems Group of San Jose, CA, and Island Creative Management of San Francisco supplied 26 VL1000 tungsten units to event producer Delphi Productions of Alameda, CA. Because of the extensive use of video during the meeting and presentations, filters were used to color-correct the temperature back to 5600K daylight. Featherstone designed very little movement into the production--virtually none other than a small bit of motion during the opening introduction--taking advantage mostly of the fixtures' color-changing capabilities and automated shutter features.

The VL1000 luminaires were particularly appropriate for this project as the ballroom ceilings were just 16' high. Once the rigging and luminaires were hung, the fixtures were close to the audience. The fan-free convection-cooled design of the units made operation virtually silent and non-distracting to audience members or presenters.