Clay Paky fixtures are the moving lights of choice for the first circus with fully-automated lighting. One of the traveling units comprising the 138th edition of Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey® Circus. The Greatest Show on Earth® has selected Clay Paky lights for its innovative new show which is also the first in the world to employ the Alpha Spot HPE 300 series of compact moving body projectors. Feld Entertainment, Inc. is staging the circus.
“Nobody has ever done a total moving lights solution for this kind of show,” reports Dennis Flenniken, electrical operations manager at Feld Entertainment. “No circuses are bigger than ours. The Ringling Bros. Greatest Show on Earth had a huge conventional lighting package with some fixtures that were 10 years old. We wanted to do something different and planned on getting some new lights when our lighting designer, Alex Reardon, devised a whole new concept for the show.”
Reardon’s idea featured seven large Element Labs stealth screens configured in the form of a ‘C.’ “The circus appears in a lot of different buildings across the US,” Flenniken notes. “We looked at the power needs and were not sure we could do it with our existing light compliment as we grew the system and added video. We had a fixed budget but just had to make it work.”
Flenniken had a brainstorm. “Buy more moving lights and use them to replace all the conventional fixtures. It was time for a facelift, time for a whole new package. I knew we could afford to buy 125 new Clay Paky lights -- some Alpha Spot HPE 1200s Spots and Alpha Profile 1200 Washes, as well as eight new Alpha Spot HPE 300s. We could replace the entire package.”
Reardon mounted the Alpha Spot HPE 300s on the front of the 30x40-foot entryway for all the acts and aimed the lights straight out at the audience. “There’s a lot of power in those lights,” says Flenniken. “The way Clay Paky did the optics, which is superior to everyone else, we could use them to really set the portal apart.”
Reardon also truss-mounted the Alpha 1200 spots and washes on both sides of the arena and at its downstage entrance. “That gave us some fantastic face lighting,” Flenniken explains.
By replacing the conventional lighting package with the Clay Paky fixtures Feld cut the size of the package in half and uses just one-third of the electricity consumed before. Now the show is faster to put together, is much more economical in its power consumption and it looks great too!
“Some people were skeptical about using only moving lights,” Flenniken recalls. “But I knew all along that the Clay Pakys were going to punch everything out. They have nice sharp, crisp gobos.
“With the Clay Paky fixtures we could use a special UV filter which, when you put it into the spot or wash and put it in the focal plane, makes the lights really pop,” he continues. “We use it now in every one of our shows.”
Feld also taps the fixtures’ black-light effects and a new lamp with higher color temperature. The latter “makes a nice bright, white light that’s just pure as it can be,” Flenniken reports.He also gives kudos to Clay Paky’s reliability. “We had so few issues with lights during rehearsals that it was the first time ever that I didn't have to have anyone babysitting the equipment,” he declares.