Austin City Limits Moves Into a New Home with Philips Strand Lighting
Walter Olden selects the LEKO LITE and Light Palette VL for The Moody Theater
Tuesday, January 24, 2012 4:00 am
by Philips Strand Lighting

With the abundance of television programming available today, very few productions have been able to stand the test of time, but now in their 37th Season, Austin City Limits is the longest running music series in American television history. As they continue to showcase the world’s most dynamic musical artists to a nationally televised audience, the production recently relocated to The Moody Theater, a brand new, state-of-the-art production facility located in the heart of Austin, Texas. During preparations to move into the new space, lighting director Walter Olden was tasked with designing a lighting system that could handle all the needs for the multi-purpose, 2700-person capacity venue, and for this, Olden choose a lighting system comprised of Philips Strand Lighting LEKO LITE luminaires and a Light Palette VL control console.

“Prior to moving to The Moody Theater, we produced the TV show in a 100’ x 100’ studio with a seating capacity of approximately 325 people,” began Olden. “As the production has continued to grow over time, we were simply running out of space and we needed a larger venue. The Moody Theater is a fantastic, multi-purpose venue with a commitment to Green building standards and everyone was extremely excited about the move.”

In their previous home at KLRU-TV Studio 6A, the lighting system had a completely modular, pipe grid with 16’ x 8’ modules that could move up and down at different levels in order to handle a variety of lighting needs. When preparing to move into The Moody Theater, Olden wanted a lighting system with a similar infrastructure that could effectively and creatively light any artist scheduled to appear, but first he had to focus on three different lighting challenges.

“When going from Studio 6A to The Moody Theater we knew we would have a few lighting challenges,” continued Olden. “First was our audience lighting. This was a concern because we like our audience to be seen on-camera and going from a 325-seat venue to a 2700-seat venue is quite a difference. Second, we had to focus on our key lighting for the artists appearing on stage. Since the venue was constructed to be LEED-certified, we wanted the lights to fit into the overall plan. And finally, our biggest challenge is always contrast range which is smaller for a TV camera than it is the human eye so we need lighting instruments with a full range of light.”

As the search began for the ideal instruments to place into his new rig, Olden looked at all types of fixtures from various manufacturers, but it was one light in particular that continued to peak his interest as a possible solution to all his lighting challenges; the Strand LEKO LITE.

“With so many different types of lights and lighting instruments on the market, it is sometimes difficult to truly know how they will perform once you get them into your space. In our production, we white balance to daylight for the cameras and our key lights would need to have full CCTV dichroic filters so that they are closer to the color temperature of our moving lights. One of the aspects that kept drawing me back to the LEKO LITE was that it takes the same size gel frame as our previous key lights and when buying the dichroic filters it was great to know that one size would fit all. Plus, the lamp life on the LEKO LITE would fit perfectly with the Green initiatives of The Moody Theater, and they also have a pretty beam that works great on-camera.”

“I love using the new LEKO LITE luminaires. On top of everything else they provided us, they also have plenty of punch to handle our throw distances, and their great zoom range allows us to make the stage areas as big or as small as we need. And since we don’t use followspots in our design, I am able to blend all the areas on stage using their shutter cuts, so that it looks smooth and even on-camera.” Satisfied that he had the ideal luminaire for the new venue, Olden placed dozens of LEKO LITE luminaires into the lighting rig.

With his key lighting challenges met, Olden next turned to the control console he would need for the new system. As a longtime Philips Strand Authorized Dealer, Olden was familiar with the complete Palette product family, so he chose a Light Palette VL control console as one of his main control options.

“We actually control the complete rig using two boards, one being the Light Palette VL. In the old studio we used the Strand 520i, and going from that board to this one was a seamless transition. I really felt comfortable. I like the way the Palette family works by allowing you to take some of the thought-process out of the equation. For example, if I want to rotate a gobo all you have to do is tell the board which gobo, which direction to rotate, and at what speed. The intuitive language that is built into the console is fantastic and it’s really been a blessing during an extremely busy production season.”

With the full move now behind them, Olden and his crew are working diligently on the productions 37th Season and look forward to moving into the 38th. While he is excited about what the future holds for Austin City Limits, Olden is also excited about the future of Philips Strand Lighting and their new product lines such as the PL1, PL3 and PLCyc LED fixtures.

“Since Olden Lighting has been a Strand dealer dating back to the mid-1980’s, I have had the opportunity to get to know many of the people inside Strand making it a special relationship. Like many dealers, I see positive things happening with the new and current product lines and with their renewed dedication to customer support which will serve them well in the future.”

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