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Vari-Lite VL3600s Bring Native White and Saturated Colors to The Who's Tommy

"Once we saw the VL3600 compared to everything else, its brightness and color blew anything else out of the water," says Scott. Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

When lighting designer Amanda Zieve needed a high output luminaire for the newly reimagined Broadway production of The Who's Tommy, she knew she wanted excellent colors, a beautiful native white, and a good selection of onboard gobos. That's why she selected the VL3600 Profile IP luminaire from Vari-Lite, the originators of the modern moving head light fixture and Signify entertainment lighting brand.

To bring the rock opera to life, Zieve and lighting programmer Colin Scott met with Production Resources Group to for a shootout of high-output moving heads. "When I saw the VL3600, I immediately fell in love with it," says Zieve. "I was particularly concerned with the color temperature of the engine without color in it, and when I looked at the VL3600, I loved the color temperature of it. It was very important to me that people actually look good standing in that native white light. That way, I didn't have to overcorrect it. I could get the maximum amount of light coming out of it, and it was going to look good on someone."

"The open white beam on those is really crisp and clean and just the quality of the optics was really, really great," agrees Scott. "Once we saw the VL3600 compared to everything else, its brightness and color blew anything else out of the water. Just the intensity and the color we could get and a lot of the beamage, including the dichroic animation wheel, was phenomenal for us. It had really beautiful, saturated colors and also didn't have the major color fringing issues that a lot of LED fixtures have. So we're able to get really clean, crisp looks out of it in saturated color without compromising what we were doing."

The colors in the VL3600 were a key deciding factor, given this new version of Tommy features a tightly controlled color palette across lighting, projection, costume, and set design. "All of Tommy's individual traumas are colored like a thread in a tapestry," explains Zieve. "By sticking to this palette and being very monochromatic in those choices per scene, then when we get 'Pinball,' we're allowed to kaleidoscope that. Tommy's whole world is opening up, and we tie that thing in the past to this thing happening now."

Part of that design requirement meant the colors needed to be consistent across fixtures, something the VL3600 excelled at. "The color calibration too was very uniform," says Zieve. "I wouldn't run into, you know, this one just looks like a slight more magenta or anything. And it would have been noticeable, even though we're basically in a black set."

"The fixtures were remarkably good as far as color calibration and consistency of color between fixtures," adds Scott. "We've had a lot of issues recently with other products in that class, where every fixture is different. With the VL3600s, these were incredibly consistent and reliable."

Zieve and Scott also both praised the gobo and animation capabilities in the VL3600. Zieve praised the color animation wheel, which she said reminded her of the color dots on the VL3500. Scott had many nice things to say about the stock gobo selection as well saying that "everything in the VL3600 felt really right," providing a broad range of options from tight blobs and breakups to large psychedelic looks.

"The VL3600s were the workhorses of the production," explains Scott. "They could do tight specials or do large template ideas in the air, anything from really small, tight theatrical moments to big rock 'n' roll numbers. The VL3600 was able to do all those things."

A big fan of the original VL3500, Zieve simply concludes, "Something about when I first turned on the VL3600. Even just looking at the light and standing by it, any of that, I was like, 'I think this is the new 3500 that we've been waiting for'."

For more information on The Who's Tommy, check out the May and June 2024 issues of Lighting&Sound America.


(9 July 2024)

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