It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, sooner or later, you’re going to be in a situation where you find yourself doing something for the first time. Ollie Wilkinson can vouch for that. A lighting designer for over 15 years, Wilkinson has been involved in shows, large and small, in all kinds of theatres, but it wasn’t until this January when working on The Wizard of Oz at the Grand Theatre that he lit a theatrical production with a video wall backdrop.
“This was definitely a first for me,” he said of the experience. “I have lit many theatrical shows that feature projection, but never a wall of LED tiles! This presented a challenge in terms of how bright and vibrant the video wall was, but it turned out very well.”
Helping Wilkinson meet this challenge were the 18 CHAUVET Professional Maverick MK2 Spot fixtures in his kit. Supplied by Arranpaul, the 440-watt moving fixtures were flown on upstage and mid-stage electrics. From these positions, the high output (up to 20,200 lux at five meters) luminaires provided the light Wilkinson needed to balance the LED video wall.
“I needed a workhorse fixture that would be up to the challenge of competing with 56 Panels of screen,” said Wilkinson. “I needn’t have looked any further than the MK2 Spot for that. Our video director Ashley Swain and I worked closely together to achieve and excellent balance between light and video. I should add that my director Nigel Machin was also a pleasure to work with, as were the people from AVR Dance and the theatre’s technical manager Dave Renwick and Arranpaul, which provided excellent technical support. ”
“Wilkinson also worked with the camera film team to ensure the show was white balanced and that it worked well on camera. He was careful to inform the camera team of what color and temperatures they would be facing”
Working together, the design team achieved a beautiful equilibrium between video and light. This ultimately enhanced the captivating spell of the show by incorporating myriad scenes, from the Yellow Brick Road to the Kansas cornfields, into the set’s background without drowning out the lights.
Working with the bright LED wall background wasn’t the only challenge Wilkinson faced when lighting this production of the show based on the Frank Baum classic. With over 100 actors in the cast, he had to ensure that every performer was properly lit.
“It was not an easy task lighting, as we had so many people on the Grand Theatre stage,” said Wilkinson. “The MK2 fixtures never missed a beat; their incredible zoom range allowed me to provide a warm and subtle wash across the stage. I also utilized the fixture’s range of gobo’s to give the stage a dynamic depth, and at times I used them for blinding sweeps across the audience during transitions.”
Wilkinson credits the Maverick MK2 Spot for contributing to, what for him, was one of the visual highlights of the show: the moment when the Wicked Witch seemingly comes out of nowhere to fly across the stage. “There was a tremendous WOW factor when she appears,” he said, noting that the aerials from his spots added to the moment, as did the LED video wall backdrop… both working harmoniously together.
Photo credit: Louie Lee-Horton/LLH Films.