SolaSpot 1500s Augment PBS’ Bluegrass Underground
A Todd Squared production for PBS broadcast, Bluegrass Underground is the brainchild of entrepreneur Todd Mayo, who transformed an underground cave system discovered by Aaron Higgenbotham in 1810 into the magical performance environment of The Volcano Room of the Cumberland Cavern. Mayo partnered with EMMY Award-winning producer Todd Jarrell to bring the venue’s intrinsic beauty to television audiences nationwide, and the result is the acclaimed half-hour national PBS series Bluegrass Underground, which showcases a blend of established and emerging artists in diverse genres such as roots, gospel, jazz/bluegrass and jamband styles.
For the series’ sixth season, Lighting Designer Allen Branton and programmer Han Henze of Keylight LLC used six SolaSpot 1500s provided by 4Wall Lighting to augment the show’s lighting production. Henze explains, “We added six SolaSpot 1500s to a system of eight automated framing shutter profiles (VL3500 Spot), six moving head LED (Mac Aura), twelve RGBAW wall washes (ColorBlast TRX), six bi-color hat lights (ColorBlast iW) and approximately 48 conventional instruments. Two of the SolaSpots were added to the FOH truss, and four were placed on the cave floor in ‘the hole’, a deep recess behind the stage area. We found the two units on the truss to be very effective audience back lights. Two units in the hole were used as gobo projections to cut through the LED color treatment of ground haze and the other two were used to augment the color treatment of the hole’s ceiling.
Han says programming the Solaspot 1500 fixtures was quite easy and user friendly. He says, “I applaud High End for not have unnecessary ‘gag’ channels in the fixture profile, as today’s consoles have powerful effects. Our photometric data in-shop and on location revealed outstanding source output, even after correcting to our target color temperature of 4500K with zero magenta/green factor. After seeing demonstrations of about a half dozen automated framing shutter profile fixtures with LED sources, we’ve concluded that the SolaSpot units - having a single color LED source and then utilizing subtractive CYM and CTO color mixing - is the best solution for an excellent beam field. An A/B comparison on location with the competitor’s arc source profiles, setting up the exact same shutter cuts, color temperature and position, revealed the SolaSpot 1500 can perform identically when utilized as a corrected key light for television.”
In closing, Henze comments, “As the show’s lighting designer, Allen was instrumental in creating the look that has made Bluegrass Underground a three time regional EMMY award winner in lighting. The producers Todd Jarrel and Todd Mayo had the vision to take a relatively unknown monthly bluegrass performance in a cave to new level and present a top-notch production to the NPT viewing audience. Director James Yockey and Shader Larry Beardon provide decades of combined experience to polish the outstanding camera work, and best boy Todd Latia and grip Brad Jarrel have the skills required to install and maintain the lighting during a tight production schedule 300’ underground.”
Photo credit: Michael Weintrob