“Anytime I create, my goal is audience immersion,” Matt Moreland says when describing his approach to lighting design. “I strive to make the audience feel as though they are part of the show, not sitting in the dark watching what is happening on stage.”
The fruits of this philosophy were plain to see (and feel everywhere!) at Free Chapel’s Gainesville campus during the church’s Christmas Spectacular, a free three day production featuring holiday musical favorites, live animals, aerial artists and other performers.
Supporting this one-hour-and-fifteen-minute live show and endowing it with extra energy, vitality, and engagement was a lighting design by Moreland that featured 194 CHAUVET Professional fixtures supplied by 4Wall Entertainment.
Moreland used these fixtures to pull the main stage, and a circular 360ﹾ B Stage into a single, unified and immersive panorama that embraced the audience in the spirit of Christmas
“We had dedicated fixtures for painting the audience and walls in the room to make sure everyone felt like they were part of the experience,” he explained. “I wanted the audience to feel immersed in all the action taking place around them. I also wanted to supplement the story being told without distracting. Lighting had moments in the show where it took center stage, but overall, the lighting was there to support and help tell the story of Christmas, not to be a light show.”
Much of the activity that the lighting supported took place on the circular B stage, which was located in the middle of the room. Moreland connected this space to the room by positioning a 12-foot circular truss overhead. He added a level of dynamism to the structure by flying 100 ÉPIX Strip Tour linear fixtures on the truss.
“I wanted a piece that mimicked the circle stage, so I flew the truss over it,” he said. “However, I also need to have something visually substantial in that space. I didn’t want just some lights on a truss, but something that almost felt architectural. This led us to the ÉPIX Strip Tour fixtures; we hung them facing both out and down from the truss, fifty units in each direction. They were pushed content from a Resolume server during the show.”
Just as the overhead truss structure pulled the B Stage into the room, a frame around the main stage, created with 34 COLORado PXL Bar 16 fixtures wove it into the overall look of the show. “This was my first time using the PXL Bar,” said Moreland. “I was impressed with its brightness — really enjoyed having it in the rig.”
Among the things Moreland appreciated about the PXL Bar 16 was its versatility. He used the motorized tilting RGBW batten to create “some of the most memorable looks in show,” having the fixtures create stunning electrifying visuals with separate foreground and background colors one moment, then relying on them for soft mood setting looks the next.
Working with production manager Mike Stigile, ME Mitch Gorman and programmer Michael Kamau, Moreland varied looks throughout the live event. “We wanted to give every part of the this show its own design, and not repeat looks during the hour and fifteen minutes,” he said. “So, we avoided using the same gobos over and over, or the same colors for every song. With a versatile rig and tons of different set pieces, I had lots of tools to keep things fresh. A little challenging sometimes, but it was fun coming up with a new look for every song. Not to say we never used the same color palette twice, but we tried to keep it fresh and make sure every design matched the feeling and flow of the show.”
Also helping Moreland keep his looks fresh were the 42 assorted COLORado wash fixtures, as well as 10 Rogue R2 Wash and eight Rogue R1 BeamWash units in his rig. The COLORado fixtures were used to light the audience in colors that complemented what was happening on the stage; while the washes, which were positioned on ladders, created ACL looks. The BeamWash units were brought out on sleds to create atmosphere for selected songs.
“There were many special and unique points in this show, such as the bridge build for the song ‘Mary Did You Know,'” said Moreland. “I loved the symmetry of the beams, as well as the playing between “B” stage and main stage at the same time during that song.”
It was, noted Moreland, as if the whole room had come together in that moment – exactly the kind of immersion he had in mind when he began his design.