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 Light Jockey

M·A·C Fashion Show at the Forum

Illuminating the Runway**
Creating Dynamic Layers of Light for the M·A·C Aids Benefit

Lighting Dialogue by Jack Kelly, Edited by Dawne Rainey
The Forum | Charlotte NC

3 American DJ H2O
8 Elation Power Spots 250XT

4 Elation Power Washes
1 Elation Proton Star
MAC Fashion Show in CharlotteMAC Fashion Show in CharlotteMAC Fashion Show in Charlotte
Photographs by Nick Scott: click on image for higher resolution

After being asked to work with the team put together by Elizabeth Tolley and Scott “Scooter” Arnold, I was genuinely excited. Elizabeth and Scooter had gathered the pinnacle of the Carolinas local and regional talent for the Mac AIDS Benefit. They chose the theme “Elements:” Fire, Water, Earth, and Air. Although the theme has become very popular over the last decade, Elements is a broad topic that can be interpreted in many ways.

Mac is one of the leading suppliers of professional make-up products. Since clothing is unnecessary in a Mac fashion show, an understood sensuality makes the event primarily adult oriented. The audience enjoyed a delectable feast for the eyes complete with beautiful models in full body make-up adorned with accent fabrics and natural materials such as branches and flowers. The make-up design came from the minds of nearly 30 Mac professionals who donated their time for the AIDS Foundation. These truly talented artists demonstrated the almost unlimited possibilities of what MAC products can achieve.

The demands of such an amazing showcase required flawless and powerful lighting. A volunteer staff of about fifty people invested nearly a thousand hours promoting, and preparing for the show, only to see their work displayed over the course of about twenty four minutes. Each element required 6 to 10 models with a minute intro into the next element. Unlike a music show where sound dominates over lighting, or an art show where only the visual aspect is stimulated, this show relied on the seamless merging of light, sound, and movement to seduce multiple senses. I knew everyone would notice the lighting with its many scenes, many settings, and I had only one chance to get it right. Fortunately, Gil Croy, the production designer, and I immediately connected on ideas. In about a half an hour we had already worked out lighting themes and began working on logistics.

MAC Fashion Show in CharlotteMAC Fashion Show in CharlotteMAC Fashion Show in Charlotte
Photographs by Nick Scott: click on image for higher resolution

I lined the stage with three 4x8 white scrims back lit by American DJ H20 lights used in various ways to achieve different effects. I matched the themes with their most appropriate color. For Water we used a deep blue, for Fire a deep red, for Earth a Kelly green, and for Air a light blue. A single light with a 40 degree beam angle was placed about six feet behind each scrim to backlight each model as they approached the stage. Their shadows would seemingly rush across one scrim, momentarily disappearing before reappearing on the next scrim. If you don’t understand the physics of that paradigm, set up a back lit screen and experiment with placement of the fixture behind a moving figure. The lighting was adjusted to about 18 inches above the stage floor so that the shadow of the tallest model would hover near the top of the scrim. I wrapped the front of the fixture with tinfoil shuttering the edge to focus on each scrim individually. A single light across all three scrims would have made the motion too consistent and uninteresting. The dynamic shadows of the hair styling and adornments provided a preview which heightened the audience’s anticipation before even reaching stage front.

MAC Fashion Show in CharlotteMAC Fashion Show in Charlotte

The most important element of every fashion show is the adornment usually clothing but in this case make-up. Everthing from lighting to stage to music is nothing more than beautiful packaging for an extravagant gift. The runway had to have the same impact as the entrance. To add texture to the room, I used gobo break-ups in eight elation power spots to suggest light breaking through the trees overhead, suggesting an romantic garden setting. The runway was positioned in the middle of the room with very little clearance overhead. Without room for a follow spot, and a setting too intimate for lighting the entire runway, I created a lighting scheme that followed the models down the runway. To keep the room dark and the models bright, I used 4 Elation Power Washes programmed with 10 preset positions up and down the stage. The washes, positioned on the front and back of the runway, and timed to the models’ progression, completely lit the models on all points of the runway.

Working with different exhibits at Discovery Place, a science museum in Charlotte, I learned a subtle lighting trick that can disguise minor imperfections. The lighting principle is to color match your object. If the object is red use a red tint, if your object is blue a blue tint. For example, a red light on a red object does very little but a red light on a brown object makes the object look red. All marks and blemishes on a red surface suddenly fade away under a red light, making the object appear new. Each Element theme was characterized by a color. Earth was characterized by greens in the design of the make up and costuming, Fire by reds and oranges, Air by light tones of blue and white, Water by rich shades of blue and aqua. Using the principle of color matching, I added hints of red and orange into white light for the theme of Fire, hints of blue into Air, hints of blues and greens into Water, and hints of green into Earth. Thus, I accentuated and polished the beauty inherent in the body art.

For impact at the end of the runway, I used an Elation Proton Color blast effect. The light suddenly bursts 1500W of power through the lamp then slowly returns to 750W before turning off. The blast effectively wowed the audience. Gasps we uttered throughout the crowd as the entire room brightened under the radiance of the beauty before them.

The room was packed during the event. The effects and designs were flawlessly performed and executed. The awe of the viewers lingered throughout the night as they slowly began to pull themselves back to reality. The Mac AIDS benefit not only raised money for charity, the experience shook the audiences’ perception of fashion.

Co-Chairs: Elizabeth Tolley, Scott “Scooter” Arnold
Production Design: Gil Croy
Lighting Design: Jack Kelly
Make-up Artist: Elizabeth Tolley, Scott Arnold, Shamail, Iris Sinclair, Kathey Irby, Monica Eckerd, Katherine Dunn, Josiah Reed, Marnie , Beckwith, Monique Wilson, Alexa Roussous, Elizabeth Stewart, Amy Tritt, Erin Lindsay, David, Aaron, Ikea, Patrick
Hair Styling: Bang Bang Salon & Brett Bishop
Costume Design: Amy White & Janeane Mckale
Emcee: Scott Weaver
DJ: Andy Kastanas

MAC Fashion Show in Charlotte MAC Fashion Show in Charlotte MAC Fashion Show in Charlotte
**All Photographs by Eye Dialogue unless otherwise noted.