Six questions with Oscar Dominguez, venerable lighting designer with more than 20 years of experience and visionary behind Darkfire Lighting Design. Dominguez’ projects include many of TV’s top rated shows such as “The Voice,” “Lopez Tonight,” “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” “Wipeout,” “Shark Tank,” “America’s Next Top Model,” “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader,” “Fear Factor” and more.
1. How did you get started?
My father was a manager for a restaurant across the street from this little sound stage in Van Nuys, California, and he pleaded with them to take me in for a day, which they did. So, I started working and doing little things, like cleaning the stage and mopping the floors — I was 17. A day came when one of the electrics didn’t show up for the call at the studio. I was told, “here’s a wrench, now go up the ladder and see what you can do.” I started working my way out, became the house gaffer and learned from the other lighting designers working there. I started very low.
2. What do you think is the next big thing in the industry?
We need to figure out how to come up with one mega diode, a magical diode that works more like a traditional light. For output, people mention the number of LEDs, but this means sacrificing the purity of the light. I think we should witness a different approach in the way LEDs are utilized in fixtures. A lot of lights are designed by engineers, but we should see engineers and LDs working together and create an LED that would perform flawlessly. The LED is useful for its velocity in color change, but needs to stop being a two-dimensional light and morph into a 3D LED, to emit a light the same way a conventional light does.
3. Do you have a favorite fixture (and why)?
My favorite light is probably the source four Leko. It is an incredibly flexible and versatile instrument. If I had to I could light an entire set with just that fixture. If we are talking about the CHAUVET lights I use, the COLORdash Batten Tri lights proved to be an incredibly reliable fixture and a useful tool. I hate to love it, but I do.
4. What has been your favorite design/project?
“The Voice” — one hundred percent. It is my favorite and most intense project, at the same time. I love lighting for music and this has allowed me to really experiment. NBC has been extremely supportive and let us go deep. There are high expectations, there is a lot of stress and zero room for failure. Creativity is very important – every week you have to come up with new stuff.
5. What was the biggest unforeseen obstacle that you’ve faced in one of your designs, and how did you overcome it?
I remember I worked on this award show, and I forgot to draw the audience lighting. Somehow it happened, but I learned from it and from then on I knew I had to double check on every step.
6. Complete this thought: A show without light is like…