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$15 Million Car Looks Even Better With Lighting

Posted on December 29, 2014
Chauvet_AutoAuction4

PEBBLE BEACH, CA – Calling the Pebble Beach Auctions an “automobile auction” is akin to describing a Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider as a mere “sports car.” The annual event, which has been part of the world-famous Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance since 1990, is to the luxury auto world what the Cannes Film Festival is to the movie industry.  Featuring some of the more valuable automobiles in the world – a 1961 edition of the aforementioned Ferrari fetched over $15 million at this year’s auction – the five-day event draws celebrities like Jay Leno and A-List collectors from around the world.

An elegant setting is essential to showcasing these unique automotive jewels, which is why LD James Schipper of Kinetic Lighting (Glendale, CA) deployed 36 COLORado Batten 72 Tour fixtures from CHAUVET Professional to wash the lavish drapery on the auction’s stage. “This show is all about the cars, but our focus with the lighting design goes beyond the vehicles themselves,” said Schipper.  “We want to cover the surfaces around the vehicles with light, so we set a visual tone for the entire event. Having rich color sweeps on the stage drapes was critical to creating the right ambience.”

Schipper has been lighting the prestigious auction, which is presented by Gooding & Company, for ten years. During this time he has worked closely with Denny Beaubien, the CEO and founder of Production Elements, the event producer for the Pebble Beach Auctions.  “We’re honored that Denny has entrusted the lighting to us,” said the LD. “His vision is to make constant enhancements to the event, so we’re always looking for new ways of doing things. Thankfully, we’re able to keep raising the bar higher, thanks to some good gear and talented team members like our production electrician David Strouse and programmer John McGuire.”
Chauvet_AutoAuction2This year, one of the new steps that Schipper and his team took was to replace the individual RGB LED fixtures that had been used to light the stage drapery with the RGBAW batten-style COLORado units.  “For many years we had used the other fixtures placed on 32-inch centers for lighting the drapery,” said Schipper. “The streaks of light we created with those fixtures were a signature look, but after a few years we wanted to have a smoother, more refined look in keeping with the overall atmosphere of the auction.  After looking into several low-profile batten type fixtures, I selected the Batten 72 for the job.”

Powered by 72 calibrated red, green, blue, white and amber LEDs and with five dimming curves, the COLORado Batten 72 Tour produces a wide range of colors, from soft pastels to saturated hues. Schipper took full advantage of this capability to create the appropriate backdrop for each of the luxury cars that were paraded on stage.

“The Chauvet fixtures were called upon to create a varied mix of colors,” he said. “We continually changed the color of the background to best complement and/or contrast the vehicle being auctioned on stage.  As you can imagine, with almost 160 lots in the auction, we end up with many color combinations.  However, the bold vibrant colors – red, blue, and white – were used most.  By blending the amber and white channels in the COLORados, we were able to get some nice subtle hues.  I especially liked a certain ‘champagne’ color we were able to create with the battens. It looked very elegant.”

Schipper controlled the fixtures in Block 2, 15-channel mode, linked via 5-Pin DMX and PowerCon power jumpers, running them off a RoadHog Full Boar console as well as a Catalyst system. Throughout the show the fixtures were cued via standard console channels or driven through the Catalyst system to allow pixel-mapped content, which created a more cohesive look between the video screen background and the surrounding drape.

In addition to the COLORado Batten 72 Tour fixtures, Schipper used a variety of other fixtures to light the auction stage. Included in this group were our COLORado 1-Tri Tour par-style fixtures as well as a variety of ellipsoidals and LED wash panels. He also used a variety of moving fixtures and washes to light the auction area.

“This was a rewarding and challenging project,” said Schipper. “From a lighting standpoint, you not only have to highlight the cars, you also have to account for the surrounding surfaces and the audience too. You have to walk a tightrope when lighting the audience. You want to avoid over-lighting them and causing visual discomfort, but at the same time you want the audience to be bright enough to make it easy for the auctioneer and spotters to pick up the sometimes subtle gestures of the bidders.  This challenge requires a careful attention to detail and consistent color correction.”

At the end of the day, Schipper was able to achieve this balance and more. “The phenomenal cars are obviously the ‘stars’ of this event, but we got a lot of compliments on how the stage looked,” he said. “The decision to use the COLORado battens to create color sweeps on the backdrop really paid off aesthetically.”