Lighting transcends time and place. In the age of COVID-19, it also has been called upon to leap over traditional boundaries of space. It’s a concept that Julien Reux has become intimately familiar with since the summer.
The owner of ReuxLight in Los Angeles, Reux attracted attention lighting a four-night “virtual tour” for Wallows. Unlike pre-pandemic tours, this one took place in one room, the legendary Roxy in Los Angeles. The venue might not have changed from night to night, but Reux managed to give his show entirely new looks without adding any fixtures, by adroitly configuring his line of 20 blinders differently each evening.
That was an impressive feat, especially considering that Reux never set foot in the Roxy. Instead, he studied the layout and old school vibe of the club, then programmed his entire show, including the house lights on WYSIWYG, before handing off the show file to Landon Fleischman, his operator.
Reux also lit Tori Kelly’s performance of songs from her new EP Solitude on the Late Night with James Corden show. Only thing though, the multi-Grammy winner was never at the CBS-network studio with the host. Her performance took place at Los Angeles’ Beehive Studios and was streamed directly to Corden’s program for airing.
At a time when circumstances have redefined what it means to be actually “in” a place, lighting designers have had to adapt. Creating looks that create a sense of intimacy and immediacy, even when the design process and actual show may be physically separated by a web of virtual connections, can present a unique set of demands.
We talked to Reux about how he met these challenges for Wallows at the Roxy.
When working virtual projects remotely, do you miss the sense of camaraderie that takes place normally on show sites?
“Yes, and I did miss handing off my plans to a master electrician or production manager. Because of the limited capacity, I had to trust, our operator, to build and run the show on his own, which he did very well .
At the Roxy, did you try to incorporate the “empty feel” of the club into your design?
“Dealing with the void of emptiness of a venue is always to be considered. I rely on creating depth upstage and into the crowd area to make the show as interactive as possible. Even though there might not be an audience, you can still have the concept of audience lighting. We all know why they call some lights “crowd blinders,” so why not continue inviting the crowd into a slightly altered concert experience with these lights when they view a livestream?”
How did the band react to being in a near empty club? Did you use lighting to try to fill the void of the sparsely populated room?
“I wasn’t actually at the club, but I believe it was weird for them at first, as it is with all the artists producing virtual shows. However, Wallows quickly got lost in their own performance and brought the energy that they always bring to a show when it’s in front of their diehard fans.”
Wallows virtual tour was over four different days at the club. How did you keep the show varied?
“I concentrated on the orientation of the rig. Since I had programmed this beforehand, the tricky part was to maintain my song specific cues and effects. Every piece and order of the rig had to be a certain way to enable us to use the same show file. Because of the size of the rig and how small the Roxy is, we had no problem emphasizing how “big” our production was to the viewers.”
What would you have done differently if this recording session took place in a club that was filled?
“I would have added more moving lights — 100-perecent sure of that! This is just a personal preference, but I believe that moving lights can really drive a live experience, so long as they’re executed with creative programming.”
Did working an empty club make you more aware of any techniques relating to lighting design?
“Absolutely, to piggy back off some of the questions you’ve brought up, it pushed me to look at performances from a camera perspective. Since we live production folks have been adapting to the filming/streaming ways, we all must have had to think more in depth of how to make the camera work in our favor. You might like the way the show your produced looks to the naked eye, but with multiple perspectives of digital filming, there are more possibilities – and they’re limitless.”